Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Favorite Movies: The Rocketeer!

There have been a number of great (and not-so-great) movies based on comic books, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original source... and in my opinion, one of the greatest of the comic book movies, and the one possibly the most faithful to the original... is The Rocketeer.

Like many comics readers, I was first introduced to The Rocketeer in his appearances in Pacific Comics titles, more specifically Pacific Comics Presents. Dave Stevens' artwork and writing immediately appealed to me, as I'd been a fan of Commando Cody/Rocketman since I was a kid seeing those serials on television. The later appearances of Doc Savage, Monk and Ham (although not specifically identified as such) in the comic story made it even more of a treat... and of course, one cannot talk about Dave Stevens' work without mentioning the absolutely gorgeous women he drew!

When I heard that The Rocketeer was being made into a movie, I was very thrilled, although I probably had my doubts... would this great comic book be a great movie? All of the advance photos I saw told me that, at least visually, it would be great... the Rocketeer costume was spot-on, as were the locations taken right out of the comics.

Billy Campbell made an excellent Cliff Secord. He looked the part, and he played the part just right, putting in equal elements of determination, sheer stubbornness, and youthful enthusiasm into the part. Jennifer Connelly was gorgeous as Jenny, the movie's stand-in for Bettie (since Bettie was pretty much based on Bettie Page, I suppose this change was necessary from a legal standpoint). Alan Arkin made a great Peevy, even though he didn't look much like the character in the comics.

There were changes made in the storyline, to be sure... after all, it wouldn't do to put Doc Savage and company in a movie without getting the rights to Doc first (and I'm sure it was hoped that the movie would reach a wider audience than the comic book did)! Instead of Doc being the inventor of the rocket  pack, it was changed to Howard Hughes (who was known for his aviation experiments back in the day). A new central villain was introduced in the person of Neville Sinclair, playing off the idea of Errol Flynn possibly being a Nazi spy, and it worked great.

I have to say, I was amazed to see so much from the comics appear right on the screen! From the beginning, we had the Gee Bee (Cliff's ill-fated plane), and we even got Lothar, Dave Stevens' tribute to Rondo Hatton! There's a number of shots in the movie that pretty much come straight out of the comic books, too (including one with Cliff posing while holding a Luger).

I first watched The Rocketeer with my brother Jeff at a special sneak peek in Tacoma, and we loved it. We saw it again when it went into regular release, and there were a few minor cuts made to it. There was a running gag with Cliff saying something to Peevy, who replied "What?" because he didn't hear Cliff, usually just before Cliff fired off the rocket pack.

Like I said, we loved it, and since then, I've watched it a few more times, and it holds up on repeated viewings quite well.

So why in the hell didn't this movie become a huge hit?

I suppose part of the blame has to do with promotion... the movie wasn't advertised all that well that I recall. There was no big campaign to promote it, I don't even recall that there were any toys specifically based on the movie. Oh, there were a few coloring books, and a couple of items that were more based on the comics (including one large cardboard stand-up that I still have, undisplayed), but those latter items were mostly sold in comic shops and places like Spencer's Gifts. Oh, there was also a set of bubble gum cards.

It's really kind of weird, when you think of it... Disney was behind this movie, and you would've thought they could've done something to make it more of a big deal in the theaters. Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up, something that was on the DVD release (and probably the VHS release before that). I suspect it's done okay in video sales, but not nearly enough to get Disney to make a second movie, unfortunately.

Here's the trailer.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This 'N That Time!

Time once again for a random assortment of items relating to my life that aren't really worth a full post about!

ITEM! So, believe it or not, but last Friday marked my one-year anniversary at my current job at one of the major retailers. This makes it the longest job I've held since I got laid off from my newspaper job... which kind of sucks in a few ways. I've had interviews for other jobs in the past year that didn't turn out (the last one was for a 911 operator position, something I really had a huge interest in, and I thought I would've done very well with), and I keep hoping that something better will come my way soon... but it hasn't been looking that way. This should really depress the hell out of me, but I'm finding myself a lot less depressed than I should probably be. I suppose that I'm just aware that it's good to have any job these days!

ITEM! Just wanted to say "Thanks!" to all my readers who've clicked on the various ads that pop up in this here blog thing... especially since I just received a payment from Google for those clicks! Certainly these payments aren't coming as often as they were when I had a multitude of blogs actively running, but you know, every little bit helps!

ITEM!  Speaking of every little bit helps, eBay's been pretty good to me lately. As I've mentioned before, I've had a large number of items listed over the past few months, and there have been some weeks where the sales have been amazing! What's amazed me most of all has been the sales on batches of VHS tapes... I've been offering these in groups of six or eight or more, with starting bids based on 50 cents a tape, and some of them have been going for much more than I expected! I still have some VHS lots for sale now, as well as DVDs, vintage sci-fi pulps, comics, fanzines, RPG items, anime and manga books, and all sorts of other stuff, so if you haven't checked out my listings lately, please do so!

ITEM! It's been a pretty rough few months since Krypto died, and I wasn't sure that I'd be ready to get another dog for some time... but I've been finding myself wanting another dog in my life again. I'd planned on getting another boxer, but the price for boxer puppies has skyrocketed since I got Krypto! These days, prices from local breeders for boxer puppies goes anywhere from $800 to $1700 and more... so I don't know if I'll be going the puppy route. I may have to start checking in with the local Humane Society to see if they get any boxers. In the meantime, our cats and remaining dog are doing fine.

ITEM! Next month, the Knutsons return to Disneyland and Southern California... and there'll be twice as many of us this time! Not only are Jessi, Tristan, Desi and I going, but also my brother Jeff, his wife Kristi, and their adopted children Steve and Kassidy are also going! This is something we'd been planning for some time, ever since Jeff and Kristi decided they wanted to adopt Steve and Kassidy (who had originally been placed with us as foster kids), and now it's finally happening! We will be flying down this time (we drove last time), and are spending three days at Disneyland, and one day at Legoland, which none of us have been to before. Having four adults and four kids should make for a manageable situation, and when the girls want to spend hours with the Disney Princesses, Jeff and I can take the boys to stuff the girls aren't interested in (not that there's anything wrong with hanging out with the Disney Princesses... in fact, most of the young ladies portraying them are quite easy on the eyes, but that's not what I want to spend most of my time there doing). I've already reminded Jessi a few times that the very first ride we're going on at Disneyland will be the Haunted Mansion, as we didn't go the first time we went (it was open only the first day we were there, and then closed for the "Nightmare Before Christmas" conversion, which will be the version running when we're there next month). I'll be sure to share some photos and maybe some videos here after the trip.

ITEM! I still haven't gotten as far ahead with blog postings as I used to be... eBay and the kids being off from school ate a lot of time over the summer, which is how my lead time got shorter and shorter... but I'm getting back on track now, and am already working on posts for October. Unfortunately, I don't see that I'll be participating in this year's Countdown to Halloween blog event for the first time in many years... and I still have nothing in the works for a Christmas Comics series in December, so that may skip a year as well.

ITEM! My family and I will be attending the Emerald City Comicon next year... although it will be Friday only. Given my typical work schedule, Friday seemed to make the most sense out of the three days of the convention, and we weren't going to let tickets sell out on us a second year in a row! I'll be posting more about that as the convention gets closer.

Government Comics!

Most, if not all, of the Government Comics I've posted have been produced for the US for the US... here's one about Canada!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sci-Fi Magazine Cover Gallery!

So, I figured since I was already scanning a whole mess of Sci-Fi magazine covers from the 30s through the 60s and beyond for my eBay auctions (you have noticed the new gadget in the upper right hand corner listing my auctions that are closing next, right?), I may as well share some of these covers with you guys, especially since so many of them are so darn cool... and also, it's interesting to see things that appear to have at least partly inspired some later comic books!
Galaxy July 1953

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Characters: The Ace!

The Ace, drawn by Howard Chaykin
Time for me to enthrall you once again (well, at least I hope you find it somewhat interesting) the history and other information on a superhero character I created in the past which I'd hoped to one day see published, but as it doesn't appear it's going to ever happen, I figure I may as well use it for blog fodder!

In other words, here's The Ace!

The Ace is, in reality, Mark Marvo. Mark was a stage magician, from a long line of stage magicians. His parents were a fairly popular husband-and-wife team that played in Vegas and elsewhere, until they one day chose to retire and live the good life, passing on their act to Mark while they took the time to enjoy traveling around the world. They'd traveled the world before while touring, but never purely for pleasure, and this was going to give them the opportunity to actually see some of the places they'd performed at, but never got to really see other than hotel rooms and stages. They purchased a boat for this purpose, feeling that Mark (who'd grown up participating in their act) well-prepared to keep up the family's reputation.

As it turned out, Mark wasn't quite able to do that. While his act was good, for whatever reason, his solo career wasn't panning out. He went through a succession of assistants who either quit on him or were fired (Mark tended to be rather exacting in his standards), so he ended up performing strictly solo. The highlight of his act involved throwing ordinary playing cards at targets, something other magicians were already doing, but his act also included other feats, although some of them proved impossible to do when his last assistant quit on him, and no replacement was to be found.

Mark found himself working strictly small-time jobs, and had hit rock bottom, or so he thought. He was performing at a nightclub in Tacoma, Washington as part of an attempt to revive the glory days of vaudeville, but all the customers really wanted to see were the dancing girls and stand-up comics. After one performance where he was booed off the stage, the manager decided to let him go.

Dejected, Mark packed his things and started lugging the trunks into his second-hand van, which was miraculously still running even though he'd not been able to properly maintain it, when he was approached by a man who offered him a different type of job. Since Mark didn't have any other job offerings available, he decided to go along with the man to see what he had to say.

The job was, indeed, very different: He was to take on the role of a costumed crimefighter, calling himself the Ace. He would be provided with equipment, a costume, and directions to where crimes were being committed, and foil them. At first Mark was leery of the idea, but the money promised (along with the assurance that the whole thing was being paid for by a council of concerned citizens) seemed to good to pass up, at least until he got back on his feet as a magician again.

Mark was brought to a warehouse that had been converted to be his headquarters and living space. Inside, he was presented with his costume, a customized motorcycle, and a belt with four compartments, each labeled with one of the suits of cards. Each compartment held 52 aces of that suit, each with a different effect or attribute:

Diamonds had razor-sharp corners to them, sharp enough to puncture a tire or cut through a rope.

Spades were weighted and balanced. Throwing them at a target's head would knock them out.

Clubs were impregnated with a chemical compound, activated by contact with body temperature to burst into smoke seconds later.

Hearts had a similar chemical compound that would explode.

The compartments with the chemical-impregnated cards were specially insulated to prevent accidental activation.

The motorcycle was a modified Yamaha with a special muffler that eliminated almost all engine noise, as well as special puncture-proof tires and gyroscope stabilizers. This came with a helmet fitted with a faceshield that, in combination with a special headlight, would allow him to see in the dark without using a standard headlight.

Mark practiced with his equipment, while also training with a martial arts instructor in case he got into hand-to-hand combat situations, and learning the layout of the city of Tacoma and its surrounding area. His instructions were, while operating in his masked identity, to avoid contact with the police to keep his identity safe. Any stolen items recovered from criminals captured would be brought back to the headquarters, where his employers would turn them over to the police anonymously.

Mark wasn't quite sure about all this, but decided to see how things went.

His first several missions went better than he could have possibly expected. The use of his special cards gave him the element of surprise, which he was able to exploit well. The Ace foiled several bank robberies, a few jewel robberies, and even an attempted museum robbery. Mark was confident that he'd be able to continue in this role for as long as his employers were willing to pay him, and used his spare time developing ideas for a new stage act.

He should've been paying more attention to the news. Instead of the stolen goods being returned to the police, they were kept. All the robberies were committed by criminals hired by Mark's real employer, a crime boss named Hugo Prince. He planned the robberies, thus allowing him to tell the Ace where he was needed. The captured criminals were all eventually released by the police, as there wasn't sufficient evidence to hold them over for trial -- and of course, the lack of items that were stolen didn't help matters, either.

Detective John Walker of the Tacoma Police Department had enough by this point. He'd been assigned to lead the investigation into the Ace, and he gathered up what few clues there were to be had relentlessly. He really wasn't happy when Diana Trammel (who billed herself as a "Huntress for Hire") offered her services to capture the Ace. Diana had originally been a successful bounty hunter, and became somewhat of a celebrity as a result. Becoming bored with bounty hunting, she started actively seeking out criminals wanted by the police for the reward money. Walker didn't like the idea of civilians getting involved with police investigations, but she had her PI license, and he couldn't do much to stop her.

The next time the Ace went out to stop a crime in progress, he was spotted by an unmarked patrol car, who called the sighting in. Suddenly, the Ace found himself being chased by the police -- and they weren't being nice about it, either! Fleeing his police pursuers, the Ace took advantage of his motorcycle's ability to get through spaces patrol cars couldn't fit into, and was able to elude capture.

Thinking he was free and clear, the Ace wasn't paying enough attention to the road ahead of him until, almost too late, he spotted a blind man crossing the street. With a split-second to think about it, the Ace violently twisted the wheel of the cycle, avoiding hitting the man, but sending his cycle out of control, crashing it into a dumpster and disabling the engine. Scraped up and bleeding from the crash, the Ace felt he had no choice but to find some place to hide until he could make his way back to the warehouse.

In great pain, he managed to climb over a fence into someone's back yard just before a patrol car arrived at the site of his crash. He hobbled towards the house, which appeared to be deserted, found the back door unlocked, and made his way inside.

It was the Ace's bad luck that this house happened to be the home of Diana Trammel. She'd been studying what she could dig up on the Ace in her basement office when the silent alarm system notified her that her back door had been opened. Taking a pistol with her, she went up to her kitchen and found her quarry laying on the tiled floor, hurt.

Diana was all set to handcuff the Ace and call the police in when he asked her to wait. Something in his voice -- she wasn't sure what -- made her hold off. She promised to give him ten minutes to talk, and then she would call the police.

Mark told her the whole story, including the sudden pursuit by the police, and wondered what the hell was going on. Diana couldn't believe that anyone could be so naive as to get into this kind of situation ("Wait, you mean you believed them when they said they'd give the police the loot, without verifying it?!?"). For some reason, she believed Mark, and helped him bandage up his wounds. After a night's rest, she provided Mark with some clothes (she'd found it helpful to have some men's clothes in her size for some situations -- normally she tended to dress rather stylish and enhancing her appearance, but her fame made it difficult to catch her targets unaware of who she was), and they headed to the warehouse the following morning.

To Mark's shock, the warehouse was empty. Once the word had gone out that the police had recovered the Ace's motorcycle, Prince had the warehouse cleared out. Fortunately for Mark, Diana was able to find a few clues that backed up his story (some tell-tale tire tracks from the motorcycle, among other details). Diana believed him, but she couldn't help him any more than she already had -- it would be bad for her image if it was learned that she'd helped someone she had publicly said she would be pursuing.

Mark was on his own. He figured at least he still had his apartment and his van (which had been parked there before he started his training, not needing it there), but the van had been towed away, and his apartment's rent hadn't been paid in months, so he'd been evicted and his possessions sold to pay some of his overdue rent.

If he'd thought he hit rock bottom before, he now had to readjust his ideas of what rock-bottom really was.

A drawing I did, possibly intending it as a trade paperback cover for collecting the
entire origin story?
Fortunately for him (although it didn't seem like it at the time), the crimefighter Nightfighter, although based in Seattle, had heard about the Ace and his being wanted by the police. In his other personality of Buck Wilkes, Nightfighter had seen Mark perform his act, and although he wasn't impressed, the memory of that helped connect Mark and the Ace in Nightfighter's mind (Detective Walker just assumed that the Ace had already been a crook who was using the gadgets to be a more formidable crook, although he had looked into Mark Marvo because of the card-throwing thing. When he learned the apartment had been abandoned and everything left behind, he assumed that Mark had left town or otherwise disappeared).

It took Nightfighter one full night to track down Mark Marvo, who had been reduced to staying in a homeless camp. None of the other homeless people knew who he was, nor did they care to learn (for his part, Mark wasn't going to admit anything). He confronted Mark the following night (since Nightfighter was still limited to operating on the night of the full moon, he had to get back to Seattle before the end of the night, when the Buck Wilkes personality re-established itself the night before), and once again, Mark had to spill out his story. The two went back to the warehouse, but finding no further clues there, went to Diana Trammel's home -- a risk, but one that they felt they needed to take. Computer access was needed, and the Ace knew Diana had one. As it turned out, Diana wasn't quite satisfied with where she left things with the Ace and the mystery of who had used him, and had done some investigating of her own.

The police had no luck tracing the motorcycle at all -- it had evidently been constructed using pieces from a number of different cycles, with identifying features removed. Diana dug further, and checked out a number of motorcycle shops operating without benefit of business license that made modifications to cycles for motorcycle gangs, and had found the one that made the Ace's cycle, paid for with cash. Knowing when this transaction took place, Diana went to other businesses in the immediate area, bribing the owners to allow her access to their security camera footage from that same day (that's the nice thing about everything being digital these days -- no storage of video tapes meant that nothing got erased as quickly as it used to be) and was able to get a make, model, and license plate for the vehicle used to pick up the motorcycle.

A contact at the DMV provided her with the owner of this vehicle, and that's as far as she'd gotten when the Ace and Nightfighter showed up. The three of them went to the home of the owner of this vehicle, and found the owner there. Confronted with this imposing trio, he sang like a bird -- telling them that it was Hugo Prince who'd hired him to hire someone to build the motorcycle. Knowing that Prince was in charge of the whole thing put the missing puzzle piece in place. Prince had long been suspected of being responsible for a number of criminal activities, but there had never been enough evidence to arrest him -- and he never personally involved himself with anything dirty, choosing to work through a series of middlemen to keep things from being traced back to him (and using fear of reprisal to keep anyone from spilling their guts -- although not enough fear to overcome the combined fear of dealing with Nightfighter, the Ace, and Diana Trammel!).

Diana's previous investigations had determined the abandoned warehouse was owned by a real estate company that was itself owned by a different company in another part of the state... each of these companies was tiny (and in fact, only did enough legitimate business to make for a decent front), and sometimes the connections were tenuous, but using her laptop, Diana was able to make a connection eventually to Hugo Prince (although it was a twisted road). This was enough proof for Diana to bring her findings to the police, but Mark was concerned about making sure he could clear his name as well.

Prince's reputation was such that Diana didn't feel comfortable going with the Ace and Nightfighter to confront Prince in his home, but she did promise to give them up to a certain time to deal with Prince themselves before she turned over her info to the police.

By this point, daylight would be approaching shortly, and Nightfighter had to return back to Seattle before changing personalities, and he made arrangements to meet with the Ace the following night. Diana offered the Ace some cash to pay for a hotel room, so he could get cleaned up, and let him borrow one of her two cars (although she swore that if it got one scratch on it, she'd turn him in to the police herself and toss the Prince evidence away).

The following night, Nightfighter met up with the Ace, and the two of them went to Hugo Prince's palatial estate in Diana's car. They survey the area, spotting surveillance cameras and the like (mostly Nightfighter finding them, as he's more familiar with this sort of thing) and plan their approach. It begins with the Ace using his remaining clubs cards to provide a smoke screen, and they move through the smoke quickly. A further distraction is provided with the last of the exploding hearts cards, thrown a fair distance away from them. These explosions send the armed guards away from them to investigate, leaving a clear path for them to get to the house.

Nightfighter leaves the Ace to search the house for evidence of the plot against the Ace, while Nightfighter deals with the guards himself. As it's a pretty big house, it takes a while for the Ace to even start looking, although he naturally skips searching bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and so forth, looking instead for an office or any locked room (his escape artist skills, mostly unused in his costumed career, come in handy for picking locks). He discovers that not all of the guards were distracted by the smoke and explosions, but is able to deal with them, although at the cost of losing his weighted spades quickly. He finally finds Hugo Prince's personal office... but Prince is in there himself, waiting. He'd half-expected the Ace to come after him sooner or later, assuming he ever put the pieces together, although it was surprising that it happened this quickly. Prince has a gun pointed right at the Ace, and there'd be no way for the Ace to dodge the shot.

Suddenly, the window to the office shatters, and Nightfighter bursts in. This distraction is enough for the Ace to use his last spade ace to knock the gun from Prince's hand. Prince is knocked out by Nightfighter, and together the heroes search for evidence once Prince is tied up. Not only do they find some evidence of the plot, but Nightfighter tells the Ace that an additional supply of his throwing cards had been found stored in the estate's garage.

Prince regains consciousness, and threatens to reveal who the Ace really is to the police if he's arrested -- at the very least, the Ace will be arrested for his role, unwilling as it might have been, in the crimes. However, the Ace still has one "ace" up his sleeve... Diana Trammel.

Part of the plans that were made prior to the attack involved Diana working with Detective Walker. She was to convince him to keep the Ace's identity a secret, presuming that he could be proved innocent, in order to bring in the bigger "fish" of Hugo Prince. Enough evidence of Hugo's involvement with other crimes has turned up in the office that Prince should be able to be sent to prison for the rest of his life.

The police arrive at the scene, discovering the confusion caused by Nightfighter and the Ace's attack. Walker is leading them (Diana with him), and he notes that just the weapons carried by the guards discovered should provide quite a bit of jail time in and of itself. Nightfighter slips away unnoticed by the police, as he wishes his involvement kept unknown, and the Ace presents Walker with the evidence that has been recovered. Walker figures that they're clear to use this evidence to prosecute Prince and his men, and between what he sees and what Diana's already told him, it seems clear to him that the Ace is innocent.

As Prince and his men are led into police cars and taken away, Diana asks the Ace what his plans are from this point. The Ace isn't sure... he'd actually enjoyed being the Ace, but on the other hand, he's now homeless and has no income at all. Diana suggests that perhaps he could join her, as sort of an unofficial partner of sorts, staying in an extra room of her house until he can figure a more permanent solution out. Hesitantly, he accepts. A story is concocted for the public in which the Ace is presented as a role played by an undercover policeman (identity secret, of course) who had been planted within Hugo Prince's organization. With Diana's help, Mark is able to provide "evidence" that he was out of state during the past few months. Walker doesn't like the subterfuge, but agrees that it's either that, or get Mark into Witness Protection, and Mark doesn't care for that option.

From this point on, the Ace's adventures start getting a bit more proactive. Under Diana's tutelage, he becomes a more effective crimefighter in general, especially after his motorcycle is returned to him (well, it's sold at auction after Prince's trial, and Diana buys it for the Ace). Mark also works at getting his magic act put back together again, although dropping the whole card throwing schtick from it to keep his two identities distinct. With Detective Walker knowing his identity, he's even got a good contact on the police force. Sharing the reward money from working with Diana, he's able to get his own place again, even buying himself a newer van (which he keeps his motorcycle, dubbed the "Acycle" by Diana, in when not in use). The Ace even begins making some public appearances to help improve his image at charitable events.

At some time, Diana surprises the Ace with the news that she's going to be leaving Tacoma -- she's just too well-known there, and there aren't any new challenges for her. She plans on relocating to Los Angeles, and asks the Ace to join her and continue their partnership. However, Tacoma has become home to Mark, and he turns her down. During their partnership, there were always hints that perhaps the two of them could become more than just friends, but it never progressed beyond that. When Diana is gone, each wonders if they should have pursued things more. Diana had helped him figure out how to replenish his throwing cards, having discovered the chemical formulas and processes when Prince was arrested.

The Ace has occasional team-ups with Nightfighter, as I noted back in his entry, and the two of them become friends in a fashion, although their styles tend to clash, the Ace developing a more theatrical style of crimefighting that runs counter to Nightfighter's more serious approach.

Shortly after the formation of the Guardians of Justice, the Ace is recruited to join the team. Membership has its privileges, and it's not long before he gets an "upgraded" Acycle, which is more of hoverbike. This new Acycle has the ability to "shoot" the throwing cards, giving him more offensive capabilities. His costume gets an upgrade as well -- although it still looks the same, this new costume is made of a special protective fiber, and the mask has lenses that automatically adjust to light (one of the standard features of Guardian masks -- nobody's going to temporarily blind them with a flash of light).

Working with the Guardians helps boost Mark's confidence to new heights, despite his lack of superpowers. While he considers trying to revive his magician career, he decides instead to open a magic shop, and offer training for other aspiring magicians. This doesn't sit well with his parents when they finally return from their world cruise, but after talking with him and learning how he's using a lot of his training as the Ace, they realize that he's just taken a different direction from them.

As you've noticed, the Ace's real identity is known to quite a few people -- Diana Trammel, Lt. Walker, Nightfighter, as well as Mark's parents... and of course, Hugo Prince. Even though Prince is in prison, there's always the possibility that he could hire someone to go after Mark and get revenge. This is always a big concern of Mark's, even though it appeared that all of Hugo's men had been imprisoned at the same time (as well as incarcerated at different facilities, as much as possible). Hugo's carefully monitored in prison (having been sentenced to enough sentences that it appears he'd have to live to be 500 to serve them all, including a few Federal crimes), but instead of getting immediate revenge, Hugo waits patiently, waiting until he believes he's been forgotten... and then getting revenge.

I came up with the initial ideas for the Ace back around the summer of 1978, the same summer I came up with Nightfighter. Since then, I've continued to develop the concept, adding more details here and there. Of course, as you may have noticed, the idea of a comic book character throwing cards as a weapon isn't as new an idea as it was then (the Joker's done that bit a few times), although usually it's just razor-sharp cards, used lethally.

I see the Ace as being a very humorous character... many of his adventures would have an oddball flavor to them, especially once he starts encountering costumed villains. One such villain is named Jackknife, a villain who uses a variety of knives in his crimes; another is Chainsaw, whose story is that he used to be a lumberjack until an accident cut his hand off, and it was replaced with a chainsaw (by the way, that story is complete crap, his hand is inside the chainsaw "prosthetic," and the story concocted to cover up the real reason he's attacking the logging industry). His villains tend to be on the gimmick side.

Another aspect of the Ace's career is that, no matter how safe his Acycle is supposed to be, he has a tendency to crash it into garbage cans and the like, as he did once in his origin story. When this happens, he sighs and says, "Not again." Fortunately, he's rarely injured when this happens (it pays to wear a helmet, kids!).

He makes friends easily with his fellow Guardians, especially those members who are involved in entertainment somehow in their secret identities, as they tend to have more outgoing personalities. Still, his greatest friendship is with Nightfighter, and he's instrumental in helping to get Nightfighter the psychological help he needs to overcome his multiple personality disorder and become whole and unified.

An enhanced version of the Chaykin drawing. Don't ask me why the Ace's
hair got colored green here!
My initial plan for publishing both the Ace and Nightfighter was to introduce them in a flip book, officially called Nightfighter and the Ace, but with the covers designed as if they were two separate books. At some point in the publishing run, I figured I'd split the books up into separate titles (although I think I'd retain the numbering for both books).

I have one story, I think I've told this before, that goes with the picture you saw above done by Howard Chaykin. The one San Diego Comiccon I've been to (so far, anyway), one of my main goals was to get professional comic book artists to do drawings of my characters. I tried to pick the artists who were doing drawings appropriately, and I thought that Chaykin, given his work on Dominic Fortune, would be great for a swashbuckling hero type like the Ace. When I approached him and asked him to do this drawing of the Ace (providing him with a sketch of the costume), his reaction was, "You want me to draw that?!?"

Now, for all I know, Chaykin had been having a bad day or something... or maybe he'd expected that anyone wanting a sketch would be asking for sketches of characters he'd worked on, at least. Still, he accepted my money and did the drawing.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel disappointed with the result. The other drawings I paid for at that SDCC were much more finished than Chaykin's (as you've seen in previous installments of this series), plus Chaykin charged more than anyone else I approached. Despite this, I do still treasure the drawing, although I hope some day to have a new drawing done by a different artist of the Ace.