Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Blow #1

Blow #1 2005 $?
Robert Swinton

This book is all kinds of special. Firstly, because I met the guy who did it. Robert was at S.P.A.C.E. (The Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio in 2005 selling copies of Blow and I purchased one from him there. As you can see in the above image he autographed it to me with the quote "Keep on keeping on". Damn good advice if you ask me.
So, I love this cover. It's what attracted me to the book in the first place. I have always had a fondness for black and white artwork and this image of Big 'Fro Brown cooly scoping out the scene that is playing out in front of him is a great one.
Once I began reading this comic it quickly became clear that it's not your regular story. It's very reliant on imagery that connects in odd ways and has a habit of showcasing images of people playing horns and trumpets and firing pistols in an odd back and forth way that seems to work for some reason. I've never thought of guns and instruments as at all similar (one I love and one I hate) until I read this comic.

So, there are four short stories in this comic all featuring our main character Big 'Fro Brown. The first one 'Playin' Between the Lines' is just a three page introduction that gives us a peek into his world. It's all guns and jazz, card games and dames. A jazzy noir, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. 
The second tale, '61-49 Mississippi Ave' just seems like an homage to the music Robert loves with nods to Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Robert Johnson. It's not really a story so much as a poem and a love letter to jazz and blues.

'Sketches of Darkness' is our third tale and the one with the most action. It involves a shadowy figure who follows our hero Big 'Fro in the rain and tries to gun him down in the streets. Big 'Fro finds refuge with one of his women who has an apartment over the Onyx Inn. He lays low with her for awhile and then when he is again accosted by the shadowy figure he manages to escape by simply stepping out of the panel, leaving the mysterious gunman alone and confused.

In the final tale, 'Disonant Notes', Big 'Fro speaks about the music on his mind as we're treated to imagery of women and jazz clubs. Another poem style comic instead of a linear story.
Even though I usually prefer a story in comics I believe this one works a bit better than most abstract or artsy comics I've read simply because of the jazz theme. I have been a fan of jazz, particularly Miles Davis, since my friend Terry Means first played 'Live Evil' and 'Bitches Brew' for me back in the late nineties. Jazz is an odd genre of music in that it has a start and a finish but the way it gets you from one point to another is often done in unexpected and unique ways. Blow does the same thing in the form of comics and I think it works.
Below is my portrait of Big 'Fro Brown (done while listening to John Coltrane's 'Lush Life' and 
'Big Fun' by Miles Davis)
I enjoyed this comic and have no idea if  Robert made any more. I can't find anything about him or this book online. Let's hope he's still keeping on!
Join me next time for what looks to be a real treat...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Future Beat #1

Future Beat #1 1986 $1.50
Oasis Comics Merritt Island, Florida by Tracy Schell and Richard Johnson

   Welcome to the Future Beat! Our tale begins with a mysterious gunman waiting in the shadows as a lady walks out of a dark room and out into the street. The gunman stops her and addresses her as if she is his lover. She doesn't seem to recognize him and seems confused when he begins questioning her.

But the questions give way to violence and he shoots her dead right there in the street. The next scene we see officer Bill Corben entering a seedy bar demanding to speak to someone by the name of Leo Ginelli. The bartender tells him to take a hike but Corben takes a moment to explain things to the smug tapster!

But as soon as Corben heads the way the barman motions he's stopped by a big dude in a suit. I swear this feels like one of those side scroller '80's games like Bad Dudes or something. I love it already!
Corben finds his way to Ginelli's office and starts chatting with the villainous looking businessman.

Ginelli doesn't seem intimidated by our man Corben and tells him to either arrest him or leave. Corben reluctantly exits, but not before telling Ginelli he'll be seeing him again soon.
We cut to the gunman from the first page alone in his spacious bedroom as he is seemingly about to let his other personality ("The Man") out to wreak more destruction.
Another crime scene. Another young lady. Corben approaches and takes a good look at the victim. Corby speaks up his theory that the killings are related. Not only that but he believes the killer is targeting specific women to get the attention of Ginelli's crime family.

We see a shadowy figure speaking with Ginelli via a view screen. He refers to this latest victim as his clientele and the third one killed this month! He seems pissed. Ginelli says he'll take care of it.
At the police precinct they discuss the murders. They vaguely refer to the places that the murders are taking place as ran by crime families and the victims as some kind of criminal. I'm starting to put together that these are abortion clinics...maybe? I dunno.
After the meeting one of the other cops asks Corben to go out for a drink. Corben informs him he only drinks coffee. That's right, Corby! Straight Fuckin' Edge! I would be straight edge too if I didn't smoke weed and drink beer. And caffeine. I have some caffeine once every day or two. Are vitamins allowed if you're straight edge? I take a B Complex pill with breakfast as well. 

Corben has a coffee with the other cop and ends up saying something awkward about the killer maybe not being such a sicko really. The other cop seems confused so they change the subject. He asks Corben who the lady in the photo on his end table is. Corben responds that it's his deceased wife. He seems flustered and asks the other cop to leave so he can get to bed.
We cut to the killer as he looks at himself in the bathroom mirror. 'The Man' is struggling to get out again. Violence is on the horizon once more.

And that's how the story ends. Is this killer some kind of other personality of Corben? Will he be stopped before he can claim another innocent life? Are people seeking abortions criminals in the future? I honestly can't get a handle on any answers to those questions after reading this first issue. There is in fact an issue two out there somewhere according to the internet, but I haven't seen it in my cheap bin diving thus far.
Oh well, I did enjoy this book even if it was a bit vague with it's plot points. The art was pretty nice and by a guy named Richard Johnson. Dick Johnson... I think he might do porn now.
And speaking of something for you to spank it to, here's my rendition of Corben:
I also want to say what a great cover this issue had. The color and logo design are top notch. The very definition of '80's design and visuals.
Also, there is a seven page backup story in this comic that I didn't read. It just looked incredibly boring and extremely wordy with absolutely no relation to the main story so I just skipped it. But if you pick up a copy and it's worth reading let me know. Is that a deal? Awesome.
And speaking of awesome... here's next month's book.  

Blow #1
See you next month!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Jim Nastics #1

Jim Nastics #1 1984 $1.50
Redstone Comics Fairhaven, New Jersey by William Mitchell and Alan Larsen

   So, going in I had no idea this would be a gymnast noir comedy. I mean, seriously. Has that ever been a genre of an anything? If so it's news to me. 
   But our story opens with our man Nastics finishing up his gymnast workout in his darkened office just as Ms. Ellen Faunt walks in to inquire about the secretarial position there. He hires her on the spot with Ellen kickstarting the comic by telling Nastics she wants to know everything about him first.
   And that's just what he does. Origin story! Jim's tale begins with the skinny on Hillary Landon. 

   "Hilly" became Nastics's lover. They were a perfect match... until Dr. Jefferson McCarthy destroyed everything! He stopped them after a performance one night and made a bizarre offer. He claimed to be doing research for the Olympic Council in the areas of stamina and endurance. He convinced them to let him perform his tests on them, explaining that once they submit to testing they would be blessed with abilities many times their current ones, thus out-performing their communist rivals! 
   McCarthy lives up to his name with the fervor of his plans to vanquish Communism. But will his plans succeed?
   Hell yeah they do! Lookit the way Hilly shoots around like a giant bouncy ball! And Nastics can do the same! They're like rubber legged daredevils now!

    Hilly takes part in the next Olympic Games and with her new abilities she wins it all! But Nastics, man of integrity that he is, can't sit idly as she undeservedly takes the gold.

   He spills the beans and Hilly becomes hopping mad. She and Dr. McCarthy are arrested right then and there with Hilly vowing to get her revenge for this betrayal. 

   Flash forward to the present where Nastics gets a mysterious phone call that alerts him to the possibility of a friend in trouble! It's Phylis Meyers (aka Phil), the US gymnast who found herself as leader of the womens events after Hilly's arrest. 

   Nastics uses his rubbery agility to leap into the window of the building where he tracked Phil. She informs him that her kidnappers were speaking in a foreign language and absconded with her dog Auf Auf (who also has super jumping abilities). I bet they are dirty communists!
   Just then we cut to little Auf Auf giving those foreign kidnappers the what for!!

   And we also get a glimpse of Hilly's present predicament in the government hospital where she resides. 

   She throttles her captors and makes her escape! Now, back to Nastics! He has tracked down Auf Auf's kidnappers and tries to stop them just before they take off in their plane...
   ...but they get away. It's not a total loss though as Nastics nabs one of their cohorts who was left on the runway. He threatens the kidnapper until he lays it all out for Nastics. They weren't foreigners at all, but Americans working for General "Bull" Dozer to kidnap Auf Auf and take him to Washington D.C.!  Nastics and Phil go back to his office to process this new intel... but who should show up on the last page of the comic? It's Hilly! She had decided to make amends with Nastics but gets the idea that Phil is trying to replace her in every facet of her old life... not just as the top US Womens gymnast but also as Nastics's lover! Hilly is pissed and once again vows her revenge!!

   And this is how issue one ends. Will Hilly have her reckoning? Will Nastics ever find true love? What are those US agents doing with Auf Auf in Washington?!? All these questions and more answered in issue 2 of Jim Nastics: Hero or Heel!  I hope. I've never seen issue two but apparently it does exist as the series has two issues listed on comics.org
   So what a weird and cool comic! I liked it lots. Here's my drawing of Nastics.

   Please be sure to check in again next time when we delve into the amazing looking treasure known as Future Beat!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Shadow Warrior #1

Shadow Warrior #1 1988 $1.95 Canada $1.60 U.S.
Gateway Comics Kelowna, British Columbia by Terry Krock and Bart Ciancone

   Recently I was scouring the dollar boxes at a local shop called Bell, Book and Comic and discovered this exciting looking book. The cover is so full of energy and color that I simply couldn't wait to see what it was all about! So without delay let's dive into Shadow Warrior #1!

   Kaminarr, once a knight called a Thane (peace keeping protector of the balance) became greedy and discontent. So much so that Mordann, the Dark One took notice from his distant hell and seduced Kaminarr by promising him supremacy over all if he would only unleash a reign of darkness over all the land and allow Mordann total dominion. Our story begins after Kaminarr has destroyed every house of the Thanes except for the Vullon and has just ordered an attack on that last vestige of honor in the village of Kirchen.

   Kaminarr's cruel forces encircle the village and prepare to unleash destruction upon it. Suddenly, a ball of light appears in the woods and who should appear but... Moon Knight?!?
   Oh... wait, no... that's Kaminarr! He just happens to look exactly like Moon Knight. General Grunn begins sweating and looks visibly shaken at the appearance of his demonic commander. 
   Kaminarr orders the attack and tells his men to meet him at the stronghold once the village has been secured. He threatens his general, telling him to pray that all goes according to plan for his own sake! General Grunn then walks away quietly and goes over to speak to his sergeant. It's a weird little moment where they have this brief aside. 

   Sergeant Callo probably sees it as a promotion but General Grunn is basically putting him in line to face Kaminarr's wrath if something goes wrong. It reminded me of a little human instance from a Coen Brothers film where suddenly things get less serious for a moment of quirky interaction. 

   But then we get this great shot of Kaminarr overlooking the village as his forces advance on its unknowing populace. This might be a good time to mention that I think the artwork in this book is absolutely amazing. Just look at that horse! I honestly really love it.
   We cut to a scene a few hours south of the village at Eskern Keep where the last of the Thanes dwell. Inside the kingdom's walls two men are going about their daily training.

   The younger of the men, Tezzarak, is summoned to speak with his father, Aaraim, Ur-Lord of Eskern Keep, in his throne room. Aaraim tells his son that the balance has long been tipping in favor of the darkness heralded by the traitorous Kaminarr. He continues to explain how the demon Mordann has perverted Kaminarr to do his bidding.
   Tezzarak suggests they raise an army to defeat the forces of evil who are no doubt coming for them but Aaraim informs his son that Kaminarr's forces are too great in number to be overcome by physical force. They must admit they know not how to combat this terrible foe.
 Just then a knight rushes into the throne room to tell them the nearby village is under attack.

   Aaraim tells his son to lead the Thanes in pursuing the attackers, thinking them to be mere bandits who are looting the village of Kirchen instead of the very forces of darkness he has just been warning his son about! 
   Tezzarak's younger brother Jerrid walks up as they are suiting up to leave. He wants to go with them but is told that the journey is too dangerous for an inexperienced swordsman like him. Jerrid's mom steps in and makes the final decision. Jerrid will stay behind with his parents.

   Tezzarak tells his brother to stay and hone his skills as a swordsman so that no one will be his equal. Jerrid thinks to himself that someday he'll be a great warrior that none shall defeat! I have a feeling if this series goes on that Jerrid will come into play as a pivotal character in the war against the darkness...but I guess we'll have to wait and see!

   We then get this amazing splash page of the knights riding out of the castle walls to go defend the villagers. Awesome!
   But they are being watched from the nearby woods by unseen forces as they ride towards the village. Just as they reach the outskirts of Kirchen they split up to encircle the village and survey the scene. But little do they know that Kaminarr's dark army are about to unleash an attack!

   Will the knights fall to Kaminarr's black army of Jalton soldiers? You'll have to find out in issue two... which according to all of my research unfortunately never saw the light of day.
   It's too bad as I'd love to see how this story unfolds. It's a decent story with good character development and as I mentioned earlier I think the artwork is excellent. My only complaint is that the cover made the lofty claim that this issue would be "Enlightening" and I feel like I'm just as dumb as I was before I began reading it. I guess there's no truth in advertising... even in Canada. 
   But speaking of that cover, hats off to Bob Caldwell and Bob Turner (colorist and color separator) who did an amazing job! I usually prefer black and white comics to color ones but can't help but wonder how fantastic this comic would've looked if they had gotten their hands on its entire contents. Great work Bobs!
   And as always I drew a character from the story. Here's the fearful General Grunn.

   Hope you enjoyed this peek at Shadow Warrior and that you'll come back next month when we investigate another small press wonder...Jim Nastics! See you then!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Brainglo #1

Brainglo #1 1987 $1.75 U.S. $2.50 Canada
PSI Comics Munroe Falls, Oh. by Michael Mallory and Mike Walters

   A muscular young man works on professional level exercise equipment while a mustached man watches closely, pocket watch in hand. The young man finishes his routine and towels off. 
   Just then an elderly butler looking fellow named Marcus enters the room and informs our main character, Brian, that it is time for another test. Brian seems as if he is weary of these "tests" but follows Marcus into a large room with some sort of high tech chair in the center.

   The kooky old scientist who seems to be in charge ushers Brian over to the chair and harnesses him in. The lab assistants silently mock how crazy the "Doc" is as they think this will be yet another failed test. But once they engage the power we soon see otherwise!
   But we suddenly cut to another planet entirely where a lone figure has just launched his ship. Some sort of malfunction is causing him to attempt to shut down the power... but too late!
   Back to Earth where the Doc is forced to shut down the test. Brian is carried outside where a helicopter awaits to take him to the hospital while the Doc stays behind to study the data generated by this latest test. Truth be told Doc seems not at all concerned for Brian's condition and instead completely enamored with the test results as they print out of the computer. 
   At the Metro General Hospital Brian is unconscious in his room. Mr. Drumm, the guy with the cool hair and moustache, is summoned out into the hallway by doctor to discuss Brian's condition. A nurse stays behind to monitor Brian. The doctor begins to inform Drumm of Brian's current state. Apparently he is in stable condition but they want to keep him for observation. Just then Mr. Drumm and the doctor notice a bright light emanating from Brian's room and rush in to see...

   Brian has manifested super powers! He is levitating above the bed and he somehow knows he can fly. He lands on the ground, excited and jumps out of the hospital window! But he begins to fall and Mr. Drumm yells at him to "Concentrate!!!" which Brian does and actually begins to fly! He soars around the city for a bit and stops to grab a cat out of a tree for a kid. The child inadvertently names our hero when he says, "Look Mommy, his brain glow!!"
   Brian flies back to the farmhouse where he apparently lives with Mr. Drumm and the Doc. He tests out his powers in their expansive backyard while the others look on with a mixture of amazement and trepidation. The Doc is excited by the latest results but Mr. Drumm thinks letting Brian use his powers without proper testing first could be dangerous!
   Well, ole mustache is soon proven right! Brian shoots one of his finger blasts into the sky ad it ends up disintegrating a Soviet satellite. The Soviets realize the source of the blast originated in the U.S. and enter a yellow alert! 

   A moment later that spaceship we talked about earlier is orbiting around Saturn. The pilot begins scanning for a nearby life supporting planet and realizes the only one in the vicinity is Earth. He teleports his ship next to Earth and ends up accidentally destroying another Soviet satellite in the process!

   The alien's computer conducts scans of Earth and informs the pilot that it has detected the presence of nuclear explosive devices on the planet. The alien seems distressed but decides to land...almost out of a sense of duty as opposed to a survival instinct. 
   Back on Earth the U.S. government, aware of the Soviet satellites' destruction, track the alien ship entering their airspace. They mistake it for a Russian air strike, assuming the Soviets are retaliating for the satellites that were obliterated by those mysterious blasts from the U.S.
   The U.S. launches missiles toward Russia and the Soviets in turn launch toward the U.S! 

   At the precise moment this is all going down the alien ship lands in the farmhouse yard where Brian is relaxing at an outdoor table. He sees the ship and yells for the Doc and Mr. Drumm to come outside and see for themselves! They rush out to check out what the commotion is all about and see the door to the spaceship open. And out walks the pilot!

   And that's how this one wraps up, ladies and gentlemen. I'm noticing a popular motif in these late '80's comics is a fear of impending nuclear holocaust. Both Brainglo and (last month's) New Beginning feature the launching of nuclear missiles in their premiere issue. Oh, how far we've come in the last forty years, right? Just today my phone showed me headlines about North Korea's nuclear weapons and the possibility of them being launched our way. I guess us humans are never going to learn anything about not trying to destroy one another. But before I go any further down that dreary path here is a drawing I did of our hero Brian "Brainglo"!

   I liked this comic. It was a fun and enjoyable read and it had decent artwork as well. I would read a second issue of this book but sadly none exists. It seems all to often these intriguing books fold after only one issue...probably due to poor sales. Well, for any comic creators out there reading this, I say keep at it! Sales are important, it's true, as they pay for printing, art supplies, etc... but don't give up on your work if it's not an immediate success. Here it is thirty years after the publication of Brainglo #1 and we're checking it out for the first time! Who knows how many people out there would love to have seen it continue? If you have an idea then keep at it, folks! What else you gonna do?

   Well, that's it for this month's Bewildering post. Join me next month when we'll check out another lost gem of independent comics known as Shadow Warrior!