Featured Columns

January 8, 2010

From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays: Marvel/Timely, Prince Valiant and the Atom!

Welcome to this week’s From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays! I hope everyone had a great holiday filled with such nerdtastic items as Land Of The Lost Sleestak bobbleheads, Animal Boxing for the Nintendo DS, and DVDs like the complete TV series collection of Disney’s Zorro. This week we look at some fun with Marvel/Timely (where adventure comics started), Prince Valiant, and the Filmation Studios Fun with animated The Atom!

Out This Week: Timely 70th Anniversary Collection Hard Cover

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Writers: Tom DeFalco ,Steve Ellis ,Marc Guggenheim , Karl Kesel , David Lapham , David Liss , Jen Van Meter ,James Robinson , Scott Snyder, Roger Stern , Roy Thomas

Artists: Jason Armstrong, Mitch Breitweiser, Chris Burnham, Steve Ellis, David Lapham, Andy MacDonald, Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido, Paolo Rivera, Steve Uy, Scott Wegener

During the 70th Anniversary of Marvel last year, they did a fist full of cool things to celebrate (my favorite being reprints of old ads from the 60s-80s in their comics), which included 11 oneshot specials of new takes on their classic Timely Comics from the World War II era. Out this week is a hardcover collecting all the specials in their glory.

Each special was fantastic, some stronger then others, but still a good time.  Across the boards all the writing and art was solid on all the specials. Although a handful of the heroes you may not know or only know references to if read Marvel’s spectacular mini-series The Twelve, they also include favorites like Captain America, Human Torch, and the Submariner. My favorite that sticks out in my mind is the Submariner special, which delivered a really solid take on a World War II-era Submariner story.

I know a handful of you read this column looking for things for your children to read, and I know it feels like Marvel has a fincky rating system some days for their comics. So Marvel has rated this for all-ages but for my recommendation on it, if it’s really really young kids I’d still stick to Archie, but anyone 7 or above is more than ready to read these.

Collection of Awesomeness: Prince Valiant Vol.1: 1937-1938

Publisher: Fantagraphics

Writer and Artist: Hal Foster

This collection has been out for a few months, but I am so pumped that we are going to be getting a second collection sometime in 2010 that I decided read it again; and that second time reminded me that Prince Valiant is simply awesomeness at its prime (and that my fiancee was pretty awesome for buying it for me in the first place: score!).

So let’s just give an immediate blast of praise to Fantagraphics for producing one of the nicest collected versions of a comic strip out there in 2009! You guys over there rock: period.

Next, although he’s been given praise for years and will get even more for years to come, high fives in the Men’s Room to Hal Foster! You are the undisputed Godfather of the action comic! From Terry and The Pirates to Flash Gordon to TVs Jonny Quest and beyond, this man’s work on Prince Valiant set a new standard that only a handful have lived up to!

Our friends at Fantagraphics have handed us the most loving reproduction of a Sunday page in print with this collection (although IDW’s prints of Terry and the Pirates have come pretty close too). The remarkable beauty of each panel’s crisp color and ink strokes are to die for, and remind us that aside from only a few other artists like Alex Raymond or Winsor McCay, hardly any artists come close to the brilliance of Hal Foster.

Hal Foster wrote and drew the strip from 1937-1980. Prince Valiant tells the story of Prince Valiant (didn’t see that one coming), son of a king in exile who sets off on an adventure after given his frightening future from a bog soothesayer. Non-stop action unfolds page to page as he follows his destiny.

Fantagraphics will be reproducing the entire Hal Foster run of Prince Valiant. This first collection also includes a fantastic history of Foster’s work on Valiant, written by Brian M. Kane. Fantagraphics also recently published The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion by Kane to go along with their Valiant collection for hardcore fans, like myself.

Something to watch: The Atom

I always wanted the power to shrink. I always debated if I’d use the power for good like the Atom or perversion like Master Roshi in Dragon Ball. The world is probably a better place without me having these powers, and a better place for a brief shot at a solo animated Atom cartoon.

This short animated series aired on the 1967 Filmation The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure block. The three episodes were part of a handful of other DC characters, including Hawkman and Green Lantern, who were featured in six-minute solo adventures between Superman and Aquaman segments.

The Atom adventures are absolute non-stop fun. I wish they produced more of them. In his solo adventures, the Atom is a really great character and translates perfectly into animation. His cameos on Hanna-Barbera’s Superfriends do not do him justice, the gold is right here. The adventures all follow a similar storyline where alien/monster shows up, Atom is near by and thankfully saves the day (but what do you want in six minutes?).

The scripts were written by Bob Haney and George Kashdan (who also worked on the comic book Teen Titans for DC at the time), so the stories feel right at home with any Silver Age fan. Although the animation may seem fairly simple at times (and the opening credits have more flashing lights then a Pokemon episode trying to give seizures), it was the standard animation for American TV at the time, and still superior to the almost non-existent animation of Marvel’s Thor or Captain America.

All three amazing episodes of the Atom are available on DVD in the DC Superheroes: The Filmation Adventures collection, which also include the other segments that ran between: Hawkman, Green Lantern, Justice League, Teen Titans, and the Flash.

That’s it for this time! See you in two weeks!

Drew McCabe




  1. Billy

    The Prince Valiant book looks cool. Good write-up Drew!

  2. Kristin

    I think I remember reading Prince Valiant on Sunday mornings when I was a kid. They would have been reprints though. I wonder if it’s still published in any papers? I bet it is….

  3. Drew

    @Kristin: Actually even today they still are brand new, I believe its on its 4th set of writer/artists currently in Sunday print. The art isn’t as beautiful as Foster (who was a classical trained illustrator) but comes close. The story is still epic and has gotten into the family of Valiant now.

  4. Kristin

    Oh, I had no idea it was still being created!

  5. InfiniteSpeech

    I loved the reprints of the old Marvel ads myself, I actually thought I was the only one lol

  6. Drew

    I love the hostess snack pie ads where like Captain America infiltrates Hydra head quarters just to get a snack pie.

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