Wednesday, June 12, 2024




I love Superman. Plain and simple. And this is a day when we celebrate all things Superman and my way of celebrating is to share my 10 favorite Superman comics-related images.

This image is by artist Frank Quitely from ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #1
This image is by Alex Ross and was used as an extra piece of art included in the KINGDOM COME collected edtion by Graffiti Designs.
This piece is by Berni(e) Wrightson and was included with color in SUPERMAN #400 in 1984. The black-and-white plate shown here was part of an 11”x17” portfolio that was released to coincide with SUPERMAN #400 celebration and included 17 plates each by a different artists.
This piece by George Pérez was created as part of the Superman 50th Anniversary celebration. It was a limited run of 2500 signed and numbered 18”x24” prints. My copy, scanned here, is one of the 125 signed and numbered “Artist Proof” editions.
This 1985 cover by George Pérez is one of the single most iconic cover images ever and fully captures the utter and total grief of Superman over the loss of his last living relative from the planet Krypton.
This is believed to be the very first painting ever done of Superman c. 1941 and is by artist H.J. Ward. Commissioned by Superman’s publisher at the time, Harry Donenfeld, it hung in his office for years afterwards.
Cover credit for this on the DC database is Bob Oksner. It really looks to me like a Curt Swan & Bob Oksner collaboration, but I’ll concede to the website’s credit on this. Maybe Swan gave Oksner a loose layout or something.
This one is definitely a Curt Swan & Bob Oksner collaboration. Most people prefer Murphy Anderson’s inks with Swan but I’m one who prefers Oksner.
This is my favorite single drawing of Superman done by John Byrne. This one was inked by the great Terry Austin and was included in THE ART OF JOHN BYRNE back in 1980, a full 6 years before he took on the MAN OF STEEL reboot of Superman for DC Comics.
And finally, this ACTION COMICS #485 cover from 1978 by Neal Adams which reprinted SUPERMAN #233 from 1971. The original iconic Adams cover was way less dynamic than this new one.

This is an honorable mention. Alex Ross painted an imaginary picture here in which the George Reeves Superman form the ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV series of the 1950s comes face to face with Christopher Reeve’s SUPERMAN from 1978.

Saturday, February 17, 2024


I don't often inject negative commentary on my blog, but today I feel like doing so.

Imagine being 73 years old and so fragile; so precious, that you must crow about taking pride in pathological grudge-holding over a single-word tweet from 7 years earlier and stroke your dick ego publicly to the cheers of online fluffers by mocking, name-calling, and ridiculing a professional peer for having the sheer audacity to attempt to reach out privately and talk about that tweet.

I’ll avoid weighing too deeply into the details since I have no dog in the hunt other than being a voyeur who is rather shocked at the sheer childishness of one of the players in this nonsense—nonsense that none of us should have ever even been aware of.  But one party had to jump out there onto the social media playground and start bullying the other one.  The story I’m about to present is true but the names have been changed to protect the innocent and to afford this post plausible deniability as satire. 

MOE VON ROYSTER is a white male comic book legend (I mention his ethnicity and sex because it becomes somewhat relevant).  He is an artist and a writer with 50+ years of experience in the comics and publishing industry.  He has worked for all the major publishers at various times and is well-known for pushing boundaries in his work and is an entertaining raconteur at public appearances.  His work incorporates a level of sexual and violence graphicness that you did not often see in creators who were known for mainstream comics work in the 80s.  However, as the business itself kind of caught up to him in terms of mainstream sexuality and violence, he experienced some modest level of decline in popularity and opportunity within the business, but not any more so than most other creators of his generation.  Comics are notoriously generational in that sense in that the publishers themselves are always chasing the next new superstar creator and will rather harshly toss aside older creators without a second thought.

Royster notably has always been smart enough and creative enough to find new avenues for getting his work out there.  His work ethic cannot be criticized, and the quality of his work is technically well-done always.  Whether the content resonates with the primary comics-buying customers is another story.  Maintaining relevancy as one ages has always been a struggle in this industry.  Royster’s work has become increasingly niched in the markets that he appeals to.   And while I understand pushing the edges of what is considered appropriate can certainly be a way of drawing media attention, I do not have much sympathy for those who do so and then cry “foul” when they get the negative attention that they were so clearly seeking.  And this is where the story begins.

In 2017, Royster was creating and publishing through a large publisher known for letting creators have more creative freedom than most mainstream publishers.  Assuming his usual role of provocateur, he created a series called THE FRENZIED STATES OF DELIRIUM which took his usual jaded politically and socially charged approach to telling a brutal satire about an America completely torn apart by terrorism (read: Muslim) and then feigned surprise and hurt when the publisher pulled one of the issues from circulation after complaints. 

What were the complaints about?  A cover that graphically depicted a dead, brown-skinned man hanging with his pants down around his ankles and his genitals bloody from being cut off.  The corpse hangs from a neon sign which says: “Free Happy Ending With Any Homestyle Meal.”  As a professional, when called on it by the publisher he provided a less provocative cover so that the issue could be recirculated. 

The complaints; however, as happens frequently in the social media age, grew into a chorus online, and yes, some became quite vocal in their attempts to “cancel” Royster and his works.  In his anger about his public critics within the industry at the time, Royster apparently took names and logged them all into his little black book of grudges never to interact or work with ever again.  Which is his right.   It is also his right to lump them all into his grudge book equally as if they all equally tried to murder his dog in front of him.   One unfortunate person who happened to get added to the grudge book was a younger and less experienced comic book writer who happens to be a white female.   

This is where WENDY GARFUNKEL enters the story.

Garfunkel, known for her witty scripts.  She fosters a reputation for positivity through her strong social media presence which I'm sure helps her stay relevant with other pros and with fans.  She reacted to a query about the Royster cover that got recalled by the publisher with a single-word tweet:  “Repulsive.”

She didn’t write a column about it. She didn’t have public conversations about it.  She didn’t sign petitions to get Royster black-balled in the industry.  She simply reacted to the image of a hanged brown-skinned man with his genitals cut off with the word “Repulsive.”

Fast-forward to January 2024.

Royster pops onto his Facebook page to say that someone “purporting to be Wendy Garfunkel” has sent him a friend request.  To which he guffaws about it and mocks her. This brings about the usual chorus of supportive and copycat guffaws and mockeries from his fan base in the comments because as the Trump era has made abundantly clear, once the celebrity bully starts a-bullyin’ then his fans are gonna feel like it’s their turn to join in like fawning boot-licking manager, Paul Heyman, following 2 steps behind Roman Reigns on the WWE.

And, as one would expect on Facebook, Garfunkel then got asked by some of her fans about whether it was really her who sent that friend request.  Remember, nobody else in the entire world would have known about the friend request had not Royster made it public with a screenshot and accompanying mockery (yes, I'm over-using the word, but it's what it is).  Eventually Garfunkel responded with an explanation.  Yes, she had sent the friend request.  Her reason for sending the friend request was to reach out and hopefully open the door for communication so that the two of them could talk about what happened back in 2017 and maybe work it out.  She also asked everyone to not keep going on about it because the last thing she wanted was a stupid “feud” within professionals in this business.   But she did clarify that her thinking for sending the friend request was predicated on a couple of things: (1) she was attempting to prevent involving others in it and keeping the entire thing privately between just them, and (2) if she had just sent a message, he probably wouldn’t have seen it because you have to be friends with someone for the message to go through to their main inbox and she didn’t know whether he would see the message.

This explanation was received with derision by Royster and his hooting congress of super-fans.  But Garfunkel’s response was to express disappointment, attempted to move along and requested others do so as well.

So, for weeks it appeared the entire exchange had disappeared into the ether of past forgotten social feuds.  Royster, however, made it clear that it was not forgotten.  In fact, he has been quietly obsessing over it for the last month.  A few days ago, he published a blogpost that might very well be one of the most embarrassing examples I've seen of narcissistic personality disorder on parade for the world to see.

Published on his Substack, Royster took 2600+ words to exclaim as a badge of honor his pride at holding grudges like a pitbull holds onto a raw steak.  He writes:  “Call it a character flaw should you so choose, but I hold a grudge, and firmly, certainly when there’s been no reasonable cause to release that grip.

Forgiveness, in my world, must be earned.  There is a vast chasm between an apology and an amends, neither of which, I might add, were tendered or forthcoming with all this ‘bygones be bygones’ bullshit.”

I will remind the reader, this is over a single tweet from 7 years ago that said one word:  “Repulsive.”  And this is an objectively true description of the cover.  Royster intentionally designed and drew a repulsive cover for the sole purpose of arousing people’s ire and then retreated into the protective cave of “free speech” when the public’s ire was aroused.

Also, it is fine to say that “forgiveness must be earned” but to deny the other person the very opportunity to even try (and mocking their attempt) is the dividing line between what constitutes a character flaw and what constitutes simply being an asshole.

What follows is his INTERPRETATION of what her motivation and meaning was behind using the word “repulsive.”  Rather than attempting to engage in a private conversation and actually asking her what she meant by it, he is willing to accept his own mind-reading as absolute fact.  Indisputable.  Immutable.

He takes apart her use of the word “rift” when referring to their conflict here by predicating it all on his personal and connotative definition of what a “rift” means.  Then he calls her a “hyena” then somehow recontextualizes her use of the single word “repulsive” as a “series of smears, of such busybodied opportunistic shittiness.”

Then he pronounces himself Moe Von Royster . . . “a prince, and not to be fucked with.”

To which, I will just say that watching a 73 year-old acting this childish and publicly parading such an easily fractured ego would be shocking if I had not spent the last 8 years or so watching the ex-host of THE APPRENTICE daily sucking all media attention to stroke his bruised and swollen dick ego.

And I cannot begin to effectively convey my unbounded disappointment joy at typing these last three words.

Pathetic and embarrassing.



Sunday, May 7, 2023




Writer: Pedro Angosto

Artists: Jorge Santamaría (penciller)/Juan Moreno (inker)/Ulises Kuroshima (colors)/Adam Pruett (letters)

Editor: Gary Carlson  

Publisher: Big Bang Comics


Order print or digital directly from Indyplanet 

Saturday, November 26, 2022





Writer: Pedro Angosto

Artists: Jorge Santamaría (penciller)/Juan Moreno (inker)/Ulises Kuroshima (colors)/Adam Pruett (letters)

Publisher: Big Bang Comics


Order print or digital directly from Indyplanet 

The final fate of Robo-Hood! A crushing betrayal and secret reveal—at the same time! A life-changing discovery and an unbearable loss!  Gender-switching! Wide-screen action! 

This comic has it all, my friends.
My thoughts on this comic have been brewing for 3 or 4 months and I finally have time to write them down.  But let’s get this out there before I say anything else, THE LAST WHIZ KIDS STORY Part 2 picks up after the events of Part 1 but surpasses the quality level, and Part 1 was already exceptional.  At this point in time, Big Bang Comics is matching and exceeding the quality of super-hero comics by the Big 2 when Pedro Angosto is writing and artists like Jorge Santamaria are drawing.  
THE LAST WHIZ KIDS STORY, with it’s thick 27 pages of story, is a loveletter to Wolfman and Pérez’s NEW TEEN TITANS circa “The Judas Contract” and “The Terror of Trigon” in terms of style but carves it’s own identity as something fresh and relevant to today.  Wolfman and Pérez worked within a paradigm of expectations for mainstream super-hero comics but managed to push the boundaries of maturity in story-telling and content as had never before been done so consistently and so well. And this is where Angosto and Santamaria are channeling the spirit of that era for this 3-parter.

From a purely visual standpoint, Santamaria is on fire.  So many double-pagers intensely dense with detail and movement.  His design sense is off the charts.  I would be recommending this comic simply for more people to see his art even if the story did not hold up. 

Thankfully, the story does hold up.  Angosto is brilliant at homaging without copying.  Which makes this story resonate, in my opinion, even if one has never read a Whiz Kids story before. There is such a deep sense of history within this story that I can’t even tell what is original to it and what is actually based on earlier extant Big Bang stories.  Angosto gives the readers everything we need to know within the comic itself.  

One thing I have enjoyed within all of Angosto’s stories for Big Bang is his inclusion of mythological and religious concepts and themes.  They tap into those archetypal connections within different cultures that resonate on a primal level with all of us.  It’s those recurring mystical and heroic archetypes that have evolved into the super-heroes of our popular culture today and especially resonate in comics—the art form in which they were birthed. 

The villains and heroes of this story hearken back to ancient Christendom (Robo-Hood/Galahad), Islam (The Old Man of the Mountain/Sword of Allah), Judaism (Lilith), and Norse Mythology (Valkyrie) which is a compelling choice that I loved.  Angosto’s choices for “the heroes formerly known as the Whizzards” is a diverse and interesting upgrade for that team.  Might I suggest they could be called “The Cavalry”?  But I digress…

As with Part 1, this story focuses on Galahad and his journey from sidekick to Knight Watchman to a fully realized adult hero and leader.  But along the way he is gut-punched emotionally over and over again.  If fire forges the strongest sword, then Galahad will be unbreakable when Part 3 concludes this arc.   And I do not say this lightly.  Readers should be warned that the assaults and pain that Galahad endures in this story may unsettle sensitive readers as they are bold creative story-telling choices but effective.  He is also blessed with the opportunity to step up in a very personal way to try and shepherd the darkness into the light with great potential for the future.

With so much action, Angosto and Santamaria do take the time to slow things down to focus on the personal and emotional journeys that anchor the super-heroics.  The Galahad story, of course, but also the Merlin and Robo-Hood arc.  Both are essential to the elements that make this story work so well.

Readers familiar with DC comics, and especially familiar with the characters of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne will hear their echoes within this comic.  But I promise you it will not be anything like what you expect and that’s the best part of the whole thing.  The story flows perfectly and it surprises throughout.

I’m ready for Part 3!

*I should probably note that this comic is a bit too mature in content and language to be considered an all-ages book.  This comic is probably appropriate for, oh, 12 years-old and up.  YMMV though.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

BOOK REVIEW: THE PERFECT ASSASSIN by James Patterson & Brian Sitts



By James Patterson and Brian Sitts

Available November 2022 from all major booksellers

    I opened the door. An automatic sensor turned on a bank of industrial lights overhead. As my eyes adjusted, I suddenly felt totally sober again. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
    We were in a huge room with a high ceiling and no windows. It was filled with metal shelves in long, neat rows. It looked like a natural history archive. It had the smell of old paper, old chemicals, old leather.
    “Welcome home, Doctor.” said Kira. 

Anyone who has ever engaged with me in a discussion about books and writing should already have a sense that I have a real problem with ghost-written books—that is, I do not like writers who take credit for someone else’s work even though I know it is a long-standing practice in the industry. I still don’t like it. Under that umbrella, I also do not like it when certain authors—in this case James Patterson—turn their names into a book factory in which other writers actually write the books but Patterson gets his name in 4-inch letters plastered across the cover of the books while the actual author’s name appears as an after-thought. In this case, Brian Sitts, the author (as in, the one who actually wrote the words that are published and not the outline on which the story is based), has his name buried at the bottom of the cover and at such a low-level transparency that it effectively disappears.

And considering that this is a “Doc Savage” novel, I am sure that someone reading this is wondering whether I have the same problem with other Doc Savage novels given that no matter who wrote them they all were, with one notable exception, credited to the house-name “Kenneth Robeson.” My answer would be no. I do not have the same problem with house-names because that particular industry tradition is one where the named author is something of a character himself (or herself in the case of female house names such as “Carolyn Keene” from the Nancy Drew series). Lester Dent was the most prolific “Kenneth Robeson” in the heyday of Doc Savage pulp adventures and Will Murray the most recent. The notable exception that I mention above in which Doc Savage was published previously with an author credit to someone other than Kenneth Robeson was the classic ESCAPE FROM LOKI by Philip José Farmer which detailed the story of how Doc and his five colleagues first got together. And now fast forward to the year 2022 and THE PERFECT ASSASSIN, credited to “James Patterson” as primary author and Brian Sitts as secondary, with the series tag “A Doc Savage Thriller.”

Even given my general misgivings about how the James Patterson machine works, I approached this book with an open mind. I was curious how it would tie into the original Doc Savage books (if at all) and whether it would outright betray the core principles in terms of character and morality that those pot-boiler pulp action stories trafficked in. Would Sitts try to duplicate the Robeson entertaining action prose style or would it embrace the choppy simplistic Patterson style? Would I be engaged with the new characters or long for the originals? Would it be interesting? Would it be entertaining? Would it be infuriating? 

Well, it’s not infuriating.  It’s somewhat interesting.  I was moderately entertained.  The characters were not as engaging as they could potentially become.

As I said, I had an open mind but I still had some hesitancy given that the previous Patterson/Sitts effort to do this with Doc Savage’s sister property, THE SHADOW, had by all accounts gone off into crazy-land and taken The Shadow character and pulled a “Jonah Hex” on him by abruptly transplanting him into the future which placed the original character in a setting that did not work at all for him. However, I felt a bit more positive about this one because rather than using Doc Savage (Clark Savage Jr.) himself, this story is set in the modern day and centers around Doc’s great-grandson, Doctor Brandt Savage. This is easier for me to walk into with a readiness to accept given that he is, for all intents and purposes, an all-new character. The idea opens itself up with potential to do something new and moving the concept forward rather than trapped forever in the pre-World War II era. As I am fond of pointing out, if you aren’t moving then you’re stagnating. And it is the same with fictional characters. There’s a risk of stagnation if your characters stay stuck in the past, never-changing, never-growing, forever. If the concept and characters are strong enough, they should be adaptable to a diverse range of changes and growth and sometimes you don’t know until you try and either fail or succeed.

Oddly, there is little in terms of discernible style to the Sitts prose. I think the longest chapter is four pages. Some chapters are as small as half a page. It’s an odd style of writing. I know it’s common with these modern popular thrillers but it feels choppy and awkward to me. There’s so little opportunity for the reader to engage with the characters and be in the moment; to enjoy the prose. It feels like it could almost be written by an A.I. as there is an utter loss of an author’s perspective or voice in the writing. The original pulp adventures were churned out every month and yet they somehow had a style to them that makes them still enjoyable to read even today, if not for the stories, then for the enjoyment of the prose itself. The robotic construction in the writing for THE PERFECT ASSASSIN is such that it almost feels like an extended outline of a story rather than a complete novel. In fact, I suspect that if it had been formatted more traditionally, those 108 chapters and 316 pages, would have come in closer to around 200 pages and about half that number of chapters.

All that being said, I stuck with the plot, such as it is, which is pretty standard Patterson fare about a regular someone getting pulled into danger and intrigue by a mysterious someone else. The authors introduce the reader to 2 main characters, Brandt Savage (of course) and his co-star, and catalyst for this story, is a bronze-haired female calling herself “Meed.” Her story covers similar ground as what Marvel has done with their Black Widow character in the films. But that’s not something to be too critical about as the idea of a female character raised to be an assassin in a training school for assassins is not unique to Marvel either. Unfortunately, Meed is consistently the more interesting character than Brandt, which is unfortunate for a book that is supposed to be jump-starting a new series of “thrillers” starring this new Doc Savage. He seemed weak, as a person (not his body) and I was trying to figure out why I had this impression.  I finally realized the reason—and in a way I think this may be the key to how this version of the character could potentially grow into something good if successful enough in sales to continue—Sitts does something with Brandt that I don’t think was ever done with his great-grandfather in the writing.

Whenever the narrative shifts to a chapter about Brandt, the perspective shifts to first-person. So we are inside Brandt’s head. We hear his fears, his anxieties, his nervousness, his insecurities. Why does this matter? I think it matters because for readers of the original Doc Savage stories, Doc’s inner thoughts are a mystery for the most part. He was a man of action. Sure, he was obviously a genius, because the reader was told this, and the number of inventions he created along with his multiple doctorates and surgeon skills establish his bona fides. But we never got inside his head much to see what inner demons he was battling. Farmer tackled some of that with his Doc Savage pastiche, Doc Caliban. While the Caliban stories could reflect the prose style at times, there was still a Farmerian filter that deconstructed the implications of such a character. In Brandt, we have a young professor who is somewhat embarrassed of his connection to the legendary Doc Savage to such an extent that he has contemplated changing his last name. But as that is the name on his diplomas, he’s content to just let it lie. This little tidbit is a key to the struggles Brandt is going to need to overcome to ever fully embrace his role as the inheritor of the Doc Savage mantle. He is a character with the genetics necessary to be a hero, but none of the desire or the motivation to do it. Meed functions as the catalyst for his journey to becoming a hero and she has her own lineage connection to the past that is a conduit for her and Brandt to forge an unbeatable team. This is not a story about a carbon copy of the original Doc and his amazing five assistants. They were a product of their day. This is a flawed and reluctant Doc and his single partner who has her own hidden motives for why she needs to push him into accepting his destiny. 

I was pleased to see that the Patterson machine did not undo the past or do an “everything you know is a lie” approach. No. Everything you knew is true, mostly, although there are some new wrinkles introduced and established connections with Doc Savage history is interwoven throughout. He smartly avoids filling in the gaps of what happened to the original Doc Savage and even maintains a noticeable vagueness about Brandt’s unnamed parents and who they are. He is aware of his famous great-grandfather, but has not ever known him, so his journey of self-discovery is also learning about his great-grandfather. There is no betrayal of the original character and concept but there is most definitely a major change introduced to it. The most intriguing to me involves the importance of “twins” in the very concept of genetically engineering the perfect human. I feel like Sitts or Patterson (or maybe both) has read Farmer’s Doc Caliban, but I can’t prove it. However, the twins idea, name-checks, and the new twists we learn about Doc and his lineage are surprising enough to bring me back to see how that is developed in future installments. 

My overall impression of THE PERFECT ASSASSIN is that it could have been more creatively skilled with its prose style and achieved its goals better. The end products winds up as a perfectly middling exercise and unlikely to garner new fans of Doc Savage but also unlikely to please current Doc Savage fans. However, even with the exceedingly simplistic writing style and choppy construction, I enjoyed it well enough and it ended strong with the new Doc Savage ready to start on a new adventure and I would like to read more about him.