Friday, June 24, 2016

Buried Treasure: Dynamite's "Super-Heroes Confidential"

Doug: Hey, friends -- I'm back with another peek at some wonderful memories from elementary school. Near the beginning of the month I gave you a look at the comic book features found in Smash magazine. Today we're looking at one of Smash's competitors, Dynamite. The latter may be more familiar to several of our readers. But in regard to the comics-related material, I always found myself a bit partial to the content and lay-out of the Smash articles. I particularly enjoyed the villain pages at the conclusion of each reprinted comic adventure. As you'll find below, Dynamite went with a sort of Q&A or FAQ format for their third page. It's OK, and for the novice was probably quite nice. But for the budding comics savant that I was at the ripe old age of 9, those pages were just a wasted opportunity to show some more art.

I'm thinking I may have seen the Captain America feature below before Jack Kirby had come back to the Cap monthly mag. As such, I am sure I thought the Tales of Suspense #63 reprint in this feature was awesome. Man, I did not care for Kirby's Marvel art in the high Bronze Age. I'm still not its biggest fan, although I have warmed to some of it. But this -- this is really exciting, and if memory serves was my introduction to Cap's origin (although I may have seen it on reruns of the Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon -- can't recall).

You can check out the third page for yourself; I'd love to hear some opinions as to its merits, especially as compared to the villains' bios we saw a few weeks ago.

Below is the first DC feature I've shown (so far -- more to come). I'm not sure I'd have identified Carmine Infantino as the artist here. Tough to say if he was at Marvel by this time, and my overall knowledge of DC's Silver Age was certainly lacking in the Bronze Age. As I said above in regard to Kirby's 70s Marvel art, I was also not a fan of Infantino's 70s Marvel work. And, also as I remarked, I have warmed to some of it since. But what really strikes me about the contents of the feature below is the costume on Elongated Man. At this point I'd owned a smattering of Dick Dillin-drawn Justice League of America issues, but had no idea that ol' Ralph Dibney had once worn gray. News to this 4th grader!

The content of the final page for this feature differs from the Cap material above. Opinions on this more focused approach? Is more (above) better?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Who's the Best... Comic Book Future?

Martinex1: Whether dystopian or utopian, which comic book future world is the most fascinating, well thought out, and creative?   Which future is the best?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Arena

Season 1
Episode 19: Arena
Filmed: November 1966 
First Air Date: January 19, 1967

Karen: He's here at last: the Gorn! Easily one of the most recognizable Star Trek aliens, and a fan favorite, we have finally reached "Arena," a hallmark episode. Besides the memorable alien, there is a story here about the desire for vengeance, and the need for understanding and mercy. Everything seemed to come together in this episode to give us a story that is exciting and thought-provoking.

Karen: This episode was written by producer Gene Coon. He put together the first teleplay and it was substantially similar to what was filmed. However -during review of the teleplay, personnel at Kellam Deforest Research discovered that the plot points matched up closely to a story by Frederic Brown, also called "Arena," published in Astounding magazine in 1944. Coon had read the story but had apparently forgotten about it. Obviously the story was too similar to Brown's, so Desilu's legal department contacted Brown to buy the rights to his work. Brown was amenable, and  would get screen credit for the story. 

Karen: "Arena" is a favorite of mine. Yes, the battle between Kirk and the Gorn is exciting, but I find the exchanges between Kirk and Spock to also be highlights. After they return to the Enterprise from the attack on Cestus III, the Captain and First Officer discuss the situation in Kirk's quarters. Kirk is dead certain that the destruction of the outpost by the aliens can only mean one thing: they intend to invade. Spock protests, saying there could be other reasons, but Kirk will have none of it; he is adamant that there is no other explanation. The Captain seems unusually bloodthirsty. Spock appears ill at ease with this conclusion but if this is what Kirk believes, then he must ensure the alien (whom they are pursuing) never reaches his home base. Kirk says he intends to. He pushes the ship to high warp speed in the pursuit. On the bridge, Spock again asks Kirk if the destruction of the alien is necessary. "A regard for sentient life," he starts out when Kirk cuts him off, "There's no time for that." After some odd looks from Uhura and Spock, Kirk explains weakly that they are the only policeman around. It is one of the few times where Kirk is shown  off-balance. He has a point, but so does Spock.

"They've locked onto my tricorder..."

Karen: Before they can catch the aliens, both ships are halted by an unseen force. They have blundered into the territory of the Metrons. A voice informs them that their conflict will be resolved in a way best suited to their limited mentalities. And with this, Kirk and the captain of the Gorn ship are transported to a mysterious planet, to battle each other to the death.

Karen: That mysterious planet was Vasquez Rocks, a park in northern Los Angeles county. At the time this episode was filmed it was privately owned. Vasquez Rocks,with its unusual angled rock formations, has appeared in many TV and motion picture productions. Star Trek filmed there several times, but "Arena"  is probably the episode that most people associate it with. I made the trip out to the park a couple of years ago and it was a real thrill to be standing in the same spot where Kirk and the Gorn had fought! If you ever go, be sure to check out the visitor center -they are well aware of the Trekkie interest in the park.

Kirk meets Gorn...

and so do I!

Karen: Kirk's opponent, the Gorn, was a complete suit created by effects man Wah Chang, who had also created the Salt Vampire for "The Man Trap" and the Romulan ship, as well as numerous monsters for The Outer Limits. Although it seems to come under ridicule today, for the time, it was a striking image (personally, I still find it impressive). Stuntman Bobby Clark alternated with Gary Combs in the suit, with actor Bill Blackburn, who was usually in the background at either the navigation or helm positions, putting on the outfit for a few shots. The suit consisted of a wet suit with a muscle overlay, gauntlets, and huge 16" feet. It wasn't easy moving or even seeing in the suit, but the three men got the job done. Admittedly, the Gorn moved ludicrously slow -when he swipes at Kirk and it takes half a minute, it strains credibility. But still, the Gorn does have an air of menace. As Kirk says into his recording device, "Like most humans I seem to have an instinctive revulsion to reptiles."

Karen: The Metrons informed both Kirk and the Gorn that there would be raw materials to make weapons on the planet. But Kirk is unable to turn up anything useful. However he comes across a variety of mineral deposits. This puzzles Kirk; he feels like there's something he should know. However, the Gorn has made a knife and set snares, and pins Kirk under an incredibly fake-looking boulder. Just like in The Galileo Seven, we are faced with the peril of styrofoam boulders. However, Kirk manages to escape. By this point, the Metrons have allowed the Enterprise crew to watch the action on the ship's viewscreen. The Gorn reveals that he has heard every word Kirk has said into his recording device. He offers a merciful death for Kirk. When Kirk fires back, asking if it was mercy they showed the colonists on Cestus III, the Gorn captain says they were defending themselves against invaders. McCoy, on the bridge, appears startled and turns to Spock and says if that's true, "We could be in the wrong." This is what Spock had been trying to get across earlier, with no success. 

Karen: Kirk and Spock both seem to figure out what to do with all those raw chemicals and minerals that are just lying around on the planet. As a kid when I saw it, I felt like I really should study chemistry more! The legend of Kirk's amazing hand cannon lives on; even the Mythbusters have tried to make one. Of course the Captain does manage to overcome his more powerful foe, actually shooting diamonds into his chest. No wonder Kirk is a legend in Starfleet. With the Gorn helpless, Kirk picks up his foe's knife and prepares to make the killing blow -and stops. He says, "No, no I won't kill you. Maybe you thought you were protecting yourself when you attacked the outpost." He faces skyward and shouts, "No, I won't kill him!" On the hill above him a shimmering being appears. It is a Metron. It looks like a fairy. Honestly, I would swear I can almost make out the outline of glittering wings on his back. In any case, it is quite ethereal. The Metron states  that Kirk has demonstrated the advanced quality of mercy. He offers to destroy the Gorn ship but Kirk says no, they will try to work things out. The Metron smiles and says very good. Maybe in a thousand years or so, mankind will be ready to meet with his people.Kirk is transported back to the ship, where the crew are both perplexed and delighted to see him -they did not see the last few minutes of what occurred. Kirk merely tells them that humanity is a very promising species.

Karen: "Arena" highlights one of Trek's main concepts: humanity overcoming our baser instincts. Kirk recognizes his prejudice, his anger, and in the end, moves past it. I am so impressed with this episode even now. It has great pacing, and provides practically everything you could ask for: action, conflict, drama, suspense, and a real, emotional core. It's almost a shame that we didn't get to see if a peace treaty was ever made between the Federation and the Gorn. William Shatner is still hanging around with the Gorn Captain, and the two of them are still having trouble getting along...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Five Guilty Pleasures...

Martinex1: I was recently pondering works of entertainment that I really enjoy despite feeling that these are probably not held in high regard.  At least I don't think they are...

And I realized that maybe we all have "guilty pleasures" that others may relish if we pointed folks in the right direction.   Or we may find that some of us already enjoy the exact same thing.  On the other hand, we may get feedback that our elevator doesn't quite reach the second floor. 

Here at Bronze Age Babies we share a lot about our favorite things from movies to candy bars, but I am curious if we talk much about the ripples just below the surface, the things that wouldn't be our first recommendations but are still impactful to us in some way, our guilty pleasures. 

So I've devised a way of quickly conversing on 5 things we have a hidden passion for in the categories of:  COMICS, FILM & TV, BOOKS, MUSIC, and FOOD.  It is similar to the games of "what I would take to a desert island" or "what I would do on my last day," but with a guilty pleasure twist.  Today I will share my five selections and  see if we have any commonality out there.  And I hope in the future others will compose similar posts.  I am sure we can all create multiple lists that at the very least may be fun to investigate.

So without further ado... Martinex1's 5 Guilty Pleasures for June 2016:

COMIC:   I recently mentioned a comic that actually started me down this post's thought process.  A lot of our regulars name the Avengers as one of their favorite teams and comics,  but I bet few think that Avengers Volume 1, #86 "Brain-Child to the Dark Tower Came" is a masterpiece.  I consistently name this comic in my top five favorites (and often I think of it fondly enough to be #1).  Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema craft a very succinct conclusion to a two-parter in which the Kooky Quartet Part Deux (Vision, Scarlet Witch, Goliath, and Quicksilver) travel to the Squadron Supreme world and face an innocent child turned madman intent on burning up the world.  The little tyrant's motivation is simply to stop the taunts and teases he gets from the public for his radiation enlarged cranium.   This issue reads like a B-Movie. It has everything from Robert Browning poetry references and JSA style team-ups to parallel world sci-fi innuendo and Sal Buscema blasts.   A classic scene involves Goliath using his archery skills with an unconscious Hyperion as his arrow!  I believe this Avengers foursome is an underrated roster as they have a lot of familial interaction and banter.  And what can be better than the infant terrible calling out the "costumed cretins" on the very wordy John Buscema cover?   Brilliant!

FILM & TV: I am a big Alfred Hitchcock fan.  Having attended school with a focus on Cinema, I have seen a lot of movies and I still enjoy the classics, the black and white films, and the old Hollywood stars.   Although I would put a number of Hitchcock films in my top 100 list (as did the American Film Institute with Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, and North by Northwest), I would say that I most look forward to viewing Shadow of a Doubt.   It is a lesser known film starring Joseph Cotton and Theresa Wright.  Cotton plays worldly Uncle Charlie to Wright's impressionable but wise teenager.  Uncle Charlie, however, may not be what he seems as the Merry Widow Murderer is making his rounds.  Or is the mystery just a result of the youngster's vivid imagination?  Full of humor and suspense, this movie is worth finding. 

BOOK:  The Secret History by Donna Tarrt was indeed a best seller  and critically acclaimed in 1992 but may be less recognized today.   The story follows six intelligent but dysfunctional classics students at fictional Hampden College who spiral into disarray following a bacchanal and a sequence of murder.  From the beginning it is revealed who is dead and who did it, yet the unfolding of the story is surprisingly suspenseful as the motivations and madness play out.   Interesting characters position themselves in a novel full of references to Greek mythology as it sets it's own stage for a modern tragedy.  Not quite to the level of Flannery O'Connor or Harper Lee to which early assessments compared, and some may say it is just a beach book, but there is some real merit here.

 MUSIC:  Following the departure of leader and vocalist Stan Ridgway from the original lineup of Wall of Voodoo, Andy Prieboy joined the band and took them on a slightly different wild ride of storytelling and musical experimentation on their 1985 album Seven Days in Sammystown.  More popular in Australia than in the States, this offering was full of humor, odd beats, and lyrical craziness.   The Marc Moreland penned "Museums" is one of my favorite songs, and there is nothing like the rhythm and guitar as the band crossed from classic quirk to more radio friendly fare.  Is Wall of Voodoo in your top ten list?

FOOD: Chicago has the best pizza!  Is that hyperbole from a local boy?  Perhaps. But I can name a dozen pizza joints that will knock your socks off.   Thick crust, thin crust, corn meal crust, stuffed, sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions - we've got it all.   And we won't skimp on the real Italian sausage here in the Windy City!  But if you don't live nearby or have unlimited travel miles for a quick bite, try Home Run Inn's frozen pizza.   That's right, I am recommending a frozen pizza!  It is surprisingly close to the real thing.  Home Run Inn is a tradition for some Chicago South Siders with their original tiny restaurant just a couple of miles from the White Sox' stomping grounds.  Their recipe has been a family secret for decades, and the crust and sausage seasoning are like no other.

So those are my five oddball recommendations.   If I was stuck on a remote island and all I had were these five items of comfort I would be completely content.   Cheers!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Enter Bizarro - Dueling Pencils (and Plotlines)

Superboy #68 (October 1958)
"The Boy of Steel Versus the Thing of Steel"
Otto Binder-George Papp

The Man of Steel #5 (December 1986)
"The Mirror, Crack'd"
John Byrne-Byrne/Dick Giordano

Doug: Yup -- half a century old, am I. I know I'm joining a club populated by many of our Bronze Age Babies, and I trust you'll treat me kindly in this land of AARP. Now if I could only remember what issue I'm supposed to review today...

Funny that I'm joking about being forgetful; well, maybe it's not even forgetful. I think it was William many a'moon ago (when we solicited ideas for posts) who queried what we had collected on our shelves but had never read. I can attest to owning The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, but have not read all of the tales contained therein -- and quite honestly have not cracked the book in perhaps 20 years. Figuring it had been awhile since I reviewed a Superman yarn (I've been really heavy on the Bat-side of DC lately, but that's the lion's share of what I have from those folks), I thought I'd check the table of contents of the "Greatest" trade. Now I've remarked several times that I've always been a Superboy guy, never Superman (well, not never). So when I saw Superboy #68 sitting there, and it was the 1st appearance of Bizarro to boot, I knew I was going to review it. But after I read it, I was like "Hey, wait a minute..." So I dug up our BAB review of Man of Steel #5, and darned if Anonymous (one of the most common baby names of the mid-60s) didn't comment:
Anonymous said...
Two things:
(1) at the time of the miniseries, Byrne stated that the purpose of the Bizarro story was to show Superman's first encounter with a super powered foe;
(2) the blindness thing is a call back to the first Bizarro story - where something similar happened. Bizarro died - and when he blew up, he cured a blind person (though I don't think it was Lucy Lane).
So there you have it -- cart planted squarely in front of horse. But you know that's not fair, so howzabout we take a look at these two stories, told almost 30 years apart, and see how similar they are? For those keeping score at home, I am going to blend in thoughts about Man of Steel #5 from mine and Karen's original review of that  publication.

The Creations: In Superboy #68, our young Kryptonian has visited a Professor Dalton, who is about to conduct a very important experiment. Dalton thinks he has invented a "Duplicator Ray" that will be able to exactly reproduce any material. His first attempt is on radium -- because after all, the 1950s was all about radioactivity. The radium that's created is a dud -- no radiation whatsoever. Dalton then turns his ray on a jewel, but it proceeds to melt like ice. Frustrated, he declares himself a failure. Ever empathetic, all Superboy can utter is, "Too bad, Professor! Well, I'll be on my way!" (at this point, please do yourself a favor and head on over to for more bad manners (and etc.) from Superboy, Superman, and a host of other comics bores). You know, it would serve Superboy right if that ray got turned on him and made an indestructible duplicate of him. Yeah -- that would fix smart-mouthed Superboy! And so it happened. But the duplicate, who we are repeatedly assured is some form of non-life (nevermind that it feels, thinks, has emotions, et al.), is soon out of the lab and on the loose and heading straight for mischief.

Skip ahead approximately 30 years and...

Lex enters a large laboratory where a Dr. Teng, dissident Chinese scientist, labors over a large sarcophagus. We learn that Luthor had his offices layered with cameras and untold diagnostic equipment that captured every iota of information about Superman while he was on the premises. The doctor then used that data to program his technology to create an exact duplicate of the Man of Steel. One problem, however: The equipment was infallible for any sort of terran lifeform. It's at this moment that Lex deduces that Superman could very likely be an alien. The professor unveils his creation, cautioning Luthor that it has been a failure. The sarcophagus is opened and out steps an entranced doppelganger of Superman... who then immediately collapses on the floor, and begins to crystallize. Luthor, enraged, grabs his hired hand and offers that he truly hopes he has not wasted his $100 million investment.  But just as quickly, he orders the creature removed -- Luthor is going home to Metropolis.

Close Encounters of the Bizarro Kind: Bizarro, being duplicated from Superboy, is somewhat aware of Superboy's life and surroundings. As such, he shows up at the Kents', the Kents' neighbors' home, and in various places around Smallville. Overall, he scares people. He is one goofy-looking dude. But there's a real innocence about him, child-like. He wants to fit in, and most of all to be loved. But everyone seems afraid of him and often runs the other way. As Bizarro sits alone on the curb crying, he's approached by a pretty teenaged girl who asks him what's wrong. She tells him that he seems kindly enough, a gentle soul. Bizarro is about to bust, and he flies away to tell a farm family who had humored him earlier. And then we learn that the girl is blind.

In the John Byrne version...

In Metropolis, we get to see Lois Lane's apartment and meet her sister Lucy. We learn immediately that some sort of tragic accident has recently befallen Lucy and her sight has been lost. Lois tries to encourage her, but Lucy is obviously depressed. Byrne depicts the sullen Lucy seated alone, head in hand. Cut away to the streets, where an ambulance careens out of control. A blown tire brings the vehicle to an abrupt stop, but since it is carrying a patient the situation is even more dire. Suddenly a familiar pair of red boots lands and hoists the vehicle.  It is very soon spirited to the closest hospital. As the crew emerges to thank Superman, a look of surprised horror crosses their faces. We see the Man of Steel's foggy reflection in the ambulance window, but cannot make out what must have spooked the EMTs.

Back at Lois' highrise, Lucy has moved onto the balcony and is poised to leap. She asks to herself that Lois forgive her, and pushes away. She doesn't fall far before blue-clothed arms reach out and scoop her away from her desired death. Taken back to the balcony, she's gently set down. She asks if her benefactor is Superman, but he says nothing. She feels him fly away, and is puzzled as to why he wouldn't speak. Cut away then to the Daily Planet, where Lois has arrived to work. After some banter, Jimmy (still sportin' that bowtie) asks if anyone has heard about the break-in at a men's store next door. Seems the perp busted thousands of dollars of plate glass to swipe a $100 suit, and left alone a jewelry store right next door! Clark uses his telescopic vision to peer down into the lobby and notices an odd duck wearing a sport coat over what looks to be a red cape. In a really nifty panel, Byrne gives us the first Superman quick-change and the Man of Steel emerges in the lobby to question this weirdo. Trouble is, when the guy turns around, he's an ashen duplicate of -- Superman! 

Attempted Destruction: Wow - the 1950s must have been pretty reckless. Superboy tries to subdue Bizarro by flying into space in a leaden suit of armor to retrieve a Kryptonite asteroid which he uses in an attempt to murder Bizarro (unless you believe that the creature was inanimate, as is continually suggested). When that fails, actually afflicting Superboy due to a counter-attack by Bizarro, the Teen of Steel asks his army buddies to bring out the conventional weapons. Seriously -- tanks, mortar shells, flamethrowers, you name it. With no positive results, Superboy suggests he be allowed to drop an A-bomb on Bizarro. You read that right. Remember in Kingdom Come when Kansas was obliterated? Superboy drops an atomic bomb on his doppelganger, who catches it and hurls it to the moon.  I'm not making this up. With nowhere else to turn, Superboy engages Bizarro directly.

But in Metropolis...

(Continued from above) The new guy on the block doesn't talk much, but he does pack a wallop! Superman is sent reeling out of the building, landing in the middle of a city bus. He urges the passengers to stay put and heads back out to confront his assailant. We get a good look at the guy, who is fully garbed in a navy blue (not royal blue) Superman suit and what looks to be Clark Kent's wardrobe! Superman soon finds that this imposter possesses all of his powers, including his vast strength. When Lois comes on the scene, Superman decides it would be beneficial to rid his enemy of the civvies. As Superman takes a shot, Lois comes closer -- close enough that she draws the creature's attention. He grasps her wrist and flies her away.

Lois decides that she'll try to talk to the "guy". But when she does, he turns his full attention to her, and kisses her! In a nice piece of writing, Byrne has Lois think, "I don't believe it! Five years I've been dreaming of being kissed by Superman..." Anyway, the creature lands on the same balcony to which he'd deposited Lucy earlier in the story. She is still outside, and can see Lois and "Superman" approaching! Lucy approaches the doppelganger, but as she moves to touch his face, the real Superman arrives. He tries to move the ladies to safety, but is pummeled by his duplicate. They engage, and Superman is hurled straight down into the street. He notices that some sort of powder has rubbed off on his fist and sleeve. Looking at it with his telescopic vision, he notes that it is inorganic -- the creature isn't alive. "Our ugly friend is some kind of android -- an artificial being -- just one step ahead of a robot!"

: Spent for suggestions, Superboy heads back to Smallville to see if there isn't something he can think of that he can use to get rid of Bizarro. The creature follows him back to town, but as Bizarro arrives he falls from the sky -- as if under the influence of Kryptonite. But having exhausted that as an option, Superboy races to find the substance that has affected Bizarro. Flying by Professor Dalton's lab, he sees a custodian emptying the remnants of Dalton's Duplicator Ray machine and notices that the parts emit a glow... hazardous waste? Pfah! Grabbing a huge piece, Superboy threatens to end Bizarro's existence; although Bizarro retorts and uses the word "kill". Bizarro, in typical Bizarro fashion, flies directly at the Teen of Steel.

In the Post-Crisis Superman revamp...
Superman rockets upward as the creature turns toward him. Suddenly it launches downward and the two meteors strike head on. Superman emerges apparently no worse for the wear, but the creature is nowhere to be found.

Eyesight to the Blind: As Bizarro impacted Superboy's metal plate, he exploded into dust particles. A distance away, Melissa felt the impact and was awash in waves of the dust particles. Suddenly her eyesight returned!

 And finally, in 1986...

Bizarro exploded into a huge cloud of dust and crystal particles. And it's those particles that apparently cured Lucy's blindness. Superman is complimented for taking the action that cured Lucy; however, the Man of Steel muses that he really didn't know it would work out that way... but the creature must have.

I feel the need to offer some additional thoughts on Superboy #68, as this comparative post will serve as the review of the story. It was certainly one of those Silver Age books that, with the right mindset, could be enjoyable. I'm sad to say, however, that my mind might not have been exactly positioned in that manner. The basics of the story were fine -- plot, art, etc. But oh the dialogue... I was reminded early and often why as a kid I loathed Superman comics. Generally speaking, Superboy comics tended to avoid the following, but all are in full use here: telescopic vision, super-strength, super-breath, heat vision, super-wits, super-hearing, super-force, super-ventriloquism, super-blows, super-judo... as well as super-vibration, super-impact, and super-inspiration. Whew! Otto Binder actually used every one of those terms in a 24-page story. And it wore me out.

I enjoyed the art, but again through the lens of the Silver Age. I don't know how much George Papp art I've ever seen, but this was pleasing to the eye and appropriate to the subject matter. Papp's art fit in with the "aw, shucks!" sense I get from stories of this vintage.

If you made the jump above to our Man of Steel review, you saw Karen and I comment on John Byrne's attitude toward Bizarro and how it seemed to preface what he'd do to the Vision a few years hence in the pages of West Coast Avengers. I felt in Byrne's treatment, and especially in Binder's script, that Bizarro was too easily discarded as some form of non-life. You ask me, the dude was alive. Also, and in closing because I've taken enough time out of your day, I'd add that Binder's scientific explanations throughout the Superboy tale are at once charming and "say what?!", but most of all pretty dumb.

But I'd read that story again -- it was addictive in a "why am I eating this" sort of way.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Open Forum: Your Favorite Summer

Redartz:  Hello, everyone! As summer is arriving ( here in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), our thoughts may return to some of those warmly remembered summers of years past. As that mellow haze of nostalgia enfolds us, please indulge me as I take us

My favorite summer ; 1975. I had just finished 8th. grade, and high school awaited in the fall (which was a source of great anticipation). The next summer I would be working, but at the time, I still enjoyed that youthful freedom. And I made the most of that freedom, bicycling all over town, back and forth to my best friend's (and fellow comic book fan) house. Pedaling over to Gene's Root Beer stand (best root beer in Indiana, imho). And, of course, once a week riding to the local newsdealer to check out the new comics.

 Speaking of which, some of the greats that summer included Steve Gerber's Defenders meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy. Giant Size X-Men was still on the stands, introducing the new team. Howard the Duck had a back up story in Giant-Size Man-Thing (and at the time I didn't catch the humor in that title...).  Indeed, those Giant-Size books were a real treat, and sadly they would shortly fade into four-color history (to be replaced the following year by the returning Annuals, however). Loved those, and of course the Treasury Editions; which probably made for an amusing sight- this scrawny teen,riding the public bus back from downtown with a huge Spiderman book filling my lap (yes, in those days we rode the bus, and without parental accompaniment). 

 That summer often found me spending an afternoon reading, either comics or paperbacks (perhaps Ray Bradbury, or Harlan Ellison). Listening to Joni Mitchell's "Hissing of Summer Lawns" in the background, or maybe Wings' "Venus and Mars" ( which featured , of course, "Magneto and Titanium Man"- I really wore out the grooves on that cut). 

 Other highlights of that summer: going through my first crush (on a girl down the street, who would come down and play "Hide and Seek" in our neighborhood some evenings). Helping my buddy's Mom run her frequent garage sales all summer. Mowing some neighborhood lawns to get some money, some of which went to my first comic convention that July. And as I've mentioned before, at that con, my friend and I spent the weekend indulging our fandom in freewheeling fashion, just the two of us, unleashed upon Indianapolis Comicdom!

Whew;  please forgive me; I'm getting all sentimental here...

I suppose, to sum it all up: the summer of '75 represented that last rush of childhood, the lack of responsibility, and the great luxury of time to simply enjoy being 15. Looking back, I realize how very fortunate I was. So how about you; was there a special summer for you? What touchstones bring that time back to you? Tell us about your 'certain summer'...

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