Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Justice League America #48
Mar. '91
"The Last Giant Nazi Robot Story!"
From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli--the saga of General Glory continues, courtesy of our men (and woman!) on the front lines:
Keith Giffen, plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis, script & kibitzing
Linda Medley, pencils
John Beatty, inks
Bob Lappan, letters
Gene D'Angelo, colors
Kevin D'Ooley, point man
Andrew D'Helfer, commander-in-chief
Special thanks to Paris Cullins & Dave Elliott

Justice League Europe #24
Mar. '91
A Keith Giffen, Gerard Jones, Bart Sears, Randy Elliott, Bob Lappan, Gene D'Angelo, Kevin Dooley and Andy Helfer presentation.

The third chapter of the General Glory story continues in fine fashion as the General's arch-nemesis, Herr Schmidt retreats to a Nazi hideaway in South America, whence he guides the giant robot seen on the issue's cover. The creative team continues to fire on all cylinders, and most impressive of all are five pages dedicated to the origin of General Glory (not to mention his erstwhile sidekick, Ernie the Battlin' Boy, who was also apparently the inspiration for Guy Gardner's bowl cut). Presented as though pulled from the pages of the General's self-titled comic book, these pages look fantastic and drive home the homage to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America.

JLE's giant-worm/Crimson Fox story, on the other hand, falls into the rut of second-act malaise, treading water in the build-up to next issue's conclusion. In this chapter, the Leaguers chase the worms underground and find their communal resting place, but before anyone can plot a course of action, the maniacal Maurice Puanteur summons the worms to the D'Aramis' Revson facility in London, where one of the Crimson Fox sisters lies trapped, awaiting her apparent demise. I'm still hoping for an exciting third act, but this middle chapter just felt worn out. Anyway, as Royal Tenenbaum would say, "That's just one man's opinion."

Following the stories themselves, JLE's letters offer little beyond the cover credits--"Cover art by Bart Sears & Randy Elliott, color by Bob Le Rose"--while JLA's deliver that and so much more. Cover-credit-wise, we're told "Adam Hughes played the penciller, Karl Story appeared as the inker, and Bob Le Rose was Thorny ... uh ... the colorist." Dooley also writes, "To Mike Lansley, Mechanicsville, MD ... and Liz Hunter (no address on letter) who want to know why Orion changed his costume from that nifty new one to the hideous old one? The new one is his ritual garb for ceremonies and job applications, like JL membership." Better still is this nugget: "Welcome back to terra firma to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The pilot of the mission was a 42-year-old Air Force Colonel named ... Guy Gardner! Maybe someday we'll show you readers the sketches we did for the flight in cooperation with NASA to be faxed up to the shuttle." I don't suppose anyone knows whether those sketches were ever printed? If so, let me know!

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Things Pelagic, Part 3

It's been more than a year since I last paused to take stock of this blog--and 3 years to the day since I fired my first volley--and I do believe this is as a good a time as any to check my heading and see how far off-course the ship might have sailed. After two years of spotty blogging, I've finally managed to stay focused on comics and maintain a consistent run of posts--at least one a week since May of '09. I've even kept up with "Bag It and Board It," reading and reviewing more than 50 trade collections and graphic novels. (Granted, I abandoned the column's original formula, eschewing the proposed weekly post about floppies.) There are always plans to continue posting the occasional "Page and Panel" and "Memory from the Longbox" as well, but my "60 Weeks with the Justice League" project has effectively sapped whatever time I would have had for those columns. Ah well, with a bit of luck, there's still the future.

But that's not to say all's gone according to plan. Last year, after chiding myself for not getting my long-talked-about webcomic online two years prior, I went on to promise both the comic and--ha-ha!--a Facebook page in the near future. Probably no one's noticed the absence of either, but trust me, they aren't there, and after two previous "Pelagic" postings, I've learned better than to ascribe a timetable this time around. I will say this, however: Don't hold your breath on the Facebook page. It may well come at some point down the line, but only if I see it as a viable means of garnering attention for the aforementioned webcomic, which I'll only tease here by saying it's well into visual development and it's been rechristened. As I've said before, like all things worthwhile, this is meant to be an adventure, and those rarely go according to plan.

Finally, while I have been drawing, I know it hasn't been enough, and none of it's been aimed for the ol' D.D. (The last image I posted was way back in October. That's even more negligent than I thought.) However, I'm currently cooking something up that, if I can get it together, will get a lot--a lot--of my own drawings up here throughout 2011. For better or worse.

Now then. Back to work. Yo-ho!

Image copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Justice League America #47
Feb. '91
"General Glory Fights Again!"
It's a red, white & blue epic, brought to you by those Yankee Doodle Dandies--
Keith Giffen, plot & breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis, script
Linda Medley, guest penciller
John Beatty, inker
Bob Lappan, letterer
Gene D'Angelo, colorist
Kevin Dooley, stars in his eyes, stripes on his pants
Andy Helfer, father of our country
General Glory created by J.M. DeMatteis an' Keith Giffen

Justice League Europe #23
Feb. '91
"Foxy Ladies"
Keith Giffen, germs of ideas
Gerard Jones, typing
Bart Sears, lots of little lines
Randy Elliott, dark stuff
Bob Lappan, marks with a pen
Gene D'Angelo, colored splotches
Kevin Dooley, blue marks and phone calls
Andy Helfer, coffee, cigarettes and ceaseless fidgeting

The General Glory storyline continues swimmingly, with Medley's pencils once again perfectly complementing this fun romp. While the penciller does well with the JLA's entire cast, she especially draws a great looking Blue Beetle.

In JLA's first half, the League interrupts a public performance by the then-new Mr. Miracle, a.k.a. Shilo Norman, only they don't know there is a new Mr. Miracle until the old Mr. Miracle--you know, Scott Free--shows up with Oberon to try and set things straight. Mistaken identities are a tried-and-true ingredient of good, wholesome comedy, and Giffen and DeMatteis nail the old trope while still managing to save pages for General Glory to join the League in fighting a fire. Furthermore, as the General runs headlong into the conflagration, he comes face to face with a Nazi Uberbot, rescues a dog and wields a garbage-can lid like it's Captain America's shield. Not bad for a newby.

JLE, meanwhile, breaks form to deliver 23 pages packed with story--following what may well be the best cover of this book's run--beautifully rendered by Bart Sears and Randy Elliott. (Boy howdy, is it nice having them back!) Getting the better of Marvel Comics by some 17 years, the issue kicks off with an internal dispute over Inspector Camus' mandate that all League members register with Interpol's meta-human cooperative unit; Power Girl is strongly against it, Crimson Fox is for, and Rex/Metamorpho is busy watchin' the Three Stooges.

The story then reveals the secretive Society of St. Cholmondely, a group of robe wearers who feed off hatred and possess a giant tuning fork that summons a monstrous subterranean worm to devour the order's foes. (I'd like to see Sonar try to do as much with his tuning-fork gun.) In the example here illustrated, that foe turns out to be Simon Stagg (yep, him again), who loses his London factory to the worm-monster.

Tying everything together, the Society's leader is none other than Monsieur Puanteur, the sworn enemy of the Crimson Fox, whose true identity is here revealed to be split between identical twin sisters Constance and Vivian D'Aramis--turns out they faked the death of Constance, and now both take turns with the roles of Vivian and Crimson Fox. I know it all sounds pretty convoluted when I try to summarize it, but it actually works in the book, and I've got to give credit to the creative team for coming up with a fairly unique alter ego.

JLA's "Justice Log" tells us that "JLAntarctica no longer exists" and then shares these credits: "Cover by Adam Hughes, pencils; Karl Story, inks; Bob Le Rose, colors." And from JLE's "Europinion": "Cover by Bart Sears with coloring by Bob Le Rose."

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of The Losers, he borrows the comics from friends.) Here, he spills the beans on whether or not it was worth it. But to paraphrase LeVar Burton, don't just take his word for it--you should read comics, too.

Writers: Bill Finger, Bob Cameron, Alvin Schwartz (a.k.a. Vernon Woodrum), Jack Schiff
Pencillers: Bob Kane, Jack Burnley, Dick Sprang
Inkers: Charles Paris, Stan Kaye
Letterers: Ira Schnapp, Dick Sprang, bullpen
Editor: Jack Schiff

Collecting the entirety of the easily overlooked and--let's face it--rather ill-conceived Batman daily newspaper strip that was canceled three years almost to the week after its inception, this dense tome makes for some phenomenal bathroom reading. Granted, that's probably not the sort of pullquote the publisher would want to slap on the cover, but this also isn't the sort of narrative I want to lose myself in for hours at a time. It is a fascinating piece of history, though, made all the more interesting for Joe Desris' essays, which place the work in the context of Batman and DC Comics' own history as well as the history of newspaper strips circa World War II. And if Desris seems to harp on this strip's failure to capitalize on the popularity of Batman and Robin, he's hitting the nail right on the head: The two heroes often go weeks at a time without appearing in costume, which doubtless left many an editor wondering just what strip it was they purchased. (All the same, my favorite story in the collection is "The Karen Drew Mystery," a great noir piece--until the lousy ending--in which Bruce Wayne never has a chance to turn into Batman; this story featured Jack Burnley on penciling duties, and his work is, to my eyes, miles ahead of Bob Kane's.) Also, don't be fooled by this collection's cover; the Joker is the only one of Batman's popular rogues to appear in the dailies, with easily forgotten, formula villains padding the rest of the adventures. Nevertheless, it's well worth a look for those interested in comics' history, which we all should be.

Dave Sim

In the second Cerebus collection (or "phone book," as they're oft referred to), the titular aardvark sets aside his warrior's ways in favor of scaling the political ladder, ultimately besting--though only narrowly--Lord Julius' goat in the race for prime minister. Along the way, the supporting cast continues to grow even as characters from the last volume reappear, including Elrod, Jaka, the Cockroach (now going by "the merely magnificent Moon Roach") and the aforementioned Julius. (Furthering the Marx Brothers allusions, Sim here complements Julius' Groucho with the introduction of an ersatz Chico, dubbed Duke Leonardi.) Alongside Cerebus' meteoric rise through the political spectrum, Sim's art develops at an equally brisk pace, and the artist continues to revel in experimentation with his layouts, even presenting the final seven issues in this collection in the horizontal, or landscape, orientation. Sim's sense of framing and use of negative space is also fantastic, as are the lighting effects he manages to create in pre-digital black and white. His bold use of black, often as a plain background, adds an illusion of richness that would have been absent with unchecked white backgrounds, while also contributing to the sense of whispered politicking behind closed doors. At times he also presents the readers with chunks of text in ways that would seem to have been an influence on the later work of Brian Michael Bendis. Throughout all of this, the disparity in size between Cerebus and nearly every other character provides an excellent foundation for further humor. Book 3, here I come.

A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel

Bechdel's coming-of-age/coming-out story, mixed with family history and a close focus on her father's secret life, is a phenomenal achievement that earns every bit of praise it's received and truly does raise the bar for autobiographical comics. It's also an incredibly dense read, full of literary allusions further layered with Bechdel's learned, rarefied vocabulary and penchant for sesquipedalianism. However, her line art--complemented with a watercolor wash--keeps everything grounded, capturing all of the characters in a distinct and deceptively simple manner full of expression and vitality. The title comes from the author and her siblings' childhood nickname for the family-run funeral parlor, and while the subject matter often veers toward the macabre, the end result is a work that feels wonderfully, achingly alive.

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Jock (issues 1-6, 9-12) & Shawn Martinbrough (issues 7-8)
Lee Loughridge: colorist
Clem Robbins: letterer
Jock: original series covers

Former 2000 A.D. editor Andy Diggle and gruff-art god Jock send the thrillpower meter into overload with a parade of guns, money, plane crashes and even live volcanoes. The eponymous Losers are a band of disgraced special forces personnel framed and left for dead, and now they won't stop until they get their lives back. This comic is The A-Team on steroids. (Or at least it was, until this summer's A-Team movie turned the TV series' crazy dial to 11 all on its own.) While I don't want to harp on movies in a comics review, I should also note that, for all of The Losers' screen adaptation's entertainment value, this book is a hell of a lot better than the film it inspired: the arch-fiend/puppet master Max is never seen; there's no crazy sci-fi bomb that doesn't make any sense; and Lee Loughridge's colors are, as always, first rate, just the opposite of the film's digitally processed-to-death patina. (It was remarkable, however, how perfectly cast the movie was.) I'm always happy to see Jock's art, and here I think he may be at his best, knocking out consistently solid layouts, to boot. Martinbrough's issue's, on the other hand, have just too clean a line for this cast of characters; while I'd like to see his work on a different story, here his art strikes me as being a bit out of place. 

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Noel Tuazon
Lettering by Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Edited by Rob Levin & Stephen Christy
Original series cover design and logo design by Kody Chamberlain
Special medical consultant Arnold Schiebel, M.D.
Original Kindle edition design by Marlan Moore & Scott Newman

Following their critically praised collaboration on Elk's Run (which is in my stack to read; expect to see a review here one of these months), Fialkov and Tuazon teamed with Archaia to present this pitch-perfect noir--which beautifully doubles as an ode to Los Angeles. Breaking new digital ground, the book was originally released one chapter at a time (eight in total) on the Amazon Kindle, where I first read it. Writer and artist alike designed the book with that limited aesthetic platform in mind, and the package translated about as well as one could possibly hope to the digital reader. However, this 240-page, ashcan-size hardcover--packed with bonus content including a prose short story, the original pitch, concept sketches and more--is without question the best way to experience the latter days of Frank Armstrong, a washed-up private investigator on a hopeless case who's suffering from a terminal brain tumor that keeps knocking him "unstuck in time." Tuazon's work is deceptively simple yet totally unique: There's a lifetime's worth of energy in these black-and-white pages. (A gray wash helps distinguish Frank's memories from the present day; again, it's a simple technique wonderfully executed and completely effective.) I love every damn page.

All images this post copyright their respective publishers. Text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Justice League America #46
Jan. '91
"Old Glory"
It's a turning point for the Justice League--and champions of liberty everywhere--presented with patriotic pride by those fun-loving flag-wavers
Keith Giffen, plot & breakdance
J.M. DeMatteis, plot assist & script
Linda Medley, guest penciller
José Marzan, inker
Bob Lappan, letterer
Gene D'Angelo, colorist
Kevin Dooley, asst. editor
And let's hear a hearty "hail to the chief" for
Andy Helfer, editor
General Glory created by J.M. DeMatteis & Keith Giffen

Justice League Europe #22
Jan. '91
Furious feline frenzy as you demanded it, action lovers! From: Keith Giffen, Gerard Jones, Marshall Rogers, José Marzan, Bob Lappan, Gene D'Angelo, Kevin 'n' Andy

It's another year, dear readers. Or, anyway, it was in January of '91, and what better way to ring in the new year than with an old-man fight?

The old timer with the cane is one Joe Jones, a.k.a. General Glory, and the geezer with the giant gun is his antiquated arch-nemesis. The story that unfolds this issue of JLA tackles the Big Issues, diving deep into the culture surrounding comics collecting and taking aim at conventions themselves as Guy Gardner wins an auction for General Glory #1. (His winning bid: 5,000 of the League's dollars.) The only trouble is, Mr. Jones needs to see that comic book himself--he's forgotten the magic words that  turn him into General Glory, which are printed inside--and his repeat attempts to get a peak naturally infuriate the Green Lantern. I'm not sure how this storyline will shake out over five issues, but these first 22 pages are solid, and Linda Medley's art is terrific, a huge improvement over her work in JLE #14. (I would really love to have seen her work on American Splendor--rest in peace, Harvey Pekar--or something else in that vein.)

Across the pond,  Marshall Rogers' art also shows improvement--either that, or after three issues I'm finally getting used to his style. At least in their work with the League, Medley and Rogers both seem to do their best when not illustrating heroes in costume, and fortunately this issue of JLE spends a good deal of time with two young Brits who make the poor life choice of kidnapping Power Girl's cat. Power Girl doesn't take it well at all--she even makes Sue Dibny call up Batman and demand the caped crusader apply his keen detective skills to the case--but ultimately the cat is returned and the catnappers make it through, albeit quite the worse for wear.

However, it must be noted that the cat's return comes only after a pit stop at the mysterious Mr. Bigger's facility. Mr. Bigger was behind the attempt to grab Wally Tortolini's notebook over in JLA #44, and it was all part of a massive intelligence-gathering operation for criminals. Now it seems opportunity has again knocked for the criminal entrepreneur, and Mr. Bigger has the cat fitted with a transmitting camera eye so he can keep a close watch inside the League's London embassy.

Cover credits from "Justice Log": "Cover by Adam Hughes and Karl Story"; and from "Europinion": "Our cover is by Marshall Rogers, Bruce Patterson, and Bob Le Rose of pencilling, inking, and coloring fame."

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Justice League America #45
Dec. '90
"A Date With Density, Part Two: Hell On Ice!"
Another lesson in the fine art of male/female relations as brought to you by
Keith Giffen, married, with children
J.M. DeMatteis, divorced, with child
Russell Braun, will gladly show you his etchings
John Beatty, never discusses his private life
Bob Lappan, discusses it with everyone
Gene D'Angelo, limited palette
Kevin Dooley, S.W.M.*
Andy Helfer, J.A.B.**
* Single White Male
** Just Ask Brenda
Assisted and abetted by Adam Hughes, José Marzan Jr., and Malcolm Jones III

Justice League Europe #21
Dec. '90
"Blood, Sweat and Tabloids"
Just a bit of sport from...
Keith Giffen - plot & breakdowns
Gerard Jones - script
Marshall Rogers - pencils
Joe Rubinstein - inks
Bob Lappan - letters
Gene D'Angelo - colors
Kevin Dooley - tea and
Andy Helfer - crumpets

So far as plots are concerned, December 1990 was a slow month for the JLI, and can be summed up like this: Guy and Ice went on another date--this time to see the Ice-Capists--and said date was rudely interrupted by a prank pulled by Beetle, Kilowog and Fire; meanwhile, the JLE moved into the London Embassy and did a bit of shopping.

There are, however, some important developments concerning the membership. First, Oberon decides to peace out so he can spend more time with Scott and Barda.

Then, Max puts Catherine Cobert in charge of the JLE (leaving Captain Atom as field commander).

Once in charge, Catherine cleans up the team's roster files, deleting Wonder Woman (who never bothered to show up, anyway) and Animal Man (whose own book has apparently gotten just too damn weird to jibe with the League anymore). Meanwhile, Inspector Camus of the Paris police--to his everlasting chagrin--is assigned to a Metahuman Crisis Unit and made the direct liaison officer to the JLE. Perhaps most importantly, though, is the revelation that Uncle Mitch himself is alive and well and on his way to Disney World, having survived his run-in with Dreamslayer.

By far the best part of these two issues is the Adam Hughes art in four pages of JLA. Russell Braun's work is passable for a filler issue, and Marshall Rogers' work in JLE just disappoints; he nails some tertiary characters, but he butchers Max, and his treatment of the rest of the League leaves much to be desired after Bart Sears' phenomenal work. Speaking of art, ignore the credits on the cover of JLA, but feel free to heed the cover credits in both books' letters pages: "Justice Log" notes, "Cover by Adam Hughes, inks by Karl Story, colors by Bob Le Rose," and "Europinion" offers, "Cover pencils, inks and colors by, respectively, Marshall Rogers, Bruce Patterson, and Bob Le Rose." Also in "Europinions," Kevin Dooley dances right around the multiple questions about a certain incongruous flashback from JLE #16.

More next week!

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35, #60/36

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Post-Holiday Distraction...

...courtesy of Superman. Who, it turns out, is a goddamn thug.

Superman's extortion racket is taken from the Sunday, November 19, 1939 edition of the Superman Sunday comic, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Scanned from the book Superman: Sunday Classics 1939-1943, published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.