Saturday, August 23, 2014

Puzzle Time!

Sorry this is appearing late, I appear to have forgotten to set the time code for posting this properly! Wrapping up the week with another installment of "Puzzle Time"! As always, solutions follow after the jump!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Geek TV: Eerie, Indiana

Concept: Teenager Marshall Teller's family moves to the town of Eerie, Indiana, where he becomes friends with Simon Holmes, and the two of them encounter all sorts of odd and downright weird stuff that the town seems to be a locus for.

Total Episodes: 19

Original Air Dates: September 15, 1991 - April 12, 1992

Original Network: NBC


Marshall Teller (Omri Katz): Marshall is the hero of the stories. He grew up in New Jersey prior to his family moving to Eerie. He can be arrogant at times, but is also very smart, resourceful, and thinks quickly on his feet. His best friend is Simon Holmes, although as he becomes interested in girls, he finds himself split between girls and Simon.

Simon Holmes (Justin Shenkarow): Marshall's best friend, Simon's parents argue most of the time. He was a lonely kid before Marshall befriended him. He is the only resident of Eerie who thought anything was weird before Marshall's family moved there.

Edgar Teller (Francis Guinan): Marshall's father, he works at "Things Incorporated," a product testing company. Edgar is a scientist who was the member of the family who decided to move to Eerie.

Marilyn Teller (Mary-Margret Humes): Marshall's mother, she operates her own party-planning business at the Eerie Mall, and tends to be disorganized.

Syndi Marie Priscilla Teller (Julie Condra): Marshall's older sister, ridiculed by Marshall for the spelling of her name. Wants to be a reporter.

Dash X (Jason Marsden): A mystery character, he has no memory of his past, nor how he got to Eerie. He lives on the streets, and occasionally helps Marshall and Simon.

Geek Pedigree:

Joe Dante directed five episodes of the show, more than anyone else. His previous geek credits include directing the genre films Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace, Gremlins 2: The New  Batch and Explorers, segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon, episodes of Police Squad!, The Twilight Zone (1985), and Amazing Stories. Later, he directed the films Matinee, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy, Small Soldiers, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, among other credits. Bob Balaban directed three episodes, he had previously written a single episode each of Tales from the Darkside (1988) and Monsters, directed single episodes of Tales from the Darkside and Amaziing Stories, and acted in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (playing David Laughlin), 2010 (playing Dr. R. Chandra), and guested in an episode of Amazing Stories. He later directed two episodes of the 2002-2003 The Twilight Zone.

Bryan Spicer directed two episodes, he was a director on Superboy, and later directed episodes of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., SeaQuest 2032, The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen and the movies Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, among other credits. Also directing two episodes was Tim Hunter (who previously directed three episodes of Twin Peaks and later episodes of Dark Justice, The 4400, and Caprica, among other shows), and with single episodes Greg Beeman (also directing two episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in 1986, a segment of Tales of the Unknown, and later episodes of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Heroes, Smallville and Falling Skies and the films Mom and Dad Save the World and Aquaman (2006 TV movie), as well as producing episodes of Smallville, Heroes and Falling Skies), Mark Goldblatt (who'd directed The Punisher in 1989, and edited Piranha, Humanoids of the Deep, The Howling, Halloween II, The Terminator, Nightbreed, Predator 2, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Super Mario Bros., Starship Troopers, and many other films) and Todd Holland (who'd directed episodes of Amazing Stories and Max Headroom, and later The Wizard, episodes of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures and Firefly, as well as the TV Movie The Time Tunnel (2006).

Series lead Omri Katz had previously appeared in an episode of Zorro and played Timmy in Adventures in Dinosaur City, and later played Stan in Matinee. While co-star Justin Shenkarow didn't have prior genre credits, he did voice Jordan Hill and Timmy Frye in the episode "Be a Clown" of Batman: The Animated Series, and did voices in single episodes of The Little Mermaid, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles, Hercules, Kim Possible, Totally Spies!, multiple episodes of 101 Dalmations: The Series, Recess, and was a regular voice actor on Life with Louie and Hey Arnold!, and assorted other voice acting roles.

Mary-Margaret Humes was previously in History of the World: Part 1 playing Miriam, and guested in episodes of Knight Rider, Manimal, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, Night Court, T. J. Hooker, and later in Dark Justice, Time Trax, Legend, Touched by an Angel, and Ghost Whisperer. Francis Guinan had previously appeared in The Serpent and the Rainbow, Knight Rider 2000, Alien Nation (TV series), and later in the TV-movie Journey to the Center of the Earth, and episodes of Dark Skies, Sliders, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, Star Trek: Voyager, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Star Trek: Enterprise.

Jason Marsden is mostly known for his voice work, previously voicing Cavin in Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Peter Pan in Peter Pan in the Pirates, and appeared onscreen as Eddie in The Munsters Today, as well as episodes of Tales from the Crypt and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Later, he guested on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and voiced in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Mask, Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man, Extreme Ghostbusters, Jungle Cubs, Histeria, Superman (1996-1999, voicing the young Clark Kent), Batman Beyond, and many, many other shows, including voicing Snapper Carr in Justice League as well as Bart Allen and Ray Palmer in Young Justice.

Archie Hahn, who appeared in 6 episodes, had earlier guested in episodes of The Partridge Family, Tabitha, The Fall Guy, Madame's Place, ALF, and could also be seen in This is Spinal Tap and Amazon Women on the Moon. He later appeared in The Brady Bunch Movie, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Doctor Dolittle, Small Soldiers, Once and Again, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and appeared in a few episodes of the original version of Whose Line is it Anyway?

Geek Guests:

John Astin guested in a handful of episodes, and of course you'll recall him as Gomez Addams from The Addams Family as well as being a regular on Brisco County Jr. and the second Riddler on Batman, among many other credits.

Guesting in single episodes included such actors as Henry Gibson (perhaps best known for being a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), Tobey Maguire (who went on to be the first big-screen Spider-Man), Matt Frewer (known for Max Headroom as well as a host of other genre roles), Dick Miller (who can be seen in a multitude of genre movies, many of the "B" quality), Rene Auberjonois (perhaps best known for his role on Benson or as Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian).

DVD Release: Complete series. The series can also be seen on the online service Hulu.

Website: I wasn't able to find an official website for the show, and it doesn't look like a fan site is set up, either (at least, none that showed up in the first few pages of Google results).

Notes: This was another show that my family and I faithfully watched and were disappointed to see it cancelled. The series was later shown on The Disney Channel and Fox, garnering high enough ratings that a follow-up series, Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension to be produced for Fox Kids, lasting 15 episodes in 1998. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Essays on Comics Characters: The Original Human Torch!

The original Human Torch was a character I was first introduced to either in Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic-Book Heroes or the anthology All in Color for a Dime. I can't be sure which, as I bought both of those books at the same time.

You may recall the story, I've told it a few times. Basically, I'd seen those books and others in the stores and wanted them dearly, but I didn't have the money for them until one birthday, when I got cash instead of a present from my parents. We were heading up to Seattle either the same day or the day after to visit with some relatives, and I managed to talk my parents into stopping at the Waldenbooks at the Tacoma Mall so I could use my birthday money to buy some books about comics, and those were the ones I'd chosen to get.

Well... that may not be entirely true. Since I can't possibly remember what year it was I got those books, I may have seen the Torch in one of Marvel's comics, such as The Invaders, or maybe even the short-lived Human Torch reprint book, which had one of the original Torch stories reprinted along with a Johnny Storm story from his series in Strange Tales. Or maybe I'd read the Fantastic Four annual that had the original Torch (or a reprint thereof), or saw a reference to him in Avengers or Giant-Size Avengers. Like I said, without knowing the year, I can't say for certain.

One way or another, though, I did get to know of him sometime in the early 1970s. As you probably know (and if you don't, you're not nearly as old-school as I am), the original Human Torch wasn't human at all, but rather an android built by Dr. Horton, an amazing invention predating the start of World War II. The only problem with Horton's android was, when exposed to oxygen, it would become "alive" and burst into flame. How the heck Horton built the thing in the first place without discovering this design flaw is beyond me! Perhaps he had his own sort of ultra-"clean room" where he built the Torch, working in an oxygen-free environment so as to prevent any kind of contamination.

As I noted, the Torch was an android, and not a robot. The difference, as explained in dozens of comics and sci-fi books and stories, is that robots are entirely mechanical, while androids are supposed to be more synthetic versions of a human, duplicating all the major organs and so forth. One might liken androids to homunculi, and surmise that their creation is as much chemical as anything else.

Anyway... the story goes that the Torch was deemed dangerous by the scientists that Horton showed his invention to, and they urged him to destroy it. Horton wouldn't destroy it, but rather buried the Torch. However, a tiny crack eventually allowed oxygen into the Torch's tomb, and he broke free, and managed to learn how to speak English immediately (presumably, Horton had programmed him with this information, even if he didn't get a chance to use it until he was actually alive for more than a few minutes at a time).

At first, the Torch fell in with the wrong crowd, being used by criminals, but he soon saw the light. He went back to Horton after he'd learned now to turn off his flame at will, but Horton wanted to use him to make money, and the Torch didn't care for that one bit!

As the stories went on, the Torch's powers were expanded. Of course, when flamed on, he could fly, and his flame was hot enough to melt weapons used against him, such as bullets. He was fond of throwing fireballs, and could somehow control other flame. Some of the stunts he did with his flame were downright odd, such as creating a flaming cylinder with a lid to capture crooks!

Later, the Torch would join forces with the New York Police Department, although how they could afford to replace all the walls he burnt through in their headquarters is beyond me! Later, the Torch would be involved with the first-ever crossover in a Marvel comic (well, it was called Timely back then) when he met up with and battled the Sub-Mariner, not just once, but several times, back in the day that Namor hated all surface-dwellers. Of course, later Namor decided to vent his spleen on the Axis, and the Torch and Namor, teamed up with Captain America and others, formed the All-Winners Squad.

It would be revealed much later, in the 1970s comics, that prior to that, the three heroes joined forces as the Invaders in the early days of the war, joined by Bucky and the Torch's own sidekick, Toro.

Toro was kind of an oddball sidekick in many ways. Batman chose Dick Grayson as Robin after the young acrobat suffered a loss similar to Bruce Wayne's own. Captain America picked up Bucky at the end of his first story when Bucky Barnes wandered into Steve Rogers' Army tent while he was changing identities. But Toro...

Toro was an orphan who ran with a kid gang of sorts (something that Jack Kirby and Joe Simon would make more use of later in their careers). Fire never bothered him at all, in fact, he used to pull baked potatoes from the fire for his gang. Toro later joined up with a circus as a fire-eater, and it was in the circus that he was given his name (as has been noted numerous times, why someone thought the Spanish word for "bull" was fitting never made sense at all). The Torch met Toro for the first time when, as the Torch flew over the circus, Toro suddenly burst into flame! He'd never done it before, and with the Torch's tutelage, was able to figure out how to do it at will.

The two naturally teamed up, with Toro's costume being a rather scanty shorts and boots affair (he made Robin look covered-up!). Even when flamed on, Toro could be differentiated by having a cleaner look to his flame, while the Torch's flame had the now-familiar scratchy lines through it (better known to most people as the original style for Johnny Storm's flames).

The Torch was created by Carl Burgos, who created a number of other synthetic man superheroes in his career (sort of a specialty of his). He and Sub-Mariner both hit the stands in the first issue of Marvel Comics, although apparently Namor had an earlier one-shot appearance, but this isn't about Namor.

Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly for the time period, the Torch never seemed to have much trouble fitting in with human society and conventions after his initial stories. If he'd been created nowadays, we'd have had as a regular personality trait his interest in learning about human customs and so forth, but back then, comics stories tended to be rather short, usually 8-12 pages max, and such characterizations weren't usually worth using up much space!

The Torch's flame petered out briefly after the end of World War II, although Marvel brought him back for a very short time in the 1950s before he disappeared again. He'd appeared in Marvel Comics, The Human Torch, The All-Winners Squad, USA Comics, and many other titles (Timely's "Big Three" appeared in more books than either Superman or Batman did back in the day!).

One oddball element back in the early days of Timely concerning the Torch happened in the pages of the first issue of Captain America Comics, in Cap's origin story. The US hadn't entered World War II yet, but it seemed inevitable. FDR himself was concerned about the Axis threat, and wanted to be prepared for it, and here's the kicker -- he wondered aloud if perhaps the Human Torch would come out of the comics to battle them! Clearly, the Torch was considered just a comic book character in that Cap origin, something that was never alluded to again.

Anyway, with the original Human Torch gone from the pages of comics, Stan Lee was able to appropriate the name when creating the Fantastic Four. Of course, once they brought back the Sub-Mariner as well as Captain America (in Fantastic Four #4 and Avengers #4, respectively), the readers must've asked when they were going to revive the original Torch!

Well, he did make a comeback of sorts, and it was in a Fantastic Four annual. The Mad Thinker found the Torch's inert body, and revived him to use as a weapon against his foes, the FF. The battle between the old Torch and the new one was epic, to be sure, but at the end, the Torch realized he was fighting on the wrong side, and sacrificed himself. The FF left his body in the Thinker's headquarters, probably not their smartest move.

Around this same time, give or take a year, the Torch had appeared to come back in Sub-Mariner #14, although this proved to be a grown-up Toro, and he, too, battled the Mad Thinker, and apparently lost his life then.

Now, as you recall, in the 1970s, there was a storyline in the pages of The Avengers and Giant-Size Avengers, that picked up on a line from the Kree-Skrull War (when Henry Pym as Ant-Man entered the Vision's body to revive him) in which it was revealed that the Vision's body was previously that of the Human Torch, altered by Ultron... and then much later, in West Coast Avengers, John Byrne revived the original Torch, having coexisting with the Vision, which appeared to be impossible, since they were supposed to be the same being! However, Roy Thomas had previously written an issue of What If? that suggested that the Vision was created from an android named Adam-II, who was Horton's second android, explaining why the two androids had similar construction.

Anyway, personally I was happy to see the original Torch revived, although not so much with what Marvel apparently decided to do with him... which was, for the most part, keeping his flame off! He was later brought into Heroes for Hire, and finally died yet again thanks to a plot by the Red Skull.

Of course, he was brought back again, and used against his former teammates. The dude has a lot in common with the android Red Tornado, who was himself used against the JLA a few times after his own apparent destructions!

Anyway, these days, the original Torch is a member of the modern Invaders, and since I've never read an issue of that title, I can't say anything about how he's being used there... for that matter, the stuff I talked about in the past few paragraphs is info I gleaned from Wikipedia.

So... if I were in charge of the Torch these days, what would I do with him? Well, like with Captain America (or should I say, Steve Rogers, as apparently in the comics Bucky is Captain America now) and the Sub-Mariner, the Torch is one of the few heroes left around from World War II. The three of them have a long connection and friendship that should be exploited, and they should be serving as mentors to the current generation of heroes. If Marvel wanted to revive the Avengers Academy concept, those three should be co-headmasters!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CBT: Pebbles Flintstone!

Time for another edition of Children's Book Theater, this time the featured book focuses on the only child of the Modern Stone Age Family!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Superhero Merchandise Catalog #2!

Yes, it's another fill-in post... this was supposed to originally be an "Indexible Hulk" entry, but I'm trying desperately to get ahead again!