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Tag Archive: Klaus Janson


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s take a trip back 33 years ago to a galaxy not all that far away.  It was my very first issue of the only comic book I ever subscribed to.  It was the end of the school year in 1986 and at last I took the plunge to send in a check to start getting a comic in the mail.  My first issue?  Star Wars #107, which contained a note from Marvel Comics stating that this was to be the final issue and I was going to be sent something instead going forward from a new universe of comics Marvel was starting called… New Universe.  In the days before the Internet or anyone to call to say “what?” I was then sent eleven monthly issues of Star Brand.  Not quite Star Wars, each issue reminded me of what I was not getting.  I was a fan of the Star Wars comic book (issued as Star Wars Weekly in the UK) since receiving my first ever comic as a giveaway when my mom took me to my local library’s Star Wars Day right before Christmas 1977.  The series would introduce me to a roster of creators (many I’d later meet in person) including Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Steve Leialoha, Rick Hoberg, Archie Goodwin, Donald F. Glut, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Al Williamson, Tom Palmer, David Michelinie, Klaus Janson, Ann Nocenti, Jan Duursema, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Walt Simonson.  I read every issue up to Issue #107.

The big surprise?  That original Star Wars series became everyone’s first encounter with the word BORG.  It’s probably the first ever use of those four letters to describe a cybernetic organism, and it was spoken by none other than Luke Skywalker in reference to Valance, The Hunter way back in 1978.  We would learn Valance was a borg who killed borgs, and he became an inaugural inductee here at borg in our borg Hall of Fame, and part of my opening dialogue with borg readers eight years ago here.  This year, through the miracle of an idea worthy of a light bulb floating over your head, Marvel Comics introduced for its ongoing 80th anniversary celebration something I’ve never seen done before: a single, new, numbered issue continuing a series canceled as far back as 33 years ago.  The issue is Star Wars, Issue #108–it’s fantastic and available at local comic shops everywhere now.

 

Providing a chapter by chapter sequel not to Issue #107 of the vintage series, but to the Issue #50 story “Crimson Forever,” Matthew Rosenberg is the writer on the new Issue #108 titled “Forever Crimson,” and along with Valance we again meet some of our favorite characters of the entire Star Wars universe who we haven’t seen in decades:  the villainous Domina Tagge (remember Baron Tagge?), the stylin’ Amaiza Foxtrain, the memorable telepathic hoojib and the red Zeltrons, and best of all, Jaxxon the bounty hunter rabbit, who we last saw on a special variant edition copy of Marvel’s reboot Star Wars, Issue #1.  Plus all the stars of the series we all know and love.  As for the artists, Jan Duursema returns to the series for this one-shot issue, along with Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Andrea Broccardo, Kerry Gammill, Ze Carlos, Stefano Landini, Luke Ross, and Leonard Kirk, with colors by Chris Sotomayor, and lettering by Clayton Cowles.  The result is everything you could want in a Star Wars comic.  It’s the kind of purely fun story that would make a great monthly even today.  If only they continued this story in an ongoing series!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The most rewarding and epic read of all the new Black Panther movie tie-ins is Marvel’s Black Panther: The Illustrated History of a King–The Complete Comics Chronology from Insight Editions, an enormous over-sized look at the history of the superhero in Marvel Comics.  Author Dennis Culver recounts the character from its origin up to the new film, including descriptions of the superhero’s classic story arcs, with full-sized reproductions of cover art, full-page copies of key pages, and even some larger-than-life panels and splash page art.

Culver’s history of the character doesn’t miss a beat or classic creator reference.  Created by Stan Lee himself as the first black superhero, drawn by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott and first appearing in the pages of Fantastic Four.  He became an adversary of the team and would return facing off against Captain America in Tales of Suspense and then the Captain America monthly.  What may surprise those only familiar with the film is that with only some minor tweaks to the character, the origin story is as reflected in the new film:  T’Challa is king of Wakanda, who must face an arch-enemy named Klaw who has stolen some of the rare substance called vibranium.  Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Vince Colletta would take over creative duties as Black Panther joined the pages of The Avengers, with other creators working on the books including Herb Trimpe, Frank Giacoia, Bob Brown, and Ron Wilson.  Don McGregor would write Black Panther into the pages of Jungle Action with a huge roster of artists including Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, Billy Graham, Klaus Janson, P. Craig Russell, and Bob McLeod.  This would also be the introduction of the villain Erik Killmonger in the lauded “Panther’s Rage” story arc.  The movie got this right as well, with Killmonger taking over and throwing Black Panther to his near-death over Warrior Falls.  Some call this story arc the first of the mature, graphic novel stories that would later usher in books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns.

Jack Kirby would write and illustrate Black Panther in his own solo title finally in January 1977.  A decade later Ed Hannigan would bring back the hero (after Kirby’s title wound down) in the pages of The Defenders, with Black Panther facing Namor the Sub-Mariner (who would clash with each other  over the next two decades).  T’Challa had appearances in Marvel Team-Up, two limited series, and Marvel Comics Presents–including a run with Gene Colan and Denys Cowan art–in the 1980s and early 1990s.  As the millenium closed, Christopher Priest would write a new update to the character, inserting more humor into the stories, followed by stories from creator Reginald Hudlin and art by John Romita, Jr.–with a return of Klaus Janson, all under the Marvel Knights banner.  This series would bring in characters Everett Ross and T’Challa’s sister Shuri, who would appear in the film, and love interest Storm from the X-Men.  From there the character was subsumed into myriad Marvel crossovers with the rest of the publisher’s pantheon of heroes, including Civil War, Secret Invasion, and more recent series.

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Kubert main cover DKIII     DK II The Master Race alt cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am truly hoping Frank Miller’s eight issue The Dark Knight III: The Master Race does what I hope J.J. Abrams will be successful at with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If the first issue is any indication, the series might be better than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to the seminal work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Why the comparison to Abrams?  Unlike DKI and DKII, which was written and illustrated by Miller with colors by Lynn Varley, DKIII is “co-written” by Brian Azzarello, and illustrated by Andy Kubert with inks by Klaus Janson (who also inked the original Miller pencils on DKI).  It’s this concept of expanding an original story to new creators that may allow this Dark Knight Elseworlds story to regain some steam.

Dark-Knight-III-The-Master-Race-12     Jock DKIII cover

With Issue #1, Kubert has drawn the beginning of a continuation story that looks like it was drawn by Miller.  Miller’s original four-issue series included many unique design concepts, including frenetically rendered heroes as well as psychedelic street thugs, TV screens delivering the backstory of the world view as the plotline moved forward, and plenty of grim, dystopian future-Gotham characterizations.  All of these are back, yet in an updated style, including the attention to current technologies that weren’t around in the 1980s like texting to deliver the view of the state of Gotham as part of its world building.

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He-Man print in limited edition of The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Review by C.J. Bunce

Next month Dark Horse Comics releases a must-read for fans of He-Man, She-Ra “Princess of Power,” and the Masters of the Universe world of toys, animated series, magazines, chapter books, posters, comic strips, and comic books.  The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover includes more than 300 pages full-color art, a portfolio featuring an exclusive print by Gerald Parel, a foil-embossed cover, and a die-cut two-piece Castle Greyskull slipcase.  A standard edition of the book will also be available.  Many well-known creators worked with these characters since its inception in the early 1980s, including Ralph McQuarrie, Drew Struzan, Dick Giordano, J. Michael Straczynski, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Boris Vallejo, Tony Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Geoff Johns, and Tommy Lee Edwards.

Designers from every stage of the creation of He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, and the large cast of sword and sorcery heroes and villains, offer insight into character development, decision-making, and the impact on 1980s kids.  The best feature is the inclusion of hundred of pieces of full-color art, concept artwork, page layouts, sketches, storyboards, packaging art, prototypes, never before seen and unused imagery, advertising art, original comic art, and final comic book pages, covers, and animation cels.  It features restored art from master illustrator Earl Norem, as well as interviews with Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 movie, director Gary Goddard, well-known TV producer/comic book writer Paul Dini, and voice actress Erika Scheimer, among many others.  Captions for photos were written by comic book creators Tim Seeley and Steve Seeley.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover slipcase edition

Particularly of interest to toy collectors are the original notes from the development stage of the toy line at Mattel.  Mattel, which had passed on the ground-breaking Star Wars action figure line, developed He-Man as a direct competitor to that toy line.  Mattel drove the look of the characters–this was first and foremost a toy line, inspired in part by the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta.  But it grew beyond that.  Artists and writers and other creators remark with pride about the focus on the stories that went beyond the toy line.

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Oliver Queen and trick arrow to save the day

More than 25 years after Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s four-part prestige format comic book series/graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns changed the landscape for comic books thereafter, DC Animation produced a quality animated adaptation.  Released in two parts, we reviewed The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 here last year.   Part 1 was a faithful adaptation of roughly the first half of the original graphic novel.  It proved first and foremost that Christopher Nolan really pulled his key story elements in his Dark Knight trilogy of films from Frank Miller’s work.  Part 1 really keyed in on Nolan’s Bane character.  Both Part 1 and the Dark Knight trilogy failed to provide an exciting narrative, however, when compared to  The Dark Knight Returns Part 2, now on video.

Part 2 is every bit as faithful to the original as Part 1.  Commissioner Gordon has already stepped down and was replaced by a new commissioner whose first act is issuing a warrant for Batman.  The vacuous Doctor Wolper brings his patient The Joker to appear on Miller’s take on The David Letterman Show, only for The Joker to release a gas bombing that kills the entire audience as well as the host, leaving The Joker’s trademark grin on all their faces.  From the first sentences of Part 2, you know this is not a kid’s Batman film.  The Joker escapes and proceeds to bloodily murder everyone in his path until he confronts Batman in the bowels of Gotham City.  Here the classic confrontation between the long-time foes plays out exactly as it should.

Christopher Reeve poster

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With the barrage of comic book movies re-emerging into the mainstream, starting with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008, and continuing through this summer with Thor, X-Men, Green Lantern and Captain America, comic books as an overlooked niche may be having it’s own renaissance.  With the focus of DC Comics in returning to its roots by recharging its universe starting Wednesday, August 31, comic books are making national news as a popular medium again.

No greater indication of comic books coming of age this year occured at a Heritage Auctions sale a few weeks ago.  In its New York Signature Vintage Comics and Comic Art Auction #7033, fifteen bidders duked it out to determine the single most expensive piece of American original comic art to sell at auction.

So which artist, what book, what publisher scored the biggest single page hit ever?

In part, the record breaking sale came as a surprise.  This was no golden age book from the 1940s.  Neither was it an early rarity at the dawn of comic strips, like the Katzenjammer Kids, Keystone Cops or the Yellow Kid.  It also wasn’t a piece of cover art–in original comic art collecting it is the cover that typically fetches a far higher price than interior work.  Neither was it a classic science fiction comic, a Charles Schulz Peanuts page, or a Superman page.  But it did come from DC Comics.  Something to remember: only in recent years has comic book art been actively collected.  Many early pages were thrown away or lost.  Ask old time artists about their original pages at conventions and they will shake their head and tell you stories about their long gone pages.  Unlike rare comic books, there is only one original art page in existence, so these works are true rarities.

The object of the highest hammer price probably should come as no surprise.  It is from one of the most talked about comic book series in the past 30 years.  From a book that has been studied by economists and even used as a required text book at state universities.

The book of course is the ground-breaking Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pencils by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson inks.  It is a splash page from issue #3, page 10.  And it sold for $448,125 including the auction house buyer’s premium.

Don’t you wish you had one of the several dozen remaining pages from the four book Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series right now?

The cover of the book featuring the record breaking page:

The last public sale record was set only last year, for the comic book cover of EC title Weird Science-Fantasy #29 by the great Frank Frazetta.  It sold for $380,000.

Frank Miller is now known not only as a controversial but popular comic book writer and artist, he is also the man behind major motion pictures, including 300, Sin City, and The Spirit.  Inker Klaus Janson is the German expatriot who has worked with countless major pencillers and set the standard all inkers aspire to, and he wrote the book on inking, The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics

   

as well as The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics.  (I am a big fan of the entire DC Comics Guide series and every beginning comic artists aspiring to make a ground breaking page like Miller’s and Janson’s should check these out).

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns has been re-printed numerous times since its release as four prestige format comics in 1986.  The page itself features of course Batman, but also his controversial new sidekick introduced in the 1986 mini-series: a female Robin and considered the fourth Robin in the history of the caped crusader.  The page is a full spread or “splash page” showing the dynamic duo swinging across the skyline of Gotham City.  The Dark Knight Returns is a dystopian tale of Bruce Wayne, who emerges after retiring from the hero business and spending his days as a more stereotypical billionaire, including enjoying the fun of race car driving.  In the book he looks just like Paul Newman, as Newman looked in the 1980s.  The edge that we then saw in 1989’s summer blockbuster Batman starring Michael Keaton derives directly from this series, as does the darkness and grittiness behind every comic book series since.  Frank Miller and Company also revisited the Dark Knight story in the far less popular sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

When Miller was asked about the imminent sale of the record-winning piece, he commented, “I’ve always loved that drawing…Danced around my studio like a fool when I drew it.  I hope it finds a good home.”

As several Batman series begin again this week, which series will become the next The Dark Knight Returns?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com