Friday, April 28, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES: KICK IT!

Footwear has a long and proud history of using superhuman feats to openly lie about the qualities of their product, so it's no surprise that there are more than a few footsie types taking up space in the world of advertising mascot superheroes. Of course, we begin with the classic...


AAU SHUPERSTAR (Intermark)
Here's a weird bunch of words: There's no more famous superhero shoe mascot in the history of comic books than this guy, AAU Shuperstar. Pun-laden and bizarre, the AAU Shuperstar has entered the admittedly more esoteric branches of pop culture aficionado-dom. Not sure what the word is there.

While his foes were blatantly super-powered -- The Dirty Sneaker, Missile-Toe and the Sinister Sole --  AAU Shuperstar seemed to have nothing going for him besides athleticism and a kind of fetishy fascination with stinky feet. Listen, I don't judge, if it makes you happy and no one gets hurt, then mazel tov!


THOM MCAN (Thom McAn)
Not exactly a superhero in the strictest sense of the word (he's an adventure hero, I suppose), but young Thom McAn's Atomic Shoes are capable of amazing feats and, so, he gets at least an affectionate nod. Oh shit, I said "Amazing feats," and I didn't even spell it "feets." You should all buy me something from my Amazon wishlist to reward me for that amount of restraint.

Hero of a number of single-page adventures in golden age comics, Thom was aided by a mute little elf named "H." This sound menacing, and like the signs of schizophrenia. However, "H" was mute because he was illustrating how the "H" in "Thom McAn" was silent, although he failed to explain what happened to all of the other letters in "McAn."



ZEVO-3 (Skechers)
Oh, the charm of Zevo-3 -- a superhero team featuring the very very Nineties-sounding Z-Strap, Kewl Breeze and Elastika -- lies almost exclusively in its inventors' po-faced, wide-eyed denial that they were using children's television to run half-hour long commercials.

The three heroes of the show had all appeared in Skechers ads prior to the program's debut on Nicktoons, obviously with some sort of narrative destiny in mind. When the FCC came down on them, Skechers just threw their arms up and shrugged like "Uh, it's not a half-hour commercial, it's only 22 minutes with ad breaks" and then tried to leave the room without clearing their plates. I genuinely picture the FCC going "Ho-o-o-o-old it right there, mister, nobody leaves the table until we decommission the remaining episodes of the series from the upcoming 2011 season."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : DRIFTWOOD DAVEY

Why'd they justify the text like that, did they not have enough room in the circle?

There's a real dearth of hobo heroes in comics, although there are more than a few straight humor stories involving the Knights of the Open Road. Hobo culture is a big source of fascination to me, so I'm excited to have stumbled across Driftwood Davey -- of the generally excellent Blue Circle Comics line from Rural Home -- a do-gooder railroad tramp with a six-issue run to his name. And nothing else. Because he's broke.

That threat got real dirty at the end.
In fact, Driftwood Davey has little want or need for money, which is a pretty consistent trope when it comes to hobo characters. What's different about him is that, initially anyway, he plays the role of a wandering samaritan, somehow finding ways to help out common and decent folks who find themselves in dire straits.

Davey has no powers except a quick wit, a good heart and a voracious appetite for reading and the knowledge contained therein. This also allows him to pick up a lot of arcane skills pretty quickly -- shucking corn in a corn-shucking contest, or recognizing an early frost on an orchard -- which he inevitably uses for the benefit of others. I did not know you could master corn-shucking with nothing except book-learnin'. I thought you had to learn corn-shucking on the streets.

Driftwood's first story involves him helping a kindly old couple keep their home when a crooked banker tries to bamboozle them out of it. After that, his stories change a little bit -- for one thing, he becomes handsome. He'd previously been depicted as a bit of a fat slob (see above), but gets a lantern jaw and a slim overall aesthetic. He's also joined by a gang of friendly bindlestiffs and a sidekick in the form of a basic moron named Iron Head, whose laziness and love of money is in direct contrast to Davey's monk-like existence.

Also changing in the later stories is Davey's patriotic inclinations. Having made him healthy and fit, there needed to be an explanation as to why he was wandering the country instead of serving it. Well, Davey leads his crew to important sports of agricultural industry, to aid in important war work by helping to bring in vital crops. Is there anything this man can't do? Yes, afford a new jacket.

Davey, like the rest of the Blue Circle line, disappears after six appearances. In his case, however, it's easy to imagine that his journeys have simply taken him somewhere that storytellers cannot follow. Or that he had his head caved in by a railroad bull south of Chicago.


Don't just put the whole bag of salt in there, Boxcar Roy!



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : CHANGES


With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
Season Two / Episode Nineteen : Changes



TURN AND FACE THE SWAMP THING! Ch-ch-changes! In which we learn just which one is the most wooden, Alex Holland or Swamp Thing.

Oh yay, Dr.Ann Fisk (Janet Julian) is ... back? Maybe? It's definitely not her first appearance, yet, and it could very well be her second. Or fifth. I dunno. Continuity is only so important to this show, because Jim is still being murdered every minute in a Peruvian mutant mine.

It's unfair making Nancy Drew emote at a bird.

Anyway, Dr.Fisk is back, freeing "blue doves" from traps set up all around the swamp. I actually didn't think there were any doves in the swamps, but I'm sure someone in comments can tell me more than what a little googling taught me -- that these are common ground doves, and that they live in the American southwest mostly. I only mention this because they're part of the plot, as far as that goes.

The other part of the plot is that Arcane's men have sprayed some sort of genetically-targeted poison over the Swamp, and it is literally reducing Swamp Thing to goo! The doves figure into it too, as Arcane plans to move on to exterminating the birds once he's sure it works on Swamp Thing. I missed the "why" of that argument but, in my defense, who cares?

Common-ass Ground Doves, I promise you.

A disintegrating Swamp Thing hides out in Ann's lab, where she has great news -- she's figured out a cure for his condition! Oh, but only if he weren't being targeted by a DNA-destroying pathogen. Aw gee, Swampy, sorry. She's still really cheery about having discovered a way to have saved Swamp Thing if he weren't dying. Oh well.

Ann's cure involves using an enormous surplus Navy decompression chamber and a "DNA milshake with a dash of radioactive cesium." Also, she uses a desktop microscope to double-check Swamp Thing's DNA, which is a good value for the $19.95 she probably spent on the thing.

They agree to wait to try the cure on Swamp Thing, but Alec receives an emergency message from the birds of the swamp. While Ann sleeps, the birds tweet Arcane's evil plan right to Swampy's ears. This is like a really boggy version of Snow White.

So Swamp Thing gives himself the cure, inspiring all kinds of angelic choir music and writhing around in a latex flesh-sac. Ann interrupts the transformation, and that either does or does not explain why Alec Holland pops out of the pod balls-out crazy, half-swamp monster and punching things. A cursory viewing of the film Altered States might provide a small clue, on the other hand, since they're overtly copying it.

I mean, it looks good and everything ...

The question of transforming from Swamp Thing to Alec Holland never addresses a core point: Swamp Thing is handsomer. I mean, Dick Durock's a pretty good-looking guy, as is Patrick Neal Quinn who plays Holland in this episode. But the heavy brow sets off Swamp Thing's eyes and he's got cheekbones to die for. If I were Swamp Thing, I'd probably just stay green.

But Holland is back, butt naked and human, and his hair is all there too. I thought they were just reiviving his DNA, but his DNA apparently remembers his favorite haircut. When I say his hair looks freshly cut, I mean freshly cut, like he literally just got out of the chair and wandered naked over to the set. Like I used to do, and why I'm banned at SuperCuts.

Ann's science can even trim sideburns.

The thing about Patrick Neal Quinn is that he is a very bad actor, or very stiff and inorganic, anyway. However, he looks so much like the comic book version of Alec Holland that it is ridiculous. It's great face-casting, but that's all. It's also to his detriment that his scenes -- and this is also not a particularly well-written episode, at least in terms of dialogue -- are primarily with Janet Julian, and the two of them just have zeeee-ro chemistry. It felt like a high school production.

Alec develops a bad case of Swamp Arm, as plant cellulose fiber begins to grow on the skin of his arm. Sensing that they'll need the original bio-restorative formula -- something that only Holland and Arcane can develop together --  Ann capitalizes on Arcane's persistent horniness to trick him over to her place. While Arcane muses out loud about sticking his dick into ladies, as he does a little too often in this show to be a believable cocksman, Alec steps out from behind a wall and surprises him! "Surprised?" asks Ann, underlining the moment. This is a masterclass in dialogue.

Every scene between these two feels like a PBS show aimed at teaching 8 year olds about environmentalism.

The pair go on to trick Arcane into thinking that his anti-Swamp Thing spray is actually responsible for returning Holland to his original body, which leads to some expositionary text that implies the two had been college pals or something? They're writing this whole thing on the fly. The series bible for this thing must have been a napkin with a fingerprint stain in mustard on the front AND back.

This is another thing worth mentioning about the dialogue -- Holland retains absolutely nothing of the wisdom gained during his time as Swamp Thing. No patience, no insight, no passion for justice. Just peevish fear of his arm going full courgette.

Looks like Ed Begley Jr doing the opening scene from Creepshow

Arcane takes the duo back to his lab, where Graham gets his biggest scene yet; doing a Jack Nicholson impression and inadvertently owning himself by trying to impress Ann with a sexual metaphor based around an electron microscope. While there, they destroy the bacteria which allowed Arcane to target Swamp Thing in the first place, leading Chapman to holler the line "MY BACTERIA," rendering the whole thing worth it.

When Holland turns back into Swamp Thing, it's actually a relief on account of Dick Durock really is surprisingly good in his role. It also ends the interminability of this episode.

A Nicholson impression is how you know it's the 90s.


The thing about these shows where the monster protagonist briefly changes back to his human form is that we, as the audience, know that the character is going to become a monster again by the end. After all, whose name is on the title, "Alec Holland?" No, it's Three's Company. Swamp Thing. I meant Swamp Thing.

In these kinds of episodes, it's what the character does between becoming human and then becoming a monster again that gives the episode its purpose, and Holland doesn't do much except slowly change back. This is why that old episode of The Incredible Hulk worked so well, because Bruce Banner spends the interim between transformations learning deep truths and new emotional realities about himself, gaining and losing a profound and meaningful relationship with a woman who is plainly his true soulmate. Hell, most episodes of The Hulk are about what Banner or some other character learns and does during Banner's human moments. Or they're about throwing a bear over a lake, one of the two, a height Swamp Thing has yet to reach.

This scene lasted an hour and all Ann did was stand there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 15 - THE INSIDE JOB

Congrats on the Eagle Award!

Micronauts vol.1 No.15 (Mar 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Howard Chaykin/Al Milgrom
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

We open inside the Baxter Building and the typical-in-this-situation editorial reassurance that we aren't in the wrong book (pilgrims), but check out these guest stars! Agent M has finally made it all the way to New York and the headquarters of the Fantastic Four, and it only took him basically forever, In the time during which Agent M was in transit, Bug liberated his entire homeworld and the Micronauts reunited. What did this guy do, fly coach from Denver? Micronauts get shit done.

Imagine what a Micronaut key party would look like.
Reed acknowledges and invasion from the Microverse before Agent M even breaks out the shoebox full of dead Homeworld soldiers, having had some experience with threats from that particular, subordinate sphere of reality. To my weird pleasure, Reed is also familiar with the work of Dr.Phillip Prometheus, a name that doesn't sound any less ridiculous coming from the mouth of someone who dubbed himself "Mister Fantastic."

"They dive into it like a porpoise and
burrow through it like a gopher."
The Micronauts have added two new members to the team, and now everybody is paired up all heteronormatively and everything. Rann and Mari are together, having failed to examine the possibility that their relationship is predicated entirely on having common enemies and possibly also a little bit that Mari considers Arcturus to be a demi-god. Acroyear has brought his partner Cilicia on board, and the sound of Spartak lovemaking probably rattles the rivets from the Endeavor. Lastly, Bug and his acid-tongued girlfriend Jasmine make up the third pair, although I don't see how that relationship's gonna work because she loves death and he's a blithe goon. Also, for the sake of this arrangement, I'm assuming that Biotron and Microtron are married.

Our heroes' plan to liberate distant planets from the tyranny of Karza's collapsing empire runs into its first roadblock. Specifically, that roadblock is a ship the size of a planet into which the Endeavor is drawn. Inside, more of those monster Micronaut toys which had been advertised in earlier issues show up, behaving as the antibodies/sanitation units of the larger vessel. They make short work of the Micronauts, and even end up killing poor little Microtron! Egads!

This reminds me, among my multitude of other criticisms of Marionette's and Rann's relationship (why can't you just let them be happy, Jon?) is that Mari keeps invoking the names of Dallan and Sepsis, Homeworld's elevated Gods of Resistance, patron entities of the royal family, and Arcturus Rann's very real, very human parents. How weird must that be for Rann? Imagine if you had a significant other who kept shouting your parents' names in times of danger or shock. "Peter and Barbara!" "Great Roy!" "Marguerite's mercy shine on us all!" "By the sword of Blanche!" and so on. Picture having that happen during sex. "Oh Martin. Martin! Martin!!" C'mon Mari, be cool, its the dude's parents.

"They're collectibles."

Anyway, she holler's her boyfriend's dad's name in shock as Microtron eats it, only to be outshouted by ... Psycho-Man (Qu'est-ce que c'est)? It turns out that the crew has accidentally landed on the giant-sized spaceship-thing of the FF's former, fear-mongering foe. Which is a good segue to the regular ol' Earth, where the FF have split up to cover more ground. Reed, Sue and Ben take off for the Microverse in what appears to be a golden bobsled, while Johnny flies out to the Human Engineering Life Laboratories and starts a fight with guards for no reason. They make up, if it makes you feel better, giving Johnny a chance to explore the seemingly-defunct Prometheus Pit.

Letter column time: Gary Norman raises the fuckin' stakes with Captain Universe. You have been warned!


Friday, April 21, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES: DRINK UP!

Your Humble Editor is teetotal and hasn't had a drink in years. This is owing to, as Robert Downey Jr once said, an allergy to alcohol -- it makes me break out in handcuffs.

Still, superheroes have a moderate presence in the world of spirits, wine and beer (well, I assume in wine, I haven't actually seen any. Maybe I can count "Mad Dog"), despite the associations with kids' entertainment. If Joe Camel is going to be a problem when it comes to keeping kids away from cigs, then I have to assume that Bud Man is sending a lot of Big Wheels into multi-car wrecks, wrapped around the tree with the tire swing on it.

Here's a small selection of beer-gutted good guys, covering the world of hops and barley.

He's so proud of his tiny car.

BUD MAN (Anheuser-Busch)
The de facto alcohol-related superhero mascot since his debut in 1969, Bud Man spawned a multitude of parodies, imitators and unlikely descendants -- the current holder of the name "Bud Man" is, predictably, a marijuana-positive mascot. That's for another entry, I suppose.

In addition to a cannabis-happy clone, Bud Man was part of the inspiration for The Simpson's Duff Man, and was popular enough to earn a raft of merchandise including t-shirts, steins, buttons, keychains, trays, and rolled-up posters -- the barter of the early 1970s! 

The terrific irony of Bud Man is that he was retired when Budweiser saw the writing on the wall as regards child-friendly cartoon mascots for adult products and their increasing unpopularity. After a brief Bob Uecker-intensive interlude, Bud Light came back with Spuds Mackenzie, a hard-partying pit bull whose popularity with children put Anheuser-Busch under the critical spotlight nonetheless. Someone in marketing must have been drunk. 

Hamm and Pepper.

THE HAMM'S BEER BEAR (Hamm's)
Technically speaking, the Hamm's Beer Bear wasn't a superhero mascot but, like most long-running mascots of one strip or another, they acquired a superheroic identity for either a single advertising cycle or series of products. If Budweiser was going to take heat for a cartoon superhero and a dog with a drinking problem, surely a figure which resembled in no small way the mascots for A&W, Sugar Smacks and ICEE was a nuclear threat. 

I still have vivid memories of a Hamm's Beer Bear rotating sign in a dive bar in my old town of Mahopac, New York. This also reminds me that I must have been hanging out in that bar when I was eight years old. Problems started early.


SUPER COOL (Pabst Blue Ribbon)
If Bud gets a superhero, then Pabst Blue Ribbon gets its own superhero. The official beer of ironic detachment ("Fuck that shit! - PABST BLUE RIBBON!"), the Supercool superhero's primary contribution to the presence and prestige of PBR was to be on some iron-on t-shirt transfers which I expect were crookedly applied across the board. 



THE BROOKLYN DEFENDER (Brooklyn Brewery)
A contemporary brewery doing the superhero thing right, they've contracted artists like Cliff Chiang, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph (above) to develop superheroic mascots for their Brooklyn Defender IPA. Being fairly new, there's not much history behind them, but it's definitely a case of a brewmaster who loves his beer as much as he loves his comic book superheroes...


BUZZ MAN (and pals, Unsung Brewing Company)
Anthia, Naturia and Propellerhead sound like Nineties' bands attempting wan comebacks, but they are in fact the boozy Justice League associated with Unsung Brewing Company in Anaheim, who commissions original characters and artwork for their custom line. The official mascot of the store is Buzzman, a figure whose mask appears to be a "U" jammed unceremoniously on his face and sent off into the world to sell beer. Seems like more a tragedy than an origin.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : TRINITY, TRINITY, WHO'S GOT THE TRINITY...?



This one doesn't really fall under the "truly gone and forgotten" label, as all of the characters involved -- primarily Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman -- are three of the most popular superheroes in the world. But I'd been thinking about the entire concept of DC's "Trinity" -- a concept that they have invested in so heavily that it's starting to become an absolute burden on the existence of these three characters -- and how it had changed since the first trinities to occupy DC's golden age had vanished.

The team of Superman and Batman is the longest continuing association between any two characters in DC's stable, and very likely in Marvel's as well (I suppose there's an argument to be made about the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, but there were long gaps in that relationship which the Superman-Batman team has never experienced except in significantly smaller doses). Until the launch of their team-ups in the pages of World's Finest, however, they'd only been 2/3rds of the World's Finest trinity -- they'd always brought Robin along.


They spend a lot of their time preventing Robin from
grabbing pretty young ladies out of their conveyances.


Once the team had solidified as a duo with Robin performing sidekicking duties for both heroes in relative measures, there was some effort to recast Robin into relationships with other young heroes. He and Jimmy Olsen were declared effectively equivalent on a number of occasions, while Robin's few team-ups with Superboy had something of a "stealth pilot" feel to them.

Meanwhile, as far as goes the modern day's third member of the man-heavy trio, there's Wonder Woman -- who's used to pulling two male heroes up to her level.

Look how hard Green Lantern is breathing. He shoulda left the cape behind.


Comic Cavalcade was the All-American answer to National's World's Finest, featuring the separate-but-not-separate roster of the Max Gaines side of the company. For these purposes, the Flash (Jay Garrick) and Green Lantern (Alan Scott) were Wonder Woman's partners, although they collaborated as often as the original World's Finest lineups did. This is to say, "on the covers only."

Still, it's interesting to see what the trinities were at the start of the superhero genre, as far as these characters were concerned (I'll get around to the BIG 3 title and other collaborative anthologies some other time), and how it evolved future relationships. Part of the energy between Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman surely must have been the mere fact that they survived the transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age without much of a change to their core concepts, and I'm sure that the appearance of Flash and Green Lantern on the Comic Cavalcade covers led to the relationship between Barry "Flash" Allen and Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan later down the road.

As for Robin, would there even have ever been a Teen Titans, a Nightwing or a legacy of Robins without having been kicked out of that partnership with his two dads? Maybe, maybe not, but it seems at the very least that the entire concept of a trinity has potential to elevate and inform characters. Now if DC could play around with the structure of theirs a little and experiment with new combinations, it'd be pretty sweet ...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

HERE'S A QUESTION ...



I recently treated myself to a re-read of Denny O'Neil's and Denys Cowan/Rick Magyar's (et al) excellent The Question series, a tight thirty-six issues and three annuals of veritable perfection whose followups scratched the itch left behind in its absence but never really provided the material to keep the series alive. I followed that up with Rick Veitch's and Tommy Lee Edward's criminally underrated The Question miniseries, six trippy issues which set The Question firmly into the Superman universe and, by doing so, effectively made the Maximortal-vs-El Guano arc from the semi-eponymous series official canon in the DC Universe. Nicely played.

In any case, I also hopped back to read The Question backups in the old Charlton titles, plus his appearance in Mysterious Suspense, all of which got me thinking: Why isn't The Question DC's most badass hero? Why isn't he DC's The Punisher?

Fewer guns should be involved in that comparison, of course, but The Question has managed to maintain his utter badassery through three different incarnations, not to mention a truly heroic arc and nobly tragic end in DC's Fifty-Two and an intriguing successor -- if hampered by narrative uncertainty -- in Renee Montoya. He's the toughest, least compromising character in DC's roster, really, without the tough guy snarling and dependence on a raft of firepower.

I mean, dig this:



This was a character so intense and involving that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison both found different purchases in his brand of uncompromising ethos. Darwyn Cooke, whose art is gorgeous but whose stories never did much for me, still managed to create an intriguing alternate take on The Question as a super-spy, and Frank Miller's The Question was a hard-as-nails homage to the original Ditko character. Likewise, an off-kilter and idiosyncratic portrayal in the animated Justice League series of the early 2000s raised the character's profile to the degree where I think the audience would've happily accepted a larger role for the character in-universe.

What happened instead is that he got redone as a figure in DC's "Trinity of Sin" and I don't think anything came of that? And when he was rebooted and replaced, again, it was as a relatively pointless and disposable Suicide Squad character.

DC's having another reboot now. Of course, they'll have another one in about four years if no one waves shiny keys at Dan Didio in the interim. I've always been an advocate of switching around the rosters and the personalities in comics, and I honestly would love to see the Question surpass Batman as DC's go-to hardcore badass ... with a philosophical bent.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 14 - A HOT TIME IN THE OLD WORLD


Micronauts vol.1 No.14 (Feb 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Howard Chaykin/Al Milgrom
Letterer: Annette Kawecki
Colorist: Bob Sharon
Editor: Allen Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Bug and his people raid the palace of the Colonial Governor who'd sent the Insectivorid Micronaut to the gladiatorial arena of Karza's Homeworld. It's a bloody battle, as Micronauts battles tend to be, with enemies and allies alike suffering deadly consequences. There are laser-blasts to the face at point-blank range and a raft of soldiers crushed to death under a falling Phobos unit. Jasmine -- Bug's sometimes-inamorata and murder-happy assassin -- takes particular glee in blowing a pilot's head clean from his body. Gruesome types, these Insectivorids.

Good grief.
Meanwhile, Rann and the other three members of his cobbled-together crew prepare to leave Homeworld, to the approving cheers of its liberated people. "Hooray, Rann! Mari! Force Commander! Slug!" I'm having that made into one of those "John, Paul, George & Ringo" t-shirts.

Again with the face.
Argon/Force Commander sees the gang off, approvingly, as having Mari return to space with Rann was his idea. It's not played for menace, but you have to wonder if Argon -- a formerly deposed prince, wrapped up in his celebrity as the conquering hero of the rebellion -- just didn't want to get the other royal sibling off of Homeworld. He has a new queen, after all, in the person of the former rebellion leader, Slug (who's briefly shamed by Mari about keeping her rebellion-mandated alias, which Slug keeps willingly). Too many potential regents spoil the monarchy, you know.

Biotron states the explicit purpose of the relaunch of the Micronauts, as alluded to last issue; to bring news of the rebellion and support to the distant worlds still suffering the effects of Karza's bleak empire. And it's Microtron who suggests that it would repay a great debt to the believed-dead Bug to bring freedom to his homeworld of Kaliklak. Nice job, Roboids, you've moved the plot along!

On Spartak, Acroyear has come to a similar conclusion, feeling the confines and limitations of leadership to be more than he can bear. With his lover, Cilicia, Acroyear re-joins the Micronauts. This all feels like it'll end up as a big battle on Kaliklak, but Bug contacts them before they even make it planetside -- to announce that he's overthrown the colonial government and would like to re-join the group now. A happy ending for everyone! Hooray! He also shot the governor in the face at point-blank range again. I feel like Chaykin is mandating the short distance in these headshots. It feels up his alley.

He also clearly designed Jasmine's outfit.

Speaking of whom: Lettercol fun! "Howie" Chaykin gets a profile in Micromails (I still can't believe that they didn't call it "Micro-Notes"). The man's CV at this point in his career is tremendous. You can see the list below, but just for clarity -- he's got Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Iron Wof, Cody Starbuck, the Scorpion, Dominic Fortune, Monark Starstalker and Star Wars all under his belt at this time. And he hasn't even done The Shadow or American Flagg yet! Yow!



Next issue: The second Micronauts/Mainstream Marvel Universe crossover begins with The Fantastic Four!

Friday, April 14, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES: BRAND NEW


The last time I stepped into the men's room at my local gym, I was struck by a sudden idea. Now, I don't think I'm the first man to step into a bathroom full of stripped down weightlifters and suddenly get an idea or two, but my thoughts were literally cleaner than that -- I was thinking about toilet paper.

More to the point, I had noticed that there was a box of that kind of bulk-brand toilet paper which businesses buy when they want to discourage anyone from dropping shits anywhere within spitting distance of their establishment. My local gym: Where you can get a ripped physique and a sanded-down rectum, at one convenient location!

What struck me about the box of toilet paper -- outside of my gym's picture-perfect demonstration of man's inhumanity to man* -- was that it bore a superhero-themed mascot on the side. I suppose that was to best illustrate its bullet-proof quality.

*Inside of my gym's picture-perfect demonstration of man's inhumanity to man, it's too dark to read.

But, looking at that mascot, I got to thinking that no one had ever assembled a decent list of these types of characters, despite the fact that there must be tens of thousands of them. And then it occurred to me that probably the reason no one has ever assembled a decent list of these types of characters was that there were likely tens of thousands of them. 

Still, it's alarming to me that the culture of superheroes is doggedly cataloged by archivists and historians (as well as snark-lipped irony bros whose cornholes are badly abraded by industrial grade toilet paper of the kind originally used by NASA as heat-shielding on the space shuttles) but these figures have slipped into relative obscurity. Although, with that being said, I believe Jeff Rovin sneaked a couple into his Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes...

So, here's my attempt to resolve this problem. There are, as mentioned above, literally thousands of these superheroic advertising mascots, and I'm undertaking the Nowhere-Near Complete Guide to Advertising Mascot Superheroes.

To start with, I wanted to cover a very small handful of some of the better-known examples of the style. If there's someone who appears to be missing from this inaugural list (say, for instance, AAA Shuperstar, who's slated for a later appearance), don't worry -- they're coming. However, feel free to mention any who come to mind in comments, as I can use all the help I can find:

It might make me magnetic. You're not the King of Who Gets Magnetism, buddy.

VOLTO FROM MARS (Grape Nuts)
Among the ur-mascots of the superhero set, Volto (From Mars or, as I like to say it, "Of the East Martian Voltos...") holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of fans. Specifically, he holds the much-vaunted "I've heard of him!" spot.

Volto arrives from Mars , unceremoniously announces that he's hungry and demands to be fed the world's finest cereal grains. Unfortunately, all they have handy are Grape Nuts, but they still seem to do the trick; Volto's powers are charged up! The little Martian flyboy gets frisky with the magnetic death rays!

Shouting "Volto" activates his powers of magnetic tomfoolery. With he left hand, he repeals all matter, and which his right he attracts it. This must make introducing himself into a genuine plastic hassle. "Nice to meet you, I'm Volto" and he ends up embracing a bookshelf from the other side of the room at forty-five miles an hour. This is probably why the comics would occasionally remind readers that Grape Nuts did not actually give you magnetic powers, as "You might accidentally launch your child out of a fourth-story window at speeds approaching escape velocity" is probably pretty bad publicity.

Imagine he says all of this without taking a breath.

CAPTAIN TOOTSIE (Tootsie Rolls)
When parents warned their children against accepting candy from weird strangers, they were almost undoubtedly thinking of Captain Tootsie. Designed by C.C.Beck (and alternatively illustrated by him and Pete Costanza), the sugar-shilling superhero was rather intentionally designed to recall Captain Marvel, then the best-selling superhero comic on the racks. 

The captain didn't necessarily gain powers from Tootsie Rolls, but he did gain ENERGY! Short-term bursts of energy, that is! You never see Captain Tootsie and his young friends in the ominously-named Secret Society crash afterwards, but you have to imagine that happened off-panel pretty much twice an episode.

Tigers are a protected species, you poaching sonofabitch!

TIGER-BOY (Uni-Royal)
I don't recall seeing Tiger Boy -- advertising Uni-Royal's Tiger Paw Red Stripe bicycle tires -- ever spouting a line but, rather, being a mysterious figure who outraces every would-be top cyclist thanks to his badass tires. It's also difficult to pin down whether he's an actual superhero -- he does wear a distinctive costume, including a tiger-print cape (which you'd think would create all sorts of drag but, hey, I still drive a Mean Green Machine, so whadda I know) -- or just a dude who can totally school idiot children with their dumb slow bikes that have shitty Montgomery Ward tires. 

What's for certain is that he's one of the few comic book ads drawn by the great Jack Davis, and the Slim Jim ones with the werewolf and vampire can't count for this series because they ain't superheroes. Don't @ me. 


CAPTAIN "O" (& Peggy, Olympic)
Olympic wasn't the first comic book-centric service to rope dumb kids into selling magazines, cards or seeds for cheap prizes and a smidgen of folding money, but they had the most dynamic possible duo available to be their spokespeople. There weren't many other dynamic duos available, though, so these are actually a little lackluster. 

Captain O was always portrayed either blasting directly at the viewers or hugging two children -- most likely strangers, unknown to him, and possibly runaways -- while advocating you bother your neighbors for a play microscope. More intriguing was always Peggy, one of the Captain's small army of telephone operators and, very likely, utterly disposable. Still, she wore a superhero uniform just to take your call, which makes her the real hero here, for some reason I can't articulate. 

Also, in my headcanon, Captain O is the mentor of those two kids who were cosmic heroes because they had banana-shaped phones. I'll get around to them eventually...





Thursday, April 13, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE STEEL FIST

"Fuck 'em up, Tim!"

A few months back, I wrote, of the character Crash Kid from Cannonball Comics, that I had never seen a Golden Age story which read more like an homage to the Golden Age. Every panel and word balloon seemed like a distillation of the essence of the two-fisted, fast-paced, manic escapist tough -guy superhero comic.

Well, The Steel Fist -- which, I know, sounds like a hardcore reggae band -- is the one Golden Age comic I've ever seen which reads like an Eighties-era deconstruction of Golden Age superhero comics.

Like, I'm put in the mind of the Blackhawk revival from DC in the late Eighties, a Howard Chaykin joint that was handed off to Martin Pasko and Rick Burchett for the ongoing incarnation. In that book, the gender and ethnic diversity of the Blackhawks were enhanced, and the embarrassing caricature that was the team's Chinese-American member Chop Chop was retroactively declared a portrayal that only appeared in the in-universe licensed comics.

That's actually a glove, man.
Steel Fist has that same feeling, where the superhero segments already feel like the imaginary additions to a comic book retelling of a crimefighter's life. Hell, there's even a Chris Ware/Dan Clowes feeling to the superhero sequences, like a representation of a merry but thoughtless portrayal which reflected whim and not reality.

Timothy Slade is a wartime steelworker and proud patriot. When a bunch of Ratzi sonsabitches show up to sabotage the steel plant, Tim stands up to them -- only to be overpowered and punished with a gruesome retaliation. They shove his right arm into a vat of molten steel. Like Johnny Tremane, assuming you put some Nazis into Paul Revere's workshop.

Recuperating in the hospital, Tim is visited by "the mystical figure of justice," who grants his steel arm mobility and tremendous power. She is almost literally a moistened bint lobbing scimitars at people. I'm proud that a wasted adolescence pays off in this small way.

This all seems relatively normal, in a folk hero manner -- Tim seems to be a patriotic Joe Magarac. If they'd left it like that, with Joe working in the steel factory and occasionally slugging Nazis tae fuck, it would have been a fine serial. Instead, they put him in a costume with a cape (although he can't fly or does any jumping or anything) and a mask (even though his identity is well known) and a steel skullcap (which doesn't work because he gets knocked out with a shot right to it) and the whole thing is yellow and blue and I don't know what that's supposed to represent except maybe he's really into The Minions?

In fact, he's goes as far as to introduce himself to the Nazis who wrecked his arm, with his real name, so the costume is a weird conceit. Obviously it was done because, you know, it's de rigeur for the era, but the parts without it work just as well.

He randomly found a cop AND a soldier.
He's spoilt for choice!
For the most part, Tim's adventures start and end with the steel factory, where he continues to work his shift. On some occasions, his right arm remains all-steel while he's in a civilian disguise, and on other occasions it reverts to a normal hand (and in one issue, he goes out of his way to hide his right arm at all times until he's in his Mike&Ike outfit). When he does show the hand, it does a lot of heavy lifting -- he uses it to deflect bullets and slug dudes even though they got guns. His primary power is not getting murdered. I couldn't do that, it's a legit superpower after all! Also, sometimes he slugs people with his normal hand and you have to wonder what's even the point of having a steel hand if you're just gonna use your meat fist?

But Steel Fist is another really enjoyable entry in the Blue Circle Comics line, with one exception: In his third appearance, a different writer (and, I think, artist, and that may be the same person -- H.C.Kiefer is the only credit attached to the stories) takes over, and changes the formula. Tim now has a suit-and-tie job at the factory, and picks up a sidekick with the worst gimmick: He's an effusive taxi hack named Ned Pyle who always carries a thermos of coffee with him wherever he goes, earning the nickname "Thermopyle." I had been hoping he was a Greek character named Ther-MOP-o-lee but, no, he gives the accurate pronunciation and it's so dumb.

But he gets back to what he does best after that, which is getting dressed up like a short-lived mascot for the San Diego Chargers and slamming a metal mitt into bad people's faces. After six appearances -- one of which was published as an inventory tale in another publisher's book -- The Steel Fist retires, or possibly got his other hand stuck in molten steel and just died, or was shot for dressing up like a banana who joined the United Nations peacekeeping force, or something. Maybe he could have had a V8 and knocked his own brains out while dealing with the shock. Or he died in some other way that having a steel hand can kill you, like a thoughtless masturbation session. I know, but you were all thinking it.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : FEAR ITSELF

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
Season Two / Episode Eighteen : Fear Itself



In which Swamp Thing gets to go to Universal Studios Orlando for a fun vacation, complete with harrowing mind-trip!

Jacob Whitkin shows up in this episode playing the role of "Mr.Mephisto," some sort of supernatural horror host type character who's tormenting Swamp Thing for somewhat ambiguous reasons -- at first! By which I mean "No, not only at first, the whole time, really, for little effect."

"Welcome to Geriatric Hot Topic" 

In any case, Whitkin immediately reminded be of Gideon, the freak show operator from the first season. This is largely because, as it turns out, it is the same guy. Also, Whitkin was the unseen voice of General Sunderland, meaning that he's appeared on this show more than anyone except the central cast, albeit in three different roles. The spirit of USA's Swamp Thing right here, y'all.

What the spirit of USA's Swamp Thing is doing right now is magically tormenting the show's hero with visions and hallucinations. Horrified and confused by the fact that the swamp is turning its back on him -- literally, they literally have bushes and vines turn their backs on him in this episode, it's dumb as hell -- Swamp Thing is also panicked having discovered Will's abandoned campsite. The elder Kipp boy is missing, which I'd be excited about except they keep teasing that he'll get murdered and I've learned not to trust any longer.

This is the show's very inexpensive method of showing the swamp being 'angry.'

So, with Swampy suffering seasonal affective disorder and Will missing, he's easy pickings for the Machiavellian mysticism of Mister Muh-phee-sto, a velvet suit-jacketed horror host type who is, frankly, a pretty seamless introduction into the series. As Swamp Thing has been turning more and more into a stock horror show with Swamp Thing himself acting like the catalyst for the plot, having a legit, giggling horror host makes perfect sense. It's even quite a delight to have Whitkin speak directly to the camera as we come back from commercial breaks.

Also, he takes Swamp Thing to Universal Studios! Starting with a tour around the Psycho house and then over to Embryo Books, all that's missing is a photo opportunity with the guy who plays Conan.

In these places, Swamp Thing is confronted with comically-outsized mobs of angry citizens, and finds himself cornered in a dirty alley by cops. "Don't be afraid," he tells them, "I am a man, like you" and then he hucks a garbage can at him. Swamp Thing's been watching the news.

He's very devoted to his swamp mother.

In the Psycho house is where most of the action takes place, with Swamp Thing finding that Tressa has hooked up with Arcane, who seals the deal with the most poorly phrased compliment I've ever heard: "What a clever woman it is that you are" he tells her. Even Chapman couldn't make that work, and he's like the best thing about the show week-in and week-out.

Arcane's Fuck Fantasy fades, which is a shame because I miss Chapman and Durock interacting. What it fades into is a bereft Will having just heard that Jim is dead. This is a step up from not even knowing that he was alive in the first place, but it leads Will to tell Swamp Thing "The world doesn't need me!" I'll hold him to that.

"I ... I-i ... I-i ... will always love you --- ou ou --- "

Anyway anyway anyway. I've padded out a lot of the content for this episode because, really, there isn't that much. They keep rehashing the same sentiments in different ways with different characters, and it all eventually wraps up with the audience learning -- not to its surprise, really -- that Mephisto is actually a GOOD dude, and he's using his magic powers to make Swamp Thing's friends all call him a dick FOR GOOD!

We discover that Mephisto is actually a centuries-old sideshow performer whose antics are telling terrifying stories and also he has a drawing of himself with a different Swamp Thing, and it looks like they got it done at a caricature booth in the park. After walking right through Swamp Thing like a hedge, Mephisto explains that the fear in Swampy's heart is poisoning the swamp, and that he needs to let it go to save the environment. Some metaphor at work here, if you don't look too close. Also, if the swamp set up this shitshow, then Swamp Thing needs to slug the swamp in the arm.

Oh look, a romaine heart.

The short version here is that this is basically The Anatomy Lesson but for television, and Mephisto seems to be some sort of goth Santa version of Alan Moore, maybe? It's a real tough guess, and also I wish they'd waited until now to film this so Swamp Thing got to go to the Harry Potter thing and could get sorted and shit. "Yore a wizard, Swamp Thing!" Tell me that doesn't have potential.

"So, do you have any hobbies? Do you like to roller skate?"

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