Posts tagged ‘Keith Giffen’

Action 579 – Superman meets Asterix and Obelisk

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Jean-Marc Lofficier, Keith Giffen and Bob Oskner send Superman to ancient Gaul in Action 579 (May 1986), where he encounters two men who are not Asterix and Obelisk, but as close as they could be without violating copyright.

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The story begins as Jimmy Olsen destroys an ancient shield while stopping thieves at a museum.

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The story then shifts to Gaul, with a wizard character that I think is much like one from Asterix and Obelisk, though I confess I was never a fan of those books, and don’t know it well enough to be sure of all the correlations.  At any rate, the wizard casts a spell, using the shield, to bring a great warrior from the future to help them, which pulls Superman to their time.

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Giffen excels at portraying Obelisk, without actually showing him clearly.  There is no other character it could possibly be.

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And I can tell that the overall look is right.  The people I knew who did enjoy Asterix and Obelisk just went nuts over this story.

Action 577 – Caitiff debuts

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Giffen, Fleming and Oskner deliver a great Superman tale, as they introduce Caitiff, a fascinating vampire.

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Morgan Edge is heavily promoting a story about deaths at a centre for disease control, which caitiff is behind.  Clark Kent is the newscaster for the story, which Caitiff wants stopped, so he heads out to find Kent.

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Right from the start you are made to sympathize with this creature, who seems so pained and vulnerable.  And Giffen’s art just excels on the pages dedicated to him.

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Caitiff bursts into the WGBS studio to try to stop the broadcast.  It does, but of course it also sets Superman right on him.

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Superman follows Caitiff back to his lair, and finds the remains of the rest of his family, his race.  The bones of his child, killed by scientists trying to understand their condition.

Superman allows Caitiff to remain undisturbed, and tells no one about him.

Caitiff returns for a second, and final, story in the pages of Justice League International in the late 80s.

Action 565 – Wizard City returns, and Ambush Bug ends

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The third and final Ambush Bug cover on Action Comics 565 (March 1985).

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Superman does get the lead story in this issue, by Mort Todd and Kurt Schaffenberger, which brings back Wizard City, a fabled Kryptonian town that landed intact on Earth in Superboy’s day, long before Kandor was introduced.  I talked about the Wizard City story when I covered Adventure Comics in the previous blog.

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It has been discovered, and looted, by a thief who is making the most of his stolen Kryptonian tech.

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Jimmy Olsen’s father, who was a young man in the original story, returns with information linking the criminal to the site.

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The thief tries to kill Superman with a Kryptonian virus he found in the city, but Superman prevails, and buries Wizard City deep int he Earth’s crust, never to be seen again.

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Ambush Bug has his final outing in Action, with Giffen, Fleming and Oskner finding exactly the right angle for the character.  This story introduces some of the odd supporting cast, as well as the plot device of having Ambush Bug travel from hero to hero during the course of the story.  Peabody, of Peabody, Dicker and Pending, opens the story with his Ambush Bug merchandising plans.

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Lots of great references to old goofy stories as Ambush visits Superman.  All but one of the stories referenced in this bit have already been covered in this blog!

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While the Inarticulate Bug would not return, satirizing Jack Kirby would become a staple of the series.

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Giant penny!

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The Uh-Oh Squad also make their first appearance in this story. The title is clearly a reference to the Suicide Squad, a team which had not had a strip since the early 60s.  The logo chosen is that of The Omega Men.  This always puzzled me, and did Giffen know of Ostrander’s upcoming Suicide Squad book?  Or is it just coincidence?

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And as he visits with Wonder Woman, Ambush Bug demonstrates that there is no lie he will not tell in order to get a hero to guest star in his strip.

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And some nice meta-stuff, just to top it all off.

Such a great strip.  Ambush Bug returns in a couple of months in a DC Comics Presents team-up with Superman against Kobra.

Action 563 – Ambush Bug loses his suit, Mr. Mxyzptlk wants his own show, and Jimmy Olsen becomes a blob

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Three stories in Action 563 (Jan.85), all represented in Giffen’s great cover.

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Ambush Bug gets the lead story in the issue, by Giffen, Fleming and Oskner.  Clark Kent is around, in his newscaster guise, and as Superman, but Bethany Snow, from New Teen Titans, and Jack Ryder, better known as the Creeper, also cameo on the first page.  Ted Baxter, from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, almost appears.

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There is some degree of story in this one, as Ambush Bug works on his suit, and shorts it out.

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A running gag with the character is the origin story, which always involves a person named Irwin Schwab, but otherwise is a pastiche of other heroes origins.  Ambush Bug relates one of these absurd stories to Superman.

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Superman dismisses it as nonsense, until he realizes Ambush Bug just told him his own origin.

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E. Nelson Bridwell, Alex Saviuk and Dennis Jensen give Mr. Mxyzptlk a yen for the boob tube in the second story in this issue.  The 5th dimensional imp demands his own television show on WGBS, but Morgan Edge refuses.

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So Mr. Mxyzptlk wreaks havoc with the networks programming.  Although the story posits this as a bad thing, in reality I’m sure the ratings went through the roof, as everyone tuned in to see what crazy shit was going to happen.  Anyway, Mxyzptlk has made saying, or even writing, his name backwards impossible for anyone.

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Superman gets around this by thinking of his Bizarro World counterpart, Kltpzyxm, when setting up his trap.

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The issue is rounded out by a Jimmy Olsen adventure, by Craig Boldman, Howard Bender and Pablo Marcos.

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Hoping to save a falling girl, Jimmy drinks from an old vial of his Elastic Lad serum, but it turns him into a big blob instead.

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He is unable to speak, and is treated as a monster, even by his date for the evening.  Superman figures out what has happened, the serum was corrupted by a radioactive substance it sat next to.  He cures Jimmy in time to still have his planned date, but the girl’s reaction, freaking out just because he metamorphosized, makes it clear this woman is not up to Jimmy Olsen’s speed.

Action 560 – Superman vs John Doe, and Ambush Bug begins

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Ambush Bug steals the Giffen cover of Action 560 (Oct. 84).  Oh, go and sulk, Superman, it’s not as if you have a minimum of three other cover appearances this month.

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The Superman story in the issue, by Kupperberg, Saviuk and Hunt, is decent enough.  John Doe is a former prisoner, who feels he was wrongfully jailed.  It sounds good at the start, but as the tale progresses we get the sense that he was guilty, and just refuses to take responsibility.

At any rate, with some nifty energy cuffs he is able to destroy the buildings of the justice system, and send Superman flying.

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John Doe has acquired these through the Monitor, one of his many cameos in the months leading up to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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Of course, once Superman is prepared for the effect of the cuffs, he is able to withstand it, and shatter them.

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But who cares about that story?  Ambush Bug steals the interior, the same way he stole the cover, in this story by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming and Bob Oskner.  This is Ambush Bug’s first solo outing, although Superman appears throughout the story, an follows his appearance in Supergirl a few months earlier.

Ambush Bug has opened a detective agency in Metropolis, and Superman comes to check it out, as Clark Kent.

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Ambush Bug sees through that disguise right away, although he doesn’t actually deduce that Clark Kent is his secret identity.  The story strikes just the perfect notes of chaos and comedy.

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And though Superman is the butt of much of the humour, the story is not demeaning to the character at all.

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Ambush Bug makes his first appearance as Ginsu the ninja as this debut installment comes to a close.

Ambush Bug gets two more back-up stories in Action Comics within the year.

Action 539 – Superman looks for time travelling help, and Aquaman heads to Xebel

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Giffen and Giordano execute the cover for Action 539 (Jan. 83), as the split Superman storyline moves towards its climax.

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Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane have Superman look for help in trying to travel back to the middle ages, and re-unite with his lost half.  The Atom accompanies Superman into the Time Pool, but find it mired in a time storm.

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The Flash attempts the journey with Superman on the Cosmic Treadmill, but it shorts out.  Superman is weakening further, and, as Clark Kent, collapses at the office.

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At the same time, hundreds of years earlier (I love writing about about comics), Lord Satanis continues to try to disrupt Syrene’s use of the other Superman, to acquire the power of the runestone.

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Lord Satanis uses his magic to merge with Syrene’s Superman.

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The story ends as Clark is pronounced dead, and the autopsy begins.  Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are all at the hospital, grieving.

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Rozakis, Saviuk and Dan Adkins make things clear in this Aquaman installment. Mera’s body has been taken over by V’lanna, the new queen of Xebel, who brings Aquaman back to her dimension.

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There she and Mera split into themselves again.  V’lanna intends to kill Mera, and keep Aquaman as her consort.

The story concludes in the next issue.

Detective 600 – Blind Justice concludes

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Sam Hamm, Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin bring the Blind Justice storyline to a conclusion in Detective 600 (May 1989).

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Bruce got badly injured in the last issue, and is recuperating.  He finds he needs someone to stand in for him as Batman.  Again, this all sort of foreshadows Knightfall, but without being immersed in the Batman characters.

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So Jeanne’s brother steps in to play Batman, with Bruce using the scientific augmentation thingy to help and advise him.  But this is where the story just goes too far off whack for me, as everyone is lying and scheming and playing each other, and the story just gets far too convoluted.

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Jumping 40 or so pages of plot twists, the climax has the brother, dressed as Batman, fighting the Bonecrusher guy, but both are being manipulated by the silly machine.  Bruce does his best to save the boy, but the fight costs both men their lives.

Jeanne blames Bruce, and leaves.  He is cleared of the spy charges, which are hardly relevant by the time that plot is resolved.  And he tosses out the augmentation device.

Honestly, until I started writing this up I never noticed the similarities with Knightfall.  I simply didn’t enjoy this story, and didn’t think too much of it.  But now I am fairly convinced that this lead to the later, better, tale.

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The issue ends with a number of pin-ups by various artists.  Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Keith Giffen and Mike Zeck, among others, do excellent and moody renderings of Batman, but it’s the final one, by Sergio Aragones, that crowns them.

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