Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Justice League America #39
Jun. '90
"Blow Up"
Giffen, DeMatteis, Hughes, Rubinstein, Lappan, D'Angelo, Dooley and Helfer have done it again! (We're not exactly sure what they've done, but if our legal department doesn't complain, we guess it's okay...)

Justice League Europe #15
Jun. '90
"The Extremist Vector Part One: Kings of the Dust"
Keith Giffen - plot & breakdowns
Gerard Jones - script
Bart Sears - pencils
Pablo Marcos - inks
Bob Lappan - letters
Gene D'Angelo - colors
Kevin Dooley - patter
Andy Helfer - pitter

We're a long way from "Furballs" this week, as both books deliver heavy hitters with no punches pulled. In other words, there's a lot of fighting, and almost none of it's between Leaguers. First up, in JLA, the battle against Despero intensifies significantly. After taking down J'onn with a mental attack, Despero gets booted into the Atlantic by none other than Guy, and the kerfuffle--joined by Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle and Mr. Miracle--finally lands in Midtown Manhattan, where the whole shebang ends (for now) with Despero blowing up the League's shuttle, with Miracle still at the controls. As the pages turn, a few interesting revelations are made, as well. For instance, although no one should be surprised that Guy feels like this about J'onn--

--I had no idea J'onn felt like this about Gypsy:

Also, Beetle finally gets some respect ... sort of:

JLE, meanwhile, shows us what's left of Blue Jay and Silver Sorceress' homeworld, as the latter wanders dead streets only to run into the Extremists, the cabal of criminals who apparently caused the nuclear holocaust: Lord Havoc, Dr. Diehard, Gorgon, Tracer and Dreamslayer. While the villains' designs remind me of the worst excesses of the '90s, Giffen and now apparently regular scripter Jones provide some nice character beats amongst the Extremists, all of whom are slipping deeper into madness as a result of being alone together in the big, dead world.

Of course, the Extremists all cheer up when they find Silver Sorceress, whom they promptly beat to a pulp. Then, in her weakened condition, Dreamslayer has no trouble infiltrating her mind and exfiltrating the spell used to bridge dimensions, thereby bringing the fight to our world and, namely, the Moscow embassy of the JLI, where Metamorpho has arrived to retrieve Blue Jay. The Extremists might not look like much, but they make short work of Metamorpho, apparently letting him live only so he can warn his teammates. The next few issues should be doozies.

I know I've raved about Adam Hughes' art in the past, and while I don't mean to minimize the considerable talents demonstrated by JLE's dynamic duo of Sears and Marcos, I've just gotta say that Hughes' storytelling is absolutely first rate. You can take away all the words in this issue of JLA (of course, coming from Giffen and DeMatteis, you wouldn't want to) and still clearly follow the story just with the art. If I had more time on my hands, I'd mess around with Photoshop to prove it to you, but since I don't, you'll have to take my word for it--or track down this issue and see for yourself.

Both books offer cover credits in the letters pages; from JLA's "Justice Log," we learn: "Adam Hughes, pencils; Joe Rubinstein, inks; and Bob Le Rose, colors"; and from JLE's "Europinion": "Bart Sears did them pencils and inks, and Bob Le Rose did that color thang." Also noteworthy from "Justice Log" is this humdinger of an esoteric question from Jonathan Ezor of New Haven, CT: "Could you explain how Booster Gold managed to get a Legion flight ring, if all time travel from the Legion period back was shunted to the Pocket Universe by the Time Trapper?" I don't understand hardly any of that question, but it seems I'm in good company, as Kevin Dooley responds, "We can't explain Booster's flight ring, so we have him use it infrequently." Dooley was the king of keeping it real in these pages.

1990 was a good year for movies, and here's another one that helped define my youth:

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, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #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

Dick Tracy ad copyright Disney. All other images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of Blankets, 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.

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca

A lot's been said about this brilliant mash-up/send-up of '70s blacksploitation cinema and superhero comics, and deservedly so. It's no wonder I wasn't able to track down a copy of this book in an actual brick-and-mortar shop in Los Angeles County, instead having to resort to the lawless interwebs. The fruits of the search were well worth the effort, though: This is a gorgeous book, and the parody is spot-on hilarious, with the art--including great lettering, coloring and inking--perfectly matching the innuendo-laden subject matter. The story--like the hero--is loose, presented as though culled from a "collection" of old Afrodisiac comics published by "Aweful Comic Books." Afrodisiac himself, né Alan Diesler (or Deasler--his name and origin are prone to change from one story to the next, skewering every costumed hero from Spider-Man to Thor along the way), loves fast cars and faster women, and he runs his crime-fighting operations out of the night club Afroca. His nemeses include Dracula, ex-sidekick Tricky Dick Nixon and the supercomputer Megapute, none of whom stand a chance when confronted with Afrodisiac's uncanny street smarts. Adding to the sheer glee are a handful of faux advertisements, including my personal favorite for a line of female action figures dubbed "Afrodisiac's L.O.A.D. (Ladies of Action/Danger)."

an illustrated novel by Craig Thompson

I've been meaning to read Thompson's autobiographical tome since it was first published circa 2003. It would have been interesting to read it then, to be sure, but I think perhaps it's for the best I waited, if only because the intervening seven years provided enough distance from the age Thompson details that these pages won't push me deeper into the late-teenage angst and anomie this story charts. All the same, this beautiful, heartbreaking portrait maturation, teenage love and the loss of faith brought back a lot of memories, making the book a very raw read. The characters all feel fully three dimensional, but nevertheless it's easy to see myself, my friends and my family in the book's pages. This effect is certainly aided by Thompson's art, beautifully rendered and abstract enough to make identification all the easier. His layouts are similarly stunning, demonstrating a perfect balance between light and dark and a willingness to employ negative space to isolate characters and moments. "How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface," muses Thompson's inked alter ego. "To make a map of my movement--no matter how temporary." Amen, brother.

Dave Sim

Another longstanding goal of mine has been to read the entirety of Sim's epic Cerebus the Aardvark story, and now that I've begun, I'm only sorry I waited so long. Collecting the first 25 issues of Sim's 300-issue triumph of self publishing, this volume offers a fascinating glimpse into the early steps of the writer/artist; it's almost hypnotic watching Sim's art improve from one issue to the next as he becomes increasingly comfortable with both his own abilities and the book's evolving subject and tone. Conceived as a parody of Conan the Barbarian, Cerebus quickly begins flirting with politics, religion and the differences between the sexes (an issue that would bring Sim no small degree of controversy and notoriety later in the book's run), while still finding the time to skewer Captain America and Bucky, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing along the way. Complementing Sim's desire to experiment with subject matter, he doesn't shy away from experimenting visually with his black-and-white pages, employing a variety of inking techniques and page layouts and honing a phenomenal talent for lettering. Say what you will about the man, but Sim is a master cartoonist, and this collection has made me eager indeed to continue following his evolution through Cerebus' next 15 volumes.

Writers: Archie Goodwin, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas
Pencilers: Gene Colan, Johnny Craig, Jack Kirby, George Tuska
Inkers: Jack Abel, Dan Adkins, Sol Brodsky, Johnny Craig, Frank Giacoia
Letterer: L.P. Gregory, Sam Rosen, Art Simek, Irving Watanabe

I've mentioned previously that I wasn't exactly bowled over by Volume 1 in this series, but Volume 2 entertained me to no end. Part of it was likely me--this time around I was just in a better frame of mind for the absurdity of Marvel comics from the late '60s--but I don't think it hurt, either, that Gene Colan, Johnny Craig and George Tuska inherited penciling duties Don Heck. (God bless the man, but Heck's Iron Man work just didn't do much for me.) Some particular highlights included the addition of Jasper Sitwell, agent of SHIELD; Iron Man busting out roller skates to stop Titanium Man; and the Mandarin's madcap plot to prove Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same by setting a robotic Hulk on a rampage through New York. (Of course, a real stinker was when Happy Hogan was turned into The Freak not once but twice.) I'm honestly looking forward to picking up Volume 3 one of these days.

Story: Gerard Way
Art: Gabriel Bá
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Series Cover Artist: James Jean
Collected Edition Cover Artist: Gabriel Bá

Like the rest of the comics-reading population, I went into this book with a good deal of skepticism. I mean, what the hell could the dude from My Chemical Romance know about writing comics? Well, after reading Apocalypse Suite, I can safely say he knows a hell of a lot. This book scratched an awful lot of itches, from the wrestling space-squid on page one to the talking chimpanzees, time travel and hero in a gorilla suit named Spaceboy. Indeed, I felt as though this book had been made just for me. Making it better still is Bá's stunning, energetic art, beautifully complemented by the colors of James Jean, who's absolutely one of the best in the business. I don't want to spoil any of the adventure, but trust me when I say the next time you need to slake your thirst for Thrilling Pulp Madness, this book will most certainly satisfy.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Justice League America #38
May '90
Story by Giffen & DeMatteis
Art by Hughes & Rubinstein
The parody of "Spy" in this issue is published with the permission of "Spy Magazine." "Spy" and "Separated at Birth?" are registered trademarks belonging to Spy Publishing Partners, LP.

Justice League Europe #14
May '90
"You Oughta Be In Pictures"
Keith Giffen, plot and breakdowns
Gerard Jones, dialogue
Linda Medley, pencils
Jose Marzan Jr., inks
Albert De Guzman, letters
Gene D'Angelo, colors
Kevin Dooley, best boy
Andy Helfer, key grip
And who says you can't do film in comics?

Judging by the letters pages all these many months, it was a minority of readers who wanted JLA to abandon its jocular tone in favor of grim 'n' gritty, no-holds-barred punch-ups. Nevertheless, being the giving people they are, the creative team decided to give that minority its day in the sun, beginning with issue 38. The book starts innocently enough, with five pages of Wally Tortolini's reportage for Spy magazine, laid out to look like the real publication. Basing his story on the clues found in the League's garbage, the journalist manages to connect a lot of dots, correctly identifying, for example, the alter egos of Fire and Blue Beetle. Fortunately for the League, the DCU's version of Spy is owned by Vivian D'Aramis, a.k.a. Crimson Fox, and she quickly and quietly kills the story before it hits the presses.

The JLA's problems are far from over, though. First, Booster and Claire Montgomery start laying the foundation for their own super-team by recruiting Maxi-Man to the cause. Far more seriously, though, the alien that emerged last issue is now clearly identified as a reconstituted Despero, and he wastes no time returning to Earth seeking revenge against the old members of Justice League Detroit. First, he rips what's left of Steel out of the life-support tube that had kept the hero hanging on by a thread, and then, without batting his third eye, he flies off to suburbia and kills Gypsy's parents. When Gypsy returns from studying at the library, Despero chases her across town, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. All hope for Gypsy seems lost until, on the last page, J'onn intervenes.

For anyone needing a bit of levity after all that carnage, things don't get any lighter than JLE #14. Unfortunately, there's too much fluff even for me. The story hinges on a nameless milquetoast who's basically married to his VCR and extensive library of VHS tapes (yeah, this one's a bit dated). One day, he receives the ability to transfer bodies with anyone--or anything--he sees onscreen. The sauce thickens when he travels to the Cannes Film Festival in the guise of movie star Flint Clintwood; when he finds himself in a pinch, he then becomes in turn a giant Godzilla-esque monster, a chainsaw-wielding murderer and "Winki" the dog. Lest you wonder what the hell any of that has to do with the JLI, Flash, Power Girl and Elongated Man (and his lovely wife, Sue) have also traveled to Cannes for a bit of PR, and once there they bump into Fire and Ice, who happen to be in France because, I don't know, nothing happens in America I guess.

Linda Medley's pencils shine when dealing with the Japanese monster, but her Flash looks like he fell out of an Archie comic. The worst offenses, though, lie with the plot, which is flimsy and riddled with holes I find hard to ignore even for a genre that consistently stretches the limits of suspending one's disbelief. Just one example: Movie-Man (my name for him, and I know it's not a good one) manages to outrun the frickin' Flash.

Anyway, and apropos of nothing, there's been something very strange about Mr. Miracle these past two issues of JLA.

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, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #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.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Iron Man 2 Story for American Cinematographer

I had the great good fortune to write the cover story for the May issue of American Cinematographer magazine, detailing the terrific visuals of Iron Man 2, and I had a wonderful time doing it. (And yes, I was proud indeed when I was able to title the piece "Armor Wars.") While reporting the story, I visited the production on location at Los Angeles' Sepulveda Dam (which stood in for the exterior of Stark Expo), and I received a wealth of great information from everyone I spoke with, including cinematographer Matty Libatique, ASC; 2nd-unit director/cinematographer Jonathan Taylor, ASC; visual-effects supervisor Janek Sirrs; gaffer Mike Bauman; and director Jon "Happy Hogan" Favreau. The full story--including a sidebar focused on the 2nd unit's incredible contributions--can now be read online here, at the American Cinematographer website, where we've also posted an even bigger selection of photos than we were able to fit into the print edition. Enjoy.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Justice League America #37
Apr. '90
Keith Giffen, plot
J.M. DeMatteis, script
Adam Hughes, pencils
Art Nichols, inks
Albert De Guzman, letters
Gene D'Angelo, colors
Kevin Dooley, still thinks he's editing "Amazing Heroes"
Andy Helfer ... well, the less said about him, the better
Special thanks to Joe Rubinstein & Jack Torrance for invaluable inking assists

Justice League Europe #13
Apr. '90
"Furballs II"
Keith Giffen, plot + breakdowns
J.M. DeMatteis, guest scripter
Chris Sprouse, guest penciller
K.S. Wilson, inker
Bob Lappan, letterist
Gene D'Angelo, colorist
Kevin Dooley, dances divinely
Andy Helfer, always leads

As you've no doubt inferred from the titles above, this week brings us a two-part crossover event, although I use the word "event" loosely. After the serious tone JLE adopted for the Metamorpho & Son story, DeMatteis returns for a lighthearted romp that finds a group of schoolchildren on a field trip to the Paris embassy. At the same time, would-be super-thief Jean-Jean de Jean infiltrates the embassy in a doomed attempt to relieve the building of its art collection, generously donated by the French government. Everything comes to a boil when the JLA arrives in Paris, summoned there by an alleycat who took a nap on the JLE's priority-one alert button.

Three Stooges references strengthen the bridge between the two titles that's built on the cat that lives in the alley behind the New York embassy. The "Furballs" adventure begins when Guy absent-mindedly leaves the back door ajar and the cat slips inside. After the cat frightens Fire and gives Guy a run for his money, Guy tosses the cat into the teleporter, making it the JLE's problem. That's teamwork for you.

JLE's guest penciller, Chris Sprouse--very early in his career at this point--does a passable job, although I wish he would have laid his panels out to a tighter grid. Meanwhile, despite the feline funnies, JLA sets up a number of important threads that'll come to fruition over the next handful of issues, beginning with the return of a mysterious alien ...

... continuing through a reporter for Spy magazine absconding with the League's refuse ...

... and winding up with Booster--who's gone all A.J. Simon with his look--meeting with one Claire Montgomery, which in turn leads us to the issue's surprise finale:

Finally, let's remember that in April of 1990, we were seeing ads for what remains one of the most significant events to ever hit pop culture--and here I use "event" with all the import the word can bear.

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, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #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

TMNT ad copyright Golden Harvest, New Line Cinema and Mirage Studios. A.J. Simon frame grab from Simon & Simon, copyright Universal TV. All other images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Justice League America #36
Mar. '90
"Gnort by Gnortwest"
Giffen: plot & breakdowns
DeMatteis: script
Artis: pencils
Nichols: inks
Bob Lappan: letters
Gene D'Angelo: colors
Kevin Dooley: shop steward
Andy Helfer: foreman

Justice League Europe #12
Mar. '90
"Bringing Up Baby"
A slice of sentimentality, courtesy of ...
Keith Giffen - plot
Bill Loebs - script
Bart Sears - art
Bob Lappan - letters
Gene D'Angelo - colors
Kevin Dooley ... etc, etc ...

Offering Adam Hughes a brief respite, Tom Artis takes on the penciling duties for this JLA filler issue starring everyone's favorite Green Lantern, G'nort (who, it should be noted, now uses an apostrophe in his name, even if that fact isn't reflected in the story's title). Adam Hughes he is not, but Artis does a fine job with an entertaining one-off pitting G'nort against intergalactic villain the Scarlet Skier.

Freshly released from a prison sentence G'nort sent him to, the Skier is out for revenge, and naturally the two wind up tussling near the League's New York embassy. By issue's end there's an uneasy camaraderie developing between G'nort and the Skier, but more significant is the introduction (via a flashback narrated by G'nort) of Mister Nebula, planetary designer and DC's answer to Galactus.

Meanwhile, as warned in the credits, JLE does indeed get sentimental, with Metamorpho continuing to fight for his son, Simon Stagg himself growing a heart and learning to love his grandson, Animal Man leaving the League to deal with the loss of his family, and Rocket Red's family arriving at the Paris embassy. All that, plus Silver Sorceress and Blue Jay regain their powers, but it's a bittersweet victory, as the Sorceress opens a portal to return to their homeworld, while ol' Blue stays behind, determined still to make a difference in this broken world of ours.

And all readers shed a single tear, for truth, for justice, and for the memory of Wandjina. Never forget.

More cover credits from the letters pages: JLA's "Justice Log" tells us, "This issue's cover was brought to you by Adam Hughes with official Bob Le Rose coloring," and JLE's "Europinion" notes, "Bart, of course, with Bob Le Rose coloring. Yes, last issue's cover was by Kevin Maguire (who's doing all the covers for the new Superboy book) and inked by Bart."

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, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #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.