How I Got My Superpowers…

If anyone read my first ever post about how I got into comics, then I’m afraid I have an apology to make. It was a load of bollocks. I’ve only just remembered exactly when it was I became a comic fan.

And it wasnt even from reading a comic. The first time I got excited about comics was from this little picture here.

SUPER POWERS 95!

‘Waddingtons Super Top Trumps Marvel Super Heroes’ made me the man I am today. Please have a look-see at this website here http://www.ultimate-top-trumps.co.uk/waddingtons.htm for more information on all the sets released by those crazy cats at Waddingtons.

You will notice this range of Marvel Top Trumps was released between 1988 and 1992. So chances are I was between 2 and 6 when I first set my beady eyes ‘pon these chaps with their flashy pants and their enticing names. Enticing names which I got wrong. Nick Fury, Marvel’s super-spy (strength: 20,  Weapons: 6) had what looked like big fuzzy sideburns in his picture, so he became my favourite card, and was rechristened Nick Furry.

In the villains pack we also used to have there was a character called ‘The Mad Thinker’. (I’ve only in the last 3 months actually read a comic with him actually in, so I can now confirm he does actually exist after 18 years of thrilling mystery.) But anyway, since the Mad Thinker used to look like he had some muddy stains on his otherwise green overalls he became known in my mind as The Mad Stinker, and he was so mad he used to be covered in his own popsy-bangsies. The Mad Stinker is a crap card as well, with a hight of only 5’11” and Super Powers of Zero, the big shitty dick-head. The worst card of the super heroes was, and still remains, Elektra. She had a shit picture, shit strength (20) and no super powers. It was the unwritten rule of any game we played as a family (my older brother and my older sister, I think it was my older brother Hugh who was instrumental in actually purchasing the cards to begin with) that anyone who had Elektra in their hand while playing was guaranteed to lose. In fact, this unwritten rule then carried on to Secondary School when I used to play with my chums at break time, and without my ever mentioning the fact Elektra was shit she was declared a bad luck card by all other players and she was habitually left in my bag when we started a game since she spoilt the otherwise carnival atmosphere.

Interestingly, the big hero of today Iron Man is a fairly mediocre card, with strength of 25 and zero super powers. He does make up for it though with weapons of 20. Weapons was always a good area to play if it was in the double figures, since many marvel heroes shun weapons in favour of snapping necks with their bare hands. 

I’ve just done a quick check, and of the cards I still have, (Thor is missing sadly) The Thing, The Hulk and The Silver Surfer are the best cards to have. All are nice and tall, over the 6′ mark, all are heavy (particularly the silver surfer with weight ‘UNKNOWN!’ which was a mystical and fabled magic word in our games meaning it could beat any weight, the only concession to this great power being that it could only be played in defence and never as an attacking stat) and all have enormous strength and super powers. I’d say Silver Surfer was the best card though.

The only character that I do not recognise nor have ever read about is ‘The Gardener’.

Back in the '80s a gardener could have his own top trump. Nowadays you have to be a Jet, or a Tank.

Gardener is a bit of a sly old bugger. Just look, super powers 70! And he is over 7 foot tall!  And two weapons, which I think must be his stick and his orange purse.

Curiously I have absolutely no idea who the artist of these cards is. But what I think I’ll do is take them along to my comic shop (http://orbitalcomics.com ) and see if any of the nice chaps and chapesses there know who it was. I shall let you know.

You will also be pleased to know that new Marvel top trumps are still being produced, and I’m sure at some point I’ll tell you all about them too.

Iron Man Noir #3! IIIEEEEEEEEE!

There is no other comic book ‘m buying regularly that I look forward to so much as this little beauty! Once again, that Iron bastard has knocked me for six with an issue that kicks seven shades of ass! From the delicious cover by Mike Fyles (who I think must be new to the comic world, since so far as I can tell, this is the first series he has worked on) to the opening page recap, to the smack down robot fight, to the climatic reveal on the last page, its 32 pages of giddy comic nuggets of fun. Take note writers, this is exactly, EXACTLY the sort of story comic books are invented for. Now I’m sure your all very pleased with your Watchmen, and your Dark Knight Returns, but fuck me if they ain’t a bit heavy going. What we all secretly want to see is a man in a suit of armour fly around and blow up Nazi castles. And this is exactly what we get!

After the nail-bitter of an ending last issue, we get to see how Stark, Rhodey and Namor escape from the exploding Lady Dorma. Naturally, ‘coz this is the best comic book series of all time, we learn that the Lady Dorma is actually just a shell, covering up the real Dorma vessel, a very League-of-Extraordinary-Gentlemen-esque mini submarine! (Bang, its captained by Namor, the submariner! Christ, I’ve only just worked that little reference out…this book just keeps on giving!) So off they float, keeping tabs on the bad guys who are now in possession of both the Trident of Orichalcum, but also the beautiful Miss Pepper Potts! Crivens!

They trace the naughty villains back to a castle on the coast, and after a bit of chatter with Rhodey and Stark, they fill Starks heart with electricity, and wack him in the suit to go and bash some heads together. Problem is, he only has enough electricity to power the suit for 4 hours, and after that time he’s gonna drop down dead. Uh-oh!  But no fear! Rhodey isn’t going to abandon Tony in his hour of need, and so, he joins his brother-in-arms in his own version of the Iron Man suit! Hot diggedy dog! Its Iron Man and War Machine! HOOOOOOO!

Then there is some exciting lady whipping action, and a load of explosions and quips and dying Nazi stormtroopers (By law, all germans have to shout “Gott in Himmel! IIIIIEEEEEEEE!” when they die) and then Bang! Another classic final page plot twist! Not only that, but we get a nice little flash back to the young Tony chatting with his dad, but also a little bit of a reveal of the Noir universe’s Thor! And War Machine has a Vickers machine gun mounted on his shoulder. Good lord Manuel Garcia can draw the hell out of a robot fist fight. His artwork has a little bit of a manga-style in some ways which usually puts me off, but I think it works really well here. The muted colours also get the pulpy-adventure vibe going too, so its easy to get caught up in the story. And there is one page with the two suited heros leaping out of the zeppelin air base, and its about the most vibrant, popping little panel you can imagine, it feels like these chaps are literally falling out of the page. And the War Machine armour just looks insane! He is a bit more streamlined and narrow from the Iron Man suit, but his helmet looks like a black skull so he looks the business.

I seriously cant say this enough, it’s easily the best series I’ve read in years. I hope to goodness that enough people are buying this little fellow to warrant a second series, because I’d love to read more adventures by this creative team with these characters. Reading this issue was like reading a comic for the first time, simply because it made me feel all young and over-excitable again. I very nearly tried to high-five the chap next to me on the train since I was loving it so much, but instead I had a big swig of Tesco own brand lager (yum yum yum) and giggled. My only problem with this series is that next month sees the final issue, and without knowing I’ve got a little treat like this waiting for me in my comic book box each week, It’s going to be a very hard to get all keyed up and giddy about another book for quite some time.

Kick your Ass! Kick your Face! Kick your Balls into Outer Space!

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tony Stark’s Powerful Rod

Iron Man Noir #2

 

It’s been a long wait, but finally Iron Man Noir 2 pokes his head about the parapet and dashes out into the comic shops! Last time we left Mr Stark and Pepper Potts heading off to find Atlantis, pursued by some furious Nazis, so how have they fared this month eh? 

We kick things off this issue with Stark and Pepper aboard ‘The Lady Dorma’ yacht under Captain Namor, the stern and mysterious pirate commander, whose crew slit their ears so they resemble shark fins. The vessel is heading out from Spain into the atlantic searching for the sunken city of Atlantis, where a nice helpful bit of exposition from Stark to Pepper shows us how the Atlanteans had a powerful metal called Orichalcum which acted as an enormous superconductor, powering their great city. The center of the city held a temple, and inside this temple was a vast statue of Poseidon and his trident was made from Orichalcum. Sadly, the conductive nature of the metal played merry havoc with the oceans, and eventually caused a vortex which sucked the city under the waves. 

Thank goodness then, that Stark has an underwater submersible (the Happy Hogan) to travel down under the surface and locate the sunken city, much to everyone’s surprise. The orichalcum trident is located, captured, and they return to the Lady Dorma. But all is not well! They have been traced by the Nazis, and the Lady Dorma is sunk, apparently with Stark and his motley crew all aboard! What is their fate?! We will have to read next month to find out! Pow! 

It’s another absolutely riveting romp through 1940’s Marvel Universe, chock full of classic pulp scenarios from the stern captain Namor with his surprisingly swift and nimble craft, to the Jules Verne-esque diving bell which locates the vast sunken city, its everything a matinée adventure title needs to be. Theres more mysteries as to why the Nazi’s need the orichalcum, (to power some sinister technological juggernaut??) how Stark will survive being blown up with his dodgy ticker doing him no favours, and to the real mystery of where the hell is the Iron Man suit? 

The one downer this issue is the sad fact that the suit has still yet to make a proper appearance. We have caught a glimpse of it in action in the first issue, but only for a matter of pages. Hopefully we are building up to a balls-to-the-wall robotic smack down with Iron Man facing a Nazi robot in the final issue, (Iron Man vs. The Iron Cross, how bout that for a title!) but so far for a story called ‘Iron Man Noir’ we have seen very little of the titular character. Again the artwork is beautifully suited to the over-the-top adventure we are reading. From the moon lit deck of the pirate ship and her rum soaked crew, to the murky depths of the sunken Atlantis and its colossal tower of shipwrecks drawn to the staff of orichalcum, its got every element you need for a thrilling old-style adventure. This is the best Indiana Jones film never made. And judging by next months issue’s cover we are finally going to be getting a bit of robot Iron Man action! 

Iron Man meets Lead Zeppelin.

Ambassador, with your Comics you are really Spoiling us!

Iron Man: Bashing Nazis since 1939

For the last year or so Marvel have been putting out 4-issue mini-series of their most popular characters in 20’s and 30’s Film Noir situations, under the inspired title of Marvel Noir. After the X-men, Spider-man and Daredevil Noir series comes Iron Man’s turn! But for this series we get something a little different. Rather than aiming for a dark and gritty 30’s melodrama full of pinstripe suits and cigarettes in silhouette, Iron Man Noir is a fantastic pulp adventure. It’s exactly what Indiana Jones would be up to if he had a battery-powered heart and a suit of armour.

The issue, written by Scott Snyder with art by Manuel Garcia, kicks off with Tony Stark and his gang of explorers looking for a mythical gemstone mask which reportedly gives the wearer a second chance at life. Much like the beginning of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, no sooner does Tony get the mask he is betrayed by a member of his team, and then the Nazis show up to claim the goods! One swift exciting escape later, Stark is back in New York and discovers a secret Nazi operation to discover Atlantis! This is the sort of comic where every sentence! Ends! In an exclamation! Mark!

This is exactly the sort of daft adventure that I read comics for. We get giant snakes, jungle adventures, nazis (who are always the best bad-guys)  , explosions, and huge robotic suits. The suit in particular is nicely inspired by the Rocketeer, crossed with an armoured train. It’s only briefly seen this issue, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do. We also get a nice insight into Tony Stark, a man with a terrible disability which is killing him, which pushes him onto these crazy adventures (The Search For The bloodstone Gem!) in the vague hope of finding a cure. This is one of the more lighthearted additions to the Noir-universe, and so far looks to be the best.

The art by Garcia is also a real treat, he captures the iconic look of the 30’s adventure-hero, with a nice filmic eye for close-ups, action and dynamic chases. He is obviously cutting loose and having some fun with the project, getting to draw giant anacondas, huge Inca temples and marauding monocled villains. His slightly cartoony style also nicely reflects the light-hearted nature of the book as compared to the grim and gritty scratchy style of the other Noir series.

This is comics done right; a fun, cheerful read with some jolly chase scenes and a nice bit of mystical mystery thrown in for good measure. It’s a shame this is just going to be 4 issues, since I’d collect this series for years.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Meanwhile…

We're all friends at the end of the universe

I’ve been having a few ideas of what to do with this blog over the last few days. I realised that if I just write reviews of the comics I buy and enjoy then it is just going to be a very tedious list of comics getting 8 out of ten, so I’ve been chatting to the jolly lot at my local comic shop, and every week they are going to be recommending me a random issue which is either selling well, or is a favourite of the shop staff. This way I get to broaden my horizons beyond my usual reading material, and get an exotic sample of the wider world of the comic page!

I also have an interview coming up with London-based illustrator Toby Pennington, and an interview with my friend Sarah who is new to comics on her first foray into reading pen and ink adventures!

The next set of reviews will hopefully be up by the weekend, new comic releases have been delayed by bank holiday Monday so its set everything back a few days.