Saturday, May 28, 2016

But If They're All Imaginary Stories...

Doug: Unless you've been under a rock for the past few days, then you know that the Internet was on the verge of blowing up over this panel:

Doug: So that brings us to our weekend conversation, and it's really just a simple topic. If what Alan Moore posited in his introduction to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", that every piece of fiction that we read is just an imaginary story, then why do certain events, plot directions, characterizations, retcons, etc. get us all riled up? I've remarked many times that I've really, really enjoyed the Winter Soldier stories I've read and feel Bucky's revival was much better executed in print than the same plotline has played out in the MCU films. And just a couple of Mondays ago I told you that I felt basically the same way about a Toro revival. But I look at the panel above and just assume it's some stupid marketing ploy. Because if it was "real"... man, would I be ticked!

Friday, May 27, 2016

This Cover Made Me Buy This Comic Book

Thor #275 (September 1978)(cover by John Buscema, Tom Palmer, and Gaspar Saladino)

Doug: Action in the Mighty Marvel Manner, indeed! You know John Buscema had a blast drawing this cover, replete with those ugly trolls and a quite serious battle axe being wielded by Loki. This cover just exudes energy. Gaspar Saladino's letters don't hurt, either. I have to wonder, though, if the call-out to the television cameraman wasn't in some way a form of base trickery toward readers of the day -- after all, one could find similar call-outs on Spider-Man and Hulk comments at around the same time advertising their own TV shows.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

If I Had A Buck... Not Ready For Prime Team Players

Martinex1: There is great fanfare for superhero teams around here and seemingly continuous conversation about the big guns from DC and Marvel.  The Avengers, X-Men, and the Justice League are certainly the leaders of the pack when it comes to four-color creations, film adaptations, and their corporations' profits.  And there are other top notch teams that certainly get a lot of respect from comic enthusiasts.  The Fantastic Four, Defenders, Teen Titans, and Legion of Superheroes have avid followers.  The Guardians of the Galaxy made their way to the big screen and are now an upper tier property.  But even defunct mags like the Invaders, Champions, Inhumans, and Doom Patrol have serious defenders; their characters are fondly remembered and eke their way into television plots and other titles.

This $1 Challenge is NOT about those teams.  This game of If I Had a Buck focuses on the many teams that have graced the spinner racks of the past but did not catch on quite as dramatically as the superstars.  These are the "Other Guys, the "C-Listers," the "Also-Rans." 

Now don't get me wrong, some of these teams had long running titles.  And some of these teams may be your all-time favorites.   Some of them had all-star creative teams.  Others had lots of marketing support from their companies.   And some even had tremendous success and popularity in spurts. But let's face it, they never really made it long term.   

Part of their appeal may be in their offbeat rosters.   The teams consist of characters that are probably not household names.  There are, however, great stories in their runs.   I tend to be enthusiastic about these types of team books, because when I pick one up I typically find something new in the approach, something weird in the plotting, a costume I really like, and a personality or conflict with a different nuance. 

So as always, take your dollar and spend it on four selections from our quarter bin.  Share your thoughts, your memories, your observations and suggestions.   I am curious (as I am sure others are as well) if there was gold to be mined from these offbeat teams and their titles.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Star Trek at 50: The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2

Season 1
Episodes 15 and 16: The Menagerie, Parts 1 and 2
Filmed: October 1966 (The Cage filmed November -December 1964)
First Air Dates: November 17, 1966 (11th episode aired), November 24, 1966 (12th episode aired)

Karen: This two-part story is well-loved by most Star Trek fans - and why not? It surely gives us a deeper understanding of Spock, and expands our sense of wonder at the universe out there that the Enterprise crew is bravely exploring. It's also a huge 'what if' - what if the network had given the original pilot ('The Cage') the greenlight, and we had received a very different Star Trek?

Karen: Gene Roddenberry had the idea to incorporate footage from 'The Cage' as not only a cost-cutting measure, but to help fill out the production schedule, as the network had ordered more episodes of the show. However, rather than producing a crass product, the move created two fine episodes which invariably make top ten lists. 

Karen: Roddenberry put forth his proposal to NBC, and they agreed, stipulating that the new content be approximately 50% of the two episodes and feature current cast members. An 'envelope' story, to encompass the footage from 'The Cage,' was developed. John D.F. Black made a first pass at it, but Roddenberry wasn't satisfied and did his own version.  Black filed a complaint with the Writer's Guild for credit but lost, a result he was always bothered by. Roddenberry felt he had been the originator of the concepts. As noted in previous posts, these sort of disagreements would occur frequently with the show, particularly in the first season. Gene Coon would provide some additional script work before it was final.

Karen: According to Marc Cushman in These are the Voyages Volume One, NBC was gratified that the script highlighted Spock. In a memo from NBC rep Stan Robertson to the producers, it reads, "We are very pleased that you have written in Mr. Spock as the primary character since, as you know, he is emerging as one of the definite "pluses" in the series." It had become apparent that the viewing audience 'grokked' Spock. This story would be a nice vehicle for the Vulcan.

Karen: Malachi Throne was cast as Commodore Jose Mendez. Of note is that Throne originally did the voice of the head Keeper in 'The Cage' (which you can hear in the trailer below) but it was redubbed for 'The Menagerie. Sean Kenney had the unenviable role of the injured Captain Pike. They needed an actor who had at least a basic resemblance to Jeffrey Hunter, who had played Pike in the pilot. But poor Kenney was literally slathered in latex, stuck in a bizarre futuristic wheelchair, and had no lines! Luckily he was also cast on two other episodes ("Arena" and "A Taste of Armageddon") as Lt. DePaul -happily without any makeup.

Karen: 'The Menagerie Part One' is very much a mystery -why is Spock hijacking the Enterprise? Why is he kidnapping his former commanding officer, Captain Pike? Why go to Talos IV, a forbidden world? It's all very exciting. We know how incredibly loyal he is to Captain Kirk, as well as Starfleet, so his actions are shocking. Kirk is especially dismayed that his First Officer -his friend -would betray him. But as the story of the earlier Enterprise crew's mission on Talos IV unfolds, things become clear.

Karen: Ultimately, we discover the depths of Spock's loyalty and friendship towards Pike -and also Kirk, whom he keeps out of his plans, so he cannot be implicated. It reveals Spock not as a person devoid of emotions, but rather one who feels deeply, but keeps those emotions held rigidly in check.

Karen: It is intriguing to get this glimpse of a Star Trek that might have been. I think that the actors and characters we wound up with are much superior to the ones in the pilot. Kirk (and Shatner) is far more dynamic than Pike; and McCoy seems much more human and likable than Dr. Boyce. I have to admit that Number One was rather interesting, but it's been stated that many of her characteristics were transferred to Spock. Of course, Spock himself behaved quite differently at that point. In any case, having 'The Cage' as part of Star Trek lore provided some nice history and backstory. 

Karen: Pike's struggle with the Talosians was deemed 'too cerebral' by NBC at the time, but it seems like pretty good science fiction/adventure to me. Overwhelmed by illusion, the captain is unsure of what to believe - but pieces together a way to to overcome his captors. Susan Oliver as Vina, the only survivor of a spaceship crash, provides Pike with insights -and is well-remembered for her turn as a green-skinned Orion 'slave girl.'

Karen: The idea that the gravely handicapped Pike might prefer a life of fantasy to reality would certainly be controversial today. At the time however, it was a rather beautiful expression of Spock's desire to see his former commander live out his life peacefully. I'm curious what you all think of this ending.

Karen: On a lighter note, as a kid, the alien Keepers really freaked me out. They had those pulsating veins on their heads -ewww!! I remember I called them 'the buttheads.' Nuff said.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guest Post: Jack Kirby's 1970s Series

Doug: Thomas F. drives this train today, and he's got the King on his mind.

Thomas F.: Jack “King” Kirby is best-known for his Silver Age contributions to the comic world. He was the co-creator and illustrator of the Fantastic Four, Thor, Incredible Hulk, Avengers, X-Men, and of course, Captain America. Not Spider-Man, though. For a look at Jack Kirby’s rendition of Spider-Man from as far back as January 1964, check out The Amazing Spider-Man #8 (or a reprint such as Marvel Tales #145), where Kirby penciled the backup story, inked by Steve Ditko, “Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!”

It is no exaggeration to claim that Jack Kirby was one of the most influential contributors to the comics genre to ever live. Few can deny that Kirby was an unparalleled expert at drawing eye-popping monsters, aliens, sci-fi weaponry, and futuristic technology. And most of it looked fully functional.


My own favorite Kirby creation is Darkseid (with the possible exception of the Silver Surfer). Gotta love those cosmic tales, rivaled only by Jim Starlin’s Warlock.

And what do you all think of Kirby’s version of Superman? It sure was different. Many people hated it—no one more so, apparently, then the DC bigwigs, who ordered that Al Plastino’s version of Superman’s face be plastered over most of those drawn by Kirby—behind his back.

It was Kirby’s Seventies stint, however—a period when he insisted on total creative control, and when he was able to produce Kirbyesque works as he saw fit—that he really shone. Granted, Kirby enthusiasts have long held widely-differing views on his Seventies creations. As for myself, I personally regard Kirby’s Seventies output to be the peak of his inventive skill and a time where he was able to showcase the full range of his genius—especially at DC.

Kirby fans are all aware that he left Marvel in the autumn of 1970 to work for the “Distinguished Competition,” which is how Marvel dryly referred to the opposition. This abrupt departure sent shockwaves throughout the comic book industry—just imagine it! Kirby jumping ship! And it wasn’t long before DC began a marketing campaign advertising Kirby’s upcoming works—major titles that the “King” himself would write, draw, and more often than not, edit.

*For this post, I’ve specifically chosen works that Jack Kirby both scripted and penciled (not just one or the other). Note: Kirby’s run on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen lasted from #133-139, 141-148; his run on Our Fighting Forces lasted from #151-162; his run on Amazing Adventures lasted from #1-4; and his run on Captain America lasted from #193-214 plus Annuals #3 and #4.

DC COVER SELECTIONS: 1st Issue Special #1 feat. Atlas; 1st Issue Special #5 feat. Manhunter; 1st Issue Special #6 feat. Dingbats of Danger Street; Demon #1; Forever People #1; Kamandi #1; Mister Miracle #1; New Gods #1; OMAC #1; Our Fighting Forces #152 feat. Losers; Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #133.

MARVEL COVER SELECTIONS: 2001: A Space Odyssey #1; Amazing Adventures #1 feat. Inhumans and Black Widow; Black Panther #1; Captain America #200; Devil Dinosaur #1; Eternals #1; Machine Man #1.

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