The NCAA Basketball Tournaments may be calling it quits, but the March Madness Super-Animal Showdown is just getting to the good stuff!
Our Final Four is set after a quarterfinals round that saw favorites Krypto and Howard the Duck cruise into their semi-final matchup, while underdogs Devil Dinosaur and Lockjaw both scored upsets to set the stage for an all-Kirby semi on the other side of the bracket!
Let’s meet our Final Four!
#1 overall seed. Defeated Max, G’nort, and Comet to reach the Final Four.
First appearance: Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955). Created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan.
Howard the Duck
#4 seed. Defeated Hoppy the Wonder Bunny, Throg, and Gorilla Grodd to reach the Final Four.
First appearance: Adventure Into Fear #19 (December 1973). Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.
Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy
#7 seed, and entered the tournament as a “play-in” candidate, having been passed over in the committee’s initial seeding. Defeated Titano, Mr. Mind, and Rocket Raccoon to reach the Final Four.
First appearance: Devil Dinosaur #1 (April 1978). Created by Jack Kirby.
#11 seed, and the lowest seed still standing, wearing Cinderella’s glass slippers on all four of his floppy feet. Defeated Lockheed, Ace the Bat-Hound, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to round out the Final Four!
First appearance: Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965). Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
All right … you know the drill … it’s time to vote for your favorite Super-Animals! Here are the semi-final matches!
Krypto (d. Comet, 79-21), vs. Howard the Duck (d. Gorilla Grodd, 56-44)
Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy (d. Rocket Raccoon, 60-40) vs. Lockjaw (d Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 67-33)
Here’s your up-to-the-second tournament breakdown!
Some tasty match-ups here … and the Final is going to be amazing! Meet me back here next week for the championship match, and be sure to cheer on your favorite in the comments section, below!
It’s the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States … but wherever you may be, please accept my bountiful best wishes!
(Who is the character in the Dracula cape to Namor’s left?)
By now, you all should be familiar with the musings of Mark Ginocchio, the creator of the Spider-Man focused Chasing Amazing blog and the author of past posts on Longbox Graevyard such as his retrospective on Marvel’s Secret Wars mini-series and his two-part post on Spider-Man’s greatest battles. This week, Mark is writing about his two favorite Silver Age teenage superheroes – one of which is of course, the Amazing Spider-Man, but the other is the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm/Human Torch. Take it away Mark:
During the Silver Age of Marvel comics, one of the more fascinating relationships featured two characters from different titles. Spider-Man and Human Torch, Peter Parker and Johnny Storm respectively, were Marvel’s flagship teenage superheroes. But rather than team together to create crazy pubescent hijinks a la Archie and Jughead, Spidey and Torch started out as bitter, heated rivals before finally evolving into (a more fan-friendly) sibling rivals.
The dynamic between the two characters is a phenomenal example of what made Marvel’s cast of characters so unique and different from the Distinguished Competition during this era. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had an inherent understanding that teenagers were unpredictable raging vessels of hormones and thus couldn’t always be counted on for behavior that was conventional for “traditional” superheroes. Parker and Storm had different social and economic backgrounds and went about their superhero business in starkly different ways (Johnny could be out in the open about his Human Torch identity, while Peter had to live in secret). Marvel couldn’t just plop the two of them on the page and expect reasonable synchronicity. And while I’ve always been a Spidey superfan, I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for Johnny Storm precisely because of this wonderfully comedic and occasionally heart-warming dynamic.
The two characters interacted early and often. The entire Fantastic Four team guest stars (and is featured on the cover) of the inaugural issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and in ASM #3, a despondent Peter Parker, having been recently defeated by future greatest nemesis Doctor Octopus finds inspiration to fight on in a speech Storm gives at his school. While Torch doesn’t realize it, by saying “don’t be discouraged if it sometimes seems tough,” he essentially gives birth to one of Spider-Man’s most popular personality traits – his never say die, regardless of the odds, spirit.
The first comic to actually focus exclusively on the Spidey/Torch dynamic was one of Marvel’s old monster magazines, Strange Tales. In the ST Annual #2, which, depending on your source, chronologically took place between ASM issues #3 and #4. In this comic, Spider-Man travels out to the suburbs of Long Island to solicit help from Torch, “a teenager like me,” after being framed for a robbery. But again, rather than going the obvious route and make a Bosom Buddies style comedic romp to clear Spidey’s name, Lee/Ditko/Kirby created a more hostile relationship.
Johnny is ticked off that Spider-Man is featured on the cover of “Live” magazine – a curious editorial choice considering what a bad rap Spidey always got from the media – and whines to his sister how whenever he does any good, the credit goes to the entire Fantastic Four team. When Spider-Man arrives at his doorstep, Johnny “flames on” first and asks questions later, putting the Web Slinger back on his heels, calling his teenage colleague “some kind of nut.” The barbs continue after Spidey outsmarts Torch and traps him in cement, swinging off and calling Johnny “stupid.”
This certainly wasn’t how two superheroes ever talked to each other before. I don’t even think that’s how heroes and villains talked each other, despite the copious amounts of hokum that filled Stan Lee’s comic book bubbles during the Silver Age. And yet that’s the early Spider-Man/Human Torch dynamic in a nutshell: some “poopy-head” level insults before they inevitably and reluctantly helped each other out of a jam.
By the time Torch catches up with his new adversary in ST Annual #2, Johnny is stewing over Spider-Man’s “showing off” (similar words would eventually be used to describe Spider-Man’s opinions of Storm). Spider-Man meanwhile accuses Torch of only caring about “headlines” (we just saw the inverse of that earlier in this comic) and not wanting to share the attention. When the two finally put aside their differences, they meet up for the first time at what would later become their trademark rendezvous spot, the top of the Statue of Liberty.
Chronologically, the next big Spider-Man/Torch story came in ASM #8. Interestingly enough, Lee/Ditko made the decision to portray Spider-Man as a petty creep in his very own comic book series. He crashes a party at Johnny’s girlfriends house and tries to win over the Torch’s entourage. In a “Pete Best forever, Ringo never” moment that would then be flipped on its ear during the inaugural meet-up of the Spidey fan club in ASM #17 (a gathering that Torch crashed), Johnny’s buddies want nothing to do with the Amazing Spider-Man. It’s worth noting that in a pretty “groovy” Ditko splash page that looks like something out of a 60’s teen flick, Spidey watches Torch from outside his home and stews about him “showing off” for his friends (I told you we’d revisit that insult from the other hero’s perspective).
As these meet-ups happened with more frequency (and in the pages of ASM, they happened nearly every other issue) what starts to become clear is that Spidey thinks of Johnny Storm as the super-powered version of Flash Thompson, Peter Parker’s high school bully and nemesis. Torch has it all – a pick of teenaged women to date (though sadly, none were drawn by John Romita Sr. and thus didn’t have those comic book pin-up qualities that defined Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in the mid-to-late 60s) and an adoring public that doesn’t think of him as a criminal. Meanwhile, despite having so much good in his life, Peter resents how Storm still acts like a goofy egotistical teenager and doesn’t adopt something similar to Spidey’s “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra. Given that Ditko, who plotted the bulk of these issues, was a renowned follower of Ayn Rand and her objectivism philosophy, it’s no shock that Spider-Man would deride the less “serious” superhero.
But it’s not like Spider-Man is an innocent bystander in all this. Torch often calls him out for being a “creep” and justifiably so. As Spidey’s biggest fan, I can’t find any kind of defense for a “hero” crashing a party thrown by another hero’s girlfriend. I love ya Spider-Man, but if you’re going to pass yourself off as so self-assured, why are you constantly stroking your own ego and asserting your dominance over Human Torch?
Considering how Peter always had to pull his punches with Flash because if he really ever socked it to him with all his Spider-strength, he’d probably kill him, it’s interesting to see this nastier side to Parker when he’s wearing a costume and attempting to stick it to another super-powered teenager who can probably hold his own in a fight.
As the stories transitioned from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, the Cold War between Spider-Man and Torch would thaw, and the barbs would evolve from petty sniping and insults, to a more big brother/little brother rapport. In what may go down as one of the funniest panels in Spider-Man comic book history, Torch digs up an old Fantastic Four costume and a brown paper bag for Spidey when the Web Slinger learns his newly found black suit from Battleworld is actually a living being hosting on him, and thus needs to be destroyed. Spidey is non-too-happy, but telling “flamebrain” that he’s going to “get you for this,” feels a lot less tense than crashing his house party and trying to make him look like an idiot in front of all of his civilian friends.
In modern comics, the Spider-Man/Human Torch dynamic has been explored by writers with mixed results. In 2005’s Spider-Man/Human Torch five-issue mini-series, penned by current Spidey scribe Dan Slott, new information and adventures featuring the duo was retconned to provide more depth about the relationship. The series, which takes place in the past but features previously unpublished adventures, displays when and how the rivalry evolves into a friendship. In ASM continuity, in the wake of Gwen Stacy’s death, Spider-Man is asked to build a “Spider Mobile” (this is a topic for another post) and he gets Torch to help him out with some of the mechanical engineering elements. In Slott’s mini-series retcon, Spidey and Torch have a somewhat touching moment when the Web Sligner admits that the only person he can talk to about his “loss” is Johnny Storm since he can remain completely anonymous about his guilt (something that Peter couldn’t just talk to Flash Thompson or Mary Jane about without admitting the reason he felt guilty about Gwen’s death is because he’s Spider-Man and he couldn’t save her).
Then, in one of the series most memorable moments, Peter reveals his secret identity to Johnny in an effort to save an auditorium full of kids from some New York gangsters. After the two heroes save the day, Peter and Johnny have a heart-to-heart where all of their grievances are aired. Johnny believes Peter “has it all,” superpowers, a model wife and brains, while Peter scoffs at the idea and talks about how he has always envied Johnny for having superpowers but no responsibilities. Yes, Slott is basically hammering the reader over the head with 40+ years worth of subtext from the likes of Lee, Ditko and Kirby, but it’s a refreshing moment all the same to have these ideas out in the open.
Another one of my favorite modern-era Peter/Johnny that I believe really defines their odd couple pairing, interestingly enough was born out of one of my least favorite Marvel editorial decisions of the past few years. When Johnny is presumed dead during Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, Spider-Man becomes the fourth core member of the newly-named Future Foundation, leading to a 12-issue run of comics where Spider-Man was horribly misused and miscast by Hickman as a one-note jokester with no tangible heroic qualities that would help the FF. Fortunately, Hickman redeemed himself in the pages of Fantastic Four #600, when Johnny returns from the Negative Zone and the first person to find him is none other than Spider-Man. Rather than run up to Spidey and give him a big hug to celebrate his resurrection, Johnny’s first words were, “Pete? What the heck are you wearing?”
It’s the most fitting way to craft that reunion. Even in his return from what was believed to be his death, Johnny couldn’t resist ribbing Peter, while simultaneously saying what everyone following the FF/Fantastic Four series was thinking: “seriously, what was Marvel thinking trying to replace Human Torch with Spider-Man of all people?” If the Silver Age taught us anything it’s that just because two characters are the same age, doesn’t mean they should automatically be interchangeable parts. Superheroes, like people are all different. Some have power, and others have power AND responsibility. Some have secrets to hide, and some can be public celebrities. And there’s only one Spider-Man and one Human Torch.
Thanks again to Mark for another terrific Longbox Graveyard column! Mark will be back in a couple weeks with an article about Bronze Age Spider-Man (or is that the “Dark Age?”). In the meantime, be sure to catch Mark over at his home blog — Chasing Amazing!
MORE Spider-Man On Longbox Graveyard
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- Top Ten Issues of Amazing Spider-Man
- Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part 1)
- Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part 2)
- Face To Face With … The Lizard!
- Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Faces
- And Don’t Forget The Human Torch: Flame On!
IN TWO WEEKS: #106 Panel Gallery: Captain America Speeches
- Spider-Man Movie Costumes Comparison (ironspidersuit.wordpress.com)
- ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Movie Spoiler Roundup: Everything You Need to Know Before Andrew Garfield Swings by Comic-Con (latinospost.com)
- Best Frenemies Forever (bermanj1forchange.wordpress.com)
- The Amazing Bag-man Suit (allspidermansuit.wordpress.com)
And just like that six months have got behind me and it’s time for another Longbox Soapbox!
Twice a year I take stock of where I am with Longbox Graveyard, solicit feedback in the form of a poll, reveal some numbers behind the blog, and take a formal vow to continue Longbox Graveyard for another six months (or not).
Those interested in blogging minutia can review my past Longbox Soapbox columns:
This 104th “issue” of Longbox Graveyard is a big one for me, as it marks two years of continuous Wednesday publication for the blog. Starting as a means of keeping myself on-track in reducing and organizing my comics Accumulation (a job I have yet to complete), Longbox Graveyard has taken on a life of its own as a Bronze Age comic book nostalgia blog. A few recent guest blogs notwithstanding, Longbox Graveyard remains a one-man effort done out of love of comics, as well as a desire to communicate with my fellow hobbyists. Every half-hearted attempt I’ve made to monetize the blog has been met with indifference or disaster. Like Reed Richards, I’m a lunkhead when it comes to making money!
let’s not talk about money
From the start I’ve kept this blog going by signing six-month contracts with myself. Once I’ve commenced on a six-month hitch of Longbox Graveyard I make myself see it through. When those six months are up, I either sign up for another six months, or put the blog to bed.
do you recognize this devilish contract from the 1970s?
Will Longbox Graveyard continue, or will I shut it down? The answer is … both! (Sort of). More details in a moment, but before looking at where I am going, a brief survey of where I have been.
Statistics & Hits
Hits of course are the lifeblood of any blog. Traffic drives dollars if you are doing this for a living — which I am not — but even with a free blog, hits are your scoreboard, and it is hard to ignore them. I check my traffic several times each day, and if I am not so obsessed with these numbers as in months past, I would be lying if I said my traffic numbers were unimportant to me.
What is not a lie is to say my numbers are less important to me than the last time I did a Longbox Soapbox. After the crazy growth in the second six months of Longbox Graveyard’s life, my readership has plateaued a little, but I am still seeing decent growth. My monthly average readership in December 2012-May 2013 was up about 13% from the preceding six months. January 2013 saw the blog go above 10K views in a month for the first time, but the average for this period has been a more modest 8321 views/month.
That will seem like a lot to a few of you, and nothing at all to more of you. For me, the numbers are what they are. I really have nothing to compare against. How many hits should I draw for a once-weekly, wordy, idiosyncratic blog about comics that are decades old?
I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know. I can think of only a few comparable blogs (The Peerless Power of Comics seems closest, it is also a very good blog), but absent a dozen or so similar blogs, comparisons aren’t going to count for much. I have resolved that my numbers will be what they will be. I will continue to track them, but I won’t obsess over them, and I will put my effort into content rather than search engine optimization.
Comparing these referrals to the last time I checked, we see that Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook have been stepping up as traffic sources. Most traffic continues to come from search (of course), and I would expect this to grow as more and more content and images are added to the blog. Pinterest appears to have leveled off. Reddit’s comic books subdomain remains useful for driving spikes (giving my Darkseid poll a record-breaking day, and also pushing my silly Pepper Potts Pin-Up strongly over Iron Man 3’s opening weekend), but I have no evidence Reddit views convert to readers. Sneaking in at the end of my Top 10 are Stash My Comics & the Chasing Amazing blog, and speaking of Stash My Comics …
not even a Superduperman can do it all … reducing outside commitments!
Stash My Comics & The Longbox Graveyard Podcast
Last month I concluded my Dollar Box column for Stash My Comics after twelve monthly columns. “Twelve” seemed like a good number for a mini-series, and as I have been feeling spread a little thin, it only made sense to wrap up Dollar Box. That content was so similar to what I do here that Dollar Box effectively meant that I was publishing Longbox Graveyard five times a month, and that was starting to take a toll. It was fun to write for Stash My Comics, and we drove a few hits for each other, but I’ve decided to suspend outside commitments to concentrate on Longbox Graveyard. I assume my articles will stay up at SMC for awhile. Going forward, I will be republishing my Dollar Box columns here at Longbox Graveyard after the one year anniversary of each article’s original posting (starting with last week’s Nick Fury post).
I’ve also ended my Longbox Graveyard Podcast after twelve installments, for many of the same reasons I ended Dollar Box. The Longbox Graveyard Podcast was showing strong numbers and building an audience, but my passion is with blogging, and not podcasting. It was a tough call to walk away, as Mo Kristiansen was a great partner and made it very easy to do the podcast. It was fun to experiment with that form — and I may return to it at some point — but in the interest of sticking with my core interest, I have retired from podcasting and will be giving this blog my full geek attention.
I remain active on social media. Pinterest doesn’t drive a lot of traffic but my boards are easy to maintain, and they do provide a worthy visual supplement for activities here at Longbox Graveyard. Instagram is closely tied to Pinterest, and again it is no big deal to post an image every day. It may not drive traffic to the blog, but my Instagram images do generate comment on Instagram itself, and also help stimulate conversation on Twitter, which remains a vibrant channel for me. I maintain an information presence on Facebook and Google+ to provide updates for the smaller community of followers that keep track of me on those services.
I think that’s about all the social media I can handle! I do push image and blog updates to Flickr and Tumblr but that’s automatically handled when the blog publishes and I don’t otherwise do much on those channels. I tried Quora for a little while but ran afoul of their naming policy. They put me in the penalty box until I would identify myself as someone other than “Longbox Graveyard” — I decided I couldn’t be bothered and deleted my account.
It will be interesting to see what happens with readership with the pending demise of Google Reader. Will the death of the leading RSS platform stimulate on-site views and email subscriptions? Being insufficiently competent to back out my email and RSS numbers from the stats dashboard, I guess I will never know!
Continuing work on The Accumulation has stalled out a little as I’ve gotten hip-deep in the remodeling project described in my Mancave Monday posts. I regard this a good thing. My manic desire to recklessly reduce the piles of comics out in the garage veered into extreme territory at times, and if I am suddenly more comfortable with where things are in that regard … well, that’s progress. Also, by shifting my energy towards building out a space where I can better enjoy my comics, I’m demonstrating a kind of accommodation, acceptance, and capacity for joy in the hobby that I did not anticipate when I started this project.
I am … at peace … with my choices
My pace of buying books has slowed down, as well. I’ve filled in nearly all the back issues on my list, and there are relatively few trade paperbacks on my shopping list. For the most part I am reading what I’ve got. I am still enjoying my Marvel Unlimited digital subscription, especially now that it is available in an iPad-friendly form. A similar, all-you-can-eat subscription service from DC would be welcome (and would substantially increase the number of DC books examined by this blog!)
Comic books continue to dominate my reading, split about 50/50 between books I blog about, and books I read for the heck of it. Sometimes I surprise myself — I didn’t expect to like Sgt. Rock as much as I did, and never intended to cover it here at Longbox Graveyard, but these unexpected discoveries are one of the real joys of writing this blog. Other times, long-gestating ideas will reach the blog in unexpected forms, like all the Superman reading that wound up in my comparative essay on the death of that character, or my Brian Michael Bendis article that began as a Daredevil review.
impressive visual storytelling characterizes the latest incarnation of Hawkeye, by Fraction and Aja
I’ve been reading the latest issues of Hawkeye, Daredevil, Saga, Criminal, and Guardians of the Galaxy — which likely won’t end up on the blog — while vintage Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, and Tomb of Dracula likely will. It isn’t that I dislike the newer books or lack opinions on them, but there are plenty of places for new comics reviews, and I also feel I can’t really appraise a comics run until it has been complete for months (or years!). For this reason, my reviews will for the most part continue to be confined to comics of decades past.
But … I suppose this is as good a subject as any for my bi-annual poll! Please vote, below!
Community Community Community!
What I’ve found most flattering about Longbox Graveyard is that it has developed a genuine community over the years. Even the least of my posts will earn a comment from my dedicated group of correspondents, and some comment threads have been better than the posts themselves. It is a special joy to see an older post earn a new comment, because that lets me know that the blog continues to find new readers, and that my legacy material (even some of the stuff that is now out of date) remains of value.
I can’t say it enough — I deeply value the Longbox Graveyard community. I am immensely proud and flattered to have developed a cadre of discerning and insightful readers, and I always look forward to your comments. Thank you for following my blog, and keep those (virtual) cards and letters coming in!
First, the good news. Longbox Graveyard will continue! I am signing another six month contract with myself and plan to continue the blog through December of 2013.
However … I will be reducing the frequency with which I publish major content. After some soul-searching I’ve decided to downshift from publishing every Wednesday to every odd-numbered Wednesday, effective immediately. I suppose this is the blogging equivalent of “going bi-monthly,” which was usually the kiss of death for Bronze Age comics, but I hope a reduced publication schedule will allow me to keep Longbox Graveyard going indefinitely. I might even go back to weekly publication in the future. But for now … tune in every odd-numbered Wednesday for a new Longbox Graveyard article (if this is too confusing you can always see what is coming up and when with a glance at my Checklist).
There will also be some content changes here at the blog. I’ve already run several guest blogs these past few months (mostly by the talented Mark Ginocchio of Chasing Amazing Blog — thanks, Mark!), and this is a trend I would like to see continue. I think Longbox Graveyard benefits from other voices every now and then. Mark will be providing next week’s blog on the peculiar history of Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and I know he has at least one other idea on the boil for us. If you would like to guest blog for Longbox Graveyard, drop me a line (LongboxGraveyard (at) gmail (dot) com) — I’m looking for material that falls into the general purview of Bronze and Silver Age superhero stories evaluated from a personal point-of-view. There’s no pay, but you can’t put a price on comics blogging glory!
In addition to guest blogs, I will be running some reprint material here at Longbox Graveyard. There will be the aforementioned Dollar Box reprints, and I also plan to start spotlighting my Pinterest boards with twice-weekly posts pointing toward the collection of images I’ve assembled over at that site, along with the original Longbox Graveyard articles that inspired them. On off weeks, even if I am not publishing a full article, I will sometimes jump in with a pinup or a plug for another site, so in some ways the blog will be publishing more often than ever before — I just won’t be running my more in-depth articles as frequently as in the past two years. I also have a scratch plan in place to put of digital scans of a select few comics that I wrote back in the day.
Thanks in advance for your patience as Longbox Graveyard evolves!
That concludes this edition of the Longbox Soapbox! Thanks for reading this column and for your support of the blog these past two years. I do very much want to hear from you, so please vote in my poll, and leave me a comment below. If you comment on only one Longbox Graveyard column each year, let this be the one! Let me know you are out there, and tell me what you think of the blog.
Thanks again for reading! Here’s hoping for another six strong months of Longbox Graveyard!
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #105 Best Frenemies Forever
- Top Ten Captain America Villains (longboxgraveyard.com)
- 10 Facts about Free Comic Book Day (biowars.com)
- Tales from the Longbox – Iron Man #149-150 (1981) (biffbampop.com)
- Tales from the Longbox – G.I. Joe #21 (1984) (biffbampop.com)
- On Organizing A Comic Store’s Stock (gothamnewsstand.wordpress.com)
- Not With A Bang … (goblinsoup.wordpress.com)
- How Digital Comics Are Killing It (In a Good Way) (biowars.com)