Thursday, July 19, 2018

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE 71 (The Question)



Welcome back, Fellow Questers!

    I am so glad to be able to join you once more in the continuation of our celebration of the life of a creative who would become a key contributor to the birth of the Marvel Universe as we know it; a man who would also leave an indelible mark on the DCU, and the entire comics industry.

   Of course, I'm talking about the gone, but never-to-be-forgotten, Steve Ditko, may he rest in peace.

   A few days back, we studied the story of Mr. A, who was probably Steve Ditko's most personal creation. Today, we consider Mr. A again, sort of, but not really. Just hang loose; all will be explained as we seek to find answers by exploring...



THE QUESTION!!!

   Above, is my copy of Blue Beetle, vol 5, #1 published by Charlton Comics in June of 1967. This comic marks the first time that Ted Kord, Blue Beetle II, got his own title, but more importantly (at least to me anyhow), it is the comic in which Steve Ditko's faceless superhero, The Question, made his explosive debut!! Blue Beetle II, The Question, and Mr. A all come from the fertile mind of Steve Ditko!

   Not to worry - there will be more to come on Blue Beetle II later. I'm a man of my word. :-)

   Now, the obvious QUESTION (See what I did there?) is: Which came first, The Question or the very similar Mr. A? My answer is not going to satisfy you: I just am not sure. I read part of an interview in which it seems that Ditko implied that Mr. A came first, and that The Question was created solely out of the necessity for a companion feature for Blue Beetle in his new comicbook series:

W
hen Blue Beetle got his own magazine, they needed a companion feature for it. I didn't want to [use] Mr. A, because I didn't think the Code would let me do the type of stories I wanted to do, so I worked up the Question, using the basic idea of a man who was motivated by basic black & white principles. Where other "heroes" powers are based on some accidental super element, The Question and Mr A's "power" is deliberately knowing what is right and acting accordingly. But it is one of choice. Of choosing to know what is right and choosing to act on that knowledge in all his thoughts and actions with everyone he deals with. No conflict or contradiction in his behavior in either identity. He isn't afraid to know or refuse to act on what is right no matter in what situation he finds himself.

Where other heroes choose to be self-made neurotics, the Question and Mr. A choose to be psychologically and intellectually healthy. It's a choice everyone has to make.
(Source: The Vic Sage Site)   

    This quote from Ditko himself, leads me to believe that Mr. A was conceptualized, and realized before The Question. However, other comics scholars like the late, great Don Markstein, and Mr. Steve Replogle (thanks for your comments!), believe that it was indeed The Question that came first. Others still, like Thom Young over at comicsbulletin.com, believe that they were possibly created with some semblance of simultaneity. But which appeared in print first? That should be a question that is easy to answer...But, no. Since witzend #3 has no publication month, it's really hard to actually pin down which character appeared in print first without access to some other firsthand sources. But as to which character inspired the creation of the other, I do believe that Steve Ditko's above quote gives us some insight to the answer - and to me, that answer seems to be Mr. A. 

   The Question is Vic Sage, an incorruptible TV reporter in the fictional Hub City. Vic is secretly the vigilante known as...The Question! He is out for justice, armed only with his keen detective skills (honed by years as a journalist), his fists, and a faceless mask made of a new material material called pseuododerm, an artificial skin pioneered by Vic's friend, accomplice, and mentor, Aristotle "Tot" Rodor. The pseudoderm is donned by Sage whenever it's crime-smashing time. It is activated by a special gas, also invented by Tot, that cements the pseudoderm to Vic's skin, and reacts to chemicals that he has sprayed on his hair and clothing to give him a totally new identity as The Question! 


   In his first adventure, The Question is hot on the trail of a crime-boss named Lou Dicer. You can read it HERE. The Question, like Ditko implied, is a Comics-Code-acceptable version of Mr. A - he's still an embodiment of Ayn Rand's Objectivism, yet a bit watered down so as not to ruffle the feathers of the Comics Code Authority. The Question appeared in all five issues of Blue Beetle, vol 5, and in the cool Charlton one-shot, Mysterious Suspense, which was the first comic totally dedicated to The Question. Soon after, Charlton's action hero line went the way of the dinosaurs, and it seemed that The Question was going too. But at least Ditko could still give voice to his philosophy via Mr. A in Wally Wood's witzend. Eventually, DC would end up with many of Charlton's action heroes (you can read more on the whys of that HERE), but The Question wouldn't reappear, with several other Charlton heroes, until 1985 in issue #6 of Marv Wolfman's and George PĂ©rez's SWEEPING EPIC, Crisis on Infinite Earths, a series which this humble fan refers to as "the SINGLE GREATEST event comic in history." Seen as denizens and heroes of Earth Four, The Question, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and other Charlton heroes are brought into the DCU in Wolfman's and Perez's chronicle of the desperate fight to save the multiverse from the Anti-Monitor. 

   

(You can read the entire series HERE - if you haven't, you SHOULD)

    Alan Moore wanted to use The Question, and others of the Charlton action line for his legendary 1986 series, The Watchmen. Moore wanted to kill the character off (Moore deeply disliked Mr. A, and The Question), but DC had future plans for him, and the other Charlton heroes DC owned. So, Moore was forced to create new characters, thus The Question spawned Rorschach. 


Ironically, in a classic story in The Question, vol 1, #17, we find out exactly what The Question thinks of Rorschach: HE SUCKS. LOL.


(Source: Revolution Science-Fiction)

You can read a great article by Jayme Blaschke on it HERE, or read issue #17 for yourself, HERE.

   Soon, DC's plans for The Question materialized. They put him back in publication in his very own series, for the very first time. So, in February of 1987, The Question, vol 1, kicked off with a POWERFUL first issue:



   The chosen scribe was comics veteran, Dennis "Denny" O'Neal, and the interior artist was one of the best of the age, the VERY unsung penciler, Denys Cowan - and if you know comics, you'll instantly recognize that cover as the work of the one-and-only Bill Sienkiewicz. O'Neal, who did not share Ditko's views, decided that the best thing to do was to give the character something like a soft reboot...by KILLING him off in the first issue!!! The Question is soundly beaten by one of DC's deadliest fighters, Lady Shiva (hired by Vic Sage's enemy, Rev. Hatch), and handed over to two henchmen to be viciously pummeled to a pulp, and finally shot in the heat and dumped in a river. 

  Yeah. Talk about a bad day. 

   Luckily, Shiva saves The Question out of respect for him, and delivers him to Richard Dragon, another of DC's greatest fighters, who hones Sage's physical prowess, combat skills, and most importantly, his new Zen-like philosophy that moves him away from Diko's Objectivist point-of-view. O'Neal knew that only Ditko could write The Question in the Objectivist way, the way in which he was conceived, so O'Neal killed and resurrected the character to take him in an entirely new direction. The series ran for  37 issues, and 2 Annuals, and then spawned a follow-on series, The Question Quarterly. As much as I love Ditko, I have to admit that this volume of The Question hangs in my mind as a truly legendary series - so much so, that I would, without hesitation, recognize it as one of the best series of the 80s, and one of my favorites of all time. It is one of the few titles of which I own a COMPLETE run (don't judge me - I am not a completist):






(The Question vol 1, issues 2 through 6, from my collection)

    You can read the series HERE. I hope you read it, enjoy it, and come back and let me know what you think about it. 

    In 2007's series, 52, things went badly for Ditko's creations. The Blue Beetle was murdered, and The Question died of lung cancer, leaving his protege, Renee Montoya, to be the new Question.


   In 2011, once again, The Question was retconned in The New 52, seen as one of several beings punished on The Rock of Eternity for unrevealed sins. Made to forget his face and identity, he is supernaturally forced to seek out his own identity, and solve conspiracies and crimes:


The Trinity of Sin (The Phantom Stranger, Pandora, and The Question)

   As of now, Vic Sage has been retconned to have no ties to The Question. He was a high-level government agent over Task Force X (Suicide Squad) until he screwed up. Then he went rogue, and tried to take down Amanda Waller. You can guess where that got him.


Needless to say, this iteration on Vic Sage is a real head-scratcher. Nope. I don't like it.

    The Question, and Mr. A: two very similar characters churned from the same feverishly inventive mind. Whether you dig The Question or Mr. A more probably has to do with your own personal beliefs and worldview; however, the fact is that both of these characters are part of a great legacy. Both reflect the complex life philosophy, thought processes, and moral beliefs of a singular creative icon in varying degrees of intensity. The Question was created with more of an intent to be accepted by the comics mainstream - an audience that Ditko knew wouldn't swallow Mr. A's bitter pills of his treasured, hardline philosophy. And he was right. The Question has a rather large following, especially after he debuted on The WB's smash series, Justice League Unlimited, quickly becoming a fast favorite:



But Mr. A? He is still only known to hardcore Ditko fans, comics enthusiasts with a love for comics history, and probably, followers of Objectivism. Maybe Mr. A will find a wider audience someday - I can't say, but The Question has, with a great bit of dilution, begun to bridge the wide gap between prevailing worldviews, and Rand's philosophy. Like Mary Poppins said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." I have been taking this medicine happily for many years: The Question is one of my favorite Ditko creations, and one of my favorite superheroes. 

  Thank you for reading!

IN LOVING MEMORY OF STEVE DITKO (1927-2018)


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Saturday, July 14, 2018

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #70 (Mr. A)

Welcome back, Fellow Questers!

    It's your favorite comicbook fan, gearing up once again to give you all that comicbook knowledge that you can't get in any college! We're returning to our series, paying homage to the gone, but never forgotten, Sturdy Steve Ditko!!

   Today, we will talk about what just may be Steve Ditko's most-beloved, most deeply personal creation:



MR. A!!!

    Mr. A was born out of Steve Ditko's passionate support for Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, which puts forth that reality exists independently of individual consciousness, and therefore, it exists independently of individual power (since you can't "think" reality away, or cause it to not exist, simply by willpower in the focused belief that reality does not exist). Rand believed that reality can only come to be known through our human powers of perception, and inductive logic, and that everything has a specific nature or identity, which she demonstrated in her writings as "A is A". This harkened back to the law of identity, first touched on by Socrates (Plato's dialogue, Theaetetus,), and later expounded upon by Aristotle (Prior Analytics, Book II). Hence, the name, "Mr. A," was inspired by both Ayn Rand's writings, which were inspired by Aristotle's famous proof in Prior Analytics. 

   Steve Ditko was so enamored with Rand's philosophy that it captured his fertile imagination, and from that imagination sprung, Mr. A, a new superhero that was ruthless with criminals, and heavy with his inflexible philosophy of black and white morality. And it all began here:



   This is my copy of Wally Wood's witzend #3, published in 1967. In a story entitled, "Mr. A," in which a young, violent ne'er-do-well comes face to face with the stark reality of justice incarnate in the form of Mr. A, a relentless, white-suited nightmare with a steel mask and steel gloves. Don't let the "comic" in comicbook story, fool you - in this story, written, penciled and inked by Ditko himself, it is ALL business with a deadly serious message inundated in Objectivism and a stern no-tolerance for crime/evil sentiment. You can read it HERE.

   Folks, this AIN'T The Amazing Spider-Man. 

   Mr. A is Rex Graine, a hard-edged, absolutely incorruptible reporter for a newspaper called The Daily Crusader. Even though no origin story ever appears for Mr. A, it makes sense that a guy like Graine couldn't just sit around and do nothing while his city sinks into corruption. Graine dons a white suit, steel gloves, and a steel mask, and pummels crime into submission with his fists, and long, sermon-like speeches on morality and justice. And it's not just the criminals that should be fearful; Mr. A doles out tough love to those with their heads in the sand, those who are indecisive, and those who are unknowing enablers to the criminal hordes descending on his city. It's no wonder that Mr. A never found a really wide audience in the civil unrest and love-fest of the 60s and the good-time chasing of the 70s - a hero so severe was probably just too unpersonable and unrelatable to the comics readers of the time, despite the absolutely INCREDIBLE artwork that Ditko poured onto the pages:




            Isn't that art GORGEOUS? Mr. A continued to appear in witzend and other fanzines until 1973 when this happened:


Mr. A #1 (front cover)


Mr. A #1 (back cover)

   Above, you can see both the front and back covers to Mr. A #1, published in 1973 by Comic Art Publishers. The series lasted two issues. The first issue featured an all-new story entitled, "The Right To Kill," and several reprints from fanzines. The second, which I don't have, issue featured only all-new material. After that, Mr. A was relegated to a few reprints in the 80s, a couple of false starts in the 90s (stories advertised, but never materialized), until the 2000s, when Ditko teamed up with a publisher named Robin Snyder in Bellingham, Washington, to create a few new stories backed up with old reprints. 

   Mr. A would go on to inspire the creation of The Question, his comics-code compatible doppelganger, Alan Moore's Rorschach of The Watchmen (sources say that Alan Moore REALLY disliked Mr. A), and even a character named "Q" in the videogame, Street Fighter III. 


   While Mr. A is neither as well-known nor well-beloved as other Ditko creations, he stands alone as the creation that probably most gives us insight into the inner workings, beliefs, and motivations of the brilliant mind of the enigmatic recluse that gave us Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Question, and countless other characters in universes that caused our imaginations to take flight. And the art was simply out of this world!! One could imagine that if Steve Ditko could have taken on the identity any of his creations come-to-life, Mr. A would have been his chosen alter-ego. That alone, in my mind, probably makes Mr. A one of Ditko's most important creations, whether I agree with his philosophy or not. For Steve Ditko, A was indeed A...Mr. A!!

IIN LOVING MEMORY OF STEVE DITKO (1927-2018)


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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

CBCS Reveal EPISODE 6 (John Stewart)



Salutations, FELLOW QUESTERS!!


     It's your favorite comics fan, back again to share the gems of my collection with you, and explore ALL that comic-book knowledge that you can't get in ANY college!

    Thank you all so much for riding with me as we pay our respects to Steve Ditko, our fallen comics legend; however, today, we are going to deviate just a little and get back to my CBCS Reveals series - a series which shares with you all the results of my very first foray into having my comics graded with CBCS. Today...

It's all about my favorite Green Lantern, the preternatural powerhouse...John Stewart!!

     Green Lantern John Stewart first appeared in Green Lantern vol 2, #87, as a replacement for Hal Jordan's back-up, Guy Gardner, after Gardner suffers a severe injury (like being nearly smooshed by a bus) while trying to save a child. Jordan doesn't initially think Stewart's a good choice when he finds Stewart living in an extremely impoverished area, standing up to a police officer who was abusing his authority (which is ironic because Hal isn't exactly a rule-follower himself). But the Guardian of the Universe who helped to select John pushes Hal Jordan to take Stewart under his wing. Stewart proves to be a quick study, mastering energy projection, and flight in record time, and assisting Hal in saving innocent lives from a runaway fuel truck. John and Hal save innocents, but Hal notes that John goes out of his way to embarrass a racist senator during his heroics. Hal has heated words with John, and to teach John a lesson, Hal assigns him to protect the senator. When there is an attempt by a Black man to assassinate the senator, Hal is baffled as John refuses to chase the killer...But what Hal doesn't know is that John has already seen the assassin...And another one who is just about to brutally murder a police officer! As Hal chases the assassin, John saves the police officer. Hal is livid with John, but John explains that he had spotted both the would-be assassin trying to "kill" the senator and the second man armed with a machine gun ready to burn down every police officer in sight! Having seen the would-be killer earlier with the senator, John deduced senator's malicious plan to make it seem like the Black People of the city were on a murderous rampage which would amp up his racist support-base and give him a better shot at the presidency. John knew the assassin's gun was full of blanks, and that the man with the machine gun was the one to watch. Hal is EXTREMELY impressed with John, even though he admits that he doesn't much dig John's style. You can read it for yourself, HERE

   Don't be surprised that a story this poignant could be found in a Green Lantern comic of the early 70s. The 60s and 70s were times of high civil unrest and scandalous revelations. Comics are dynamic literature in that they constantly change, even using the same characters, to reflect the hopes, fears, frustrations, social injustices, and trends of the time in which they were written. That's part of why I love comics, and what continues to make comics relevant and so darn awesome. In fact, here's where GL got REAL politically charged:



   If you are a comics fan who has been around for awhile, a comics enthusiast, or a comics historian, you already know this book and its importance as a key issue that helped change the comics game forever.  Above, is my very own copy of Green Lantern vol 2, #76, published by DC Comics in 1970, done by comics greats, Dennis O'Neil (writer), and Neal Adams (artist). In this comic, Green Lantern Hal Jordan teams up with the anti-establishment people's hero, Green Arrow, but not before they have a heated discussion on the way Green Lantern goes about doing his job, missing out on just who the real victims might be. Then there's this ICONIC page:


    Ouch! That exchange cut GL to the core and helped to convince him that there was a whole other way of seeing things, which ultimately cemented the bond between Hal and Ollie: The Hard-Traveling Heroes. Gotta love it. You can read it HERE.

   But I digress. Let's get back to John Stewart.

   John Stewart is definitely my favorite Green Lantern. Have you ever seen Warner Bros' animated masterpieces, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited? You know, the shows that were arguably the BEST animated superhero shows ever to hit television? Yep. Those. Wasn't Stewart just totally amazing in those shows? I thought so, and I loved them. He was the Green Lantern of my son's generation. As a former Marine, John Stewart is disciplined, serious, morally-driven, justice-centered, focused, follows orders, practical, and one of the most formidable, tactical, and dangerous members of The Green Lantern Corps - he is a natural, battle-tested warrior and leader, even without the ring. And as an architect, John's constructs are some of the most practical, well-planned, and powerful. As far as I know, he is the ONLY Green Lantern whose willpower EXCEEDED the capabilities of the ring!


  WOW!! That is some serious badassery, right there, hoss. 

  Without a doubt, John Stewart is awesome. I am so proud to have his first appearance, now graded and slabbed by CBCS!! So, without further ado...


   Here it is! My newly-slabbed copy of Green Lantern vol 2, #87, featuring the very first appearance of John Stewart! Once again, the dynamic duo of Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams knocked this comic out of the park in both the storytelling and the penciling! I had it graded at a solid 8.0, but those white covers are hard to protect - CBCS graded it at 7.0. But it's all good!  I bought it about ten years ago for around $15. Comicspriceguide.com has this comic valued at a $60. Ebay says it is valued at between $249 and $299, and one with an asking price of $300.

   I sure hope that we see John Stewart in the DCEU someday. Thanks for reading!

If you like these articles, PLEASE HIT THE +1 BUTTON below. We are on Google+, follow us and we'll follow you back.  We're also on Facebook. Like our page, and share us with your friends! Help me win one million readers over to the awesome world of comics!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #69 (Captain Atom)



Welcome back, Fellow Questers!!

     Thanks for joining me again today as we continue our journey to pay homage to a fallen icon of the comics industry: Steve Ditko.

     Today, we begin with Mr. Ditko's VERY FIRST superhero creation:


CAPTAIN ATOM!!!

    That's right, Charlton Comics' powerhouse, Captain Atom, was indeed Steve Ditko's first published superhero creation. He, and his frequent collaborator, Joe Gill, created this amazing property together. Captain Atom made his first appearance here:


   Pictured above, is my copy of Charlton Comics' Space Adventures #33, published in 1960, just a few years after the beginning of the Silver Age of comics kicked off with the appearance of The Flash II (Barry Allen) in 1956. One year before Marvel's First Family, The Fantastic Four, and two years before The Amazing Spider-Man, Steve Ditko would publish his very first superhero creation in the pages of this exciting book from Charlton Comics in a story named very plainly, "Introducing Captain Atom." Space Adventures #33, is a great book to have for any Ditko fan - but it's neither easy nor cheap to come by. 

    Captain Atom was Captain Allen Adam of the United States Airforce (although he was sometimes erroneously called Allen Adams), a polymath, and one of the world's greatest authorities in nuclear science. While attempting to make some final adjustments to an experimental rocket armed with a nuclear warhead, Adam was accidentally launched into space and obliterated when the rocket's warhead detonated outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Moments later, Captain Adam reappeared back on Earth, his body now entirely made of Uranium-235. Adam avoids poisoning everyone on Earth by creating a bodysuit out of a radiation-blocking metal. He then discovers that he has been gifted with mind-boggling powers, such as the ability to render himself invisible and intangible, the ability to fly at fantastic speeds, and atomic transmutation and molecular manipulation. If any of this sounds familiar, it should; Ditko's Captain Atom was Alan Moore's inspiration for his own godlike being, Dr. Manhattan in Moore's seminal work, The Watchmen


Captain Atom probably inspired the creation of heroes from other publishers as well, like Gold Key's pretty sweet character, Doctor Solar (1962), and Dell's lackluster knock-off, Nukla (1965), also co-created by Joe Gill, the same writer who co-created Captain Atom with Steve Ditko. 

   Alas, Captain Atom's adventures only lasted about a year and a half, before he disappeared from the pages of Space Adventures. Ditko went to work for Marvel for a few years, creating his best-known characters, The Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and others, helping to bring to life Marvel's burgeoning new universe. However, by 1965, Ditko had grown dissatisfied with Marvel, and returned to Charlton and resumed his work on Captain Atom in a Charlton title called Strange Suspense Stories. Charlton was betting hard on the fact that superheroes seemed to be coming back in style (I mean, even Archie and Jughead got in on the act over at Archie Comics...But that's another story); however, the stars didn't quite align for Charlton superheroes, and Captain Atom was back out of print by 1967. As Charlton Comics began its long decline, DC Comics swooped in and purchased most of their superhero properties in 1983. Some sources say that the properties were for Alan Moore's use in his series, The Watchmen, other sources say that the purchase was a gift from then DC Executive Vice-President, Paul Levitz to Dick Giordano, former editor-in-chief of Charlton, who was now at DC. Whatever, the reasons, DC chose to use several of the Charlton action heroes beyond Moore's legendary superhero deconstruction tale. Captain Atom suddenly returned in 1987:

(NOT MY COPY - I  have a copy, but I haven't scanned it)

  In 1987, comics-scribes, Cary Bates, and Greg Weisman, teamed with penciler, Pat Broderick,  to reimagine Captain Atom as Vietnam War Veteran, Nathaniel Christopher Adam, a USAF officer who had been framed for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to death. As an alternative to death, Adam was tapped for an experiment that he wasn't expected to survive, an experiment to test the durability of an alien spacecraft by exploding an atomic bomb under it. Needless to say, the craft and Adam both were obliterated...Or so everyone thought. Adam reappeared eighteen years later, with the alien metal of the ship bonded to his body giving him amazing powers of energy absorption and projection due to its ability to tap into the quantum field. This series ran for over 50 issues before cancellation. Years later, Captain Atom got an ersatz reboot, along with all the other DC heroes in 2011's New 52

   Pictured here, is my copy of J.T. Krul's Captain Atom #1, published in 2012. In this continuity, Nathaniel Adam is still a USAF pilot, but no longer a criminal, rather, he volunteers to pilot a dimensional transfer vessel. Adam is seemingly destroyed during the experiment but soon reappears as a powerful form of living energy. Krul did a pretty great job on this series, but it only lasted 12 issues. 

   All in all, Captain Atom has had 3 series over at DC Comics - 2 ongoing series, and one mini. Despite all his AMAZING COOLNESS, he has never enjoyed the popularity, nor the respect that should come from his powerset, and the undeniable creative legacy of his co-creator, Steve Ditko. Captain Atom was, for all intents and purposes, the Superman of Charlton Comics, and given his capabilities, he should be enjoying a similar status in the DCU, given that he could probably ANNIHILATE most of the heroes and villains that populate it - and YES, that includes Superman. Captain Atom has appeared on Justice League Unlimited and in the animated film, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies:

Justice League Unlimited, "Flashpoint"


Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

    From 1960 to now, there is no denying that Captain Atom has come a long way, baby. From the creative genius of Steve Ditko and Joe Gill, through the pages of Charlton Comics, imitated, but never quite duplicated in the pages of Gold Key Comics and Dell Comics, re-imagined in Alan Moore's bleak superhero deconstruction masterpiece, The Watchmen, and finally reborn, and re-imagined yet again in the pages of DC Comics. Like Steve Ditko, Captain Atom is covered in obscurity (as far as younger readers go). Everyone who knows Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange automatically know Stan Lee, but how many think of Steve Diko when these characters are mentioned? Ditko did no cameos. He made no promo appearances. It seems that so far, the destinies of Ditko, and his first superhero creation, Captain Atom, have traveled a similar path: one of underappreciation, and under-acknowledgment. I look forward to the day when I hear comics fans really get familiar with Steve Ditko's works, and the day when the right writer and artist get ahold of Captain Atom and turn him into the superhero that he truly deserves to be. 

   Thanks for reading, Fellow Questers!


IN LOVING MEMORY OF STEVE DITKO (1927-2018)


If you like these articles, PLEASE HIT THE +1 BUTTON below. We are on Google+, follow us and we'll follow you back.  We're also on Facebook. Like our page, and share us with your friends! Help me win one million readers over to the awesome world of comics!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #68 (Doctor Graves)


Hello, Fellow Questers,

    It's an honor to be back with you all again. Thank you for welcoming me into your homes, and businesses through your tablets, smartphones, and computer screens. I am grateful for the chance to communicate my love of comics to others, like yourselves, who love comics too. I am especially grateful in times like these - times in which we have to say goodbye to pioneers in the comics industry, pioneers like Steve Ditko.

   For the time being, I want to focus on some of his creations, the ones that have first appearances that can be found in my humble comics collection. Let's take this journey together to honor Mr. Ditko. Ready? Okay, let's go:



   This is my copy of issue #55 (May 1966) of Charlton's horror-suspense anthology series, Ghostly Tales, which ran from 1966 to 1984. Steve Ditko was a regular contributor to the series, adding his own particular style to the series' edgy supernatural stories. This series had some fun chillers backed up by some amazing artwork. Even though the pay was lower than at Marvel, Ditko enjoyed greater freedom at Charlton, which probably explains why he contributed there for so many years. In this issue, Dr. Graves, The Ghost-Fighter/Supernaturalist made his debut! Dr. Graves was created (allegedly) by Dave Kaler and Ernie Bache - but I have this fantasy that Steve Ditko was in on this, too. Fact? Who knows? But Ditko and Dr. Graves are inextricably linked in my mind. Besides this, Ditko did actually contribute to this issue in a story called "Great Caesar's Ghost!" You can read Ditko's story, and the entire issue HERE.

   In this Ghostly Tales #55, the magnificent Dr. Graves helps a woman who has inherited an old Virginia estate to banish the entity that is haunting her home. Dr. M.T. Graves is a ghostbuster, detective, and all-around supernatural problem-solver. Sometimes, he just uses his sharp wits and detective skills, Scooby Doo-style, to oust a criminal trying to take advantage of a situation; however, other times, Doctor Graves goes toe-to-toe with real supernatural baddies, besting them with his adeptness in the magical arts and his indomitable supernatural powers. Other times, the Doc can be found just helping restless, or mischievous spirits find peace. Dr. Graves was a hit, and in about a year, he got his own title:


  The awesomeness that you see right above is my copy of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #1, published May of 1967. This series proved to be quite successful, running bi-monthly from 1967 to 1986. Steve Ditko contributed as both scribe and artist, along with other well-known creators of the age like Jim Aparo (my favorite Batman artist), Pat Boyette, and Joe Gill. In this title, Doctor Graves took on more of a hosting role, sort of like Tales From The Crypt's Crypt Keeper, but every now and again, he would get his hands dirty and mix it up with some supernatural baddies.

  Now comes the weird part - Steve Ditko was neither the creator nor co-creator of this character; however, Dr. Graves was, without doubt, a bit of a clone of Ditko's Doctor Strange (click HERE for the MORE ON DOCTOR STRANGE). That didn't keep Ditko from doing AMAZING work with this character - in fact, some of the best Dr. Graves adventures feature Steve Ditko's imaginative pencils:




(pictures courtesy of The Bronze Age of Blogs)

    I came across Ditko's Dr. Graves when I was very young, in a box of comics given to me in the will of a deceased family friend. Before I knew who Dr. Strange was, Dr. Graves' stories sent my young mind swirling in fits of fright and supernatural adventure. No artist communicated Dr. Graves' occult challenges better than Ditko, and that is why Ditko and Dr. Graves are forever linked together in my mind, and why Dr. Graves holds a special place in my comics-loving heart. If you want more examples of Ditko's influence on Doctor Graves, click HERE and HERE; Four-Color Shadows has some great examples of Ditko's hands on Dr, Graves. And if you want to read some full issues of Ghostly Tales, or The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves, just click the titles in this sentence. Better yet, go ahead and add these to your comics collection. There can't be many floating about. You'll probably be glad that you got to enjoy some classic Ditko goodness from Charlton Comics. 

IN LOVING MEMORY OF STEVE DITKO (1927-2018)


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Friday, July 6, 2018

Original Art Showcase Episode 8 (Steve Ditko)

Hello, Fellow Questers.


    I found out that today, Steve Ditko died.

    Steve Ditko is, with Stan Lee, the co-creator of legendary Marvel characters like The Amazing Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange. But Mr. Ditko's creative genius went far beyond those characters - and far beyond Marvel. From Charlton Comics' Captain Atom, Dr. Graves, and The Question, to Mr. A, published first in the pages of witzend, to DC Comics' The Creeper, and Shade, The Changing Man, to ATLAS-SEABOARD's The Destructor - Steve Ditko was inarguably one of the greatest creatives and innovators of his time in the comics industry. 

   We wish you safe, peaceful journeys, dear Mr. Ditko.   

    My next few articles will focus on some of the comics that I have in my collection - first appearances of characters created by Steve Ditko. Tonight, let's begin here:


Here is a better picture:



The photo above shows a published art page (page 6, from issue #1) of Phantom 2040, published by Marvel in 1995. Bill Reinhold did the inks, and Steve Ditko laid down the pencils in his one-of-a-kind style. The Phantom 2040 was a cool French-American animated series based on a futuristic version of Lee Falk's much-loved creation, The Phantom. Marvel adapted to comic-book form it in 1995, and Steve Ditko signed on to do the pencils. I am happy, and proud to say that I own a published art page with actual pencils by the Late, Great Steve Ditko.

NOTE: If you look closely at the top panel, in the rushing mob, just in the center, far in the back, you'll see that Steve Ditko sneaked in a character that seems to bear a striking resemblance to Shade, The Changing Man. 

Be on the look-out in the coming days and weeks for some of the more obscure characters from the mind of the Great Steve Ditko as we pay homage to a true legend.

REST IN PEACE, STEVE DITKO (1927-2018). 
We will miss you. Thanks for everything.


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Thursday, June 28, 2018

CBCS REVEAL EPISODE 5 (The Falcon)



Hello, Fellow Questers!!


    Thank you for joining me once more as we go on a trip in our favorite comics rocket ship, and I get to lay out a little dazzle-dazzle as I share with you some comics history and, of course, show off a bit of my humble collection!! 

   Today on TEX'S COMIC QUEST, we embark upon the the 5th episode in our CBCS REVEAL adventures, in which I showcase the results of my first foray into having comics slabbed with CBCS!!  Today on our QUEST, let's fly high with...

THE FALCON!!!

   Sam Wilson and Cap met in Captain America Vol 1, #117, when The Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with Captain America, and trapped Cap on Exile Island where The Red Skull expected that his underlings would end Cap once and for all. When Cap is saved by a strange trained falcon, Cap meets, befriends, and ultimately trains its owner, Sam Wilson, of Harlem, NYC - a job-seeker who decided to come to the aid of the island-dwellers against the threat of the Red Skull and his minions. Sam Wilson becomes The Falcon, Captain America's partner of longest tenure, and one heck of a superhero in his own right. Eventually, it was revealed that Sam has a telepathic connection with all birds, especially Redwing, his mighty falcon. Besides being Cap's partner, protege, and friend, Sam has been an Avenger, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, and much more - he even once led the S.H.I.E.L.D. Super-Agents! However, Sam's greatest honor was being hand-chosen by Steve Rogers to become Captain America when Steve was deprived of the Super Soldier serum, and lost his youth, and most of his strength and agility.

   RETCON ALERT: Sam's story has been changed a dew times times, allowing for the creation of "Snap" Wilson - the retconned criminal version of Sam which the Red Skull, with the aid of the Cosmic Cube, changes into good, clean, and wholesome "Sam," to use to destroy Captain America on the Island of Exiles. The Skull also gives him his telepathic ability to communicate with birds. Luckily, Cap is able to free Sam of The Skull's influence and takes Sam under his wing as his partner and friend.

  Oh, it gets deeper.

   With the exciting events of Secret Empire, it has been revealed that the Captain America that Sam Wilson knew and loved as his brother was never really on his side due to Kobik's (sentient Cosmic Cube) influence. Kobik, under the influence of The Red Skull, rewrote history to put Steve Rogers on Hydra's side. But through all this - Steve's death, resurrection, and betrayal, and a portion of America's populace not accepting him as Captain America, Sam Wilson has remained firmly on the side of the angels, doing his best to do his borough, his city, and his nation proud as both The Falcon and Captain America. His current series, The Falcon, vol 2, is absolutely stellar. In the last few years, Sam has truly stepped outside of Cap's shadow to become one heck of an A-List superhero...And one of my faves!

    On, to the CBCS REVEAL:



It's my copy of Captain America #117, printed in September of 1969! It features the first appearance of The Falcon, Captain America's most enduring partner, and a man who would one day be Captain America himself!! It also features the 1st appearance of Redwing, the falcon. The Falcon is the first mainstream African-American superhero in comics. Anthony Mackie does a great job of portraying Sam in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:



I had this book grade at a 6.0, but CBCS graded it at a solid 5.0 - I'll take it. Comicspriceguide puts the value of this book at $206; however, eBay calls it at anywhere between $115 to $160, with highest asking price at $175.

Thanks for reading!!


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