Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : POWERS OF DARKNESS

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 Fifteen : Powers of Darkness

The most far-fetched element of Powers of Darkness is that it tries to establish that Will has friends. This is patently impossible, but they're nonetheless introduced right away, and are composed of a bunch of insensitive meatheads who play hackeysack and make fun of goth kids. Hold it, I take it back, this feels right for Will.

The goth kid in question is "Dorian" (Jeremy Licht), a roof-squatting drama club kid with pretensions of vampirism. Despite the fact that everything Dorian does definitely feels arch and dramatic and inarguably worth getting punched over, Will takes a special interest in the kid and tries to befriend him. Which is the one thing worse than being turned into a vampire, actually.

Scoob and the gang
Dorian has a messy backstory. His mom is in an abusive relationship with one of Houma's jerk cops, and his vampire steady -- the woman who transformed him into a vampire and which is almost certainly a metaphor for something -- has been savagely murked by means not yet known. Mostly, though, he moans about everything in that snide, self-impressed way that theater teens always do, where everything is a big production and you have to wait to find out what sort of aggrandizing fiction they're about to weave about themselves. I may be criticizing my younger self here, as a matter of fact.

But this isn't my therapy session -- it's Dorian's! A glimpse into his home life reveals the depth of his domestic shame. Mom is manically depressed, middle aged, and thinks chicken nuggets and whiskey is a passable dinner for a growing boy. She isn't wrong, to be fair. Oh, and in addition to that, her only son thinks that he's a vampire.

(The vampire thing is repeatedly teased by way of an aerial shot racing over the swamp, implying that Dorian or some other spirit of the night is zooming through the sky -- despite the fact that it's invariably daytime when they show this. Also wrecking the illusion is that I think the film was run backwards and the whole thing was shot out of the back of a plane, as the rear flap keeps peeking into view at the edge of the screen).

See?

Will is spending his free time this episode reading up on vampires, which is fucking hilarious because he basically treats it like someone asked him to name his favorite practitioner of Tuvan khöömei, or some other incredibly obscure area of arcane knowledge. For fucks sake, it's the Nineties, hasn't this kid even ever seen Count Duckula? Oh, and the answer to the above question is "Kongar-ol Ondar," he fucking rules.

Dorian's fantasies make up a decent part of the episode, imagining that he turns into a crazy actual vampire and eats his dad-in-law's face, that his vampire lover steps out of a Whitesnake video and does made-for-TV stripper dances for him in a dry ice factory, and that it was his gross step-dad who murdered Dorian's vampire lover. Or maybe it actually happened, I dunno, I sort of blanked out.

Dorian's room has this barbarian titty girl poster in it but they couldn't show tits on USA this early so they pinned a bedsheet over 'em, just like John Ashcroft did at the DOJ. Fuckin' hilarious.
Well, Dorian's step-dad really is dead, but it will eventually turn out that he had nothing to do with it -- Mom kind of flipped out and accidentally snuffed her second hubby with a broken whiskey bottle to the throat. I don't know if the chicken nuggets played any kind of role in the murder. Either way, that's gonna look bad on her OKCupid profile.

As for Dorian, it's Swamp Thing who is crazy sick of this vampire shit, even though he hasn't really been around for the majority of the episode Handling this emotionally disturbed kid with a dearth of delicacy, he shoves Dorian's hand into a big pool of blood, watches as the kid knocks his skull open while running through the swamp, and then forces him to relive the trauma of watching his step-dad murder his made-up Canadian vampire girlfriend right in pretend front of him.

Well here I go again on my own ...

Also, there is a mirror in the swamp. Full stop.

An awakened but emotionally devastated Dorian is gently cradled and carried off by Will, which is what happens to everyone who wanders into the swamp late at night. Around there, they call it "the toll."

Next week: we're briefly reminded that Jim Kipp isn't actually dead! Briefly, I said! Don't expect too much from it ...

Help yourself to a handful. Sorry, we don't have forks or cups.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : 08 - EARTH WAR



Micronauts vol.1 No.8 (Aug 1978)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Bob McLeod
Letterer: Diana Albers
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Captain Universe debuts in this issue, and I'm still sore about it. While I'd managed to buy almost every other single issue of Micronauts for a quarter apiece at assorted used book stores, I had to pay a premium to an online seller in order to get this issue. And why? Captain freakin; universe. What a burn.

Despite the relatively sedate previous issue, it seems that utter chaos continues to erupt at the Human Engineering Life Laboratories. NASA Security -- armored-up and packing sufficient weaponry to easily secure Fallujah or "respond proportionately" to a pipeline protest -- is engaged in a complete clusterfuck of a one-sided battle with the now-man-sized Baron Karza! He's used his science to trade molecular structures with Dr.Phillip Prometheus, the babbling cyborg inventor of a doorway between Earth and the Microverse, the eponymous Prometheus Pit! And now he's here! And he's paired up woith Prometheus' devoted cyborg security force. The whole thing looks like the best Monsters of Rock tour ever!

Speaking of The Monsters of Rock tour ...

Steve and the Micronauts show up to give the Security Forces key information about Karza. Ahem, "He is from a tiny world and he has the power to kick all of our asses." I paraphrase, but there we are. At least they wisely left Muffin back at the bog shack, where she can be eaten by Man-Thing the next time he comes around.

Back on Homeworld, Argon is being nagged into assuming his rightful role of Force Commander, the heavily armed weird centaur hero of the rebellion. Inside a wrecked cathedral, beneath the shattered statues of demigods Dallan and Sepsis, Argon recounts the economic injustice of Karza's bodybanks, adding in that the middle and working classes might also sell limbs and organs to earn immortality. Without limbs or organs. Anyway, capitalism must be abolished.

Bernie would have won.

While Karza directly engages the Micronauts at H.E.L.L., Ray Coffin is getting the final few benedictions from the Time Traveler. The battle ramps up back in Florida mostly so that Ray -- now transformed by the Enigma Force into the seemingly all-powerful Captain Universe -- can show up and beat Karza while spouting the worst inanities.

"Call me an avenging angel...come to safeguard Earth! Call me ... CAPTAIN UNIVERSE!" Well, Ray, I will not. You are Ray Coffin, unusually depressed ex-astronaut and deus ex machina and until you realize that being Ray Coffin is good enough, you'l never truly be a Captain Universe worthy of the name.


"I've got the spirit of resistance in me! The hopes and aspirations of all those you've failed to conquer!" shouts Ray while trouncing Karza, as though he's known him all his life, and cried out in anger against every act of evil committed and left unpunished by this galactic tyrant. a lot of folks felt that way after the election.

Captain Universe doesn't exactly defeat Karza, but Ray keeps the power long enough to send the Baron dashing back to the Multiverse through the Prometheus Pit, through which The Endeavor and its crew also retreat. As it does, the Enigma Force leaves Ray, returns to the care of the Time Travelers, and waits to be assigned to the next Hero Who Could Be ... You! Enh. Whatever rings your bell, I guess. The Enigma Force owes me eight bucks is how I feel about it.

There's a profound change in the look and feel of this issue, thanks to bringing in Bob McLeod to ink after seven issues of Joe Rubinstein. McLeod's hand is H-E-A-V-Y, and demolishes lines which Rubinstein would have left fully and inviolably intact. He's here, as far as I can tell, however, to lend a Ditko-esque feel to the art. The laser blasts and arcing energy has a concise Ditko feel, or at least the sense of homage. I wonder if that was done deliberately in order to confirm the association between Captain Universe and Ditko, who'd be drawing the character in Marvel Spotlight soon after this. I hope it was done deliberately, to be honest, otherwise there was no valid reason to do this to a Michael Golden illustration:



Next time around -- Return to the Microverse! You'll find out what it's about when I do!

Friday, February 24, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : BILIOUS BUGS



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).

If there's anything ickier than a bug, then you can keep it. Alternatively, if there's anything ickier than a big, you can put it in a mask and give it the idea to start snuffing people and stealing shit. Evidently, they're all pretty good at it, which accounts for the numbers. Still, you can defeat most of them with a shoe or by turning the kitchen lights on in the middle of the night.

SPIDER MAN
Created by: Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger
Debuted in: Whiz Comics #89 (Fawcett Comics, September 1947)


Lose the hyphen and get with the program. Years before Peter Parker had the world's most extreme allergic reaction to a spider-bite, this fur-festooned fiend was crawling around America's industrial centers, hijacking planes and stealing gold and all that good, old-timey supervillain stuff. 

Spider Man's primary weapon, just as it is with his superheroic successor, is his web-like fluid. Unlike the Spectacular Spider-Man, though, this Spider Man carries his web fluid around in what appears to be some sort of weaponized bagpipe, and squeezes it out in huge, milky clumps to capture and detain his foes. It looks super pornographic, in case you were wondering. 


PRAYING MANTIS MAN
Created by: Joe Gill and Bill Fraccio
Debuted in: Blue Beetle # 4 (Charlton Comics, January 1965)

You begin to get the feeling that they were running out of bug-related super-villain names when they got all the way to "Praying Mantis Man," given the relative mouthful of the appellation. I mean, "Blue Beetle" rolls right off the tongue, while "Praying Mantis Man" sounds either like one of those things you're supposed to try to spell with your tongue during cunnilingus or the name of a 90s college alt-rock band.

A scientist with a yen for chlorophyll (I guess he had bad breath or something), Praying Mantis Man makes himself green and gives himself the powers of insect control for the purposes of ... the usual purposes, I guess. I have vague memories of his second appearance, but something is telling me that he married an ant. I dunno. These things start to blur together. Buy the book for the whole story!

THE ROACH WRANGLERCreated by: Mike Baron and Bill Reinhold
Debuted in: The Badger #27 (First Comics, September 1987)

Winner of the grossest origin of all time goes to the former U.S. military man who falls into a hidden cavern underneath a pyramid and has roaches climb into his mouth every day for like a million days, and then comes out with an amulet that allows him to control roaches. That's a pretty great origin and a really weird backstory, but even better was that he was hired by a Fats Waller lookalike to drive renters out of the landlord's property so he could set up condos. Timely and weird, my favorite kind of comics! It helps, too, that the climax of his debut adventure involved a war between cockroaches and elephants on the Wisconsin/Illinois border. Comics are fun.

THE SCARLET BEETLE
Created by: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby
Debuted in: Tales to Astonish vol. 1 # 339 (Marvel Comics, January 1963)

If you're an Ant-Man, you're going to face some insect villains -- see the troubles Blue Beetle had with Praying Mantis Man, above. For the original Ant-Man, though the problem takes the shape of a giant, radioactive, world-conquering beetle who can command the insects of the world to destroy man's civilization. It's a good thing that Ant-Man's alter ego, Hank Pym, is an incredibly good scientists, because just getting very small would not have solved this problem at all. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : FLYBOY

Well, he's dead.

Revisiting the "Approved Comics' line of adjectivial Boys on the march for freedom and prosperity brings us to Larry Jett, a.k.a. "Flyboy," ace of the skies!

Flyboy and Happy are not cut out for war.
Larry and his pudgy sidekick Happy Holiday (I'm not sure which of those is the affectionate nickname part of the guy's handle, if not both, so I'm assuming it's his Christian name) are air cadets in the American military, learning to protect America's skies but also to use the power of military air power to foil kidnapping and sexual harassment. I'm okay with this.

The only downside is that Flyboy is something of a feckless fuck-up, although his intentions are good. Except for those occasions when his intentions fly in direct opposition to the orders he was given. I mean, those are also good, but sometimes he doesn't do it for much of a good reason.

The most interesting thing about Flyboy is that none of his adventures really happen in the sky, for the most part. He's not in aerial dogfights, he's not racing across country or narrowly escaping big storms. What he DOES do, however, is find a bunch of crooks at their hideout because some Lenny-from-Mice-And-Men type thug manages to idly shoot Flyboy's plane out of the air from a sitting position on the ground. Seems to me the comic should be about the man-child who is depicted literally shooting the heads off of nails at thirty feet. Gunboy!

They never did.
He and Happy manage to pick up some sort of aerial Amber Alert, then buzz a car they believe contains a kidnapped child. They proceed to harass the car, even threatening it with their props, before driving it off the road. The kid actually got out earlier so he isn't dead, but I still think that's kind of a bum way to stop kidnappers.

AND, lastly, Larry gets in dutch with a civilian roughneck working on the camp's laundry detail, on account of Larry kept the knucklehead from groping a female co-worker. I'm on Larry's side, but then I worry about the guy because he didn't seem to notice that the big idiot sewed a bunch of mothballs into Larry's jacket, causing him to have blackouts and dizzy spells during his training flights. Larry's a fucking menace.

What's worse is that he doesn't have a lot to look forward to. If the final story in the issue -- not a Flyboy tale, but a traditional war comic -- we're given a story about a guy who gets into war but doesn't really get off on killing people, then later is a prisoner for a while and ends up being way too enthusiastic about killing people. That's the happy ending in question, that the guy is excited to turn a lot of military wives into widows. Those are even his words. Flyboy would be better served getting washed out of the military and picking up a hack license, I gotta be honest.

Sounds .... great.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DUCK AND COVER



Given the current political climate, you'd be forgiven for finding yourself thrown back in your imagination to the days of the Cold War -- providing you'd lived through any significant component of it.

I did, and I remember the persistent, inherited dread of nuclear annihilation which infiltrated the fabric of everyday conversation. If you think today's doomsday preppers are a strange and nihilistic bunch, then you have got to hop back a few decades and check in on moms talking about how scared they'd be of radioactive fallout raising red-and-blue rings under their children's skin, and having their hair fall out in clumps as they vainly tried to take in water through loose teeth and cracked lips. "Billy is such a vibrant boy, and I definitely don't want to bury his limp and sore-festooned corpse in the dry, unforgiving earth, my strength failing me from hunger and radiation poisoning" they'd say, or something not dissimilar.




I exaggerate for something resembling comic effect, but the fact was that my church held occasional atomic war preparedness seminars, and we still had to have a day at school where the teachers showed us where the fallout shelters were.

What we didn't have was "duck and cover" drills, a form of desperate survivalism taught alongside Social Studies and Home Ec a generation or two before my own. The specter of nuclear annihilation had begun, by my younger years, to carry with it such a spontaneous and immediate implication of total destruction that, I think, the idea of jumping under a desk was patently absurd to my peers, and even our parents, across the board. We'd come to accept that humankind had, as a whole, agreed to adopt into our world a means of self-destruction so thorough and absolute that the only defense against it was hoping that you'd be one of the ones who died immediately and without suffering or, worse yet, awareness of the bomb.




Death is inevitably sudden, even when it's drawn out. A loved one dying in pieces in a hospital bed will still leave you gobsmacked by the suddenness and even the unpredictability that death brings. What the threat of nuclear annihilation did was make death not only sudden, but immediate. It was a fait accompli. We were living like it had already happened. A real fucking mindbender for a whole raft of generations, the pathology of which we're still suffering under.

With all of that in mind, I'd occasionally catch a Duck and Cover film or pamphlet. That its directions were worse than useless in the face of an increasing destructive capabilities of an expanding worldwide arsenal was plain to see. What I used to wonder about, though, was ... Sure, you've hidden behind a desk, or a bookshelf, or a low wall. But what if the bomb exploded on the other side?

Another gift of the constant nuclear-era paranoia infused on us by the mutually assured destruction and bouncing rubble of the anticipated apocalypse was gallows humor like a motherfucker. I've never been able to view any media of anyone protecting themselves against an atomic explosion without thinking "Bad news, the second nuke's landing to the South of that wall. Sorry Sally, you're a poignant shadow now!"


That dread of nuclear devastation has popped up again, as it will do in a culture that is persistently technologized towards conflict and destruction. Strangely, the fear of nuclear war and the international aggression which presages it was a motivating factor among the voting public, and they voted for it. (If you consider that a partisan jab, I will violate a personal rule and admit that, at least in this instance, "both sides are equally bad." It's not as though there hasn't been a foreign nuclear boogeyman for every administration since Kennedy).  That we continue to reinforce the structural environment of nuclear dread seems to speak contrarily to our disinterest in having our entire civilization atomized into a future paleontologist's particularly interesting sediment layer.

But it does mean that, culturally, we're having a guilty awakening. Nuclear dread and zombie-based entertainment -- also a big player in the present-day mindset -- tend to come from the same emotional reservoir; the feeling that someone took us out of the driver's seat when we weren't paying attention, and now we have to face the music for the path we took. Someone else is in control, and it's not someone with our best interests at heart. It's the feeling that all of our good times came at a cost, and the cost is catastrophic and has to be paid in a big burst of terror and panic. Its the conviction that all we can do is duck, cover, and hope the worst of it gets blocked by the couch.




Play us out, Bert.



Monday, February 20, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : 07 - ADVENTURE INTO FEAR



Micronauts vol.1 No.7 (Jul 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Steve Coffin and the Micronauts (See them at the Santa Clara County Fair on the Third Stage with Mudhoney and the comedy of Bill Engvall, this weekend!) are taking a break from the hectic past few issues, hiding out at the Coffin Family bog-shack somewhere in the Houses-Made-Of-Found-Objects part of the Everglades.  No end of authorities are currently on the lookout for them -- NASA security, the county police, Phil Prometheus' cyborg H.E.L.L. security force, and so on. In fact, the one entity which has basically tabled their search for our heroes is Baron Karza, currently occupied by a rebellion, an escape and a curious cosmic phenomenon.

There is no greater compliment.
During the downtime, Biotron and Arcturus Rann take center stage as the foundations of the Micronauts' universe is established in flashback. We meet, for the first time, Rann's parents and Homeworld's demigods Dallan and Sepsis, along with their slimy Chief Scientist Karza, still-human at this point.

From there, the mechanics of Rann's millennium-long tour of the Microverse is expanded upon, with the "telepathic exploration" having been kind of a vague idea up to this point. While he 'sleeps' in suspended animation, Rann's mind directs and communicates through Biotron as they bring a message of peace and diplomacy to "countless far-flung worlds."

The telepathic connection between Man and Roboid (the tenderest of all affections) changes Biotron, and gives him what no Roboid has had before. A dick. No, wait, I'm being facetious -- he gets feelings! Real human emotion, not just programmed call-and-response! And it's this deep emotion that allows him to recall with bitterness the futility and mockery of his mission, as Karza's science allows a military force to move at superluminal speeds and conquer every one of the worlds which The Endeavor visited in peace.

In a transcendental passage, Biotron goes on to explain the tortured nightmares of Arturus Rann, hijacked both physically and mentally by the unknowable Time Travelers and the Enigma Force of which they are only agents. The emotional bond between Rann and Biotron was forever forged that day, as fear of the unknown filled their mutual minds with revulsion and fear. That's neat. I like this. I like this part of the comic. It's good.

Transcendentally good.

Meanwhile, over in the Microverse, Karza has a flotilla of ships analyzing and studying the titanic form of Phil Prometheus, who has lost his mind and much of his artificial skin. He's floating around spouting gibberish with a face like a Wurlitzer. He's basically Dion MacGregor but made of pennies. Whatever the case, his research is bound to pay off, as the final panel of the story promises the audience that Karza's gonna come climbing outta that damn Prometheus Pit. They need to put a door on that thing.

Ray Coffin is also still floating around, being harangued by a Time Traveler into becoming a "champion" to battle Karza. This is a brief scene, as is the one wherein Slug and Argon learn that at least one branch of Karza's ominous Shadow Priests is on the rebellion's side. These are short because of MAN-THING!

MICRO-SIZED MAN-THING hits the scene, drawn from his swampy enclosure by Steve's fear for his father's safety. It's a relatively by-the-book kind of battle between the Micronauts and Marvel's man-muck monster-guy, since Man-Thing isn't exactly a quipper. In fact, it's a fun fight scene with tons of toy spaceships given feature space and Steve getting to chop Man-Thing to a billion pieces with a convenient airboat. But the actual excitement is that this places the Micronauts' adventures smack in the Marvel Universe, meaning more intriguing crossovers are pending.

Letters page fun! Well, there's not much, except for a relatively disturbing  profile of Bill Mantlo (left). There's also a passing reference made to Doug Moench's work on Shogun Warriors, which brings up something I'd been meaning to mention about Mantlo's and Moench's styles when it came to the licensed material. Moench, both with Shogun Warriors, Godzilla and, to a degree, with his work on Shang-Chi and assorted monster titles, was fantastic at creating homages. His work was very much an ode to the oeuvre and genre which he had inherited (This is probably what made him such a good choice to script several of Marvel's literary adaptations).

By contrast, Mantlo built worlds inspired by some unspoken element inherent in the toy being merchandised. It's neither better nor worse than Moench's approach, but having Rom and Micronauts in the same universe as Shogun Warriors and Godzilla -- and, for that matter, being more closely united than any other Marvel title by dint of being licensed works -- makes for a genuinely interesting narrative topography when taken as a whole.

Next issue! A character debuts that made me have to pay collector's prices for the fuckin' issue! I'm still bitter!

Friday, February 17, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : TYRANNICAL TEAMS



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).

Everything's better with friends, and that includes villainy! Plus, since the heroes have had the temerity to form their Leagues and Squadrons and Societies, it's only fair that the bad guys get their Legions, Gangs and Syndicates. Here's a collection of sinister societies and the dopes who populate them ...

DEATH-THROWS
Created by: Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary
Debuted in: Hawkeye vol. 1 No.3 (Marvel Comics, November 1983), Captain America vol. 1 No.317 (Marvel Comics, May 1986)

A team of evil mercenary jugglers may be a redundant phrase, but it's also the least-threatening-sounding theme for a group of bad guys outside of "The cast of Hamilton goes spree-killing." And yet, in the wild and wonderful world of Mark Gruenwald's Captain America, they was for REAL!

The 'Throws consisted of Bombshell, Oddball, Knick-Knack, Ten-Pin and Ringleader, all of which sound like what you might blurt out in panic if someone asked you to name the Seven Dwarves. Originally, the 'Throws started off as a duo who fought Hawkeye and Mockingbird, heroes with arrows and a large stick respectively, and against whom maybe they had a chance. Then they fought Captain America, a super-strong man whose shield can literally stop whole tanks and, therefore, fuck a juggling club is what. Let's see how Lin-Manuel Miranda does with his weaponized jabot.


DESERT DWELLERS
Created by Steve Engelhart and Al Milgrom
Debuted in: West Coast Avengers vol. 2 No.17 (Marvel Comics, February 1987)

I spent most of my life in Tucson, Arizona, and your inevitable condolences are appreciated. It's a beautiful land with a complicated ecosphere, home to dozens of cultures with rich heritages, a vibrant art community, and race crimes. Still, although I never truly appreciated its beauty until I became an adult, I nonetheless thought as a kid and continue to think now that the Desert Dwellers, villains based on the flora, fauna and climate of the Sonoran Desert, sucked yucca.

There was Sunstroke, the villain who primarily kills senior citizens on their way to the mailbox, and the adroitly-eponymous Cactus and Gila. Protip: They had the powers of cacti and gila monsters. Rounding out the group was a powerful rock-woman named Butte. Ironically, she was more top-heavy than butt-y.

When it came time to magnify the threat of the Desert Dwellers, they decided to ... clone a bunch of them. IT IS A RICH ECOSPHERE. There's even more than one kind of cactus, goddamnit. I burn for a villainous javalina-person.



THE BIG GANG
Created by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane
Debuted in: The Atom vol.1 No.34 (DC Comics, December 1967)

If you're facing the world's tiniest superhero, you'll want to go as big as possible. On the other hand, you might want to literally go big and not just have a bunch of inane, nearly-pointless "big" themed powers.

Among its roster, some of the members sounded like a good place to start: Big Ben was their strategist and kept his eye on the scheduling of their antics. Big Bertha possessed the power of her namesake, and Big Shot had a bunch of trick guns ("shooting someone dead" is the number one trick gun trick, but maybe he gets bored easily).

Those are the good ones. Then there's Big Wig (who has exploding hairpieces, which you'll want to watch out for), Big Deal (who has exploding and steel-tipped playing cards) and, uh Big Cheese, who is armed with trick cheeses. Actually, I love this idea. Give 'em a movie.


THE 99
Created by Kevin Maguire
Debuted in: Trinity Angels #1 (Acclaim Comics, July 1997)

For Kevin Maguire's Hong Kong cinema-inspired jiggles-and-giggles supernatural superhero action-comedy Trinity Angels (and that was a lot of adjectives used to try to get a grip on this thing), it was only natural that the sexy, scantily-clad super-ladies whose names were on the masthead would have equally unsexy enemies. 

Thus, the Ninety-Nine, a group of otherworldly weirdos who seemed to have fallen fully-formed off of a joke scribbled on a bathroom stall. Meet The Prick, who shoots pricks (as in, fires needles from his body, not "shoots and murders people who are pricks"), a gaseous villain Blowhard, and something called the Mad Cow who could shoot milks of different offensive capabilities from his udders. Yes, "his." Gender is a spectrum, folks.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : INVISIBLE BOY

Nah, but it's cool.


"Invisible Boy" Danny Blake gets something resembling a title of his own, with a bold logo and the legend "Death stalks the night ... TERROR IN THE STREETS. Invisible BOY!" emblazoned across the masthead situated like a halo above a painting of a murky, juvenile figure kicking the shit out of fake bedsheet ghosts sporting guns.

In fact, he's actually the star of something called "Approved Comics." In an ocean of "action" and "adventure" and "spine-tingling chills," "approved" is very much the Parental Permission Slip of comic book antics. "We'll sell you the whole seat, but you'll only need the approval!"

Ether is fantastic. 
The timidity of the title aside,  Invisible Boy relates the adventures of Danny Blake, young son of sometimes-effective police commissioner (poet, painter and printmaker) William Blake and a good friend of Professor Willard Crown, a scientist who has literally unlocked the secrets of the alchemists and cold fusion, for that matter, all of which he keeps in a coffee cup. Also he turned Danny invisible accidentally while getting his ass kicked. ALL IN DUE TIME

Professor Crown is frequently visited by Danny, during which times the Prof amazes the youngster with chemical antics which he describes as the result of "My good luck to stumble upon some of the ancient formulas of the past." He can literally change lead into gold, which he exhibits by turning a common lead sinker into a two-hundred dollar hunk of precious metal. Later, he accidentally turns his coffee spoon into gold, which implies that he uses lead utensils for eating and drinking and maybe he's actually afflicted in the brainpan.

It's while hanging out with the Prof and learning all sorts of new chemical secrets of the distant past -- turning lead to gold, turning fire to gold, doubling gold and reversing it, giving names to frogs, creating everlasting gobstoppers, flight, magic missile, detect undead and so on, most of which I just made up -- that Danny accidentally gains his amazing powers.

"I'm helping!"
Scars Mason, a crook for whom Danny's father has been fruitlessly searching, shows up at the Prof's house and takes the duo hostage. At some point -- and that point can be identified as "the moment the Prof accidentally shows the murderer that he can make gold out of anything and the murderer got kind of excited about that" -- a scuffle emerges. Danny gets knocked against a shelf which contains a chemical formula so dangerous, so deadly, so incontrovertibly bad that Danny was warned never to touch it, much less smash into the tall, shallow shelf which supported it.

The formula is, of course, invisibility formula, and it doesn't seem all that bad. Danny and his clothes go peek-a-boo, and a different chemical reverses the effect. I'm not seeing the downside, but maybe the Prof is over-concerned in general.

Danny's adventures as an invisible crimefighter span a pretty wide arc of intensity. In his third adventure, for instance, he uses his invisibility power to humiliate a dude who's been cockblocking him at a tea party. Just before that, he turned a machine gun on the cops and tried to crush a buunch of commie agents under a newspaper printing press. Invisible Boy is hardcore. I/b/h/c

It's true, Invisible Boy spends three of four adventures beating criminal adults on the heads with dangerous implements. He hucks wrenches and other tools straight at the faces of a bunch of bad guys who're hanging out at an allegedly haunted mansion, using bedsheets to scare away intruders. He knocks a home invader in the mush with a vase. He sends printing press paper rolls on Commie agents, objects of such weight that they can easily kill a man, and only stops because he can't get the last one to shift. He's all tuckered out from the brutal murders.

He also enjoys kicking them in the butt.

With those three adventures in place, it's no surprise that he considers it fair play to use his invisibility powers to scare away the other potential suitors of his young girlfriend. My guess is that the dangerous side effect of Professor Crown's invisibility formula is that it creates tremendous mood swings and violent behavior in test subjects. Only you can't tell Danny about the potential side effects, because he;ll just go invisible and smack you in the head with a crowbar.

That's because you've been destroyed by chemicals. RIP Invisible Boy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : DEAD AND MARRIED

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 Fourteen : Dead and Married

Every now and again, the Swamp Thing television show acknowledges the character's horror comic roots (and, for that matter, how Alan Moore transitioned the character into his expanded consciousness plant god by way of apprenticing him to John Constantine, who was sort of a sexy version of the Crypt Keeper, unless you already thought the Crypt Keeper was sexy). This isn't a guarantee of taste and glory. After all, it gave us the moralistic (and, for that, wonderful) "Smoke and Mirrors," an episode I enjoy solely because of its runaway awfulness. On the other hand, it gives us "Dead and Married," a pretty good horror story in which Swamp Thing exists primarily to move the action along.

Guest-star Phillip Michael Thomas and Sheila Wills play Barry and Daphne Scott, a bickering married couple who are introduced to the audience with their car buried halfway in the swamp. Apparently stranded, they're stumbled across by Will Kipp, leading some sort of Swamp Scout tour of the Universal Studios backlot (maybe that's how he makes his spending cash, since I can't imagine that the USA Network paid very well. Golbert Gottfried was paid for Up All Night in meal vouchers. True fact, you can Ask Jeeves).

Google Maps is probably to blame.
The mixed blessing of being apparently rescued from being bogged down in the swamp (yay) and having to deal with Will Kipp (boo) becomes a total non-mixed non-blessing, i.e. a plastic bummer. Turns out, you see, that the Scotts are actually a married couple who were deliberately run off the road after attending a high school reunion, and whose spirits have hung around their demolished car all these years! SEE? A GOOD PREMISE!

Will finds the corpses inside the car and calls the cops, giving Swamp Thing enough time to interview the Scotts like some sort of vegetarian Katie Couric. From them we learn their backstory, that Barry Scott is an awful jerk and probably someone murdered them because they hated him a whole bunch. If that was a good enough reason for murder, Will Kipp would not be wandering around and stealing dead peoples' cars.

Still waiting for the seat warmers to kick in. 
Yep, that's Will's big role in this story -- he drags the car out of the swamp and cleans it up, it's his now, dead people funk or no dead people funk!

Actually, this is the first time wherein I found Will Kipp to be valuable in a story-telling sense. Swamp Thing has filled Will in on the Scott's condition, and instructed him to rebuild the car as part of a Scooby-Doo-esque plot to solve their murders. Will also acts as liaison between the Scotts -- whom he can see and talk to via the rear view mirror of the restored vehicle -- and Swamp Thing, a guy who stays away from cars even though he could easily pay for a ride with copious amounts of grass, if not the ass or gas.

I never noticed it before, but Will has kind of a Dean Cain vibe going on.
As an aside, there's some effort made this season to establish Will as some sort of local lothario, possibly to make up for the absence of Abigail in these episodes. In this case, the sexual energy manifests itself in the form of one of Will's girlfriends getting all horned up because Will restored a Buick Skylark that had dead people in it. I won't kink shame.

By chance, the NEXT school reunion happens to be taking place just as Will finishes fixing up the car, which leads to the daffiest part of the plan: Will takes a job as a bartender at the reunion, brings the car, sets it up as a raffle prize, and then tells everyone that it used to have dead people in it just to see if anyone freaks out in a telling fashion. Will? EVERYONE WILL FREAK OUT, you freak. It's a freaky thing to tell people.

Wanna feel old? This is the cover to Parallel Lines today.
It sort-of does and sort-of doesn't work, this plan. A quintet of characters -- Barry and Daphne's former classmates and people who are incredibly bad at acting drunk on camera -- have no measurable response worth mentioning, but that's probably just the acting. As it is, they're all suspects, if just because they don't introduce any other characters.

(The worst of the fake drunks get a scare put into them by Swamp Thing, and they decide not to drive drunk. The shadow of Smoke and Mirrors looms large, polluting everything with public service announcements).

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH"


It does turn out that two of the former classmates did indeed murder Barry and Daphne -- but not because of Barry. They were out to get Daphne! AWWW SON IT'S AN IRONIC TWIST, way to go USA Network's late-night syndicated Swamp Thing television show! Today, you are a man.

Turns out that the Scott's lawyer murdered them to claim some stock that Daphne had been buying on the downlow for years. How he gets it, I dunno, but he needs it to offset his wife's expensive buying habits, and the two collaborated on the murder. What that gets them is -- and please, prepare your chef kiss fingers to properly celebrate this primo grade-A classic horror ironic twist ending -- they also crash their car in the swamp and their ghosts hang around and think they're still alive, just like Barry and Daphne in the beginning of the episode! Bad-ass! Someone wrote something like an actual story for this show for once! I love you once again, USA Network's Swamp Thing television series! Never let me down again.

"I can't get a signal."


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TUMBLR TUESDAY: SMACK!

Broadway Hollywood Blackouts vol.1 No.2 - Stanhall Publications, 1954




Monday, February 13, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : 06 - THE GREAT ESCAPES



Micronauts vol.1 No.6 (Jun 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Bob McLeod
Letterer: Diana Albers
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Miserable astronaut dad Ray Coffin and evil robot jerk Dr.Phil Prometheus have fallen down the Prometheus Pit into the Microverse -- a journey which has been fatal to everyone who's ever attempted it before! Steve, the Micronauts and Muffin have rescued Bug and are now running for their lives through the halls of H.E.L.L. to escape Prometheus' cyborg security force! And Biotron is back in the Coffin's garage, trying to repair the Endeavor and not get killed by the Coffin's pet cat! It's action-packed!

Super-ominous
Biotron had stayed behind to effect repairs on the Micronauts' ship, the Endeavor, but piqued the interest of the Coffin's hungry pet cat. Steve didn't feed the little furball before rushing off the NASA two issues ago and, having read ahead, that cat ain't getting fed anytime soon. There's also something ominous about a scene where Biotron circles around a box to out-maneuver the cat, but the box bears the label of its ownder -- COFFIN -- and, well, be safe Biotron.

Prometheus and Coffin -- comedy darlings of Vaudeville -- tumble through the corridor to the Microverse, shrinking and passing through increasingly weirder environments. The strain of it is too much for Phil Prometheus, who promptly loses his mind, while Ray vanishes in a blink of light. Where does he reappear? Well, it's somewhere in the middle of Microspace and there's a Time Traveller leering over his shoulder, and it frankly looked like a scene from an intergalactic episode of OZ.

"A MA-YUNN!!
Prometheus -- reduced in scale by his trip through dimensions but still a giant compared to any denizen of the Microverse --  causes a real shake-up in Baron Karza's citadel. While he and his army respond to the incursion of a giant, unknown entity, rebelllion leader Slug effects an escape from the Body Bank prisons for herself and the recently centaured Prince Argon.

This issue feels mostly like a place setting episode, with the heroes being suddenly reunited, the villains receiving their ultimate weapon, and the deus ex machina being set up in the background.

Having stolen his father's truck (or, borrowed, to be generous), Steve and the team make it back to the Coffin house, from which Biotron has just violently flung Steve's cat. He's got those Super Powers arms that spin when you squeeze his legs, I think. Slug and Argon get to the Resistance, Duchess Belladonna still sits around waiting for a new body, and everything is basically placed in a nice, quiet place so that, next issue, we can start bringing in mainstream Marvel characters! Hoorah!

I'm including a two-page spread from this issue because something which I think might be fairly obvious had never occurred to me before seeing these two pages: There are a lot of similarities between Michael Golden's and British artist Alan Davis' styles. I've been following Davis' work since I was a kid, and was lucky enough to stumble on some ex-pat's enormous collection of British comics at the local used bookstore for a quarter-each. Pretty much the only kid in America with a complete Marvel Super Heroes Weekly collection, I presume. The two of them are relatively contemporaries, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Golden was some influence on Davis.

Is it just me or ...

Anyway, next issue, whoever knows fear knows what comes next!

Letters page bonus! Kurt Busiek (Age 18 at the time of this issue's release) writes a largely glowing review of the second issue, with his only complaints being admirably concise criticisms of lettering and coloring specifics. Below that, it's thanks to Danny M.Davids of Colorado Springs, CO, that we know "Acroyear" is pronounced "Ak-ROY-er," LIKE I LONG SUSPECTED!

Bonus scan - the language of Homeworld!

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