Podcast - Episode 60: The New Frontier

We have come to the end of our summer book club! We read a lot of great books (and also Hush!) and now we end with one of the best things ever written, honestly, Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier.

Ok, first of all, check out this thing that Dave drew for me for my birthday:

Amazing, right? I love that Winter Scout has a Super Soaker. And I love that Dave gave Bucky nice, thick thighs.

Here is the Winter Soldier cake that my husband made me. It was really delicious:

Dave and I talk about the Harvey Awards, which were given out this past week. I mention the 2009 nominations when a NASCAR Heroes comic was nominated in, I believe, several categories. Chris Haley and Curt Franklin had a great comic about it, which you can see here (along with all of the great Let's Be Friends Again comics).

Man, I just fell down a hole of reading a whole bunch of their comics again. So great!

Ok, let's just bask in the majesty that is The New Frontier.

Man, I could just pull panels from this thing forever. 

Thanks for joining us for our first book club! It was fun! Next week J.Bone will be joining us...not via Skype this time!

How Has Sgt. Fury Lost His Shirt This Time?

Sgt Nick Fury is the toughest son of a bitch ever. His original comic series, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos is a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby triumph. The book is everything macho, with the Howling Commandos bravely following their fearless leader into battle after crazy battle. Usually a good percentage of the Commandos are pretty battle ravaged by the end of each issue, and Sgt Fury himself always, always loses his shirt completely. I don't know how many shirts would realistically have been issued to a WWII Sergeant, but Fury is definitely blowing through the U.S. Army's uniform budget.

I would say close to half the time Fury is just ripping his own shirt off and blaming it on battle. Sometimes he has a shirt on in one panel, and then is just wearing tatters in the next. No explanation. None needed.

Let's look at some great moments in shirt loss.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1

Cause of shirt loss: threw a grenade at a tank and got caught in the explosion.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #2

Cause of shirt loss: It seems to just kind of disintegrate while he's firing a machine gun.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #3

Cause of shirt loss: This is actually how the issue opened, Fury shirtless in the snow. So, who knows?

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #4

Cause of shirt loss: I would like to say it was related to the lion that shows up in this issue, but as far as I can tell Fury just takes it off at some point off-panel.

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #5

Cause of shirt loss: Fury voluntarily removes it so he can sword fight Baron Strucker.

NOTE: Fury doesn't actually lose his shirt in #6, even though he was in the desert the whole issue. On to #7!

Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7

Cause of shirt loss: Almost everyone loses their shirt in this issue, so I think he maybe ripped his open in solidarity. Unclear.

The shirtless shenanigans continue, and eventually he meets Captain America and Bucky:

It just never stops. Sadly, the shirt loss epidemic doesn't spread to Captain America.

Nick Fury possible goes through more shirts than Bruce Banner. It's definitely a close race.

Avengers #4: The Avengers Defrost a Madman and Make Him Leader of Their Team

So we all know the story: Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, falls to his icy death during World War II. The last thing he sees before succumbing to the ocean's frigid grasp is the mid-air explosion that kills his teenage sidekick, Bucky. Two decades later, our hero's frozen body is discovered by The Avengers while they are searching for the Hulk in the Arctic. 

The story was first told in The Avengers #4. It's a classic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It's also hilarious.

It wasn't exactly the Avengers who found Cap's body first. It was actually a group of “Eskimos” who were worshipping the frozen man as a god, because comics were sensitive about other cultures in the sixties. Namor arrives on the scene and is unimpressed. He breaks up the party and just straight tosses Captain America back into the ocean.

Thankfully the Avengers happen to be bopping around the Arctic in their submarine, and someone (Iron Man?) tells Iron Man to throw the brakes on.

They quickly recognize the costume of Captain America. But is it Captain America? Could it possibly be?

"Let's not be hasty...it could be another man wearing Captain America's costume and holding his shield."

Then Captain America wakes up and flips the fuck out.

"I'll smash you all!"

This is seriously so sad. And it gets sadder.

"He is dead -- he is! And nothing on Earth can change that!" Just wait forty years or so, Cap. I think you are going to be unpleasantly surprised.

I love the quick shift from mourning Bucky to "Anyway, who are you guys?"

Cap, being Cap, is quick to gather himself together and let them know that he is indeed Captain America. And that he hates being Captain America.

He tells them, and the readers, his whole sad story. The Avengers listen, but decide that maybe there's a chance this guy isn't who he says he is. Maybe this guy is some sort of con artist who got himself a Captain America suit, froze himself in a block of ice, and bobbed around the Arctic Ocean waiting for the Avengers to pass by in their submarine! Only one way to make sure!

Is that how Wasp fights? She just stands in front of bad guys and is like "Fight's over, unless you want to hit a girl!" Nice strategy.

So anyway, Cap convinces them by being really good at fighting. If he wasn't awesome at fighting, do you think they would have decided immediately that he wasn't the real McCoy? Or do you think they would have taken into consideration that he was JUST DEFROSTED MINUTES AGO AFTER BEING FROZEN FOR TWO DECADES?!

Wait, wait, hold up. He knew the, ahem, Eskimos were worshipping him? What? How?

The Avengers drive their submarine back to New York City. They disembark first, because Cap is napping after the exhaustion of being defrosted and then forced to fight four Avengers for no reason, and are immediately turned into stone statues by some mysterious villain. Cap exits the sub minutes later, and sees 1960s NYC for the first time.

"And why am I bothering to wear my gloves right now? And how did my shield fit through this hatch? And could someone please take me to a hospital? I've had quite an ordeal."

He sees the Avengers as statues, and assumes they are just statues of the Avengers. Makes sense. Then he checks out some ladies.

The girls are still as lovely as ever. All of them. 

The people of New York start to recognize Captain America, because he's dressed like Captain America. One police officer is reduced to tears. It's pretty great.

Rather than go to a hospital, which he should definitely do, Captain America goes to a hotel that he certainly has no way of paying for. He falls in love with television before he even gets his boots off.

I like to think he spent like five straight days just watching television. We need to talk about the costume he's wearing, because he never takes it off in this comic, not even to sleep. It must be SO GROSS. He was found frozen in the damn ocean wearing it.

You might think he's just going to move forward and become an Avenger and become a well-adjusted citizen of the 1960s. This is not the case, because Lee and Kirby are great storytellers. Instead we get pathos and extremely sexy panels like this one:

That panel might be the best thing I have ever seen. It's certainly the sexiest thing.

Cap's lovesick pining for Bucky reaches extremely creepy levels when poor, unsuspecting Rick Jones enters the room.

Aaahh! Run, Rick! Run for you life!

For real, is this going to happen every time Steve sees a young man? Rick does not even look like Bucky. But try telling Cap that:

Seriously, Rick. Get the hell out of there.

"I don't know who the Hulk is, lad. Sounds like a cool guy, though."

Cap pulls himself together, sort of. Rick awesomely deflects Cap's insane ramblings, and Steve decides he needs to convince Rick that he is not crazy. He does this by becoming a commanding asshole.

"He thinks I'm some sort of madman! Well I'll prove to him that I'm not! By putting on this costume!"

They look at some photos from the docks, find one of their suspect, and Cap goes on the hunt. The next panel pretty much sums up Captain America's lot in life:

Cap eventually finds the menace who turned his new friends into statues, using the most inefficient method ever:

For real, he went around New York City carrying a photo and looking in windows.

Anyway, Captain America takes out some thugs and even gets some quips in while he's doing it.

This is where things get really weird. In a reverse Scooby-doo twist, Cap removes the villain's human mask to reveal a crazy-looking alien. My favourite part of this panel is the reaction of the hired goons:

A bunch of stuff happens. The Avengers stop being statues. They all end up back in the Arctic to fight Namor.

Stan Lee continues to not hide his crush on Captain America:

"If only there had been heroes like the Sub-Mariner in my day! And maybe a man who could fly and ignite himself! And a boy who could do the same! What invading we could have done!"

The Avengers move to attack Namor, but Namor has an "ace in the hole," as he says because that is a term that an Atlantean would probably be familiar with. Namor has captured Rick Jones, and he will kill him. Except Cap isn't going to sit back and let Bucky, er, Rick get killed.

"Make one move towards me, and the boy's life is--WHA?!!" is so funny.

Namor gets sick of this shit pretty quickly. He tosses Captain America aside like a bag of garbage.

Long story short, Cap does find a way to out-maneuver him. The Avengers win the day, and then pop the question to Captain America, who says yes without even hearing the offer.

"Like a man!" Wasp is like "I'm right here, guy!"

And that's the story of how a mentally unstable, severely traumatized Steve Rogers became an Avenger.

"Thanks, five different-shaped Buckys!"

He moves into the Avengers mansion, never receives any treatment of any kind, and a couple of issues later he slaps Rick Jones across the face when he dares to wear Bucky's costume. Because Rick thought that was what Cap wanted. And can you blame him?!

"Get out! GET OUUUUUUTTTT!!!!"

My point is, there's no way the movies could possibly be too heavy handed by comparison when it comes to having Steve Rogers obsessing over Bucky.

Sweater Vests Never Really Caught on Like Capes Did

Consider this a companion piece to Rachelle's post on rejected Batman costumes from the depths of the 90s. Back in 1969, Dick Grayson finished high school - after only 25 years! take that, Archie! - and moved away to attend an institute of higher learning. A few readers took this opportunity to point out that maybe it was time for Robin to finally graduate from the hot-pants-and-pixie-boots look into something more... grown up. As Robin himself put it:

Yes, it was time for

So sit back and enjoy these fine examples of cutting-edge costume design, as determined by an earlier generation of comics fan.

I think that the upper right design on each page is my favourite. What about you?

Fun with Romance Comics: A Confusing Lesson in Morality

The stories in romance comics tend to function as life lessons that teach young ladies how to behave properly in relationships. There's usually an undercurrent of right-wing moral bullying, like an episode of Dr. Phil. I just don't follow this one:

Is it supposed to be ironic? Like, "if you're trying to shock a guy with a crazy revealing outfit, then the joke's on you, girl, because any dude will be all over that"? Or is this comic seriously suggesting that a mesh shirt is the answer to your problems if you're dating a boring ol' banker's son? Is this the hippest, sexiest strip ever to be printed in an issue of For Lovers Only? You decide.

Shadow Thief shows that hard work and complete lunacy pay off.

We all know and love Shadow Thief, the shadow-based DC villain who used to annoy Hawkman and Hawkgirl on a regular basis.

But did you know that Shadow Thief's origin is completely stupid and hilarious?

Grab some popcorn and take a seat.

Shadow Thief, or Carl Sands, first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #36, which was among the many awesome comics collected in Showcase Presents Hawkman vol.1. Like all good villains, Shadow Thief likes to pass the time by remembering his own origin story.

"If only I were a shadow..." For most people this would be a fleeting, whimsical thought that one would be sort of embarassed about. But not this guy. He turns it into a mission.

He read up on shadow facts and legends. And then built something that he could have seen at (or, hell, stolen from) any children's science museum. But wait for this:

"I've got to do more research!" That is so crazy. That's like "Dammit! This quarter didn't really materialize in my ear! I must work harder! I must find a way!"

His relentless practice of children's science experiments and magic tricks is interrupted by one of the countless aliens who visited America during the 1960s.

My favourite thing about those panels is that somewhere in the short time that Carl met and rescued the alien, he managed to talk about how much he loves shadows.

Dude, you can have, presumably, any wish granted by this alien, and you still are sticking with the shadow thing? Aren't there better abilities than being able to control shadows?

Alright, actually, that is pretty cool.

You know who were probably really surprised are all the sensible people who were like "Seriously, Carl, enough with the shadows! It's never going to happen! Get a job!" Or his mom. "What would you like for your birthday this year, Carl? And DON'T say another flashlight!"

Once again a human triumphs over science and possibility and uses it to rob museums and banks. I salute you, Shadow Thief.