Report what comic books you have read today--and tell us a little something about it while you're here!
I read OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #1-8, 10 (Ma'76-O'77) by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney (mostly). I never read it when it came out though I knew who the character was.
In some ways, it comes off as a vanity project as the captions get deep and philosophical, sometimes directly opposite to the artwork. Omega is a cipher, not saying a word for the first three issues and not speaking in complete sentences until the end. His power levels seem to fluctuate as he can battle Electro, Nitro and even the Hulk but have a difficult time with baddies named El Gato and the Wrench.
The hook was meant to be the mysterious 12-year-old James-Michael Starling and his reaction to everyday life in a tough neighborhood but he's not a dynamic character and the rest of the supporting cast either appear to have their own agendas or are just annoying. The sudden death of another character may have been to create a similar vibe as Gerber's Man-Thing #5.
The series ends on a cliffhanger that's resolved unsatisfactorily in The Defenders. I'm surprised that Marvel would publish this but I'm thinking that they were hoping that Gerber would produce another sleeper hit like Howard the Duck bt got something that kids (their target audience) wouldn't understand!
OMEGA the Unknown came out during the time I was buying every first issue I could find in hope of getting in at the beginning of the next Big Thing. I bought #2 and #5, but didn't see another issue on the stands during its run. After I finished my Hulk collection (circa 1980 or so), I started collecting Defenders as backissues and read the conclusion at that time. (You're right: it's "resolved unsatisfactorily.") I didn't read the series in its entirety until it was published in tpb in 2005. It seems to me there was some talk at the time of Gerber and Skrenes reuniting to give it the ending he originally intended, but that deal fell through and a new Omega series was eventually assigned to someone else and it tanked with little notice. I remember, too, after Gerber died, Skrenes said she knew the ending Gerber conceived but would never reveal it.
WASP #1: This series, written by Al Ewing, is the answer to comics published in the late '90s and early 2Ks when Marvel didn't know what to do with the Wasp other than to turn her into a monster, grow her to giant size or simply kill her. Ewing moves the character forward while reintroducing characters from so far in the past that most readers have forgotten about them (if they ever even knew about them at all). My "Pick of the Week."
STARGIRL: THE LOST CHILDREN #3: Among the "Lost Children" are Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys (from Sensation Comics), the Newsboy Legion (including one or two new ones), "Tick-Tock" Martin (Hourman's sidekick), John Henry, Jr., Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross (sidekicks to Miss America), Ladybug (the Red Bee's sidekick), Salem (Dr. Fate's sidekick), Quiz Kid (Mr. Terrific's sidekick), Corky Baxter (Rip Hunter's protege), and Judy "The Boom" Garrick (the Flash's daughter).
BAD IDEA COMICS & THE ENDS #1-2: I have found it pretty easy to ignore "Bad Idea" comics so far. Maybe I'm taking the name too literally, but why should I spend my money on something that calls itself a "bad idea"? The cover art of The Ends (as in "...justify the means," I suppose) is so ugly it caused me to divert my eyes from it. I was looking at the comic book next to #2 when my eyes shifted over and I saw David & Maria Lapham in teeny tiny print. I flipped through it and determined that it is, indeed, by the Stray Bullets team, so I bought both of the first two issues.
The Ends tells an ugly story, but a compelling one (about a group of neo-Nazi white supremacists in 1985 whose grandfathers fought in World War II). Not playing up the Laphams' name or assigning him the cover are certainly bad ideas; I found it only by accident. Last I heard about the Laphams, Stray Bullets was on hiatus due to an illness in the family. When I commented to the owner of my LCS that I was happy to see them back but would prefer to see them doing Stray bullets, he said that that ain't gonna happen because they can't make any money at it. Apparently the sell-through rate of "Bad Idea" comics is 8-10 times higher than Stray Bullets.
The Ends is a good story, though, albeit a disturbing one.
I remember buying a trade of Omega the Unknown from a LCS for $2, and feeling ripped off. I ended up sending it to Chris Fluit who was semi-interested in the series.
BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #1-6 & "CULT OF DOGS" #1-3: I stopped reading Billionaire Island with #3 with the intention of reading the whole thing when the series was complete. Before I knew it, the second series had begun and my shop was shorted #2. I finally tracked a copy down and decided to catch up. Billionaire Island is biting social satire by Mark Russel from AHOY! Comics. I suppose you'd say it's optimistic, but it's pretty dystopian and it's pretty dark. The first series was all about the conflation of wealth with worth. Russell seems to think that a societal backlash is on the way, but I am not so sure.
The second series picks up in 2046, two years after all of the billionaires died and their money ceased to exist, leading to the dissolution of the USA and the rise of a social media monopoly that feeds on o fear-based disinformation economy. It's some pretty thought-provoking stuff. Read at your own risk.
"Starman" in 1st Issue Special #12 is like Omega the Unknown in that it's about an alien who arrives on Earth in a spaceship and encounters 1970s New York. The writer was Gerry Conway, who had just come over to DC from Marvel. The issue appeared the same month as Omega the Unknown #1, so it's my guess Conway was one of the developers of the Omega the Unknown concept and took the idea with him to DC.
On the other hand, Omega is partly a Superman riff: he's an alien with superpowers from an advanced world which has suffered destruction who wears a cape. Gerber had introduced another Superman riff character previously: Wundarr in Marvel Two-in-One.
Ruby in Omega the Unknown #10 is Ruby Thursday from Gerber's run on The Defenders. Dibbuk's name is from dybbuk, a type of malignant spirit from Jewish tradition.
Jim Mooney had also worked with Gerber on Man-Thing. It's my recollection he named Man-Thing in an interview as his favourite.
Rory was introduced and met Ruth in Man-Thing #2. She's there a biker chick fleeing her abusive boyfriend. The story ends with them a couple. Hence the reference to her experiences that she speaks about rarely in Omega the Unknown #2.
The lurking figure in #8 is the Foolkiller, but he turns out in #9 to be a second Foolkiller, Rory's former cellmate Greg. The original Foolkiller was a religious maniac. Greg learned about him from Rory and decided to secularise his mission and kill unpoetic people. #9 also continued Blockbuster's story.(1) The fool killer name and concept stems from an American literary tradition.
Rory was arrested in Man-Thing #20. He had let a young woman travel with him without realising she was 17, making him legally her kidnapper.
(1) Spoiler. Blockbuster fights Omega again and the Foolkiller kills him.
"Omega is partly a Superman riff"
He is also partly a Captain Marvel riff, with 12-year-old James-Michael Starling in the role of Billy Batson.
I never caught that. It explains the "Are they on some level the same?" element.
SHAM COMICS - THE PACEMAKER: This is Sham's parody of Charlton's Peacemaker. I have never read any Peacemaker, but here's what my favorite guide has t say about it: "Christopher Smith is a US peace envoy and no man is more opposed to war and violence than he, but when diplomacy fails, he becomes Peacemeker, master of the weapons he pleads with the world to lay down. The idea is dated now, but still worth looking at. He proved so popular as the back-up in Fightin' 5 #40-41 that he was given his own title. Unfortunately, Joe Gill's plots, believable for nine pages, were overstretched as feature length. Try #1-3 for Pat Boyette's best comics work." Pacemaker rescripts stories from Fightin' 5 #40-41 and Peacemaker #1.
(PARODY COMICS IN GENERAL): I may never have read any actual Peacemaker comics, but I feel now as if I have. If there is one thing I have learned from reading parody comics (other Sham titles and multiple romance collections, and comparing them to the originals when I have the opportunity), it is that the parodies are more like the originals than one might think. Mainly, the pictures tell a particular story, and the scripts reflect that, just punchier.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #2: I am enjoying this title, with its multiple time-jumps and a different artist for each time period. Good stuff!
ACTION COMICS #1051:
This is the first issue in Superman's highly-touted new direction (or second if you count the introductory #1050). There are eight members of the new(ly defined) "Super Family" on the cover, and I'm not 100% certain who all of them are. 1st story: I think the three "Superboys" are Jonathan and Conner and Kenan; the two kids at the bottom are Otho-Ra and Osul-Ra; I'm not sure about the women. In one scene, while looking for the game closet, Jonathan stumbles across his parents S&M gear (which I didn't need to see). 2nd story: This one takes place "years ago" (circa "Rebirth"), when Jonathan was just a kid. In the end, he witnesses a spaceship crash to Earth, and a blonde woman gets out. (Kara?) 3rd story: Power Girl and a woman called Omen help Nightwing bring Beast Boy out of a psychosis.
MY BAD V2 #3: My favorite AHOY! comic is generally whichever one I am reading at any given time.
THE ENDS #3: I bought #1-2 last week; this is the conclusion of the series. The title refers to two of the characters, siblings, Jack and Jennifer End (not "...justify the means," as I speculated last week). This series has some really deep themes and is very thought-provoking. I realize it's early in the year, but this three-issue story may well end up being the best of 2023. It is certainly my "Pick of the Week." Highly recommended.
The light-hearted back-up feature (in color) is drawn by Dave Lapham and written by Mark Waid. It raises the question, if the first appearance of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD is Sgt. Fury #1, does that make Superboy's first appearance Action Comics #1. It also addresses the question of which is Wolverine's first appearance: Hulk #180 or #181? and many others, some even geekier.
ALLEY OOP v7: The first six volumes of this series collected the strip from the beginning through 1938. (1939 was the year time travel was introduced.) This volume skips ahead to 1954. Even the trim size is different.
(COMIC STRIP COLLECTIONS IN GENERAL): Small press publishers of comic strip collections generally try to avoid duplication, which often accounts for a variety of formats across multiple publishers. One thing I liked about "The American Comic Strip Library" is that, when they decided to reprint Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, they did so from the beginning, in a consistent, hardcover format. Strip collectors petitioned the publisher to pick up in 1950-whatever-it-was at the point whichever publisher left off, but IDW refused. Back in the '80s, Kitchen Sink Press released three volumes of the prime years of Alley Oop. I'd have to check, but I think 1954 is where they left off.
Over the weekend, I re-read the first ten volumes of Hakumei & Mikochi: Tiny Little Life in the Woods, by Takuto Kashiki, a manga in which tiny humans and intelligent animals work and live together in a sort of nostalgic fantasy Old Japan in which everyone lives more or less in harmony with nature. The highest level of technology in common use is the steam train.
The title characters are two women who share a house in a camphor tree outside of Makinata, the nearest town. Hakumei is energetic and tomboyish, and works as a handywoman and does construction work. Mikochi is quieter and more ladylike, and makes preserves and craftsy stuff.
Other characters include Sen, a shy, introverted woman scientist who lives in the woods nearby, Conju, a self-absorbed but basically good-hearted songstresss who lives in honey manor, Makinata's low-rent iostrict, and Iwashjodani, a chain-smoking male weasel who is Hakumei's mentor in the construction business.
It's all mostly interpersonal stuff, meeting new people and leanring to get along with them. Sex and politcis never rear their ugly heads, and there's no one really monstrously evil,.The highest level of criminals that we see are petty theives and pickpockets, and not many of those.
The art's quite good. I find These stories fun, interesting and relaxing, good for when I sometimes need to read comics that aren't about super-hero battles.
THE DEADLY FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1-4 (1991): the precursor to The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, this revolved around the Sinister Syndicate (Beetle, Rhino, Boomerang, Speed Demon and Hydro-Man) plus the Shocker who the more compelling arc . It was interesting seeing the story from the villains' point of view but we don't learn much about them.
The point of it was just that you can't trust a villain even if you're another villain.
I bought The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man back in the day and I have never read it. It is one of the series I had in mind when I crafted my credo, "Don't buy what you don't read."
It doesn't look as if I will be allowed to make my weekly comic book run today; Tracy has forbidden in the face of an all-day ice storm in the forecast. She's working from home and, to be honest, I wasn't all that hip about driving 58 miles (round trip) on icy Texas roads in the first place. No matter. I'm home and warm (as long as the power grid holds) and have plenty to read. Here is some of the comics I have read in the past week...
FUNKY WINKERBEAN (v4, 2015): I moved from v3 to v4, still in its shrinkwrap for eight years. Now that I know the series is up to v12, I plan to continue.
NORSE MYTHOLOGY: Now that the series has been completed in hardback, I am in the process of reading all three volumes. I am currently in the middle of the second.
HULK: I have also read Tales to Astonish #59, Journey into Mystery #112 and Marvel Feature #11 to complement one of my other ongoing reading projects.
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