Friday, January 08, 2016

My Characters: Flashpoint and Blaze!


flashpointblazeThis time around, "My Characters" gives you a two-for-one installment! Flashpoint and Blaze were two characters that I didn't originally come up with as characters for comic books, but rather were characters I created for the Champions role-playing game group I used to belong to. As such, they are more recent creations than most of the other characters I've posted here before.

To be completely honest, I don't remember the secret identities of the duo, although I'd imagine I've got that information written down somewhere in the vast Random Acts of Geekery Archives (aka my home office). The duo are brother and sister, which is unusual for my characters (although there is of course a long-time sibling deal in comics, going back as early as MLJ's Comet and Hangman being brothers -- with the latter taking his costumed identity to avenge his brother's death -- up through Marvel's Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, DC's Tornado Twins and later Geo-Force and Terra, so that concept isn't out of the ordinary), and they are both mutants (like Pietro and Wanda) with similar powers (again, like the Tornado Twins -- if you don't remember them, they're the super-speedster children of Barry [The Flash] Allen and Iris West, in the 23rd century or so, one of which was a parent of Impulse).

The man who would be Flashpoint didn't have his powers manifest at puberty, as is common for most mutants. In this aspect, he owes a bit more to DC's "metagene" concept in which it took a special event to bring out his powers. He was a professional race car driver, one of the youngest in the field, with a moderate record of success. One day, prior to an important race, he and his sister were waiting for the arrival of their parents, who were due to fly in for the race, but their plane crashed and they died. The future Flashpoint decided against his sister's pleas to continue with the race anyway, feeling that's what his parents would want. However, the stress of just losing his parents caused him to be distracted from his driving, and he crashed his car in a major accident, with the car becoming ablaze. Miraculously, he was unhurt by the explosion, although witnesses could swear they saw his entire body covered in fire. He was pulled from the wreckage covered in soot, his clothes entirely burned off of him, but otherwise unharmed (save for the injuries caused by the impact of the crash). After being released from the hospital for his injuries, he realized that it couldn't have just been luck that caused him to not be injured by the flames.

He did some experimenting, and discovered that he could cause his body to burst into flames... unfortunately, while he was unharmed by the fire, his clothing would become entirely burned away, making him the only superhero to really be operating entirely naked, although the flames would hide anything. While he decided to use his powers for good, he did have the distinct disadvantage of needing to either keep extra sets of clothing to change into after operating as Flashpoint, or else having to stay ablaze until he could get home.

Flashpoint's powers are only able to be used while he's entirely ablaze. The flames give him the ability to fly as well as to throw bolts of flame, while also providing him protection from physical harm (bullets tended to melt before they could strike his body). Given his appearance when ablaze, the usual criminal tends to be scared sh*tless upon seeing him, as he appears somewhat like a fiery demon from Hell.

Eventually, Flashpoint joined the Guardians of Justice, which was able to eventually provide him with a costume that wouldn't be burned off by the use of his powers. Since he maintains a secret identity, this costume naturally includes a mask. Retiring from his professional racing, Flashpoint uses his skills to teach driver's education for a private company.

Early in his career, Flashpoint (who had legal custody of his much-younger sister) believed that his sister had no idea that he had powers, and of course, he also had no idea that she had fire-based powers herself. His sister discovered her own powers accidentally when she was preparing a fire in the fireplace of their home on the night of a blackout while her brother was out and fell into the fire. Instead of being burnt by it, she had her own powers activate. Unlike Flashpoint, however, Blaze (as she would eventually be known) has a finer degree of control over her powers. Her own manifestation of flames appears more like a flaming corona around her body, as opposed to appearing to be on fire. Like Flashpoint, this fire protects her from most physical harm and allows her to fly. Another difference between Flashpoint and Blaze is that she can cast fiery bolts without being ablaze herself. A unique power she has is the ability to create a "ring of fire" that can last for several minutes, usually used to contain a criminal until the authorities can arrive. When this ring is formed, she remains in complete control of it.

Firefox, the identity Blaze changed to when she "graduated"
from Vanguard to the Guardians of Justice. This drawing was
originally done as the back cover for an APA I was a member of
back in the day.
When Flashpoint discovered his sister had powers, he wanted her to use them to fight crime as well, although she was hesitant to do so. However, Flashpoint went to LaserAvenger, leader of the Guardians, and proposed that the team form a special sub-team whose purpose would be to help train younger heroes in the use of their powers, as more and more young heroes were starting to appear. Flashpoint more or less forced his sister to attend the first meeting of this sub-team (code-named "Vanguard"), and while she was still resistant to the idea, she agreed to at least go along with it to learn how to better use her powers.

Eventually, Blaze (who chose that identity before anyone could suggest she take on the name "Hotpoint") decided to embrace her abilities as well as using them to help people. She was 16 when the Vanguard team was formed, and at the age of 20, she "graduated" to the Guardians, deciding to change her heroic identity, now being known as Firefox.

A quick aside here: Firefox was actually one of my original characters for the Guardians, although I really hadn't thought much through about her, other than her having fire-based powers and tending to be a bit... well... overly flirtatious. When I came up with the idea for Flashpoint and Blaze, I decided that Firefox would be the identity she'd take as an adult, and toning down some of the less savory aspects of the original personality.
Firefox with her "hair flame" effect going. As you can see, I screwed up her
costume in this drawing, putting the bare leg on the wrong side! I still haven't
decided if I actually prefer that look or if I should keep the original look. By the
way, "Parsec Comics" was going to be the name of my comic book company,
in case you were curious.

Still, as Firefox, she is very self-assured, having had four years of experience under her belt already training with members of the Guardians, as well as working with her teammates in Vanguard. Given the complete change of costume and appearance, most criminals and super villains don't connect her to the Blaze identity. As Firefox, she's unusual from most of her fellow Guardians in that she doesn't wear a mask, although the combination of her costume and the very different hairstyle she wears (an effect of her powers she came up with after long experimentation) tends to help hide her identity. Not only that, but her civilian identity isn't exactly in the public eye. Another factor is that in the field, she tends to cause a localized flame effect on her eyes and hair that further hide her identity.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Geek TV: Mann and Machine!


Concept: A human policeman is partnered with a sophisticated female android policeman in Los Angeles of the "near future." Yes, it's like Holmes and Yoyo and a few other shows, except that the robot is female and the tone is more serious!

Total Episodes: 9

Original Air Dates: April 5 through July 14, 1992. It should be noted that the series was cancelled after only four episodes aired, with the remaining five "burned off" during the summer as filler.

Original Network: NBC


Sgt. Eve Edison (Yancy Butler): The female police officer who is also an android (although they called her a "gynoid," as the prefix "andr-" is Greek for man, so a "gynoid" would be an artificial female). She is capable of learning and emotion.

Detective Bobby Mann (David Andrews): Sgt. Edison's human partner, who holds disdain for robots.

Capt. Clagnorn (S. Epatha Merkerson): Mann and Edison's superior officer.

Geek Pedigree:

Prior to co-creating Mann and Machine, Robert De Laurentiis was supervising producer on 40 episodes of the 1988-1989 Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  He wrote six episodes of that series, and prior to that had written the story for Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. By the way, his co-creator was Dick Wolf, best known for creating the Law & Order TV shows (he would use a lot of the cast and guest stars on his shows later).

Series star David Andrews had earlier played a foreman on A Nightmare on Elm Street, and later played Frank Borman on the TV miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. He also guest-starred in an episode of The Ghost Whisperer, an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, and played Robert Brewster in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. While co-star Yancy Butler didn't have prior geek credits, I have to mention that she played Detective Sara "Pez" Pezzini in Witchblade, as well as Angie D'Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, as well as appearing in Lake Placid Vs. Anaconda. S. Epatha Merkerson had previously played Reba the Mail Woman on Pee-Wee's Playhouse and was Tarissa Dyson in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. She's best known these days for playing Lt. Anita Van Buren on the Law & Order franchise.

Geek Guests: Mann and Machine did not appear to have any guest stars with substantial geek credits.

DVD Release: No official DVD release has been made of this series, although bootleg sets exist.

Website: None

Notes:  I enjoyed this show for the short time it was on. What can I say?  Back when there was a serious shortage of science fiction on TV, I'd go for whatever I could find! As I noted above, there were similarities to Holmes & Yoyo as well as Future Cop, with human cops paired up with android cops. Even earlier than those shows, there was Gene Roddenberry's pilot for The Questor Tapes, which had a human teamed with an android, and even back in the 60s, there was My Living Doll, that had a human male with a gorgeous female android (played by Julie Newmar), so the basic premise isn't really anything new, is it? Still, I liked the show.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Cool Stuff: Big Little Books!

Continuing my look at selected entries in the Big Little Book series, we're up to titles starting with "M"!
This first volume featuring Mandrake the Magician is kind of odd to me... why go for just the silhouette of the famed magician, and not an actual picture of him? I'm guessing the earlier installments of the BLB series focused on getting the words as big as possible...
You'll notice that this next one in the gallery not only features Mandrake in his full glory, but he's also using his abilities (which, depending upon the story, could be simple hypnotism, or full-out magic, but that's a discussion for another time).
This third volume definitely has the "gesturing hypnotically" thing down, eh?

We'll definitely be jumping around a bit on this next title character... Micky Mouse was probably not as popular a subject as Donald Duck was, but he still had his fair share of volumes!
This one in particular is from towards the end of the BLB history. You can probably tell that the art was done by the same people who were doing art for the Gold Key comics by this time.
I wish this last picture was much larger, as it has one of the nicer Mickey covers! When it was reprinted, the new cover wasn't quite as fun:
This Mickey volume was likely one of the ones adapted from the newspaper strip, which was an adventure format, instead of gag-a-day! I'd guess the next one was, too!

Mickey Finn is more or less forgotten as a comic strip character these days, although his name lent itself to a slang term for a drugged drink, as in, "Slipped him a Mickey Finn," which was of course shortened to "Slipped him a Mickey."

Moon Mullins was another comic strip that was very popular back in the day, but is mostly forgotten now. In fact, if it weren't for him being included on Filmation's Archie's TV Funnies in the 70s, I might've never heard of him!

I have to admit, I've never heard of Og, Son of Fire, no matter how famous his radio adventure series was supposed to be... then again, my Old Time Radio fandom is mostly limited to comedy shows! Still, it's a caveman, and worthy to be spotlighted!

I'll bet this one comes as a surprise to many of you... I certainly had no idea that Our Gang was ever done as a BLB entry! Heck, they had at least two:

An interesting thing about the Phantom BLB books was how much of a variance there was in the color of his costume!
Apparently the early Sunday comics were colored differently at times, so this could explain the variance from the standard purple... I know in some parts of the world, his costume is definitely not colored purple, but either red or orange!

The Pink Panther came in at the tail end of the series.

Next, we have a whole mess of Popeye BLBs!
I know there were a number of other Popeye books in the series, as well... I wish someone would get the rights to reprint these in collected editions!

Radio Patrol was a pretty popular radio show, probably due to the unique addition of radios being used in squad cars, something that was new at the time!

Red Ryder had his share of BLBs... as did fellow cowboy (but less fictional) Roy Rogers!
...although this is the only one I have a pic of!

Here's a Secret Agent X-9 volume, which should tell you that King Features had no problem getting their characters into the series!

This may have been the only Shadow entry in the series... I'm guessing it didn't sell well enough to warrant further books, much less having a Doc Savage one!

Skeezix was a character from Gasoline Alley, a comic strip notable for the fact that the characters aged in real time!

As you can see, comic strip aviators Smilin' Jack and Tailspin Tommy also got the BLB treatment!

Tarzan may hold the record of being featured in more BLBs than any other character! As you can see, not all of these volumes have ERB's byline (and even those are likely adapted from the newspaper strip adaptations of the original books).

Terry and the Pirates had a fair amount of BLB volumes!

Tim Tyler's Luck was another newspaper strip, it was also made into a movie serial, if I recall correctly.

There were more Tom and Jerry BLBs than I would've expected... I didn't think they would work in the longer book format!

As you can see, the subjects of the BLBs were many and varied, although most of them tended to either be based on newspaper strips or cartoons!