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The Saturday Comics: The Phantom Gets Good!

29 Dec

December 29, 2017

Let’s end the year by checking back in on one of the classics. It is the Phantom, a comic character from the Golden Age created by Lee Falk. He’s “The Ghost Who Walks,” but basically just a guy in a suit who fights crime. He’s the latest in a family line of crime-fighters to use that name. When we last checked in back in 2011, there was literally nothing going on. For an entire week nothing happened. And I mean that exactly as it sounds. Let’s go back and see, then we’ll check in with the strip today and see what’s up.

UPDATED from April 16, 2011DAY ONE:

OK, I get it. I came in at the end of an adventure. It looks like a happy ending. It is actually a good thing I came in now so I can enjoy the start of a whole new story tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

DAY TWO:

Well, that’s nice. Sort of the same thing as yesterday though. And it seems a bit of a waste, story-wise, to do it in one big splash but I guess it gets the emotion across. OK, let’s see where this goes tomorrow.

DAY THREE:

What the? What’s the point of this? Is the next arc about haircuts? If this were a play I could almost hear the stage manager hissing “vamp!” while the star desperately searches for her line. This is ridiculous, the big splash yesterday should have ended the arc. I’m getting a bit tired of this, hopefully things will move ahead tomorrow.

DAY FOUR:

Um, Ok. More wasting time. Maybe they haven’t hammered out the next script yet and just tossed this in? I can’t figure out a purpose to this strip, unless it is to reinforce their dedication to fighting evil? This isn’t much of a superhero strip, it is more like a bad show on the religious station with Kirk Cameron. I’m not hopeful for tomorrow.

DAY FIVE:

Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere.

DAY SIX:Huh? Where’s The Phantom? And isn’t that the guy who was supposed to be in jail? Who are these people? I sat through almost a week for this? That strip could have been told in three panels. And re-read the second panel. “Colonel Weeks met the unknown commander.” “Worubu doubts it.” There is a verb tense problem there, and I’m usually not that picky outside of a grammar blog but that is really annoying to read. I really hope The Phantom picks up but I’m losing hope.

DAY SEVEN:

UGH! Back to that? It’s like the Sunday strip exists in a different timeline, and maybe it might. Many strips do a separate storyline on Sundays because some papers only run the Sunday strips. So I can follow the annoying story on Sunday, or follow the slow and boring story during the week, or maybe wait and see if indeed that Sunday strip is part of the same story as the weekly though it doesn’t seem to be.

DAY EIGHT:

To Hell with The Phantom. Popeye never fails. I got more out of that strip than an entire week of The Phantom. And why not? It looks like they are running a classic Sagendorf strip.

That Phantom run may have been the worst week of a comic strip that I have ever read, and that’s coming from someone who read comics written and drawn by Rob Liefeld so you know I’ve read some bad comics. The artist of this strip, Paul Ryan, was the artist on one of my favorite runs of the Fantastic Four so this hurts all the more.

DECEMBER 2017 UPDATE!

Here are the current strips from Monday December 25 to Thursday, December 28: 

Whoa, what happened? First, you might notice a change in the art. Comic book veteran Mike Manley (another favorite artist, and cool name- “Manley”-) has taken over from Paul Ryan, who died in 2016. The strip looks great. I have to give credit to the colorist too. The explosion on day two really pops. But most notably,  the writing is top notch. It zips along! There’s action! I want to know what happens next. And look at the bad guy. Despite not knowing what the plot of the story is, I feel I know all I need to know about him at this point. As a new reader I’m already drawn into the action and fairly knowledgeable about the characters. Did they change the writer, you may be wondering? Nope, it is still Tony DePaul. So maybe the 2011 run was an aberration? Or maybe he simply improved. Either way, this week’s strip is a winner. I deliberately left out the Friday strip. And that’s today (as of the date of this posts publication) so go over to comicskingdom.com and see where this story is headed. I know I will!  

 

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Happy Hanukkah, Jack Kirby and Ben Grimm!

13 Dec

Updated December 13, 2017

from December 23, 2016
and December 15, 2012

The 1976 Jack Kirby family Hanukkah card

The 1976 Jack Kirby family Hanukkah card

I am a big fan of The Fantastic Four and of them, I am first and foremost a fan of The Thing. He is easily in my top five, possibly top three comic book characters. And speaking of the First Family of Marvel Comics, Ben Grimm was created by two men who surely were members of the First Family of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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And while many of the legends of the comic industry, like Superman creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster, Will Eisner, Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby were Jewish, it doesn’t necessarily follow that their famous creations are Jewish. Superman is not Jewish, The Spirit is not Jewish (though many of Will Eisner’s contemporary creators contend that Eisner always implied that he was. So maybe…)

But Benjamin Jacob Grimm is undoubtedly Jewish.

And here's his bar mitzvah to prove it.

And here’s his bar mitzvah to prove it.

From wikipedia, oy vey!:

In keeping with an early taboo in the comic superhero world against revealing a character’s religion, the fact that Grimm was Jewish was not explicitly revealed until four decades after his creation, in the story, “Remembrance of Things Past” (in Fantastic Four, vol. 3, #56, August 2002). In this story, Grimm returns to his old neighborhood to find Mr. Sheckerberg, a pawn shop owner he had known as a child. Flashbacks during this story reveal Grimm’s Jewish heritage, and he even recites the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer often recited over the dead and dying, over the dying Sheckerberg, who eventually recovers. In a later story, Grimm even agrees to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, since it has been 13 years (the age a Jewish boy celebrates his Bar Mitzvah) since he began his “second life” as the Thing. To celebrate the ceremony, Grimm organizes a poker tournament for every available superhero in the Marvel Universe.

It is a fact that The Thing is in many ways just Jack Kirby writing himself on the page. While The Spirit may be what Will Eisner wished to be, in many was The Thing is who Jack Kirby really was.

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Remind you of anyone?

 

Some personality traits of the cantankerously lovable, occasionally cigar-smoking, Jewish native of the Lower East Side are popularly recognized as having been inspired by those of co-creator Jack Kirby, who in interviews has said he intended Grimm to be an alter ego of himself.

So as we approach The Festival of Light, it is only appropriate to wish both Ben Grimm and Jack Kirby a very

hanukkah_happy

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This has been

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