Saturday, May 24, 2014

Geek TV: Shazam! (Live Action)

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Concept: Billy Batson, a young man, drives around the country in a Winnebago with Mentor, an older gentleman. When trouble strikes, Billy says the magic word “Shazam!” and is transformed by the Elders into Captain Marvel! Based on the classic Fawcett comic book.

Total Episodes: 28

Original Air Dates: September 7, 1974 – October 16, 1976

Original Network: CBS

Characters:

Billy Batson (Michael Gray): Young man who travels with Mentor. When he says the magic word Shazam! He transforms into Captain Marvel.

Book and Record Set: Gremlins: Escape from the Gremlins


Friday, May 23, 2014

Retro-Review: Fantastic Four #37!

21903As luck would have it, it's time for another retro-review, where I pick the top comic off my current comics reading pile and review it here as I read it! This time around, it's the classic Fantastic Four #37, "Behold! A Distant Star!" which was written by Stan Lee, penciled by Jack Kirby, inked by Chic Stone and lettered by Artie Simek!

The splash page features a blurb at the top reading "The Fabulous F.F. Actually Invade Another Galaxy!" above the title blurb, and a helpful caption lets us know that the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm is not far away. Ben Grimm, the Thing, and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, are trying on their tuxes for the wedding when Johnny suddenly bursts into flame, destroying his suit! The reason this has happened is that Reed has rushed into the room with his new power-ray, which he wanted to show them (and had forgotten to turn off in his excitement). The ray hit the Torch, causing a temporary spike in his powers.

Reed explains to Ben that the ray is a variation on a power amplifier, drawing energy from an unknown source and converting it into raw, usable power. Alicia Masters, Ben Grimm's blind sculptress girlfriend, arrives to tell Reed that Sue is upset about something. Reed goes to his fiancee, offering her a bouquet of flowers from the vase outside of the room she's brooding in, and Sue explains that she's upset about the death of her father at the hands of the Skrulls (in issue #32, "Death of a Hero", the dirty, stinking shape-shifting Skrulls [you have to preface it with those words at least once, you know] forced Dr. Franklin Richards, Sue and Johnny's father, into becoming the Invincible Man in a plot to get revenge on the FF, but when he refused to cooperate, they killed him long distance). Reed tries to get Sue to feel comforted by the fact that Dr. Storm's death was to save the Earth, but that's not enough for Sue.

Meanwhile, out in space, a Skrull space yacht cruises through the evening sky. Inside it are Morat, warlord of the Skrulls, and Princess Annelle, daughter of the king. Annelle and Morat love each other, but the King will not consent to the wedding because he distrusts Morat (who was responsible for Dr. Storm's death). Annelle recognizes the act as cruel and heatless, but she loves Morat despite that... as well as Morat's firing upon helpless game running in fear on the surface of the planet below.

Back on Earth, Reed's made his decision: He and Sue are heading to the Skrull homeworld to avenge the death of Dr. Storm, and Ben and Johnny agree to come along (Ben gets talked into it by Alicia). To days later, the FF take off in a borrowed Saturn rocket provided by the NSA (aka NASA), who wanted Reed's new power-thrust drive tested anyway. Outside of Earth's atmosphere, the ship utilizes a space warp as a shortcut to the Skrull galaxy. From the looks of things outside the ship while they travel through sub-space, it almost looks like sub-space is really the Negative Zone! The ship returns to normal space, right on target, and we're treated to a Kirby Kollage page, which a caption claims to be a photo taken by remote control via a special camera (oh, that Stan, always joking around). The ship lands, and the first beings the FF encounter are a race of small creatures who are plant-based. Suddenly, the FF are attacked by the Skrulls! They go into action, but their powers stop working!They're hit with an immobilizer ray, captured, and are brought to Morat.

Reed theorizes during their trip that something in the Skrull atmosphere has destroyed their powers (although this couldn't possibly be correct, as Ben still has his orange rocky hide -- so it seems that it's more an element inhibits their ability to use them). Morat briefly looks in on them, and we learn he has not yet told Annelle's father about the capture of the FF. After Annelle leaves, Morat gathers his loyal warriors and plots the death of the FF, figuring the rest of the Skrulls, hearing of this, will acclaim him a hero. Later, the FF are let out of their cell, and Ben starts to charge the Skrulls, despite not having his powers!

Reed manages to get the Skrulls to hold their waiting fire by promising something to trade in return for their lives. He promises Morat unlimited power, to Sue's shock! Morat decides to listen to Reed's offer. Back at the imperial Skrull palace, Annelle is visiting with her father when she reveals that Morat has the FF as his captives, which is news to the king! They leave to find Morat, and the king promises Morat will feel his royal wrath!

Meanwhile, back at the FF's rocket ship, Reed has given Morat his power-ray! When Johnny and Ben ask why Reed's doing it, he tells them to be quiet, and finally turns the ray on Ben! He then turns the ray on Sue and Johnny as well, saying he'll turn it on anyone who tries to stop him! Morat tells his soldiers to sieze the power-ray from Reed, after which he turns it on Reed as well! Reed reveals that he needed himself and his teammates hit by the power-ray in order to restore their powers, and the FF are back in action! Reed stretches out to regain the power-ray while Ben wades into the Skrulls and Johnny starts flash-frying their weapons. Morat, annoyed by his troops' failure to battle the powered-up FF, grabs a demolo-gun from one of his soldiers and is about to fire it when Sue, invisible, knocks it out of his hands! Morat, remembering Sue has the power of invisibility, orders his men to lay down a crossfire of beams to trap her in place. The battle continues but then suddenly stops at the arrival of the Skrull king and Annelle! Morat tries to act as though he is presenting the king with his prisoners, but the king isn't fooled by the act one bit. The king orders Morat stripped of his insignia and brand him as a traitor, but in response, Morat draws his weapon and is about to fire, but the King's soldiers fire first...

... but it gets worse! Annelle, still foolishly in love with Morat, throws herself into the line of fire before the soldiers can stop their attack! Miraculously, while Morat is slain, Annelle is all right, thanks to Sue's quick thinking and use of her force field, as Reed explains to the king. The king, disgusted by the earthmen, says they have still earned the right to request a boon of him, and Reed just asks that they turn over the Skrull responsible for Dr. Storm's death. The king explains Morat is the one they seek, and that furthermore, Earth needs fear the Skrulls no longer, for it was only Morat who craved the conquest of Earth (this would obviously change in the future).

Sue realizes that the revenge she sought wasn't so sweet after all, and Ben notices that Annelle is distraught and crying over the death of Morat. The FF return to earth in the rocketship, Reed musing that maybe the Skrulls are not so different from them after all. Back at the Baxter Building, Alicia and the reverend are waiting the arrival of the FF for the wedding rehearsal when they hear a distant roaring sound, as the rocket splashes down into the ocean, and the FF, aided by a powerful vacuum spout created by the Torch, are drawn from the splashdown site back to the Baxter Building. Moments later, the wedding rehearsal proceeds without a hitch!

This is the oldest issue of the FF in my collection, and it's pretty beat up (obviously, that's not a picture of the copy I have up there at the beginning of this post). Kirby's art is fantastic, as we've come to expect from his FF work (although the new hairstyle Sue has in this issue is one I never warmed to myself), and the dialogue by Stan is dramatic as all hell. This was one of the issues of the FF's comic that was adapted by Hanna-Barbera for an episode of the FF cartoon, although obviously changes were made, since they didn't do the Invincible Man story in the cartoon, nor was the wedding of Reed and Sue a part of the show (weren't they introduced as already married?).

Advertisements in this issue included a full page ad for American Body Building Club, Commercial Trades Institute (pushing their auto mechanic training), the Wayne School ("Now You Can Finish High School At Home"), Atlas Tool Co. (selling race car kits), Ellbar Dist. (selling X-Ray specs in a half page ad on one page, and "living monsters" on another half-page ad), Grit, the Yubizawa System of martial arts, a full-age house ad for Daredevil #6, a 1/3 page ad for the Merry Marvel Marching Society (the rest of the page is an ad asking "Who Says This Isn't the Marvel Age Of Comics?!" with the logos for Daredevil, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers, Tales of Suspense, Journey into Mystery, Amazing Spider-Man, Tales to AStonish, Sgt. Fury, Strange Tales, Kid Colt Outlaw, Two-Gun Kid, Rawhide kid, Patsy Walker, Millie the Model, Patsy and Heddy, and Modeling with Millie), and a few more body-building ads. The Fantastic Four Fan Page us two pages this issue, with etters from Dosado Macapagal, Jr. from the Philippines, Kraisden Wilde, Ed Noonchester, Keith McWalter, Dave Smith, Kevin Hunt, George Carer, Steve Wilson, and perennial letterhack Guy H. Lillian III. The Mighty Marvel Checklist takes up part of the first page, while the other has a Special Announcements Section promising that Reed and Sue will be married within a hear, the announcement of a new character appearing in X-Men #10, and the promise of future announcements about the MMMS. Both of these items would, before too much longer, become spun off into the full-fledged Bullpen Bullitens page.  By the way... the amazing new character being introduced in X-Men was Ka-Zar!

Fandom Library: The Comic Reader #134 & 136!

As promised, the rate of TCR posts in Fandom Library is being increased!
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Comics They Never Made!

Time for another gallery of faked-up comic book covers!
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Making his second appearance ever in this blog (the first one was his entry for "Dog of the Geek," a number of Octobers ago) is Fangface! I only watched a few episodes of this show when it originally aired... while the idea of a show with a werewolf appealed to me (such as the earlier and much more entertaining Groovie Goolies), this show just didn't do it for me. It was the Scooby-Doo formula with Scooby replaced by Fangface, which would've been fine in and of itself (there were certainly plenty of other shows using the same formula on the air over the years)... but they went to ridiculous extremes here to get the transformation to Fangface accomplished, even showing a photo of a full moon to cause the transformation! That was too much for me, even in a cartoon.

The Beatles Cartoon, Episode 16!

beatles16-01The first story in this episode is based around the song, "Can't Buy Me Love," which was written at least mostly by Paul McCartney (John Lennon, in one of his last interviews, pointed out that you could pretty much tell which of the two of them had written a song by who sang lead). The story opens with the Beatles relaxing in a largish grass hut on a beach, probably in Hawaii. George is doing his level best to open a coconut, unsuccessfully, and wonders how the monkeys manage to do it. A helpful monkey throws a coconut at George's head, which breaks open. John catches one of the broken shells, remarks on how helpful it is to have George on a trip, and starts eating the coconut. He's interrupted by the arrival of a native with a message: a tribal chief wishes John to honor them by accepting a ring. John accepts and puts on the ring (wondering if Ringo started out this way).

beatles16-02Shortly, John is told that it's almost time for the ceremony -- his wedding to the chief's daughter! (guess the cartoon John, unlike his real-life counterpart, wasn't married) John, of course, didn't realize that by accepting the ring from the chief, he was also agreeing to the wedding! John protests, but the natives grab him and are about to take him away when John, spotting two monkeys up in the palm trees nearby, asks out loud (as George did before) how those tiny monkeys manage to open the coconuts! The monkeys oblige by throwing two down, conking out the natives who were about to carry John off.

beatles16-03The song begins as John takes off, the natives in pursuit. John spots a wagon of pineapples and hides in its load, but when the wagon gets to a pineapple canning factory, he regrets this, as he gets picked up with the pineapples and dropped into a conveyor belt in the factory, where native women are slicing the pineapples open with what are either cleavers or axes! John's head misses being cut, but the seat of his pants is hit (causing him to exclaim "Ouch!" as the music pauses momentarily, with the native girl noting how the pineapples are getting noisy these days). Stunned, John's fed into the pineapple peeling machine, which strips him to his underwear, and then he goes into the crushing machine, crumpling poor John up! The line goes past a native who remarks on things, and then John goes into a canner, where the song abruptly ends (with the last chorus cut out).

beatles16-04Shortly, at the site of the wedding, the chief consults his sundial watch and notes that John is late. But he's interrupted by the announcement that he's to be presented with the first can of pineapple from the new factory! The chief licks his lips and orders the royal can opener to open the rather large can! Of course, as soon as the can is opened, John pops out! His prospective bride grabs him and is about to kiss him when she announces that she can't marry him -- he smells of pineapple, and she hates pineapple! The chief tells John he can keep the ring to mend his broken heart.

Later, Ringo tries to offer John some pineapple juice (which he turns down), and notices John's ring. John tosses the ring to Ringo, who puts it on, and then the chief's daughter appears, along with the natives, presumably to haul Ringo off to his wedding!

Next, it's time for the singalong, which George introduces as the most exciting part of the show. Ringo, of course, is still filling in for the prop man, and George wants mood for the song... and Ringo, of course, brings out a cow -- which "mooed".

beatles16-05The song begins, "Anna," which was from the first Beatles' album. The pictures that accompany the lyrics feature Paul with a caged bird who wishes to escape her cage to be with her mate, who is free. Kind of odd that they have Paul here, as it's John singing the song in the recording. An oddity in the lyrics is what I've always heard as "What am I, what am I supposed to do" is rendered as "What'm I, what'm I supposed to do..." As with the last episode, girls screaming are edited onto the end of the song!

beatles16-06George comes back on stage to compliment the kids at home, except for Marie, Peter and Shiela (whose parents are apparently outsinging them). The next song is a singing ringer-dinger, and it's the bell and Hunchback bit again (just as we've seen before).

The second song to sing along with is "Mr. Moonlight," which features the Beatles exploring on an island, perhaps near Africa. Each Beatle wears a different hat, i.e. an explorer's hat, fez, etc. The song has a few edits here and there, just a measure or two at a time, but the lyrics appear correct.  There's a bearded chap who shows up at the end of the song for some reason.

beatles16-07The final segment is "It Won't Be Long," and as many of the stories do, it opens with the Beatles driving down the road, with plans to stop for a picnic soon. George is so hungry he could eat his guitar, but Ringo suggests a drumstick. John says it's disgusting that all the two of them can do is think of food, and Paul agrees (meanwhile the two of them are eating the picnic lunch in the back seat).

beatles16-08Apparently the Beatles are back in Japan again, as ahead on the road is the Miniature Gardens, maintained by Dr. Ah-So. Dr. Ah-So is a genius in shrinking plants with his special potion. He adds a bit of this potion to a pond, drops a large tree into it, and it comes out small! The two men watching this present Dr. Ah-So with a trophy, but he lets it slip out of his fingers, and drops it into the pond, shrinking it. Meanwhile, the Beatles stop there, and decide it's a perfect place for their picnic. John notices the pond and takes it for a swimming hole, despite the bubbling. Ducking behind a handy tree, John changes into a swimsuit and dives in, immediately shrinking. The other three Beatles hear his cries, and then see the tiny John, who they figure is a doll. John's accidentally dropped to the ground, and Paul orders his bandmates to find the doll, as it belongs to him.

beatles16-09"It Won't Be Long" begins as John rushes away, with his mates searching for him.  John tries hiding behind a flower, but it doesn't conceal him. He continues to run away (really an impressive feat, given his size, that he's able to outrun the other Beatles). John hides and lets his mates run past, but then a big green frog looks at him and licks its lips, so John rushes off again, running past his friends. His next stop finds him menaced by a bee!  Finally, John leads them back to the pond, where he uses a leaf as a boat, but his friends just dive in after him as the song ends.

beatles16-10Dr. Ah-So demonstrates how the formula has worn off, and of course this means that John's normal size, while his friends are all small! John announces that the picnic will continue, him taking a turkey and offering each of his shrunken bandmates an olive on a toothpick, saying "Don't stuff yourselves!" and laughing!

A few things strike me about this entire episode: First, the focus on John in the two stories (indeed, John even sings lead on the singalong songs, as well as "It Won't Be Long"); and second, how the stories feature elements that were in the Beatles movie Help! -- there's the ring in the first story (although in the film, the ring marks the wearer as a sacrifice and not a groom), as well as the tropical location that is shared with part of the movie... and then in the second story, there's the shrinking thing, which happens solely to Paul in Help! But perhaps the most striking thing about this particular episode is how often the Beatles (especially John) end up going fairly far off-model, which you may be able to tell from the screen shots!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Krypto RIP

My wonderful superdog in spirit, Krypto, passed away during the night. The loss has really hit me hard, and once I'm up to it I'll be preparing a more fitting tribute to my lost friend.

Essays on Comics Characters: The Sub-Mariner!

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My first exposure to Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, had to come from one of the following: The article “Okay Axis, Here We Come” in All in Color for a Dime, the reprinted story in The Great Comic-Book Heroes, or perhaps in the pages of The Defenders or reprints of his Tales to Astonish stories in Marvel Super-Heroes. It's impossible for me to tell these days which is the case.

There's something appealing about Namor to me, that makes he like him as a character even more than Aquaman. Maybe it's just his appearance, with the arched eyebrows and pointed ears reminiscent of Mr. Spock, the tiny ankle wings that somehow enable him to fly. Maybe it's the fact that he was confident enough that his costume consisted of just a pair of swim trunks, or the nobility that he presented.

Namor has nearly always been represented as being quick-tempered, never backing from a fight. But he's just as often been presented as being a wise and just ruler of Atlantis, putting his subjects' needs above his own (and often at personal cost). And he's also presented as being guilty of pride. He's not used to being disobeyed, and expects that when he speaks, people will listen.

In his earliest adventures in the Golden Age, Namor was very much an anti-hero, almost a villain himself, making attacks on the surface world, declaring war on the human race, etc. Things got to the point where the Human Torch was called in put a stop to Namor's rampages!

Comic Reading Library: Four Color #378 - Tom Corbett, Space Cadet!

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Krypto

Krypto hasn't been doing well the past few days, so I took him to the vet this morning, expecting the worst. There's a possibility it's "just" an infection, so we are trying him out on fluids and an antibiotic for a week to see if he responds to that treatment. If there's no change, I'm going to have to make that terrible decision to end his life before he suffers any more. This really shakes me up, as you can imagine... But it is something that at his age, is going to happen sooner or later anyway. I hate the idea of letting him go, he's been with me as long as I've been doing this blog, and I can't imagine what life would be like without him. There have been days when he's been happier to see me arriving at home than my kids have been. He's been a faithful friend and companion, the best dog I could ever have imagined having. He filled a hole in my life I didn't realize I had until the day I got him.

I'll keep you posted here as to his treatment.

The Indexible Hulk #59!

Hulk 103Issue: The Incredible Hulk #103

Title: “And Now... The Space Parasite!”

Credits: Written by Gary Friedrich, pencils by Marie Severin, inks by Frank Giacoia, and letters by Artie Simek.

Supporting Cast: Thunderbolt Ross, Major Talbot, Rick Jones, Betty Ross

Villain: The Space Parasite

Guest-Stars: The Thing (cameo, in flashback)

Plot: The Hulk suddenly appears in Times Square, having been sent there from Asgard by Odin. Of course, his arrival causes immediate panic, and the police start to move in on him immediately. The Hulk leaps up to the top of a building, but as he looks around for his pursuers, he suddenly changes back to Bruce Banner! Meanwhile, at a TV studio, Rick Jones, Major Talbot, and Thunderbolt Ross are being interviewed on a popular talk show covering the Hulk. The host, Jack Klyne, starts out by implying that Ross has failed to defeat the Hulk, but Talbot insists that the public is unaware of how strong the Hulk is, and shows a few film clips as an example (including one of a battle with the Thing). Meanwhile, Bruce has made his way to the basement of the building the Hulk left him on, where he dons overalls from a maintenance locker.

Out in space, the Space Parasite approaches Earth, seeking the Hulk's power to absorb and add to his own! Back on Earth, Bruce finds Rick Jones' address from a telephone booth, and then heads there via the subway. In space, the Space Parasite prepares to teleport to Earth to engage the Hulk, but since the Hulk has changed back to Banner, he can't track him. He manages to tune in to the talk show, where Rick is being asked if he thinks the Hulk is a menace. Meanwhile, Banner's arrived at Rick's apartment, where he convinces the landlady he's Rick's uncle to be let him in. Bruce sees the Klyne show circled in the TV listings and tunes in just in time to see Rick say he thinks there's no hope for the Hulk, and that he considers the Hulk a menace that must be destroyed. This stuns Banner, who sits there, head in his hands. He finally decides he should leave, but by that time, Rick's returned home, and, holding a gun aimed at Bruce, he reiterates his decision about the Hulk. In space, the Space Parasite has learned that the Hulk is Bruce Banner, and that he must force Bruce to transform back to the Hulk.

At Rick's apartment, Bruce approaches Rick slowly, gambling that Rick won't shoot him. But as he nears, Betty Ross arrives, and barges in, just as Rick shoots! But at the last second, Rick aimed his gun at the floor (hope nobody was downstairs at the time). Betty embraces Bruce, but suddenly, she looks up at him and insists Bruce is a killer and must be destroyed! This sudden change of heart is due to the influence of the Space Parasite, who's somehow used a laser beam to project a hypnotic suggestion directly into her brain. He teleports himself to Rick's apartment, where Betty's collapsed. The sudden arrival of the Space Parasite causes Bruce to change into the Hulk, and he faces off against this new foe!

The Space Parasite leads the Hulk outside, where the battle begins! But as they begin to fight, millions of miles away, on the planet Xeron, the Space Parasite's been discovered by the people there. The Space Parasite used to be Randau, the leader of their world. He ruled wisely, and their society was perfect until one day, an alien invasion approached their world. Randau volunteered to undergo a transformation in their solar chamber to become the Space Parasite. He destroyed the invaders, and then continued to venture deeper into space, claiming that he would find potential threats to Xeron, and destroy them. However, his people realized that he was really fighting for the sake of fighting. Randau must die!

Back on Earth, the Hulk and the Space Parasite's battle has caused them to land in Yankee Stadium, where they continue to battle. The Hulk attempts to bury the Space Parasite under a mountain of debris, but the Space Parasite emerges, saying that with each blow the Hulk strikes, more of his power transfers to the Parasite. Stunned, the Hulk lies helpless as the Parasite prepares to strike the final blow, but at that very time, on Xeron, they prepare to activate the self-destruct mechanism on the Space Parasite's ship! The Hulk revives before the Parasite can kill him, and the fight continues on a nearby elevated train track! The Space Parasite cannot hold out much longer, as he's growing weaker while the Hulk is as strong as ever, if not more so. The battle has brought the attention of the army (or perhaps the National Guard), who move tanks in as the Hulk and the Space Parasite strike each other with train cars and whatever else they can grab. The Hulk wraps the Parasite in one train car and throws him into the river, but the Space Parasite shortly breaks free and swims to the surface, where he barely pulls himself to shore as the Hulk arrives. Demanding that the Hulk kill him, the request is denied! The Hulk will not hit someone who can't hit back. The Space Parasite teleports himself back to his ship, planning to return to his homeworld to die, but when he arrives there, his ship is blown up by the self-destruct device, and the Space Parasite drifts into space where he dies peacefully.

Back in New York, the police arrive with gas grenades, which they throw at the Hulk, and the gas not only knocks the Hulk out, but it also causes him to turn back to Bruce Banner!

Invention Exchange: Nothing invented by Bruce or anyone on Earth, but the Space Parasite's solar chamber, teleporter, and self-destruct mechanism count.

Reprinted In: Marvel Super-Heroes #57, Essential Hulk #2.

Notes: Wouldn't it have been nicer if Odin had sent the Hulk to the southwest desert instead, or perhaps to the old cave hideout? It would have been wiser if the Hulk had been able to battle the Space Parasite where there'd be no collateral damage or threat to innocent lives.

Fandom Library: The Amazing World of DC Comics Special #1!

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