New Reviews of Old Comics
Like many other comic fans I’ve read a lot over the years. Fiction, non-fiction, cheesy paperbacks, literature and of course comics; lots and lots of comics While I haven’t read the non-comic version of Beowilf I have heard of it and have something of an idea as to what it’s about. When I saw this in the local comic shop dollar stack I found the cover interesting and thought it looked like a good review candidate. For a buck it seemed like an easy chance to take.
The cover is fairly intriguing pronouncing that “Beowulf Meets Dracula,” with a sword bearing dude soaring down upon a horseback rider and half-naked chick falling off the back of the horse. “Valley In the Shadow of Death, ” written by Michael Uslan with art by Richardo Villamonte starts with Beowulf and his gang walking through a desert looking for Grendel; the one aligned with Satan, not the Matt Wagner version that teamed with Batman, among other appearances, including his/her own title. Eventually they fulfill their desire, which sadly turns into a case of “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” That fight scene leads into Beowulf and the remaining members of his gang meeting up with Dracula, who is not the Bela Lugosi “I want to suck your blood” Dracula, but more based on the real life Dracula, Vlad the Impaler; an unexpected twist that brings an interesting aspect to the story. The end sets the stage for the Dracula we all know and love.
Admittedly I’ve had this comic in my to-be-read pile for a few weeks now and I keep choosing other things to read because I thought Beowulf was going to be lousy, like a poor man’s Conan or something. Yeah, the name Beowulf is familiar, but not as a comic book, which tells me this title wasn’t around very long, and that was the basis for my assumption of its quality. Sadly though a lot of good comics don’t catch on when they’re first published and are cancelled far too soon (see any of Kirby’s Fourth World titles). Michael Uslan’s story was very engaging with a solid mix of plot and action. Apart from Beowulf and one of his buddies shooting rock, paper, scissors (panel 3, page 9) Richardo Villamonte’s art was quite good and fit the spirit of the title. Based on the letters column I get the impression DC’s Beowulf is not following the classic storyline and even though I haven’t read the original, I tend to think that’s all right. This seems like it’s just a different take on the character. If the writer and artist are telling a good story, and they are, what more could you want? Yes, I’ll be more than thrilled to find other issues of Beowulf.
Notable Ad: I know I’ve written about one of the Hostess ads before (the Hulk and fruit pies, I think), but for some reason this one really stuck with me. “Shazam! The World’s Mightiest Mortal Fights the Minerva Menace!” Minerva is an old lady who has developed a machine to broadcast controlled thoughts through the TV that will help her dominate the world. Being the evil person that she is, Minerva’s first message is to convince people they don’t like Twinkies (oh, the horror!). Thank heaven Shazam is there to urge the kids to think for themselves. Freedom of thought naturally leads to the realization that they do indeed love Twinkies. Minerva has been foiled again. She should have known better than to tamper with a child’s love of crème filled cake. Two thoughts here: one, I don’t know if it’s good or bad that even in 1975 people were thinking the TV could be a valuable tool for mind control by broadcasting subliminal messages. Second, can you imagine an ad like this now, where a super-hero is encouraging kids to eat Twinkies? I think the Obama Food Police would have to shut these ads down and make sure Shazam is pushing heads of cabbage or raw zucchini on the unsuspecting kids so Michelle can continue to eat ribs, burgers and fries in good conscience.