Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Awesome gimmick comic covers from the 90's, Part 1

It's a rainy, nasty day in July, so it's the perfect time to talk comics.



I didn't really collect comics, so much as accumulate them. I mainly followed the X-men titles, but I would pick up anything that happened to catch my eye. And if there's one thing that 90's comic covers were, it was eye catching. So here are five examples of some awesome gimmick covers, in no particular order.


Bloodshot #1 February 1993
Valiant Comics

Valiant comics weren't easy to find in my neck of the woods. Marvel, DC, and Image comics all made regular appearances on the magazine racks, but Valiant was sadly absent. I didn't even know the company existed, until I found this issue in a longbox on a flea market dealer's table. It was one of the most amazing covers I'd ever seen. It still is, actually. I love how the cover image is surrounded by the black border, it almost gives the issue a prestige format feel. As for the artwork itself, I'm still amazed by how the colors just pop off the cover. I don't remember exactly how much I paid for Bloodshot #1, but I'm just going to go out on a limb and say it was $12.99.  Even if that isn't the exact amount, I just remember it was the most expensive comic I'd ever bought. I didn't know it at the time, but this was actually the first chromium cover ever made. I had stayed up late, and was watching a home shopping show that was just selling comics. It sort of validated my purchase when I saw how much more they were asking for the same issue I had bought months earlier.The story wasn't too bad either, sort of a Punisher meets Wolverine with a little bit of The Fugitive tossed in.

Speaking of the Punisher..


Punisher 2099 #1 February 1993
Marvel Comics

The Punisher was always one of my favorite characters, so when I saw they were introducing a futuristic version of my favorite vigilante, I was ecstatic. The first issues of all the 2099 titles featured the same futuristic border, albeit in different colors, but The Punisher 2099's first issue was my favorite of them all. It was much more dynamic, with the action flying toward the reader's face. I'm fond of the way the color of the foil border and the title text reflect the colors of the Punisher's uniform. A couple of the other 2099 titles did this as well, but I think it works particularly well on this cover.

The story hasn't changed much, even 100 years in the future. Police Officer Jake Gallows family is murdered in front of him, pushing him off the deep end. After discovering a journal written by the late Frank Castle, Gallows decides to carry on his work. He amasses an crime fighting arsenal, as well as his own personal prison and execution chair, and sets out to prove not even the rich are exempt from punishment. It's your typical Punisher book, if a bit more brutal.

Wildstar March 1993
Image Comics

Foil embossing was one of the more prevalent gimmicks seen on 90's comic covers. I have to assume it was one of the cheaper enhancements, judging by the number of Marvel and DC comics that used it. It was also popular with Image comics, as shown on the first issue of the Wildstar mini-series. At first glance, it looks like just the title and the Image logo are embossed. What you probably can't tell from the photo though, is that all those little blood drops on the hero's face are raised as well. It's a little odd, and either gives the impression that Wildstar just got his ass kicked, or his super power is bleeding all over his enemies. That actually makes more sense than the story, which involves time travel and guys that rely on symbioitic space starfish for their super powers. Yeah, it's odd.


Batman #500 October 1993
DC Comics

When you kill a character as iconic as Superman, it gets a lot easier to take out some of your other popular heroes. With the big blue taking a dirt nap, it was only a matter of time before Batman met his end as well. Sure enough, Batman was taken out by Bane,a behemoth that proved himself stronger and smarter than the Dark Knight. The series continued, following the exploits of Jean Paul Valley, a former assassin chosen by Bruce Wayne to take over the mantle of the Batman. Unfortunately, Valley becomes more and more unhinged, and Bruce eventually has to recuperate and win back his place as the caped crusader. Batman #500 followed Jean Paul Valley as he tried to track down and take out Bane once and for all. After losing a fight, and nearly losing his life, Valley decides it's time to redesign the Batman costume.

The cover of Batman #500 already looked pretty cool on it's own. It's a great shot of Batman in an action pose. Flip back the die-cut section though..


and you get a good look at Batman's new costume. Sadly, not even the Dark Knight was immune to the dark and gritty super hero fashion trends of the 90's. You've got metal claws, bits of segmented armor, and of course, random pouches. You couldn't be a superhero in the 90's unless your costume had random pouches all over it. It's not enough that Batman had a utility belt with pouches, they had to add some to his thigh as well.

Given enough time, I bet they would have even given Superman pouches on his shorts.


Ghost Rider and Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #12 July 1993
Marvel Comics

I only loosely followed Ghost Rider comics. When it came to supernatural anti-heroes, Morbius was always my first choice. Still, there's a lot to love about a flaming skeleton riding on a fiery motorcycle. This series followed the team up between the former Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, and the current rider, Danny Ketch. It was sort of like Easy Rider meets Satan. This issue saw the introduction of yet another flaming headed rider, called Vengeance. Because, why not? For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Vengeance really doesn't like Ghost Rider, and intends to dismantle him in the most painful way possible. It looks like the new rider is about to get his revenge, when he is warped away by a friend of Johnny's. Then they have a funeral for their dead friends, and see you next issue.

Seeing as this was issue 12, and there was a new character introduced, of course we needed a gimmicky cover. But, what is it this time? It's not die cut or foil embossed....


Nope, this time we got a glow in the dark cover. It's unbelievably hard to photograph things that glow in the dark, but I did it just for you guys. The cover image, with Ghost Rider's skull imposed over Vengeance's was already a little odd, but turn out the lights and it gets even weirder. I'm not sure what's supposed to be going on here, but I have to admit, it still looks pretty cool. Sadly, I think the glowing effect has worn out over the years. I remember leaving this issue on the floor next to my bed one night, and it freaked me the hell out.

And that is why you should always put away your comics when you've finished reading them. Otherwise, you might wake up to find a glowing skull grinning at you.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stunt Zombie makes some crystal in the kitchen.


The past few years, I kept hearing about this science show, where two guys create crystals in their kitchen and get into all kinds of adventures. I thought it sounded like fun, so I went out and bought my very own crystal growing kit. Let's go do some science!




If the back of the package is any indication, this should be easy, as well as fun. It certainly doesn't sound too difficult. Basically, you just dissolve some powder in water and you're done. It's not much different than making Kool-Aid. Except, you don't use rocks when you make Kool-Aid. Well, you might, but I know I certainly don't.


Pictured is everything you need to make your own crystals. The rocks, popsicle stick, display tray and powder were all included. You also need some newspaper to set everything on, because this stuff looks like it will stain anything it touches. The glass of wine wasn't part of the experiment, but it was still necessary. After I read the actual directions, I discovered the process is a little more involved. It requires filling the display tray, measuring how much water was in it, dumping that out, refilling the glass to the same level and then you dissolve the crystal powder. Okay, so it's still sorta easy. I'm just waiting for the fun part.


This is the packet of magical crystal growing chemical. I'm not sure what monoammonium phosphate is, but now I'm wishing I had worn gloves while I was doing this. If I start growing extra limbs, we'll know why. Once you have your water measured out correctly, you use it to dissolve 3/4 of this package. Just pour it right in and stir away.


Using the included stick, I stirred this stuff until my arm cramped up and it still wasn't fully dissolved. I was starting to get a little frustrated by all of this "fun", so I decided to add a little more power to the stirring operation. Time for the frother!


Now that's more like it. I wish I had thought of this earlier. It would have saved me the trouble of cramping my entire left side. I still wasn't able to get all of the powder to dissolve, so I eventually just said "Screw it", and dumped the mixture in the tray. I probably should have cleaned the frother off too, but I'm sure it'll be fine.


After you've filled the tray, you drop your rocks in, and then you sprinkle the remaining magic crystal chemical on top of them. You did remember to only mix in 3/4 of the package right? If not, I doubt it would even matter at this point.


Other than the photo on the front of the package, there are no other pictures showing me what each step is supposed to look like. I can only assume that this is what everything is supposed to look like when you're done. According to the directions, I could expect to see crystal growth in just a few hours. So, every couple of hours I would go back to the kitchen and see if anything was happening.




 It might look like the same photo three times in a row, but I promise you, these were all taken hours apart from each other. Chelsea eventually got tired of me hanging around waiting for the crystals to grow, and she shooed me out of the kitchen. Of course, I immediately forgot about the whole thing for the next few days, until I was told to get it out of the kitchen. By that time, it looked like this:


Apparently the trick to making crystals grow is to set everything up and forget about it for four or five days. I'm a little disappointed though. The package promised at least 3-4" of growth, yet this is barely out of the tray. Now I know how all my ex-girlfriends felt. So there you have it. It wasn't particularly fun, not that easy, and didn't teach me a single thing.

It does look like the sort of thing Cobra Commander would have lusted after on the G.I. Joe cartoon, so, that's something.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Transformers Universe Silverstreak



This Silverstreak is a replacement for the one I broke and ultimately traded off a couple years ago. He was such a cool figure, if a bit fragile, and I felt bad for trading off what was a very thoughtful gift. So, I scoured the internet for a few months until I came across one on eBay for a price that wasn't as ridiculous as all the others. A few days later, and Silverstreak was back in my possession.


He is a really cool figure, even if he does have some trouble standing on his own. Much like vintage Star Wars figures, it takes a little finesse to get Silverstreak to stay up on his own. I'm also happy to report that I was able to transform him without any parts breakage this time. Sadly, he'll never be changed back to his Sports Car Mode, because I just don't want to take any chances.  I'm sure if I had to go looking for him again, he'd probably cost me a couple hundred dollars. Thankfully, he doesn't come with much in the way of accessories, just one blaster and that's it. There's less to lose that way. Most of the newer figures have much better articulation than their G1 counterparts, and Silverstreak is no exception. He may even be more articulated than the newer G.I. Joe figures. When you consider that most G1Transformers only had one or two POA's, it's rather impressive.


Silverstreak's card gives us a short biography on the character, as well as his tech specs. Apparently, he's the blabber mouth of the Autobots, since he never shuts up and will talk even while he's charging. That's right, Silverstreak even talks in his sleep. We also get a good view of his alt mode. I think he changes into a Nissan 350Z, which is fitting since the figure he's based on originally turned into a Datsun Fairlady Z. It's a sharp looking car, and I'm actually a little tempted to find a real used one that I can repaint and rebadge with an Autobot symbol. I'd probably be the only person that got it, but that's really nothing new for me.


Who knows, maybe they'll figure out how to make real cars and trucks transform by then..

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