Showing posts with label Swamp Thing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Swamp Thing. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Book Review: DC: Anatomy of a Metahuman

by Mike Rhode

DC Comics collects a lot of the comic books they've published, but they also have quite a few publications aimed at an adult audience looking for a gift or willing to spend larger amounts on material that interests them. The fact that these books even exist can be amazing especially for someone who grew up in the 1970s when there was one (or less!) collection of comics published per year (The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 started the modern trend of collecting a story arc in a book or "waiting for the trade"). Over the next week or so, I'll look at three of these I've been provided with recently.

DC: Anatomy of a Metahuman by S.D. Perry and Matthew K. Manning and illustrated by Ming Doyle (San Raphael, CA: Insight Editions, 2018; $50, ISBN 978-1-60887-501-6) comes out this week and is an in-depth look at twelve mostly major DC characters through the longstanding conceit of Batman researching the strengths and weaknesses of other heroes and villains (which on reflection also dates back to 1986's The Dark Knight Returns). The press release reads:

Concerned about the threat that so-called "metahumans" may pose to the world, Batman has begun compiling a detailed dossier on their incredible physiology and abilities. From villains like Killer Croc, Bane, and Brainiac to Batman's own comrades, including Superman and Cyborg, the file brings together the Dark Knight's fascinating personal theories on the unique anatomical composition of these formidable individuals. 

This stunning and unique book delves into the incredible abilities of DC Comics characters like never before. Using beautifully illustrated anatomical cross sections depicting twelve different DC characters, the book, told from Batman's unique perspective, will explore how these metahumans' physical makeup differs significantly from that of the average person. From detailed theories on how Superman's eyes shoot heat rays to an in-depth exploration of how Aquaman is able to breathe underwater, the book delves into the deepest secrets of these classic characters. Also featuring chapters on the anatomy and abilities of Doomsday, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Darkseid, Martian Manhunter, and more, this one-of-a-kind book will change the way you look at metahumans forever. 

The authors Perry (a sf/fantasy novelization writer) and Manning (a comic book historian) do a good job at summarizing the powers and features of the characters in the book (Superman, Cheetah, Aquaman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Swamp Thing, Darkseid, Bane, Doomsday, Killer Croc, Bizarro and Killer Frost), but run quickly into the major problem of the fact that these powers are impossible by our understanding of physics, chemistry and other sciences, so how can they be explained? On page 9, the second page of his dossier, Batman writes, "Much of my research has been focused on the composition of Superman's bones and muscles. What combination of organic structures could possible generate his immense strength? I have many theories but all are at odds with conventional scientific thinking." This difficulty with the human scientist Batman trying to understand impossible phenomena continues throughout the book. How can a woman become a were-cheetah?

Of course, the suspension of disbelief is a major requirement in enjoying superhero comic books (and television and movies, fans of which the characters of this book seem to have been selected for). Once one decides to accept the internal logic of the book, the writing is concise and seems to reflect the current DC Universe of the comics (they've had so many reboots recently that I can't tell). Ming Doyle's semi-scientific illustration is a good match and very well done. Her illustration of Superman as Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian man has an underlying layer of amusement since on the same page Batman specifically notes that Superman is not and never will be human.

If I had come across this book when I was sixteen, I would have been thrilled, and I think it will appeal to more introspective fans of the various versions of the DC Universe, especially the movie fans. I imagine this might be a gift book for most people, and the high-quality of the printing makes the price very reasonable.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Joel Pollack Remembers Bernie Wrightson (part 2)

by Lee Benaka

Originally published in CFA-APA #101, March 2017 fanzine
Lee Benaka is a Washington, DC, original comic art collector who maintains a searchable database on comic art sales at

Frankenstein art for sale from Joel’s Fantastique Illustration #3 catalog, 1984.
Joel: Whenever I visited Bernie, we would always have dinner at least one night at a restaurant that was owned by Albert Grossman.  He was the manager for Bob Dylan.  He owned a restaurant in Woodstock called the Little Bear.  It was a Chinese restaurant.  We always had dinner there.  It was usually a group of us.  Usually Jeff Jones came along, with Bernie and Michele, and Jeff’s current girlfriend at the time, whoever it might be. 

Barry Windsor-Smith was never included in any of this.  I don’t really know what Bernie’s relationship with Barry was beyond the Studio, but I remember them

talking about how horribly Barry treated his girlfriend Linda Lessman.  They all kind of looked down on Barry for that, because Linda was a sweet person.

Lee:  The first time you went to Bernie’s place, you obviously went with some money in your pocket.  Was that a large amount of money that you had saved, or a fairly modest amount?

Bernie Wrightson art from Joel’s Fantastique Illustration #1 catalog, 1983.

Joel:  I brought as much money as I had at any given time.  It was probably a modest amount by today’s standards, but it still bought a lot of Wrightson artwork.  He was selling it to me very reasonably.

Lee:  Did you zero in on certain pages?  Did he have Swamp Thing pages?

Joel:  I have owned one Swamp Thing page, but I don’t really believe he still had any of that art at that point.  Bernie sold a lot of what he did.  He didn’t hang on too much, although he still has stuff, I’m pretty sure.  I was probably visiting him between 1982 and 1985.  I opened a shop in 1986, and I don’t know whether I was visiting him at that point. 

Lee:  When you got the art from Bernie, did you just list it in the catalog, or did you have contacts you would call to let them know about the art?

The cover of Joel’s Fantastique Illustration #3 catalog, 1984.

Joel:  I think I was just selling through the catalogs.  I think I probably advertised the catalog in early issues of the Comic Buyer’s Guide.  I had a mailing list, but I didn’t necessarily talk to anyone on the telephone.  I remember one of the early people on my list was Benno Rothschild.  I was a charter member of the CFA-APA, so I had a lot of connections that way. 

Bernie really liked dealing with me because I always paid cash.  I always brought cash, never a check.

Lee:  Did you keep any pieces for yourself?

Joel:  For a long time I did.  I kept four of five of the very best Frankensteins that I had.  I had the title page.  But I ran into tax problems sometime in the 1980s, and I

was really dumb.  Instead of borrowing money from friends to pay taxes, or taking out a loan to pay taxes, I sold art.  I got good money for it.  The title page for Frankenstein, I got $2,500 for it.  You know what that’s worth now?  I wouldn’t be shocked if you could get $100,000 for that right now.  Certainly $50,000, just like that, I’m sure.


More Frankenstein art for sale from Joel’s Fantastique Illustration #3 catalog, 1984.

Lee:  Do you remember who you sold those to?

Joel:  The title page I might have sold to Richard Kelly, but then when Richard switched over to illustration art, he sold that himself. 

Lee:  You stopped going to Bernie’s house around the time you opened your shop?

Joel:  I think I pretty much did.  We had Bernie in for a signing at one point.  He had a very aggressive girlfriend who was marketing him.  I don’t remember her name.  She was very attractive, and she was definitely smart.  She wanted to make sure Bernie got paid properly, which he did.  We did get to do a Wrightson signing with him.  It could have been Hooky, because I had a lot of the Hooky pages at one point.  I don’t think I ever had any of the Thing/Hulk pages.  But I had a bunch of the Hooky pages.  I probably had 20 of those pages at least.  

An ad that was included as part of Joel’s contribution to CFA-APA #5, 1986.

I don’t think I ever got to watch Bernie draw.  When we moved him from Queens to Kansas City, though, I remember he threw away a lot of artwork.  He lived in a building where Simonson and Chaykin were both living at the time, and Simonson and Chaykin were always raiding his trash can.  Bernie would throw away really nice artwork, because it wasn’t perfectly the way he wanted it.  You’ve seen all the Frankenstein “outtakes”.  There’s probably 50 Frankenstein drawings that never got published.  Bernie was a real perfectionist.  Sometimes he would lose interest in something, and you would look at it and ask, “Why?  This is fantastic.”


Joel’s copy of Creepshow, signed by Bernie and Michele Wrightson, as well as Stephen King.

After Frankenstein, I think he went through a fallow period.  I think it’s because he spent himself on Frankenstein.  Originally, he was going to self-publish Frankenstein.  I don’t think he had the patience for business.  He didn’t want to have to do all the work that was involved with self-publishing.  It’s a shame a fan didn’t step forward and say, “I’ll publish for you Bernie.  I’ll take care of all the details and do it.”  He ended up selling it to Marvel, and I think that took a little bit out of him emotionally.  His work seemed to slip a bunch at that time.  He was also having some allergy problems with his hands.  Evidently the ink and part of his brush were causing his hands to get eczema, where they were cracking.  That might have affected him a bit too. 

But I think that Frankenstein was such a masterpiece, and he sweated blood into that.  It’s hard to say that he ever did work that was better than that.  He had moments that were equally as good.  But he went through a period where he did a bunch of comics for Marvel, which he said he would never do.  He didn’t really want to do comics again, but he went back and did comics, because he had kids then, and he had to earn a living.  Bernie had a lot of years there where he wasn’t living up to his promise, and I think he’d be the first one to really tell you that privately, if not outwardly.  Maybe his heart wasn’t into it.  I’ve been told that having kids can be a huge distraction.  I don’t think you could say that the work he did on Punisher: POV and Batman: The Cult was as good as the work he did on Swamp Thing, or for Warren magazines.  The work he did for Warren was amazing.  That was probably his high point in comics. 

It’s interesting because, the thing he did a few years ago, Frankenstein Alive, Alive!  That was a return to form for him.  I was amazed.  He really seemed inspired by that.  It’s a real shame that it probably never will be finished.  And if it’s not finished, they should still publish what’s there in a paperback, because it deserves to be in permanent form.

I’m not sure I fully appreciated how talented he was back then, compared to how I look at him now.  Genius might be the wrong word for him, because all his genius was just in one area—drawing.  But he was a prodigy.  He was great from day one, and he just kept getting better. 

Bernie Wrightson’s preliminary drawing for the cover of Toe Tags Featuring George Romero #3 (DC Comics, 2005) (from the collection of Joel Pollack).