Monday, November 24, 2008

Fist of the North Star

Back in high school, I picked up a dozen or so issues of Fist Of The North Star, aka Hokuto No Ken in Japan. It's fairly big in Japan I think, with several anime tv shows, OVA's and video games. They are published by Viz comics, with the writing being done by Buronson and art by Tetsuo Hara. The initial storyline involves our protagonist, Kenshiro, master of Hokuto Shin Ken, searching for his lost love Julia. In the past, she was taken by Kenshiro's friend, Shin, after a nuclear catastrophe devastated the world. Shin wanted to rule this harsh new landscape, with Julia as his bride, and met Kenshiro in battle, wounding him terribly and giving him 7 scars on his chest, in the shape of the big dipper. Left for dead, Kenshiro is fueled by rage to get back and save Julia, and seek revenge against Shin, along the way trying to bring order to a ruthless world.
The series seems to run the same each issue, Kenshiro is traveling, runs into a gang of bandits, uses his Mastery of Hokuto Shin Ken to make some heads explode, and then save the surviving villagers. It is a cartoonishly violent manga, but it's only the bad guys that get it, so you don't get that dirty feeling like after watching a SAW movie or something. I only read a dozen or so Issues,
so I don't really know how the story continues, but I am a big fan of what I have read and seen so far, the art is a little more realistic that most manga i see. If you are a film fan, the major influence would have to be MAD MAX and the Road Warrior, Kenshiro's design is even similar to that of the Road Warrior's. If you enjoy those movies, with a touch of Bruce Lee, maybe this comic is a good one to try and dig up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


When I was a younger buck than I am now, I was big into Antarctic Press comics, specifically their Robotech line, as well as a three issue series called Silver Cross and some Warrior Nun stuff. This four issue Robotech series,published in 1997, written and illustrated by Duc Tran, has always been a favorite of mine. The issues are well worn, because I leafed through them so damn much. I don't really know much of anything about Duc Tran. I assume he isn't a Japanese Manga-ka, but in these days of a lot of gaijins trying to do a manga style, I think he gets it the closest I've seen in an American comic. All of the grays he's applied appear just like in genuine manga. I'm not even too sure how these shades are applied, I think its with some sort of paper they press onto the piece of paper they are working on, but really I am ignorant of the process. I also really dig robotech, specifically the Macross saga. (Robotech is really three different Japanese shows combined, I should say I'm a big fan of Macross.) This series is about Rick Hunter's investigation into the disappearance of one of his trainees. It also involves defectors, stealth robots and aliens. All good stuff, no? As much as i love the art, some of it can be spotty, and sometimes the dialogue is crammed up against the edge of the bubbles, almost as if he drew the bubble first, and then tried to cram the words in there. These are minor quibbles for me however, because these four issues will be in my collection for a long time to come, i still look at them all the time. His use of values is great to look at, a fun read all around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Elongated Man: Europe '92

The Elongated Man is a character I first came into contact with while watching the Justice League Unlimited animated series. He was funny on the show, but seemed like just another stretchy guy, like Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man. But then i soon discovered two things about that character that piqued my interest. One, he was a detective. I love detective fiction, and detective characters, be it Sherlock Holmes, Phillip Marlowe, or Nick and Nora Charles. And in fact, the Elongated Man has a partner in solving mysteries, just like Nick Charles has his wife, Nora, to help him in the Thin Man novel or Film series, one Sue Dibny (the Elongated man's real name being Ralph Dibny.) The series is in 4 issues, written by Gerard Jones, and Penciled by Mike Parobeck,(now deceased, sadly) and inked by Ty Templeton. Mike Parobeck has been one of my favorite artists for years, his work on the Batman Adventures comics is great, cartoony and well thought out. Ty Templeton is a great artist as well, and i believe has drawn and inked Batman Adventure comics, among alot of other work. Gerard Jones has written many comics and novels.
The series concerns The Elongated man and Sue investigating attacks on peace conferences in europe, perpetrated by men in silly costumes. Copperhead makes an appearance, he was a favorite of mine from the Justice League tv show. There are also squid men, and a team of men dressed as sausages. If this sounds silly it is, and thats half the fun of the series. The relationship between Ralph and Sue gets tried a little, but they're fun characters to read about, and this series was well worth it. I don't think it's collected in trade form, i ordered the issues from, but if you like your superhero books on the light side, try this out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Jack Kirby's OMAC: The one man Army

I was first exposed to OMAC in a Paul Pope short in his issue of the no defunct(but awesome) DC series SOLO. Its basically a retelling of the first issue of OMAC, which according to the new collection's intro by Mark Evanier, was an idea Mr. Kirby originally had for a Captain America set in the future.
OMAC's origin bears some similarity to Cap's. OMAC started out as Buddy Blank, a scrawny man who was picked by the mysterious Global Peace Agency to become their new One man army, who must prevent catastrophes of violence in a future world that cant afford it. Buddy is linked with Brother Eye, a seemingly all powerful giant robotic eye shaped satellite in space that transforms Buddy into the super strong OMAC, whose first target is the Build a friend factory, who is making robotic women to become friends with important world leaders and the like. Once they meet, Kaboom! the woman explodes and takes the target with them. Buddy is horrified to discover that his friend, Lila, has been one of these robots all along, but as OMAC, the crooks are torn asunder, and OMAC realizes, that "OMAC LIVES...SO THAT MAN MAY LIVE..."

Each chapter features awesome robotics designs, monsters and weapons that are all Kirby staples, and the art is pretty outstanding throughout.Issue one and issue eight stand out i think, because inker and letterer Mike Royer contributed to them, and I think he may have had a bit more of an understanding of Mr. Kirby's pencils or something, they look a bit better than the inks provided by D.Bruce Berry. Each issue has a few incredible splash pages I would love to have framed and hung upon my wall. The book is fun to read above all else, something i cant say about alot of Mainstream superhero books out today. Maybe OMAC should become required superhero comics reading from now on...