Thursday, January 30, 2014

SEPARATED AT BIRTH
-or-
DOCS OF A FEATHER

---

First, let me ASSURE you that this isn't becoming the "TARDIS-BLOG"; virtual fan-home of THE DOCTOR (WHO).
It's just that much of my time now is being spent immersed in all-things "Time Lord", and so, while reading of new 12th DOCTOR (or 14th Doctor, depending on how accurate/pedantic/OCD you may be) Peter Capaldi's unveiling of his new Doctor Who costume, I IMMEDIATELY did a double-take when I saw the photo.


Peter Capaldi's DOCTOR is to wear a dark blue Crombie coat with red lining, dark trousers, a white shirt and Doc Martens boots. While not EXACTLY a perfect match, it is certainly an amazing close coincidence to a certain STRANGE Doctor's most previous outfit.


Both of these Doctors looks are dashing, dynamic, decidedly different.
The red-lined coat, the dark coloring, the black boots... interesting coincidence, is it not?

Now, just so you don't think me grasping at straws, look at Capaldi's pose. Close enough to the pose of Doctor Strange above?

Yes? Well... then how about how SPOT ON it is to the pose below?!


This is nearly "the" definitive "Doctor Strange pose", going as far back as his official image for the original "Marvel Universe Handbook" (as drawn by Paul Smith).





Now, before any WHOvians get up in my case about how Capaldi's duds are a nod to the original 3 DOCTORS: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee (and indeed his look IS a tip of the hat to those three incarnations, to be sure), still.... this fashion trend between Strange and "Who" is a bit odd.

So... YOU tell me.
If not "SEPARATED AT BIRTH", then is it coincidence or an homage (subconsciously or not)?




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DOCTORS WITHOUT (dimensional) BORDERS
–or-
DOCTORS Across Space, Time and Dimensions

---

As I’ve noted in the last post of 2013, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about my DOCTOR STRANGE interests/habit/mania/obsession/fix as Marvel has not been treating the character well at all, and instead, while watching-and-waiting to see how Strange is treated in each month's new comics, have been focusing on RE-discovering my love for DOCTOR WHO.

More often than not, while I’m totally exhausted from my current job, when I come home and pour myself into bed, the last thing that I have energy for is to type out blog entries (even though I DO have the desire). What I DO have energy to do is watch old episodes of DOCTOR WHO – or – peruse other media appearances of THE DOCTOR.

Well, wouldn’t you know that when you cross the 4th Dimension of Time, and the dimensional doorways of Space are ajar, there’s a good chance that OTHER dimensions may be traversed as well.

So, when I was reading some of the Doctor Who Comic strips from Doctor Who Magazine (and other sources), I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that an alternate Dimensional interpretation of a certain STRANGE Doctor making an appearance.

(right click to make bigger on the inside)


Seen taking in some culture at an art museum (where the 9th DOCTOR and ROSE [Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper] have just materialized in the TARDIS, we see a familiar looking cloak of levitation being worn by some slug-like creature.

Perhaps, it’s NOT “Doctor Strange”, but perhaps it’s another “Sorcerer Supreme” in possession of the Cloak of Levitation (or, since neither TIME nor SPACE are hindering factors when dealing with either Doctor Who or Doctor Strange, then this might be Agamotto [the FIRST Sorcerer Supreme himself, who also frequently appears as such a caterpillar], or the Sorcerer Supreme of the 37th Century (wherein this story takes place, in an pan-dimensional gallery) resplendent in the cloak.

Either way, this page from DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE # 358, featuring a story; “ART ATTACK” with story and pencils by Mike Collins, shows that perhaps other people aside from myself feel that these two Doctors should have a meeting.


 So, as STRANGE as it is, WHO’s to say that my two current interests are mutually exclusive of each other?

Certainly not either DOCTOR.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TIME WARP:
The Modern Marvel Calendars
*Addendum 4*

Time is relative.

It seems "Time Flies"… (whether you’re having fun or not) and as such, I’ve missed several opportunities to post new blog entries. My apologies.

And so...

Happy (belated) New Year - 2014, Sanctum Dwellers!

In this, the first post of the new year, I once again thought it appropriate to blog about the passage of time. Well... honestly, about calendars.

This post also doubles as an updated add-on to an old post from this time in 2009 wherein I showcased all of the various Marvel Calendars - from 1975 - to the "present"... well... at least the ones that featured Doctor Strange or any of my "6-Dimensions" interests.




The original series can be found at the following links:
(Part I : the "CLASSIC" calendar series can be seen - HERE)
(Part II : the "MODERN" calendar series can be seen - HERE)
(Part III : the 1980 Doctor Strange calendar - in its entirety - can be seen - HERE)


This blog post is just to add two "new" entries into the "Part II - MODERN" portion of that series (these added entries will be added to that post directly, as well)

Occasionally, the "addendums" focus on the new calendar for the new year (new, new, new!). But, of late there have been no new calendars to feature DOCTOR STRANGE. This is made especially “strange” by the fact that, as one of the “Illuminati”, the super-secret cabal featured in Jonathan Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS title, and that editor Tom Brevoort continually touts NEW AVENGERS as “the most important title that Marvel is publishing…” you’d think that group (or any member(s) of that assembly) would be featured on at least one of the 12 months of the calendars over the past two years. But, no.

And so, today’s entry is to showcase some old calendars that I acquired since my last such entry; one from 2005 and the other from 2007. Both of which are of the “Page a Day” desktop variety (of a type which I have exhibited here in time’s past - the 1995 desktop calendar - found with the "Modern" Marvel calendars [see link above]).

With this sort of calendar, each day has its own tear-off page, and on that page is featured some artwork or tidbit of info about a character or comic issue.

The 2005 “Characters of Marvel” Calendar, a “Day At A Time” edition, has DR STRANGE right on the cover page! (With a portion of the cover to “Sorcerer Supreme # 51 showing.) A good start!



The format of this edition was to have sequential pages/days devoted to a character, before moving on to the next. This has several pages dedicated to the Master Mystic!
It also had pages on several of my 6-Dimensions characters; Scarlet Witch, Ghost Rider, Nick Fury, etc… as well as a plethora of other characters, so… a good calendar!

The 2007 edition, is a “Marvel Heroes” “Year In A Box” calendar, and was not as kind to Dr. Strange.



It has Doctor Strange featured on ZERO pages! WTF? Well… he’s not featured solo on any pages, but is seen as a small figure in a few group shots, and is mentioned in some write-ups (for "House of M" and such).

Still, Scarlet Witch is featured on a few pages (solo and as a group member) so… that’s ok.
Otherwise, it’s fairly light on my 6-Dimensions characters.

Except… it DOES have MAN-THING as shown on the cover to “Marvel Comics Presents” # 5, so… alright!


---

Also of note, is that this year (2014 for any future visitors from the year 2525 [if man is still alive]) features the same day-of-the-week-per-month pagination as previous years wherein a past Marvel Calendar can be reused to perfection!
Such previous years are 2003, 1997, 1986, 1975, 1969, etc… , and I’ve already featured those calendars (well, the ones that actually HAD Marvel calendars) in previous entries of the MARVEL CALENDAR series [see links above].

So, no Doctor Strange in ANY 2014 calendar? No problem. Let me slap my 1975, calendar on my wall.
Heck, I’ll put the 1997 calendar in my study, the other 1997 in my bedroom, the 1975 calendar in my Sanctum Sanctorum, the 2003 in my bathroom....


See?...
Time is relative.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"I AM THE DOCTOR!"
- Just What The DOCTOR Ordered.

---

Many people may have been wondering why my blogging has been sparse over the past few months. Well, I could say that it has something to do with a new schedule at work that leaves me tired and lacking time, but while true, in part, that's not really the whole truth.

The truth is... I've been feeling out of sorts for many months. Tired. Worn out. Despondent.

Life, at times, has simply got me down.

Add to that, the fact that I've simply been losing my interest in Doctor Strange, in whom this blog is mostly dedicated. A character who had carried my interest and fascination for much of my life, and had carried me aloft whenever I've felt down in the doldrums. But, a character whose own publisher has been systematically destroying over the past 20 years or more.

Thus, with little interest in the very raison d'etre for this blog, and having lost that, also losing a valuable therapeutic tool, I was simply finding it a chore.

With symptoms like that; losing my desire to or even care about blogging, and also, due to the loss of interest in other aspects of life, lie dangerously close to having a hard time time really caring about much at all.

I don't like thinking that way, as I've always sought to live the life of a good man, no matter what else may occur (as I have detailed in an introspective post [HERE]).

But, as such, to help make me feel more like my old self, I have been seeing
The Doctor.

---

WHO IS THAT STRANGE DOCTOR?
-or-
THE TWO DOCTORS

---


"I AM THE DOCTOR."

Those are familiar words. They carry weight, gravitas, and a sense of comfort and hope; exactly what is desired when addressed by a Doctor.

However, those words are not spoken by any traditional physician. For those alive and even moderately possessing a nerd pulse, they are the "immortal" words of "THE" DOCTOR.

"DOCTOR... WHO?", you might ask.
Exactly.

For the past 50 years, since November 1963, DOCTOR WHO (a nigh-immortal "Time Lord", with the ability to regenerate a new body when dying, who ventures across time and space in his TARDIS spacecraft,) has graced the world (via the UK) with his reassuring presence - be it on television, novels, audio plays, DVDs, and yes... even comics.

"I AM THE DOCTOR."

Those 4 words immediately fill you with hope and tell you that you are in good hands. Four words that state that wonderful things are about to befall you. Weird happenings, and high adventure are soon to be yours in the deepest recesses of time and space.
And oh yeah... RUN! Because STRANGE things are right around the corner - and they aren't always friendly.

And yet, there was also another DOCTOR who was comforting us while confronting the bizarre dangers across space time and other dimensions. And he came first. Cover dated JULY 1963 (which in comicbook dating terms means it was on the magazine racks at least 2 or 3 months earlier), DOCTOR STRANGE (a former greedy and arrogant surgeon, whose hands were rendered incapable of performing delicate surgical ability, and when searching for a cure, found instead an aged Tibetan mystic who taught Strange the ways of magic, after the young man showed a deeper, caring nature) was first featured as a back-up story in STRANGE TALES # 110 (as celebrated [HERE]).

For the past 50 years, he also graced the world with his mysterious presence - in comics, novels, audio dramas, DVD's, and yes... even television.

FIRST VISITS & INOCULATIONS
-or-
Open wide and say, "AH!"

While I started reading comics around the time I was ten years of age, in 1977 (as discussed at length in this defining post [HERE]), I didn't discover DOCTOR STRANGE until 1980. But when I did, I was immediately hooked! Even though comic distribution was a spotty and haphazard affair in those days before "comic book shoppes" were the norm, and stationery store spinner racks were the only delivery system available, I still managed to score my fix. My "prescription" as it were.

Cover art by Michael Golden

It would be only 2 or three years later that I would first be introduced to "The Doctor", as local PBS stations (in my case; WLIW 21 in New York) began to broadcast DOCTOR WHO here in the USA. These would be the TOM BAKER 4th DOCTOR episodes, with some of PETER DAVIDSON's 5th DOCTOR mixed in. I was immediately hooked on Tom Baker's mad, mirthful and menacing incarnation, but Davidson's "beige-on-beige" look and style did nothing to maintain my enthusiasm. I tried to show my interest even then, by pledging monies to the station, earmarked for more episodes of this wonderful new show (and received a black plastic mug with the "DOCTOR WHO" logo emblazoned in silver ink upon it). This was besides the point, since, the episodes would soon stop being shown on those few Public Broadcasting Stations, and it would retreat across the Atlantic ocean, back to Britain, like a fog on the waters.

Soon the desire to see more would be like unto only the faintest of smoke on the waters of my memory. I KNEW I wanted to see more of Baker's 4th Doctor, but, knowing he would be replaced by Davidson, and that his episodes were finite, and impossible to view... the desire retreated to the further recess of my mind. (Of course, I had NO idea at the time that Baker was "The Doctor" for seven years! That would have been a nice cache upon which to stumble. But alas... time and tide.)

But still... I loved Baker's performance and his iconic, yet insanely long scarf, and desired one of my own. So much so, that I had, over the years purchased several overly long scarves (but sadly, not as long or colorful as his), if for no other reason, as a subconscious reminder of my love for the little I had seen.

Tom Baker (#4)

All the while, I was fully immersed in the comicbook world of Doctor Strange, and amassing what is arguably the (or one of the top 2 or three) collections of Doctor Strange comics, merchandise and eclectica the world has ever seen. Such was my love and mania for the character.

Yet, even when I first saw that Marvel was producing DOCTOR WHO stories (first in Marvel Preview and then in his own magazine), they weren't accessible in my usual haunts (although, I still vividly remember a 4th Doctor story entitled "Spider-God" written by Steve Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons). And thus, once again, Doctor Who would slip out of my grasp.

Years would pass. I would continue to be fascinated by the myriad worlds, the above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals workings of the mind of the "Master of the Mystic Arts", and the reproach with which he would admonish himself whenever he thought that he was "above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals". From his redemption-quest origin, steeped in dark magics and mystery, to his ability to be gentle and caring one moment and filled with righteous fury in the next heartbeat... DOCTOR STRANGE checked all my required boxes for fan admiration.

Art by Dan Adkins

But, over the years the weight, the gravitas, the things that made Doctor Strange GREAT were being lost. Lost or deliberately taken away by editorial fiat or writers who simply didn't know either what to do with him, or even understand him at all.

Notwithstanding the occasional bright gem, Doctor Strange has been left to tarnish since the early 1990's.

I won't go into specifics. Any reader who has experienced Doctor Strange stories at nearly any point from 1963 thru 1990 knows what I am speaking of, when I say that anywhere from 1990 onward, the quality of stories and artwork for the good Doctor was hit-or-miss. Mostly miss.

But, like any fan, we hold on to the memories of the good stories and we wait. We wait for the next writer or artist to bring back some of what made the character great. We don't necessarily want or need a retread of old works. No. Bring in new concepts, new story angles, new foes and friends and realms and dangers. Increase his abilities and decrease his abilities, as long as it's done intelligently in a way that makes sense to the story. Fine. Do it. Just do it WELL!

But, like any fan. We wait... and we wait... and we wait for it to be good again.
Sometimes it happens! Like lightning, the spark of electricity is alive in the work. It is inspired. It is all new, but with enough of the old for the character to peek out from behind years of dust and misuse. We are hopeful... and we are then disappointed as the next steward fails to fulfill his trust.

Thus it has been an arduous task for even one such as I, to continue to feel any connection, interest or even care what happens to the character, as it seems that his publisher surely doesn't.


A SECOND OPINION 
(or an 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th)


Back in 1996, Doctor Strange was undergoing a hiatus. His "Sorcerer Supreme" titled comicbook having just been canceled, after a nearly unbroken run of 33 years of published works (Strange Tales # 110 in 1963 to the end of his 1st solo title in 1969 was only separated from his return in Marvel Premier #3 by a 4 year absence, and from thence forward, to his own "Master of the Mystic Arts" title, straight into a planned "Strange Tales v2" revamp and then directly into the "Sorcerer Supreme" masthead, was another 24 years of uninterrupted publication of his own starring [or co-starring] titles). That was after years of already poor treatment, as the Sorcerer Supreme comicbook simply wasn't all that good and was filled with lackluster periods which lasted years, interspersed with a few high points throughout, but sadly not enough to save its sales.

However, in 1996, emerging from a 7 year hiatus of its own, DOCTOR WHO returned to television (which, for many viewers in the USA was a 12 year absence) with a made-for-TV film, featuring a new, 8th DOCTOR.

Paul McGann (#8)

Certainly, it wasn't great. The story had holes. The acting was overly melodramatic (mostly by the scenery-chewing villains). But... it was DOCTOR WHO. And he was back!

I felt that old interest for the show and the character being rekindled. However, poor ratings in the USA meant that no production companies would back a return to the series (despite it doing extremely well in the UK). And so, once again, I found myself without a Doctor. (I was totally unaware that the 8th Doctor, as performed by PAUL McGANN would continue in audioplays from that point onward.)

However, as time went on, and up through present-day, Doctor Strange was/is still without a title of his own (a scant few mini-series here and there). My fandom being held together by my love of what was, as well as the few good guest appearances he would make over the years, and the quest for the collectibles. Anything to stem the ennui that was taking over in regards to my interest in the character. Even beginning a new blog - this blog - would help to keep my interest fresh.

But then, gradually... the real world wears you down. Day-to-day life drains the color from your cheeks, the strength from your stride.

You need to see a Doctor.

And then you hear it. Those four words. Four words that help you to know that help is at hand:

"I AM THE DOCTOR."

It was into 2008 that I found, once again via a PBS station, that DOCTOR WHO had returned!
2005 had seen a return of what is known as "NuWHO", a renewed continuation (not a reboot) of the character, and CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON became the first face of the Doctor for many new fans, and the newest face for one renewed WHOvian - me.

While I loved Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, and felt an immediate liking to Paul McGann's 8th Doctor, this new 9th Doctor was a whole new twist! No need to retread the old, as new concepts and looks are welcome! Especially when dealing with a character who, as a Time Lord, with the ability to regenerate multiple times into a new body with a new face, is essentially immortal.

And so, I watched every episode of the 9th Doctor and wanted to see more!

Christopher Eccleston ("9")

But more would be denied me for a while, as the PBS station had only paid to broadcast that one season (or "series" as they would now be labeled).

I would watch, whenever possible, those same 9th Doctor episodes each time they would air over the next few years, knowing that there were new episodes - just beyond my grasp.

To my great pleasure, over the past few months, via the internet and Netflix, I have totally caught up with DAVID TENNANT's 10th Doctor, MATT SMITH's 11th and even delighted at the return (and regeneration scene) of the 8th as he transformed into an unknown incarnation, played by JOHN HURT.

Matt Smith ("11"), David Tennant ("10"), John Hurt ("War", but the real #9)

In the time since my current job started to abuse me even more than usual, and real life seems to refuse to get any better than it has been over the past several years, I had little sustaining energy from my love for Doctor Strange, but my renewed interest in Doctor Who was helping immeasurably. A "shot in the arm", so to speak.

I've even gone back and after sampling some episodes of the other early Doctors and am watching all the episodes from the very beginning! I'm already halfway through the 1st DOCTOR's tenure. I have so much more with which to look forward.

The 12 Doctors



PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
-or-
My First Doctor KNOWS Me.

But now... floating above the drek of the usual poor treatment of DOCTOR STRANGE, we have writer Jonathan Hickman take on Doctor Strange in Hickman's incarnation of the Illuminati, the super-secret, big-decision-makers of the Marvel Universe, as seen in the pages of NEW AVENGERS. And while his treatment of Doctor Strange has been hit-or-miss, it is more accurately... remiss. He seemed to be deliberately holding Strange in reserve, in the darkened corner, with only the occasional glimpse of the greatness that what once was peeking out from behind the shadows.

Still, that has been enough for me to feel my interest renewed. My hope kindled.

And what is the sound of that hope?
As I said earlier, it is the sound of four words:

"I AM THE DOCTOR."

STRANGE's OATH from NEW AVENGERS v3 # 5.
Words - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Steve Epting

Certainly, there have been other bright spots, but those are ironic and oxymoronic, since the brighter the indicator of great things to come, the darker the Doctor's path.

However, as we all know, it is when the Doctor strides down the darkest pathways that his magic and might shines the brightest.

Could it be that Hickman knows that whatever The DOCTOR (WHO) can do, with his all-purpose Sonic Screwdriver, then DOCTOR STRANGE with the Eye of Agamotto can do it better?
Certainly, that would hopefully be the case.

For while "The DOCTOR" can roam all across space and time, in his TARDIS ship, however haphazardly he does so, saving worlds along the way, DOCTOR STRANGE needs no external drive to step from one world, one time, one dimension to the next, and save untold worlds in one fell swoop.

Both live lives where things are "bigger on the inside" (The Doctor's TARDIS, and Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum merely two such indicators of the depths within these two men).

Still, as is the case with both of these DOCTORS... the brightness of heroism is forever the other side of the darkness wherein he walks.

No matter what good they do, each of these men are forced to bear the weight of ensuring others live in the light - despite each victory tinging these men with darkness. They live bearing their sadness in order to bring hope to others.

New Avengers v3 # 12/13
Writer - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Mike Deodato

DOCTOR, HEAL THYSELF!
-or-
I AM THE DOCTOR


So here I am. New Year's Eve. The dark night before a bright new year.
And here I am, typing in the darkness, with the hope that this act, this promise to continue my own administrations, is in essence a way to say in my own mind, "DOCTOR... HEAL THYSELF!"

For it is with this, act, and the hope that it fills within me, to strive to not let the darkness or drudgery of life wear me down. I have done great things in the past. I will do great things again, be it now or in the future.
Time is never run out when you have hope that things will get better.
And so, I stay hopeful.

Hope is the one thing that can help anyone do heroic things.

And every life made better by my hopeful and helpful actions is a great thing as well.
So to that purpose, though I strive to do the work of the light, while I stride in the dark, I shall not let life turn me grey.

And hope is what I feel that the adventures of my long-time fan-favorite characters will once again obtain a level of greatness.

But that's not even where I hang all my hopes.

For while I do have a "real" life, and many other interests and goals aside from those detailed in this blog, even taking the pleasure to do something as silly as enjoy a TV show, read a comic, write a blog post or share my enthusiasm with others... all those little things, and the other day-to-day activities we all undertake, as long as they are undertaken with joy and hope, help to make everything seem worthwhile.

To that extent, I am renewed in my enjoyment for making plans for new projects, personal and professional.
I am rejuvenated in my desire to work on this blog.

I am prescribing a new regimen for myself; STAY HOPEFUL!

For it only takes four words to remind myself of that goal, four words that remind me that I am the administrator of that change...



"I AM THE DOCTOR."


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

PINBALL WIZARD
ZEN Marvel Pinball : DOCTOR STRANGE

---
It may be seen as anachronistic, or even retro-throw-back for modern computer-gamers (or are they predominantly "console gamers" now?) to want to play PINBALL, but it seems that they do, and because of that, pinball (or at least a virtual version of it) is seeing a resurgence in popularity not seen since the 1970's.

Now, while I do confess to rocking the flippers back in the arcades of my youth, I haven't had any real interest in playing in recent years until MARVEL started releasing platforms based on their characters and event storylines.

Perhaps it is fitting that ZEN Studios (makers of ZEN PINBALL) have just days ago released a DOCTOR STRANGE themed pinball table!

Check out some game-play!


This isn't the first time the good Doctor has been featured on a Zen Pinball game. He was also showcased in previous outings, such as the INFINITY GAUNTLET table (where he is seen pictured on the board, along with Strange-themed characters like ETERNITY, among others) and the PLANET HULK table  (where he emerges as a 3D character [in his ZOM-Possessed form from the story] to do battle with the Hulk.

However, NOW we have a solo board that features exquisite details, multiple characters and even event details and dialogue taken from various storylines from the comics and even his animated film.

Battle against BARON MORDO (the conjuring of mystic swords for a swordfight between STRANGE and MORDO is taken directly from the animated film), and NIGHTMARE! In a story taken directly from the first few issues of the SORCERER SUPREME title, DORMAMMU takes over the body of DOCTOR STRANGE while Doc is in his astral form! The mystic battle continues with each in their own form should you get to that level. And of course, the big bad of the board is SHUMA GORATH, seen looming over the background, and activated by reaching certain in-game criteria (hit the right lighted targets, get the right point-range, etc...)!

Personally, I only played a few rounds, and was able to access all the baddies EXCEPT SHUMA (argh!), but I will continue trying.

There are several in-game niceties to help ensure you come back for more; the EYE of AGAMOTTO is a section of the board that rises up to form its own mini-table, with smaller and quicker game-interactivity against which to battle, STRANGE interacts with the ball, conjuring forth an ORB of AGAMOTTO ball to send into play and plenty of flashing lights and sounds to tickle the ADHD/OCD centers of the brain.
Mentions of the ANCIENT ONE and DEFENDERS as well as dialogue from WONG, and CLEA doesn't hurt either.

For a few bucks you can download on a variety of platforms, including Xbox LIVE Arcade, Steam, Playstation Network (PS3 with Playstation Vita free, and PS4), iOS, Google Play, OSX and Kindle Fire!

I'm not sure if the price is the same across the board, but I DL'd for my PS3 (which came with a FREE DL for the Vita) for a scant $2.99!

This is ZEN Studios first table for their newly released ZEN PINBALL 2 (which has 3D capability, if you have a fancy-schmancy 3D TV or something). ZEN PINBALL 2 is a FREE download, so you have no excuse not to get it.
And fret not, if you've already purchased tables for the previous MARVEL PINBALL platform, you can import your purchased tables and sets to the ZEN PINBALL 2 interface free and easy.

On a personal note, I did find the game to be less pleasing than other, previous MARVEL PINBALL tables (but to be fair, as previously stated, I did only play a couple of rounds on a non-HD, non-3D, non-flatscreen TV, so perhaps I didn't get the full experience). I've really liked the PLANET HULK table, the BLADE table is awesome, GHOST RIDER is appropriately wicked-cool, and the INFINITY GAUNTLET board is challenging good fun.

What the DOCTOR STRANGE board has going for it (aside from the obvious DR. STRANGE lure for me), in addition to the intricate background details, or even the ability to battle classic foes is... almost more than anything else... the ability to TRULY be...

...a PINBALL WIZARD!

(By the way, knowing that I would write about this game when it was released, I have been DYING to use "Pinball Wizard" as the title for this blog-post since the first announcement was made back in October. You can't imagine my shock that NO ONE used that title for any of their articles - then, or now. Perhaps, like many gamers of today, they just aren't old enough to make the immediate connection to a classic 1969 album by THE WHO.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS -2013-
A Not-So Nativity Scene

I just want to take this time to wish everyone all the Happiness of this
Holiday Season!

And to help celebrate your 
VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS,
HAPPY HANUKKAH,
KOOL KWANZAA, 
WILD WINTER SOLSTICE,
and A FESTIVUS FOR THE REST-OF-US...

...I present to you this scene that we are ALL glad is not 
MARVEL canon.

(click to make YULE-SIZED)

SILVER SURFER as the HERALD ANGEL
SCARLET WITCH as MARY, SPIDER-MAN refusing to play any part of it, let alone the role of JOSEPH,
and HOWARD the DUCK as... oh, I can't even type that out.


Oh, I KNOW... really. I know.
But you have to believe me when I say that THIS was meant in ALL good fun, with no blasphemous intent. Spidey, of course, being the moral compass (sorta) - to keep us out of it.

Still, I did have OTHER ideas for this year's action figure fumetti card. (Some were even worse!)

Others included DOCTOR STRANGE letting LUKE CAGE interview prospective casting calls for the roles of MARY in the Sanctum (with all my super-women action figures, ranging from MAGIK, ZATANNA, SPIDER-WOMAN, MOONDRAGON, DAGGER, SNOWBIRD, PHOENIX, BLINK, MOONSTONE and MORE, including... oh yeah... SATANA, all auditioning).
The jokes were to have been CLEA trying to use her relationship with STRANGE to garner the role, MOONDRAGON demanding it since she was almost the Celestial Madonna and LUKE just looking at SATANA and saying "No... NO WAY!"

Perhaps a panel of MAN-THING being shot down for the role, as LUKE tells him flat out: "Dude... it's in your NAME! "MAN"-Thing!" To which the silent Man-Thing thinks, "But...LOOK at me! I AM a virgin."

Also a single shot of LUKE standing next to DOCTOR STRANGE, looking at all the beautiful, sexy, super-women and exclaiming "SWEET CHRISTMAS!" (as he used to do).

These next jokes might actually get used some other time as they ARE pretty cool...

The ILLUMINATI all arguing over who should be the "3 Wise Men" (with BLACK BOLT, BLACK PANTHER and NAMOR insisting it should be the "3 KINGS")...
Originally, it was to be DR. STRANGE, PHANTOM STRANGER & either JOHN CONSTANTINE or SARUMAN (or GANDALF) as the "3 Wise Men", but I couldn't decide on which.

...and/or the ASTRAL FORM of DOCTOR STRANGE, DEADMAN and the Marvel villain, GHOST, all portraying the "Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future" to a SCROOGE figure (maybe HOWARD the DUCK, so as to riff on the Scrooge MacDuck thing), with the transparent variant of the MUPPET's "UNCLE DEADLY" as JACOB MARLEY.

SO you see, the wheels WERE turning, and I had all the figures posed and ready to go, but just lacked the time to get it all together. So, I went with my first concept - for better or ill - and hope that you find it at least moderately amusing (and not overly offensive).

Of course, this was all inspired by my similar action-figure Christmas fumetti from a couple of years back [HERE].



So... once again,
Let's all sing a chorus of "O Man-Thing Tree"...
"O Manny-Thing, O Manny-Thing, Thy leaves are always burning..."
...EVERYBODY!

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men-Things.

WAUGH, indeed!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

The KING and I

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Jack Kirby at his drawing board, as seen in the documentary:
"With Great Power - The Stan Lee Story"

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Yes, I know… no sooner do I post a 5th Anniversary Special, than do I seemingly vanish off the face of the Earth. No new posts for over a month – missing both; Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But what if I tried to make up for it by presenting a blog entry that is part “ghost story” as well as a testament of my deepest thanks? – Both aspects given to me from Jack Kirby – 20 years apart.

This blog entry is a true life story about how I met Jack Kirby, gave him a small gift, and how, over 20 years later, his “ghost” showed up and returned the favor.


JACK “KING” KIRBY was not only one of the founders of the comic book medium, but perhaps its greatest talent as well.

The worlds that burst like lightning out of his mind, the fantastic imagery that exploded like a volcano from his hand, likened him to a god; a true “CREATOR”.

But this tale is not one that focuses on the myth of the man, nor on the legend that spawned such descriptors, but instead on a small personal history... and a mystery, sparked by a moment or two in time – one forever in amber within my memory – the other… captured forever on film.

Take a look at the photograph atop this post, of Jack Kirby at his drawing table.
Do you see the drawing of Captain America atop the King’s board?
The one with which he is posed, pen in hand, as if upon which he is putting some finishing touch?

That… is MY artwork.

Ah… I hope that got your attention.

Yes. That is MY drawing of Captain America, one that I gave to the King, when I had the pleasure to meet him at a comic convention back in (late) 1990  (or early 1991).

Not only that, but if you look even closer, you’ll note that the artwork is inside a black matt frame.

That is because when I frequented comic-cons during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s it was as a professional artist (having had some pro work with a few indie publishers) and I would sell my work – some; original art, drawn at request, and some; hand-colored photocopies of previously drawn illustrations, framed in those mats. It was one such piece that I gave to Jack Kirby.

I will provide PROOF of which here.

Here is a photograph of myself, taken expressly for this post, with not only a similar, colored photocopy… not only one in the exact same type of matt… but one that was taken from my flatfile archives, where it was stored away after being colored, matted, signed & dated in 1990! In my other hand is the ORIGINAL pencil artwork, drawn in 1989 (which shows what was obscured by the mat: the Shield & Eagle atop the flagpole and the rest of Cap’s left foot, as well as the remainder of the flag).



Just so you don’t think that I merely photoshopped my work into the photo (or drew it after the fact), please note that I discovered the Kirby photo while watching a documentary, on Netflix, this month: “With Great Power; The Stan Lee Story”, which was produced in 2010.

Here’s the pertinent clip from the show that shows the image shown in the photo atop this page:


Obviously, I could not have altered the image in an already-filmed documentary, which anyone can now go and verify. The Kirby photo is near the end of this clip (but around the 20 minute mark in the full video).

Now allow me to turn the clock back, for a moment of explanation as to the origins of how Jack Kirby came into possession of my work, and then I’ll turn the clock forward again, to early this month, when I discovered that the photograph of the King with my art even existed…

While I have already written of my meeting with Jack Kirby, back in an old post a few years ago [HERE], I’ll recap and continue the tale now.

As some readers of this blog may know (as detailed in several other old posts), I was a professional writer / artist for a few independent comic companies in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s (1987 – 1991 to be exact).
I had started out just as a guy with a rented table in the dealer’s room, who would either draw your custom art on the spot, or sell pre-drawn samples and even hand-colored photocopies of my work.
It was in that manner that I was “discovered” by some publishers and garnered assignments for published work. With actual published credentials, I then graduated to a free table in “artist’s alley”, the professional’s room.

Still, I was a young and inexperienced 20-something year-old “kid”, and every once in a while, a “real” pro artist would walk over to (or past) my table and we would get to talk about the industry.

At one weekend show in New York City, I met Jack Kirby. (I also met Stan Lee at the same show, but I've already told that tale [linked to HERE]). Jack was walking through the “artist’s alley” room, with his wife, Roz. I saw him, and immediately felt that I should say something… DO something… to express my gratitude for his immeasurable contribution to the field.

Suddenly, I KNEW what I could do. Like the tale of the “Little Drummer Boy”, I had a gift for the King, and while it wasn’t much, it was all that I had.

I looked at my artworks which surrounded and covered my table, and thought that, most of those characters were co-created by Stan Lee, and would not make an appropriate gift, as they might instead serve to rekindle the heated feelings that Jack Kirby may have had towards Lee and Marvel. No. Instead I would make a gift to him of the one character thereupon that was his – with no ties to Stan Lee…

Captain America.

I quickly grabbed a hand-colored copy of a drawing of Captain America that I had done, and vaulted over my table to go and meet this iconic industry giant.

Gently shaking his hand, I gave him the illustration of the comic character that HE had created - and bestowed upon the world - as a gesture of my thanks and admiration.

I embarrassingly asked for an autograph, but his wife explained that he was under strict orders to rest his hands and that if I gave my name and info, he would mail one to me at a later date.
I happily did so, saying that autograph or no, this was indeed an honor that I would never forget

While I never did receive the autograph, I took some small, humble hope that a piece of my work was in possession of the man. Although, truthfully, even that thought was fleeting, as I wondered why a giant such as he would even bother to keep such an offering. Looking at the illustration with the eyes of a more mature artist, I know that the illustration really isn’t very good. Sure, it has good qualities, but overall, it’s just not all that good. Not good enough for someone like Jack Kirby to keep it for long.

I thought that maybe he’d have tossed it in the back of a closet, out of a kind sense of thankful obligation, sort of how one might keep a received birthday card in a drawer and promptly forget about it for years. Such was the fate that I imagined for my artwork; gently forgotten in the back of a closet, until it would eventually be discarded.

Sadly, within 4 years of our meeting, the King was dead.
I couldn’t help but wonder over the years… Did he keep it? Did he like it? Would it be thrown away with the assorted junk that accumulates on the periphery of our lives?

A gift given. A memory made. And a mystery… in my mind.


Now please indulge me as I flash-forward to the present and my viewing of the documentary.

While flipping through the selections on Netflix, I was in the mood for some comicbook goodness, and thought a documentary would be perfect.
The selection; "With Great Power - The Stan Lee Story" sounded familiar, but I knew I had never seen it. Surprising since it was released in 2010.

It would be less than a half-hour before a point in my life of 20 years prior would leap into my present-day living room.

When the scene in question came on screen, it felt like an electric jolt went through my body. My body went rigid, my eyes opened wide, and my mind… my mind reeled.

I immediately recognized my work. But more importantly than anything, I immediately knew that Jack Kirby had kept my gift.

It was as if I were seeing a long lost friend, contacting me from beyond the grave to answer a question, long thought unanswerable.

To see that the great artist not only kept the piece, but had it close enough at hand for use as a prop in some photo-shoot truly brought a shock to my mind, and a sense of peace of mind as well.

But then it also brought further questions:

WHEN was this photo taken?
WHY? For WHAT purpose?

I can only imagine that when asked to pose for some photo opportunity (a magazine shoot perhaps), the photographer may have thought that a piece of Jack's own original black-pencil artwork might not have "popped" (which is unthinkable), or simply lacked the visual impact that a full-color illustration would instead provide. So the (ignorant) photographer just had Jack place an already-colored piece on the desk.

So, looking around his studio for a suitable image, of a character that would be recognizable, not only for who it was, but that it was one of his characters, my artwork simply fit the bill. Nevermind that it wasn’t drawn by Kirby, as his hand is positioned to block the view of my signature (a ~PCK~ in a scroll with the year beneath it) which I would guess was the photographer's direction; "OK, Jack... just move your hand over a bit...there!" Authenticity may have taken a back-seat to necessity.

I knew that there would only be a few people who could shine any light on these tiny mysteries (perhaps John Morrow from TwoMorrow's Press - publishers of the Jack Kirby Collector magazine, or someone from the Jack Kirby Museum project). However, I also knew that there was one other man who would not only have the best chance of knowing, but who might like to discuss this story with me, and so I contacted Jack Kirby’s long-time assistant & friend, Mark Evanier (who you'll note was shown being interviewed at the start of the video clip I presented above).

Mr. Evanier told me that Jack Kirby kept EVERY drawing that he was ever given by fans. He would keep them nearby in his studio, some hung up on the walls, some down leaning against the walls of the room, and that he would frequently interchange what was displayed on the walls and/or the floor stacks. Everyone got time to shine, and he didn’t judge the works on artistic merit more than the fact that he was thrilled that someone actually took the TIME and ENERGY to CREATE something. He was humbled, and gladdened that he was able to inspire anyone to do so, but it was the act of creation that he most admired and by which he was delighted.

Most others sent him drawings OF him WITH his creations. My gift, however, was one of an impromptu nature, given on a chance meeting, and as such, was only of one of his creations.

THAT, it seems is what might have been the reason that my artwork was placed upon his table for the photo. It would be unlikely for a drawing OF Jack and his characters to be drawn BY Jack, wherein my piece featuring only Captain America might have been a better fit for the photographer’s direction. That and/or the fact that without any other figures on the page, the one figure is full-sized and instantly recognizable to the viewer, if not the actual style or the fact that it wasn’t a Kirby drawing.

Sure, when I first saw the documentary photo, my mind had let fly with fanciful notions that maybe Jack Kirby had liked my work... and maybe had it on his desk because he wanted to send me an overlay drawing showing me the correct way it should have been drawn (as I know that it wasn't a great piece)... Or maybe, he saw some spark of talent in the drawing and wanted to mentor me... or maybe someone, somewhere saw this one piece and maybe wanted to contact me for some project...

All fanciful dreams...

The truth is most likely what I and Mr. Evanier both concluded; Jack was a class act and kept all things that fans gave him. His hands wouldn't allow for him to draw anything for that photo session, and maybe the color drawing just fit the bill as a prop.

That I had always sort of wondered whether he kept it, whether he liked it, whether it was lost in time... all those questions were answered by one photograph, over 20 years later. For that I am grateful. For the fact that he used my drawing, my tiny gift, for the photo (even if by random chance)... I am humbly honored.

And so, I just want to say once again, for all the wonders he has given the medium, all the enjoyment that he has given to me, and for the gratitude that I feel knowing that he liked and had my work near to him… THANK YOU, JACK KIRBY.


 
* UPDATE*
It is my pleasure to state that John Morrow of the aforementioned TWOMORROWS PRESS, has expressed an interest in publishing this blog entry in one of his publications! Most likely The JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR magazine!
He has asked for high quality images for reproduction of all the images seen in this post, so it should look quite nice.
I'll be sure to make the official announcement when the article is published.