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Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 - Mark Waid/Dean Haspiel

Archie Comics has decided to bring back 'The Fox' again, a Golden Age great, even thought hey've had some uneven success over the years with their superhero line. Which is a shame really, as I think the Shield, the Black Hood, the Hangman, and even Madam Satan, have some great potential if done correctly.

Well, in this instance, they've gone all out, to try and bring back one of their cooler characters, The Fox! With long time Marvel/DC/Boom writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil) and the lesser known, but long time industry artist Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma), they've put together a quality team.

On November 4th, Archie Comics announced a 2nd printing for the #1 issue, so that's a positive sign!

I could go into a massive dissertation on why these old MLJ characters haven't succeeded, but ultimately, who really knows? The comic book market today is more perplexing than ever.

A little history on the character, who's creation dates back to even before Archie and his gang were around. The Fox is (was) Paul Patten, a news reporter and photographer for the Daily Globe, who wears a camera on his belt to get action news pics. Hmmm, sounds a little like some inspiration for Spider-man later on...

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #4, June 1940)

Anyway, he debuted in Blue Ribbon Comics #4, a creation of writer Joe Blair and artist Irwin Hansen, (his costume would get much sleeker the next issue). The Fox would linger around for a few years, before Archie took over and the superheroes for MLJ went bye bye.

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #4, June 1940)

He appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics #4-22, and below is an example of his Golden Age costume as it regularly appeared.

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #22, March 1942)

After a very brief and unsuccessful revival in the 60's, it would then be another 20 years before they brought him back again. THIS time though, Alex Toth would bring his talents to the character.
Really, if you ever have a chance to track these (1983) Black Hood issues down (#2-3), for the Toth Fox stories in them (and they are cheap), they're worth seeing.

Toth is a master of the story telling form in comics, and though some think this particular work is a bit wordy, it's layout, design, pace, camera angles, everything about it is exceptionally well done. The best that any of these characters has been presented. And apparently, this short run was the inspiration for Mike Allred's Madman! (Which I love as well)

 (from Black Hood #3, October 1983)

(from Black Hood #3, October 1983)

Toth put the Fox in two diverse settings for these stories (Eden, Texas and Tangiers), and it would've been great to see him continue with it.  

Ok, fast forward to now, 30 years later (!) and the new series is here with a few variants covers. As much as I find this variant craze to be a bit gratuitous, Archie Comics has done a nice job of a) not going over board with it... yet, b) printing enough of them that the price is still right and c) utilizing some artists that actually make some interesting covers that are collectible.

(Fiona Staples variant for the Fox #1)

In the 60's, the Fox had become Paul Patten Jr., the son of the original Fox, and that's who we meet in this new series. He is, according to Haspiel: "... a superhero with no superpowers whose civilian identity as a photojournalist keeps him in the business of getting into and out of trouble. He's just moved back from Japan with his wife and son to rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter when he discovers that he's a freak magnet."

Nothing wrong with that! A superhero that DOESN'T attract trouble would be pretty boring. 

Haspiel's art in the first issue, has a loose, pop art feel to it (did I just use the term 'pop art?'), enhanced, at times, by the coloring of Allen Passalaqua. A little more 'Laura Allred style' please, and it would give it the pizzaz you see below.
The art is clean and easy to follow, and not unlike reading a Batman Adventures comic, which is ok by me. If I had to nitpick, I'd say a strong inker might tighten it up.

Unnecessary side note: I still have my original copy of Haspiel's Opposable Thumbs from 2001. Man, that was 12 years ago...

(I like it! From the second story in the Fox #1)

Okay, my take on the story is this: They throw a lot at you in the first issue, and as hard as it is to get into a super hero these days, Waid and Haspiel make it go down smooth. We see him in action right away, and then meet his wife, hear about his daughter, find out some of the things that are going to go into knowing who this character is. 

It's fun, it's action packed from the get-go, it's got potential, and I'm going to follow it and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe this is the writer/artist team to get these old MLJ super heroes up and going again! I hope so.

(Preview art, main story, the Fox #1)

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