Suspended Animation

Michael Vance   Mark Allen   Michael Vance Books
The longest-running comics review column in America perhaps the World!

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Forbidden Adventures
The History of The American Comics Group

      The premiere and most extensive history of one comic book publisher ever written, reflecting the reading habits of millions of people of all ages during the seminal Golden and Silver Ages of Comics, 1938 to 1970. This textbook answers several long-standing questions among historians about the relationship of ACG and the largest publisher of comic books at that time, DC. Forbidden Adventures also dispels some long lived myths about EC Comics and their (in)famous terror titles, while shedding light on the early history of the most popular art form in the world.

      As an independent agent, the Sangor Shop began producing comic book material for publishers in 1941 and had grown into ACG by 1946. Never the largest publisher, ACG was nevertheless a microcosm of the industry, publishing titles in every major comics genre.

      During the Sangor period, many famous characters were created including “The Black Terror,” “Pyroman,” “The Fighting Yank,” and “Supermouse.” "Herbie," “Forbidden Worlds," and "Adventures Into The Unknown" (the first horror comic) are the best remembered ACG titles.

      Many major talents germinated at Sangor and ACG. Kin Platt wrote mystery novels, Norman Fruman wrote a book on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Harry Lazarus holds many patents and illustrates children's books. Everett Raymond Kinstler’s portraits of American presidents hang in the White House. Hy Eisman writes and draws "The Katzenjammer Kids" and "Popeye.”

      This history surveys the Sangor Shop and ACG, using many sources, exclusive interviews, and a wealth of information available in the comics themselves. It includes many capsule story summaries from selected titles. Much of editor Hughes' philosophy of writing and producing comics is explored as well as the entire process involved in creating a comic book.

      The book is published by Greenwood Publishing Group and should be available in your local library. If they don’t have it ask them to order a copy.

      How do I know so much about Forbidden Adventures? I wrote it.

Son of Superman

      Published by D.C. Comics in bookshelf format at 96 pages, priced at $14.95.

      I love “Elseworlds” tales. Just like Marvel Comic’s What If…? and the “imaginary tales” of D.C. Comics, they give creators a free hand with some of the most interesting and entertaining fictional characters around today. The latest "Elseworlds" tale is, in my opinion, one of the finest yet.

      Jon Kent is the son of Clark Kent, aka Superman. His powers brought to the surface by an incredibly powerful solar flare, he decides to take up the mantle as the new Superman. Joining the terrorist organization known as "The Supermen", led by Pete and Lana Ross, he takes up their cause of stopping a war of "economic segregation" being waged by the U.S. government.

      Raiding a secret instillation owned by Lex Luthor, Jon and the Supermen discover the original Superman in suspended animation. Jon's discovery of his father, assumed dead, coupled with his association with terrorists, puts him at odds with the government-funded and military garbed team, the Justice League of America.

      This is a rapidly paced, highly entertaining story, even for an "Elseworlds” edition. Characterization, however, is where it rides the highest. Very high marks go to writers Howard Chaykin and David Tischman. They have created a son of Superman who is as believable as a teenage kid looking to score a date, and as a fledgling superhero seeking to fill his father's boots. Equally as entertaining is this story’s "dysfunctional family" of JLA members. whose attitudes range from idealistic to indifferent, to downright treasonous.

      I found the actions and reactions of the JLA members to the events around them fascinating. This was a very fresh take on the characters.

      The artwork is by J.H. Williams III, one of the most talented young artists in comics today. He has a style that is a bit dark and moody, and was perfect for this story. His work is inked by Mick Gray. Keep an eye on them. MN

Trouble Magnet

      Published by DC Comics, this four issue miniseries runs 22 pages at $2.50 each.

      Unfortunately, there is very little SF published in comics today that is worth the paper it's printed on. That's why DC's recently released Trouble Magnet by Ryder Windham and Kilian Plunkett, is a breath of fresh air.

      Whitlock is a member of a group called the Trouble Shooters, a science research team and group of adventurers. He is also a robot, and has a very serious problem; his memory bank (stored apart from him) has developed an identity of its own, along with a decidedly nasty habit of causing mayhem. The story deals with Whitlock's attempt to stop his memory bank, regain his memories, and deal with the physical and emotional damage done to those around him as a result of its running amok.

      This book corners the market on imagination, and an honest attempt to do nothing more than entertain the reader. And it succeeds. There are no lags or "dry spots" in the story; the reader is not bored with too much dialogue. At the same time, there is no danger of overdosing on action, as it is all relevant and well-positioned in the storyline. The book is well-balanced, and a joy to read from start to finish.

      Creative talents include Ryder Windham, writer, and artist Kilian Plunkett. As I have already praised Windham's handling of the story, I will move on to Plunkett’s artwork, which is amazing in its own right.

      Plunkett is wonderfully adept at "tech” art (robots, weaponry, space- ships, etc), and also has a superior grasp of human form and expression comparable to the likes of Kevin Maguire and Arthur Adams. On fact, Adams fans should check Plunkett out; it almost seems as if one of them is influencing the other.) There is never doubt about what one of his characters is feeling; you just have to look at their faces.

      From every angle, Trouble Magnet is a great investment in entertainment. MN


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