Take, for instance, what the fine folks at Fawcett did back in 1946, when they took a story that, by itself, was nothing special, and then skewed it just far enough that it's one of the most mind-boggling comics I've ever read.
I think I've made it pretty clear over the past few years that I'm something of a connoisseur of strange comic book stories. I love comics where things get weird with that sort of cheerful rejection of all logic, where things don't quite add up, but the truth is, I sometimes get to a point where I think I've seen it all. I start to get jaded, and think that nothing can ever match the weirdness that I've already seen. But every time, I run across a story that makes me realize that in all my years, I've only hit the tip of the iceberg of bizarre stories. And it usually happens when I'm reading a Bob Haney comic.
Case in point: Bob Haney and Jim Aparo's "How To Make A Super-Hero," where the World's Greatest Detective decides it would be a good idea to let a homeless Plastic Man fill in for him while he's out of Gotham City, and guess what? It goes horribly wrong.
If you've been following along with ComicsAlliance's weekly X-Men Episode Guide, you've probably noticed that I have become utterly fascinated with that scumbag Gambit. That guy is just so alarmingly, hilariously sketchy -- especially for a show I watched when I was ten -- that I am in danger of becoming obsessed with him on a level that I don't think anyone has experienced since the heyday of '90s erotic fan-fiction.
So obsessed, in fact, that I decided this week to go back and check out his first couple of appearances to see just where this weirdo came from, and this... this may have been a mistake. I have been reading comics for over a quarter of a century now, and Uncanny X-Men #267 might be the single most incomprehensible superhero story I have ever read.
In this week's installment of the X-Men episode guide, I mentioned that there was a comic from the early '80s where Power Man and Iron Fist, Marvel's mismatched mercenary superheroes, battled against a slightly off-model version of Doctor Who's Daleks. It's one of my favorite old-school oddities, but it occurs to me that some of you might not know about this, and that is a shame. I can't imagine going through life not knowing about it. It's just not right, which is why I thought I'd step in and take everyone for a trip into the back issue bin to talk about how Luke and the Fist battled against the Dreadlox and then punched them so hard they were never seen again.
This is, and I cannot stress this enough, a thing that actually happened, and the amazing part is that it's actually even weirder than it sounds.
There are very few things I love in this world more than a story where a superhero teams up with Santa Claus to save Christmas. I mean, I love Christmas comics in general, but the ones where the Jolly Old Saint himself shows up are always just a little bit more special, especially when the hero in question is Superman. If I was in charge, you'd see Santa Claus literally every time there was a comic set at the Fortress of Solitude, because really, the North Pole has exactly three residents, and who else are they going to hang out with? But I digress.
My point is, Superman/Santa Claus team-ups are great, even when they're weird -- and folks, they do get weird. Take, for example, one of Superman's earliest team-ups with St. Nicholas, wherein they have to battle against the evil machinations of a dude who hates Christmas so much that he makes Santa Claus even fatter than he already was, and Superman has to help him lose weight.
A couple weeks ago when I was writing about why the Penguin has never been one of my favorite Batman villains, I mentioned one of my earliest favorite comics: An issue of The Brave and the Bold that was nominally a Penguin story, but was more focused on the Joker. The main point then was that the Penguin was kind of a bit player even in one of his own stories, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that there might be some subtle nuances to this story that would be worth a closer examination.
There aren't. I mean, it's a mid-80s issue of Brave and the Bold, and those things are about as subtle as a brick upside the head. But it is a pretty great issue, and as an added bonus, it features a handy guide to everything you should not do if you're running a business in Gotham City.
After a long month of obsessing over various spooks, ghouls and haints, it is finally Halloweek -- which basically means that next Monday, I start thinking about Christmas. But before I do, I wanted to make sure that I gave you a glimpse of the ultimate in harrowing horror. A story designed to chill you to the bone, to bring the fear of the dark back into your life, to remind you that there are things out there, unknowable and unstoppable, waiting for you. It would have to be a story with not one monster, not two, not even three, but five unstoppable terrors that could fill even the world's mightiest mortal with fear.
And, you know, it would also be nice if at least one of those monsters got punched in the face with a windmill while we were at it. Fortunately, I found one that fits the bill, just in time for our final trick-or-treat!
I know that we all love the Great Pumpkin, but if you ask me, Dracula is the Santa Claus of Halloween. I don't know what your family traditions are, but I always like to imagine the Lord of the Undead flying through the night of October 31, dragging bad children off to the depths of Castlevania and bringing the good children feasts of blood. It's... probably a good thing that I don't have children of my own.
Anyway, the point is that at this time of year, I'm even more into Dracula than usual, and I spend a pretty good amount of time diving back into comics featuring the King of All Vampires and looking for the best stories -- and there aren't a whole lot better than "Night of the Blood-Stalker."
For eleven months out of the year, I can take or leave horror comics. Unless it's something exceptional like Hellboy or Tomb of Dracula, they don't tend to be things that I actively seek out, Until, that is, September becomes October and the scent of pumpkin spiced coffee is on the air, at which time I promptly start scrambling like a lunatic to find as many comics about ghosts, mummies and miscellaneous tentacled horrors that I can fit into the next 31 days.
Sometimes, every now and then, that search through quarter bins brings me something amazing, like a comic where creators like Dwayne McDuffie, Ernie Colon and Gil Kane told the story of a war raging in Hell itself between every single monster from the Lord of the Vampires to Baba Yaga over who would have the right to destroy humankind once and for all. And sometimes, that story turns out to be the comic book version of Monster In My Pocket.
When you consider that I'm spending a good portion of every week recapping the '90s X-Men cartoon, you might think that I'd have my fill of '90s mutant nostalgia, but that is definitely not the case. If anything, going back through that show has made me want to go back and revisit that stuff even more. That's why I went out a few days ago and grabbed one of the most treasured artifacts of my childhood: the four-part X-Men Collector's Edition comics released in 1993 and sold at Pizza Hut.
Seriously, you guys. There was a time in this country when you could go out and get a pizza and comic books about the X-Men jacking into cyberspace in the same building. If we want to make America great again, I suggest we start there.
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