Wednesday, March 29, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND


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 Seventeen : What Comes Around



In which Houma's malicious Barney Fife has to come to grips with his manhood.

Sheriff Andy Andrews is one of Anton Arcane's factotums, and has been longer-serving in that role even than Graham (who has a character spotlight coming up in a few episodes, which is great news for all you major Graham-Heads). In his role, he's protected Arcane from prosecution or even investigation into his swamp experiments, he's intimidated Arcane's opponents, helped ship Arcane's mistakes into slave labor all around the world and, along those lines, he's even nearly-incompetently staged the apparent accidental death of Jim Kipp.

Apparently his final straw is "letting Arcane go full Most Dangerous Game." When Andrews stumbles across a desperate, frightened man in the woods, his efforts to save him are interrupted by Anton Arcane dressed in a leather duster and cowboy hat, armed with a shotgun and assisted by a couple of his science dorks similarly dressed. It's a very high-stakes make strip club review, is what it looks like.

Poor Andy.

The failure to save the hunted man haunts Andrews, which manifests itself in (a) grotesque sexual harassment, (b) Foster Brooks-level drunk stumbling and (c) getting laffed at by guffawing yokels. A man can only take so much! After this, it's the old-timey Western hallucination!

Andrews gets a lot of backstory in a short amount of time, considering that he rarely had more than three lines in any episode of the show and rarely one which contributed to the plot. We find out, for instance, that he has a fucked-up obsession with Tressa Kipp. That's indication enough of a man on the edge, to be sure.

His inappropriate behavior begins this episode with inviting himself to join Tressa at her table at Angelo's. It's lucky that he caught her in-between all those trips she keeps taking to Peru to find her dead son. Oh, also, I should mention that there's apparently only one nice restaurant in Houma, because whenever they need to shoot a restaurant scene, they end up here. Last episode, we learned that it's called "Angelo's," and it's a character in this show the same way New York is the fifth character in Sex and the City (That must really burn Chris Noth's biscuits, being ranked behind an inanimate object).

Andrews harasses Tressa for a while, until Tressa's vampiric best friends show up, summoned by the killing of a bird or by the pouring of blood into a salt circle. These two people are terrifying. Personally, if I had a choice between sharing my dinner table with an aggressive creep or the twins children of Nosferatu, I'd just eat wet cardboard behind a Circle K and go home.

Looks like if the Addams Family fucked a Century 21.

Following that rebuffing, Andrews is confronted in the street by the woman whose husband was earlier hunted by Arcane, and who gives the sheriff a right talking to. From that embarrassment, he returns to his car and complains bitterly about his fallen status among the town, grinding and fussing about in such a way that it absolutely looks like he's masturbating furiously. There's another law enforcement-type on car over, so that would make it extra sexy if the other law enforcement-type wasn't just parroting all the bad things everyone else says about Andrews, too. Maybe this is some kind of Cop-Dom I'd never heard of before. I don't mean to kinkshame.

"Ohhh yeah, that's an existential crisis, oh mama ..."


We cut to Arcane in his lab, forcing a dime to grope a beaker. This is the guy's Friday nights.

Andrews bursts in on an epic stage drunk, and proceeds to get savagely murked by an irritated and, one suspects, fully erect Arcane.  Complaining to Arcane that their deal has left him a laughingstock, Arcane replies "Then why aren't I laughing?" before telling him that he's "A ventriloquist dummy without the wit." Mark Lindsay Chapman is the best and this show suffers when he's not its everything.

Last thing Andrews does before the plot really kicks in is show up to harass Will and Will's girlfriend at the site of their broken-down car. It's not really a scene that anyone needs, since we already know what a drunk, corrupt failure Andrews is, but I mention it because Will has developed a shitkicker accent in this episode. He's from Philly, man.

"Son, y'all gon' go, I say, y'all gon' go down to Wawa, you pick me up a couple Tasty-Kakes, y'hear?" 

SO, in the way of the recent spate of episodes, we're about ten minutes in which means that it's finally time for Swamp Thing to show up. All he does this time around, though, is put Andrews into a phony baloney cowboy fantasy in order to show him the importance of cleaning up after yourself, or how drugs are bad, or whatever after-school special bullshit is moving this plot along. "Don't let guys get hunted for sport," got it, fine, sheesh, you don't have to lecture me about it.

If you thought what Swamp Thing was missing was everybody swanning around in old-timey clothes and being all Deadwood grim and cowboy-ey and stuff, then your prayers have been answered and also you were wrong. We end up in a legit frontier western town, which is weird because we're in Louisiana, but let's keep walking.

Andrews hallucinates that he's the new sheriff, while the rest of the town full of lowlifes and painted ladies lives in snide fear of Jake, a bad motherfucker who's recently rolled into town and has killed like the last eight sheriffs. Stop getting sheriffs, you guys, he keeps breaking them.

This trip to Trail Dust Town has been a disappointment all around.

Will is some sort of card sharp, Tressa is some sort of cathouse madam, Jim is still dead in Peru and so is nobody, and other lesser characters are equally lesser characters. Having mentioned Tressa, by the way, in regards to her now pretending to be a sassy lady of the Old West, I don't intend to be cruel, but I really hope I never see Carrell Myers performing in anything ever again. Besides some of the next forty episodes of this show I still have to watch.

Last episode of the show, the audience was tormented with the same five-second clip of Midnight Confessions played repeatedly throughout the show. This time, a bunch of showgirls and tramps hang around a piano where someone with a voice like an ashtray yelling at a foghorn sings "Blood on the Saddle" over and over. I'm pretty sure I've only heard that song at the Country Bear Jamboree, so my perspective on the whole scene is garbage.

"Ladies, let me hear you holler now for WESTERN .... THUNDERRR-RRR-RRR-RRRRRRR!"


Anyway, Andrews confronts Jake, played by Chapman using an incredibly fake but still just awesome cowboy accent, although I should mention the last line said to Andy before he goes to get himself hallucination-murdered: the undertaker, sizing him up for a casket, yells after him "WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT SEEPAGE!" We sure should, pal, don't leave it til too late.

So, Andy wakes from the hallucination with, maybe, some new sense of purpose. Or not, it doesn't really resolve. Maybe he runs through Bedford Falls yelling Merry Christmas to all the buildings and finds Zuzu's petals in his pocket, because basically this was Swamp Thing's "It's A Wonderful Life," but for a guy who has literally murdered and kidnapped people.

"Don't y'ken me, Mary? Don't y'ken me?"

Monday, March 27, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 12 - TO THE VICTORS BELONG A WORLD!



Micronauts vol.1 No.12 (Dec 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Allen Milgrom
Letterer: Diana Albers
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Allen Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

This is effectively the well-deserved season finale of Mantlo and Golden's Micronauts, and it reads as such, too. The issue is given over to wrapping up loose threads, placing plot elements for the upcoming arc, and giving us one last definitive fight scene before winding up for the sophomore effort.

It's a good time to recall everything which Mantlo and Golden (and company) managed to accomplish with this unlikely book; an adventure which spanned two galaxies, laid the intriguing map of unique backstories of six main characters as as many secondary characters, created a socio-political environment for a world in turmoil, kept five or six subplots going, introduced maybe the lamest supervillain scientist in history (not everything's a winner),  and managed to create a story which is, more than almost anything else except the legitimate heirs to this throne, a fitting endcap to Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga. I don't intend to fight for that statement, even though I believe it deeply.

Anyway, accolades aside, here's where we are: Homeworld is liberated from the empire of Baron Karza, whose empty armor remains unclaimed at the edge of the Great Pit into which the villain's essence had plummeted. The Acroyears have reinstated Prince Acroyear and joined our conquering heroes for one last reunion, and Argon prepares to place himself on the throne of Homeworld, to the delight of his people, and with the former rebel leader Slug as his presumptive queen.

Slug's journey from rebel fighter to queen is actually, on paper, the most interesting character arc in the book. She is, however, possibly the fourteenth-or-so most important character in the book, so practically no attention was paid to her on the whole. Argon hijacked her arc, as will happen.

In fact, if there's one major problem to the book, it's that the romantic plots seem, if not forced, then ingloriously inevitable. In fact, with Mari and Rann consummating a relationship entirely in thought balloons, Slug and Argon seems like a worn cassette recording of the original concert. It was a relationship that barely deserved to happen once, much less twice in the same book.



Anyway, speaking of Rann and Mari: Homeworld celebrates, and Rann is among the heroes of the day -- and looking all the worse for it. His physical condition is only part of the problem. Rann is left bereft by the absence of the Enigma Force which his alternate self(ves) embodied, and rightly so -- the man essentially has lost a thousand lifetimes.

The Micronauts briefly gather, only to separate again. Rann is further troubled by the news of Bug's apparent death in an earlier issue, and Prince Acroyear plans to return to Spartak (more on that in a moment). In Daytona Beach, Florida, Big-Size World, Human Engineering Life Laboratories is getting thoroughly cleaned up. Prometheus has been returned to Earth after having switched molecules with Karza, but he's nuts and is no problem. What is a problem is Colonel Macy of NASA security discovering some of Prometheus' discarded Micronaut corpses...

Heavy.
Nearby, Steve and Ray Coffin have been brought closer together as a result of Ray's time as Captain Universe and the terror of almost having lost one another forever. Also, Muffin is still around. This makes the Captain Universe interruption almost worth it.

Setting up the plot for the next arc, a shadowy "Agent M" receives orders from a nearly-silhouetted Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan to transfer the Micronaut corpse to New York...

Those recaps and assorted finales represent a small part of the issue, the plurality of which is given over to the final conflict between the treacherous Shaitan and his noble brother, Prince Acroyear. This "Prince Acroyear" business is making it easier for me to handle him having the same name as his entire race. I'm for it.

Being a warrior culture, the Acroyears naturally have a totally bogus "blood feud" wherein the entire point of having a justice system is discarded if the defendant wants to beat up the judge badly enough. If that system worked in our culture, do you know what we'd be? Kentucky is what we'd be. Kentuckies, all the way down.

The battle ends as expected, with Shaitan totally impaled on an Acroyear shiv and the surviving Prince really regretting that he had to stab the fuck out of his brother. Vulgarity aside, Prince Acroyear gets some delicious soliloquizing in this issue, covering his race's history, morality, purpose, and their relationship to their cold, unfeeling world, and the burdens of the king. It is literally very good stuff, and more important to the Prince's character than the actual fight.

Last thing we see before sign-off is the Time Traveler happily fucking off to nowhere and a still-living Bug -- apparently saved from destruction in the battle above Spartak by the Enigma Force -- crashlanding on his homeworld, Kaliklak, hiveworld of the Insectivorids! PS, I never mentioned this before, but an "Insectivore" is something that eats insects, not that is an insect, which Bug is generally acknowledged as effectively being. Well, who'm I to judge. My culture has Hot Pockets, that's gotta be worse than consuming your own children.


But, before that, it's Micronaut Annual No.1 next time ...

Friday, March 24, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : THE PALEO DIET OF DOOM



Last year, I had the pleasure of having my first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, published by the fine folks over at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, PA. Although the cat has been out of the bag for a little while, I'm nonetheless proud to announce that the logical sequel -- The Legion of Regrettable Super-Villains -- is slated to debut on March 28th! You can now pre-order the book over on AmazonBarnes&Noble, and probably on the weird superhero book black market. It does thriving business!

To whet your appetite for the new book, every Friday leading up to the release date, I'll be providing brief snapshots of just some of the 108 (!) historically effed-up bad guys covered in the book (and that's not even counting the sidebars).

Trying to stay mean and keep lean? Then do I have the diet for you. A strict protein-based regimen of vile villains and cruel crooks culled from the core food groups of our neolithic ancestors. It's taken them something like 2.6 million years, but a few representatives of those much-eaten meats and dairy have attempted to strike back, grab your knife and fork!

THE HUMAN FLYING FISH
Created by: Robert Bernstein and Ramona Fradon
Debuted in: Adventure Comics #272 (DC Comics, May 1960)

There are more than a few sub-sea terrors which would have their menace multiplied a thousand-fold if there were some sort of villainous "The Human..." version of them. The Human Vampire Squid, the Human Shark, the Human Marianas Trench, and so on. The Human Flying Fish is not one of them. It's right up there behind The Human Sandollar and The Human Luxury Cruise. 

Still, he gives it his best shot, fighting Aquaman and Aqualad with the power of not always swimming. His costume is the tits, though, fight me.

MISTER FISH
Created by: Bill Mantlo and George Tuska
Debuted in: Luke Cage, Power Man #29 (Marvel Comics, April 1975)

It's never not delightful that Mister Fish debuted with the admonition that no one shoud laugh at him, since he's both the dumbest-looking and straight-up dumbest supervillain in history. Not only does he share with characters like the Parasite the "I wonder what's really in this barrel that has 'Toxic Waste' written on the side of it in huge angry yellow letters, let's find out" origin, but he compounded his waste-huffing with a dive into the East River. Oh, and after he died? His brother decided to carry on his work, so he also drank bleach and jumped into the pool where New York collects its human urine. A rep is the hardest thing to reclaim, Fishes.

EGG FU
Created by: Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
Debuted in: Wonder Woman vol.1 #157 (DC Comics, October 1965)

No roster of weird, dumb and better-left-dead villains would be complete without Egg Fu, the wildly-racist and well-out-of-date Chinese supervillain who is both Egg and Giant, making him the most deadly jumbo egg ever. The weirdest thing about Egg Fu remains that so many efforts have been made to bring him back in one form or another, all of which involve a Chinese creature with yellow or orange skin and the name "Egg Fu." You're not really gonna completely save this one, you know? Move on to something better, bring back Terra Man or something.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE SPOOK



A short career is probably the best career for some crimefighters, and they don't get much shorter than the simultaneous entrance and exit of The Spook, the superhero most likely to have been invented to fill two blank pages of an inventory-laden comic book. I kid, that's actually how almost all the superheroes who ever were got invented.

This two-pager from the interior of Captain Wizard Comics No.1 introduces Don Goonface, professional comic book cartoonist who, under a strict deadline and facing a lack of inspiration, disguises himself under a bedsheet and prowls the street looking for crime. In order to fight it, that is. Hell, he might be out looking to commit some too, we don't get much of a psychological profile of the character.

Life goals.
Blundering into victory when he happens upon a mugging (the victim of which is his boss, whose gratitude is limited), The Spook hangs up his sheet almost immediately. Why? Because he inherits a fortune from a late uncle. This is the most realistic depiction I've ever seen of a wealthy superhero. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe had to make Tony Stark really excited about killing foreigners, because otherwise why wouldn't he just pay someone else to do it? That was my takeaway from the Iron Man movie, by the way. I don't even remember if it had a beginning or an ending or anything.

The interesting thing about The Spook is that he might possess something of exaggerated biography. The strip was written and drawn by Howie Post, probably best-known in comics for having drawn DC's Anthro series, and contributing to several Harvey and Star kids' comics.

Post had broken into comics not because of a love of the medium -- he was doing fine at Paramount as an animator -- but in order to pick up some extra cash for his family. His first few attempts to break into the biz ended in rejection and, even then, the jobs he did pick up didn't pay as well as his animation gig. The Spook may have been Post's extravagant daydream and jocular criticism of the behind-the-scenes world of comics at the time.

It's a two-pager with a character who was never intended to go anywhere, but it's an at least interesting footnote in Golden Age comics lore...


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

THE CRUSADERS : OPERATION BUCHAREST

The end.


Jack Chick couldn't possibly be more famous, particularly in the world of comic book aficionados, despite never having developed a beloved character. The version of Satan who's really into role-playing games doesn't count.

It's not that he didn't try, though. The creator of countless little evangelical tracts with names like "Apes, Lies and Miss Hen," "The Poor Little Witch," "There Go The Dinosaurs" and so on -- basically titles that seem to imply that you're watching an off-brand animated short from 1965 -- focused primarily on anti-everyone polemics at the expense of character. Except ... The Crusaders!

Their boss looks like Donald Trump.
"The Crusaders" became the overall group title of an ongoing, 22-issue run of original full-size comics from Chick Publications. Naturally, they still focused on the essential messages of Chick's tracts -- Muslims suck, Catholics suck, what even is a Freemason (PS they suck), Jesuits suck, sin sucks and most everything is a sin, et cetera. Its first issue, however, was given over to the adventures of the eponymous duo, commie-crushing born-agains Timothy Emerson Clark, former Green Beret, and James Carter, reformed drug kingpin and much-maligned 39th president of the United States of America.

The Crusaders are assembled by some almost incriminatingly typical fat cat power brokers, both of whom would have been the villains in pretty much any other comic ever published. Rather, these fellas love God and hate Communism -- again, I don't see why they're not the villains here -- and they're putting together a team to fight the godlessness of Godlessness!

As mentioned before, Tim Clark is an ex-Green Beret. He'd barely survived am abush which wiped out the entirety of his ... platoon? Division? I don't know what Green Berets travel in. Possibly a "pod." Anyway, he's rescued by a "Christian native" and nursed back to health by missionaries, and then is offered a job by the mafia as a hit man. This last piece of information is a big positive for his employers. They love that their Christian troubleshooter was also on the mob's short list for paid murderer. Religion is weird.

James Carter is described as a pusher, black militant and black belt. He's the king of a drug empire, but he's also one of those guys in a Chick comic who has simply never heard of anything related to the Bible before, so he can be stunned into amazement by the simplest and most unlikely bits of information. "Jesus cast bread and fishes into the water and had it returned to him a thousandfold!" "WHOA, REALLY? NO ONE EVER MENTIONED THAT TO ME!" and, boom, they're converted.

Those little asterix-laden asides make it seem like the Bible is a collection of important back issues.

(As an aside, I've met folks who seem to think that this tactic works, and I always wonder what they must think when they find out that their target has already heard of the biblical event, quote or concept and didn't convert immediately. If it didn't blow their mind into abject faith the first time, is the second gonna do it? I dunno. I'm a Cargo Cultist, myself)

In any case, whatever the peculiarities of their backstory, the duo are assembled and being sent behind the Iron Curtain to deliver bibles to beleaguered Christians. They do not have Amazon Prime in the Soviet Bloc or, for that matter, anywhere because this book came out like fifty years ago. I'm just making a rhetorical point.

To be fair, he doesn't not sound crazy.

On the story's most entertaining note, the Crusader's immediate boss expresses his delight that the prosletyzing pair should be able to slip into Romania with no one noticing. They both enter using traditional channels, one of them is an enormous inner city drugord, and the other one turns out to be the nephew of the French Ambassador whom the head of the KGB hates with a passion. Sli-i-i-i-i-ide right on into Bucharest, those two do...

A femme fatale is set onto Tim, so as to catch him in a compromising position which can be captured on camera and used to discredit the ambassador. By the end of the story, Tim naturally converts his affectionate spy to Christianity but, in my favorite moment in any Chick tract or comic, inadverdantly also converts the cameraman who's hiding behind a pane of one-way glass. There's a blast radius for evangelicism, I never knew!
He'll need to file a form for that.

As for James, his primary role in the comic is to not do anything except go "Right On!" whenever Tim quotes something from the Bible. Glad he's here.

The weird thing about Chick's tracts in general is that they're meant to be excoriations of the grimy, carnal world of sin and excess which makes up secular society. However, they themselves are gritty, greasy and unpleasant as hell. That is to say, not only are the books themselves drawn and written in a skeevy, unpleasant patois of sermon and sensationalism (Fred Carter's art has its charms, though), but the heroes of these stories always express themselves in the awkward, claustrophobic inanity of the genuine zealot.

The villains in this world are almost always ethnic (a Jewish double agent, also a "typical bureaucrat," serves the double purpose of implying that all government employees are traitorous scum), the punishment for exercising faith is always gruesome, and there's no happy ending for anyone but the very handsome, clean cut Christian in these books. At the end of the story, having been converted to Christianity, Tim's temptress Sofia is imprisoned for her faith, a victim of the KGB director whom she derided as a pig, a beast and an animal, and whom she betrayed for Tim's sake. That was her reward for letting herself be swayed by his faith -- punishment for the rest of her life, while Tim and James get to fly back to America without a hassle. Oh, but Tim reminds us that her suffering will be over when she dies and comes back when the Rapture happens, so that's good. That's actually good now.

The Crusaders! They're literally awful human beings, except not literally because they're made up! But they would be!*

*G&F 2017.02.20

John 14:1 And sayeth the Lord, you're all under arrest.
And also with you.



Monday, March 20, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 11 - THE ENIGMA FORCE!



Micronauts vol.1 No.11 (Nov 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Al Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

This is it, the big finish -- advertised on the cover as Saga's End, and that seems to be about the right sentiment. Even allowing for distractions like the go-nowhere introduction of Captain Universe and the extra-narrative dalliance with the Man-Thing, Micronuats to date has been one of the most dense, intense and grandly-scoped comics ... ever? Possibly, although I can say with certainty that this first arc is definitely one of Marvel's top 50 storylines, arguably the best comic to come out of Marvel's 1979 offerings, and one of the two or three best books out of Marvel's wide expanse of licensed comics.

Those seem like watered-down accolades but, honestly, it's about right. I went into this series knowing nothing of the contents of the comics except the pedigree of the creative team, and it's been everything except a disappointment. I know this blog usually obsesses on bad ideas, lousy executions, and misfired concepts, but Micronauts has been a delight.

But, here we go, the penultimate issue of the Micronauts' first 'season,' as it were:

Karza's flagship has returned to Homeworld, only to find the Body Banks ablaze and the population in abject rebellion. On his side, though, he has his mortal enemy Arcturus "Space Glider Is Still A Dumb Name" Rann and the Princess "Marionette" Mari in custody, and is getting a real kick out of shooting eye lasers into Rann's face. You find your pleasures where you can.

Seeing Karza's return, Argon rallies the troops for the last and greatest conflict to date. The thing is, you see, the rebels have barely scraped by so far, and neither they, the Shadow Priests, or their Force Commander have much left in the tank. Slug, the previous leader of the rebel forces, muses that she once loved death and watched for its approach that she might stare it in the face --- b ut now she's instinctively, heteronormatively bound to Prince Argon and his sexy horse ass, so death can eat it.


With Rann and the Princess bound, Argon leads the first assault against Karza, man-horse against man-horse! His heart is in the right place -- I think, I actually don't know where a centaur keeps its heart -- but Karza wouldn't knowingly turn a sworn enemy of his into a man-horse even more powerful than he. Fool me once, I imagine him saying, remembering the man-horses of times past. Time pasts. Anyway, Argon loses the fight.

 This is the cue for the Shadow Priests to, as one, become nude. Doffing their robes, they reveal each of them to be Time Travellers ... or, Time Traveller, more or less. There's both one and many, something which is clarified in this issue, much to my relief. It was a little confusing.

The Enigma Force immediately jumps from the multitude of nude Shadow Priests into the body of Arcturus Rann, although it doesn't turn him into Captain Universe because that idea was kind of dumb and a distraction. It would also, narratively speaking, rob Rann of his most triumphant act of heroism.

Because rather than being gifted with the power of the Enigma Force, Rann sort-of IS the power of the Enigma Force. It's revealed that every letter writer of the last ten issues was on the beam, and correct in deducing that Rann is, in fact, Time Traveler. More to the point, there are hundreds of thousands of Time Travelers, each connected to the mysterious Enigma Force which infuses every atom of the Microverse in a very Force-y way. For his 1,000-year journey through space, every second of Rann's life spawned some sort of living duplicate, tied to the power of the Enigma Force --- a thousand thousand lifetimes lived by Rann through each of these disparate figures. It's deep.

Same.
Speaking of deep ... Karza and Rann engage in a big cosmicy fight, the depiction of which is one of those things that Golden should be better remembered for. Like all Marvel Comics of the era, there are touches of Ditko and Kirby in the swirling, incomprehensible energy of superhuman conflict, but Golden renders it in such a way as to make it entirely new and, ultimately, his own.

Here's where the "deep" part comes in. Karza, seeing that his own power falters before the still-increasing might of Rann, as possessed with the Enigma Force, decides to take the entirety of Homeworld with him. He detonates the Great Pit, intending to consume the crown jewel of the Microverse in all-consuming flames. At this desperate moment, Enigma/Rann lets loose a blast of power intended to freeze Karza in his armor and deny him access to his power ... but, instead, it blows him out of his socks and sends him screaming on his way to hell, via the fiery Pit.

This seems to satisfy the Pit, which stops destroying the world. It probably never wanted to, anyway. You can't be a Pit if there's nothing to be a Pit in, you know? He would've been out of a job.

The apparent death of Karza leaves the spent rebel forces pondering their chances against the remaining Dog Soldiers, what with Rann's powers fading and the sole Time Traveler disappearing into the Enigma Force -- seemingly for good. But, then, all the Acroyears show up and blow the remaining Karza loyalists all tae fuck. The end!

Next issue, it's the proper finale, with the last few plot threads wrapped up, the settings for the upcoming "season" put into place, and one final major knock-down drag-em-out fight for the books. Mah boy Acroyear got an albino brother to beat down.


Friday, March 17, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : MONSTER MENACES



Last year, I had the pleasure of having my first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, published by the fine folks over at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, PA. Although the cat has been out of the bag for a little while, I'm nonetheless proud to announce that the logical sequel -- The Legion of Regrettable Super-Villains -- is slated to debut on March 28th! You can now pre-order the book over on AmazonBarnes&Noble, and probably on the weird superhero book black market. It does thriving business!

To whet your appetite for the new book, every Friday leading up to the release date, I'll be providing brief snapshots of just some of the 108 (!) historically effed-up bad guys covered in the book (and that's not even counting the sidebars).

Everybody loves the villain, right? The villain gets all the good lines, all the good parts, and they usually get to be a little sexy, t'boot. Well, what if they're horrible monsters? Depending on where you are on the internet, they're still sexy, but only on certain Tumblrs. Here's a batch of baleful fiends from all over the map of grotesque nogoodniks ...


MIRROR MAN
Created by: Mike Sekowsky and an uncredited writer
Debuted in: Captain Flash #1 (Sterling Comics, November 1954)

Arriving from a malevolent dimension with the murder of Earth's greatest scientists on his mind, Mirror Man probably could have picked a more dignified destination spot than a men's bathroom. Well, beggars can't be choosers, I suppose, and Mirror Man's ability to enter and exit any mirror or mirror-like surface allows him easy access and egress from our dimension as the mood suits him. If he had to pee just after he arrived on Earth, hey, it happens to me all the time. I've damn near missed a flight because of a 32 oz Diet Coke.

OGGAR
Created by: Otto Binder and Frank Thorne

Debuted in: Mighty Samson #5 (Western Publishing, March 1966)

It must be total bullshit to survive the nuclear apocalypse and rise up to be a figure of some importance in your desperately rebuilding human settlement only to turn into a ridiculous purple cat monster whenever you get too close to some glowing ferns. It's a living!

Such is what happens to Oggar's unfortunate alter-ego, creating a sort-of Jekyll and Hyde situation for the pacifist scientist and his brutally carnivorous other self. They do end up making an accord in the end, which is a good sign that it was time for Mighty Samson to throw him off a building.

FANGCreated by: John Giunta and Frank Frazetta
Debuted in: Tally-Ho Comics #1 (Bailey Publishing, December 1944)

Cognitive dissonance rules the day in this tale, illustrated by Frank Frazetta, in which a black-skulled fiend from an island of criminals slaughters his way across the oceans, only to be beaten back by what is basically the mascot for a frozen foods company. Snowman is apparently some sort of avenging demigod, living in the form of a statue but coming to life when evil threatens the safety of the innocent. Also he has a little corncob pipe and a red button nose. I know I'm supposed to be talking about Fang but that is just nuts, man.

THE HORRIBLE HAND
Created by: Bob Hebberd  and an uncredited writer
Debuted in: Whiz Comics #34 (Fawcett Comics, September 1942)

The lousy leg, the shitty sideboob, the nasty nuts ... all kinds of body parts probably vied for the role of this liberated limb. But you gotta give the guy ... A HAND. You got to. I checked. It's in this contract you signed on your way in.

The Horrible Hand was actually just a sort of trained pet for a former foe of Ibis The Invincible, sent after the magic-wielding superhero in order to avenge past defeats at the wave of his mighty magic wand. The revenge did not work out. It turns out that Ibis is invincible, for christ's sake, it's right there in his name and everything.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : GAIL PORTER, GIRL PHOTOGRAPHER



The comic book sub-genre of "Daring Girl Reporter" has always struck me as one of the medium's simultaneously most endearing and most patronizing branches, if not an overly popular one. Largely, it's part and parcel of an entire catalog of female professionals whose names were invariably preceded by "Girl" ... girl police officer, girl detective, girl inventor, girls who are boys who like boys to be girls, girl you really got me going, all the major girls. Your top girls, all gainfully employed and smashing Nazis in the mush.

Most popular genre on PornHub.
(One of the things which I find so entertaining about this is how the male equivalents for these characters inevitably acquire some kind of action- or newspaper-themed nickname. "Scoop" and "Flash" and "News," if not "Dash" or "Butch" or what-have-you. The women usually just go by their common first names. Like, they don't have anything to prove, they don't have to wander the newsroom floor slyly suggesting that people use their preferred nickname. "So she says 'Flash" ... that's what they used to call me in college, ol' 'Flash' Brickford, everybody, it was a real thing. No one here calls me 'Flash' and that's all right but, well, I won't stop you, just a silly college nickname. From football. I played football, did I mention that? Anyway, she says 'Flash, you're drunk and I'm not letting you take the children for weekend custody in that condition.' Can you believe it? Me, Flash Brickford, too drunk to drive children around!'")

Gail Porter was the house newshen* and shutterbug of the Daily Chronicle (and, later, Daily Star), whose camera led the way for her adventures. This covers everything from smashing criminal rings, to foiling suicide attempts, to unmasking a crazy werewolf and also getting knocked unconscious in prison and dressed in a convict's clothes. They prepare you for things like that in journalism school, or they used to before budget cuts replaced every American journalism program with a lottery ticket and a misunderstanding of George Orwell.

*(Please don't take me to task for that, I didn't invent the word)

She literally makes her own headlines.
A young Bob Oksner provides the art for the series and, even at a rough stage early in his career, there's something very entertaining about the line and shapes. It's the dialogue, hard-boiled and wry in turns, that really sells the bit. A staple of the genuinely excellent Blue Circle Comics family, Gail's camera may have exposed scams, crooks and crimes, but the strip was mostly built around her bite.

The roving reporter angle gets her into a variety of different situations -- from phony hauntings to Nazi subterfuge -- in search of sensational photographs, which keeps the action going strong, and gives Gail something new to do from story to story. Nothing feels like a repeat in her admittedly brief six-issue career, except for her outfit; the same tomato-soup-red dress and dinner plate hat appear in every tale. It's a huge hat. It's basically a portable dark room. And it makes her look like an inverted exclamation mark. I dunno, I like it.

Back in the Forties, there ran -- very briefly -- a Lois Lane comic strip, published alongside the Superman sunday newspaper strips. Primarily, it was a gag strip, with the world's best known Daring Girl Reporter primarily getting stuck in slightly humiliating situations, or finding herself in over her head. Gail Porter, Girl Photographer, is exactly what a Lois Lane comic strip should have looked like, at the time. Tough talking dame takes no guff, wears awesome hat, occasionally slugs fake werewolves.

"Chiefy."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : SPECIAL REQUEST

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 Sixteen : Special Request



In which Tressa gets this close to rescuing her abducted son, but then gets distracted by just how hard The Grass Roots rock out.

For the stragglers out there who may not have been following these recaps all along, and for those whose memories rather rightfully have failed to keep every single plot twist and character development in the USA Network's 1990's late night television series Swamp Thing engraved on their immediate memory at all times, let me catch you up.

There used to be a character on the show named Jim Kipp, Tressa's youngest son and a sociopath in short pants who would hassle Arcane and get Swamp Thing into trouble. Arcane arranged to fake the youngster's death, which was carried out by Sheriff Andy Andrews from a plan laid out on the back of a cereal box; make it look like a car ran into Jim's bike, then throw a dead mutant from Arcane's backstock into the middle of the mess, then pour gasoline over all of it and blow it to hell. PS He forgot to put any dead anyone in the driver's seat and I'm not sure how convincing an exploding bicycle was supposed to be in the first place but, anyway, now you're up to speed.

At some point, someone evidently reminded Tressa that her son was dead or kidnapped or something, because she's now traveling the world in a mad effort to save him. Or, actually, she's hanging out in what appears to be the setting for Duran's Duran's Hungry Like A Wolf video except if it were featured on The Muppet Show.

If you're going by Bengal Barbecue, get me some Tiger Tails, okay?

Tressa has traveled thousands of miles and spent FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS to arrange a meeting with a mysterious Peruvian benefactor named "Mister Heee-doll-go" -- to trust Tressa's pronunciation -- who might have information about Jim's disappearance. Concerned that she's being played, Tressa promises only to wait a few weeks longer for Hee-doll-go, but then she hears a horny song on the radio and runs right back to Houma.

The song in question is "Midnight Confessions" by The Grass Roots, and please be aware that all that the producers have paid to use from that song is the part that goes from "The sound of your footsteps" and ends right before the chorus. The audience is going to hear that single snippet about fourteen times.

She pronounces it "Hee-doll-go" and he pronounces "years" as "jeers." It's a mess.

But it's not the song so much that it's the DJ. Tressa is hearing radio broadcasts straight from "WLBD" (World's Largest Bisexual Dad radio. Welcome Local Bollywood Devotees. Something like that), spun by Rick Swanson (Rob Richards) -- her former lover! Who's dead! And also she goes into the radio station to thoughtfully grope all the equipment and THAT WHOLE PLACE IS DEAD! The studio is overgrown with swamp life, but the electricity still works and nobody took out the equipment. I guess when Rick Swanson dies, you may as well shut down the whole station.

Fearing for her sanity and, worse yet, worrying that she might have to start caring about her missing son again, Tressa seeks solace among her old friends. Old pal Carrie (Elizabeth Fendrick) is now in charge of highway construction projects and old pal Toby (Bill Christie) is now running a construction company that does highway projects, and these guys killed Rick. I spoil because I don't care. Tressa will find out later.

wikki wikki wikki *scratch*


This episode is a real showcase for Carrell Myers' acting ability, and that is roundly unfortunate. Especially because the episode swings back and forth from present day to a flashback set in, I think, 1979, which means we get to watch Tressa happen in teenage years. Also, people keep asking after her son and she unflinchingly changes the subject every time. I think what I'm saying is that the writers really sabotaged this one for Myers.

That Tressa keeps hearing Rick's voice and the middle part of Midnight Confessions, while no one else hears nuffin', seems to imply a supernatural edge to the murder mystery. This gives Swamp Thing his single entree into the episode, gabbing with some stumpo he calls "The Elder of the Swamp." Turns out the Elder of the Swamp has SEEN. SOME. SHIT. and guides Swamp Thing directly to Rick Swanson's hastily buried corpse which is ... right where the new highway is gonna get laid down! Except he's literally buried about a foot deep, which means a highway construction project would dig up his corpse, rather than bury it. Anyway, Carrie and Toby not only murdered Rick but also poorly planned this entire construction project.

Mad Men season 6 would have been a blast.


Hell, let's not even consider that their murder plan involved waiting twenty years for Carrie to work her way up the bureaucracy of local government and Toby to found and build a construction business, and then arranging a massive project involving hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to pave over the corpse. That's foresight! They deserve to get away with it.

In the middle of all of this, Tressa's backstory becomes even more unreliably padded. She icily receives a visit from Reverend Willeford (Charles Noel ... waitaminute, Charles--Willeford? Someone on the crew's been reading Miami Blues again), a Catholic busybody with an incomprehensible connection to Tressa in the days of her wild youth.

Little known fact, but did you know that most people's shadows are actually Catholic priests if you look carefully enough?


Turns out that the Rev promised Tressa's late mother that he'd keep an eye on her, especially to keep her safe from dudes like Rick Swanson. For those of you joining us late, Tressa's mother died in the pilot episode of this series, two years ago. Rick Swason appears to have been murdered some time in the late Seventies. Tressa goes through a lot of moms.

Anyway, Swamp Thing spends a bit of his increasingly precious screentime messing with Carrie and Toby, leading to more of my favorite thing about this episode -- how often Toby gets yelled at or breaks down shouting. Can't get enough.

Lyrics to a whole different song written on this demo recording he made ... of The Grass Roots' Midnight Confessions.


So Carrie reveals that she and Toby murdered Rick because Carrie was in love with Rick and, to be fair, rick was plowing Carrie and like fifty other women. Oh, but he loved Tressa. He was gonna marry Tressa. Everyone in the episode tells her that he clearly didn't mean it and then they really managed to sell the audience on the same conviction. The only people who insist that Rick really loved Tressa are Tressa and the ghostly voice of Rick who, what, he's gonna call her up fifteen years later from beyond the grave just to be all "Actually I didn't feel it was serious..."

The closing shot of the episode has Tressa driving out to the airport so she can get back to Peru and rescue her son who's being tortured in a work camp or something. But she hears Rick on the radio and promptly ditches her flight to go back to the radio station and yells at walls for a while. Anything to stay out of Peru.

This ticket is all marked up like it would be at a ticket station but she's not at the airport yet.

Rick's ghostly plan was to keep Tressa off that flight, because it went down and killed everyone. I think that guarantees a good audience for Rick's afterlife call-in request hour. I also don't like this thing where ghosts can (a) communicate with the living and (b) know when planes are going to crash, because I think they could afford to make themselves more useful.

Oh, and this ring was a key part of the plot. I forgot.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 10 - DEFEAT!



Micronauts vol.1 No.10 (Oct 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Al Milgrom
Letterer: D.Albers
Colorist: C.Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

War war war! Doesn't anyone just fuck anymore?

The rebellion is in full swing, yet Karza has split his forces so as to launch an assault on Spartak, living homeworld of the fearsome Acroyear warriors, where the Micronauts now reside. His forces outnumber the heroes, but Prince Acroyear has bonded body and soul with the living planet of Spartak, and turns the planet's rocky mass against his enemies, striking Homeworld ships out of the sky with rocky arms the size of mountains. Meanwhile, Karza has captured -- and possibly killed! -- Arcturus Rann, the one man everyone counts on to save the Microverse from Karza's malevolent grasp! This three-issue climax to the first Micronauts story arc is fully underway and, this issue, it gets grim.

Karza having beaten the living tar out of "Space Glider" Arcturus Rann gives Marionette the opportunity to go full HAM, blasting Karza and promising revenge for "the man [she] love[s]." The immediate heterosexual couplings taking place in this book are either a little lazy or just the product of most everyone in the Microverse being a weird monster, so when two humans meet they fall in love as some sort of defense mechanism against the species dying out. I say this because the two romantic relationships in the book -- Mari and Rann, Slug and Argon -- don't add much to the story. I'll explain more when the battles are over and Slug and Argon have a moment to catch their breath in a couple of issues.

Jesus christ, you guys ...
The battles in this issue get grim, cold and real. Bug evidently dies, for instance -- Porkins-style, having accidentally damaged a target so badly that he's caught in its implosion. The fighting is so intense that no one has the time to notice his apparent death. Probably because he's neither the first or the last casualty depicted on the page.

Spartak in particular endures a troubling amount of carnage. Naturally, both Dog Soldiers and Acroyear warriors die in abundance, but no one makes it out alive, if the bad guys have anything to say about it. As Prince Acroyear shouts a vicious, world-maddened mantra from the heart of Spartak -- "Destroy! DESTROY!" -- Dog Soldiers cut a bloody swath across the planet, slaughtering everyone they find INCLUDING a tiny Acroyear baby. That's a wild thing to depict. This is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Micromeridian.

Slug and Argon are hungry for blood, too. Back on Homeworld, the rebellion continues to rage, with the Shadow Priests helping to arm the population. On a raised platform above the burning Body Banks, Argon coolly inquires of a captured contingent of rich fuckers -- clients of the Body Banks and Karza loyalists, as far as that goes -- if they'll give up their immortality and fight for the people. They say no, obviously, and Argon just flat-out murders them. I support Force Commander in this. Vote Prince Argon/Slug 2020.

Well, he's got my vote.

Even Microtron learns to love death and crave the culling of it from the living. It and Biotron have a pretty affecting exchange of dialogue, between the smaller Roboid's forelong leaps into the fray, swinging his crowbar arms like helicopter blades as he wades through Dog Soldiers. It's a good scene, and the Roboids -- by no means even remotely the central characters of this story -- always surprise by having genuine depth.

If there's one thing which I felt failed the issue, it was Shaitan revealing the motivation behind his usurpation and the hatred of his royal brother: He's an albino.

This is a gimmick occasionally played in superhero comics, typically where an African-American is born an albino and, because they cosmetically resemble the oppressors of their race, are treated like shit by their peers and neighbors. Later, super-villainy happens. This is a dumb-ass conceit on the best of days, insulting to at least three intersecting categories of people, but it makes no sense on Spartak as currently presented. Especially because absolutely every Acroyear warrior reassures Shaitan repeatedly that they never hated him because of his skin ... they only hated him because he was mentally ill oh wait a minute that's not much better.

Without some cultural context for albinism within Spartak culture -- I mean, it's a warrior culture, and Shaitan seems to be a pretty decent warrior, as we'll eventually see -- this reveal seems gratuitous at best.

Back to the battle, Cilicia leads a counter-assault on the Dog Soldiers and obliterates every last one of them, bloodily executing the few who survive. Acroyear survives his ordeal in the heart of Worldmind, and Karza, having captured Marionette and Arcturus Rann, fucks off back to Homeworld in his flagship. slug announces its sudden appearance as "The death-knell of the world," which is a good place to hop off and wait for the senses-shattering conclusion, next issue! My senses! Someone shattered them!

Lettercol fun: Jeff Dee, much-adored illustrator on the Villains and Vigilantes game of the 1980s, writes in to pitch his theory that Time Traveler and Arcturus Rann are the same person. He ain't the only one with that theory, someone's mentioned in in the letters page pretty much every issue since number 5. It's still a good twist, though, let's wait it out.



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