Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shambling into a new era?
Man-Thing re-emergant!

It should be no secret that one of my all-time favorite comic book characters is the macabre MAN-THING... inasmuch as this blog is dedicated, in part, to him/it.

Man-Thing (as I may have mentioned before) was one of the very first comic book character/series' that I, then as a 10-year-old boy, would discover and soon thereafter collect.

It was Man-Thing that also helped introduce me to Doctor Strange, and while Doc would soon soar to the top of my fanboy mentality, Man-Thing was always present at its soggy base foundation.

Man-Thing had been fairly popular over the years, more so in the height of the "Monster craze" in the 1970's, but still, since his first appearsance in the magazine-format Savage Tales v1 # 1 in 1971, he would have several starring roles at Marvel over the years:

A few series' (of varying degrees of success):
  • Adventure into Fear - 1972-1973 : # 10 - 19
  • Man-Thing volume 1 - 1974-1975 : 22 issues
which was "enhanced" by the "Giant-Sized Man-Thing" - 1974-1975 series of 5 quarterly specials
  • Man-Thing volume 2 - 1979-1981 : 11 issues
  • Man-Thing volume 3 - 1997-1998 : 9 issues
  • Man-Thing volume 4 - 2004 : a 3-issue mini series that tied into a FEATURE FILM, direct-to-DVD release, Sci-Fi channel TV movie (the less said about that the better)
Some extended-term "serials":
  • Monsters Unleashed (magazine) - 1973-1975 : in most of the 11 issues and 1 annual
  • Marvel Comics Presents v1 - 1988 : # 1-12
  • Marvel Comics Presents v1  - 1994 : # 164-167

As well as a few mini-series:

  • Book of the Dead - 4 issue mini - 1993
  • Strange Tales v3 - 2 issues 1998 (a continuation from the 1998 Man-Thing series)
  • Dead of Night - 4 issue mini - 2006
  • Legion of Monsters : Man-Thing (oneshot) 2007

Otherwise, it was just years of nothing but sporadic walk-on shamble-by appearances in others' titles.

 *** For a complete list of ALL of Man-Thing's appearances, please visit the excellent Man-Thing site; 
The Swamp ; Home of the Man-Thing - [HERE
It is run by an internet-friend of mine and I contribute sightings and info there as often as I can. ***

However, it seems that 2009 and 2010 are the start of some "grass roots" resurgence for the Man-Thing... and "10-year-old Ptor" couldn't be happier.

Sure, he doesn't have any new series as of yet, or anything more substantial than some one-shots and guest-starring appearances, but these all seem to be leading... somewhere.
They are linked, somewhat, to what seems to be a conscious effort, by Marvel, to promote and push the muck-encrusted mockery of a man into the limelight.

 I mean, how ELSE would you explain the fact that there is now a $500.00 (actual price - not a 2ndary market mark-up... which are far higher!) Comiquette statue of Man-Thing?!?

 (An incredulous post of which can be found [HERE])

Multiple guest appearances in high-profile books like the  "X-Men : First Class" series', written extremely well by Jeff Parker (remember that name... it'll come back at the end of this post), would be a great aid in showcasing "Manny" to those comic fans who might not otherwise have an interest.

(a loving review of X-Men: First Class FINALS # 3 can be found [HERE]) 

Still, last year we had several guest appearances; a special one-shot issue along with Spider-Man ("Fear Itself") -

Cover art by Mico Suayan and Frank D'Armata.

as well as guest starring roles in the Marvel Zombies v 3 and v 4 mini series'.

cover art by Greg Land
(note: this scene does not appear in the comic)

(reviews of several of those can be found [HERE].)

Marvel Zombies v 3 and v 4 included Man-Thing as a part of a new "Midnight Sons" team of Monsters who fought the invading Zombie-universe Marvel characters.
Man-Thing even showed the ability to be a serious force in that team setting (which will lead to one of the newest developments in his "career" - as I'll mention in a little bit).

However,  some more recent events like Man-Thing in yet another "team" (with the "League of Monsters/ Monster Midnight Sons") is shown having some kick-ass moments in titles like Punisher (in the most excellent "Franken-Castle" storyline - issue # 13 especially! Seriously, read # 13. Fan-freaking-tastic!)...


Cover by Mike Mckone

and "Deadpool : Merc with a Mouth" (dealing with the fallout from the Marvel Zombies invasion) have been showcasing the new "popularity" of Manny and building to his next stage.

Deadpool; Merc with a Mouth # 6
Victor Gishler (words), Bong Dazo (pencils), Jose Pimentel (inks), Matt Milla (colors)

A part of that new stage was set up a few years back in Marvel Comics Presents v2 # 12 (in a short tale of "the Initiative" wherein Government agents tried to recruit the Man-Thing into the 50-state initiative program) ...

MCP v2 # 12
Jai Nitz (writer), Ben Stenbeck (artist)

which was then followed-up in the more recent Dark Avengers #10, that saw Ares and the other Dark Avengers capturing Man-Thing for Norman Osborn.

Art by Mike Deodato
A quick side-step into a bit of a retread on his origin (with some new tweaks - as revealed in my review [HERE]) in the pages of the new Web of Spider-Man # 6 ...

adds a modern touch to the Man-Thing mythos as well as an extra tendril tying him into the Marvel Universe proper (and one villain in particular) and the Man-Thing is now poised for his next step lurch...

In the upcoming "Heroic Age" the Marvel Universe will emerge from the darkness of the recent decade-long "Disassembling, House-of-M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Seige" era to one of heroes (and some repentant villains) rising to the opportunities and nature of being HEROES.

In this new world, one of the most unlikely figures ever to emerge from the shadowy depths is taking his place on a top-tier TEAM title: The THUNDERBOLTS!

That's right! For who-knows HOW LONG (and who knows HOW - period) writer Jeff Parker (remember that name from earlier?) is once again setting his unique vision upon the Man-Thing and having him / it stand hunch side by side with heroes and (former?) villains in the next incarnation of this ragtag team of misfits, outcasts and ne'er-do-well's.

So, how does Man-Thing fit in with a group that consists of:
Juggernaut, Ghost, Moonstone, Crossbones which is led by Luke Cage?
Damned if I know, but Jeff Parker can make it good!

cover by Marko Djurdjevic

While, I will miss Man-Thing in a milieu more apropos to his nature, (such as he is currently serving with the "Legion of Monsters" in the Punisher title,) I am willing to see him in a larger arena as the Thunderbolts can afford. This is especially since his recent ventures into team-status (in the aforementioned Marvel Zombies and Punisher-based "Legion of Monsters") have shown some new and interesting twists to he who has been handled (sadly, for much of his "career") as a rather 1-dimensional monster.

Will this new offshoot be like fertile soil from whence something good shall grow?
Or will it soon be tossed onto the compost heap to rot and stink?

If it doesn't work out in the "big leagues", what's the worst that can happen?
A return to the minor leagues in the Florida swamps?
That would only be like going home.
Either way, I look forward to seeing what emerges from this new rebirth.

Tamam Shud!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Dip in the Primordial Ooze.

Web of Spider-Man # 6
A *MAN-THING* Review

"Gauntlet : Origins - LIZARD!"
Starring: MAN-THING!

Fred Van Lente - writer
Jefte Palo - artist
Javier Rodriguez - colors
Joe Caramagna - letters

Head on down to the swamp late at night with a companion or two and sit together by a camp fire.
Inevitably, tall tales, ghost stories and urban legends will be the subject of all conversation.
And, as is the case every time such tales are told, each incarnation of the tale adds something new to the offering.
It's never the same story twice.

Such is the case with this new retelling (a slight "re-imagining)" of the origins of the Lizard and the Man-Thing.

However, such is the well-crafted nature of writer Fred Van Lente's story that we don't mind the additions he makes.

While the origin of the Lizard (biologist Dr. Curt Conners) has been fairly regular since his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man # 6, Man-Thing (biochemist Dr. Ted Sallis), however, has always had slight tweaks here and there - subtle shadows that have crept in around the periphery of the vision.
Some, over the years, have been minor continuity add-ons (such as):

  • Whether or not Ellen Brandt; the "female assistant" of his human self; Ted Sallis, was his wife, girlfriend or just some random skank he picked up... and if she was in league with the terrorist group A.I.M. before or after she was involved with Sallis.

  • Whether the "Project : Gladiator" serum that Sallis was working on (and which, when injected into his body being a part of what transformed him into the Man-Thing) was to replicate the Super Soldier Serum that created Captain America or something to aid troops in being able to withstand intense pollution and/or radiation in order to be better combatants on an Earth where pollution will run rampant.

Other times there have been huge retcon retoolings of his origin and very nature:

  • Such as the time that he was supposedly the reincarnation of sorts of the "First Man" of the universe; Adam K'Ad-mon - a cosmic shaman.  (yeah... let's just try to forget that ever happened, OK?)

 This time, the additions to the story are neither off-putting, nor unwelcome (save one - which I'll get to later in the review):

  • Ted Sallis, prior to his setting up his "Project : Gladiator" in the Florida Everglades was a doctor / scientist in the "tomorrows soldiers - today" venue - during an undated Baghdad warzone - seeking to find methods for regeneration or reconstruction of limbs.
  • Sallis meets and befriends then-Army medic Curt Connors, who had just suffered his serious loss of limb injury, after Connors attempted to save the life of a wounded (and booby-trapped) soldier.
  • The two biochemists run parallel research, Sallis giving Connors many insights as to looking towards Lizard DNA for regenerative resource.

Truthfully, these are all good tweaks to the origin.
While I might be a little put off at how every super-powered someone knows some other super-powered someone in the MU (why can't anyone just gain powers who is completely out of left field? Someone who has never met or known any other person who had, has or will gain powers?), still in this case, with both Connors and Sallis having their labs be in the Florida Everglades (of all places), surely these two guys MUST have met at least once before, right?
Normally, it would make more sense for their having met while both doing their research in the swamps, but here, in this issue, we see that the very reason they are both in the same swamp is due to this first meeting and building of like-minded friendship. And THAT is perfect.

Long have I thought that these two characters, whose bases of operations interconnect, should be more connected. (And, I've long been in the habit of checking out every Lizard/Everglades battle/appearance in the hopes that Man-Thing would at least be seen in cameo. Only in a very few instances did that ever pan out.)

Plus, they're both big green monsters. C'mon! It's a natural fit.

This issue sees the perception of the past blurred through the hazy red filter of the Man-Thing's fragmented memory and semi-consciousness.
While he wades through the swamp, discovering an abandoned structure, which was used as an old battle site between the Lizard and Spider-Man, he is given a new tweak to his arsenal of "powers":

  • He shows a kind of empathic Psychometry; the ability to get "readings" of memory from a place or object.

This new ability is one that I don't recall Man-Thing ever exhibiting before, but is a good one for him to have. It helps to broaden the spectrum of ways that a semi-mindless entity can interact in a story - and to help move it forward - or at least, bring the reader information of which they might not be otherwise privvy. A built-in "exposition-power" of sorts.

In fact, it is the very semi-conscious, somewhat mindless nature of the Man-Thing that has also been moderately tweaked here.
In most stories, Man-Thing, like someone suffering from a severe case of A.D.D. or the inability to form and maintain new memories for long periods, is only able to form coherant thoughts and follow through with them for brief moments before losing his train of thought and just shambling onto the next impulse or empathic trigger.

Although, that wasn't the case in his earliest stories. In fact, back in his first appearance, perhaps due to the fact that he was still newly formed, his memories and thoughts were fairly strong.

However, here, in relation to most stories of the past 30 years, his memory of long-ago events, and their interrelation to his current activities is a breakthrough for such a mental handicap. He is still unable to hold fast of the thoughts that flit before him, and fade gossamer-like, but he is able to keep them longer than he had been able to up to this time, and even more, recall whole events that occurred in the past with some level of detail. While the thoughts still vanish into the dark recesses of his mind, he seems able to hold on long enough to comment (inwardly) on them and act (outwardly) upon them.

While, I have a warm, mossy place in my heart for the totally mindless, empathic Man-Thing, such a character is not able to be utilized as well as one who has, at least, interconnected strands of memory.
Much more useful is someone who has just enough of a grip on a fleeting thought to recall the overall gist of it, if not the entire thought - more maddening as that may be.

Unlike DC's SWAMP THING, who has had numerous expanded retoolings of his origin, character and abilities (most times to great effect), Man-Thing has been relatively stagnant - much like the murky waters of his bog-like home.

So, while these are welcome changes, they are not the only ones.
One such change is a bit more disappointing:

In the original origin, it was the "mystical energies" inherent in the swamp (which would later be made known as the "Nexus of All Realities") that mixed with the unstable aspect of the serum which Ted Sallis injected himself being the mitigating factor of what made the Man-Thing what he is.

In this issue, those "mystic energies" are omitted, and instead it is the by-product wastes of Dr. Connors' research in Lizard DNA that intermix with the Super Soldier Serum, which thus gave birth to the muck-enrusted mockery of a man.

To this, I say "shenanigans"!

It's a sad fact that nearly every character in the Marvel Universe has his powers or abilities obtained via some kind of "scientific" cause. There are so few true "magical" characters (as compared to DC whose mystic nature is far more diverse), and even though Man-Thing was a "unique blend" of science and sorcery, that was enough to make him unique.
Now, (at least in this tale) his is a purely scientific "oopsie, spilled the chemicals" type of origin (a chemistry version of "You got your peanut butter in my chocolate" - "You got your Lizard DNA mixture in my Super Soldier Serum") that it just made me sad for the loss.

However, back to the story.
Both Lizard and Man-Thing are combating each other physically, while simultaneously fighting their own memories and ever slipping humanities.
There are moments of lucidity and recollection, and instances where naught but the primitive survival instinct is all-pervading.
However, with these flashbacks and current activities overlapping, the story is not muddied, nor are we made to sludge trough it. 
As I said earlier, such is the well-crafted nature of this tale, that it is fairly seamlessly handles each divergent aspect and timeline and unites them in one cohesive, flowing narrative.

Also of great benefit to the reader is the lovely artwork by the team of Jefte Palo - artist and Javier Rodriguez - colors.
Jefte, most recently of the excellent Doctor Voodoo; Avenger of the Supernatural series, (where he also rendered Man-Thing in a guest appearance) does a fabulous job of integrating some "non-American" artwork aspects (much like the Phillipino, Spanish and European artists from the 1970s did as well) to the issue.
The unsung hero of the story is Rodriguez' color palette which enriches the beautiful line-work to such a degree that it made me re-read the story for a third time JUST to see what he was doing.
Mixing murky tones and contrasting them against strikingly brilliant neons might not normally work, but here it is done exceptionally well and to great effect.

This story, a 13-page opener of a multi-story issue (the others are a Spider-Girl story, and an excellent Lizard NEW origin type of tale) brings a modern touch to the Man-Thing mythos as well as an extra tendril tying him into the Marvel Universe proper (and one villain in particular).

The Man-Thing is now poised for his next step lurch... to fame... which I will write about and post here in a few days (it's already done and ready to go for the 30th).

I give this story 4 out of 5 toadstools.
(The issue as a whole also gets 4 out of 5. The Spider-Girl story is average, but the Zeb Wells and Xurxo Penalta Lizard wrap-up teaser story is excellent!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The sign of the ANKH!...
(well... not really.)

Image from Man-Thing v2 # 4
(Man-Thing drowning poor old Doc.)
Chris Claremont (writer), Don Perlin & Bob Wiacek (artists)
John Costanza (letters),  Ben Sean (colors)

Dang... I was on a roll there with some multiple postings in rapid succession, but I've been feeling very under the weather as of late.

I might not be in "mortal danger" as Doc states (unless my wife finds out that I was doing anything other than resting today... then, I'm a dead man,) but I have been off my game quite a bit these days.

Still, I do owe some promised reviews of the recent Dr. Strange & Dr. Voodoo mini-series' as well as some thoughts on Man-Thing's current comings-and-goings.

There is a "special edition" post that I have nearly ready to go for tomorrow, but it's not anything that was promised.

So, check back again tomorrow for that
(I'll pre-post it so that it appears at midnight tonight). 

Ugh... after I got it all ready to go, I looked up at the calendar and noticed that my "special edition" post isn't "due" until a day next month!
I thought it was a "special day" coming this week.
See? I'm NOT feeling well.

So, I'll have some of those reviews for you soon enough.

I want to get them out of the way before April.

April is going to be a BIG month here. 
(and most of THAT work is already done and in the can!)

I'm going to go lie down now before the ANKH does indeed appear on my brow..

Tamam Shud!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wearin' o' the Green

If Saint Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland, they should know that they'll be most welcome to a nice home in the swamp with Saint Manny!

He welcomes Everyone!
Just don't touch his pot o' gold, or he'll hit you with his shillelagh.

*click to embiggen*

A HAPPY St. PATRICK's Day to you all!
But remember you well...
...BURNS at the TOUCH of the MAN-THING!"
So please drink responsibly.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Ides of March
"Bread, Circuses and Worlds of Warcraft"

Let's take a look at how, through history and/or the interference of Doctor Strange, we have avoided the continued rule of the Roman Empire and its 21st Century ways of parties, video games on wide-screen TVs and sex.

Today, March 15th, is otherwise famous as being the fabled:
"Ides of March".

Instead of my explaining it, allow me to just paste some wiki:


The Ides of March is the name of March 15 in the Roman calendar. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months. The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was killed in 709 AUC or 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators.

According to Plutarch, Caesar was warned by a seer to be on his guard against a great peril on the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated) Caesar saw the seer and joked "Well, the Ides of March have come," to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone."This meeting is famously dramatized in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, when Caesar is warned to "beware the Ides of March."

So, how am I going to link this to the general purposes of this here blog?
Well, here's how:

Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 46 

cover art by Frank Miller and Tom Palmer
Plot by Bill Kunkle, Script by David Michelinie, Pencil by Kerry Gammill,  Inks by Al Milgrom
D. Albers - Letters, B. Sharon - Colors, Jo Duffy and Al Milgrom - Editors
and Jim Shooter - EiC

In this issue, Strange and Clea travel to Rome, Italy for a little rest and recreating (although it was really because Doc "sensed" a disturbance in the mystical natures of things) and while there are embroiled in an ages-old prophesy and an eternal lineage of portent telling Sibyls.

The upshot to all this is that while Doc is relegated to the sidelines (and battling an otherworld sorcerer in an extra-dimensional plane) Clea, for once, stands front and center as the mystic of power who is sought out in order to stave off the dangers of the Black Oracle by completing the required Sibylline Triad.

The danger in question is the coming of invading 20+st Century Roman Centurions, whom, in their own time-line, never succumbed to the fall of Rome and as such, conquered the world and then every planet in the galaxy - then ruling everything for untold years as a decadent society with video games and carnal pleasures.

*click to make Romanesque*

"Exposition, thy name is Bronze Age Comics!"

So, what does all this have to do with the "Ides of March"?
Well, Julius Caesar's murder on this day may not have been the actual "end" of the Roman Empire, but it certainly may have helped lead (eventually) to its "decline and fall".

In the alternate world that tried to invade ours in this issue, Ceasar likely was never killed.
And as such, if our own Julius Caesar were to have avoided his death at the hands of multiple back-stabbing Senators (as if there are any other kind), we'd all be laser-rifle toting Centurions in a decadent society of parties, video games on wide-screen TVs and sex.

Wait... what?
Oh, man....

Friday, March 12, 2010

- An In-Depth REVIEW.


# 1.
(Updated and edited - March 13, 2010)

(click to postersize)
Sure, a more truthful title may have been;
"The nerve-damaged Hands of Doctor Strange",
but that isn't quite as catchy.

With a gorgeously lavish and atmospheric cover, painted by Lucio Parrillo, the MYSTIC HANDS OF DOCTOR STRANGE # 1 is a "magazine-style" formatted (as touted with cover blurbs) "SUPER-ISSUE" with "More Pages" and "More Thrills" in "48 All-New Pages in Glorious Black and White!"

I can assure you, the blurbs do not lie.


This black and white (and greytoned) artwork format "magazine" intentionally evokes the 1970's heyday of the oversized b/w Marvel Magazines (started as Marvel's "Curtis" publications) when more adventurous, "adult-oriented" takes on classic Marvel properties were paired with such classically beautiful artwork. Art that was frequently presented in its naked beauty. No garish colors to muck it up, or make murky the base structures of the artwork.

There was something special about those old black and white mags, because even though they still featured much of the same guys-in-tights that standard 4-color comics always did, there was something "more" to them as an art form.
What they lacked in color, they gained in non-comics-code-approved themes and more experimental styles of illustration and story presentation.

This new series of "SUPER ISSUES" that Marvel has recently been producing (previous entries being the "Shang-Chi; Master of Kung Fu", "The Indomitable Iron Man" and "Rampaging Wolverine" issues) are a welcome revival of style and format.

The only "down-side" to this new revival is that these "Super Issues" are not actually magazine-sized, instead just being regular comic-sized issues with extra pages.
More like the "Giant Sized" or Annual comics than anything else.
Still, the ability to rack and store these issues without undue stress for retailers and collectors alike has to be worth something.

With 4 stories (3 traditional "comic-style" and one prose story with spot illustrations) set (mostly) in the same time frame of those 1970's-era mags, each brings something different to the offering.

Let's go through the issue, story by story, (but without causing any -or many- spoilers):


1st "Strange" Tale: "The CURE"
Writer: Keiron Gillen
Artist: Frazer Irving

OK. I should get this one thing out of the way immediately...
characters who need to have their names be READ rather than spoken, in order to "get it" are just unfortunate by-products of a visual medium.

A psychiatrist who goes by the name; "Doktor" is the baddie in this tale (although there IS a much bigger and badder villain in the tale as well but I'm not giving away that "detail" (hint, hint)), and he stipulates that he prefers to be called "Doktor" rather than Doctor, as he obviously has issues with his fellow medical professionals.

The "Doktor" mentions that "philosophically, I am from a different country. My name should make that clear".
He seems to be fixated by other such "Doktors"... Faustus being chief among them.

Well, unless it is pronounced; "Doc-TORE" as opposed to the traditional "Doc-TER" (and really, it could very well be), then he's just adding to the neurosis of his patients. Much like a rendition of the old "Who's on First?" comedy shtick, "Doctor?" "No, call me Doktor." "OK, Doctor." "No, Doktor!"...

Writer Keiron Gillen has the "Doktor" in question try to do "good" via evil means by utilizing foul sorcery in a deluded attempt at using his patient's "sick" perceptions of the world to change it from it's current "well" status quo. And it is up to Doctor Strange to see how far the "sickness" spreads and just how dangerous - or extreme - the "cure" might have to be.

Frazer Irving's grey washed artwork is very clean, yet filled with some nice "special effects" techniques to keep it interesting for the modern reader.

As the story takes place as stated in 1975, artist Frazer Irving seems to have taken a few stylistic pages from one or two Doc artists of that era.

The curly-cue aspect of the headpiece of Doc's cloak is directly from famed Doc-artist; Gene Colan's classic interpretation, a stylistic choice that was echoed by other artists who followed him thereafter.
One panel leaped right out at me, and it was an example of the Eye of Agamotto being summoned forth from it's housing in the Amulet, and looking like a rubbery doorknob stretching out from it's housing.
This look is a direct "homage", it seems, to Alfredo Alcala's work on Doctor Strange # 19. (See PICS).

Irving's fine portrayal of Dr. Strange...

including the riff on this old Alfredo Alcala bit.

Alcala was indeed one of those who also used much of Gene Colan's design template during his fill-in issue(s).

Coincidentally, one or two issue prior to Dr. Strange # 19 was exactly around the timeframe that this story would have taken place. Specific mention is made to one of my all-time favorite storylines wherein the Earth is destroyed and everyone, save Strange, is an exact replica - recreated by Eternity (Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 10 - 13). So, it seems to me, that Frazer Irving had that issue on hand to use as reference.

Kudos go to writer Keiron Gillen for using that story aspect as background material here.
Sadly, that plot was retconned out by editorial fiat by issue # 19, but it is wonderful that Gillen touches on the unreal nature of Strange's experience to aid him in his quest to infiltrate this "psyche ward".

Frazer Irving's Strange is a good example of making the character appear "real', not overly handsome and not "strangely creepy". He looks like a 50+ish man who appears tired and drawn, as would anyone, rightly so, who held the responsibilities (and off-hours) of the Sorcerer Supreme.

There are several subtle niceties to his artwork as well. One is that he is one of the few artists who doesn't slavishly draw Strange's hands in the

"American Sign Language" symbol for "I Love You"

- or as the "devil's horns". Several spells are shown with Strange having other distinct hand gestures and fingering positions.

That is something that I have always appreciated. I hate the laziness of many artists who don't bother to do anything more than the traditional finger pose.

Also, a nice look to Doc's astral form being shown in negative, as opposed to it being just a pale contour drawing.
I prefer it this way it adds to the "unreality" of the astral place, as opposed to making him look like Casper the friendly ghost.

I did get a sense that computer programs like sketch-up were used to form the buildings, and then Frazer just repainted them in washes.
Everything else in the art seems artistically organic except for the structures which appear "generated".

A minor quibble is that while it is always good to see Clea, I was not thrilled with the "teenage girl in a wig" aspect to her appearance.
Ageless interdimensional princess or not, she shouldn't appear like jailbait for an obviously older man like Strange.

Keiron Gillen's dialogue is quite excellent and his plot is an interesting, if not totally unique one.
"Faustian" pacts are a tale as old as any, (as are those when the pact is made by deluded acolytes) even in Dr. Strange's own published history (issue # 76 of the M.o.M.A. series, and even similarly in the "Flight of Bones" mini, to name but two) and the manner with which he sets his tale, as having those that society has deemed "deluded" be instruments of change is one that I've read and heard before (as anyone who had ever heard the John Lennon song "Imagine" would rightly attest), but it was a good vehicle for Doctor Strange.
Magician and HEALER.

My main beef?
The ending. I won't give it away, but while Strange has done things like that before, it is so rare as to make it almost unconscionable.

STORY = 3 out of 5 orange stars

ARTWORK = 4 out of 5 orange stars


2nd "Strange" Tale : "MELANCHOLIA"

Writer : Peter Milligan
Artist : Frank Brunner

"Melancholia" is an apt name for this tale as it unfortunately fills me with that selfsame feeling.

The writing, by Peter Milligan is sadly more basic than what he is truly capable of, and in other places, it's even quite hackneyed. Here's one such line that was a "wha...huh?" moment:

"Time passes... For that is what Time, in its wisdom DOES..."

Wait... whazzaWHAT?!?!?
Not in my worst 9th grade creative-writing essays would I have written something that bad.
(Reminds me of the quote from the "Amazing" Criswell;
"We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future.")

Peter Milligan even has Strange mention that should a grieving man who might seek his wife to be returned from the dead should (ill-advisedly) seek out a master of the DARK Arts instead.
Such a thing Strange would NEVER utter.

Another bit of off-character writing is having Strange actually AGREE to have the man forget his poor behavior with his late-wife instead of having him instead focus on the good times that they must have shared and then learn to come to terms with his less-than-kinder old ways and to then learn and grow from them.

Certainly, by the mid-point of the tale it seems that, as a Master of Mystics Arts, Strange must have already sensed that the man's wretched state had allowed demonic access to his subconscious, but even so, Strange would normally perform any magical "treatments" without the subject being any the wiser for it. There would be no costumed "showmanship" in any traditional Strange tale.

I DO like Milligan's usage of Strange's Sanctum as a magical entity all its own. Having rooms like the time-altered one is a nice touch, but unfortunately, in this instance, artist Frank Brunner dropped the ball, visually. It was written that when Wong LEFT the room it was marginally EARLIER than when he arrived, so, instead of the cliched floating clock-faces, having Wong pass HIMSELF (or walk THROUGH himself) in the doorway, (much like Albert Einstein's suggestion that passing through the singularity of a black hole would allow passage back in time and permit you to pass, while leaving, the earlier aspect of yourself that was just started going IN...) would have been much cooler.
Definitely a lost opportunity.

Not the best page in the issue, but not the worst. A medium example.

By tale's end, we know that Strange does indeed want the man to learn and grow from his past ways, but Strange's over-the-top histrionics just before and during the kitchen scene make it seem that a second battle-scene with possessing demons (or Nightmare) was edited out.

The wrap-up to the tale is utterly disappointing as it seems that Strange, after lecturing his patient against magically erasing bad memories had ignored his own sage council.
Doctor, heal thyself.

I expect much more from Milligan, as one who has worked on the DC / Vertigo series HELLBLAZER (among others), often hoping to see the mystic worlds of John Constantine adapted to the broader scopes of Stephen Strange. Sadly, this was not what I had hoped for.
Milligan also penned the oft loved "X-StatiX presents ; Dead Girl" mini series (which was really more of a Dr. Strange vehicle, although there too, he made missteps in regards to an "accurate" portrayal of Strange - not to mention a completely WTF? take on the Ancient One).

As for the artwork, well... this isn't your father's Frank Brunner. More's the pity.
Frank Brunner illustrated Doc's adventures during what is arguably the high-point of Strange's popularity - certainly a by-product of Brunner's fantastic visuals, which accompanied writer Steve Englehart's scripts in the 1970's - a run that stretched from Marvel Premiere # 9 - 14 and then directly into Strange's "new" title; Master of the Mystic Arts # 1 - 5.

Certainly, Brunner's Strange here still has a little something "magical" to it, especially when shown reclining in his Sanctum, but otherwise, the rest of it is a far cry from his best days all those years ago, which is in itself "strange" as I know that he still produces work of excellent quality. A shame that he didn't use this opportunity as a new "business card" for modern fans who may not yet know of him.

STORY = 1 out of 5 yellow moons
(points ONLY for the time-altered room scenario)

ARTWORK = 2.5 out of 5 yellow moons
(Brunner's STRANGE still has something to it, but it might be nostalgia of better years)


3rd Strange Tale: "So This is How it Feels..."

Writer / Artist: Ted McKeever

Ted McKeever is, as always, someone from whom one should expect the unexpected. The experimental. The "other".

This short story seems a bit lost in it's place in "continuity" as it features a drunk and derelict Stephen Strange, but one with whom the title of Master of Mystic Arts have already become enjoined.

It MAY take place after Strange's most recent loss of the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, but I doubt it, as Strange wouldn't sink to inebriation at that time, knowing full well that he needed to atone for his transgressions, not imbibe himself until lost once again in self-destruction.

Most of the story's dialogue seems takes from rambling "enlightned" generalities as might have been heard from a mararishi or yogi, and features the trite old plumb of not giving in to one's anger or self destructive nature.

It was good for McKeever to trot out the long since abandoned use of the "Ankh" appearing on Strange's forehead when life-affirmation is needed.

Possibly the only "coherent-looking" page in the story.

An interesting 11-pager featuring a derelict Strange, a wizened old bum-turned talking-head and a demonic thug. Sadly, while this might have been something that would pass for a good Dr. Strange story, IF properly presented, is poorly implemented here due to lack of proper "setting" or context. It survives purely on McKeevers "out-there" nature and the "granola" aspects of the message.

Oh, the story's last-sentence joke... makes me fearful that the fate of the "wise old bum" was predicated on that crusty old nugget.

STORY = 2.5 out of 5 green clovers

ARTWORK = 2.5 out of 5 green clovers


4th "Strange" Tale : "Duel in the Dark Dimension"

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Marcos Martin

Much like the black and white marvel magazines of old, adding the finishing touch to this issue is this 3-page prose short story by Mike Carey with spot illustrations by Marcos Martin.

Written as an excerpt from the journal of Doctor Stephen Strange, while still a neophyte pupil of the Ancient One, this short story embarks Strange on his way as a new wanderer into the Astral Planes and presents but a few of the dangers which might present themselves therein.

Well written, with descriptive imagery and interesting concepts on the magical nature of the otherworlds, this was perhaps the most enjoyable of the pieces presented in this volume.

While that might be due to the fact that whenever I read comics, I always read the words first and usually only on my second pass, read and look at artwork more in detail.
This story allowed me to just immerse myself in the story and use my own imagination as palette and canvas.

There are very few prose-only stories featuring Doctor Strange, and those have always been my favorites.

That is not to say that there were NO graphic representations to be found in this story.
The wonderful Marcos Martin (who had illustrated the fabulous Dr. Strange miniseries "The Oath") who is ALWAYS welcome to draw Strange and his world, presents three illustrations for this story.
One a "cover" or "Splash Page" full-page frontispiece image and the other two more chapter-book style "spot" illustrations, highlighting single instances within the story, rather than panel-by-panel continuity style of "comic-illustration".

A must read for any Doc fan, this story fits perfectly in with Strange's continuity and unlike each other story in this issue, has no contradictory behavior by the Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange.

STORY = 5 out of 5 blue diamonds

ARTWORK = 5 out of 5 blue diamonds

(if only there were MORE of BOTH)


A preview of the first 6 pages can be found [HERE].

My recommendation is that this is a MUST HAVE for any fan of the good Doctor, and for anyone who might not be a fan as of yet, but often wondered what the appeal Dr. Strange has on his die-hard following.

As you may have guessed by the measures by which I graded the strange tales within, I found
to be "magically delicious" reading!

Tamam Shud!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bizarre Bazaar
Yup... More Swag for Sale!

Yowza! Yowza!

Before we get cranking on the good features to be found in the coming week here on ye olde blog, it's time for another "commercial announcement".

Once again we here at the Sanctum have tossed some collectible goodies up on eBay.

While many items sold, others did not.
So, if you missed out on them this go-round, I'll be relisting them soon with some other cool stuff.
If you want to bypass the whole eBay thing entirely, drop me a line.
email addy :

I'll post a list of the items below.

There are a very few "auction" format sales this time around, focusing instead on the store-type of "Buy-It-Now", so it's "First-come, First-served".

First, the linky to the sales is below:

My items on  eBay

(which can also be found on the sidebar - a little under my photo)

By the way, I don't know what the heck kind of code they write for those things, but when it takes you to the ebay sales page, it scrambles all the listings out of order.
My crack team worked very hard to arrange the listings in a specific order (grouping similar items together) and then ebay just screws it all up.

So, if you are interested, make sure to scroll through all the listings...
*** OR BETTER YET, click the "TIME LEFT" option at the top of the listings. That will reorganize them by how much time is remaining in the sales, and put them in their proper order.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

We ship Worldwide and try to combine shipping costs whenever possible.

*Update Note: As items sell off, I 'll mark them accordingly*

Let's see... what's up there this week?

MIGHTY BEANZ: (these are the only "auction style" items this week)
  • Complete SET of ALL 20 Common Mighty Beanz (Marvel) +1RARE- sold!
  • Set of 8 "X-Men" themed Mighty Beanz (Marvel) Rares- sold!
  • Set of 10 "Spider-Man" themed Mighty Beanz (Marvel) Rares- sold!
  • Set of 10 assorted Mighty Beanz (Marvel) Rares- sold!
  • Set of 12 assorted Mighty Beanz (Marvel) Rares - sold, but not yet paid. Deadbeat Bidder - No payment. Will be relisted.
  • Set of 15 assorted Mighty Beanz (Marvel) Rares - sold!
Super Hero Squad: (all mint in pack)
  • INVISIBLE WOMAN & DR DOOM - (crazy rare) - sold!
  • HUMAN TORCH and the SILVER SURFER - (insanely rare)
  • HULK and WASP - (rare)
Marvel MiniMates - series 1 & Exclusives: (all mint in pack)
  • Exclusive (Tower Records) SILVER SURFER - (Very Rare)
  • Series 1 - HULK & BRUCE BANNER set

DC Pocket Heroes - series 1: (mint in pack)
  • Golden Age DR FATE & SPECTRE (hard to find)

JLU Justice League Unlimited Figures 2005 - LOOSE but mint:
(all from 3-figure multipacks)
  • GREEN ARROW (rare)
  • STARMAN (rare)
  • WONDER WOMAN - variant? (she has "gold and red" bands around her neck and upper arm - most others don't have this)
TEEN TITANS GO! figure - LOOSE but Mint:
  • BUMBLEBEE (extremely hard to find)
Simpsons - World of Springfield: (mint in sealed box)
  • Exclusive Convention COMIC BOOK GUY (never sold in stores)- sold!
Marvel LEGENDS: (Mint in pack)
  • BLACK BOLT (hard to find) - sold!
Marvel LEGENDS ICONS: (mint in package)
  • 12" DR. DOOM (hard to find)
Marvel / Toy Biz Model Kits:
  • HULK - mint in sealed box - sold!
  • GHOST RIDER - mint in box
Marvel Pewter Statuette: (mint in box)
  • NAMOR the Sub-Mariner (hard to find) - sold!
Elfs of the Elven Forest Collection: (mint in box)
  • Rafarin - 8 inch figure/doll - VARIANT (Rare, hard to find)

That's it for this week.

If these don't float your boat, don't worry... we'll have stuff up there every week or two!

Thanks for any support!
I mean, how else am I going to be able to work on the blog?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Deep Breath Before the Plunge...
Gaze Into the Future (repurposed)

Remember this graphic?

"Official" graphic for this feature; "doctored" image from the cover to Strange Tales # 156
(original art by Marie Severin)

It was what I used to utilize for my "Gaze into the Future" posts which gave listings of upcoming comic releases and whatnot.

Well, I haven't done one of those many months, and as such, this header image has languished.
I thought it might be appropriate to use it now as a "herald" to some content that will be coming here soon.

A few new items will be presented here (hopefully) in the next few days, and I'm just using this post as a breather-space to let you know what's coming down the pike:

Reviews, showcasing some (of MY own) original artwork, and hopefully a return to some of the classic series of articles that I have left mid-way here since my "incident".


- Since the STRANGE v2 mini is completed, as is the DOCTOR VOODOO; Avenger of the Supernatural "series", I plan on giving my official reviews of each.

- I'm also going to give a few words on Strange's appearance in the recent story arc of Invincible Iron Man.

- I'd also love to spout a few words on the Macabre MAN-THING and his appearances of late.

I'd ALSO like to take this time to let you all know to run out to your comic shoppes this coming Wednesday (March 10th, 2010) to pick up

I mean, LOOK at this BITCHING cover!
(click to postersize)

How can anyone pass this thing up?
So retro, it calls me back to the times when I first started reading of Strange's adventures (lo' 30 years ago!).

A preview of some pages can be found [HERE].
I hope to have a review of that as well within days of it's release.
*UPDATE : That review can be found [HERE] *



I'll be showcasing some artwork that I have done (starting with some old stuff, even going as far back to my youth) featuring Doctor Strange and his worlds.

But as a sneak peak, I'll post one image that has been seen hither and yon on the web already...

email: midnight.images@gmail.com

present... some crap drawn by me (PTOR).

(click to make "Louvre-worthy")
pencil artwork by myself- in a style inspired by Alphonse Mucha

This piece was one of several that I had sent in to Wizard magazine for a cover contest back in 2000 (which is why I have the placeholder for a "Wizard" logo up top)

I'll be posting old art like this (some even older stuff, including actual sequential art pages from old submission samples) and some new items (eventually) here, hopefully by April.

There is ALSO a brand-spanking NEW blog dedicated strictly to my artwork. Just opened today!
Some items will be found there as well.
It's to be found [HERE].


So, you can see, while my time to devote to this blog is very hard to come by, I am going to try to redouble my efforts to get some new posts in soon.

But, for now, I need to "supervise" the listing of latest batch of items that are going to go up on ebay this Sunday.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The DREAD DORMAMMU bust by Bowen!
(An "Idol Pursuits" post)



JUST ANNOUNCED (on Marvel.com [HERE]):
Although, I first leaked info about this piece - with work-in-progress pics - back in October of 2009 [HERE].

Interdimensional bringer of torment; The Dread DORMAMMU - scourge of the Dark Dimension and raison d'être for being the Sorcerer Supreme - is soon to be available as a 7-inch mini-bust by Bowen Designs.
Sculpted by Jeremy Lloyd.

Check out the sweet pics.

The translucent material in the flaming head makes it APPEAR to illuminate - but it's really just "glowing" from any ambient lighting in the room. It doesn't actually light up.

"It's a synthesis of all the different versions of the character, hopefully creating a classic look," studio head Randy Bowen told Marvel.com.

The base, while ornate and cool, seems to be misplaced on this piece, so perhaps it's just a fill-in base used for the pics.

Either way, I need to get one to keep my Dr. Strange Bowen bust "company".

It is expected to be for sale in the Summer of this year (2010).
I can't seem to find any pricing info anywhere, but I'd imagine that it would be in the $60.00 price range.
Perhaps as it comes closer to it's release date more info will be made known.

I really need to find a job, STAT!
(as if I didn't already know that)

Maybe I can sell my kidney.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Big Bang and Alliterative Aliases
I wonder why Stan Lee isn't "Lee Lieber" instead?

Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS (taken from EW.com [HERE])

STAN LEE appeared last night on the The Big Bang Theory (Season 3, Episode 16 - "The Excelsior Acquisition") and while he really only put in little more than a short appearance, as anyone who has met the man will attest (yes. I have, but that's a story for another time) even a walk-on by Stan exudes a larger than life "presence".

I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone reading this blog that Stan Lee was one/half of the creative-team(s) - along with artists/writers like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko - who created the Marvel Universe (fairly out of "nothing" - like unto a "BIG BANG" as well).

In fact, as is very important to this blog, is the simple fact that Stan was the (secondary) creative force (Steve Ditko being the true "creative spark") behind Doctor Strange.
Mr. Ditko had the initial concept and plotted most of the early "Strange Tales" appearances, with Stan adding his own over-the-top dialogue and captions to the finished artwork.

Anyway, while Stan was only an extended walk-on (with a few lines of "angry" dialogue) his "presence" was felt throughout the entire episode as the rest of the cast of characters did little else but talk about him and his creations.

One key story aspect of the episode is the fact that one of the show's characters; Raj (which is short for Rajesh Ramayan Koothrappali), an Indian-born member of the nerd/scientist friends, will not let go of the fact that nearly all of Stan Lee's creations (and/or their alter-ego's) have alliterative names.

"Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Matt Murdoch, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, Reed Richards, Sue Storm..." all those and many more are listed off in rapid-fire succession during several parts of the show (along with oldies but goodies; Millie the Model and Fin Fang Foom).
But ONE name made my ears perk up:


So, perhaps while neither as obvious an "appearance" nor as overt a "mention" as might have been received in other recent television fare (see this months-old blog post on those [HERE]), once again Doctor Strange has been introduced to the broader masses via pop culture television.
And on a hit show, to boot.

Still, while Raj's befuddlement on the reasoning for why Stan used alliterative names for his creations is obvious to those who have been reading of the behind-the-scenes early Marvel years (he did so because it was easier for him to remember the names that way), it does make one wonder, if Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber, but chopping his first name in two to use as a pen-name) really liked alliterative names so much, he could have went by the pen-name of "Lee Lieber" instead.
I wonder how that might have changed the Marvel Universe.
"What if?" indeed.