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!



   

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cosmos #1

Cosmos #1 1986 $2.00 Canadian $1.70 U.S.  MicMac Comics North Bay, Ontario, Canada
By Marc Gerszke, Michael Gauthier and Darren J. Matassa

   So, this cover is simply Bad Ass. You got your bare chested, tanned dude with a gun. He's sporting a pretty outstanding mullet (complete with bangs) and he's got his arm around his barely clothed woman. They're standing in the center of what looks to be a moon crater while a blood red planet illuminates them from behind. There's also a robot hovering over the young lady's shoulder. Clearly... this is already the sweetest comic book either of us has ever seen, am I right?
   Well, somehow instead of opening it up to scenes of this space rocker doing one armed pushups while performing cunnilingus (as we all expected), it begins with an unnecessary history lesson of Alnarn, the galaxy in which our story  takes place. This, unfortunately, goes on for six mind numbing pages before the story is set into motion.

   And, as if that's not bad enough, all of the text is written all future style, with the "A"s as triangles and the "O"s having a dot in the center, making them appear as an eyeball or a cartoon titty.
   Luckily, the lettering seems to slowly get more legible until by page six it's actually quite readable and not nearly as distracting.
   Also, it wasn't nearly the slog that it could've been to make it to page six as Matassa's art is pretty great, and looking at his planets, spaceships, monsters and even space itself is very satisfying.

 His people kind of look like biker tattoos, but hey, that's kind of cool. 

   So, when our story finally gets going we see a spaceship blast out of hyper drive above the Earth-like planet Granda.
   We follow it's pilot, Matt, to his apartment where he promptly gets laid by his ladyfriend, Jensine. I know I always like to get laid after completing a mission... Matt style!

Early the next morning, Matt is informed there are security leaks in the military and his next mission therefore might by "risky". He and his robot pal, Dex, head out to perform their mission of blowing up a shipping depot on Miten, the water world where two warring peoples are in constant battle to steal the planet's natural resources. 
   Everyone's drawn over sexualized... I mean, I swear, I kept expecting sex scenes to erupt out of nowhere due to the bulging muscles and half exposed breasts that are ever present. 

   Anyway, Matt and his team finally come out of hyper drive to Arainian ships badly outnumbering his team. They scramble to the landing ship and out maneuver their enemies, eventually landing on Miten.

   Expecting a battle there, they're surprised to find no opposition. They sneak onto the shipping depot but no one seems to be around. Matt gets suspicious and orders his men out of there... but too late!! The whole place explodes!
   Lt. Haslow, the traitorous asshole that he is, has blown up his own men. But, somehow, Matt survives. His robot pal Dex finds his near lifeless body and calls for help. I wish I had a robot pal.
   Matt's buddy Briggs rescues him, blasting Arainian ships that try to stop him. A very confusing space battle ensues, then... droid medics attempt to patch up Matt. Doctor Droid pronounces him dead... but thinks he can use cybernetic reconstruction to allow him to "live".

   Matt's torso, one arm and one leg are replaced with robotic parts all Robocop style.

Fifteen hours later... he lives!! He awakens and immediately freaks out a bit upon seeing his new body. And we get a nice peak at his buttocks. 

He soon reports to his superior that the mission was a failure thanks to Haslow betraying them. Matt then shows off his new robotic limbs to his boss man in a kick ass splash page! Woo!!

   And that's it, Overall, I found it to be sort of a confusing mess, but I gotta say it has a charm to it as well. I love the artwork, so rich in detail and style with all of the musclebound dudes and lanky girls with ridiculous cleavage. Also, the robots and ships were nifty and the way Matassa draws outer space, shadows and even hair is absolutely stupendous!
    This comic was clearly ahead of it's time, foreshadowing a lot of the early Image titles like Brigade and it's countless clones although with an amateur European cartoony style that I find much more visually pleasing. I probably would pick up issue two if I happened upon it in a dollar box, but I certainly wouldn't seek it out to order online or anything.
   You know, I just can't believe this was a Canadian endeavor. Seems very Californian to me. Then again, I was equally surprised when I found out Skinny Puppy was Canadian, so there you go.

Here's a drawing I did of Doctor Droid, the robot surgeon who gave Matt his new parts.

   Join me next month when I take a look at another wonder in the world of oddball micro-press comics...Earthman #1!



   

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Diggers


The Diggers #1 Jan. 1988 $1.50 C&T Graphics Rochester, NY
by Tim Corrigan and Steve Keeter

 Welcome to the first official post for The Bewildering! Each month I'll review an oddball comic book from my personal collection of micro press weirdness... just for you, loyal reader. Just about everything you'll see here is something I found in a dollar box at various comic shops or conventions...like, for example, The Cincinnati Comic Expo.

   Last month I visited that show and, to my extreme pleasure, it was a hot spot of comic book strangeness. I don't remember the vendor's store name, but they were a nice couple from somewhere in New York (perhaps Rochester?) that had so many great gems that I was literally shaking with excitement upon having made my purchases. One of which being the book we're about to dive into here together... The Diggers #1!!

   Our story opens with five archaeology students conducting an investigation at the base of a mountain which recently underwent intense seismic activity. Jay and May are off doing some digging while June, Sky and Oscar are using their sophisticated equipment to study the activity.

   Jay and May excitedly walk up, claiming to have found some ancient human fossils when suddenly the entire side of the mountain explodes!


 A beast emerges who looks like trouble. Or more accurately, he looks like Solomon Grundy wearing a creepy demon vagina 'round his neck.



   We then see the monster meander off toward the city to wreak havoc (as monsters tend to do). Some of our group decide to investigate the mountain, but Oscar notices the Geiger counter indicating huge amounts of radiation emanating from within! End of Chapter One! And, just so you know, all of this happened in just three pages of comic!!

   Chapter Two opens with Greyhart walking down a sidewalk getting heckled by passersby until finally he decides he ain't taking no more of their shit and grabs a lady's dog and turns it into dust right before her very eyes! Damn, that's cold.

   Back at the mountain, Jay has suited up in an experimental exoskeleton suit that he apparently keeps in the back of the van with the spare tire and reusable grocery bags. Good thinking, Jay! As Jay enters the cave, the rest of the crew decide to stay behind and watch the grisly scene developing in the city via a television monitor in their van.  Some police officers try to stop Greyhart, but he turns them into dust just like he did to poor old Rags the dog. When other cops open fire on the beast, he simply absorbs the energy from the shots and actually increases in size as he does so!


   He then leaves the scene, seemingly heading toward the town's nuclear power plant. Fearing he will become too powerful to stop once he's absorbed all the nuclear power, the group decides to try to alter his course. At this point, May inexplicably runs into the cave to check on Jay. End of Chapter Two.

   The rest of the gang runs in after May who has found Jay standing paralyzed at some sort of computer console. They drag Jay out of the cave where he reveals that while inside he made contact with  The Pre-Men, a race of Earthlings that lived eons ago. When Greyhart came to Earth way back when he waged war with these Pre-Men who managed to imprison him in the mountain.

   Thinking ahead, The Pre-Men set up some kind of fail-safe that should Greyhart ever escape their prison, it would empower a new group of humans, bestowing upon them the means to stop the beast.

   The group accepts Jay's wild tale after he show's off his new strength by lifting their van like it was made of cardboard. Oscar also discovers he has the power to turn into energy and back again at will. Neat!


   The gang then jumps back into the van and makes their way into the city to attempt to thwart Greyhart. However, their path is blocked by a police barricade (manned by one lonely officer). May rolls down the driver side window and knocks out the poor fella with her mind! End of Chapter Three.

   By the time they get to the nuclear power plant Greyhart is enormous! Like, a sentinel from X-men or that fire beast during the opening credits of Spider-man and his Amazing Friends. Remember that guy?

   Anyway, Oscar figures out he can also fly and speeds toward the monster. Unfortunately, Greyhart knocks him aside, absorbing his powerful energy and growing even bigger. Oscar uproots a tree and hurls it at Greyhart who effortlessly catches it and turns it into dust.


   May turns into a winged demon creature and attacks the monster, clawing at his face and drawing blood. May kicks ass. Still, Greyhart smacks her down and Jay runs to her rescue. Then there is some weird infighting amongst the team as they try to decide who's the leader. June steps in and puts in her two cents and while they're all bickering, Greyhart begins sucking the energy from one of the nuclear reactors, laughing as her grows even more powerful.

   June notices Greyhart's transformation and unleashes her powers for the first time, shooting beams "of force and light". The sky blackens and a tornado like vortex of pitch black strikes down upon Greyhart who's just depleted all of the energy from the second nuclear reactor.


   The beast howls as it sucks him up into the sky and destroys him in an awesome display of thunder and lightning! Hot dog!

   The group eventually leaves the scene as Sky wonders aloud why she has yet to manifest her powers (if she indeed has them like the rest of her pals). They decide that there may be some greater purpose to their newfound abilities and proclaim they will face their destiny as a team. A superhero team called... The Diggers!


   Man, I loved this comic! Seriously... it was pretty great. It actually reminded me a lot of a Mike Allred superhero team like the Atomics. I could totally see him drawing this story and not really changing a thing except putting in poppy retro jargon to make it his own.

   The art could use some tightening up in places but overall I think this was a pretty sweet effort all around. I'd definitely pick up issue two should I run across it in my dollar box diving and recommend you do the same.

   So, with each one of these reviews I'll be posting my own depiction of one of the characters from the book. For this one I chose May in her kick ass bat form!



   Well, that was a great first pick, I must say! Most of these books I've never read so it's kind of a gamble as to which ones will be fun and which ones will just be a chore to get through. I'm sure there will be some of both on the horizon. Let's just hope the next one is a good one too. Stop back here in a month to see what I think of my next pick: Cosmos #1!


Thanks for reading everyone, and remember to check out the weird comics you've never heard of. You never know what you might happen upon!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Ones That Fell From The Vine

There are lots of good comics out there. Award winning graphic novels like From Hell, Maus and Sandman. There are even plenty of innovative ongoing monthly titles like Saga, Lumberjanes and Paper Girls.

Those books get plenty of well deserved attention in the comics world and their creators have lots of awards sitting on their mantles. And they should. They've made some great comics.

There are, however, some other comics out there that deserve our attention. Comics that will never win any awards. Comics by creators whose names we'll probably never hear in a favorable review.

But these comics tickle a spot deep within me that no National Book Award winner ever could.

These are comics so weird and offbeat, comics by amateur writers and artists clearly working without the hindrance of an editor... comics that are pure rabid creativity and unchecked passion for a medium not yet mastered.

And, luckily for us all, I have a ton of them.

Usually when I go to a comic book convention the first thing I do is plunge into the dollar boxes looking for these peculiar gems. Books like Dark Assassin and The One-Arm Swordsman (the two background images on this blog) that never fail to fill me with joy upon unearthing one.

So, why don't you join me in paying respect to these malformed masterpieces that have slipped through the cracks for months, years, or even decades?

Who knows, the next time you're at a comics convention you just might find yourself scouring the dollar bins. Not to look for an under priced first appearance... not to look for that issue of Batman you need to finish a story line... but for something... a bit more bewildering.