Monday, November 6, 2017

Savage Ninja #1

Savage Ninja #1 1985 
Cadillac Comics Schaumburg, Il. by Edward M. Mandel and Michael Carr

   Our comic opens with a splash page immediately following a ninja battle. The image of a ninja kneeling amongst a field littered with bodies. The same image, in fact, that appears on the cover of the book. Which, I have to say, is a little lazy.

   Michael Savage is the kneeling ninja who is attempting to gather his power to survive after the injuries he has sustained in battle. His mind wanders and rests on a childhood memory. His mother is dropping him off to study Tai Chi with the Sensei. Although Michael is awed by the swords and dragons on the walls he is also very afraid and begins to cry.

   So, I want to say right off the bat, I think it would've been more interesting to see more panels of the big ninja battle (there is only one) and a few less of a child crying as he walks around a Tai Chi center with his mom (there are thirteen). Maybe I'm crazy.

   Like most kids who cry a lot Michael is eager to learn to fight, but the Sensei informs him he must first learn about his relationship with Mother Nature. He also suggests learning some creative pastimes and introduces Michael to his son David. 

   We then are treated to six more panels of Michael looking sad as his mom finally decides to leave him at the Tai Chi center. Apparently it's for a long time, not just the afternoon.

   Lee, the man servant, prepares a lunch for them all and they sit down to talk about life at the center.
But first Michael mentions how he and his mother have never been separated and looks sad again.

   Seriously, I've heard Morrissey albums with less whining then this comic ABOUT FREAKING NINJAS.

   David changes the subject and says Lee is like an older brother to him. Lee seems cool.

   They talk for awhile and then the Sensei informs them it is time to retire for the night. He tells David to lead Michael to his room.

   You'll never believe this but on the way to his room Michael thinks to himself about how much he misses his mother. Dear Lord.

   David shows him to his room and tells Michael that he welcomes his friendship. But Michael says he is tired. Tired and...(sigh) that he misses his mom.

   But night passes and in the morning Michael is treated to a beautiful view from his window.

   Maybe a good night's sleep is all Michael needed to snap out of being such a wuss because we're now treated to a montage splash page of him kicking ass! As time at the center passes Michael becomes quite the fighter and by the end of the page he's knocking guys into the next panel! Who's crying for their mommy now?!?

   This memory brings us back to the present where Michael is waking up from the haze of the injuries of battle. He realizes he's got some broken ribs and torn muscles but being the bad ass ninja he is he decides to walk it off!

   If only his mom was here to pick him up. Nevertheless... Michael staggers through the darkness and up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is a door which opens to reveal... Lee! Lee takes him inside for medical treatment and then cleans the stairs.

   While Michael's wounds heal David does some detective work. He discovers who lead the group of ninjas that almost killed Michael. The two men decide Michael has healed enough from his wounds and decide to track down their new nemesis, Fantu. They make it to their enemy's gates and climb stealthily over the gates. Inside the yard they are attached by Fantu's Doberman but they kill him and bust in through a window. They then throw ninja stars and daggers into the faces of the thugs inside!

   Finally, some ninja action!!!

But Fantu lands a heavy blow of his sword into David!

   Michael, seeing his friend's injury, lashes out against Fantu and rips open his chest cavity with his poison laced clawed glove! Fantu lies there dying but manages to whisper one last decree...

   Michael looks at the hand written directive Fantu has handed him and thinks how familiar the handwriting looks. Michael picks up David's unconscious body and takes him back to the Tai Chi center to treat his wounds. The next morning Lee has prepared breakfast and is serving it in the garden when an unknown assailant attack, throwing a shuriken right at Michael Savage!

   The End! Next issue The White Slaves of Tokyo! Hot Dog! Was this the first full color comic we've talked about here at The Bewildering? I think it might've been... how cool!

   Another cool thing about this comic is that it is sponsored by a company called East West Markets Exchange Inc. that makes all kinds of sweet ninja clothing ware and equipment! There are a couple of ads for them in the book. Here's the one on the back cover!

And here is my depiction of the man servant Lee as an '80's action figure:

   According to Savage Ninja never reached issue #2 so we may never know who Fantu was working for. But I for one hope it's Michael's mom. That it's her handwriting he recognizes on that document that Fantu gave him. She got so sick of him constantly crying when she stepped out of his sight for a minute that she decided to teach him a lesson by becoming his ninja nemesis! I don't know. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was Lee! Kind of convenient that he was just a short walk away from Michael when he was beaten to a pulp earlier in the story. Or...perhaps it is Michael's father. At the beginning of the comic it was revealed he was an old friend of the Sensei. Either way, pretty fun comic, flawed as it was.

In addition to story by Edward M. Mandel and art by Michael Carr the lettering was by R. Hansen and colors by Mark Smith. Good job fellas! 

Let's hope next month's book is just as exciting. Won't you come back and join me for...
Existing Earth!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stormbringer #1

Stormbringer #1 1987 $1.50
August Comics Harrison, Tennessee by William Sutton

   Johnny stands on a deserted bridge considering the situation. He goes over it in his mind to try to make sense of the events of the last two weeks. And what a doozy of a fortnight he's had!
    It all started when Johnny left the movie theater. As he was heading to his car he was struck by lightning and given amazing abilities... the abilities of Stormbringer!  He now possessed the powers of strength, flight and the most amazing power of all... the ability to light matches with his mind!
That could come in handy when camping.

   Yesterday Colonel Sinclair showed up at his apartment and asked him to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with someone important. Who could that be? Maybe Johnny's girlfriend Tammy will know!

   But Tammy has no idea. She just wants to get her rocks off. And she gets her wish! There are a few awkward panels of her posturing lewdly before the inevitable sex scene.

   Johnny, freshly spent, flies to D.C. to meet this mysterious figure. As it turns out... it's President Reagan! The Gipper informs Johnny there is a whole program of super powered folk called Man-Plus and that he will be its newest member.

   They fly Johnny out to New Mexico to their secret underground training base. 

      There they will test his powers to make sure he can be a part of the team. Good luck Johnny!

Johnny impresses them with his display of strength! He truly is a tough son of a gun...

   But the scientists need to make sure he can also "take a punch" so they have him stand in the middle of the desert... and they drop a frickin' nuke on him!

If he doesn't have the strength of Superman it'll be bedtime for Bonzo for sure!
   As luck would have it, he survives so they fit him with a new costume. He poses sexily.

   Johnny is introduced to The Seer, the protein based sentient computer that will be giving him orders during missions. In a creepy moment, Seer whispers "Help me Johnny..." as he is led away from the computer. Foreshadowing!

   But soon Johnny finds himself on a mission to stop a Russian submarine from attacking the U.S.S. Carl S. Vincent air craft carrier. This is maybe the weirdest part of the comic where several panels contain actual photographs of jets and helicopters instead of drawings of them. It's off-putting.

   Johnny refuses his orders to destroy the sub full of Russians and instead grabs it from the water and gently sets it to rest on the Carl Vincent like a mosquito on the lid of a Frito Lay cheese dip floating in the bathtub. He hopes that Man-Plus will forgive him for not following orders.

   He decides to fly back to Chattanooga, Tennessee to see his lady. But when he walks in it seems that there has been a struggle in Tammy's apartment. That or she's a terrible housekeeper!

   Has Tammy been kidnapped? Can Man-Plus possibly be behind this shocking turn of events? Maybe we can find out in issue two! According to the internet there are three issues total of Stormbringer out there so dive into those discount bins when you can!

   This wasn't a bad book, really. I expected it to be terrible for some reason but the worst criticism I can give it is that I've read lots of comics like this which came later but were perhaps way better. "Adult" super hero stories full of sex and introspection. Not typically my favorite genre, by the way. I prefer it when the sex and the introspection are kept seperately.

   That said, it was actually a well paced enjoyable read with decent artwork. So, good job William! I will definitely pick up the other two issues if I find them while scouring dollar boxes in the future.

   I didn't feel inspired to draw Johnny for some reason (maybe because it seemed too obvious to do so) so here is my depiction of our 40th president.

   So, this post marks the one year anniversary of The Bewildering! Thanks for joining me on this adventure into the world of obscure comics. Hopefully you'll stick with me as I really enjoy doing it!

   My apologies for the lateness of this post (for those of you keeping a close eye) but I assure you another review is right around the corner. Join me back here soon and share in the glory of...
Savage Ninja!

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
   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!