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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk as I take a look at some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

What we have here today for your "I never asked for this, and where the heck did you even find it?" reading pleasure is a strange little comic book crossover of two "cult" horror television programs. . . and by "cult" I mean that generally people who were alive in the 70's might remember these shows, along with a good handful of rabid fans.

I'd be willing to take a bet that any random person  born after 1990 that I might stop and ask has never seen an episode of either one, and probably won't even know either of them ever existed (In their original forms.  One of the shows DID have an ill-advised reboot movie released in 2012 that came and went pretty quickly in the theaters).

The shows I'm talking about are Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Dark Shadows.

Of the two, Dark Shadows will probably ring more of a bell than Night Stalker, due to the aforementioned movie (A strange Johnny Depp/Tim Burton project which wasn't really THAT bad) and that Dark Shadows was originally on T.V. for 6 years and in pretty constant syndication throughout the 70's compared to Night Stalker's one single year of production and a few "Movie of The Week" specials.

Dark Shadows was basically a supernatural soap opera following the continuing spooky trials and tribulations of the Collins family and their Patriarch, Vampire Barnabas Collins, in and around the town of Collinsport, Maine.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker followed intrepid Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak as he investigates stories that lead him into paranormal adventures.  Unfortunately, by the end of each episode, the evidence of any paranormal connection has usually been destroyed. . .so he's a bit of a hard luck guy that just can't catch a break.

SO. . .

A comic crossover of two supernatural 70's "Cult" T.V. shows.  This seems like one of those sort of things that's either going to be a great little hidden gem or it's going to fail and fail hard.  Let's find out which one it is!

KOLCHAK TALES:

NIGHT STALKER ANNUAL #1

MOONSTONE (2009)

 
COVER: Doug Klauba
 
Let's take a look at the cover first.  I like it a lot! It looks like an old-school horror movie poster.   It's got some great colors and Barnabas Collins looming in center stage looks fantastic! The artist doesn't really capture the likeness of Kolchak actor Darren McGavin (a pretty prolific character actor probably most familiar today as the hilariously grumpy dad in A Christmas Story), but other than that, this is a very nicely-painted piece of Halloween fun!
 
Moving along, there's two stories in this double-sized issue. . .
 
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE?
SCRIPT: Mark Dawidziak & Rafael Nieves
PENCILS: Don Hudson
 
Reporter Carl Kolchak is down on his luck. . .moving from town to town and job to job following a string of supernatural encounters that he has no hard proof ever happened.  The bills are piling up and he's at his wits end.  
 
 
Then he receives a mysterious letter from a stranger named Barnabas Collins on the East Coast inviting him to a meeting.  The letter contains several specific details regarding one of Kolchak's more intense cases involving the Vampire/ Serial Killer Janos Skorzeny. 
 
Kolchak is curious and doesn't have anything else going on, so he travels by train across the country to the town of Collinsport, Maine. . .
 
 
 
Kolchak is met in Collinsport by a strange man named Loomis, who escorts him to the huge, rambling mansion named Collinwood.  He begins to suspect something is wrong when a frantic woman warns him not to go into "The Old House", which is exactly where Loomis brings him.  
 
 
Based on his previous encounters with vampires, Kolchak quickly determines that the mysterious Mr. Collins is one, and he prepares himself to confront Collins.  When Kolchak finally meets Barnabas Collins, he attacks him with a mirror and crucifix. . .neither of which have any affect on Collins.
 
Barnabas confesses to Kolchak that he WAS a vampire, but his curse has since been lifted.  He reveals that he was the one who turned a woman named Marie Cosgrove into a vampire in 1795, and it was she that turned Janos Skorzeny into a vampire in 1919.
 
Collins tells Kolchak that he met Skorzeny at one point and could tell he was a vicious killer, and that this meeting was so that Collins could thank Kolchak for ridding the world of the creature he was responsible for creating. . .and to warn him that Marie Cosgrove was still somewhere out there.
 
 
And with the burden of confession off Barnabas' shoulders and Kolchak warned that there was yet another vampire on the loose, the reporter returns by train to begin a new job in Los Angeles.
 
The End.
 
Hmmmmmmmm. . .okay then.  Not really what I was expecting.
 
Basically we have Kolchak travelling to Maine, thinking he's being lured into a trap, and then having a conversation with America's (former) King Vampire before heading back home.  When I put it THAT way and read it, this is a VERY thin story.
 
THIS is a perfect example of never judging a book by its cover (especially a comic book).  The cover promised a snarling Barnabas Collins menacing intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak.  Instead we get the later, non-vampire, Barnabas Collins just sort of standing around talking and apologizing for the misunderstanding that Kolchak thought he was going to be killed.
 
The art just makes it worse.  In the hands of a great artist, this extremely thin story might have been taken up a notch with some superbly-illustrated character moments.  Instead, we get some very basic and workmanlike art that doesn't really capture the likeness of either character's actor and is the very definition of "Average".
 
Overall, I'm not sure why this story even exists beyond Moonstone at one point having the comic rights for both characters.  This could have been so much more interesting.  As it is, it just seems lazy and pointless.  I'm not even sure rabid fans of either show would find this interesting beyond curiosity value.
 
Moving along. . .
 
ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE
SCRIPT: Joe Gentile & Dave Ulanski
PENCILS: Ron Harris
 
Reporter Carl Kochak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo, travel into the Nevada desert to investigate the disappearance of two people in an area that has become known for mysterious disappearances.  When they arrive, the reporters find the police less than helpful, so while Tony tries to pry information out of them, Kolchak investigates the surrounding area. . .
Kolchak finds several huge footprints that he follows into a natural maze of rocks, where he discovers a hidden cave entrance.  Inside are tools and objects much too large for normal human use. . .
As Kolchak further explores the maze of tunnels, he finds an exit outside and an area filled with human bones.  The horrified reporter is taken by surprise and thrown into a shallow pit by a gigantic human-like creature, who buries Kolchak alive!
Fortunately, Tony noticed Kolchak was missing and followed his trail up the mountain where the reporter was buried.  He digs Kolchak up and the two of them make a frantic escape back through the maze of tunnels with the enraged giant pursuing them. . .
After escaping the giant's lair, Kolchak and Tony tell the police that they found the bodies of the people who have gone missing, but beyond that there's no proof of the giant that almost killed them. . .but that's something Kolchak is used to.
The End.
 
This story was. . .well, it was bad.  There's no way to sugarcoat it.  It's just bad.  At least the first story had the curiosity factor of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Barnabas Collins coming together on the comic page, as well as a few decent character moments here and there. 
 
The best way I can describe the "badness" of this story is that it's just sort of annoying.  The dialogue is grating.  The situation of an actual giant in the Nevada desert is ridiculous.  The art doesn't try to do anything other than simply exist, and the whole thing just feels like it was thrown together to pad out this comic's page count so that Moonstone could charge SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY FRIGGIN' CENTAVOS for this "special" issue.
 
I. . .I just can't.  This story sucks.  That is all.  Carry on.
 

CONCLUSION

 
The cover price on this comic is $6.50.  That's about six bucks too much.  Okay. . .I have to admit the cover is worth the dollar I paid for this, but the rest of it feels like pure money grubbin'.  
 
The first story is a "Crossover" barely worthy of the name.  The second story is practically unreadable and is basically page count padding.  The whole thing reeks of minimum effort for maximum money.
 
Unless you are a rabid fan of Kolchak or Dark Shadows that simply MUST have everything to do with one or both properties, do yourself a favor and steer clear of this one.  It's a major disappointment.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome back to my completely unnecessary reboot and renumbering of the Longbox Junk blog! I'm celebrating my 175th comic review that nobody ever asked me for by doing something else nobody ever asked for. . .reviewing the handful of issue #175 comics in my (and my daughter's) collection!

Oddly enough, I've discovered that it seems nobody really cares about hitting their 175th issue. The Walking Dead started a new (and pretty epic) storyline in #175, but I'm not sure if that was actually planned or if it just worked out that way.  Superman #175 was celebrating being the 100th issue since the iconic "Death of Superman" finale. . .but I'm not convinced that's an actual celebration of hitting issue #175.

So. . .nobody cares about the one-seven-five except me.

- read more

Welcome back to the Longbox Junk Halloween Party!

I know. . .I know.  Since I tend to post these very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on how you look at things), it's probably November 1 for most of those reading. 

I DID have 2 more Halloween posts I was planning on throwing down before the 31st, but due to unforeseen work circumstances (another local hotel had a gas leak and my hotel inherited all their guests, so we've had a sold out house when we're usually running about 30-40%) I haven't had the time I usually have this time of year to read and review comic books.  

- read more

Welcome back to Longbox Junk for another "Retro Review" edition, where I take a look at some of the older or more "valuable" single issues in my collection instead of my usual bargain bin fare.

So. . .

There I was. . .looking with justifiable pride at all the Halloween entries I've made this month in Longbox Junk. But then my big, cheesy grin faltered a bit when I realized something was missing from the mix. . .that being the "So bad it's kinda good B-Movie" style horror. 

- read more

Halloween!  It's that special time of year when children get their first basic lesson in the cornerstone of  Socialism. . . Redistribution of Wealth!  I have a giant bowl of candy.  Those who have less candy than me come to collect a portion of my candy under the threat of punishment if I do not comply.  This continues until I have no more candy. 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

But enough of THAT.  We're here to talk about Halloween comics!
 
I'm going to come clean right off the top here.  I've never bought a Vampirella comic on purpose.  The 3 or 4 I have in my collection (including the comic at hand) have come to me by way of buying packs of comics where there's 10 random comics for $5 and they're sealed up so you can only see the top and bottom comic.  
 
Most comic stores have these deals, so I assume you know what I'm talking about. . .it's the true definition of Longbox Junk because it's a total random spin of the wheel on what you're getting beyond those two comics you can see.  
 
Vampirella is a character that's been around for a long time.  There are a LOT of Vampirella comics out there.  I've never bought a Vampirella comic on purpose because it's pretty obvious that they exist for one reason and one reason only. . .boobs.
 
I've flipped through plenty of Vampirella comics on the shelf and I find it hard to believe that anyone actually buys Vampirella for the stories any more than when guys protest that they read Playboy for the articles.   
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
My opinion of Vampirella is based on an extremely low actual exposure to Vampirella. And so I decided that since I'm having Halloween comic fun and I HAPPEN to have a Halloween Special starring Vampirella, why not give her a chance and actually read one of her stories for once and see if I'm judging these comics unfairly. . .
 
Let's do this!
 
VAMPIRELLA
HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2013
 

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Longbox Junk - Human Bomb

633 views • Apr 18, '18 • (0) Comments

When I discovered these issues bundled at my local comic shop for 5 bucks, I had no idea who the Human Bomb was.  I just knew Longbox Junk when I saw it and forked over Mr. Lincoln.  After a bit of research, I discovered a character with a long and illustrious history as a DC C-Lister. . .mostly on a team of heroes known as "Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters".  

I've seen a few issues of the series here and there, but to be completely honest, DC sort of sucks at patriotic comic heroes.  Except for the Big Blue Boy Scout, who else do they really have?  No. . .when I want a dose of AMERICA, HELL YEAH! I go straight to the original Star Spangled Avenger, Captain F*CKING America.

But I paid 5 good American dollars for these four comics. . .what was I going to do, just let them sit there in a longbox unread?  Let's do this!

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I have to admit that I'm not very familiar at all with Star Spangled War Stories.  What I DO know about it is from later issues featuring The Unknown Soldier, which is a great character. . .but really, as far as war comics go, I've always been more of a Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales kind of guy.


I found this issue at a flea market last year in pretty good condition for the measly five bucks I paid for it, and it's been sitting lonely and unread in a longbox ever since. . .the only pre-1974 issue of this title in my collection.  

BUT. . .

Since "Longbox Junk" is all about reviewing comics that have probably never been reviewed before, and these "Retro Reviews" are about taking a look at some of the older comics in my collection, I decided to crack the plastic on this lonely outcast and see what's going on under the cover. 

Let's do this!



STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES #120

DC (1965)
SCRIPTS: Robert Kanigher
ART: Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
COVER: Joe Kubert

First off, we have a cover by the great Joe Kubert.  Unfortunately, it's not that great of a cover.  His trademark sparse/primary color background make it pop nicely, and the tank is great, but other than that it just seems sort of. . .phoned in.  The creature seems very generic.  The purple and green coloring of it is just not good. The positioning is kind of strange.  A mediocre cover by Kubert is STILL better than a good cover by a lot of artists, but this is certainly not one of his better efforts.

MOVING ALONG!

The interior art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito is. . .okay.  It's not great, but it's not bad, either. The art tells the story in a competent way, but it doesn't have a single really good moment in the entire issue.  The coloring brings the art down another notch with pink and purple dinosaurs.  

The art in the backup story (Dryland PT Boat) is actually better than what's up front because it takes place in a darker and more realistic setting than "Dinosaur Island", and it looks like the inker (Esposito) had more of a hand in things.  

Overall, the art in this issue isn't really bad. . .it just seems somewhat workmanlike and uninspired, especially considering the science fantasy elements featured in the main story.

So, that was the art.  Let's consider the writing. . .

There's two stories in this issue, both by writer Robert Kanigher. Unfortunately (Like the art), there doesn't seem to have been much effort or inspiration put into either of them, although of the two, I found the backup story to be better than the main.  Let's take a look at both.

THE TANK EATER

The lead is a "War That Time Forgot" story involving two members of DC's proto-Suicide Squad on a secret mission to deliver and test a new tank that can do just about everything but fly.  On the way to their destination, they are attacked by a flying dinosaur and end up stranded on Dinosaur Island after a mid-air battle where they are rescued from falling to their death by a baby dinosaur they themselves had rescued during an earlier mission (in a previous issue).

On the island, their tank is attacked by another creature and dragged underwater.  They manage to escape, but the tank ends up on a Japanese submarine.  They decide to find the submarine's lair and destroy the tank, and during their search, they come across a young caveboy fighting a giant dinosaur.  They save the caveboy and he joins up with them.

While tracking the submarine, they are attacked by ANOTHER dinosaur and are dropped into the water by their friendly flying dinosaur baby.  While the Suicide Sqad members fight off Japanese frogmen, Caveboy plants explosives on the sub.  They make their escape as the sub and tank explode, then the baby dinosaur carries them to safety.

Ooooookay. . .hmmmmmm.

If I had to describe this story in one word, it would have to be "Juvenile".  

Like the art, it doesn't seem as if much effort was put into this story at all.  It has interesting elements, but the execution of those elements are so simplistic and uninspired that one has to wonder if this was written as part of a bet over whether or not a comic book story can be written in 60 minutes or less.  

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit harsh.  I completely understand that in the 1960's, comic books weren't exactly written with a 50 year old reader like myself in mind.  They were being written for kids.  Given that, I suppose that the writer did the job he was hired to do.  Unfortunately, that was all he did.  Now, I'm not going to say this story was terrible.  It's not.  But it's definitely not good, either.

DRYLAND PT BOAT

The backup story involves the son of a famous naval officer being put in command of a PT boat that is almost sunk during his very first mission.  He is told that he needs to rescue some army officers on the other side of a peninsula, but there is to many mines and enemy patrols to get there by sea, so his PT boat needs to be trucked overland to the other side.

On the way, the truck carrying his boat is attacked by Japanese planes and tanks, which he fights off by commanding his boat like he was on the water instead of on a trailer, eventually destroying a pursuing tank by dropping a depth charge on a bridge.

Once back on the water, he is faced with an overwhelming enemy in the form of a destroyer, but hoping to live up to his father's famous deeds (He rammed a battleship with a cruiser during WWI), he goes on the attack and risks his life diving into the water to repair his last torpedo, winning both the battle and gaining the respect he had not been given living in the shadow of his father.

I found this backup story to be the better of the two.  The art, the subject matter, and the writing were all a notch above "The Tank Eater".  That's not to say it's a great story. . .it still seems as if not a great deal of effort was put into it. . .but it holds up better to a modern reading than the Dinosaur Island shenanigans of the lead story.  I thought the idea of a PT boat commander having to wage a battle from the deck of his boat while on a trailer driving across dry land was pretty clever.  And like I said above, the art was a bit better with a more realistic story to illustrate.

CONCLUSION

Overall, even though there were some good elements to be found, this issue was pretty mediocre.  It wasn't like the artists and writer didn't have some interesting stuff to work with, it just seems like they were doing their jobs and nothing more than that.  Even the great Joe Kubert's cover was uninspired and average!

I know that there are pretty good issues of this title later on with Unknown Soldier, but if all I had to go on was THIS issue, I'd probably just take a pass on the whole thing.  

Up Next. . .

Back to Longbox Junk business as usual with a trip back to 1994 and Image's "We REALLY want to be Marvel!" Superhero overload glory days.  Black & White three issue mini.

Be there or be square!

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Let's get this out of the way. . .I'm a HUGE fan of the Mass Effect video games. 

I'm even going to go ahead and put my nerd cred on the line and say that despite my initial misgivings, I liked the much-hated and presumed series-destroyer Mass Effect: Andromeda to the point that I played it until there was literally nothing left to do!  And I didn't like Andromeda nearly as much as I liked the original trilogy of games.

In other words, when it comes to the Mass Effect video games, I'm a fan.

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Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 5

630 views • Jan 19, '18 • (0) Comments

And so we finally come to the last batch of Topps' X-Files run.  Fair warning, folks. . .it ain't pretty.

This series was never that good to begin with.  It has its moments here and there, but generally speaking it's been mediocre at best up until this point.  From here to the end of things it gets pretty bad.

These issues coincided with the general collapse of the 90's speculator comic market, and specifically the collapse of Topps Comics in 1998.  They also came out when the X-Files T.V. show's popularity began to wane.  The show was still high in the ratings, but nowhere near what it had been.

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Longbox Junk - The X-Files Part 4

630 views • Jan 16, '18 • (0) Comments

As I read this next batch of Topps' X-Files comics. . .moving through the second year of the run and into the third. . .I begin to wonder if perhaps I might be bearing witness to a conspiracy over twenty years old.


I've already touched a bit on on the conflict going on in the background of this series that eventually led to the departure of the original writer in favor of one more accepting of the fate of writing a tie-in to a hugely popular T.V. sensation, but not being able to use any of the ideas, storylines, or characters of the source material beyond bare-bones unchanging sketches of the main characters and a basic outline of the show's overall theme. 

BUT. . .

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