Thursday, April 30, 2015


by Maroto
from the April, 1983 issue of Heavy Metal magazine

The cheesecake element obviously rules here, but still, an entertaining little strip for all that........

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cody Starbuck 1974

Cody Starbuck
by Howard Chaykin
Star*Reach Comics, Issue No. 1,1974

April, 1974. If your car radio, or your portable radio, or your clock radio, or the radio in your stereo was on, or if you were watching Soul Train, then you were hearing the song 'MFSB' (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) by the band TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia). 

TSOP was comprised of the musicians in the Gamble and Huff studio in Philadelphia; the backing vocalists were the members of The Three Degrees.

Also in April of '74, the very first issue of a black and white comic book devoted to sf and fantasy is released. 'Star*Reach' was independently published by Mike Friedrich; eighteen issues were released from 1974 - 1979. 

It was a path-breaking endeavor on the part of Friedrich; he sought work from up-and-coming talent, offering them a forum to publish material without editorial constraints. The Star*Reach books thus occupied a sort of middle ground between the territory of the underground comix, and the mainstream publishers like DC and Marvel.

Since in the mid-70s there was no mechanism by which independent comic books could be included in the existing newsstand-based, 'rack jobber' distribution networks, Friedrich sold the books through the growing network of small 'direct sales' comic shops, who acquired their inventory from specialized distributors like Phil Seuling's Sea Gate Distributors.

This first issue of Star*Reach featured the debut of Howard Chaykin's 'Cody Starbuck' character, who would appear on a sporadic basis in later issues of Star*Reach, and then, in the 1980s, in Heavy Metal magazine.

Despite the underwhelming quality of the reproductions of Chaykin's artwork printed in black and white and graytone on mid-70s comic book paper stock, 'Starbuck' retains its imaginative visual qualities, including the unconventional arrangement and placing of panels, and the use of varied background textures and inking techniques to give the artwork a cutting-edge sensibility simply not present in mainstream comics until the advent of Jim Starlin.

Chaykin is also inventive in having a lead character who is hardly the square-jawed, morally upstanding hero of traditional sf comics. Instead, Cody Starbuck is a space pirate, cynical, self-serving, and not inclined to turn the other cheek when confronted. 

Taken as a whole, this inaugural episode of the Cody Starbuck franchise reflects an approach to visuals and plotting that belonged more in the camp of 70s Western European sf comics,  an approach that prefigured the works soon to be showcased in the French magazine Metal Hurlant

Summing up.....when I compare the sixteen pages of 'Cody Starbuck', which now are 41 years old (!) I find them more interesting and rewarding than much of what makes up contemporary sf comics: Manhattan Project, Saga, and Black Magic, among others. There is a visual flair, and a sense of fun, about 'Starbuck' that is entirely absent from these modern-day productions..........

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: The Karma Corps

Book Review: 'The Karma Corps' by Neil Barrett, Jr.

2 / 5 Stars

‘The Karma Corps’ (239 pp) is DAW Book No. 604, and was published in November, 1984. The striking cover illustration was done by Les Edwards.

‘Karma’ was the 10th sf novel published by Neil Barrett, Jr. (1929 – 2014). It’s set on a nameless planet where, two centuries ago, a colony ship crash-landed. Despite reverting to a medieval level of technology, the survivors have created a small civilization, with its own stone-walled Citadel.

Lars Haggart is the Captain of the eponymous Corps; like the 221 soldiers under his command, Lars has no real knowledge of his past, for he is the reincarnation of a deceased member of the colony. What makes Lars and his soldiers special is their ability to instantaneously teleport across small distances, a skill shared by the some of the Demons, a race of werebeasts who also inhabit the planet.

As the novel opens, the Churchers, the theocracy which governs society, are in desperate straits in their perpetual struggle to hold back the demon hordes, who – for reasons unknown- are seeking to expunge the Terrans from the planet.

Using elaborate fortifications and field tactics to counter the teleportation abilities of the the demon armies has bought the Church some time, but that time is running out. The Church hierarchy is looking to Lars and his Corps to use their unique powers to bring about a decisive victory against the enemy.

But as Lars is to discover, the demons seem to have an uncanny ability to know in advance where he and his soldiers are going to teleport. And far from being the ultimate weapon, the Corps may in fact be a liability. Lars discovers that he will have to act on his own to discover the truth about the reincarnation process, and the strange territories that are home to the disembodied souls from which the Corps is drawn. But asking those types of questions can trigger the wrath of the Churchers….and a further fragmentation of a society teetering on the brink of extinction………

‘Corps’ certainly has an interesting, offbeat premise, but I found the book to be a disappointment. Barrett’s narrative is plainly designed to keep the reader turning the pages in order to learn the Ultimate Revelation behind the existence of the demons, the Corps, and the causes of the war between the two races; this narrative tactic of guiding the reader to the ‘solution’ behind the ‘planetary mystery’ is one he employed in his 1974 sf novel Stress Pattern.

Unfortunately, too much of the narrative in ‘Corps’ revolves around the political and personal squabbles and rivalries between Lars (who is not particularly bright) and the Churchers. These conflicts are framed as confrontations between emerging humanism and self-awareness on the part of the Corps, versus the orthodoxy and blind obedience fomented by the Churchers. Practically every page is taken up with extended conversations documenting these conflicts, while the main plot thread – the threat to existence posed by the demons - makes sporadic appearances.

When the Final Revelation came in the latter chapters, I found it underwhelming and rather perfunctory, as if the author had run out of energy and was simply looking to wrap things up a conveniently as possible.

Summing up, I have to label ‘The Karma Corps’ a dud. Reader are urged to instead seek out Neil Barrett, Jr’s next novel after ‘Corps’, Through Darkest America (1987), which is much superior.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lone Sloane: Delirius

Lone Sloane: Delirius
episode 1

This 1973 graphic novel compiles, in English, Druillet's Lone Sloane: Delirius comic, which first appeared in serial form in the French magazine Pilote from 1970 - 1971. 

[Copies are rare, and those in very good condition are expensive.]

The plot, as always, is not really very coherent, but the artwork more than makes up for it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Hacker Files issue 3

The Hacker Files
by Lewis Shiner (story) and Tom Sutton (art)
issue 3
DC Comics, October 1992

In this, the third installment of the 'Soft War' four-issue arc, Jack Marshall - out to Save the World - heads to the NORAD installation at Cheyenne Mountain, there to investigate the culprits who have placed a virus into the US military network. 

Jack's investigation reveals the hidden machinations of the Digitronix Corporation.....but not in time to prevent what may be World War Three...........

....also in this issue, the Letter Column gets up and running, and - not surprisingly - some of the submissions are indicative of some degree of eccentricity on the part of the writers.....but then, this is a hacker comic, not a superhero comic, after all.....