Strange Days, Part 2: Doctor Strange #35

In continuing with Doctor Strange month I picked up some reading material.  Let’s start with Doctor Strange issue 35.

Doctor Strange #35

On of the things I have always enjoyed about comic books is getting to know a new title.  Chances are, if it is something that is years old or ongoing for sometime you are not going to walk into your local comic book store and buy issues number 1 for a reasonable price.  So if something interests you, you may have to start in the middle of a story and not know what the heck is going on.  I actually find this fun.  Years ago, comic books were written with the idea in mind that this could be the first comic book the reader has ever read.  Today, with digital back issues and trade paperback collection of stories that doesn’t hold as true.  But since this issue was written in 1979, is has the older writing style.

This seems like a good place to say WARNING!  SPOILER ALERT!! (just in case you ever read Doctor Strange Vol. 1 No. 36)

“Of Knights and Pawns” begins with the good Doctor paying a visit to his friends the Avengers.  It seems a statue of fellow Avenger, The Black Knight came to life and went on a rampage before it broke into several pieces.  (Note: apparently it is not just a statue of The Black Knight, but a physical representation of him in the present while his actual self is back in the twelfth century.)  Doctor Strange uses his magic to put the statue back together only to find that it now has a sword where it didn’t before.  Finding this odd, Doctor Strange and his assistant Clea take the sword with them back to his Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village.

Meanwhile, deep within the domain of The Dweller in Darkness, The Dweller hatches a plot to attack the unsuspecting Doctor.  The Dweller possesses and transforms an average man on the street into a giant monster.  Doctor Strange and Clea take up the fight and protect the public at large from the attack.

“Ludi” from my favorite panel from Doctor Strange #35

The Dweller meantime is scouring a thousand dimensions to find a demon worthy of defeating Doctor Strange.  Only an demon named Ludi steps forward.  Ludi seeks revenge on humankind for no longer believing in him.

Back in our dimension, Doctor Strange and Clea defeat the giant monster only to find Ludi taking its place!  Ludi is a lot more for the two of them to handle and quickly gains the upper hand.  But, Clea remembers the sword for the Black Knight’s statue and she and Doctor Strange use it to banish Ludi back to the dimension from which he came.  The man who was turned into the giant monster now sits in Ludi’s place, bewildered by what has transpired.  Here ends our story.

I liked this issue and it reminded me how fun it is to pick up a random issue and ‘test drive’ it.  I also feel that these older issues have more to read- more text, dialogue and exposition.  This has made me excited to read more Doctor Strange.

What I learned about Doctor Strange: 

  • He has a lover named Clea
  • He has many trans-dimensional enemies
  • He’s got a pretty nice place in Greenwich Village

Next up: Doctor Strange – Marvel Masterworks!

Strange Days

Doctor Strange

I know a lot about comic books, but acknowledge that I don’t know everything.  So, I have decided to spend some time filling in the gaps.  I am planning on spending time with characters or titles that I am not too familiar with.  July is dedicated to Doctor Strange.  Here is what I know about the good doctor going into this:

  • He is known as the Sorcerer Supreme
  • He in the Defenders, is a part time Avenger and maybe(?) is in the Invaders
  • His first name is Steven
  • He is the basis for the character Dr. Orpheus from ‘The Venture Brothers’ cartoon
  • He is THE major player in the Marvel Comics magic universe

I have read different issues with Doctor Strange but never a Doctor Strange comic book.  For the month of July I will read some Doctor Strange, find out more about his background and get to know the world of the Sorcerer Supreme.  Join me, won’t you?

From The Longbox – Marvel Team-Up #74

Marvel Team-Up #74

On of the things I love about comic books is that every once in a while the do stand alone issues.  That is, an issue that does not have to do with an ongoing story or really mess with any type of continuity.  That was really the basis for a series called Marvel Team-Up.  Volume 1 ran from 1972 to 1985, with volume 2 in 1997 and volume 3 in 2005.  The ideas was to take two characters (Spider-Man being on of them for all but 9 issues) out of their normal stories and let them have a one issue adventure.  This gave light to some lesser known characters.  Or… could feature The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players.

This issue is completely absurd…and I love it.  Peter Parker and Mary Jane get tickets to go see Saturday Night Live being performed.  The guest host?  Stan Lee, the number one man at Marvel Comics.  Right there is a conundrum to wrap you heads around.     A fictional character is going to a real life show to see a real life comic book writer who just happens to be the man who created said fictional character.  Moving on…

Those wacky Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players!The story centers around John Belushi getting a mysterious ring in his fan mail  He puts it on, but then can’t get it off!  It turns out, the ring was meant for the villain The Silver Samurai! (turns out it was suppose to go to J.B. Lu-shi.  get it?)  So the Silver Samurai and his henchmen go after the SNL cast one by one.  But what they didn’t expect is for them to fight back!  Or to get help from Spider-Man!

The climax of the book is when the Silver Samurai faces off against John Belushi’s Samurai!  (didn’t see that coming…or did you?)  Don’t worry, no SNL cast members were hurt during the making of this comic.  And I must say that at no time does comic book Bill Murray look like Bill Murray.  The others they kind of get in the ball park.  In this panel to the left what is suppose to be Bill Murray looks more like Dr. McCoy from Star Trek.

Silliness reigns in the issue, including Garrett Morris fooling the henchmen by dressing up as Thor.  Now I just need to find the issue of The Avengers where they visit Late Night with David Letterman.

Marvel Team-up #74 was written by Chris Claremont with art by Bob Hall.

The Ability to Overcome Great Fear

I am scared.  And excited.   Scared and excited.  It sounds a little confusing, but so is my life right now.  I am working on opening my own comic book store.  Many small businesses have come before, as will many come after, so I am no different than millions of others.  But this is a first for me and I am operating far outside of my comfort zone.

Now, it is not the what I am afraid of.  I am a big comic book fan and have been for years.  Naturally, there are bigger fans out there, but I know quite a bit about the world of comics.  It is the process of the how that is torturing me.  I have never done anything like this before.  I have found the steps I need to take and I am following the paths of those that have come before me.  I have asked for advice, opinions, input and help.  I have a wife that has supported and pushed me farther than I have been before.  But, at the end of the day, it’s all up to me.  And that’s where the fear kicks in.

The ability to overcome fear is the core of Green Lanterns power.  That, plus willpower is what gives a Green Lantern their strength.  I think, subconsciously, that is what drew me to the character.  When I was young, I thought it was cool that he could “make stuff” with his power ring.  But as I got older, I realized there was more to the mythology than just making cool stuff.

Perhaps this is a good place for a little Green Lantern background:

Imagine if the ring on your finger was more than a piece of gaudy jewelry. Instead, it’s the universe’s most powerful weapon. It can create whatever you wish out of pure energy, its might limited only by your imagination and will. And with it comes exclusive membership to an exclusive intergalactic police force with alien officers spanning the cosmos.

 The only catch? Mastering that power and being a Green Lantern means facing your fears, and for headstrong Hal Jordan, that’s something he’s been avoiding his whole life.

When just a boy, Hal witnessed his greatest nightmare—his pilot father dying in a tragic plane crash. Nevertheless determined to follow in his footsteps, Hal repressed his fears, becoming a reckless, defiant test pilot. But when a dying alien crashes on Earth, the irresponsible Hal is chosen to be that alien’s successor in the Green Lantern Corps, a universe-wide peacekeeping force over 3,600 members strong.

And his life only gets wilder from there. Alien romances. Intergalactic wars. Power-hungry super-villains. Wielding a Green Lantern power ring—a weapon fueled by willpower—he can fly and create constructs made of pure energy, generating anything from massive green fists to emerald rifles that can snipe from a planet away. But while Hal tends to ignore his fears, he’ll learn the only way to truly master his ring’s power is by confronting and overcoming them.” (from DC Comics website)

So where does my fear come from?  Obviously not from piloting experimental airplanes, but maybe from the same area.  As a test pilot, Hal Jordan needs to know what to do at the exact right moment and make split second decisions or his life is in danger.  He must be alert, he must be focused and above all he must be present.

My fears stem from things such as:

  • is this the right location?
  • is my budget correct?
  • will I make my projections?
  • will anyone come?
  • what if I screw up on my books, taxes, etc?
  • what if I fail?

This last one preys on my mind a lot.  As the old saying goes, “he who never tries, never fails.”  And my consequences are not as sever as Green Lanterns.  The Earth won’t explode, nor will Sinestro take over the universe.  So what will happen?   Worse case, I wind up loosing a lot of capital and end up with more comic books then I could ever want.

No Sinestro war.

No Earth exploding.

So in all of this, I try to remain present.  And I must say it is hard.  I focus on what the business needs now, while still being mindful of the future.  I’m not spending my time fretting about what could, might or may never happen.  I try to have the confidence to do what needs to be done right now and not mindlessly worrying about the unknown.

I keep these things in mind and work on it everyday.  I am getting better at it.  I also try to remember that no hero’s journey is easy.  And whether it is a bright day or a black night, remember to stay present, positive and confident.

What in the heck is the “AR” in Avengers vs. X-Men?

For those not in the know, Marvel Comics just released their newest comic book crossover event: Avengers vs. X-Men.  In this limited series, Earths Mightest Heroes will do battle against the Children of the Atom.   Tonight I attended an Avengers vs. X-Men launch party at Comics FTW in Santa Rosa.  It was a great gathering of fanboys and fangirls showing their support for their favorite team, either The Avengers or X-Men. And I wore my Captain America mask….but that is a different story.

I raced home to crack open the pages of this blockbuster event.  Excited by the mega-huge writing staff and the art by the classic John Romita Jr., AvX (as those who are hip to the lingo) did not disappoint.  But, there was something strange on a few of the pages.  There was a strange box in the corner of some panels with the letters “AR.”

At first I thought it was some kind of misprint, that somehow, Marvel messed up royally and there were these phantom AR symbols on millions of copies of AvX and that someones head was gonna roll.  When I reached the last page, I found out I was wrong.  This symbol is for the new Marvel Augmented Reality App.  What this app does, when downloaded onto your Apple or Android device, is “enhances and changes the way you experience comics!”     What is actually does is take you beyond the comic panel.  When you hold your smart phone camera up to any panel with the symbol on it, it gives you a behind the scenes look at the making of the book.  And it’s different for each panel.  Most of them show you the rough sketches for that panel/page.  But there was one where it also had audio commentary by writer Brian Michael Bendis explaining the importance of that page to the story.  There was even a greeting from editor in chief Axel Alonso welcoming you to the AR experience.  I have to say, I found this pretty cool.  As a fan of commentary tracks on dvd’s, I found this experience very similar.  Now this isn’t something I want to see in every comic book, but I think it is something special for a big event such as this.

Makes me look forward to issue #2 in two weeks!

My Current Favorite Comic Book…

…is The Defenders!  I gotta say, I love the art by Terry Dodson and, of course, the writing of Matt Fraction.  It involves a team of second string Marvel characters that come together to fight a common enemy.  The team is: Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, She-Hulk, Iron Fist and Namor.  Kinda random, but I think that is why it works so well.  Plus, I love Fractions dialogue.  Many people think he is stretched too thin and working on too many projects, but I think his stuff is still fresh.  It is only on issue #3, so I urge you to pick it up.

DC Comics New Identity

new logo


Yesterday, DC Entertainment unveiled its new brand identity and logo.  The new logo will be seen on comic books and graphic novels as well as other DC related websites and merchandise.  This is all part of DC’s radical revamping of the company.  If you remember, back in September, they relaunched their entire lineup of comic books.

The evolution of the DC logo

It was just a few years ago the “swoosh” logo replaced the “bullet” logo that had been around for years.  I’m rather partial to the “swoosh” logo (and let’s face it, it looks good before the movies, right?).  But, I understand why they did it.  This is a new era for comic books and comic book readers.  Things are changing, so for good, some not.  And a lot of people in the comic book world fear change.  DC comics is embracing it and showing that they mean business.

Another thing they are doing with the logo is personalizing it for different uses.  They have different color schemes for different uses or representing different characters.  That is kinda cool.

  Be on the lookout for these logos in March!

From The Longbox- Ads From The Past

"Man Country"
"Man Country"

In days gone by, you could find all sorts of ads in the pages of comic books.  As I have been going through some back issues, I found this gem.  It was in “Nick Fury and his Agents of SHIELD” issue #5, Oct. 1973.  Don’t know if you can still send away for your free career kit, but it might be worth a try.  As it says “You only live once…make it a life of adventure!”