Saturday, April 1, 2017

New Beginning #1

New Beginning #1 August 1988 $1.50
Unicorn Comics Villa Park Illinois by Terry Kalkanian and Bruce White



   It's the fourth of July 1988 and Terry's mind begins to wander as he lifts weights in the rec room of his mansion. He's preparing to host his high school graduating class's ten year reunion. He lets his mind drift back to his teenage years when he wasn't the svelte hunk 'o man he is now. Instead he was an out of shape loser that everyone made fun of.
   He thinks about the time he was pushed into a swimming pool by Curtis, the boyfriend of his secret crush, Debbie Clark. Everybody laughed except for Debbie. She just scolded Curtis for being such a jerk. It was that day Terry decided to make some changes in his life if he ever hoped to win the heart of the angelic Debbie. He joined the army and got his ass in shape!
   Continuing his workout, Terry's mind flashes forward to one day in 1983 when he and his army buddy Al were in Grenada. They had gottten separated from their squad and happened upon an enemy patrol. Al and Terry opened fire and the patrol surrendered. Our boys decided to have some fun with their prisoners and made them get on their knees and pose for pictures... classic!  But one of the prisoners had enough of this humiliation and spit in Al's face.
   Al is kind of all Full Metal Jacket crazy so he opened fire on the guy, basically blowing his head clean off and then he turned his rifle the other prisoners and eventually toward his friend Terry. But luckily Terry shot first and Al's dead body hit the ground. 
   The government covered up the incident and Terry's time in the service passed. Just before his discharge he got news that his parents and grandparents were killed in a plane crash. 
   He and his brother Gerry each inherited eleven million dollars from Gramps.  Gerry took his money and disappeared. Terry used his part to build an eight million dollar mansion in the middle of the country. 
   We then flash forward to the present as Terry finishes working out. His guests are starting to arrive! The party gets going and boy can these white people dance!
   Terry, playing the good host, starts to mingle and asks around about Debbie. He finds out she married that jerk Curtis that pushed him into the pool all those years ago! As if on cue, Curtis and Debbie walk up to say hello to Terry. Curtis is already wasted and makes an ass of himself.
   Curtis goes to get another drink and Debbie apologizes for his rude behavior. Suddenly a news report cuts into the television program they're watching and informs them World War III has just started between the U.S. and Russia.

    Fearing impending annihilation might put a damper on the party, Terry takes a few of the guests aside and informs them he has a secret bunker under the house and they should follow him to safety. 
   Now, at this point I think this would be a much more awesome comic if we found out Terry had orchestrated this whole thing as a social experiment. Like, he paid some actor to read a fake news report in order to get some party goers to follow him down to the bomb shelter where he forced them to live with him under the ruse of a nuclear war happening above. Man, that would be an interesting comic series.
   But no, this shit is real. Terry's house has over two hundred guests but the bomb shelter can only harbor ten. So he discreetly leads a few guests to safety until this end of the world thing blows over. Unfortunately, Curtis the douche bag is the last one in the line and decides to sneak some booze from Terry's bar before he heads down into the shelter.
   Some other party goers see him and follow him to the opening of the shelter. They know! Suddenly a mob begins to rush the stairwell to the shelter, trying to force their way to safety. I don't know why Terry even invited Curtis into the shelter in the first place. Kind of a boneheaded move if he was hoping to steal Debbie away. If you're gonna be trapped in a bomb shelter with a girl you're trying to romance you should probably not invite her fella along. Just sayin.
   Anyway, Curtis smashes a bottle over one guy's head and leaves him there to bleed out on the stairs. The advancing mob tramples the poor bastard underfoot as they try to force their way into the shelter.
   Terry decides he's going to have to take control of the sitch and does what any of us would do... he grabs an automatic weapon and opens fire on all of the party goers as the come down the stairs!

   He then seals off the entrance and locks up all the weapons except for his own. He grabs Curtis and slaps him around, telling him it's all his fault that he had to kill two hundred people in his own house. Terry threatens him that if he does anything else out of line he's kill him too! They turn on the television set and see that bombs are falling. Everything's fucked.
   Months pass and tensions mount. I mean, seriously... these people showed up for a party and ended up trapped in an underground shelter with the guy that just killed ninety percent of their graduating class. Awkward!
   So there's no sign of life on the radio. They just sit down there playing cards or whatnot for months hoping Terry won't snap and kill them all. Then one night Curtis gets an idea. He sneaks up on Terry and steals his gun! I'm actually okay with this move. If it was me I'd be way more scared of Terry than Curtis. I mean, they're both assholes, clearly, but Terry is a trigger happy musclebound psycho and Curtis is just a fuckin' drunk. 
   Curtis tells Debbie to grab the stockpile of food so they can take it and leave the others to die. She says she won't do it, and Curtis lays the smack down.
   She agrees to his plan but instead of grabbing the food she snatches a pistol and blasts Curtis in the chest. Go Debbie! I love the following panel. Reminds me of Raymond Pettibon artwork.
      So Terry says the danger in the shelter is over, but they'll have to venture out soon as they will need to restock on provisions of they expect to survive much longer in the shelter. In the coming weeks the radiation levels seem to have dropped and it is assumed that it will be safe to venture outside! Terry and another dude decide to peek their heads out and see what they see.
   But when they do they find a pack of bloodthirsty dogs chewing on the remains of the party goers Terry murdered all those months ago. Gross.
   And that's the end of issue one! Wow. Insane! So, I did this drawing of Curtis grabbing some of Terry's booze. Curtis is a terrible person but I gotta admit I'd have nabbed some hooch too if I thought I was going to have to live underground for months while the world was ending outside. So here's my pinup of good ole Curtis the drunk!
   That was certainly the most violent thing I've reviewed thus far. But honestly not a bad first issue to a series and I'd probably read more. And as luck would have it, I can! I have issue two of this thing! I haven't read it yet but here's a preview from the back cover of issue one:
   I hope you've enjoyed this one and that you'll come back next month for another wonderfully bewildering comic. Join me for...












Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tales of the Techno Mutant Warriors #1


Tales of the Techno Mutant Warriors #1 1987 $2.00 U.S. $2.50 Canada
XL Studios Publications Ontario, Canada by Ray Dell and Bill Cooper

   Okay, so I'm going to be completely honest here. I bought this comic because there's a lady with four titties on the cover. That's one more than that lady from Total Recall.

   That's awesome.

   Pretty much any comic with a cover featuring a lady possessing three or more titties is going to end up in my collection (regardless of whether or not she's holding a lightsaber or standing in front of a planet as it explodes). I mean, just look at that cover. It's got it all!

   And please don't misunderstand. This is not a sexist thing. Any comic cover featuring a dude with a couple of extra penises is going into my collection just as quick. Possibly quicker. 

   But I digress...

   Our story:

   The planet Syunn has seen better days. 200 years ago its twin moons fell victim to that persistent bastard known as gravity, and crashed into each other in a massive destructive moment that rained meteorites down on Syunn. This resulted in the planet's atmosphere being inundated with horrible chemicals, not to mention shifting Syunn's orbit to skirt dangerously close to the sun. All of this leaving a large portion of the population to be born as strange looking mutants. Those not born as mutants built cities at the poles to start a new life away from these genetic anomalies. 

   
    Now we're introduced to the lady from the cover. Ajora is her name. A healer mutant who's just taking a bath out in the river while her friends Linx and Drej are out searching for useful supplies.

   This all seems great until Ajora spots a nasty looking wolf approaching! The wolf lunges into the water and Ajora tries to run... but the wolf seeks other prey! He leaps right past our lady of mammillary opulence to sink his teeth into a shadowy figure lurking in the water behind her. 
   Ajora realizes she's surrounded by mutant hunters and tries to swim to safety. The hunters try to shoot her but only manage to blast the wolf and one of their own men (my guess... they were distracted by all those titties). All of a sudden a wolf man descends from the trees above, making quick work of the mutant hunters!
   This mysterious figure picks up the injured wolf and takes it ashore where Ajora is getting dressed. He introduces himself as Aard the Predator and tells her the wolf is a friend of his named Ruk, Aard asks her to help heal poor Ruk and she complies. Dear lord, someone teach Aard how to trim that happy trail!
    While they're healing Ruk we cut to Ajora's pals Linx and Drej on their search for supplies. I wonder if either of them have extra penises?

   They notice a transport on the horizon and decide to take a closer look. Jumping onto the passing transport like a couple of pirates, they quickly throw everyone out of the vehicle to the grisly demise of tumbling off a cliff into the rocks below!
 
   Meanwhile, Ajora and Aard see another transport approaching. Ajora mistakenly assumes it's her buddies but unfortunately it's the dreaded Torag, a feared mutant slaver and an army of his troopers! Three vehicles in his fleet surround our heroes and attempt to capture Ajora...
   But Aard shoots an explosive arrow at one of the transports, blowing it to smithereens! He and Ajora start kickig all kinds of ass... but there are just too many troopers to kick all their asses, so they decide to run. The troopers shoot them with some sort of stun gun, knocking them out cold.
   Togar commands his troopers to load them onto the transport. As he stands over their unconscious bodies he pauses to think to himself, "Hmm... this wolfman looks familiar. I wonder..." What does Torag wonder? Does he recognize Aard? I would think if you see a happy trail like that you're not gonna forget it anytime soon.

   We abruptly cut to the transport driver that Drej threw off the cliff earlier in the story. He awakens and wobbles to his feet, vowing to get revenge against the mutants! What a tough son of a gun!
   Man, this was a crazy fun comic! And the art is kind of amazing, even if I can't tell what's happening in some of the action scenes. It's really weird and detailed and I like the way it looks. Kind of reminds me of early Vince Locke or Guy Davis. Perfect tonal fit with the story!
  
   And as if this twenty page story wasn't enough, we have a four page back up story called 'Milk Runner' about a smuggler of illegal milk (Whattup Doogie!) crashing his small craft into the side of a mountain. 
   The outlaw pilot stumbles from the wreckage to check on his contraband and sighs with relief to discover the canisters are undamaged... but a rock teeters atop the rock wall he's just slammed into and it suddenly falls (like from a Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoon) onto the milk runner's ship cracking the canister of moo juice which spews everywhere! 

   The end!

   What an odd and wonderful comic book! Thanks Ray and Bill. You guys rule!

   So, of course I had to draw the amazing Ajora! Here she is with Ruk the injured wolf.

   Please join me again next month when we take a look at a comic I've been eager to read since I started this blog. New Beginning #1! Go ahead... feast your eyes upon it's beauty!!!






    


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Night Masters #1

The Night Masters #1 1985 $1.50 Custom Pic Comics
by Bruce Patnaude

You never know where you're going to find a micro press gem you've never seen before. This one I actually found while digging through the dollar boxes at my very own place of work, Maverick's Cards and Comics! Just how long had this treasure been waiting to be unearthed, right there under my very nose? It's impossible to say. But right now I can tell you my thoughts on this month's bewildering book...The Night Masters!

It's the 27th century, and we're thrown right into the action as a death dealing duo roams the Tabos Embassy, slaughtering the Unisec Guards. We don't really find out who exactly the Tabos are or why they're being exterminated by these bad ass villains. Suffice it to say these two dudes have been contracted to do some killing, and that's what they do for a couple of pages until they're called away by their mysterious bossman.
Here they are, Metal and Sky, killing some dude on the title page!
Sky (the one on the right in the above panel) tells Metal that he shouldn't have killed that last guy as they could've gotten paid handsomely for a live body by the C.I.E.P. (Corporate Industralist Extraction Plant). 
Okay... before we go on... that's kind of a thing with this comic. There are TONS of acronyms for various organizations that readers have to familiarize themselves with as they keep getting mentioned throughout the book. Other than the C.I.E.P. there are the U.S.F. (Univeral Security Force), The O.H. (Old House), The C.I. (Corporate Industrialists) and the I.B.P. (Industry For A Better Poplace). It gets a little confusing. You really almost need a reference chart in the back of the comic to flip to as you read.

Next we meet two of the Night Masters. It's Roger Aqua and Max!
They're talking about The O.H.'s grip on government funds and how Damon (the other Night Master on the front cover that dresses exactly like Roger Aqua) is meeting with a potential client right now.

Cut to that very meeting! Damon is talking to Diana Lockly, who wants to know more about the death of her brother , an ambassador for the I.B.P. who was killed by a professional death squad known as The Seed while he was on a peace keeping mission in Bolaria. Damon takes the case! But suddenly, the door to Diana's apartment blows open and who should it be but our old friends Metal and Sky! Metal blasts Damon in the chest and he goes down faster than my interest in this comic! He then slaps Diana unconscious and throws her over his shoulder as they leave. 

When Damon awakes he summons his Night Master buddies to help!
Shortly, Roger and Max show up guns a blazin'! Roger almost shoots Damon right in the face! Damon calms his buddies down, telling them the bad guys have already absconded with Diana. They discuss their next move.
While they're figuring this out, we jump to a meeting with the slimy Lincoln Pace (guy with an eye patch) and our favorite thugs Metal and Sky. They're at the base for the I.B.P. (remember who that is? Yeah, me neither) as Metal strong arms their public relations man.
Meanwhile, the Night Masters (why don't we just call them The N.M.s from here on out?) change into costume as they speed along in their rover to meet up with someone named Nathan. 

Out of nowhere their ride is hit by some kind of explosive blast and they screech to a  halt!
It's the Neutralizer!
The N.M.s hop out and try to fight this guy! But ole Neuty fries Max with an internal electrical fusion jolt from his wrist bands! Both of them pass out and the Neutralizer's unconscious body is mysteriously teleported away!

We then cut to Lincoln Pace having a meeting with a real nasty s.o.b. named Stargull where Lincoln explains how they don't have I.B.P. support. Stargull says that The Seed will proceed as planned! 
Fuck yeah, Seed. Don't take none of that shit from the I.B.P. (whoever that is again).

Then we suddenly cut to an abandoned mineral mining space station where an alien named Manuel Apex tells his robotic subordinate to keep an eye on Lincoln Pace and to kill him if he makes one wrong move! Watch out L.P.!
Back on Earth, Max is recovering from the battle and the N.M.s are standing in the street discussing their next move when they're blasted again by The Neutralizer! He's back!
He rips up a piece of the pavement and slings it at Max, knocking him out. Man, poor Max just keeps getting neutralized by this guy... holy shit! His name is super appropriate!!

Then Neuty blasts Damon with his solar flares, knocking him to the ground. Roger shoots their foe with his crazy future gun but Neuty is only stunned! He quickly recovers and blasts at Roger...or maybe it's Damon, I don't know. They both look exactly alike in their costumes. Whoever it is, Neuty is standing right over him ready to deliver the death blow as the book ends with this dramatic (if not slightly erotic) splash page!
This was definitely not my favorite book I've reviewed so far. It just wasn't very much fun and there were lots of confusing organization names and characters who look very similar to keep up with. 

It certainly wasn't awful and I've read much worse first issues by professional comics creators. I just wish it would've cut back on the confusion and wordiness and unleashed the weird fun that it had the potential for.

On a positive note, I do see this book as ahead of its time. It definitely reminds me of a lot of early '90's Image team books that came out seven years later and sold millions of copies. His character designs totally remind me of something Rob Liefeld would come up with in the years to follow. The artwork might be amateurish, but it's obvious Bruce Patnaude has a lot of heart and is trying to do his best work. 

So for that, my hat's off to the effort! Also, it's the only book I've reviewed so far that actually made it past issue one. There are six issues of this thing! I truly respect that he kept on cranking his work out and am curious if it gets better as it goes along. 

I actually recently found issues 2 - 4 in a cheap bin at a comics convention and picked them up.
If I can find issues 5 and 6 I'll finish up the series and give an update on our friends the Night Masters somewhere down the line!
Until then, here's a sweet pin-up of Max by Bruce Patnaude from the comic!
And if you like pin ups, here's my version of Sky, one of the bad guys from issue one whose design looks right out of an early '90's Image comic!


Thanks for joining me to check out the Night Masters and be sure to come back next month for Tales of the Techno Mutant Warriors! The cover has a lady with four titties on it so I already know it's gonna rule.













Saturday, December 31, 2016

Earthman

Earthman #1 1990 $1.75 Space Publications
by Bob Nunn

   Well, my friends. This was something special (as you may have already guessed by the above image).  While exhibiting at the recent Miami County Comic Con in Troy, Ohio my pal Matt Brassfield and I decided to peruse the fifty cent comics at the adjacent table. I found some good reads but it was Matt who happened upon this gem that I had somehow missed. He immediately pulled it from the bin and handed it to me, saying it looked like something that might be up my alley. Indeed, he was correct! 
   Many great comics were found for a dollar, fifty cents, even a quarter each at the show but this one was the first of my finds that I curled up with, knowing it would find a home on The Bewildering. So without further ado... let's get into this thing!
   The comic opens with a couple of futuristic solider dudes (Majors Galax and Starr) talking to some fishermen who have found a body drained of it's blood in the river... the Dracilis River!!!
   They decide to investigate the nearby town of Dracilis to see what they can find. Not long after beginning their trek through the woods it gets dark and they decide to camp for the night. But just as they're about get some shut eye they're attacked by some kind of human like creature with fangs! What kind of monster could this bat-like creature from Dracilis possibly be?!?

   They shoot at her with their oddly phallic pistols, but to no effect! One of the officers pulls out a crucifix and it scares the vampire who turns into a bat and flies off. The officers walk on into the village where they encounter a witch like crone, named Granny Witchet, who commands them to "Gooo Awaaay!" But another towns-person walks up and tells Granny to step aside so he can talk to them. He tells them it is indeed a vampire that has been plaguing their town, but no one knows who she is. 
   One of the officers concocts a plan. They'll hold a town meeting at noon and whoever doesn't show up is obviously the vampire. And what a foolproof plan that is. I know the only way I'd miss a town meeting was if my flesh burned in the sunlight... fuckin' LOVE town meetings!!!
   But a townsman explains that people who live in Dracilis believe that evil spirits search for them in the daylight to mark them as victims for the vampire, so they hide during the day. He suggests an early evening meeting just before the sun goes down. Not a perfect plan by any means, but all agree it's their best bet.
   The next evening one of the officers calls the town meeting to order and begins making everyone there look at his crucifix. One lady dressed all in black freaks out when he dangles it in her direction. She runs out of the town hall screaming. Naturally they assume she's the vampire and chase after her.
   By the way, did you notice the stain on the right hand side of that last panel? This comic was stained throughout and it honestly adds a whole extra layer of weird to the reading experience. Is it water? Beer? Pee? Who knows!
   So anyway, one officer, Alex Starr, stays behind as the villagers paint crosses on their foreheads so the vampire won't attack them on their way home.  A cute villager named Iris flirts with Alex, who paints a cross on her forehead and offers to walk her home. Go, Alex, go!

   She declines and goes on home alone (and I assume Alex masturbates in the men's room off panel). Soon after, her body is found with two holes in her neck and her skin very pale. Doesn't look good for Iris.

   One of the officers is quick to pronounce Iris dead... but the other one (I can't tell these guys apart) notices she's clinging to life and will just need a blood transfusion to pull through (I guess he'd seen Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark).
   They take her to Granny Witchet and her robot pal who knows how to handle this. 

   This robot is almost as cool as Dr. Droid from last month's post! I think he deserves to be the subject of my artistic tribute this month!
   The officers go to Vixena's castle to confront her and determine if she is indeed the vampire responsible for all of the murders and such.
   In her castle, she tries to fool them with the old "reflection-less mirror" routine, but these guys are way too smart! 
   
   They leave to go check on Iris but to their horror find a note on the robot doctor's front door proclaiming that Iris has died. Bummer! But soon enough who should saunter up to the officers but ole Iris herself! She reveals that the robot announced her death a little prematurely, claiming robots make mistakes too. Well, that's it... I'm not drawing that quack of a robot doctor after all. Screw that guy! If he can't even tell when a person's dead or alive he should have his practice taken away from him, the lunkhead.
   Alex decides the vampire must be Granny Witchet and flies off to stop her! Meanwhile, Galax stays behind with Iris. Once they're alone Iris makes a confession... she's in fact the vampire!

 He's not surprised though, claiming to have figured it out all detective style. He explains that he remembers her having Alex paint the cross on her forehead at the town meeting and deduced she couldn't look in a mirror to do it herself, having no reflection and all.
   Also, he tells her some convoluted thing about how he noticed the direction a phone was hung up on the rocker the wrong way. Whatever, Sherlock.

    He suggests she then pretended to have been attacked by the vampire so they would give her a tasty blood transfusion at the doctor's office. She then forged the fake death notice in the handwriting of the robot (which I would imagine takes skill. I mean, I'd imagine robots probably have pretty impeccable penmanship). So, the robot didn't make any bad diagnosis afterall! Aw man... I can't believe I said all those nasty things about him earlier! Now I feel really bad. Sorry, robot.
   Galax tries to stop the vampire but she flees into the cavern under Granny Witchet's place. Galax snoops around until Iris suddenly leaps out at him! He throws a boulder at her but it merely shatters into dust when it hits her head. She has the strength of a legion of demons! But Galax, thinking quick, fires his schlong range pistol at the roof of the cavern, letting in sunlight!
   She runs and hides in her coffin but Galax finds it and opens the lid. She's asleep in the form of Iris once again. Alex shows up and says he wants to be the one to drive the stake through her heart and end this whole thing (I can totally relate. Every time a woman turns me down for a date I just want to hammer a piece of sharpened wood through her chest and watch her dissipate into a smoky pile of ash. I assume that's not overreacting). Unfortunately Alex can't seem to do it, pussy that he is.  Luckily, Vixena shows up and does it for him!

  She reveals that she is in fact Iris's sister and knew all along that Iris had been the one tormenting everyone. Our story ends with Vixena asking to let the memory of the town of Dracilis be buried with the dead. And I guess that's what happened.
   It does leave me wondering why it was called "Earthman". Is the titular character Alex? Is he the only Earthling in the story? Are the other officers aliens? Does that mean that this is not taking place on Earth? On the cover the vampire refers to herself as "Andromedian"... so maybe this is all happening on the planet Andromeda? I honestly have no idea. But regardless of that conundrum, it was a heck of a tale! It's like Sir Arthur Conan Bram Stoker's Plan 9 From Outer Space. And maybe the coolest thing about the book is the inside back cover where readers are urged to contact their local newspapers to try to get them to print Earthman comics in the funny pages:

   Dear Lord, I'd love to see this side by side with Garfield and The Lockhorns. Holy shit, that would be amazing!
   Sadly, I don't think that ever happened and no more Earthman comics saw the light of day. It's a shame.This was a kooky book but I THINK I liked it... and I'd probably read more if there were any. But who could really say? This was just so frickin' weird. I like the design of the space officers and the spooky imagery of the Witch's house and whatnot... but everything else looked kind of rushed and half heartedly drawn. And what the hell's with that cover? I would've loved to see a cool montage of all the sweet characters and devices on the cover.
   In fact, here's what that would've looked like:



   Well, I'm really looking forward to next month's pick... Night Masters #1! Join me in thirty to see what this one's all about. Happy New Year everyone!