Monday, June 30, 2008

Bronze Beauties #25: The Brave and the Bold

BAT-BRONZE BEAUTIES pt. 3 of 5
DC ComicsTHE BRAVE AND THE BOLD began in 1955 as an adventure anthology featuring such literary styled heroes as Robin Hood, Viking Prince and the Silent Knight. From #25 (Sept. 1959) through #49, B&B was a tryout comic ala SHOWCASE, introducing such series as Suicide Squad, the Silver Age Hawkman and most successfully, the Justice League of America. But with #50, the title introduced the concept of the one-on-one superhero team-up book, something that would become a staple of comics through the 1980s. Originally pairing seemingly random characters from the DC Universe (picked out of a hat?), by #67, the book became a Batman team-up book (with the exception of a handful of issues).

What made the book so interesting is that Batman, as a rule, works better as a loner. There are certain denizens of the DCU that work well with the dark night detective: the avenging spirit, Deadman; Steve Ditko's The Creeper; Green Arrow; Wildcat. But some of the more memorable issues of B&B were ones that paired Batman with some rather incompatible heroes: The sci-fi hero, Adam Strange; Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle; the postapocalyptic Kamandi; Supergirl; and Lois Lane.

The vast majority of these stories were written by Bob Haney, a longtime comic scribe who had a hard time adjusting to comics’ increasing emphasis on continuity and verisimilitude. Some seriously goofy Batman stories took place within the confines of B&B. The irony is, they were usually drawn by two of the most evocative Batman artists of the era: The first Batman stories illustrated by Neal Adams took place in B&B in the late 1960s (Batman entering The House of Mystery was a particular treat). He did more covers than interiors, however, and this awesome face to B&B #89 (May 1970) featuring the Phantom Stranger may be my favorite of them all.

In issue #98, the Phantom Stranger returned to team with Batman in a story drawn by the former’s regular artist, Jim Aparo. Aparo almost immediately became one of DC’s go-to artists for the Caped Crusader. Aparo took Adams’ realistic style and gave it a gritty edge, so visceral you could practically smell the garbage in the Gotham alleys and Commissioner Gordon’s omnipresent pipe. Aparo penciled almost every issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD from #104 through its cancellation with #200 in 1983.

Here’s Aparo’s cover to B&B #108 (Sept. 1973), a pairing with Sgt. Rock in a tale combining Nazis, the Devil and religion (a recurring theme for Haney). Could this cover pass muster today? Probably not, and while personally I’m not wild about a religious Batman, it’s a powerful image nonetheless.

POSTSCRIPTED BEAUTIES:
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #92 (Nov. 1970) by Nick Cardy
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #147 (Feb. 1979) by Jim Aparo
BRAVE AND THE BOLD #165 (Aug. 1980) featuring the amazing image of Man-Bat with a babysling by Jim Aparo






 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bronze Beauties #24: Batman

BAT-BRONZE BEAUTIES part 2 of 5

As this week’s Bat-Bronze-Beauty tackles the Dark Knight’s eponymous title, I thought I’d talk a little bit about one of Batman’s most appealing characteristics: His look. Simply stated, Batman may well be the best-designed superhero in the history of comics.

Again, Bob Kane took the lion’s share of the credit for Batman’s design, but Bill Finger was instrumental in coming up with some of the most iconic aspects of Batman’s design. Kane’s original Batman (nee Bird-Man, then Bat-Man) wore a red union suit with no gloves, along with a simple domino mask and Da Vinci-inspired bat-wings. It was Finger who suggested the cowl and scalloped black cape, as well as losing the bright red in favor of a more nighttime-friendly black and gray color scheme (over the years, as with Spider-Man, colorists’ usage of blue highlights on the black parts of the outfit came to be interpreted as the primary color, turning Batman’s costume from black and gray to blue and gray… or, as the 1969 Big Little Book led me to believe, blue and purple).

By the early 1940s, Batman’s costume had evolved to what it essentially remains today. There was a brief (no pun intended) period in the late 1990s when Batman lost his outer shorts (lots of fanboys hate that fading sartorial superhero choice), but you can’t muck around with an icon. He just didn’t look right, and so the shorts quickly returned.

Much of the genius lies in how certain elements of Batman’s design are ripe for a wide range of interpretations. Artists, especially in recent years, have given much thought to the size and shape of Batman’s cowl (eyes and ears particularly), chest-symbol, cape, utility belt, even gauntlets and boots, creating dozens if not hundreds of unique variations on the basic costume design.

Most of these variations owe a huge debt to Neal Adams. In the late 1960s, Adams was breaking new ground in comics, bringing an illustrator’s mentality to the medium. While he never lost sight of storytelling (the primary objective, after all), Adams combined realism with stylization to unparalleled effect. His Batman looked like a real person, but reality went out the window when Batman lept across the Gotham rooftops as his cape suddenly billowed to a hundred feet. It didn’t matter that the varying cape length made no sense, it looked AWESOME. The effect was immediate: artists were liberated, and every Batman artist since has taken from Adams, either directly or indirectly.

Adams drew the cover and interior for BATMAN #251 (Sept. 1973), one of the greatest Batman comics of all time. “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” written by Denny O’Neil returned Batman’s greatest arch-enemy to his original homicidal madness after decades of being portrayed as just a clownish robber. Featuring some gruesome murders, the return of the toxic Joker venom, Batman battling a shark and a final chase across the beach, it’s one of the most reprinted Batman stories in the character’s history. (Although it should be noted that Adams' fashion makeover of the Joker, putting him in a modern business suit and tie, thankfully didn't take hold, and I have to wonder why Bats is strapped to an Ace of Spades and not a Joker up there).

My second choice, ironically, is by an artist who was not usually right for Batman. Curt Swan was THE Superman artist from the 1960s through the 1980s, until John Byrne’s yuppie revamp of 1986. Another illustrative cartoonist, Swan was best known for his realistic depictions of people, which left his Batman often a bit stiff and unimposing (by contrast, his Superman seemed casual and regal, something captured perfectly by Christopher Reeve on film). But, teaming with inker Murphy Anderson, Swan’s cover to BATMAN #223 (Aug. 1970) is a thing of beauty. This giant issue reprinted some rather tepid globetrotting tales from the 1950s, but the cover (complete with alliterative captions) raises the bar on the whole package.

It’s breaking format, but what the heck, I’m adding a third cover to this entry (there are just too many great BATMAN covers). BATMAN #313 (July 1979) by José Luis Garcia-López makes exemplary use of the design motif of Two-Face, another of Batman’s greatest villains. First introduced in 1942, the scarred former District Attorney Harvey Dent was killed off after a few appearances and resurrected (often with different aliases) sporadically over the years, finally returning as a major player in (you guessed it) the 1970s.

Due to his gruesome visage, the character was never used in the BATMAN TV show, nor any of his early cartoons. BATMAN FOREVER’s ridiculously over-the-top depiction of Two-Face (mysteriously renamed “Harvey Two-Face”) was one of that film’s innumerable problems. The 1990s BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES made great use of the villain’s scarred dual-personality, and I am jazzed to see Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal in THE DARK KNIGHT.

Next Week: Batman teams up in BRAVE AND THE BOLD!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Heroes, Not Super

As of today, I have paid over $500.00 for the honor of merely having my job, while being made to feel like a criminal for the fifth time in ten years.

A chunk of Hoboken bureaucratic bullshit known as THE BAR CARD requires bar and restaurant employees in our little mile square to pay $110.25 every two years for a card that allows them to work in the proximity of booze. There’s no reason for its existence other than to add to the city’s coffers, and why those of us who work in one of its most profitable and ubiquitous industries are singled out remains a mystery that nobody’s every been able to answer for me. I think the simple reason is “Because they can.”

As if it doesn’t suck enough to have to pay for the privilege of having a job, the police at the window where you fill out your forms and pay your money (two different money orders, thank you very much) invariably treat you like a criminal. And I don’t just mean because you have to be photographed and fingerprinted (as far as I know, my fingerprints haven’t changed in the past ten years, but they now have five sets of them). The impatient, gruff attitude that these peace officers display towards us bartenders, waiters and security peeps just enhances my opinion that many (if not most) cops…. are jerks.

I know, I know, you’re not allowed to say that in our post-9/11 world where police officers, firefighters and the military are our unchallenged HEROES. To question their motives or behavior is verboten (even after Abu Ghraib). And yet, we have to. About the only thought-provoking thing I ever saw Andy Rooney say was a statement he made in 2004 along the lines of “I was in the Army. And I can tell you that not all soldiers are heroes.” (Actually, his wording was awkward, saying "all soldiers are not heroes," but the meaning is obvious).

The fact is, many people join the military because they don’t have any other option. Jobs are scarce, and lots of them have three kids to support by the time they’re 20 (don’t get me started on THAT). The armed forces are pretty much the only job that any young person in America is practically guaranteed. And then there are those soldiers for whom military service is a legacy, something they’re not even allowed to question (a phenomenon also common with cops and firemen). Some people enlist as a last ditch effort to straighten out lives of crime or addiction. And, sadly, but undeniably, some people join up in the hopes that they will be able to kill other people.

Does this make their sacrifice worthless? Of course not. Regardless of the impetus, they’re still taking a risk that my tiny, wussy balls would never dare and, as much as I hate its dominance of our federal budget and policy, I am well aware of the necessity of a military. (I do NOT however, buy the tag line that they are necessarily protecting “our freedom.” Under our current, criminal administration, they are tragically risking their lives to protect corporate interests more than anything else. That’s not their fault, but it’s something that everyone, especially those who serve and their loved ones should be furious about).

As for fire fighters, I have nothing bad to say. That is a truly honorable, brave job that requires a level of sacrifice and selflessness that most people don’t possess. If there were a God, I’d ask him to bless ‘em.

Cops, however…

Cops are like teachers in that there are two very distinct and disparate types of people who enter both professions. With teachers, you have two extremes: (1) People who realize how supremely important the job is, and who are on a mission to make the world a better place by giving children a GOOD education. These are among the most important people on Earth. Conversely, there are (2) People with no real passion for anything who couldn’t figure out a major in college. So they become teachers. Bad ones, who ultimately do more harm than good. We all can, in retrospect especially, remember which teachers taught and which ones could give a shit.

With cops, the two types are even further apart. There are many police officers who joined the force because they genuinely want to “serve and protect” the public. To those brave, honorable men and women, I tip my nonexistent hat and say “Thanks.”

But my experience over the years, along with that of my friends, has been that many of the boys and girls in blue are little more than government-authorized bullies, people who wanted to have a job where they could mess with people, ignore the rules of society, abuse power and get away with all of it. Free coffee is the mere tip of the iceberg. Even just in the context of a bar, lots of us have seen cops flash a badge in lieu of paying a cover charge (and go ahead and dare to refuse it as admission). Especially for those of us who live in an urban environment, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t have a story about a cop abusing authority, be it as minor as parking wherever they want or as major as roughing someone up unnecessarily. But we’ve ALL witnessed the swaggering arrogance of some bad lieutenants. And the fact that it even makes me a wee bit nervous to merely WRITE THIS DOWN is proof of the pudding (I always wanted to use that phrase).

One mo’ time, I’m not saying ALL police are jerks. But to ascribe universal altruism and unassailable valor to the entirety of law enforcement is not only naive, it’s stupid, and endemic of an ever-spreading tendency in our society to question NOTHING, especially authority. Which is not only dangerous and short-sighted, it’s downright un-American.

Phew. Okay, don’t worry, next week I’ll get back to talking about heroes who wear spandex and are much less complicated. Yay!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bronze Beauties #23: Detective Comics

BAT-BRONZE BEAUTIES part 1 of 5

It seems that over the years of my interweb posting, I’ve not written that much about Batman (as opposed to Superman, whom I believe I’ve mentioned a few times). I did a REWIND column in 2005 about how shitty Tim Burton’s BATMAN was (an opinion I hold like a cause), but for the most part, my thoughts on the caped crusader have been kept to a minimum.

It’s not that I don’t love Batman. I do. I think he’s the yin to Superman’s yang, a really interesting character that’s infinitely appealing and remarkably adaptable to different interpretations and media. As a kid, Batman came a very close second to Supes in my geeky heart. I think the reason I’ve kept mostly mum about Bats is that he doesn’t need my help.

Unlike Superman, people GET Batman. Batman’s iconic cool status is pretty much unchallenged, and even people who think superheroes are stupid are amenable to his exploits.

But with THE DARK KNIGHT approaching, I thought it might be time to take Bronze Beauties into the Batcave for a look at some of the (many, many, many) terrific comic book covers that graced the character’s books in the 1970s.

Batman made his debut in DETECTIVE COMICS #27 in 1939, in a story credited to one Rob’t Kane, although history has gone to tell that Batman’s creation was in fact a collaborative effort between the marginally-talented (but supremely egotistical) Kane and writer Bill Finger (with artist Jerry Robinson quickly refining and adding key elements to the legend). [See HERE for a fascinating look at the still-too-secret origin of the Batman]

While Batman was an instant smash, superheroes fell out of favor after WWII and comics moved towards other genres, with the few remaining costumed crimefighters trying to adapt. From the 1950s onward, Batman comics became light and silly, bringing in elements of science fiction which ill-fit the character. Finally, in 1964, as sales continued to sink, new editor Julius Schwartz made the decision to bring Batman back to his roots, encouraging his writers to emphasize the detective aspect of the hero and enlisting artist Carmine Infantino to help give Batman a modern, sleek,"new look."

The revamp was somewhat dampened in 1966 by the success of the BATMAN TV show, whose campy tone was foisted upon the source material by the DC Comics suits (the company has a long, sad tradition of letting movie and TV adaptations be the tails that wag the dogs). After Batmania subsided a few years later, maverick writers such as Denny O’Neil, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman successfully re-darkened the Dark Knight with grim stories featuring moody, naturalistic art most notably by Neal Adams. Adams’ striking covers in particular had perhaps more impact on the character than any visual interpretation up to that point.

DETECTIVE COMICS #398 (April 1970) has special resonance to me as it’s one of the very first comic books I owned. To this day, almost four decades later, I can remember the feeling of awe I had at first glimpse of this spectacular Neal Adams cover on the spinning rack at Thrift Drug (my first pusher). As was often the case in the day, the story inside didn’t quite measure up to the promise of the cover, but no matter. I was hooked, and Neal Adams quickly became my first favorite artist.

DETECTIVE #408 (Feb. 1971) lives up to its Adams cover, with a creepy haunted house story that taps into the Batman’s greatest fears (a disintegrating Robin being just one of them, alongside Superman not giving him any respect!). Everything about this cover works for me: The art, the tilted logo, the masthead figures of Batman and Batgirl, the placement of the word balloons, the yellow-black-blue color scheme, to me, comics never looked better than this (be prepared to witness more Adams as this series continues).

NEXT WEEK: Bat-Bronze-Beauties Part 2: BATMAN.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Super Circle Jerk


I came across this lot of action figures on eBay and couldn’t stop laughing at the photo. I have the Superman version of this particular figure, part of the Mego line known as Comic Action Heroes. According to the terrific Mego Museum website, this hard plastic 3&3/4" line debuted in 1976 following the company’s highly successful 8” superhero line. The design of the figures, with the crouched legs and bent arm is to allow for them to fit into separately-purchased vehicles and accessories. But out of that context, these toys really just look like superheroes jerking off.

I mean, seriously, didn’t anyone at Mego look at the design of these toys and say, “Hmm, you know what, fellas, maybe we should move the arm with the fist a bit to the side so it doesn’t look EXACTLY like Batman and Robin are having a bat-circle-jerk the Batcave?” Even the hole drilled in the fist (which was to accommodate accessories for a few figures) seems custom-designed for a phallus. Which makes me wonder what’s up with Wonder Woman (again, you have to see here).

Anyway. The photo brings new meaning to the term “Super Friends.” Damn, I wish I would’ve bid on this lot.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Master Thespians!

I’m (along with the gyrlfriend) just getting into BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Like so many serial shows these days, you can’t jump into BSG if you haven’t been watching from the beginning (some day I’ll need to do the same with LOST). And for some reason (perhaps my distaste for the source material, which I hated at the time), I had no interest in this Sci-Fi series. My mistake. After hearing too many people whose taste I trust rave about the show, I decided it was time to get caught up. So Y and I began renting BSG and quickly got hooked on its novel take on science fiction (both in story and design… BSG features the best battle sequences in SF history).

Sure, there are problems. We’re currently three episodes into Season 2.5 and I’m frankly sick of Adama bawling all the time. The “Final Cut” episode was utterly unbelievable and too many characters have been snatched from the brink of death to keep the drama sharp (and the Cylons are really, really lousy shots).

But my biggest beef with BSG is the acting. Tricia Helfer’s jaw-clenching Cylon No.6 would drive me crazy if she were in my head all the time, too. Why does she speak like she’s handling a ventriloquist dummy, keeping her teeth closed, over-pronunciating her sharp consonants, hissing every line? I know she’s supposed to be evil, but it’s beyond grating. Jamie Bamber as Apollo is so boring I almost nod off every time he’s on screen. But worst of all, Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck epitomizes my most hated stripe of performer: The OVER-ACTOR: That overtly self-conscious thespian whose every acting choice, verbal and physical is carefully planned. Watching Sackhoff’s performance, you can tell that she’s thought about every nuance, every inflection of every word, every bite of the lip, every… single… movement. There’s nothing natural about her performance at all, and every time she’s on screen, I never forget that I’m watching someone ACTING (to quote Steve Carell’s Michael Scott quoting Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian).

Of course, she’s far from alone: Alyssa Milano. Hilary Swank. Scarlett Johansson. Tom Cruise. Most soap opera stars. Brad Pitt. Jennifer Jason Leigh. And of course, Kevin Kline and the many theater-bred actors who somehow never realize the different requirements of acting for the stage (where overacting can be necessary to project to an audience) and the screen. To me, the most annoying practitioner of this is Kevin Spacey.

In every performance and every appearance, you can smell how impressed Spacey is with himself. If you watch him on talk shows, he’ll pull impressions out of his hat that aren’t that good, then beam with self-satisfaction. He is an actor who is always concerned with impressing the audience at how actorly his acting is. And so you never forget that it’s him and not his character. Try watching THE USUAL SUSPECTS today and see if you can believe that he’s Verbal Kint OR Keyser Söze!

There’s an early Spacey moment in SUPERMAN RETURNS that bothers me every time I see the movie. During the scene on the Gertrude where Lex Luthor is talking to Kitty Kowalski (the similarly overacting Parker Posey) about Prometheus and the history of power on Earth, he climbs the spiral staircase and says, “I just wanna bring fire to the people,” then pauses, and says , “And… I want my cut.” But it’s a physical bit that Spacey does during the pause that grates me every time… he slowly slides his hand along the banister of the staircase. It sounds like no big deal, but trust me, it’s distractingly actorly.

Spacey’s Bobby Darin biopic, BEYOND THE SEA (which he wrote, directed and starred in) is fascinating because it’s the work of a wannabe auteur who’s not half as good as he thinks he is telling the story of a wannabe auteur who wasn’t half as good as he thought he was. Bobby Darin had his moments, to be sure. I think “As Long as I’m Singin’” is one swingin’ chunk of vinyl. But for the most part, his music was bland piffle (“Splish Splash?” Ew. And sorry, his “Mack the Knife” pales to versions by Ella, Louis and pretty much anyone else who ever tackled the Weill standard) and his acting utterly forgettable. Darin, despite what he and Spacey thought, never came close to the sheer star power and virtuosity of Frank Sinatra, as Kevin Spacey is no Jack Lemmon or Johnny Carson. What Spacey and Darin share is that tendency to overthink every creative choice.

Holy crap, maybe Spacey’s a Cylon!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bronze Beauties #22: The Incredible Hulk


I know, I know, I promised a Batman Bronze Beauties series, and that’s still coming, but then I remembered that THE INCREDIBLE HULK comes out this week and thought I should stick with my habit of featuring comics that are about to hit the big screen. So here’s an entry for Marvel Comics’ not-so-jolly green giant.

If I sound underwhelmed about both the character and his upcoming movie, well, I am. As a 1970s-bred fanboy, I had read some Hulk comics and naturally every Friday night at 8pm, I was tuned to CBS as Bill Bixby fought to purge the raging demon that dwelled within him. But the Hulk was always a one-note character to me, never one of my favorites.

Part of the problem was his design. It’s really hard to make the Hulk look interesting because he’s just a shirtless, barefoot giant in purple pants who’s usually screaming about himself in the third person (something I cannot abide). The relative proportions of the Hulk’s features have varied widely depending upon the artist. While he was originally drawn as kind of a Frankenstein monster, there were times in the 1970s that the Hulk really looked like a Mego action figure, rather stiff and broad (he was the only character that Marvel art director John Romita couldn’t draw well).

Of course, things didn’t get better in the hyper-stylized 1990s as artists started putting the Hulk on gamma-steroids, drawing him with veined tree-sized arms branching from a tank sized torso, often topped with a teeny tiny head. I guess one could make the argument that he’s one of the few mainstream comic book characters that’s been open to such broad interpretations (Batman is another), but few of them have clicked with me.

As for the Hulk’s media adaptations, as much as I loved the TV show, even as a kid, I thought the action was kinda lame (and always noticed when you could see Lou Ferrigno’s streaked makeup and green slip-on sneakers). I never saw any of his various cartoons. Ang Lee’s much-maligned 2003 movie HULK (sans article and adjective) was awkward and overwrought, but I thought it was at least interesting (and not just because of the presence of Jennifer Connelly). My pal Chris pointed out that it was a weird juxtaposition of eastern sensibility foisted upon a totally western piece of pop culture. As for the new movie, I’ll go see it, but I don’t have very high hopes. For one thing, is it just me, or does the CGI look even worse in this one than in Lee’s film? Oh, and dollars to doughnuts that shot of Edward Norton smiling with the green hulk-out eyes is the last shot of the film, as he’s learned to control his inner beast. The character, that is, not the actor/uncredited co-screenwriter, whose much-reported involvement in all aspects of the project doesn’t feel like a good omen (remind me to tell you the story of the time I saw him play air guitar at the bar where I work).

But there are some HULK covers that do ring that sweet nostalgic bell for me and here are two of them. THE INCREDIBLE HULK #140 (June 1971) features a Herb Trimpe cover for a soap operatic tale by obstinate prick Harlan Ellison called (honest) “The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom!” in which the Hulk falls in love with a little green woman named Jarella in a microscopic world called K’ai. #197 (march 1976) pits the anti-hero against Man-Thing on a rare Marvel cover by Bernie Wrightson. They fight. Hulk smashes. You get the gist.

NEXT WEEK: Bronze Beauty Batman Begins (or should I say DARK KNIGHT debuts?)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bronze Beauties #21: Captain Marvel

As much as drug culture was having an impact on rock music in the 1960s and ‘70s, it was also altering the universes of comic books, and not just the undergrounds. The late Silver and Bronze eras were a mighty cosmic time for some costumed crimefighters.

One such acid casualty was Marvel Comics’ CAPTAIN MARVEL (not to be confused with the Big Red Cheese).

Debuting in MARVEL SUPER HEROES #12 in 1967 and quickly graduating to his own series, Captain Mar-Vell was a member of the alien Kree race who was sent to scout out Earth for possible conquest, but came to love our little planet (much like the Silver Surfer) and rebelled against his masters. Designed by Gene Colan, the original Mar-Vell was clad in a rather unique helmeted white and green outfit. When sales proved less than spectacular, writer Roy Thomas revamped the character into a sci-fi pastiche of SHAZAM!, as a Negative-Zone-stranded Mar-Vell now shared the persona of teenager Rick Jones (former sidekick of the Incredible Hulk and Captain America), who could switch atoms with the hero by banging his “nega-bands” together. Artist Gil Kane redesigned the costume into a red-and-gold, starburst-emblazoned supersuit.

The changes weren’t enough to save the series, however, and CAPTAIN MARVEL was cancelled with #21 in 1970. But two years later, the comic was revived. Writer Gerry Conway and artist Wayne Boring (best known for his 1950s barrel-chested Superman) continued the tale for a handful of issues until #25, when young artist Jim Starlin began penciling the book, soon moving to plotting, then scripting the whole shebang by #29. The concept of the strip was again changed, as a cosmic entity named Eon released Mar-vell from the Negative Zone and gave him the small task of protecting the entire universe (especially the trippier parts of it).

Under Starlin’s watch, Captain Marvel became a trippy, outer space philosopher, searching for meaning while battling the death-obsessed Thanos. Art-wise, Starlin used Steve Ditko’s surrealist space-scapes from DR. STRANGE as a launching point, giving it an acid rock twist that the conservative Ditko probably found offensive. Additionally, Starlin made Mar-Vell’s hair longer (and sadly changed its color from its original silver to a more youthful blonde).

This “most cosmic superhero of all” (as the covers blurbed) blew my little adolescent mind just a bit (as did Starlin’s WARLOCK, coming someday to Bronze Beauties), and while CAPTAIN MARVEL was never one of my favorite books, it is a great example of how far-out superhero comics got in that era. Starlin left the book with #34, but returned to kill off the character in Marvel’s first graphic novel, 1982’s THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL.

Here are the covers to #32 (May 1974) by Jim Starlin & Klaus Janson and #37 (March 1975) by Gil Kane & Janson.

COMING IN TWO WEEKS: The first in a series of five weekly Bat-Bronze Beauties leading up to the release of THE DARK KNIGHT!