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DICK TRACY: To avoid prosecution, Purdy Fallar runs onto the surface of the Moon in his boxer shorts. His body is turned over to one Dr. Klippoff, a cryogenics specialist, who wants to attempt to revive him. The fear is that, if word of his death gets out, charges against him will be null and void. Dr. Klippoff gets him to walk a few steps (muscle memory), but fails to get his heart beating again.

While all this is going on, Sparkle Plenty wins a Moonmaid lookalike contest sponsored by the “Sunny Wheat” cereal company. Her prize is a trip to anywhere she chooses, and she wants to go to the Moon. Luckily for Sunny Wheat, the Plentys are friend with Diet Smith, who agrees to take them in one of his space coupes. Sunny Wheat balks when Sparkle wants to take her parents. The trips is to be an advertising gimmick and photo op, but B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie are not exactly photogenic.

The new villain is Posie Ermine, who runs a knock-off perfume ring. His daughter was runner up to Sparkle in the Moonmaid lookalike contest. Angered by her loss, he and his daughter murder the two Sunny wheat executives who served as judges. Her pours dry cereal all over them, and accidentally leaves a plastic flower from his hat behind at the crime scene. Tracy and Sparkle go to the Ermine’s apartment to deliver a gift she brought for Mindy Ermine from the Moon. Posie’s hat falls out the window, and a carriage driver uses it for his horse. Now Posie has to get it back because Tracy is becoming suspicious.

HULK! #12: A direct sequel to issue #11. Bruno, the carnival strongman from last issue, gets fitted with a strength-enhancing harness and seeks revenge upon the Hulk. The first chapter on Moon Knight was illustrated by Gene Colan; the second by Keith Pollard. The best is yet to come.

MMW MARVEL TEAM-UP v3: I was a bit disappointed that the Giant-Size Spider-Man series was not included in the Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks series, but it is being included in Marvel Team-Up Masterworks (where it’s a better fit, anyway). I knew that, from time-to-time, MTU would feature a Human Torch team-up in lieu of a Spider-Man one, but I only just realized that the Torch issues of MTU coincided with issues of G-S S-M to avoid overexposure of Spider-Man. Huh!

I was a bit disappointed that the Giant-Size Spider-Man series was not included in the Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks series, but it is being included in Marvel Team-Up Masterworks (where it’s a better fit, anyway). I knew that, from time-to-time, MTU would feature a Human Torch team-up in lieu of a Spider-Man one, but I only just realized that the Torch issues of MTU coincided with issues of G-S S-M to avoid overexposure of Spider-Man. Huh!

I did not know that!

I just finished the House of Secrets omnibus, and enjoyed it.

It's always cool when a childhood misapprehension is corrected, and that happened here. For some reason, the Li'l Capn thought House of Secrets to be inferior in quality to House of Mystery. I was wrong. It's pretty much the same -- in quality, in creators, in format, everything. I'm trying to dig through 40-year-old memories to try to figure out why I used to feel that way, and I just don't know. My best guess is that I probably liked Cain more than Abel.

Since I'm simultaneously reading pre-Code horror books from PS Artbooks and the EC and Warren reprints from Dark Horse, I'm in a pretty good position to judge where HoS/HoM fit on the horror/suspense scale, and they hold up well. DC's suspense books in the '50s and '60s were pretty dull, but they were very professional. HoS and HoM continue that professionalism, only with a bit more latitude than previously, and many A-list creators, such as Berni Wrightson and Michael Kaluta on art, and "second generation" writers like Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein and Steve Skeates on stories.

There are clunkers, of course -- any time Jack Sparling's work shows up is one time too many, as far as I'm concerned -- but I think these stories are as good as Warren at its peak.

One other thing about then and now. When I was a kid, I was baffled why in some stories Cain or Abel would show up in the final panel and undercut the ending of the story. That is to say, the point of ta story might be that the killer got away, then Abel would arrive and say "too bad the killer got caught the next day, and was executed!" Now I realize that these panels were inserted in the '70s to meet the Code, which specified that the bad guys always had to be caught and punished. So, you know, if you like the story, skip the coda at the end!

I've started to reread Hellboy with the release of The Hellboy Omnibus volume 1. So far I've read the initial storyline, "Seed of Destruction," plus a couple of short stories: "The Wolves of St. August" and "The Chained Coffin." Reading them close together like that I think is really going to help me keep the Hellboy universe straight. There are already things I've read that I'd misremembered, like Hellboy not appearing at the site of Rasputin's ritual, but in another location altogether (I think the movie changed this), and the introduction of Kate Corrigan in "The Wolves of Saint August" (for some reason I thought she hadn't arrived until later, but there she is in HB's second story!). This collection also includes the five-issue "Wake the Devil" and the one-shot "Almost Colossus." 

The Omnibus will have 4 volumes, with another two volumes of The Complete Short Stories (although some short stories appear in the Omnibus; I'm assuming the dividing line is that the stories in Omnibus series are the ones Mignola drew himself. 

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Vol. 15: Cometh the Hour

The series ends here, with plenty of surprises. The massive Ogdru Jahad has rampaged its way to within miles of B.P.R.D. headquarters. Liz's fire and the powers of Johann's new armor are powerful enough to destroy the monsters she constantly births and spits out, but not enough to stop the mother monster. We find out why the director of the Russian occult service released the demon from her glass prison: he hopes she can find a way. Travelling to Hell, they release the huge fallen angels known as Titans--but they also are not up to the task. Finally Johann fully embraces his new unity with the universe that comes with the suit, and directs its power at the Ogdru Jahad, defeating it and abandoning the armor. But by then the headquarters has been destroyed, and with it two longstanding characters. The Earth is back to normal, and the final scenes show the B.P.R.D. trying to regroup and recover from their losses. It's a lovely series conclusion, with a tremendous climax and a bittersweet emotional ending.

Finally got around to reading Richard McGuire's Here. It follows the events that take place in a room in a house over hundreds of thousands of years (or the space it would occupy). Which means there are prehistoric scenes with no human habitation, two different houses (after the earlier one burns down), and a distant future with no house and apparently radically different human society. But the most amazing thing is the way McGuire overlaps the different time periods, often echoing each other. Someone hears a sound being made in a different time; different generations of children play and dance in the room; generations of women pose with their infant children. The different time periods are suggested very simply, with changes in furnishings and decoration, and different clothing styles. It's a remarkable book. I highly recommend it.

The other horror anthologies DC started in the late 60s were The Unexpected and The Witching Hour. The Phantom Stranger started as a reprint title with framing content around "Phantom Stranger" and "Doctor 13" reprints.

Aside from specials, the next DC horror titles started together in 1971: Ghosts, Weird War and The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love/Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, and The Sinister House of Secret Love/Secrets of Sinister House a month later, which was also when the sole issue of Spirit World came out.

The titles were variously edited:

-Orlando oversaw House of Mystery and The Phantom Stranger. He also did the first issue of the new House of Secrets, then handed the series over to Dick Giordano for nine issues before receiving it back..

-Giordano also edited the two anthology issues of The Spectre, and was the initial editor of The Witching Hour. He was succeeded on The Witching Hour by Murray Boltinoff.

-Boltinoff also edited The Unexpected and Ghosts (and the final issues of Secrets of Sinister House).

-Joe Kubert edited the opening issues of Weird War. Dorothy Woolfolk was briefly the editor of the Gothic romance titles.

Orlando quickly took over those last three titles, and in the mid-1970s he edited much of DC's horror output.

Adventure Comics was made over into a horror anthology for an issue, #425, and ran more horror content subsequently, including the Aparo "Spectre" series. Subsequent horror anthology titles, of varying durations, included Weird Mystery Tales, Black Magic (with Prize reprints), Secrets of Haunted House, and Tales of Ghost Castle. Coming into the 80s DC tried two SF/horror titles, Time Warp and Mystery in Space. DC also published horror issues of its various giants, sometimes with original stories, sometimes reprints.

Horror titles with star characters from the period included The Phantom Stranger, Swamp Thing, The Demon, and Doorway Into Nightmare starring Madame Xanadu. Madame Xanadu was a semi-host character, only slightly involved in the stories, and in some issues of his title so was the Phantom Stranger. I should also mention The Challengers of the Unknown, as it was handled as a horror title towards the end its original run. 

Gilbert Hernandez's Bumperhead is something of a companion piece to his Marble Season. The earlier book followed the life of a preteen named Huey. Bumperhead covers Bobby's life from elementary school to middle age, but the main focus is on his teenage years and young adulthood after high school. His nickname "Bumperhead" is slang for someone who copies what he sees others doing. He goes through one phase after another, changing lifestyles and musical tastes, one notable period being the punk phase depicted on the cover. As always the story is mainly about relationships: Bobby's friends and girlfriends, and especially his sometimes stormy one with his father (who spends a good deal of the book away in Mexico). He spends a good deal of the book dissatisfied and angry, and is not often given to self-examination. It is only at the end that he reflects that it's been a good life, and he can't remember what he was angry about.

X-MEN #53: Featuring Blastaar.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #18: Blastaar, Hulk and Human Torch.

GIANT-SIZE SPIDER-MAN #1 & MARVEL TEAM-UP #23: Crossover: Human Torch and Iceman.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #27: Spider-Man and the Hulk. Doesn’t fit well in Hulk continuity, but occurs between Defenders #17 and #18.

HULK vs. THANOS: Hulk and Blastaar and Annihilus (and Thanos).
 
DICK TRACY: Purdy Fallar worked for Intro, who wore a chain mail mask that looked like an upside-down wire trash basket over his head. Tracy vaporized him with a laser. (“What happened to Intro?” “You’re breathing him.”) This strip had the bad timing to appear the day RFK was assassinated, leading to a new round of protest against violence in Dick Tracy. (“Violence is golden,” Gould would say, “when used to put down crime.”)

Intro’s daughter is a.k.a. “The Painted Lady.” She runs a nightclub and appears every night in a costume mostly painted on. She also runs a gang of hair thieves whose racket is to chloroform their victims, shave their heads, and sell wigs made of their own hair back to them. Her henchmen wear masks made of long grass resembling hula skirts. They capture Tracy, knock him unconscious, tie him up and put him in a magnetic air car set to ascend on a day when the temperature on the ground is 28 degrees F.

Madame Intro meets a fitting end, smothered to death by one of her own wigs. Her murderer, Hy Jacky, flees to the Moon. With no extradition treaty in place, the Moon governor has him thrown into a boiling sulphur pit.

The last strip in the collection introduces cartoonist Vera Alldid, Sparkle Plenty’s future husband.

THE TERRIFICS #1: I forgot to buy this when it originally shipped, but I picked up the second print. Interesting mix of characters. Surprised to see Tom Terrific at the end.

HULK! #13 & #14: These are all standalone stories, but sequential. In #13, Bruce Banner takes a jumbo jet to Switzerland seeking a cure from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Banner Hulks out when terrorists (back when “terrorists” meant “hijackers”) hijack the plane. The plane crashes, but Hulk saves the passengers. Banner finds an outlet for his aggression by berating the hijackers. The message against terrorism is still relevant today.

#11, #12 and #14 were the only three I bought off the rack when they were new. I obtained most of the rest when I went to college. In #14, Banner lands in Zurich to find that the scientist he is seeking is on sabbatical. (He should have called ahead.) Banner traces him to a small village right out of a Universal Studios Frankenstein movie. (The villagers attack with pitchforks and torches, and the scientist has a dwarf assistant in his castle/laboratory.) The scientist turns himself into a gamma ray-spawned monster the Hulk has to defeat, but Banner is able to help the village girl the scientist couldn’t.

LOST IN SPACE #11: A “Judy” issue, based on a line from the unaired pilot episode that she gave up a promising career in the musical comedy field. Don and Judy are shown sharing a cabin, sleeping in the same bed. Whereas they are certainly of consenting age, I find it hard to believe that the straight-laced Robinson parents would have countenanced this without being married. In any case, Major West proposes to Judy at the end of the issue.

I forgot to mention that part of the fun of House of Secrets was playing "Name That Artist" for the bulk of it. In the later issues, DC had begun adding credits, so I could just glance for a name. But for most of the book, it was story after story by early '70s DC artists, which is in my wheelhouse. Occasionally they'd surprise me with a minor Filipino artist that I didn't know, but for the most part I felt pretty much at home.

I also caught up on Super Sons, Detective, Batman, Superman and Action. DC's Bat and Super books are doing really good work these days.

Patience

by Daniel Clowes

Fantagraphics Books, 2016

This graphic novel starts out looking like a small-scale love story. It's 2012, and young married couple Patience and Jack have just found out that Patience is pregnant; Jack is hiding the fact that he is getting by handing out flyers for an hourly wage. Then he comes home from work to find her dead after an apparent burglary. But the police are so convinced Jack did it that they don't even bother investigating further. After his release he becomes obsessed with finding the killer, which in 2029 eventually leads him to someone who has invented a time machine. That's when they story really enters science fiction territory. Jack jumps back to 2006. He becomes much too involved in history, which results in an unplanned jump back to 1985. There he somehow finds someone capable of making the chemical needed for another jump, and returns to 2012 to finally make things right--based on everything he has learned about the likely killer. The conclusion is pretty metaphysical, but it is at least clear that Jack has succeeded in saving Patience and his child. The murder is a rather cliched story driver, but the time travel paradoxes are cleverly handled. Jack is almost an antihero: he doesn't care who gets hurt, as long as his wife and child are safe.

LOST IN SPACE #12:

At long last, “our intrepid band of space pioneers” reach their destination: Alpha Centauri. On TV, “Aeolis 14 Umbra” was the code name for the foreign power which paid Dr. Smith to sabotage the Jupiter mission. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but this series reimagines them as a hostile race from Alpha Centauri ( a "neat idea" that doesn't really thrill me).It was one of the aliens’ ships that crashed on Earth which supplied the technology for the colonization mission (an idea borrowed by the new Netflix series).

In this issue, too, the Robinson’s learn of Dr. Smith’s sabotage. He apparently attempts to betray them again, but actually turns the tables on the aliens. The Robinsons still can’t accept the fact that he tried to kill them seven years ago, and they stick him in one of the freezing tubes until he can be turned over to the authorities. (Why they didn’t think of that years ago I have no idea.) Now that they know a hostile race is waiting for them, they decide to return to Earth (good decision), after going to Alpha Centauri first (bad decision).

What follows are three separate conversations on the main deck, all with the frozen form of Dr. Smith in the background. First in John and Maureen, followed by Don and Judy, the Will and Penny. John and Maureen intend to go back to Alpha Centauri after returning to Earth, but this time they are going to give the children the choice of whether or not to stay behind. Don and Judy don’t plan to return to Earth at all, but rather to establish a colony on Alpha Centauri. Penny tells Will that she does plan to stay on Earth and hopes to meet someone and raise a family of her own.

At the end of the issue they arrive in the Alpha Centauri system.

Étienne Davodeau's Lulu Anew is a lovely character study. The title character is a middle aged woman, fed up with her marriage and her life. After a failed job interview she abruptly decides not to come home right away. She accepts an offer to ride along to the coast, and there the adventure really begins. She takes a lover, then moves on and befriends an old woman who gives her a place to stay. All along the way she meets new people, and begins both to relax and open herself to new experiences. It really is a coming of age story, but with a much older protagonist than usual. When she finally returns home there is considerable drama, as well as a mystery that does not get resolved until almost the end. I recently read Davodeau's The Inititates, which was also an interesting character study, but Lulu Anew was far more emotionally involving.

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