Saturday, October 25, 2008

Starstream #3


No Spoilers this week, as this is an anthology published by Whitman in 1976.  I seem to recall that my original copies were purchased at a discount store (think K-Mart-ish) when I was five or six in a pack of 3. That means to get all four issues of this series, I must've ended up with multiples of something. The premise of the anthology is that there are comic adaptations of science fiction short stories, with an occassional original thrown in. The caliber of artists is quite good for the most part, with only few exceptions. At another time, I may cover the other issues, but I havea reason for getting to this one first.

Again, no spoilers, since for the summary, I'm just going to copy from the contents page.


Born of the Sun (by Jack Williamson, art by Don Heck) One by one, the planetswere disintegrating while a religious fanatic was destroying man's only chance for survival!

A Day in the Life of Dr. Moon (by Harry Dawes, art by Frank Bolle) A fatal disease threatens to wipe out Lunar City unless the carrier can be found and destroyed!

Microcosmic God (by Theodore Sturgeon, art by Adolfo Buylla) Kidder's "people" were a race of super beings created to solve Man's problems - but could they solve the ultimate problem?

Last Voyage of the Albatross (by A.E. VanVogt, art by A. M. Williams) Contact with aliens leaves a trail of mysterious clues in this sea adventure from one of science fiction's most respected old-timers.

The Crystal Singer (by Anne McCaffrey, art by Frank Bolle) A crystal singer could mine a fortune and live almost forever - unless a mach storm robbed her of her sanity!


The gem in this issue is Microcosmic God, a personal favorite of mine in its original prose. It's such a good story, that this adaptation is too short to do it justice. Buylla's art has a very fresh style, even over 30 years later. I would love to see this story adapted with the same quality of artwork in a full-length comic format. Some inventions are dated, but I could see this adapted to present-day very easily, especially given that the core scientific concept at work is evolution.

The first story is not the best of Don Heck's art, and with more and more scientific knowledge, the story comes across as more and more fantasy than science-fiction. The antogonist is rendered in a borderline racist style more at home in the 1940s rather than the 1970s.

The second story finds its place in an anthology, and artwork by Frank Bolle doesn't hurt it, but in light of modern research on low gravity and it's effect on human physiology, the story becomes somewhat simplified.

The fourth story is adequate, and the only thing hurting the artowrk are the flat colors. A little more rendering on this exquisitely naturalistic artwork would be fantastic. It's a sad victim of the tlimitations of the time.

The final story is a very satisfying ending to the anthology. Frank Bolle's artwork is great here, and reminds me very much of the Supergirl stories that first drew him to my attention. His women in general are beautiful, and the lead character is no exception. The gem to the story is its simplicity, and maybe that's why Bolle's artwork works so well for it. He details exactly what is needed for the scene and nothing more. Technology is believable, but not so much that it distracts from the story.


To my knowledge, this comic has not been reprinted anywhere, but it would not surprise me to find out that and individual story or two has been reprinted, especially somewhere in the boom of the 1990s. As far as finding it, good luck, you can find issues for sale online, but beware of the condition, I've never seen a well-preserved copy. It seems that Whitman used very bad newsprint for this series. A Near-Mint copy lists at for $12.00, but I'd be surprised if you couldn't trip over a copy for a little bit of nothing. If you come across it in a bargain box at a convention, snatch it up.

UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Garrison to let me know that Starstream had been collected , more or less, under the title Questar. You can get it on Amazon. Garrison also let me know that he got all 4 issues for 99 cents each on eBay so he could scan them. Apparently, they are easilly attainable for a decent price.

FINAL RATING: 7 (out of 10)

It's an anthology and not everything is a gem. The good stuff is really good, but the bad stuff is just distracting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Minimum Wage #2


This is a "Mature Readers" title, so any of you that are younger shouldn't be able to buy this. Sometimes, you'll find this titled listed as "adult," but this particular issue is labeled as "Mature Readers." In the case of this issue, that means profanity, nudity and adult situations. I keep my copies of Minimum Wage on a spinner rack I traded a drawing for about ten years ago.  As always, at least until I can get around to making a banner that says it, spoilers abound.


     Rob is moving out of his apartment into a new place that he'll share with his girlfriend, Sylvia. His roommate Jack isn't helping, possibly out of some passive-agressive resentment of Rob's leaving. Rob's annoying friend Matt shows up to pick through Rob's collection of comics and videos and be generally loud and annoying.
     At the new apartment, Sylvia arrives with one of her brothers, Urbano and his wife, who are helping her move her things. They discover that the super's wife, Edna inhabits the apartment that smells like cat urine and she is quite possibly more annoying than Matt. The move gets done somehow, and Rob and Sylvia head off on vacation to the beach with Urbano, his wife and their teenage son Josh.
     Rob suspects that Josh is spying on him and Sylvia getting it on in their room, and his suspicions are only strengthened by Josh's over eager attention of Sylvia and her thong bikini at the beach the next day, including a hilarious moment where Sylvia forgets that her bikini top is undone while she's sunbathing.

     Rob and Sylvia get some quality time and Rob confirms his suspicions before they return to the city and the apartment full of boxes that they have waiting for them.


     This is one the comics that pulled me to the alternative comics genre. The characterization is dead on and each of the characters that Fingerman highlights is the type of character that everyone knows. Fingerman's use of profanity and adult situations can be argued based on your views of the comics medium, but this story is meant to be enjoyed by adult readers and those readers that it's intended for can very much identify with the situations Fingerman puts his characters in. The beach scene can hardly be depicted without nudity and the thought of being spied on cannot be accurately conveyed without the motives behind that spying or the actions being spied on. Fingerman's art can hardly be described as naturalistic, but all characters are definitive, easily recognizable, and capable of conveying emotion and "acting" capably, which is all anyone can really ask of a comic that depicts "real life."


     This comic has been collected in Minimum Wage Book Two, still available from Fantagraphics. Fingerman retooled it a little for his graphic novel, Beg The Question, also still available from Fantagraphics. As far as finding the individual issue goes, it may be a bit of a challenge, given its relatively low print run. If you do find it in a back issue bin, I would caution against paying more than three bucks for it, since Fingerman's comic output hasn't been too prevalent lately, but does show promise, judging by his blog, which you can see a link for over on the side with the other blogs that I watch.

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10)

     This would be higher except that I compare it to the reworking he did for Beg the Question. I'd definitely recommend buying that in addition to tracking down the individual issue.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Legion of Super-Heroes #305

Hey! Let's try something new! I'm going into my collection and pulling an older comic book out and giving it a good review. I've set up a blogger account to give them a little place of their own, but if you want to read everything that I write, you can go here. Also, there will be spoilers, as I will give a synopsis of the issue. That being said, here we go:

November 1983

     The initial thought to start off this new blog feature was going to be the first issue of Legion of Super-Heroes that got me hooked on the Legion, but I saw this issue sitting behind it, and I have fond memories of how it affected my twelve year-old brain. So I pull this out, pop the tape on the bag. My copy has seen some abuse and has, at some point, been bent diagonally (Hint: I need a new near-mint copy) so I don't mind reading while eating half of a leftover burger. Keep in mind that when I first read this, I had no idea who these people were for the most part. I'd only read the previous issue that had been centered on the Legion Academy and the main characters from this story showed up in one page of that story.


     A spaceship arrives in orbit around the planet Imsk, which a convenient caption tells us that its inhabitants have the ability to shrink and it's threatened repeatedly to secede from the United Planets. Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy and Element Lad summon Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet (who is from Insk) to the bridge and reveal that their mission was a ruse as they ambush the pair and spray Violet with a chemical that cancels the shape-changing power of Durlans. It shouldn't affect Violet since she isn't a Durlan, but she tearfully admits that she is a Durlan, and therefore not Shrinking Violet.
     Back at Legion HQ on Earth, Wildfire is sparring, rather roughly and effectively with three other male Legionnaires, while Phantom Girl and Shady (Shadow Lass) trade catty comments about Wildfire's failed relationship with Dawnstar and team Leader Dream Girl's relationship with Star Boy, right to his face.
     We return to Imsk where Brainiac 5 is using a "psych-probe" on the sedated fake Violet reveals that she is a Durlan actress named Yera who was hired to impersonate Violet by three Imskians who claimed that Violet waswith them while she was sick. She took the job to prove that she's a real actress with talents beyond shapeshifting. Element Lad tries to apologize to Colossal Boy afterwards, saying that they felt it was necessary to keep in the dark as to not tip off Yera. Colossal Boy understands, but still pops Element Lad in the nose for making him "the last to know."
     Elsewhere, on a planet that looks medieval, a man with long flowing red hair brushes by an old man into a village which he promptly destroys with a flash of fire and heat, just as a warning of who he represents.
     On Imsk, Shrinking Violet is visiting the populace as a returning hero, and is secretly approached by an Imskian woman named Marlu who chastises Yera for coming to Imsk, and takes her to meet the others through a series of tubes that the Legionnaires and Science Police can't follow. Marlu takes Yera to Liberation Headquarters, which looks to be better organized than anyone suspected.They capture Yera and take her to the three men that hired her whio reveal that the real Shrinking Violet has been kidnapped and tortured to steal Legion and UP secrets from her brain.
     Cut to Starhaven, near the galactic core, Dawnstar takes part in a private ceremony to start her search for a soul-mate and flies off, crying over having to lose Wildfire's love.
     Back on Imsk what we thought was Yera turns out to be Chameleon Boy who breaks free of the restraints and leads the Legion to the Liberation Headquarters, where they make short work of the separatists, thanks to Colossal Boy's rage and Brainiac neutralizing the leaders, size changing powers to capture them. The Science Police mop up and take the rescued and medically critical Shrinking Violet who'll have months of recovery.
     In an epilogue, Colossal Boy confronts a recovering Yera and realizes that he fell in love with Yera, not Violet and decides to honor and continue their marriage.


     The inking is really great on this, with Kurt Schaffenberger providing a different inking style that really accentuates the mood of the various scenes, especially the artificial feel of the Legion cruiser, and the moodiness of the bowels of the Liberation Headquarters. His use of Duoshading was really well-done, although at the time, when comparing against other mainstream comics of the time, probably looked a little distracting at the time.
     The story is excellent, with Paul Levitz really able to highlight Colossal Boy emotionally in a way that I can't recall any subsequent writer being able to pull off. He appears as a real person here, although the ending is a bit convenient, as he very easily accepts Yera for who she is. His writing of Shadow Lass and Phantom Girl really made me despise them as being the equivalent of the popular girls in school who are real bitchy because they can be. The fact that these two relatively weak powered heroes are dating the most powerful guys on the team just adds to that characterization.
     Keith Giffen's art style had yet to evolve into the style that came from his emulation of Jose Munoz, and his artwork is very reminiscent of Wally Wood here, but with more attention to detail, as this was the era at DC of George Perez, which permeated a lot of art at that time. It works really well here. I might even put this as the naturalistic high point of his Legion run.

     This issue has yet to be collected in any trade paperback. Fortunately, at this point, Legion was a very well-selling title for DC and it should be easy to find at a large convention or a shop with an extensive back-issue collection that isn't flooded with 90s glut comics. It should be available for very litle cash. has this listed for $3.00, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it in dollar bins or cheaper.

FINAL RATING: 8 (out of a possible 10)