Wednesday, June 28, 2017

QUARTER-BIN HEROES : SWORDS AND SADISM

I suspect I can pronounce that, but I'm not sure I can pronounce it ...

Rivaling the popularity of creator-owned superhero books in the self-published/small-press world was the barbarian epic, some good ol' sword-and-sorcery fantasy. The straightforward nature of the genre obviously appealed in its basic binary morality, and the cosmetic appearance of invention inherent in Fantasy made it seem like creators were creating when they were merely repeating*. So, of course fresh-faced creators loved it so much. Oh, also sometimes it was racist and sexist, or most of the time, although these books don't do too poorly ...

*This is a pet peeve but, say, you're writing a story about a world liberated from the constraints of our own world, populated by wonders beyond comprehension, the product of mythologies yet undreamed-of. And it's time to make a monster, so you stretch your imagination to its limits and you invent ... oh, a dragon. And maybe the hero is an unassuming rural figure who turns out to have a major destiny? Maybe there should be a wizard. Anyway, what I'm saying is that fantasy really encourages timidity, evidently ...  

Zölosträya and the Bard (Twilight Twins Productions)
5 issues, 1987-1988

I've just about figured out the math on these self-published 1980's black-and-white books. Introduction from the editor-slash-writer which presumes a pre-existing audience? Check. Scene where the sole female character is rescued from being raped by the lead male character in order to establish his heroism? Check. Merchandise advertised in the very first issue? Check.

Zölosträya is unique in this regards, though, as the title character is advertised as one of the creators as well. The art is a collaboration, according to the introductory text in the first issue, and Zölosträya even gets a few lines on the page in order to introduce herself and express her hope that the readers have some fun and enjoy the book. I'm trying to decide if this is charming or irritating. Or neither and it's just ... there.

I'm hampered by having read only the first issue of this title -- four more issues abound somewhere, including the almost-mandatory photo cover(s, as it were -- there are two and one of them is a colored pencil/photo hybrid). But what happens in the first actually isn't without promise. Creator Terry Echterling drew his artistic influence from the underground artists of RAW (he namedrops Spain, Moscoso, S.Clay Wilson and Crumb) and while he hasn't mastered the skills, the foundational work is there. The story almost has an underground feel. I still think that's admirable.

Zölosträya's bad mood, as advertised on cover, is on display in the book. Her neuroses, not so much, but I take Echterling's point. She has a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning but, knowing that obese warlords and sword-fighting barbarians are waiting at the gate, and that "Ragna-Rok" is on its way seems to justify a little sluggishness...

"Can you dial for me ... ?"

Barbarienne (Harrier Comics)

8 issues, 1987-1988

Harrier I primarily remember because it was my first exposure to Eddie Campbell's Bacchus (called "Deadface" in the Harrier run, anyway). There were other comics and stories which I recall vaguely, including the mandatory "mutant superheroes employed by the government" things which were so popular at the time, but the one I've stumbled across here is Barbarienne.

Unlike your typical Eighties comic where the lead male character saves the sole female character from being raped, in this one the lead female character and mercenary Charol liberates a "toy girl" (i.e. "sex slave") named Memree from a dungeon where she's been -- and it's mentioned explicitly -- pissing herself and choked with a bondage gag. Also, Charol's nipples are constantly visibly poking through her shirt. It's THAT kind of fantasy, got it.

Loincloth physics are a marvel...

So there's loads of nudity, BDSM, um, sex-slavery ... just ... I don't know all the terms, there's just a lot of that stuff, rendered as chastely as necessary to get it to stay inside a direct market book that won't be sold from behind the counter.

Here's the thing, though ... it's very readable? I know that's not exactly a compliment, but the sexual humiliation of the slave character Memree ish't ... it's too much, sorry, I was going to say it wasn't, but it is. It's not overwhelming to the rest of the story, though, is what it has going for it. That's okay, right? I should start rating these things, maybe. Three out of five sex gags! Bring one home for the kids!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 24 - COMPUTREX


Micronauts vol.1 No.24 (Sept 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Armando Gil
Letterer: Parker & Rosen
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

Here we are at issue 24, an issue which wraps up what I'd earlier declared to be the second season arc of the original Micronauts series. That metaphor admittedly worked a lot better with the first twelve issues, which were concerned with telling a coherent story in the unexplored Microverse. By comparison, the second 'season' has been wildly uneven -- over-reliance on having the team tragically separated and reunited, some lackluster team-ups with and battles against established Marvel heroes and villains, an ill-fitting collaboration between Howard Chaykin and Al Milgrom, and some general wheel-spinning once the Micronauts left their own universe.

To its credit, the weird villains of Saugerties, New York, was one of the most interesting things I'd seen in mainstream comics from the era, and Pat Broderick was a welcome surprise as a followup artist to Michael Golden's run. There's also still the matter of Mantlo's writing, which retains its general excellence.

So, how does the final episode of the second season feel? Well, the big conflicts have already been resolved in the previous issue, and there are no major fights waiting for the team at this point. In fact, it bears some resemblance to the twelfth issue, in that it's generally quieter and spends time setting up the next big conflict.

"..or Benny and the Jets"
In the main feature, that conflict is Marvel super-villains Mentallo and The Fixer, a sort-of criminal Abbot-and-Costello who were a consistent partnering in the Seventies and Eighties, although I couldn't tell you why or how. I remember reading Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts series and being annoyed that Mentallo was left out, so I guess it's pretty hard-coded into superhero fan DNA.

The duo doesn't actually appear until the last panel of the main feature, but they're responsible for creating Computrex -- The Living Computer! I honestly don't know if this was a previously established character and I decided that I don't care enough to look it up. Someone else can do the legwork.

For no significant reason, Computrex hijacks the recently-repaired Endeavor, effectively abducting the entire Micronauts crew and bringing them to his laboratory domicile. Computrex is interested only in recruiting Microtron, Biotron and the Endeavor into his radical computer intelligence gang, and shucking the biological components like corn. Astrostation didn't get asked to be part of the Cool Computers club, and that's gonna give it a complex.

The subsequent fight scene doesn't accomplish much. We do go back into Rann's head, a trip which we haven't made since the end of the first arc. Not much has changed in there -- he hates Karza, misses his folks, and is still unsure of how his thousand-year, on-and-off cryo-sleep produced an infinite number of duplicates tapped into the Enigma Force. We ought to resolve some of those issues. Also, Marionette tries to step up and help her man, but Computrex causes Rann to think that she's Karza and he beats the living crap out of her. I am not cool with that twist.

Yeah, it's Marc Bolan's place.

In the end, the 'Nauts slaughter Computrex without much fanfare, which is okay because the real exciting story -- and the more compelling cliffhanger -- is happening over in Tales of the Microverse, where a pitched, full-scale battle between Prince Shaitan's Centauri army -- led by a turncoat Prince Argon -- and Pharoid's desert raiders is undertaken. All the good weird stuff and worldbuilding is happening in these backups, where I think Mantlo probably felt a lot more liberty than in the main storyline.

Shaitan himself slaughters a bunch of the Centauri, who prove to be skittish and unsatisfactory warriors. I still woulda thought they provided a modicum of cover, anyway. The usurper prince of the Acroyears rides off with his faceless sorcerers and Prince Argon, leaving Slug to join up with Pharoid and his men. She follows them towards their underground kingdom, along the Avenue of Ancestors which I mention only because it's a bunch of those plastic sarcophagi that some of the Micronaut toys had and which I thought was a pretty brilliant visual gag.

"On the left, coming up on your left ..."

It's been a while since we saw one of the toys used as architecture in this comic (Also, they're full of dead Aegyptian kings. Let's see if that comes back to the story later on). More to the point, though, the subterranean city of Aegyptia -- protected from the burning desert sands by its burial deep beneath the earth -- is the birthplace of Baron Karza! Oh boy, we get his origin next issue! Except next time I'll be writing about the second and last Micronauts annual instead. Oooh, burn, now you gotta wait.

One last thing from this issue, though: The Map of Homeworld! Memorize this, there may be a test!






Friday, June 23, 2017

FRIDAY FRENEMIES : MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE

How can you possibly take her seriously with that hat on.

Here's a pair of Lana/Lois battles which center around some amazing mechanical invention of Lana's scientist uncle Professor Potter, and which play some role in their never-ending battle to nail Superman. Get nailed by. I don't know, they just want the guy.

In Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane vol.1 No.35 (August 1962, "The Amazing Brain Machine"), Lois and Lana are introduced to "M.A.N.I.A.C.", a brilliant thinking machine which is dancing like it never danced before. The Mathematical Analyzer Numerical Integrator and Automatic Computer is, to begin with, a machine in possession of a fucking stupid acronym. Even Potter laughs it off. "This plaque will explain my little jest" he says. It doesn't explain anything, Potter, try again.

"MANIAC, what's this bitch's problem? I'll wait."
Potter leaves MANIAC in Lois' apartment but warns her not to use it. Don't leave your shit lying around if you don't want someone to use it, Potter. This is like storing your bike at a friend's apartment while you're visiting your folks in Cleveland and you don't want to leave it at your dorm because you're afraid someone will steal it, BUT you tell the guy holding onto your bike not to ride it which maybe he didn't want to and jeez you're leaving your stuff at his place, have some class. I know that all sounded like I was reliving some past offense, but I literally don't know where any of that came from. I don't even own a bike.*

* Yes I do. I dubbed it "Titanic."

Potter does allow Lana and Lois to test the machine, which performs excellently. Lana asks it to help her find a pin she'd lost in that very room the previous week. Lois asks it to explain why the fuck Lana is even here. That is ... an amazing burn.

Despite Potter's warning, Lois uses MANIAC to pick up a scoop, lure Perry White into a raise, assassinate Castro and discern Superman's alternate identity. I made up that third one. When Lana gets her hands on MANIAC, though, this happens:

Why'd she bring the cape around? Is she Linus Lang?

Computers continue to give Lana a chance to mess with Lois' whole life in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane vol.1 No.44 (October 1963, "Superman's Surprise Choice") where, in order to quiet down a Lana/Lois catfight (and who asked him?*), he invents a Love Detector which will reveal Superman's romantic preference.**

*Honestly, I don't see the appeal of catfights, but masculinity is hell of toxic and I guess men need women to engage in unambiguously aggressive activities so as to mitigate their fear of embarrassment at feminine hands? I have no idea. Cat-hugs should be more popular, just two ladies getting all hugged on by each other, settling fights with these long-ass hugs. Put me in charge of society, thanks.

**Jimmy Olsen.

Also I hate catfights because I could never bring myself to pour water on people, like some kind of Harlem Globetrotter.

Lana and Lois take the friendly competition to a really gruesome level: they make a contract which requires the love-loser to leave town for-the-fuck-ever until the end of time. This is bad news for Lois because LANA WINS THE WORLD SERIES ! LANA WINS THE WORLD SERIES! Superman tipped the needle so hard for Lana Lang that I feel like the first half of this sentence is a vulgar euphemism.

Lois goes and builds a new life for herself, teaching English as a volunteer in "a remote land" (Mexico, it's Mexico, she's in Mexico, that's the remote land in question, it's Mexico), before Superman realizes that the love-detector machine was rigged. It was, he explains, set to register a woman's emotions of love, not a man's. Toxic masculinity, folks, I said it before.

Femininity isn't getting all that great a rap in this story, either.

It wouldn't be a Silver Age Superman story without an unnecessary complication, and here it is: Lois actually rigged the machine to select Lana so that she could quit her job and leave town until a promotional Daily Planet contest was over. See, it turns out that Lois' sister Lucy entered the contest, and won, but relatives of employees were banned from the contest, and Lois was afraid that everyone would think the contest was rigged and the Planet would be ruined. So she made sure she was unemployed when Lucy won the contest. I would have just told someone to invalidate that entry rather than stage my own humiliating departure from my high-prestige job, apartment and general life. This is what keeps me from being a daring girl reporter.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE RAINBOW

Why are there so many dopes dressed as rainbows?
It is my heartfelt conviction that my man Rainbow cannot detect sarcasm. I cannot imagine any other reason for why "college graduate*" Jim Travis lets himself be encouraged by his sweetheart Elsie Norris into putting on a powerfully ugly costume and launching into a battle for crime armed with nothing except two fists and a pocket-full of mistimed quips.

*Oooh, look who went to college...

"Suitable" how, exactly?
Really putting that college education to good use and reading a shit-ton of comic books at his girlfriend's house, Jim is taken by the sudden fancy to become a costumed crimefighter. "Just supposing a man could fight crime like they do in comic books" he stupidly declares, before upping the ante by adding "I'm going to try it today!"

Any girlfriend who honestly loved and respected her significant other would probably have said, at this point, something sensible and affectionate like "Jim, darling, are you still taking your medication" or "You're drunk and I don't know you, get out of my house." Instead, Elsie employs reverse psychology in order to see her beau murdered on the street like a slow hobo on Purge night. "But you've got to have a costume, " she suggests, before cutting him off at the knees by adding "And you've got to be a he-man." Ooh, Jim, savage burn.

Rather than licking his wounded ego, huge moron Jim Travis goes home and dresses himself up like a Crayola box that's just joined Cirque du Soleil. His rooftop patrol of the city bears almost immediate fruit, but probably only because cities are gross dens of crime where everyone ends up dead in an alley.

"-- well, we don't know, but we're sure it'll be somewhere!"
Witnessing the abduction of a young girl and her even younger brother by the villainous Black Rufus, Jim -- as Rainbow, the Hero Whose Theme Makes No Particular Sense -- proves himself additionally unprepared to fight crime. Lacking any means of getting off the rooftops in a speedy fashion, he makes a blind leap for a conveniently hanging rope. Not a lot of ropes hanging from buildings these days, Jim's got good fortune.

Rainbow confronts Black Rufus in an intentionally darkened scene, rendering his colorful costume thankfully muted. What isn't muted, however, is Jim's limitless attempts at good tough guy lines. He introduces himself with a solid right hook (a good start) and adds "I'm the guy who serves out pots of gold -- The Rainbow!" (ooh, terrible finish). Jim? Leprechauns hand out pots of gold. Rainbows just promise that God won't drown us anymore. Try to incorporate that into the patter.

Rainbow clocks the holy hell out of Black Rufus and leaves him dangling off a cliff. But really, the true victor here is .. uh, Jim, I guess? All I know is Elsie is probably eating serious amounts of crow somewhere, and wondering what other dumb impulses she can convince her boyfriend to follow.

Yeah, graceful as a fucking eagle, that guy.





Wednesday, June 21, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : NIGHT OF THE DYING


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 ...




I'm having some genuine anger issues at this point when it comes to the order on the Swamp Thing DVD series. I preferred to use the DVD order in lieu of the IMDB order, or the broadcast order, or even the shooting order, because there were compelling arguments in favor of all of these except that I had the DVDs and I'm lazy and stupid. Lazy and stupid always win out!

But what that's left me with is a season three opener which clearly takes place at the beginning of season two, even going so far as to be a sequel to a late season one episode. It also ends up being a Graham-and-Arcane-centric episode which takes place back-to-back with another Graham-and-Arcane-centric episode, although I don't really mind all that much because Kevin Quigley is really growing on me as an actor and Graham actually gets some character development in this episode! Yow!

"What is this, a fruit pie? I don't remember putting  fruit pie in my jacket." ::eats it:: "Well, this isn't a fruit pie..."
Anyway. We open with Graham and Arcane purchasing an ancient tome containing the incredible secrets of voodoo -- titled, as far as I can tell, "The Incredible Secrets of Voodoo!" This sounds like something you'd buy from a supermarket checkout aisle but, in fact, it's purchased from a twitchy wharf rat standing on the side of a handgun that you typically get to walk away from.

The voodoo book that reveals all the mystical secrets of the universe -- written by Baron Samedi himself, which just made me picture Ernie Kovacs in Bell, Book and Candle -- turns out to be bad for you! It's bad for Arcane, anyway, who spends the rest of the episode dressed like a guy running his own cult on an episode of CHiPs, howling with all the fury of an entire foley department having just recently acquired tapes of zoo sounds. Swear I heard him trumpet like an elephant once.

Hm.

While Arcane flips out, Graham proceeds into Houma to find DuChamp, the mystic houngan played by Roscoe Lee Browne in season one. DuChamp is d-for-dead, unfortunately, so after Graham plays footsie with what the credits list as "Strange Woman" (Cheree Vandoren, who tries to lure Graham into some sort of implied danger and then turns his gun into a snake, for no good narrative reason I can suss) he finds DuChamp's son ... DuChamp! They don't go for first names 'round here.

DuChamp Jr pledges to help Arcane in return for the voodoo book, which would rock except for two things: One, DuChamp's no good at doing voodoo and, two, he has to have Swamp Thing do it for him.

What keeps DuChamp from being able to help Arcane is two-fold, and part of it is Graham. The long-suffering lab assistant has to come clean on some destructive secret onto which he's been holding, and which is screwing up the good voodoo up to this point. As it is, the secret is -- humility. Graham can't allow Arcane to die because he's attached himself to Arcane's coattails. Graham admits that while he considered himself a scientist, he realizes that he is a "mere technician," and if he doesn't stay with Arcane -- whom he unironically calls "a great man" -- then his whole life will be without value or purpose. Goddamnit Graham, you went and got good on me.

Graham clearly shops for clothes at the supermarket.

The other obstacle is DuChamp's sister, Lady DuChamp (called Tanda, actually, played by Karen Fraction). Tanda has been poisoning the magic well in an effort to ice Arcane -- even the twitchy wharf rat was under her pay, delivering the book as a honey trap. The reason, it turns out, is ... HOLY SHIT HOLD ON YOU GUYS, IT'S CONTINUITY! ... to avenge the abduction of Jim Kipp!

Tanda tells her brother of their mother's cousin in Brazil, whom he doesn't really know for some reason. Seems the cousin's daughter fell into a river and was rescued by an American boy working as a slave in a nearby camp. and that boy's name was Jesus Chr- I mean Jim Kipp! And to return the favor and bring justice to Jim, she's gonna kill Arcane.

She's so over this conversation and its voodoo-shaming.


Alternatively, tell the authorities about the work camp maybe, or use your voodoo shit on someone who can get Jim out. It's what I would have done, but then, I'm No Houngan (that phrase is copyright me and you can buy it on t-shirts).  

Anyway, this all comes down to Swamp Thing needing to put things right. Up to this point, he's only been showing up in Arcane's hallucinations, berating him about voodoo for being bad for the swamp. "Voodoo is against nature!" he keeps saying, and it sounds racist although I couldn't tell you exactly why. Young DuChamp offers to make Swamp Thing human again -- his exact wording was "I have come to make you a man!" -- if Swampy helps Arcane, but the swamp monster instead decides to keep his humanity for a while longer. Allowing Boy DuChamp to transform him back into a human would just make him a creation of the houngan's, rather than his own person, he explains. Also, he'd turn into that fucking plank of wood from that season two episode, and nobody wants to act that poorly if they can avoid it...

I got nothing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 23 - FIELD TRIP


Micronauts vol.1 No.23  (Nov 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

We catch up with the last missing Micronaut, Biotron, who has ended up where all toys end up; the dump. He's there looking for replacement parts with which to repair the Endeavor, but mostly he accidentally locks himself inside an abandoned refrigerator. I guess he never saw the after-school special.

He busts out easily enough, but startles a nearby wino who, grasping behind himself in search of a bottle, accidentally connects with the discarded wand previously owned by Molecule Man. Apparently -- and don't @ me, I didn't know this was how it worked -- Molecule Man's wand contains Molecule Man's actual mind, which then takes over whomever is holding the wand and makes them the new Molecule Man. I sure wrote "Molecule Man" a lot of times in that paragraph.

You'll never be alone so long as Styx needs something to base a robot design on...

So, a page is pretty much blown giving backstory for the possession angle -- which, I'll be blunt, I needed -- but the rest of the issue is almost entirely given over to Biotron's battle with the new Molecule Man. Oh, I forgot to mention how the new Molecule Man is one of those guys who's trying real hard not to sound racist but sounds way worse? "Eh, black skin?" he says, looking at his gloved hand (I shit you not), "Interesting! This is the first time I have taken a body not of my own race!" Ooh, phrasing, Molecule Man, phrasing.

The fight between the two is actually pretty entertaining, but relating it would be mostly "and then he and then he and then he" for a few paragraphs, describing who shot what and turned what into something else. Biotron gets a lot of good musing and internal monologue, and that's honestly making him one of my favorites in the book.

Biotron defeats Molecule Man by electrocuting him and slugging him with a telephone pole,  which probably caused his host body all sorts of internal trauma. Oh, but, hey, the rest of the Micronauts are waiting back at Odd John's barn for their missing compatriot! Yay, they're all reunited! Now what?

A MIGHTY MICRONAUTS BONUS FEATURE IS WHAT! A four-page interstitial acts as a showcase for increasingly fleshed-out (if you'll forgive the use of the term) Microtron, who's job right now is plodding around the Endeavor, confirming that it's ship-shape, and stumbling across the other Micronauts trying to have just one goddamn moment of peace, come on Microtron! Use your brains!

Cilicia and Acroyear are engaging in Spartak foreplay, namely "one of them holds a whole spaceship above their heads and the other one messes around with the toolbox. Meanwhile, Bug is wrecking the "food dispensers" in order to make copious "slug loaves," a preferred Insectivorid delicacy that was introduced all the way back in the start of this second arc. And, lastly, Microtron walks in on -- I think, judging from the panel -- Rann going down on Marionette. This book just got mature.

And yet, the real purpose of this aside seems to be to re-use the blueprint of the Endeavor from the book's inaugural twelve issues. Any excuse for an Eliot R.Brown schematic.

"...the King of Swing, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business..."

TALES OF THE MICROVERSE! Argon and his Centaur associates dash across the desert with Slug in tow, summoned by Prince Shaitan. He's made base in some elegant tents on the blasted plain and Slug, being a fresh face in the endless parade of tired factotums who have had to hear Shaitan go on about this a hundred times, gets to hear the albino Acroyear brag about being all kinds of immortal now.

Just when he gets to the good point and starts doing all the voices, desert raiders attack the base -- but not just any desert raiders! These are the soldiers of Prince Pharoid, Lord of Aegyptia! I didn't even know they made a character from that guy! This ought to be good! Continued next issue!

There's nothing all that great in the letters page, but Michael Golden's unpublished first issue cover is reprinted, and it's neat.




Friday, June 16, 2017

FRIDAY FRENEMIES : IF LEX LUTHOR WERE SUPERMAN'S FATHER

"...and that I'll soon get blown up with this whole planet."

I'm going to let this feature take a break from the continuing mutual homicide pact between romantic rivals Lois Lane and Lana Lang, for just this one entry. This is because I'd like to share with you possibly the most gruesome and messed-up plot Lex Luthor ever hatched against his nemesis, Superman, which is, namely, to fuck his mom.

One of the inventions of Superman's Silver Age was a robust backstory and series of empathetic asides for Luthor, a character who had been around in the assorted Superman comics for twenty years before he was even awarded a first name (Which was "Oliver." Anything you've ever heard to the contrary is a total falsehood).

In the span of a few, short years, it was revealed that Superboy and Luthor had once been boyhood chums, that Luthor had a sister from whom his entire family had kept hidden the shame of an arch-criminal relative and that he'd frequently ally himself with Superman, Supergirl or other forces of good for that sister. He received a love interest on an alien world which worshiped him as a hero, and imaginary stories frequently popped up wherein Luthor would genuinely turn over a new leaf (this is as opposed to the most famous Imaginary Luthor story in which he turned straight just so he could totally murder the Man of Steel later on that week).

Damn, that's a burn.
BUT! In Superman vol.1 No.170 (July 1964), Luthor hatches his most bizarre scheme ever, and it only begins with him turning himself into a giant so as to break out of prison. That was his prelude. Shit got real after he turned himself into a giant and smashed a maximum-security penitentiary into beach sand. After.

Luthor's larger machinations require him to dress up like a space Roman, travel to the past and pass himself off as a galactic hero on the pre-destroyed world of Krypton (because it would be pointless to try this on the post-destroyed world of Krypton. Hard on the feet, anyway, hopping between debris in a newly-formed asteroid belt and all). There, he is feted by the Science Council and other Kryptonian luminaries as Luthor the Noble, whose heroism is proved by a bunch of videos that Luthor keeps patting himself on the back for faking. Dude built a time machine and he's, like, "Damn I'm good at After Effects."

"Predicting" the abduction of Kandor, Luthor gains a lot of cred -- particularly with Jor-El's lab assistant and unrequited love, Lara, Superman's future mother. It's from this point that Luthor launches his insidious plan, apparently utterly ignorant of how genetics work: He's going to become Superman's dad!

Personally, I would've just been Lara's second husband, because being Superman's step-dad is probably just as good and, also, that's actually how genetics work.

Luthor goes on to rig an undersea accident wherein Jor-El is trapped at the bottom of one of Krypton's oceans, surviving with only enough food and water for a week. Since Luthor is a master of all technologies and sciences, including mastery of all the forms of PUA  -- Mantis-style, Tiger-style, Fury of the Fedora, Double Reverse Negging, all the classics -- he uses this week to set up his master plan and get it rolling. It looks, believe it or not, like this:

"What shall we name him?" -- "Whatever it is, I want to give him my ex-boyfriend's surname..."


So, the short version of the conclusion is that Jor-El manages to escape his watery tomb, pops up in time to find Luthor and Lara getting married by way of some sort of giant Kryptonian Jumbotron, and then totally The Graduates the wedding while it's in full swing. Luthor's special devices which keep him from dying in Krypton's intense gravity break down at the crucial moment, revealing his duplicity, so he escapes back to Earth in the modern day. If you think about it, though, everyone on the planet was killed in a cataclysm so Luthor really won after all. Check and mate.

He could probably still eke out a small victory just by describing to Superman just how Lara smelled. "I was THIS CLOSE, Superman, damn near fucked your mom. I eat ass, too, you know. I eat it like cinnamon toast. I was gonna eat your mom's ass." I've gone too far, but I still don't think I went as far as they did.

I hate to imagine what other tapes he faked during this trip.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE WHITE RIDER AND HIS SUPER-HORSE

He looks so uncomfortable.

Generally speaking, origin stories are a lot harsher in Western comics than they almost ever are in superhero books. There aren't a lot of brilliant scientists and strange rays or secret lammissarial techniques of mind and body out along the Pecos and all that.

Super-Horse loves death.
What there ARE a lot of, at least back at the turn of the last century and all that, was murderous desperadoes. Which I say as though we don't have any murderous desperadoes today -- Well, let's say these were a different kind of murderous desperadoes, leaner, more natural. A murderous desperado you can trust.

Take, as a for instance, young Peter whose parents are killed by bandits who have attacked the weekly stage. Pete's pop gets lucky, in that he just gets fatally shot within seconds of trying to stand up and defend his wife and child. Mom has to get trapped on a stampeding stage dragged by panicked horses which then shatter an elderly wooden bridge with their frantic hoofbeats, drowning in the rapids below. Moms always have it harder.

Young Peter, though, just gets dragged by the river until it reaches a strange, hidden canyon. There, the young boy is rescued by a beautiful white stallion, and here's where it starts getting erotic.

 Peter is introduced to the canyon's only other human inhabitant, "Old Jeb," a hermit from central casting who's made the canyon his home since accidentally stumbling upon in decades earlier. His subsequent searches for an exit have borne little fruit, so he's built a little cabin in the idyllic spot, and effectively adopts Peter and the super-horse now known as Cloud.

But, oh wait, here's the twist -- the canyon is so deep that the gravity within it is more intense! I don't know if that's right, but let's run with it. The effect of the higher gravity is that Peter develops additional toughness as he grows up, and Cloud becomes fuckin' super and stuff. Not so super than they can exit the canyon on their own, though. It's a deathbed confession from old Jeb, dying from puma wounds as do we all when the time comes, which alerts Peter and Cloud to the existence on an egress hidden behind one of the many waterfalls in the canyon. This place sounds lovely.

When Peter takes advice, he doesn't do it by halves.
Buck naked and soaking wet, Peter and Cloud emerge into the outside world for the first time in decades. Surprisingly, the first thing Peter sees is a wanted poster featuring the face of the man who murdered his father. Short, sharp shocks abound in the upper world, or so Peter has learned.

Decked out in a very discreet all-white ensemble -- think "The Man in the Yellow Hat" but after a bleaching accident -- Peter redubs himself The White Rider and Cloud is also redubbed Super-Horse and they go off to literally murder the man whom Peter is sure killed his father. Like, not to undersell this, but Cloud actually stomps a man to death inside a saloon. These guys have grit.

It's worth mentioning, as I'm sure many of you picked up on, that the title of this story sounds like a white supremacist Golden Book. I'm happy to say that it doesn't really manifest itself that way but, you know ... bad optics right there, White Rider. Consider a more egalitarian handle, I guess.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LI'L ABNER AND THE CREATURES FROM DROP-OUTER SPACE

This honestly looks like Abner stole her man.

Here's what I know about Al Capp: He had a wooden leg. He was a helluva cartoonist but Li'l Abner looked tremendously better when Frazetta was drawing it, as Capp's assistant. Nonetheless, Abner was a cultural phenomenon which took all media by storm. Col.Potter read the strip where Abner and Daisy Mae got married over the intercom during one episode of M*A*S*H. Um. He got super-rich but it made him less happy and more self-aggrandizing, he tried to force himself on Goldie Hawn and he hated the counter-culture with a red-hot passion. He was, in essence, the original Scott Adams. But with a wooden leg.

That last bit, the part where he hates the counter-culture with a burning passion? Well, that didn't only manifest itself in catcalling and kibbitzing John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It also showed up in this promotional comic for the Job Corps program, Li'l Abner and the Creatures from Drop-Outer Space. Get it, kids? They're drop-outs and they're like aliens because they're so weird, not wanting to have anything to do with the cultural system which allowed a grope-happy establishment crank to get rich by exploiting the historically oppressed economic and regional underclass of America's rural poor? God, how fucking weird. Kids are messed up.

Anyway, capitalizing on what he says is his own background as an uneducated juvenile delinquent and high school dropout, Capp (or someone) pens the story of Abner trying to turn around Danny Driftwood, a promising but idle young man. Daisy Mae expends her efforts on Sloppy-Belle, "who is unkempt, unemployed and undated" which is bullshit because she looks hotter than a Weber on fire in hell. If Capp's suggesting that he's picky when it comes to pulchritude, then he's got some explaining to do.

Well, bless your heart, ma'am.

Danny Driftwood's got it bad for a coiffed and coutured redhead named "Bouncy Belle," like some goddamn kind of Smurf, but he settles for Sloppy-Belle because, christ man, why wouldn't you? Also, these names were never near as clever as Capp thought they were.

Abner spends a decent amount of the opening pages slut-shaming Sloppy Belle and predicting dire circumstances for their future kids, which is jumping the gun.

Anyway, the book finally gets around to lauding the Job Corps, which is good because they're a pretty handy organization. Danny goes away, gets some skills, comes back as a technician of some sort and hooks up with Bouncy Belle whose high standards have apparently kept her dateless for the subsequent year. I don't have a problem with this, but fucking Capp burned Sloppy Belle by insinuating that no one would date her so who's the unlovable mess now, Capp?

Naturally, the Job Corps is set to straighten out Sloppy Belle, too. And look at the promising careers awaiting her!



I expect they've updated their allowances at this point ...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 22 - THE BEST DARNED BURGLAR IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD

Micronauts vol.1 No.22 (Oct 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Armando Gil
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

While Marionette and Rann are running around and protecting the flower shops of Manhattan, the remaining Micronauts have taken the Astrostation to the skies in search of their missing comrades. Microtron, Acroyear, Cilica and Bug are also on the lookout for Biotron, who works to repair the Endeavor somewhere unknown to his allies.

This book is at its best when it tackles a few things. First off, the ideas and systems implied by the nature of the Microverse, and whether the individual members of the team deserve human rights. You will be happy to know that the answer is "yes, of course." This includes Microtron and Biotron, but fairly recently did not include Bug and his insectivorid race. This seems to imply that full rights were only granted under the Karza reign, which you might think would make a significant portion of the insectivorids dedicated followers of Karza, across the board. Let's see if that ever comes up.

The other thing which this book does when it's at its best is pit the Micronauts against some quotidian object made into a menace by dint of scale. In this situation, the Astrostation-occupying 'Nauts fight a speeding semi truck inside the Holland Tunnel*

*Well, in some tunnel in New York, "Holland Tunnel" always sounds like the best place to have a speeding car fight when you're in New York).

The fight goes on for four pages, featuring Cilicia avenging herself against the truck's air horn, Bug getting pinned to the grille, and then the whole shmear crashing into a legitimate McDonald's (they show the golden arches and everything),  interrupting a robbery in progress!

Rodney, the burglar in question and a former (and easily recognized) employee of the restaurant, responds to the chaos immediately. Spying the tiny figures which he declares to be "poltergeists" or "gremlins," he starts taking potshots at them -- leading to my favorite scene this issue. ACROYEAR CATCHES A BULLET.

I mean, catches it, a bullet the size of his torso and he just catches it and lets it crumple against his armor. I genuinely, genuinely love Acroyear. He is super-tough and has a great aesthetic, and he's a pretty sensitive, thoughtful guy, to boot. Swipe right. Plus he gets knocked into a vat of fry grease (he's okay).

Pal, you are about to get murdered.

The ruckus at McDonalds draws the attention of Mari and Rann, somehow, so they're able to rejoin their peers. This leaves Biotron and the Endeavor lost somewhere, which next issue promises to find.

I never liked this guy.
TALES OF THE MICROVERSE! We catch back up with Slug, betrothed to Prince Argon and the future queen of Homeworld. Since we last saw her, she started rocking a sort-of Dejah Thoris thing, but with her tits in. She's going to probably want a little more protection since flaming meteors are smashing down all over the city.

Actually, they're missing one target -- Karza allegedly demolished Body Banks! The hated ruins of the Body Banks had been left alone by Homeworld's citizenry, but something is obviously gathering in the edifice for some sinister reason or another.

Slug breaks in but soon faces fire -- from Argon! He's gone all bad because of a post-hypnotic command left in his brain back when Karza turned him into a centaur. Yeah, I didn't think he got turned into a centaur for centaur's sake. Had to be a Plan B. Flanked by centaurs of a desert-dwelling tribe, Argon incapacitates and abducts his former bride, and hints that Karza may not be as dead as he seems ...

LETTERS PAGE! We get a brief history of counter-revolutionary pop culture baby names from a concerned reader.


Friday, June 9, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES : RENEWABLE POWER

Superheroes are all about power, as are the companies providing fuel for America's many industrial, commercial and domestic needs. Also, everything in America is about power, because our system of capitalism is poisoned with rot from root to crown. But what they have and we don't is superhero mascots!


Super Energy Man (Gulf Breeze Natural Gas)
You have to admire not only his dedication to clean-burning natural gas power, but just how content he seems with his healthy physique and spectacular facial hair. This guy seems relaxed, confident with the power of natural gas! Also, the appeal of speaking in these laudatory terms about the fuel industry has worn off, so I'm just gonna go back to sassin' this stuff.

Super Energy Man has quite the origin story. It's a rollercoaster:
Super Energy Man is the official spokesman for Gulf Breeze Natural Gas. His job is to create public awareness of natural gas as America’s Super Energy. The actual man in the Super Energy suit is Harrold Hatcher, who has managed our marketing and safety programs for over 20 years.
Dang Harrold, congrats on the promotion!




Captain Mercaptan (Baltimore Gas and Electric Company)
Capt.Mercaptan has already scored a promotional comic tie-in with Iron Man, so the kid has legs ... and a dead-eyed rictus in lieu of a genuine human smile. This is a good mascot to have visit kids if you want them to associate gas and electric power with the dread of being abducted by circus folks in Carnivale masks.

Propane Joe (North Carolina Propane Gas Association)
...Or that's my best guess, anyway. Propane Joe, a flame-haired hero who shows up whenever inefficient energy is being used somewhere (so ... everywhere), holds a place of honor* on the portfolio page of the advertising agency which created him, but the NCPGA's site has no trace of the guy. Is this one of those event comics where parts of history were overwritten? Is Propane Joe the victim of Zero Hour? Is he The Sentry?

*Enh, maybe

I don't know why his insignia says "LP." "Look, propane!" maybe.

Pen-Oil Kid? (Peninsula Oil & Propane)
I have no idea what this character's name actually is, what powers he has, what he represents in the grand scheme of the company's mission. What I do know is that his enthusiasm is visibly waning in the header photos which feature his likeness throughout the Peninsula site...



It's been a long day ...

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