Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homages on the Planet of the Apes


By now everyone who wanted to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes has probably seen it. As you can probably tell by now, Karen and I both loved it. Today we thought we'd take just a minute or two to tell some of the nods to the previous Apes incarnations that we spied while watching this very fun film. We'll list our suggestions, but it's certainly not to say that we didn't both catch things off of each list. What follows is actually an email exchange between us as we discussed how much we both enjoyed the movie. If we've missed anything that you caught, we'd certainly love to hear it!

Karen:
  • Did you see Caesar playing with a Statue of Liberty toy before John Lithgow had the confrontation with the neighbor?
  • References to the spaceflight of the Icarus, including the newspaper that read, "Lost in Space"?
  • The gorilla in the cage that Caesar releases is named Buck -like actor Buck Kartalian, who played Taylor's jailer Julius?
  • The father and son who ran the primate center were named Landon (name of the one of the POTA astronauts)? In fact, the son's first name was Dodge!
  • Caesar's mother was called 'Bright Eyes' -the same name Zira gave Taylor!
Doug:

  • "It's a mad house! It's a mad house!" the first time the apes get stirred up against the blond-haired keeper.
  • Ape names when the humans are in the primate house while on the double-date: Cornelia, and Maurice (ref. to Maurice Evans, Dr. Zaius)
  • "Get your hands off me you damned dirty ape!"
  • Fire hose used against Caesar was like the scene when Julius turned a fire hose on Taylor
  • Humans hunting apes at beginning echoed apes hunting humans at beginning of '68 film
  • "Jacobs", the name of the company financier, was a reference to Arthur Jacobs
  • Stacking test to test the chimps' intelligence was like what Zira had to do in "Escape"
  • Caesar on the horse foreshadowed gorillas on horses in POTA
  • The name "Caesar" itself refers to Escape/Conquest/Battle
  • In one of the first five films, either Cornelius or Caesar says that the first ape's first word was "no" -- Caesar's first word was "no"
So again, do you have others?


Monday, August 29, 2011

Southern Inhospitality: Jungle Action #19


Jungle Action #19 (January 1976)
"Blood and Sacrifices!"
Don McGregor-Billy Graham/Bob McLeod

Doug: Your favorite Bronze Age commentators, volunteers as we are, are from time-to-time willing to lay out some hard-earned cash just to keep you, our loyal readers, fully apprised of all things beautiful from the 1970's. Today's, and for the next three weeks, fare is one such example of this -- and here's a recommendation for all of you: If you don't own the original comics already, then go find yourself a decently-priced copy of Marvel Masterworks #141.
Said volume reprints the entire Black Panther run from Jungle Action #'s 6-24 (excluding #23, which was a reprint of Daredevil #69). In that volume you'll find Don McGregor's magnum opus, "Panther's Rage", and also his excellent four-parter featuring the Ku Klux Klan. It's the latter story we embark on now.

Doug: We pick this one up in a somber setting: T'Challa's girlfriend, Monica Lynne, has come home to the American South to mourn her recently-deceased sister. It's at her gravesite that we join the story. But as Monica is silent in from of the monument, she is approached by a silent mob -- a mob wearing purple cloaks and pointed hoods over their heads. The Klan has come! In the trees, however, watches the Black Panther and he doesn't like what he's seeing. T'Challa springs from the tree the moment he sees a knife's blade glint in the light. Monica, no slouch herself, reacts with equal force. The wild card in the fracas is an arriving vehicle; T'Challa puts one of the goons right through its windshield. What seems at first to be an accomplice or getaway car turns out to be an ally -- a reporter from the local paper. As the dust settles, Monica checks on the reporter, Kevin Trublood, who has broken his hand assisting against the Klan. As they talk, T'Challa leaps to a tree where he'd deposited one of the thugs. Despite this talk of the Klan, and Trublood told Monica that the Klan may have had a hand in her sister's death, T'Challa tells that there is more to the story -- one of their would-be hooded assailants... is black!


Karen: I have to say, this opening sequence was pretty confusing. Obviously these weren't your typical Klan members -but who were they? Still, the graveyard sequence was effectively moody. The insight into Monica's childhood via her memory of fighting with her sister, was well done. The Panther's athleticism is also nicely on display here.

Doug: I was stunned that one of the "Klansmen" was an African-American. Even when I was a kid -- and I'm sure I was pretty ignorant of the Klan for the most part -- this didn't make sense to me.

Doug: After gathering up the mess, Trublood provides his car as transport to take the bad guys down to the local precinct. Along the way, scribe Don McGregor provides the reader with a quick synopsis of what the Klan was all about. I also learned something -- tell me if you knew this: the T in T'Challa is silent. I always pronounced it as Trublood is admonished for pronouncing it -- Ta-Challa. Nope. Once at the station, the sheriff tells our heroes that the four attackers are locals and not Klan members. And in spite of that fact, they'll get no special treatment. They are given the chance to tell their story, but all decline. We are told that they gather strength from their numbers, and from the indoctrination they've received.

Karen: Yes, the plot thickens as we see more of this cult. I have to say, I was expecting the sheriff to be a stereotypical prejudiced redneck but McGregor surprises by having him be a decent man.
And no, I didn't know the T was silent!

Doug: Years later, when "In the Heat of the Night" was on television, I could have seen this sheriff as akin to Carroll O'Connor's character. Although the tv version was softened quite a bit compared to the original character in the film of the same name.

Doug: We then head to the countryside, to the family home of Monica. We meet her parents and the Panther attempts to learn a bit more about her sister. But Mr. and Mrs. Lynne aren't really willing to discuss it. T'Challa goes over the previous attack, and the mystery surrounding the men with Klan symbols and even a Klan newspaper -- but certainly due to their racial integration, they aren't Klan! While the family talks, we see now white-robed men approach, with guns drawn. One of them lights a Molotov cocktail and hurls it toward the home. T'Challa catches the light and leaps through the picture window. In a single motion he grabs it and hurls it back from whenst it came. Exploding at the feet of two men on horseback and another on a motorcycle, the Panther engages! Then it gets a bit weird -- help me out here: there are suddenly two of our purple-cloaked guys looking at the white-robed "real" Klan. Then we're back to T'Challa kicking butts but taking prisoners. He manages to round up two white-hoods while a much larger number flee into the night. As the Panther drags them back to the house, Mr. Lynne informs him that he's not one to shy away from trouble... and that's good, because the Panther's brought down a whole heap of trouble!

Karen: I have to admit that while exciting, I felt this whole attack on the Lynne household was very confusing. Besides the two groups, I also felt that the art didn't do a good enough job of explaining what was going on. Don't get me wrong, the art itself is gorgeous, but this sequence just didn't quite work for me. However, once we learn more about what's going on, that may be less of an issue. One last thing: didn't it seem odd how T'Challa is lounging around the place in his costume? He's unmasked as he eats dinner but then puts his mask back on as he hangs out with his girlfriend and her parents!


Doug: It did seem somewhat out-of-the-blue, but I suppose these guys have it in not only for Monica's sister, but by extension Monica herself. And yes, T'Challa in full costume was a bit odd. Sometimes I think that's really overkill on the part of the creators -- even as a kid, I could grasp that these men and women were not always superheroes.

Doug: When you break the story down to the three synopsizing paragraphs above, it seems like not much happened in this issue. However, McGregor's script is so wordy that it took me longer than my standard 20 minutes to read! There is just detail and character development on every page, and he's woven this mystery of Monica's sister's death throughout every page. I don't know about you, but I'm hooked for the second part.
And hey -- how about a tip-of-the-hat for Billy Graham and Bob McLeod? What a nice-looking book. I remember reading this arc off the spinner racks when I was 9; my current re-read holds up just fine!

Karen: Seeing as how every page is smothered in words, I actually timed myself on this to see how long it took me to read it: 25 minutes! At times it seems a bit much, but I enjoy how McGregor is building the story, and the tension. The art is really exceptional; I particularly like the faces -very distinctive, individual -no cookie cutter features. I'm looking forward to part two.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bad Team-Mates


Karen: lately we've done some reviews involving teams where there's one guy who just can't seem to help causing trouble among his team-mates. There was Hulk in the Avengers, with all his surliness; and Wolverine in X-Men, who in the early days was liable to flip out over any perceived insult.

Karen: It seems like the "loose cannon" is a good way for writers to bring some tension into a group. Stan Lee did it from the start with Fantastic Four. Initially, the Thing was an angry and unpredictable guy, until he evolved into the loveable mug we all know. But Johnny Storm could occasionally fall into this category, particularly when he was always running off to find Crystal. After the Hulk left the Avengers -as well as almost everyone else -Hawkeye showed up to make Cap's life miserable, but he eventually came around, although he never lost his big mouth.

Karen: The original X-Men were all pretty well-behaved, but the Mimic shook things up when he briefly joined the team. Actually, the all-new, all-different X-Men started with not one, not two, but three 'difficult' members. Besides Wolverine, there was also the hard-headed Thunderbird and the downright obnoxious Sunfire.

Karen: The original Defenders had both the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner in their ranks. Although Hulk was still a problem, Dr. Str
ange seemed to keep him in line. But Namor -well, he's always like a volcano ready to explode at any moment!

Karen: Seems like most of the DC heroes were much better behaved, although Green Arrow ruffled a lo
t of feathers once he became socially aware. And of course depending on who's writing him, Batman can be a real pain too. But that seems more of a modern depiction.

Karen: What other bad actors can you think of? Who did you enjoy, and who actually irritated you? (As you can tell, I'm not fond of Sunfire).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lion of Olympus -- Marvel Premiere #26


Marvel Premiere #26 (November 1975)
"The Games of Raging Gods!"
Bill Mantlo-George Tuska/Vince Colletta

Doug: Now here's a mag we've only hit on twice before. This is actually somewhat of a significant issue, although I'm sure not worth anything price-wise. It's notable because this is the first issue of what would become more of a single-issue or very short-arc try-out book, after lengthy runs of Warlock and Iron Fist in the preceding 25 issues. And who is up to inaugurate the change but our lovable Avenger and Champion -- Hercules! You'll note that he's rendered here by the creative team that was really no strangers to our Olympian demi-god, as these guys had all (although only at the same time, once) shepherded ol' Herc in the aforementioned Champions book.

Doug: The splash page of this issue is a pin-up and a monument to the 10-year anniversary of Hercules' 1st appearance. We're reminded that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had brought Marvel's second-mightiest immortal to bear way back in Thor King-Size Special #1. Once we turn the page, it's all-out action. Hercules and his businessman handler, Richard Fenster, approach a raging fire while traveling California's mountain roads. Sensing that the firefighters are losing ground, Herc steps from his car, uproots a giant redwood tree, and effectively defeats the blaze by himself. He is lauded by the mortals on the scene, then hustled back into the car to try to make a speaking engagement at UCLA on the subject of Greek mythology (natch!). But wait -- who lurks in the shadows, but his old foe Typhon the Titan, accompanied by the Delphic oracle Cylla!

Doug: We get a little up-to-date session with our super-baddies. We are reminded how Typhon suffered defeat at the hands of the Avengers back in Avengers #'s 49-50. Typhon then relates how he was cast by Zeus into Hades, where he encountered Cylla. She had come there of her own accord after being shunned by Hercules. As they had now a common enemy, they conspired to be free. Cylla worked a little magic, and Typhon was able to ascend to Olympus to reclaim his battle axe from the Promethean flame. Yet it was so hot when he grasped it that it became bonded to his hand. Enraged, he lashed out, piercing the clouds that separate Olympus and Earth, and sending the Promethean flame earthbound. Hence, the fire Hercules happened by and extinguished. Cylla had told Typhon that only the blood of his most-hated could free him from the axe handle; you see where this is headed...

Doug: So it's one big slugfest from here on out. A tip of the hat to scribe Bill Mantlo, who writes some great dialogue during the battle between Hercules and Typhon. But it's Cylla who proves to be the wild card in this fight, as she really shows no loyalty to either of these men whom she'd as soon call lover as enemy. And what of Herc's mortal companion, Richard Fenster? As the car he'd been driving had plummeted into the Pacific, Herc had saved Fenster and left him on a cliff. Fenster decided he couldn't stay there, so he climbed up. Once back on the level of the battle, he spied Cylla about to lash Hercules with a bolt of magic. Figuring he couldn't do much, but that anything was better than nothing, Fenster picked up a large stick and KO'd the prophetess. The spells she'd begun to work against Hercules ceased, and Herc uses the end of that diversion to wallop Typhon a good one.

Doug: Tumbling into the ocean, our immortal combatants sink momentarily. Suddenly Typhon bursts the surface and slams hard against the craggy shore. Once Hercules surfaces, the Titan asks only for quarter. Dismayed that not only has he gotten his butt kicked again, but the axe is still attached to his hand, Typhon is one sad puppy. Asked for mercy, Hercules concurs. But then, a small cut on Typhon's cheek begins to run blood down the Titan's face, a small drip alighting on his right hand. The axe is suddenly loosed! Cylla awakes, and informs Typhon that he is free because he is his own worst enemy -- that was the curse! Suddenly Zeus appears and ferries his son's enemies away, back to Hades. So in the end, all's well that ends well.


Doug: I am pretty sure this is what is called a "stock story" that could have been used anytime. It's too long to have been a back-up in an annual, and I believe by this time the giant-size books were about out of steam. But with books like Marvel Premiere around, it served the purpose of launching the re-focus of this magazine, and it was a contemporary of the Champions, where Herc was appearing monthly anyway. I would not think that this was any kind of try-out for a solo series, as it's just not that strong of a story (don't count me among those "who demanded it!"); the last page also announced that Satana will star in the next issue. So this is a decent little done-in-one. I'd say that Mantlo did a nice job, and we got what we'd expect from the art team. Vinnie Colletta wasn't the best inker for George Tuska, but by this time Tuska needed a heavy inker anyway. Vinnie was never "that guy".

Friday, August 26, 2011

If I Had Been At the Wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver, I’d Have Been the One To Stand Up and Object…, Conclusion

Doug: Prior to today, we've read three installments of my essay originally intended for publication in the forthcoming (?) book Assembled, volume 3. Today we'll finish up -- feel free to leave us a comment agreeing or disagreeing with my position on this whole (what I call) fiasco. Here you are --


  • Avengers 110: Apr. 1973. Art by Don Heck/Frank Giacoia/Mike Esposito, story by Steve Englehart. Quicksilver makes his first appearance in the Avengers since he disappeared in issue #104. He appears on a visi-screen, arm-in-arm with Crystal. He tells how he was rescued and nursed back to health by “this girl, Crystal of the Inhumans.” After Wanda tells him how happy she is, she tells Pietro that she and the Vision have declared their love for each other. Quicksilver then erupts in anger and tells Wanda that he will never speak to her again, as long as she loves “that thing”. It’s an interesting point of view, especially given the battle Pietro had fought only “days” before that had centered on racism – the Inhuman/Alpha Primitive conflict.
  • Avengers 127: Sept. 1974. Art by Sal Buscema/Joe Staton, story by Englehart. Gorgon appears at the Avengers’ dinner table to invite them to the wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal, which takes the team (Thor, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Mantis, Swordsman) by surprise. Gorgon picks up on this immediately and gets a little peeved. He calls Pietro an “arrogant, posturing fool” and later states, “I’ve endured a great deal from Quicksilver for my cousin’s sake – endured it for many months (page 3).” Do you think there was anyone in the room who hadn’t felt equally as put out with Pietro over the years? Mantis tries to make peace; Wanda snipes at her for being a guest of the team for the Swordsman’s sake (in no small part due to Mantis’ romantic overtures toward the Vision), and states that the team will accompany Gorgon to attend the wedding. After arriving in the Great Refuge, the team participates in a carnival atmosphere in celebration of the royal nuptials. However, Maximus lurks in the shadows and begins to manipulate the Avengers, playing on the racism that exists between the Inhumans and the Alpha Primitives (see FF #131-132). Crystal asks Pietro to reconcile with Wanda before the wedding; he refuses, but is forced to confront her anyway when she enters the room – he says, “You may think it civilized to consort with a machine, but I do not!” Shortly after, Crystal is kidnapped by the Alpha Primitive construct Omega. The Avengers, FF, and Inhumans seek her return, and eventually Omega comes back and reveals himself (in one of the top 10 villain entrances of all time!) to truly be Ultron-7!!! Story continued in FF #150.
  • FF 150: Sept. 1974. Art by Buckler/Sinnott, story by Gerry Conway. Conclusion of the story begun in Avengers 127. The FF, Inhumans, and Avengers unite against Ultron-7, but it is young Franklin Richards who awakens from his long coma to destroy Ultron; in fact, in what may be the first use of the encephalo beams (see the "Bride of Ultron" saga in Avengers #’s 161-162 and 170-171), Ultron unwittingly revives Franklin’s latent consciousness. The book is divided in half, with the second part being the actual wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal. Thor and Iron Man muse on the subject of love, Thor pining for Jane Foster and the Lady Sif, IM for Pepper Potts. Medusa has a heart-to-heart with Johnny, who tells her that he feels like he has glass breaking inside of him. The ceremony comes off, and we are shown a monitor in a hospital room where Bob Frank (the Whizzer, in uniform, no less) watches his “son” Pietro while he heals from injuries sustained in Giant-Size Avengers #1. At the end of the story Johnny is smiling, and we assume that is that… Yeah, right!
  • FF 158-159: May-June 1975. Art by Buckler/Sinnott, story by Thomas. Quicksilver is sent on a secret mission from the Great Refuge to find the FF. Pietro somehow gains admission to the Baxter Building and confronts the Torch in his usual gruff manner. Johnny reacts with his flame, tells Pietro that the niceness he displayed at the wedding is over, and they proceed to tear the place apart. As Quicksilver reaches out to grab the Torch, Johnny hits him with a low blow, “Didn’t Magneto ever teach you not to play with matches, Quickie (#158 page 14)?” Johnny goes on: “All I know is I worked hard playing the good loser while you married the girl I was in love with. Heck, I even made nice with you at the wedding… But there’s nothing says I’ve gotta put up with you on my own time (ibid)!” The remaining members of the FF arrive to stop the melee, and Pietro relates a story of an attack on the Great Refuge by Xemu, Master of the Fifth Dimension (a story that hearkens way back to Strange Tales #103). The tale concludes with a combined assault on Xemu’s army by the FF and the Inhumans and a romantic interlude between Johnny and Valeria, whom he’d met years earlier in the 5th Dimension. Quicksilver witnesses it and comments, “Bravo for you, Johnny Storm. You’ll be happier, and so will I, when you stop thinking of Crystal as your girl when she’s now my wife (#159 page 27)!”
And that’s about it – for the most part, the romance of Johnny and Crystal isn’t mentioned very much again. For me, the marriage of Crystal and Quicksilver truly provided no additional plotlines that superseded what could have been done had the marriage of Johnny and Crystal come to pass in its own natural time. As the Avengers and the Inhumans had no real connection historically, I’m not sure where Roy was going with this. It further frustrates me that not only could one not predict where the story might go, the fact of the matter is that the story didn’t go. In effect, Crystal and Quicksilver were basically written out of their respective books for years.
Some have argued (most notably to this scribe on the avengersassemble.net message boards) that this marriage served to link together all of Marvel’s major teams/families: the Avengers, the FF, the Inhumans, and the X-Men (through the historic relationship between the Maximoff twins and Magneto). In contrast, a deepening of the romance between Johnny Storm and Crystal would have allowed for an infinite number of possibilities for the free-wheeling Torch to settle down/not settle down, certainly some in-law problems, friction between Johnny and Ben (and perhaps a storyline wherein Ben and Alicia were married or Ben was at least faced with having to deal with his self-distance from Alicia), and over on the Avengers side the presence of Pietro in the storylines that led to Wanda and the Vision’s marriage. Could there have been stories written that forced Pietro’s heart to soften toward the Vision? Might they have had to team up, possibly to save Wanda? How would Pietro have reacted to the return of Simon Williams and (in late volume I and certainly volume III) Williams’ increasing love for Wanda? How would Pietro have dealt with the John Byrne-dismantling of the Vision? Formerly, the Vision’s takeover of the world’s computer systems? A voice, obnoxious as it might have been at times, was silenced, for all of these possible plotlines never saw fruition due to Pietro’s removal from the pages of Avengers and Crystal’s removal from the pages of FF.
The next time we saw Crystal in any significant page-time, she was again a member of the FF in a forgettable run by Englehart. Issue #305 provided all the details any reader would need concerning her now-failed marriage to Pietro – the infidelity she’d perpetrated in the pages of the second Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series and Quicksilver’s subsequent descent into madness. Sue thought in that issue, during conversation with Crystal, “I know you mean your promise – and I would have trusted the bright and shiny teenager I used to know, absolutely! But you’ve grown up fast, Crystal. Please don’t hurt my brother…(page 19)!” Crystal also served the Avengers, but by then she’d become somewhat of a caricature of all that could go wrong for a pure-hearted, beautiful young girl – she was estranged from her husband and playing the field in a newfound freedom. The purity was gone…
As I said, I just really don’t get why, 30 years ago, Roy went the direction he did… Or, did Stan set the ball rolling in Fantastic Four #105? Was Archie Goodwin a conspirator in FF #’s 117-118? Shoot, given the Marvel method of creating comics, were some of the artists to blame? All I want is an explanation, and sadly I just feel like there isn’t one, nor would there be that would meet my satisfaction.
But that’s what is great about comics – maybe someday…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Run Through the Jungle: X-Men 116

X-Men #116 (Dec. 1978)
"To Save the Savage Land!"
Chris Claremont -writer/co-plotter
John Byrne -artist/co-plotter
Terry Austin -inker

Karen: With this issue we wrap up our latest series of X-Men reviews, but we're going out with a bang! This is another well-paced, exciting story. This is a creative team at the top of their game here, and it shows in every page.

Karen: The X-Men and Ka-Zar have made their way to the vast city of Garokk, the Sun God. Byrne and Austin deliver a stunning double page spread (on pages 2 and 3, just like last issue) that shows just how sprawling the city is. Garokk has caused the ecology of the Savage Land to become unbalanced, causing snow storms in the once-lush tropical valley. As the X-Men and Ka-Zar plan their entry into the city, they are attacked from above by warriors riding pterodactyl-like beasts. The tide quickly turns against them, and all but Storm, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine are captured and taken ba
ck to face Garokk.

Doug: Yeah, although the team was picked apart pretty quickly, I'd not say that it was because they fought as individuals without a plan -- that had been our gripe in past issu
es. No, here it was due to the surprise and methodology of the assault.
Karen: As Doug mentioned in a previous review, this was around the time that Wolverine started to take on more of the spotlight. Certainly he stands out in this issue. Once their enemies have taken off with as many captives as they can carry, Wolverine takes on a leadership role, saying that they have to break into the city and free their friends. He has a conversation with Zabu, Ka-Zar's pet sabretooth, and sends him off to get help. One of my favorite lines from this era of X-Men occurs here; when Storm comments that there is more to Wolverine than meets the eye, the pint-sized tough says, "At my size babe, that ain't hard!"

Doug: It seems like with each passing issue, you could argue that it's Wolverine's "coming out party". No doubt that his evolution to Marvel superstar is in full swing now.

Karen: Our trio starts making their way down the slope towards the city. It's at this point that one of the most infamous Wolverine incidents occurs. A lone guard stands before an entrance. Nightcrawler offers to bamf over and knock him out, but Wolverine does it his way -the implication being that he killed the guy. Storm thinks to herself, "He's like the great cats on the veldt. When he strikes, there is no mercy in him." Nowadays it might seem like nothing, but back then I remember wondering if I had interpreted this correctly. Did a super-hero actually kill someone? And Storm and Nightcrawler were OK with that? I still have to wonder about the second part of that question.

Doug: Yep, my thoughts at the time precisely.
I think for Storm, as she even said, Wolverine's behavior would be... not acceptable, but I guess not surprising as she related it to the predators she knew. For Kurt? Despite the persecution he'd endured, he was at the core a hero. I, and I'm sure you and our readers, knowing of Wolverine's background as an operative for the Canadian government, can accept this whole scene. But at the time it was indeed shocking. You know, I'm taken in my memories back to the "Operation Galactic Storm" mega-arc in the Avengers and other titles, when the Black Knight ultimately killed the Kree Supreme Intelligence. That was debated between Dane and Captain America, and the Black Knight carried it out even after Cap's protest. But here, it's the Wolverine show, with his lead and his methods. There was no debate. So in regard to your latter question, about Storm and Nightcrawler accepting this? I'd say there was really no time to process it in the immediate sense, but certainly some off-panel debriefing over the next several issues/adventures.

Karen: Wolverine and company sneak in through the
sewer, only to encounter a pack of little vicious dinosaurs. Storm makes quick work of them, flushing them away as it were. The trio climbs up and out of the stinky lower levels to a vantage point high above a colossal arena. They can barely see their friends, bound to columns on a stage far distant. Wolverine says that neither he nor Storm could get there in time -can Nightcrawler teleport that far away? In a nice bit of character building, we see Kurt wondering if he can make it -he's never done anything like it before. But he never displays any doubt; all he tells Wolverine is, "Watch me." Gotta love that bravado!

Doug: You know, even in this scene Wolverine follows up his murder (is it murder in war? I guess what he did to the guard was an act of war...) of Garokk's guard with the running through of the raptor that bit his arm. And by the way, is this one of the first mentions of Wolverine's healing factor as his main mutant power?

Karen: We see that Cyclops, Banshee, Ka-Zar, and Colossus are all on the stage, with Garokk and Zaladane telling them that they must be sacrificed for the greater good. They've built a fire around Colossus, who is restrained by vibranium bonds, and whose body is starting to glow red-hot. Suddenly, everyone's favorite blue elf appears and removes the binder over Cyclops' visor. In short order the X-Men are free again, and rejoined by Storm and Wolverine.

Doug: With chaos on their side for once, the X-Men are a formidable bunch!

Karen: As the tide turns against him, Garokk makes a break for it. It turns out all the energy he's used building his city has left him weakened; he must recharge himself. Cyke sees him take off and follows him, blasting through a door to get to him. Cyke chases him up to top of the domed city. We finally get an explanation of sorts as to how the city's construction
has damaged the Savage Land. The city was built on top of a geothermal heat sink that keeps the place warm, bringing the temperature down. Sure, that's good enough for me! Garokk taps into the energy grid of the city and he and Cyke start blasting each other most spectacularly.

Doug: At least we got an explanation!

Karen: Their battle causes the dome to collapse. The X-Men, seemingly always in such catastrophic situations, blast their way out of the rumbling city. Cyclops and Garokk tumble down into a deep shaft. Banshee saves Cyke while Storm goes after Garokk. Every life is precious to her. But she is unable to save Garokk. The way it is drawn it appears that a piece of debris strikes Storm in the head, and that is why she can't save the Petrified Man. But Claremont's narrative indicates that Storm hesitates and that's why she loses him. In any case, she comes up empty-handed, and distraught.

Doug: Yes, in regard to Storm's "failure" to save Garokk, I wondered too if this book was produced using the "Marvel Method". But by this time Claremont and Byrne were listed as co-plotters, so maybe it was just a slip in Claremont's dialogue. And you reference the once-again blasting their way out... Do you know how many times the original team would have been toast without this group's firepower?

Karen: The team regroups and says their good-byes to Ka-Zar and Karl Lykos. They head out of the Savage Land on a primitive boat, only to sail right into a storm! Typical X-Men. These Savage Land tales may not get all the notoriety of many of the later X-ta
les, but they were fantastic, fun stories. A lot of writers could learn much from Claremont's ability to keep the action coming while still giving us nice insights into the characters. Byrne and Austin are just magical.
Doug: We just covered six issues, and look at what happened! I feel like I need to catch my breath. Having purchased all of these issues from the spinner racks, this series of reviews has brought that magic back to me. And when you consider that over in the Avengers the "Korvac Saga" was taking place, while the FF were heading toward their "Search for Galactus"... what a magical time to have been a kid at the convenience store!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Open Forum is Open For Your Conversational Whims

Doug: Be a leader, set an example, be at the forefront of debate and pontification. That's right -- ya got up early, so pick something for us to talk about today! Today's Open Forum is another stab at our do-it-yourself motif. These have been a lot of fun in the past, and always seem to generate their fair share of comments. As we do around here, everyone is expected to be courteous -- if you don't like today's subject, tough. But don't be a thread-hijacker!

We are eagerly awaiting today's topic of conversation -- have at it!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Discuss: The Matrix Trilogy




Karen: What do you think of this film series? Personally, I loved the first film, liked parts of the second, and didn't care for the third much at all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thing 1 and Thing 2: Fantastic Four #163


Fantastic Four #163 (October 1975)
"Finale!"
Roy Thomas-Rich Buckler/Joe Sinnott

Doug: Here's our big finish to what I've called Roy Thomas' version of DC's famed "Crisis on..." team-ups. Last week I was pretty critical of the "everything but the kitchen sink" elements, as well as some dopey deus ex machina maneuvers by Thomas. We'll see how this turns out today.

Doug: If you recall at the conclusion of our last installment, Ben was charged with spiriting a device to a nexus in between dimensions. Said device would shut down the portal, effectively negating Arkon's ability to funnel atomic power to his own world. Trouble is, an inter-galactic hockey goalie named "Gaard" showed up to protect the nexus. And that's where we begin, with a tussle between Ben and this Gaard character. Gaard, complete with ice skates. Uh huh. No wait -- I'm going to try to be civil this issue. Anyway, Ben's not sure on his own skates, and Gaard obviously knows what he's doing, so this isn't going well. Ben attempts to throw the doohickey he was sent to deliver, but Gaard parries that as well. As they battle, Ben thinks to himself that Gaard's voice is familiar -- and why not? We've seen two Bens and two Reeds already. Maybe it's Doc Doom in the hockey get-up!



Karen: Oh, the utter indignity that would be! I still don't know why anyone thought a hockey goalie would make a great villain. That's a head-shaker. And why would Arkon, from a planet presumably without the sport of hockey, devise a guardian like this? Shouldn't he look more like an ancient Greek warrior or something?

Doug: As Ben continues to meet defeat, he's about to give up when Reed pops into his head, offering not only encouragement but impressing on him that the fate of three worlds hangs in the balance. Of course Ben decides to soldier on, and squares with Gaard again. Reed, Sue, and DeVoor are watching on a monitor on our Earth. We get a recap of the first three issues, and DeVoor explains how Arkon became involved in the first place. It's a plausible story, I suppose, although as I've said -- Roy's execution in the third issue got a bit sloppy. Anyway, Sue has found Johnny on another monitor, and as they tune in we see the Torch and Reed-Thing's onslaught against Arkon's royal guards.

Karen: I'm not even sure how Arkon could put this plan together, since he seems like a high-strung maniac. He came across better in the earlier Avengers story, and later on in X-Men.

Doug: Our heroes infiltrate the palace all-too-easily, and Johnny flies off to the throne room to engage Arkon directly.
It doesn't go well. And as Johnny's about to be put down for good, a giant orange-plated arm bursts through the wall; Reed's on the scene. But wait... did he really say he used the sound of Arkon's voice to determine their location? Huh? Oops -- supposed to be nice this issue. While Arkon's occupied, Johnny flames on and severs Arkon's quiver of lightning bolts, leveling the playing field. It doesn't take Reed-Thing long to put him down. Roy does give us some nice, melodramatic dialogue from Reed as he compares Arkon to both Hitler and Napoleon; in the midst of this soliloquy we also learn that the Johnny Storm of his Earth had been killed in Vietnam. It's a poser for the Torch, as Sue comes on the vid-comm.

Karen: The Torch sure came across as a lightweight in these issues. First Reed-2 takes him out last time, now Arkon. The reference to Johnny dying in Vietnam certainly dates this story. It also brings a certain somber tone to an otherwise ridiculous romp.


Doug: Reed's been told by DeVoor that only two beings can occupy the hyperspace in front of the nexus: Gaard and one other. Arkon devised it that way so that world's would send only their champions. But Reed's onto something, and as Ben begins to mount another offensive, both Reed's appear in his mind and urge him to stay back for a few minutes. It's at this point that Gaard remarks that he feels like he's fought Ben before. Curious... Suddenly another Thing appears, complete with the disk-bomb Ben has been carting around. Gaard is distracted, as Arkon had told him that only two lives could inhabit the space at once. Seeking a solution, he hurls his "scepter" (hockey stick) at the new creature, who turns out to be a phantom. Now unarmed, he's a sucker for Ben's big punch and is knocked away from the nexus long enough for Ben to deliver the bomb. As expected, the nexus implodes, cutting off Arkon's attempt to steal energy from the destruction of three worlds.


Karen: The atomic hockey puck saves three worlds. Oh boy.

Doug: Disgraced, Gaard gives Ben his leave. As Ben departs, he muses to himself that for once he's curious about a foe. He feels there was something more to this particular super-baddie, but he leaves anyway. As we see Gaard sulk away, he removes his mask. The Johnny Storm that had been destroyed in Vietnam was claimed by Arkon and brought back to life, conditioned as the guardian of the nexus.
Not who he was, but something different; it's no wonder he and Ben seemed familiar to each other. Soon, our own Johnny and Ben return to the Baxter Building and some brief explanations are given. And as our story began with Alicia seeing Ben on the streets, we end with the two of them meeting up in Reed's lab. It's a joyful reunion.

Karen: I am again confused -why would Arkon go to all the trouble to get the dying Johnny Storm and turn him into Gaard? This just doesn't make any sense to me. And why was Gaard such a hulking brute? I guess he must have altered Johnny's body too. It wrapped up a little too easily, with no reference to the Fifth Dimension at all. Nor did we get a 'good-bye' from Reed-2.

Doug: OK, so summary evaluation? I thought this was a story that had an "epic" feel to it. Overall it was pretty good -- I recalled that I enjoyed it as a kid, and for the most part it holds up. I'm still not totally sold on the execution of certain elements in the third issue (FF #162), but you generally can't go wrong with time travel and alternate dimensions. The suspension of disbelief has to be ratcheted up a notch, as anything becomes possible. So if I look at this through that lens, I suppose my complaints could be considered misplaced.

Karen: I have to say, I'm pretty unimpressed with these issues. Typically I enjoy these kind of things, where everything but the kitchen sink is tossed at the reader, but this just left me cold. I did enjoy the Buckler/Sinnott art.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Merchandise on the Planet of the Apes, Part Two


Karen: In part one of this series we looked at POTA merchandise from the 70s, back in the 'golden era' of Apemania. Today we'll take a look at more recent merchandise. It's funny how toys and merchandise continue to be made based on the original films. It's a testament I suppose to their enduring charm. One note: we're only looking at stuff based on the original POTA - so you won't see anything from the Tim Burton remake here. This is certainly not an encyclopedic look at Apes merchandise but simply items we're aware of.

Karen: Most of the modern stuff is in the area of figures -and some of them are quite impressive. There are the Diamond Select/Emce figures that recreate the Mego line (it might have only been four figures from the original line -I'm not sure). From what I gather, they actually used the original sculpts to create their figures, and copied the costumes meticulously. Even the packaging looks the same. It's like a time machine back to a toy store circa 1973. I just wonder what that did to the secondary market for the Mego figures?

Karen: There were
also the Hasbro line of figures. I'll just say I'm not a big fan of this line. I think they had a tough time with the apes' hair. I mean, look at this Cornelius figure. What's up with the wavy hair? It just looks weird. I do think the costumes and accessories weren't too bad. Some of these figures also came in tubes, which I thought was pretty odd packaging.

Karen: Of course no discussion of modern action figures is complete without Sideshow Collectibles. Known for their attention to detail and high quality, their Apes line didn't disappoint. Not only did we get the major ape characters, but figures of astronauts Taylor and Brent, Taylor in his slave outfit, his love interest Nova, and even some of the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Sideshow went with molded rather than fabric hair and it looks pretty good. I have the Dr. Zaius figure and it is outstanding. Most figures included some nice accessories too. Here's a picture of my Dr. Zaius.

Karen: But the very best Apes figures, in my opinion, were the gorillas made by Hot Toys. These figures are just the creme de la creme. There was a gorilla soldier, a gorilla captain, and General Ursus. Let me tell you, I have General Ursus, and he is a beaut. The costume details, the face sculpt, the hair -all perfect. He's also extremely articulated so nearly any pose you can think of is possible. His accessories include a rifle and pistol, and his awesome helmet is removable. I think this is the very best figure I have ever seen for POTA. Of course, the major catch with Sideshow and Hot Toys is the price. At anywhere from $40-70 a figure, it could be pretty costly to try to collect a complete set! I had a hard time getting the good General; I tried two on-line stores, both of which showed him as being in stock, only to have them contact me and tell me they were sold out. I kept bidding on auctions at eBay, only to get out-bid. I finally won an auction, but then the seller told me that somehow the General's hands had mysteriously gone missing! Finally I did win an auction and bring the big monkey home.

Karen: A Japanese company called Medicom produced a pretty large line of figures from the original films that included even the ape-o
nauts! I also really like their Lawgiver statue. They had fairly good sculpts but very limited articulation. Unlike the Hasbro, Sideshow, and Hot Toys figures, these ones were only 6" in size. I haven't gotten my hands on any of these yet but I might try in the future.

Karen: I love mini-figures, so I get a big kick out of these POTA Kubricks. I only h
ave the ape soldiers with a horse but I believe there were at least eight different sets. Even at this small scale, there's a lot of detail, and even the packaging is pretty cool. I've seen these go for all sorts of prices. I got lucky and bought my set at a convention for $10. I later looked at some eBay auctions and saw it going for as much as three times that.





Karen: Although I never got the DVD set that included a bust of Caesar (the DVDs were actually inside I believe), I did manage to pick up the very nice Blu Ray set put out about two years ago (and at a bargain price). The films look simply spectacular -the first film in particular has just gorgeous color. There are a ton of extras, and I've spent hours watching all the documentaries and trailers. If you are an apes fan you really must see the Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary. It may have been shown on AMC or FMC, but it's worth repeat viewings. I still haven't listened to the commentary tracks on POTA yet (the only film with commentary by the way). The packaging is quite innovative, with a slip case that combines Taylor's ship and an ominous looking Caesar. The whole thing folds out, and inside is a detailed timeline that shows the two different timelines for the films. There's also a very nice book with great background on the films, as well as beautiful color photos taken from the sets. I love looking at this book! The only drawback to the set is the way the discs themselves are mounted on the inside of the case. There's a circular rubber disc for each DVD, which fits the hole in the center of each, but I've had difficulty getting mine to stay on, so they frequently wind up loose in the slip case. But that's quite minor when you look at everything you get in this set. This is a very worthwhile addition to anyone's collection.

Karen: A side-note: the photos of the apes on the discs themselves, as well as the cover photo of Caesar, are actually pictures of the folks from Apemania, who do amazing recreations of the ape characters. Their website is a virtual treasure trove for Apes fans. I highly recommend taking a look -or three!

Karen: Besides the excellent book in the DVD set, I can recommend Planet of the Apes Revisited by Joe Russo, Larry Landsman
, and Edward Gross. It looks at the films in chronological order, supplying a lot of information about the behind the scenes work done to make each film. The brief TV series is also covered. There are black and white still throughout the book and an eight page color section.

Karen: Lastly, I couldn't sign off without mentioning my latest Apes purchase: a couple of weeks ago I ordered this t-shirt from
Stylin online. Because as we all know, chimpin' ain't easy.
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