Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Just a quick wish for a Happy & Safe Halloweeen, darlings!
We won't even go for a "How about those pumpkins?" remark, since we are all adults here.
Later for other things.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Bots Are Back!!!!!!!!!

Just got this from the MST3K mailing list. (If you don't already know, BBI stands for Best Brains, Inc.)

Beginning November 5th, BBI will be launching its very own website at The site will feature brand-new animated adventures of Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy. We're told the goal is to have one new adventure each week (though "some settling may occur with shipping," they added). The Web site will also feature work from the original series (which BBI is now calling "the legacy series"), behind-the-scenes footage and other material culled from the BBI vault.

You can bet that I'll be adding a link over on the side ASAP.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Nation World Champs Baby!!!!

Dude! What more needs to be said??

Red Sox Nation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Firefighter Tribute

Let's take four and a half minutes to think about the men and women who go where the rest of us will not.

If this doesn't touch you, something is wrong!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Four Color Fiend: Quick Comic Reviews

The headline doesn’t need explaining for folks who have been around for a while. I’ll only say that posts with that title will generally cover several reviews at once. They will also be filled with the usual Spoilers where I give away every plot and surprise that I can.









DC Countdown #29-28 – I find that I’m almost agreeing with the guys over on Pulp Secret on this title. Yawwwwwwn!!! It really is beginning to grow tiresome, not to say confusing with no resolution in sight. If anything more plot threads are left dangling with each issue, as characters are introduced (sometimes identified, other times not) and then be killed or otherwise disappear from the story.

This time around The Jokester from the Crime Syndicate’s world is killed off, just after discovering that it was his daughter (known on our world as the Joker’s Daughter) had been killed previously. We also have Monarch show up with Forerunner, on the world ruled by Lord Havok and his super-powered group The Extremists. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, Kyle Raynor and Bob the Monitor, along with The Jokester, had transported to this world earlier where they had been captured and tortured. At the end of #28, Forerunner holds an unconscious Donna in her arms while Monarch offers Lord Havok the opportunity to join him or else.

Back on Earth-One Jimmy Olsen, has fled Project Cadmus, joined up with the Newsboy Legion and then been captured by Forager. If you don’t follow any of this, don’t feel bad. You either have had to been reading the DCU for years or been familiar with Jack Kirby’s classic Fourth World series of books. It remains amazing that DC continues to ring stories and plots from books that according to the then Powers That Were didn’t sell well enough to continue.

Anyway, Forager (the female one) has been sent by New Genesis to investigate the deaths of the New Gods. Since that particular story is going to be forthcoming in a mini-series by that very name we will skip any further comment. Although it should be noted that writer/artist John Byrne has all but forbidden folks over on his forum/message board from talking about that series.

In another couple of weeks Countdown will change its title to “Countdown to Final Crisis”, leaving no question that this story will not so much end as stop dead in its tracks and continue next year.

Sergio Aragones Groo 25th Anniversary Special – It’s hard to believe that Aragones & Co. have been turning out the adventures of the World’s dumbest barbarian for this long. It’s more amazing that they continue to make the book so entertaining that folks still wait eagerly for every one-shot and mini-series.

If you don’t know, Groo was created as sort of a spoof of Conan. He is an amazing swordsman who wanders his world in search of battles or at least somebody willing to feed him for doing something, usually deadly or brave. Did I mention that Groo was dumb? If it wasn’t for the fact that he was so deadly with his weapons it’s hard to imagine anything simple enough for Groo to do that would keep him fed.

Groo, besides being dumb, is also very kind hearted and even generous if it doesn’t involve giving away his current meal. Traveling with his faithful, and much smarter, dog Rufferto he constantly discovers new ways to destroy anything in his path, always seeming to do the right thing despite himself.

This particular book has two Groo adventures, one with an adult Groo and the other dealing with an event from his childhood, featuring his conniving grandmother. It also contains the Groo Alphabet, which re-introduces many of the reoccurring characters that have appeared in the series since it began. Many of these characters have discovered that Groo is dumb.

(I recommend both the Wikipedia article on Groo and heading over to Mark Evanier’s site where on his Front Page you’ll find a link to even more information on the character.)

Marvel Zombies 2 - I don’t remember the last Marvel comic I bought, but I think it may have been the last issue of THUNDERBOLTS before it switched to some silly thing about super-powered wrestlers. The last title from Marvel that I recall reading was a thin pamphlet from Free Comics Day promoting the then up-coming “House of M”, so you can figure out when that was.

Despite all the talk on fan sites about CIVIL WAR and WORLD WAR HULK, it probably comes as a surprise (or not, depending on how well you know me) that the very first Marvel comic I buy is the second part of the very dark, yet amusing to a degree MARVEL ZOMBIES. No, it’s not a story about X-Men fans at San Diego! It really is about our favorite undead creatures. Think George Romero doing SUPER-FRIENDS.

In an alternate universe a cosmic event begins to transform Marvel heroes and villains into flesh eating zombies. It is bad enough when you have regular undead folks running around trying to eat your brain, but when they can swing from webbing, grow to gigantic size and have gamma-induced strength you know it is going to get really bad.

At the end of the first series, a group of Zombies (you can spot some of them in the picture reproduced above) devour first the Silver Surfer and then Galactus. Since this transfers some of their cosmic power to each of them (Hey, I’m not Reed Richards! I can’t explain it, okay?), they decide to eat their way across the universe. As the new series begins they realize they have eaten everything there was to consume and not being able to devour each other they need to find a new food source. Fortunately for them, if not for other folks, they remember a device capable of transporting them to other universes where food is still plentiful.

This was actually fun and I’m trying to fill myself in on the whole Marvel Zombie books and tie-ins via Wikipedia and other sites. Writer Robert Kirkman brings just enough humor into the book to keep it from getting too heavy. Artist Sean Philips’ art is particularly creepy to make things scary, but not overly so. My only complaint is that the coloring in some spots does make it hard to tell what is going on. I know this is a horror story, but I'd still like to see what it going on!
I would not recommend this for readers under 16 yrs old, or people offended by guys with their intestines hanging out or having them eaten. There also seem to be zombie good guys, but I guess that’s a matter of degree.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

OTR: Sherlock Holmes from London with Carlton Hobbs & Norman Shelly

I love the way that this program begins. We have Watson and Holmes hailing a driver to take them to 221-B Baker Street at the end of an adventure. The announcer then says “From London…” and goes on to announce the up-coming Holmes tale. The program jumps right the adventures, again adapted from the original stories by Sir Arthur.

This time out British actor Carlton Hobbs (the rather Holmesian looking gentleman on the left) played the role of the Great Detective. Before and after that time he also appeared in a number of BBC television productions including I, CLAUDIUS & PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (his final appearance). He played Holmes for BBC radio in over 80 performances, from 1952-1969. Oddly, he had also played Watson earlier opposite Arthur Wontner as Holmes in 1943.

Norman Shelly (the older man who looks very much as we would picture the elder Watson), who was known primarily for his radio performances, played throughout Dr. John Watson. Shelly actually stood in for Winston Churchill in radio speeches when it was deemed too dangerous during WWII for the Prime Minister’s whereabouts to be known. In 1954, Shelly appeared in the dual roles of “Nana” and The Crocodile, opposite Mary Martin & Cyril Richard in Broadway’s PETER PAN. He repeated the performances, along with Martin & Richard in the televised versions in 1955 and 1960.

As with the earlier shows with Gielgud & Richardson, Hobbs and Shelly pull off fine performances as the famous duo. Also, as in the previous episodes (three of which are presented in the compilation) the adaptations are pretty straightforward and the characterizations spot on. The three here are all written by Michael Hardwick, who with his wife and fellow writer Mollie Hardwick (known for novelizations of the series “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Duchess of Duke Street”) wrote several Holmesian pastiches, including the novelization of the Billie Wilder film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”.

You’ll all be happy to hear that this ends my ranting on the Holmes OTR programs for now. I’ll be picking up another audio book or OTR compilation pretty soon; so don’t get feeling too smug. Admit it, you click over to another blog as soon as you see what I’m writing about anyway, don’t you?

OTR: Sherlock Holmes w/ Sir Ralph Richardson & Sir John Gielgud

Actors can make or break a role, especially with such iconic characters as Holmes & Watson. The choice of Richardson & Gielgud (Watson and Holmes, respectively) was brilliant and their interpretations a delight. After the rather disappointing performances (at least to me) of John Stanley and Alfred Shirley having two great actors made quite a difference.

Gielgud and Richardson accurately portray the characters as Sir Arthur created them. These were two men that admired and trusted each other, though having two very different personalities and upbringings. You never get the feeling, as you did with many actors who looked to the later films by Rathbone and Bruce for inspiration, that Holmes barely tolerated Watson and actually felt he was a burden on occasion. In these performances the two men were obviously friends with a great affection for each other.

These British programs adapted the original Conan Doyle stories, rather than a mixture of old and new, as had the American programs. The Scottish born John Kier Cross wrote the adaptations. Cross started his career writing various programs for radio, including those for children, at the BBC in the late 1930s, going on to do work in American television years later (among them scripts for Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology program). His work on the Sherlock Holmes series included Doyle’s tale of when Holmes & Watson met and both “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Empty House”. The last two dealt with the apparent death of Holmes and his miraculous ‘resurrection’ some three years later.

I was surprised to discover that in the episode based on “The Final Problem” Orson Welles guest-starred in the role of Professor Moriarty. According to the notes accompanying the Radio Spirit collection, Welles had actually been approached by the show’s producer to play Holmes, but was unable to do so because of his schedule. Gielgud was then offered the role, with Welles agreeing to appear for this one program. Fascinating that Welles would play the very villain he faced as Holmes a little more than twenty-five years earlier.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Killer Shrews movie trailer

One of my all time favorite movies. Perhaps that explains a lot!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Did you know there was a baseball game last night?

There really isn't anything I have to add is there?
We are already stocking up on snacks for the World Series and will be wearing my Sox cap everyday starting Wednesday.
If they were playing any team BUT Boston I would actually be rooting for Colorado, who have had an amazing run.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kung Fu Jimmy Chow

I forgot to add a headline or comments to explain the video link below. It's a great anime spoof called KUNG FU JIMMY CHOW, which is most certainly not for youngsters!

Blood, profanity and other awesomefullness! Head over to CAMP CHAOS via the headline above for much more.

I think I'm losing it with all this lately.

JLA/HITMAN: On the Darkside #1-2

Back in the Other Life, I used to read dozens of comics each month. Heck, it wasn’t unusual to pick up a dozen titles any time I stopped off at the local shop each week. There were a lot of books I bought each month, some mini-series and lots of one-shots & specials. They would all be cataloged and then put in the order in which I planned to read them. I always tried to read the #1 issues as soon as I could, so I knew if I should continue to pick up that particular series. Some books ended up at the bottom of the stack and I might not get to them for a week or longer.

Then there were titles that I just had to read as soon as I had the chance. One of those was HITMAN by Garth Ennis and Joel McCrea. The hitman of the title was Tommy Monaghan, a paid assassin who only took jobs involving killing those he felt deserved to be killed. The idea of a hitman with a conscious is not original, but Ennis made the reader care about Tommy and the gang down at Noonan’s Bar. During an alien invasion in a series called BLOODLINES, if someone survived the attack of the aliens there was a slight chance that that person might develop a super-power. Tommy was one of those survivors.

Recovering from the attack Tommy discovers that he has the powers of telepathy and x-ray vision. Although both are limited to a degree, you can see how such gifts might be helpful to somebody in his line of work. Only a few people knew about his abilities, since you didn’t really want folks you might have to encounter on a job to know these sorts of things.

For sixty issues and some specials, Tommy, Sean, Natt “The Hat”, and other associates kept to the dark, streets of Gotham trying to stay one step ahead of the cops, a certain Dark Knight and others who didn’t especially care for what they were up to. In one particular issue, Tommy meets a contemplative SUPERMAN and says something to him that the Man of Steel takes to heart. This two-issue mini-series springs from that meeting to an extent and Tommy finds himself taken by BATMAN to the old JLA citadel on the Moon.

It seems that new and more deadly versions of the Bloodline aliens have taken over the astronauts of a NASA mission and members of the JLA need to deal with them. Hoping to learn something about the alien DNA from one of the few survivors of the first encounter, BATMAN brings Tommy up for some tests. The members of the JLA working on the problem are BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, FLASH (Wally West, at that point) and the then current GREEN LANTERN (Kyle “Crab-face Guy” Rayner). Ennis wonderfully captures the personalities of the various members, actually making Kyle likable if a bit befuddled by the presence of the Big Three. Superman especially comes off wonderfully and his interaction with Tommy is delightful for all the right reasons. I’m not going to give anything away, except that this is a flashback, which ends with a very nice moment with Superman back on the Moon.

I would love to have Tommy Monaghan back and the return of the multiverse to the DCU just might make that happen. Ennis and McCrea do a great job letting some of the old gang make cameos for those of us who remember them. I have always liked McCrea's art and he captures easily the major characters making everyone instantly recognizable. You have to love his faces, especially on Tommy, Batman & Superman, letting us see what the character is thinking even without Ennis adding dialogue to a panel.

Thanks to Garth and Joel for making this fanboy very happy!

(By the way, you can learn about Tommy and Co. by clicking on the headline above.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OTR: John Stanley as Sherlock Holmes

(The above headline will link to a brief obit for Edith Meiser from the New York Times.)

In the Fall of 1947, the production of the Sherlock Holmes radio program returned to New York. Conway and Bruce stayed behind so new actors were needed for the roles of Holmes and Watson. British born actor John Stanley, who began his radio career as a singer, assumed the role of the Great Detective with Alfred Shirley as his Watson.

These are not my favorite OTR performances on this Radio Spirit collection, as Holmes here seems to have almost contempt for Watson at some points. Shirley played the Doctor as Bruce did in later shows, as somewhat slow, and you again wondered why Holmes bothered to have him around. Also, Shirley sounds much older than his roommate, although in the original stories they were not that far apart in age.

Edith Meiser returns as the full-time scriptwriter with a combination of new and adapted stories. Eventually, Meiser would also go on to write the Sherlock Holmes daily newspaper strip with artist Frank Giacoia. She would sometimes adapt her own radio scripts for the strip. The more I learn of Ms. Meiser the more interesting she appears. She actually began her career as an actress, something she continued to do in television into the mid-1960s appearing in episodes of I LOVE LUCY, THE DEFENDERS and NAKED CITY.

In this season Meiser once again has some tales bringing in Professor Moriarty, who like Holmes always seems to escape certain death. Like other writers before and after, Meiser takes some of her ‘new’ stories from cases mentioned but not fully presented by Sir Arthur. Her adaptations include “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” (which she had previously written for an earlier series of shows) and “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”, one of my favorite SH tales and very creepy.

The one episode of John Stanley’s second season as Holmes included here, has Ian Martin replacing Shirley in the role of Watson. This story, “The Case of the Unwelcome Ambassador” was written not by Meiser but by Howard Merrill. Merrill, like Meiser who had begun as an actor, went on to work in television, doing scripts mostly for comedy shows such as GET SMART, F TROOP, GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW among others.

In the next installment a couple of British Knights assume the roles of Detective and Doctor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marvel "Stridex" Vintage Pack reprints (1994)

Back in the Other Life I used to hang out with lots of fine folks in the comics industry. During that time I had the opportunity to pick up at cons and through other fans some odd things. While going through the boxes of comics I still have I re-discovered some Marvel reprints which I had all but forgotten I had. I know that Debbie David worked on at least one issue as a colorist and I think that Carl Gafford may have had a hand in some as well.

The other day I was trying to catalog some of these books on Comic Collector Live. I found several were in the database listed as “Stridex 1994 reprints”, so I did some Google searching. I discovered that the books were produced by Marvel for distribution by the J.C. Penney chain as the “Marvel Vintage Pack.” One way to recognize them is the Stridex ad that appears on all the back covers.

The reprints are of Marvel titles dating from the early 1950s thru the mid-1970s. There are fifteen books in the set I have (originally sealed in a plastic bag), and I wonder if there were additional issues. I have looked in the Grand Comic Database and eBay, among other resources, and compared some of the original covers to these reprints and they appear exactly the same in every way. Even the ‘price tag’ had not been changed, reflecting the then current price of the title.

Here’s a list of the books I have:

Amazing Fantasy #13; Amazing Spider-Man Special #5 ; Avengers #88 (Harlan Ellison story, pt.1); Captain America #109; Fantastic Four #66 and #67 (Introduction of Him/Warlock); Incredible Hulk #140 (Harlan Ellison story, pt. 2); Sgt. Fury #13 (Captain America & Bucky appearance); Sub-Mariner #8; Thor Special #2; Tomb of Dracula #25; Uncanny X-Men #26 (intro of Banshee) #62 and #63 (Ka-Zar appears); Young Men #25 (on which Debbie is given credit for coloring in an addition to the indicia)

Internally, the advertisements had been changed to current ones promoting commercial products found in mainstream comics of the ‘90s. The one odd exception is YOUNG MEN, which reproduces what appear to be the original ads, but with the Stridex ad on the back cover. Otherwise, even the indicia on the splash page of the issues seem to reflect the original publication information of each book. They all have “Second printing” following the indicia, in different font and all caps.

Anybody know anything else about these books?

As I get time I may review some of these books, just for old times sake.

Friday, October 12, 2007

OTR: Sherlock Holmes with Tom Conway & Nigel Bruce

When Basil Rathbone left the role of Holmes for the New York stage, actor Tom Conway stepped in as replacement. Apparently some people didn’t even realize that Rathbone was gone as many felt that Conway’s voice was so similar. Personally, when you hear Conway as Holmes immediately after listening to the Rathbone episode you notice the difference, but after hearing several shows you see he does capture Rathbone’s style. It also helps that Nigel Bruce continued as Dr. Watson so there was a sense of continuity that might not have been there with two totally different actors.

Conway was already known to the American public as The Falcon, a role he assumed from his brother, George Sanders. Sanders had left that series to take up the part of Simon Templar (The Saint) for another series of films, and perhaps not so coincidentally later Conway played the role of Templar for radio. ( I mentioned some of this earlier when reviewing The Saint OTR collection featuring Vincent Price, Conway’s predecessor as radio’s Templar.) Both the Falcon and Templar were very similar characters, though The Saint was far better known originating in a series of novels and short stories by Leslie Charteris.

Lead writer Edith Meiser and others continued to both create new stories for the characters and do adaptations of Doyle’s original tales. Several times Meiser & Co. would even bring back Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty, but not frequently enough that he wore out his welcome. The major problem I had with the writers on the show was that they continued the habit of making Watson seem more a bumbler than the able assistant that he was in Sir Arthur’s books. This seems to have begun with how Nigel Bruce portrayed the good doctor in the films, so the radio scripters simply went with how the public seemed to perceive him.

During the season that Conway played SH, the program did several adaptations including “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge” and one of my favorites “The Red-Headed League.” Getting the story along with the intros and commercials into a thirty-minute problem made it necessary for Meiser and her co-writers to pick and choose scenes when adapting from Doyle’s works, but I must say that most come across well enough.

At the end of the ’46-’47 season, it was decided that the cost of producing the series in Hollywood, so that Conway and Bruce could continue with their film work, was becoming prohibitive. When the show returned in the fall of that year, the production had moved back to New York studios and two different actors took up residence at 221-B Baker Street. More on that next time out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Web Comics: take a chance

If you look over on The Right you'll find that I've added links for two sites where you can find web comics. If you aren't familiar with them, or are looking for something new these are two really good sources.

If you don't already know, Web Comics are comic strips/books/graphic novels which are posted by their creators. These could be on their personal sites or they could be 'hosted' by a group or publisher. Both Drunk Duck and Top Web Comics have links to dozens of different types of comics. They range from humor strips and single panels to graphic novel length story lines which go on for weeks, if not months. They also cover just about every genre you can find in print comics or on newspapers comics pages. There are even some which don't easily fall into a single genre, mixing several or creating something new.

Some of the artists and writers, often one person is credited with both, are barely above what we used to call 'fannish'. It can be crude and amateurish but often the artist shows promise and you can see her/his abilities improving over the course of the story. Other strips are done by people who are highly accomplished, even well known in the industry for other work. I should also be point out that I believe that some names credited with either art or writing may be pen-names for folks not wanting to be recognized.

Drunk Duck, besides the comics themselves, also has games based on some of the titles and tutorials for folks interested in trying their own hand on doing comics online. You might recognize some of the writers & artists you find here, plus several have published trade paperback editions collecting older strips.
Top Web Comics allows you to create your own list of favorite titles you can check each day, plus allows you to vote for each strip. The Top 100 comics are then posted on the main page, giving the creators even more exposure.

Click on over and check out each site, since you'll find comics original to each. You also should be aware that some of the strips have "adult" themes which goes from graphic violence to profanity to nudity & sexual content.
While you are at it you should also check out the newly designed ComicMix site, where you can find other examples of web comics by folks like John Ostrander, Tim Truman, Mark Wheatly and other. (Warning: Somebody I used to know has something to do with the ComicMix site, but I haven't figured out exactly what it is.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Star Trek: the Manga (TokyoPop)

This is a great way to get Star Trek fans to try something different. You already have several prose series, based on each television incarnation, as well as comic books based on each. With the popularity of Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime) it was pretty clever of the folks over at TokyoPop, a major publisher of new and translated manga, to try something like this.

This volume of stories, titled SHINSEI SHINSEI, treats us to five stories with different creative teams that show the continuing adventures of the original ST cast. Kirk, McCoy, Spock and the rest of the crew are all in character, although the manga style drawing does not present the cast as we normally picture them. Some of the artists go for a more realistic style, while others use a mixture including the highly exaggerated (with deformed facial features expressing anger, surprise, etc.).

I’m not familiar with any of the artists presented here, but most do a nice job in their interpretations of the Enterprise crew. Gregory Giovanni Johnson, in the second story “Anything But Alone” does the best when it comes to making the characters resemble the actors we are familiar with. EJ Su and Makoto Nakatsuka both have styles we immediately recognize from manga we have read, moving from Nakatsuka’s more realistic to the ‘deformed’ and big-eyed kids of Su in the last story in the book. All the artists do a good job with the action and tell the stories well.

Of the writers, I only know Mike W. Barr from his work on DC titles (like BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS) and his own creation the MAZE AGENCY, which has been distributed by several independent publishers. All the stories are decent, with the first, SIDE EFFECTS, by Chris Dows & Nakatsuka, introducing a character who just might be the original member of a race which went on to be a major ST menace. (I won’t give it away!)

Overall, if you find this in the graphic novel section of your local library, or are a real ST fan, you might enjoy this book. I wouldn’t mind finding that this is the first in a series of such manga. The TokyoPop folks have also included a 'bonus' with a prose story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, taken from a new anthology of ST short-stories STAR TREK: CONSTELLATIONS.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Boston Red Sox!

Into the post season with the boys from Beantown!
My fingers are crossed, boys!!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Countdown to Mystery & Adventure: two 1st issues

As if I were not confused enough by the goings on in the main Countdown title, I have decided to check out a couple of tie-ins. These feature characters who took part in “52” and we get to see where they are now.









Countdown to Mystery (CtM) begins by introducing the likely future DOCTOR FATE to the DCU. Grant V. Nelson is the grandnephew of the original Fate, Kent Nelson. At one time a happily married psychiatrist, an affair with a student ruined his marriage and eventually brought an end to his practice. When we first see him here he is taking part in a ‘bum fight’, eventually getting thrown into a dumpster after being beaten unconscious. Naturally, as happens in stories of this kind, this leads to his being found by the helmet, although he doesn’t fully realize it yet. As with past wearers the helmet speaks to Fate, telling him what he needs to know mystically as he confronts a demonic creature sent to kill him. This doesn’t go over well with the equally demonic rider who was the creature’s master.

Along the way we get to see not only Nelson’s past, but also some of the others who have used or tried to use the helmet since the last Doctor Fate left this mortal world. I’m really thankful to Wikipedia for filling me on what has happened to various incarnations of Fate since I last read his adventures several years ago. With seven issues left to the series I’m not sure how long the story will keep my attention, although it is great to be reading a comic by Steve Gerber again.

The second part of CtM deals with the new incarnation of ECLIPSO, most recently housed in the body of Jean Loring. Jean was the ex-wife of Ray Palmer the Silver Age ATOM. Back in IDENTITY CRISIS, the last DC books I read before picking up COUNTDOWN, Jean murdered Sue Dibney in a convoluted attempt to win Ray back. Sent to prison she discovers a shard from the black diamond in which the spirit of Eclipso was trapped. (Don’t they check these cells in maximum security for mystic devices?) Eventually, the SPECTRE separates Jean from Eclipso and exiles her to space.

I’m still not clear as to what her goals are, but we see her here manipulating Plastic Man, just she uses those same skills on Mary Marvel in the main series. However, as her encounter with Plastic Man continues we are given a flashback in which we find Eclipso still floating in space, where she was last seen, being retrieved by mysterious beings. Waking at some point later, she discovers that she is in the fortress of DARKSEID, he who had forged the original black diamond and now commands Eclipso. I can’t say that I care much for Eclipso and will be picking up this series solely on how much I continue to enjoy Gerber’s section of the book.

While CtM deals with the mystic side of the DCU, COUNTDOWN TO ADVENTURE is also split into two stories about several heroes formerly ‘lost in space’ for a year and gives us some history about FORERUNNER. Buddy Baker is ANIMAL MAN and he is having some serious problems with his powers. Buddy is able to “borrow” the abilities of any animals (from mammals to insects) he is near for a short time. Since returning to Earth at the end of 52, Buddy is having a difficult time with his powers, or using his acquired abilities for more than a few minutes.

Buddy is very happy to be back with his wife and children, but he has brought along former Titan, STARFIRE who is also having problems with her powers. In her case, she no longer seems to have any. While Buddy’s kids seem more than happy to have her as a house guest, Buddy’s wife feels that both of them would be better off going to the Titans and asking for their help. Since Starfire doesn’t want her former teammates to know she is back she and Buddy decide to keep it a secret for as long as possible. We just know that things are only going to get worse for both these heroes.

Meanwhile, the third member of the group now returned is ADAM STRANGE. Adam is now back on his adopted world of Rann. While he was off in space, following events in the Rann-Thanagar War, the good people of Rann decided they might need another hero. Going back to again to Earth they chose a former ‘ultimate fighter’ turned action-movie star as the new protector. It is obvious to Adam that they have made a poor choice, but after witnessing the borderline psychotic behavior of his replacement he decides to retire from the public spotlight. Since this new hero was also the star of the movie that had hired Buddy as a stuntman, you know that the story lines are going to come together at some point.

The back-up story in this issue gives us the origin of Forerunner, or rather the origin of her race. We find that she is actually the descendant of the survivors of eight races left on what was once Earth in an alternate reality. We won’t even try to figure out how eight totally alien races, seemingly very different physically got around certain …ahem, technical problems. We learn that all of this was actually planned millennia ago by the Monitors to create a race that would be their trained assassins. We also discover that when the race doesn’t do what they were created to do the Monitors may had a back-up plan, which involved other specially created beings to wipe out Forerunner’s entire race.
MONARCH, the former Captain Atom, who is having Forerunner train his soldiers, threw in this last part. Since he has his own plans in motion, as we witness with his recruiting of the Crime Syndicate/Society, we really don’t know if she should believe him, but of course she does.

You really should check out the essays over on Wikipedia if you are interested in any of this. I have been spending hours catching up on things that have happened over the past couple of years and am still thrown by events taking place. I’m sure that folks who have been following all these events understand things much clearer. I’m also positive that wiser folks know where all this is going while I’m still lost.

I’m going to keep picking up both these books for the next few issues at least. Try to follow along with me as I do.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dead Kennedys/ Rawhide

The intro explains just about everything you need to know.

I must have seen "Terror of Tiny Town" dozens of times as a kid.

Yi hardy ha ha!

DC COUNTDOWN #33-30 (with more spoilers than you could ever hope to read)

(Read more about the Syndicate, if you care at all, with the link in the headline above.)

This event is becoming a car wreck, from which I cannot turn away. I’m still interested enough in what is happening to Jimmy Olsen, but have begun to find most of the other characters tedious and worse, not always consistent in the way they act from issue to issue. If you don't want to know about any of this you can skip to some other blog or the links over on The Right.









Things are looking bad for the heroes of Earth-One in the DCU. Of course, things aren’t going well on some of the alternate worlds either, but it will be interesting to see how many of these survive over the next year or so. Needless, to say I expect a few more deaths (and not just the for no reason except to show what a dark little b**** Mary Marvel has become type) along the way. Hell, I’m expecting whole worlds and universes of death and destruction before the writers of this thing are done.

The hopeless Trickster & Pied Piper go from one situation to another and are frankly becoming a bit tedious. The writers seem to use them to jump for no apparent reason from one scene of chaos to another to showcase characters we don’t know. Again, it would be helpful to at least name new characters as they show up, since they all seem to know each other. A simple, “Ace-Face! What are you doing here?” might be helpful, don’t you think?

It was obvious that things would go from bad to worse for poor Jimmy Olsen when he allowed himself to be taken to Project Cadmus. Then letting yourself be strapped to some device with a name that spells out A.N.U.S. never turns out well. (You can imagine the squeals of laughter around the editorial table when somebody came up with that clever bit, can’t you?) When last seen Jimmy appears to have been split into several entities, with his physical form liquefying and slipping down a drain. This am bad juju!

Donna Troy, Jason (“I’m really not dead”) Todd and Crab-Face Guy are still traveling with Bob the Monitor. The quartet continue to pop up on one alternate Earth after the other only to find there is no reason for them to be there (Ray Palmer having long since left) except to meet with different versions of other DCU characters that we have tried to forget over the past twenty-five years. Here we get a couple of issues full of the Crime Syndicate/Society of America, basically one-note evil versions of the original Justice League. After getting their butts kicked by the CSA and joining forces with that Earth’s version of the Joker, a hero named the Jokester, the foursome plus one jumps on to a world where Jason is the current Batman and General Zod is good and known as Superman. Back on the CSA-Earth, Monarch and Forerunner (now his lieutenant) show up to offer the Syndicate a chance to be really, really evil and join forces with him.

Mary Marvel finally meets the new female Eclipso, who we knew was the unseen voice MM heard issues ago. Mary remains clueless about being manipulated and goes along with Eclipso who offers to be her mentor in nasty whatever. Meanwhile, Holly (the current Catwoman, still trying to find out exactly what the Amazons are up to) and Harley have just jumped into the waters off Paradise Island to swim with blind Great White Sharks as part of some absurd initiation rite. I guess we should be grateful that the T&A shots seem fewer in these three issues. Then again, I may have grown so accustomed to them that I don’t notice any longer.

The books are quick reads and I probably should go back to re-read the series up to this point. I may be missing something or at least figure out why I should continue to care about certain characters at this point. I know that I’m missing some of the story by not reading every single DCU book, but I don’t have the budget or interest to do so. I did pick up a couple of tie-in books this week (Countdown to Mystery & Countdown to Adventure) which I’ll talk about later this week.

Remind me again, why I’m doing this?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

OTR: Basil Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes

(The headline above will bring you to a great site from Marcia Jessen on all things Rathbone.)

Probably the actor best known as Holmes for many older Americans is Basil Rathbone. The actor played the role in fourteen films beginning with “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 1939 for the Fox studios. He co-starred in all of them with Nigel Bruce portraying his friend and colleague, Dr. Watson. While a number of others have played the Great Detective in films, they have all been compared to Rathbone to some extent. It was not until Jeremy Brett began walking the foggy streets of Victorian London in the 1980s that any other actor became so identifiable as Holmes. Although Rathbone was already a well-known screen actor (appearing often as the heavy) it is as Holmes that he will always be remembered.

Considering that he was already known for the character, it should not come as a surprise that he was eventually contracted to play Holmes for radio. Rathbone, again with Bruce playing Watson, brought adaptations of the original stories as well as new ones to the air first for NBC and later for the Mutual Network from late 1939 until 1946, when Rathbone returned to working in the theatre. While in the films Holmes found himself jumping from his familiar Victorian setting to fighting spies & saboteurs in WWII Washington and London, the radio dramas stuck closer to Sir Arthur’s original concept.

Most of these scripts were by actress/writer Edith Meiser, who with a series of assistants including Leslie Charteris (creator of THE SAINT, whom I have written about before) and Anthony Boucher (another well-known mystery writer/editor for whom an award and a mystery convention are named) was head writer on the show for over fifteen years. Meiser, was personally responsible for getting the original radio program brought to the air, even convincing William Gillette to come out of retirement to play Holmes in the premiere broadcast.

Surprisingly, Rathbone only appears in a single broadcast in this collection. It is Meiser’s adaptation of Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”, which brings Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft to Baker Street to ask for assistance. A nice adventure with spies, mysterious deaths and a young woman hoping to save the reputation of her late fiancĂ©.

I’ll have more to say on Rathbone’s successor on the series and later shows in a few days.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ghost Riders In The Sky - Vaughn Monroe

I first heard this song performed on the kid show "Boom Town" by the host Rex Trailer. Heard it again this weekend song by Gene Autry in one of the dozens of his films I watched.

It has always given me goosebumps and thought the animation here only adds to that.

Yippie yi oh!