What’s this? A mysterious package arrives at Longbox Graveyard Secret Headquarters!
(Actually, it’s not a surprise at all, as I ordered it. But I pretend otherwise. Coy self-deception is a survival trait for comic book bloggers).
Within, red wrapping.
(Nice of this eBayer to go to such bother. I would have just tossed the thing in a box).
And within that wrapper, within that box … it’s the Mole Man!
I was all set to tear the box open … but this is a pretty cool box. I particularly liked the “Then & Now” information panel that made up one side of the box.
Ah, but “WHY Mole Man?” I hear you ask. Why did I buy this bust?
I don’t particularly like Mole Man, and I don’t collect busts. I’ve sold off or given away nearly all of my comic book stuff.
Yet here I’ve purchased a Mole Man bust!
Don’t blame the Value Stamp per se (though a different Value Stamp cost me my copy of Hulk #181 … that’s another story).
No, blame that portrait of the Mole Man, excerpted for a Value Stamp. You see, when I set up this blog, back in the dim days of 2011, I set up a Twitter account to go with it, and Twitter required an avatar. Child of the Bronze Age as I was, I “naturally” flashed on using a Marvel Value Stamp. I scrolled through the invaluable on-line listing of Value Stamps and settled on one that was a portrait with a good “read” and a funny expression: Mole Man.
Not really thinking more about it, I took to Twitter as the Mole Man.
Of course, if you follow me on Twitter … all you see is that damn Mole Man face.
With no small degree of regret, I admit to 27K-plus Tweets on Twitter. That’s a lot of Mole Men!
OK, so I’m the Mole Man. I can go with that.
My Unintentional Avatar is made sweeter through the intentionality of Glenn J. Smith, a Longbox Graveyard reader and Twitter spirit animal who fixed me up with a less gloomy version of the original Mole Man:
With my avatar thus afforded the legitimacy of an individual’s artistic expression, I’ve come to embrace the Mole Man.
(You see, I become more like Mole Man each moment!)
Then I wrote an impassioned plea for why Ian McShane should play the Mole Man on film.
But, really, those were baby steps, leading up to owning my very own Mole Man bust.
I’ve been looking for this bust for years. Really!
Yes, I know it is readily available on eBay. That’s where I got it! But I set strict rules for the acquisition of my Mole Man.
Specifically, I wouldn’t pay more than twenty bucks for it.
I spent the last two or three convention seasons hunting for Mole Man on dealer floors up and down the west coast, but never found my quarry (and the prices, overall, of these Bowen Designs statues were not encouraging).
So when I found a slightly damaged version on eBay, for $14.00 shipping included, I pounced like a ravenous Moloid!
And now Mole Man resides in a place of prominence on the bedroom deck that doubles as my office in my new beach condo digs.
It has been a long, strange journey, but I cannot escape this fate. My bust is here at last …
… and as for me …
… I AM THE MOLE MAN!
(goo goo g’joob!)
Longbox Graveyard goes to the dogs with this Top 10 List of the greatest comic book super-dogs of all time!
It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again! Super-Blog Team-Up is a loose collection of comic book blogs and podcasts that come together several times a year to opine on a common topic. In the past, we’ve tackled superheroes calling it quits, ret-cons, bad guys, team-ups, and alternative time lines. This time, we’re offering Top 10 Lists — a subject near and dear to my heart!
My past Top 10 lists have been (mostly) serious … or as serious as things get in funnybooks. I’ve listed my Top 10 Captain America Villains, Top 10 DC Comics Characters, Top 10 Marvel Comics Characters, Top 10 Superhero Lairs, and many more. With the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown recently drawn to a close, this Super-Blog Team-Up seemed the ideal opportunity to add the Top 10 Super-Dogs to my roll of honor!
Before we get to the list, a few ground rules.
First, I am interested only in characters that appeared first or primarily in comic books. Animation is a whole ‘nother business … so you won’t find characters like Underdog or Dynomutt here. While some of these characters would also appear in animation, they are first and foremost comic-book dogs. Get it? Got it? Good!
Second, this list is heavily biased by the Bronze and Silver Age superhero sensibilities of Longbox Graveyard. Most (but not all) of these mutts are traditional comic book canines that have been around for decades, and all but one of my pooches hails from the comic book “Big Two” publishers. My apologies to all the contemporary, hip, indie comics hounds that I have unfairly consigned to the dog house!
Third, there is no third rule … aside from the restriction that David Letterman used to offer when introducing his nightly Top Ten — “Please, no wagering!”
Without further ado, and in reverse order (to help preserve the suspense, natch), here’s the Longbox Graveyard Top 10 Super-Dogs!
The list leads with an honorable mention for DC’s Space Canine Patrol Agents!
A product of DC’s wonderfully unhinged Silver Age, the Space Canine Patrol Agents (SCPA) were a kind of all-dog counterpart to the Legion of Super-Heroes. First appearing in Superboy #131, the group included a dog you know — Krypto — and a whole bunch of C-list canines, like Tusky Husky, Prophetic Pup, and Chameleon Collie. Close your eyes and you can imagine this lot opening their meetings with their sacred oath — “Big dog, big dog, bow wow wow! We’ll stop evil, now now now!”
I can’t begin to parse through the SCPA membership for this list, so they all get in with an honorable mention (and one member of the crew will shortly get much more than that). For more on the too-weird-not-to-be-true SCPA, head on over to the indispensable Dial B For Blog, which has enough vintage SCPA art to get your tail wagging!
Wilson was an alternate-universe mutt experimented upon for cosmetics testing. With the experiment deemed a failure, poor Wilson was thrown away … only to rise as Dogpool!
Animal testing for the cosmetics industry? On dogs? Now, there’s some true villainy!
Dogpool appeared in an astonishing 29 issues of various Deadpool comics (if Comic Vine is to believed), which either says something about the staying power of this character, or the vacuous nature of Deadpool books! Fingers are crossed that Dogpool gets some spotlight time when Deadpool comes to the silver screen in his 2016 movie debut!
Did you know that the Punisher had a dog? And did you know that this dog was so tough, even the Punisher couldn’t kill him? Meet Max!
Max was totally off my radar until Dean Compton — frequent Longbox Graveyard guest columnist, host of The Unspoken Decade, and the world’s biggest Punisher fan — convinced me that Max deserved a place in the Round of 32 in last month’s Super-Animal Showdown.
Max is a savage Rottweiler who guards the Punisher’s safe house. He was wounded in the line of duty — so badly wounded that the Punisher put him down with a knife. But wait! So outraged was fan reaction to Max’s death that a retcon later established that hard-hearted Punisher actually performed some kind of surgery on Max and saved his life!
And so there you have it … Max, the dog even the Punisher couldn’t kill!
(And let’s not be exploiting any more poor Rottweilers to guard our safe houses, OK?)
As near as I can tell, Destructo only appeared once — in 1961’s Superboy #92 — but if you’re Lex Luthor’s dog, and you wear a Jolly Roger cape, you’ve got to make the list …
Gaining super powers by a run-in with young Lex Luthor’s time machine, Destructo went on a rampage, impersonating Krypto and ruining the Dog of Steel’s good name! This adventure alone was enough to earn Destructo the title of Krypto’s arch-enemy … this is one super-dog overdue for a comeback!
The honor of being the sole non-DC or Marvel comics dog in my top ten goes to Archie’s loyal dog, Vegas!
If we were just talking about the classic, canonical, Riverdale version of Archie’s pet, he likely wouldn’t make this list … but Vegas’ stand-out appearance in the zombie-infested Afterlife With Archie was emotional and unforgettable. I reviewed that surprisingly impactful series here — and I don’t want to give too much away about Vegas, in case you haven’t yet read Archie’s excellent undead adventure — but this image should give you an idea of why Vegas rates the seventh spot on my list!
Now, this is pure cool. A Soviet space dog that drifted off course, mutated into a super-intelligent psychic that projects his thoughts with a stereotypical Russian accent, still wears his CCCP space suit, and serves as security chief on the space station the Guardians of the Galaxy calls home? Damn, it’s all I can do not to make Cosmo #1 on my list!
I just about leapt out of my seat when Cosmo made a cameo appearance in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, as one of the many captors of the dread Collector. When the Collector’s headquarters went boom, I turned to my son and said, “If Cosmo bought it, I’m walking out!” Fortunately, a quick shot showed Cosmo trotting to safety, and so the dream is alive that we will see Cosmo facing down his frenemy, Rocket Raccoon, in the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy sequel!
#5 Pizza Dog
Also known as Lucky, Pizza Dog is the lovable mutt that Hawkeye rescues from the Russian mob in his recent breakout series by Matt Fraction and David Aja.
Lucky becomes a memorable supporting character in the series, and even stars in the brilliant issue #11 of the run, a book that told the kind of story that comics do better than any other dramatic form — a story related from Lucky’s point of view, using only the senses and sensibilities of a single and extraordinary dog. A great story about a great character, from a team at the top of their form (and good enough to snag an Eisner, too!)
#4 Rex The Wonder-Dog
We need to fire up the Wayback Machine for the #4 hound on our list …
Debuting in 1952’s The Adventures of Rex The Wonder Dog, and appearing in DC adventures right up into the 21st century, Rex would have a serious pedigree even if his early adventures hadn’t been created by comics legends Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth! Rex’s forty-six issue run through the 1950s benefitted from some terrific Gil Kane covers, too.
A kind of canine Captain America, Rex was a German Shepherd in the U.S. Army’s K-9 Corps who received a super-soldier serum injection, serving in World War II and Korea before becoming a crime-fighter, battling aliens and dinosaurs, and fighting alongside the future Justice League of America. A wonder dog, indeed!
#3 Ace the Bat-Hound
Ace hasn’t the resume of Rex the Wonder-Dog, but he gets on the podium of our Super-Dog Top 10 because … Batman!
Because nothing that works in comics isn’t worth over-doing, Ace’s appearance was a foregone conclusion when Krypto took the comics world by storm in 1955. A scant four month’s later, Superboy’s dog was joined by Batman’s hound, Ace, in the DC universe of super-animal stars!
Ace never caught on like Krypto, but c’mon. He wears a Batman mask, and he hangs around the Batcave. Ace is awesome just walking into the room …
The surprise winner of the Longbox Graveyard Super-Animal Showdown rates the penultimate position on our list!
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and making his first appearance in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45, Lockjaw is the unforgettable teleporting super-dog of the weird and wonderful Inhumans. That alone would ensure that Lockjaw made this list, but the four-footed Inhuman has had a long and surprisingly successful second act to his career, first headlining his own book in Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, and then playing a supporting role in the new fan favorite Ms. Marvel series.
Fifty years after he was born, it seems that Lockjaw is still a pup. Respect!
And respect is what it’s all about for the #1 entry on the Super-Dog Top 10.
It’s Krypto, of course!
C’mon, who else could it be? Krypto is the sine qua non of dogs in capes!
First appearing in Adventure Comics #210 in 1955, Krypto was an instant hit as Superboy’s pet. The pilot of Jor-El’s prototype rocket that would eventually bring baby Superman to Earth, Krypto was knocked off course and reached our planet later than baby Kal-El, but still in plenty of time to partner with Superboy in many of his Silver Age Adventures, and even becoming leader of the Legion of Super-Pets!
Lockjaw may have (narrowly) defeated Krypto in their recent showdown, but in the long view of history, there’s only one possible Top Dog when it comes to super-pets. All hail Krypto, the greatest Super-Dog of them all!
That will do it for my Top 10 Super-Dogs. Please share your thoughts in the comments section, below! And also take a look at the many other fine Top 10 Lists on offer from my fellow Super-Blog Team-Up colleagues:
- Super-Hero Satellite: Top 10 DC Comics Titles That Ended Before Their Time
- Idol Head of Diablou: Top 10 Most Important Martian Manhunter Villains
- Marvel Superheroes Podcast: Top 10 Avengers (An Age Of Ultron Tie-In)
- Too Dangerous For A Girl: Top 10 Worst Super-Heroic Hairstyles
- Chasing Amazing: Top 10 Favorite Moments Of The “Chase”
- Fantastiverse: Top 10 Avengers Greatest Super Battles
- Mystery V-Log: Top 10 Avengers Covers
- In My Not So Humble Opinion: Top 10 Avengers Sketches
- The Unspoken Decade: Top 10 Avengers Moments
- Flodos Page: Top 10 Green Lantern Ring-Slings … That Don’t Appear In Modern Continuity
- Between The Pages: Top 10 Wackiest DC Comics Covers
- BronzeAge Babies: The Top 10 Bronze Age Characters (x2!)
- Legion of Super-Bloggers: Legion Who’s Who Top 10
- Vic Sage via The Retroist: Top 10 Comic Character Deaths
- I’m The Gun: The 10 Best All-Star Squadron Covers
Thanks for reading! And if you are ready to make room for a super-dog in your own home and heart, remember that there are thousands of awesome shelter dogs looking for a good home! Please visit my friends at Adopt-A-Pet.com to find your new best friend!
NEXT MONTH: #148 Longbox Soapbox
The big week is here — Avengers Age of Ultron is screening in theaters around the world!
To get you in the mood for the latest big-screen adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, here are links to the many Avengers articles previously published here at Longbox Graveyard!
Before they had even heard of Thanos, the Avengers defended earth against alien invasion in the Kree-Skrull War …
And on a less cosmic scale, I reviewed the bumpy early road navigated by the old-school Avengers in the first year or so of the book …
Just days ago, I looked at the Oedipal origins of the Bride of Ultron …
And you can view some groovy Avengers art in my Pinterest Gallery!
Thanks for reading. Avengers Assemble!
Welcome back to The Dollar Box, where I look at single issues and short runs of comics with a cover price of a dollar or less. With the Age of Ultron dawning in theaters this week, I thought it a good time to revisit this classic Ultron story from the pages of Avengers #161-162.
But in between was a two-year run helmed by Jim Shooter, where he brought his finely-honed Silver Age sensibilities to Marvel’s premiere superhero team. Shooter’s Avengers are best remembered for the Korvac Saga, but my personal favorite portion of Shooter’s run is this two-part story from Avengers #161-162. Featuring rich characterization, explosive action, and extraordinarily tight pencils and powerful visual storytelling from artist George Perez, these issues represent the soul of late-1970s Avengers.The 1970s were a golden age for the Avengers. The brand had not yet been diluted by West Coast Avengers or today’s endless spin-off books, and with only one place to go for Avengers action, Marvel lavished the title with their top talent. The decade began with Roy Thomas’ Kree-Skrull War, and continued under Steve Englehart in a series of stories that would test the Avengers both without and within. The era would conclude with a Roger Stern/John Byrne run where the Scarlet Witch would start to show some of the awesome power (and instability) that would later haunt her in Marvel events like The House of M.
Jim Shooter’s editorial reign at Marvel remains a controversial period, but there’s no disputing that Shooter was a superior comic book writer. A genuine savant, Shooter began his career at the tender age of thirteen, writing and drawing for DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, which he would write through that book’s mid-1970s signature run. With Legion, Shooter demonstrated that he could handle ensemble stories that were rich in complicated backstory — skills that would serve him well in this tale of fathers, sons, and Oedipal yearnings.
The action kicks off in issue #161’s “Attacked By The Ant Man!” where Hank Pym has evidently suffered some kind of mental breakdown, accusing the present-day Avengers of being imposters attempting to replace the original vintage versions of those characters, who had first come together with Ant Man to form the team in the pages of Avengers #1.
The fight is on!This being a Silver Age-style Marvel comic, our heroes solve their differences by beating the tar out of each other, showcasing Shooter and Perez at the top of their game. Perez orchestrates the visually-complicated team fight with relish, while Shooter demonstrates his deft touch with expository dialogue — making sure that readers know who each character is, and making clear why a seemingly-insignificant character like Ant Man poses a threat to earth’s mightiest heroes. In the span of four perfect panels, we see how Ant Man can summon a swarm of ants to do his bidding; how those ants exploit Iron Man’s weakness by flooding through the eye-slits of his mask; and how Ant Man retains enough of his full-sized strength to clout Captain America on the jaw.
Shooter isn’t content just to recycle old tropes. After making clear that the Vision’s powers are based on making himself insubstantial, he follows up with a power trick (never used before or since?) where the Vision defeats a swarm of ants with an electrified shock. But that does nothing to stop Ant Man from taking out a pair of Avengers with his patented, grow-suddenly-to-full size sneak attack, expertly set in motion by Perez’s pencils.Part of Shooter’s ethos was to make sure that any readers picking up a comic for the first time would not be completely lost, and this awkward speaking of characters’ names and out-loud restating of action and results is part of that agenda. But it also serves to provide a verbal, character-driven rhythm for these stories, where even veteran readers had something to see, nodding along as familiar characters behaved in believable ways. It’s the kind of storytelling that comics can do especially well, and a strength of the form that is rarely used by current creators. Likewise, having characters speak aloud their internal monologues and footnote the uses and limitations of their powers would never wash on film, but when well-executed in a superhero comic, it is pure four-color fun.
Here Shooter employs his mastery of backstory, rooting Hank’s breakdown in the character’s checkered history. Madness isn’t too much to expect of a character who’s brain has been stressed by a career filled with growing and shrinking powers, and poor Hank has had breakdowns and multiple personalities in his past.The timely arrive of Hank’s wife — Janet Pym, the Wasp — allows the Avengers to get the upper hand, and take stock of what drove Hank off his nut.
Even a transitional scene affords room for Shooter to provide characterization. Here we see the Beast — having only recently joined the team — struggling to fit in with the rest of the Avengers.The Avengers, of course, take all of this in stride, and quickly act to help their fallen friend.
Looking back on these tales, of course, we know that they are Ultron stories, but at the time, his reintroduction was a bit of a shock. His appearance was hinted-at in the preceding issue #160, but Ultron had been out of action since taking a powder in Fantastic Four #150, three years before. That’s a long time for a Marvel super-villian to stay on the bench. While making an indelible mark in his introduction arc circa Avengers #55, I’d argue that it is in these Shooter/Perez stories (which would continue in Avengers #170-171) where Ultron became an A-list Marvel bad guy.
It’s perfectly appropriate for a megalomaniacal rage case like Ultron to state his name during his dramatic entrance (which again helps new readers), and in the fight that follows demonstrates through action the villain’s extraordinary strength and the invulnerability granted by his adamantium body. Iron Man gets humiliated a second time, having cleared those ants out of his helmet only to have his transistors drained by the bad guy. Again we see Shooter’s touch with exposition, leaving no doubt about how Ultron has felled Iron Man.
Round One to Ultron!
It is in issue #162 that the emotional undercurrents of this story are fully realized, as we learn of Ultron’s scheme. Ultron’s plan is deeply disturbed, and revolves around deceiving his creator/father, Hank Pym, into working his will …
Hank’s brains are still too scrambled to see what is coming, but certain of the Avengers begin to entertain dark concerns.
(And as an aside, I think Perez proves himself an especially great Iron Man artist in this issue — I feel like I can see my own reflection in Iron Man’s face plate thanks to the way Perez draws the character).
Meanwhile, back at Ultron’s secret lab, Hank abets his monstrous creation in draining the life force from his own wife, Janet (who by extension is Ultron’s mother!) into the unnamed shell of Ultron’s intended bride. This is the first appearance of Jocasta, a largely-forgotten part-time Avenger who would go on to feature in some pretty decent comics in this era.
But by investing his affections in this mechanical obsession, the previously-impervious Ultron also inherits a liability. His love of his bride makes Ultron vulnerable in new and disturbingly-human ways — a weakness Iron Man is quick to exploit.
It is a mean-spirited way to defeat a villain — a point Shooter skillfully drives home when Black Panther later admonishes Iron Man for attaining victory in such dishonorable fashion — and the Avengers don’t seem to win this battle so much as they attain a temporary reprieve. Ultron quits the field but this conflict is far from resolved.
Unlike most of the stories I review at The Dollar Box, this two-issue tale has plenty of loose ends … but they’re the right kinds of loose ends, deliberately-unresolved plot threads designed to bring you back the following issue. Hank Pym is still insane, and no one is sure what to make of Jocasta, who as the final panel of this issue indicates played a pivotal-but-secret role in defeating Ultron. How will Janet Pym react to having part of her life force drained into a mechanical being? As far as our heroes are concerned, Captain America, the Beast, and the Scarlet Witch are all dead. Ultron is still on the loose. There’s even a subplot featuring Hawkeye and the Two-Gun Kid (!) that is ready to boil over!
A great Avengers run lays just over the horizon, and these issues are a great place to jump on board. You can get each of them in decent condition for just a little bit more than a contemporary comic book, which is a bargain for a pair of the most iconic Avengers stories ever published. These issues are also a part of Marvel’s growing digital library. They may be non-canonical, insofar as the movies are concerned (where it is Tony Stark — and not Hank Pym — who conceives of Ultron), but they remain among the finest Avengers comics ever published. Excelsior!
This article originally appeared at Stash My Comics.
NEXT WEEK: #147 Top-10 Super-Dogs!