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Tag Archive: Denny O’Neil


Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you only could choose one book to represent the potential–maybe even the highest form–of the comic book medium, a new book hitting the stands today may be on your short list.  IDW Publishing is releasing a stunning anthology of the history of the Holocaust as seen in comic books of the past, presented with an introduction and afterword by Stan Lee, the creator who broke more stereotypes in his stories than anyone in comic books’ first century.  In We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust, artist Neal Adams, who changed the way comic book stories were told in the early 1970s with his Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman series, Holocaust scholar Rafael Medoff, and comics historian Craig Yoe have compiled what is arguably the most noble use of comic books–educating kids in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s on a subject of history virtually ignored in mainstream circles.  Along with Congressman John Lewis’s March series about the civil rights movement, We Spoke Out: Comic Books and the Holocaust should be in every library and taught in every history class.

My high school history teacher was astonished to learn none of us knew the details of Watergate–we were only infants at the time–and I recall the realization he saw of what he and his peers were not teaching. This weekend my eighteen-year-old nephew mentioned watching the footage of 9-11 in school this year for the first time.  In the 1980s only the last paragraph of the last chapter of our World History textbooks discussed the Holocaust, yet we at least spent a week talking about the subject.  But not until the 1990s was the Holocaust taught in most of American school systems.  Even today only 35 states require education in the subject in school curriculums.  Certainly the most important lessons in history can be taught with its study, and in that light We Spoke Out should serve as a wake-up call to everyone, citizens, educators, and leaders.  Oddly enough, for generations of American kids, the only place they learned about the murder of six million Jews, the stories of concentration camps, of the atrocities committed by Hitler and his Nazis, was in the comics pages.

   

The stories in the anthology present the atrocities of World War II without the overdone blood and gore of many 1950s “horror” comics.  In an April 1955 story from Impact Issue #1 we meet a Jewish man post-War still haunted by his memories in what would now be called PTSD.  In the pages of December 1951’s Frontline Combat, Issue #3 story the then-lauded Nazi general Rommel is dressed down, revealing the villainous truths of his leadership in the face of contemporary efforts to re-invent Rommel as a military hero.  Based on the real-life Nazi Ilse Koch, in a story from Beware! Terror Tales, Issue #4, we are reminded of the vilest of humans who made household goods from the tattooed skin of captured Jews–a real-life horror some may think is only the stuff of fiction from Silence of the Lambs.  Among these stories ripped from real life, Adams, Medoff, and Yoe fill in the blanks of time with historical context, including details of what the stories leave out.

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PBS is airing a new documentary series tonight and re-broadcast October 22 focusing on the impact of comic book superheroes on America and American culture, in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle.  It’s a good history lesson in the creation of the modern comic book and the development since the 1930s of the comic book art form.  Packed with interviews with key creators and industry professionals, and comic book page and TV and movie clips, it tells a history of America as much as the comic book medium.

Not surprisingly the documentary, funded by both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, focuses on U.S. comics and comic stories tied to patriotism across the past 100 years.  Written and directed by Michael Kantor, it covers how changing times is mirrored in comics, but also dictates the stories of comics, from the Great Depression, to World War II, McCarthyism in the 1950s and the Cold War in the 1960s to 1980s, the psychedelic 1960s, drugs in the 1970s, to Watergate and terrorism.

Liev Schreiber hosts Superheroes on PBS

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As the world’s biggest Green Arrow fan I have seen it all when it comes to the Emerald Archer.  My preference has always been for the 1970s Oliver Queen by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, but I soon grew to love Mike Grell’s urban hunter version set in Seattle, and later became a believer in Phil Hester and Ande Parks’ run, especially when joined by Judd Winick’s new spin on Speedy.

I spent the entire night awake waiting in line at San Diego Comic-Con this summer to see the preview of the new CW Network series Arrow, about a younger Oliver Queen.  I think it is going to be a successful series that will rival the CW’s Smallville or Supernatural.  Admittedly I have not enjoyed the first year of Green Arrow in the New 52 for various reasons I’ve discussed here before.  So I was looking forward to seeing the Captain Atom team of Judd Winick and Freddie Williams II taking on Green Arrow in the one-shot Green Arrow #0 released this week.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I first read Jeff Jensen when a friend introduced me to his long explorations on each episode of Lost.  Almost two years after we both said goodbye to the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815, I read his Dark Horse graphic novel, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story.   I enjoy, wait, strike that pronoun and verb, let me start again.  The study and pursuit of serial killers by law enforcement agents interests me.  So, before I delve into what this book made me think about, let me just say that it’s a fascinating look at a detective who pursues the Green River Killer, Tom Jensen, the father of Jeff.

Whom does the author decide to follow?  For Jeff, I’m sure it was an easy decision to paint the portrait of his father and his family through the years and to intersperse it with the interrogation of Gary Leon Ridgway and a couple of scenes from Ridgway’s point of view.

For this genre, it’s a unique take.  For the take of the investigator, you have the books of John Douglas.  For the view from the killer, you have a number of books and movies like American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  This one, though technically the story of Tom Jensen, gives the obvious feeling that it is told through the eyes of a son.  Maybe I read too much into it, but the art of the novel feels like the scenes with Tom Jensen are from a perspective of someone shorter, listening to stories about how his father met his mother and looking up at him and his achievements.

It made me think of other graphic novels, books and movies and how that simple change of an author’s perspective can make a completely different story.  Think of Blade Runner from the perspective of Rachael, as a guy comes in and gives you the replicant tests.  Once that happens, if we follow her character, this revelation could change every relationship she has.  Does she wonder how people look at her?  Does she try to find answers at her job?  How would the movie change if told entirely from the viewpoint of Pris and how she just wanted to live, but a ruthless killer kept pursuing her?  What if it was from the angle of J.F. Sebastian who just wanted to find companionship?

I could go on as you can probably already see the different angels of your favorite movies, but humor me for a couple more.  What if The Lord of the Rings came from the view of the elves?  What if Eight Men Out told the story of the victorious Cincinnati Reds and how they won the World Series but the losers and their scandal overshadowed their victory?  What if instead of Harry Potter, the books focused on the bright, muggle-born Hermione Granger?

The whole idea of Wicked is The Wizard of Oz from a different view.  Elizabeth Bunce retold the story of Rumpelstiltskin in A Curse Dark As Gold completely from the view of the miller’s daughter and made her the heroine.

How does a writer choose a perspective?  What character can interest both the writer as they write and the reader as they read?

When I went to Comic-Con and sat in on a panel with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, they said what made Batman so interesting is that people could relate to him.  He’s human like us all and he has suffered terrible losses.  Everyone can understand those feelings and motivations.  They said it made it easy to write and create for that character.  They could interject themselves into the story.

On the other hand, Hannibal Lecter inspires book after book and movie after movie and I don’t think there are many genius cannibals in the world.  Then again, do writers need to be genius cannibals to step into those shoes, or just need to find the mundane and the ordinary contemptible?  I find it interesting that Lecter becomes a kind of hero in the stories movies even though he is a sadistic killer.  In real life serial killers aren’t heroes; they are Gary Leon Ridgway.  The eponymous Dexter makes a bit more sense as a hero because he only kills other killers.  If you accept that, then it’s not that far of a stretch to get back to Batman who doesn’t kill, he merely beats and cripples the bad guys.

At their heart, these example characters seek justice.  Rick Deckard seeks justice for the people the replicants killed to escape.  The criminal justice system places the Black Sox on trial to make them atone for accepting money to throw games.  Batman seeks to keep the streets safe from crime so that no one will have to face the pain he did.

A search for justice beats at the heart of many a crime story.  The search for love lies at the heart of love story.  If you want to tell a horror story, it’s about trying to find safety, and if you want to tell the story from the opposite side, it might be the search for retribution or something much darker.  If you make the darkness ridiculous enough, you’ve got yourself a dark comedy.

We all have a story to tell.  We all have a unique point of view.  Every author has to decide what their story will be and what character can best tell it.  I’ve heard it said that every story has already been written, and while that may be true, not every story has been told from every point of view.

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