Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Silver in Bronze: LCE C-49 (Adventure Comics 370)

Limited Collectors' Edition C-49 (Oct-Nov 1976)
Cover by Mike Grell
Reprinting Adventure Comics #'s 369-370

Adventure Comics #370 (July 1968)
"Mordru the Merciless!"
Jim Shooter/Mort Weisinger-Shooter/Curt Swan/Jack Abel; Cover by Swan & George Roussos

Doug: Welcome back to the conclusion of our Legion 2-parter. Today we feature the back cover of the treasury-sized book in which I first discovered this story. If you'll recall from Monday, four Legionnaires had fled to 20th Century Smallville in hopes of evading the wrath of the most powerful wizard of the 30th Century -- Mordru! But alas, that plan proved faulty, as the giant followed them and eventually flushed them out of hiding.

Doug: Mordru's one angry cuss -- I mean what, lock a guy in an airtight vault with eternity the goal and that's not OK? Apparently not, because he zaps Superboy, Mon-el, Duo Damsel, and Shadow Lass pretty hard. Superboy comes up with a plan: he and Mon will dig as fast as they can, tunneling away from Mordru. They're successful, and emerge several blocks away. Assembling in the lab, Superboy uses a device to erase the knowledge that they are heroes not only from their own memories, but from the Kents' as well. After the hypnotism, all involved can't understand why they are in the lab -- it's been successful.

Karen: At first when I read the plan, I thought,"Hiding again?" But when Superboy said the amnesia would wear off in an hour, I was relieved. His hypno machine was pretty groovy, with its spinning wheel! It seems like back in the late 60s/ early 70s there were always hypnotists on talk shows or variety shows.

Doug: Mordru remains in Smallville, scanning the landscape (as well as the minds of the locals) for any hint as to the location of the Legion. He searches recent events for clues, but having nothing concrete to go on he decides to try once again to force the young heroes out of hiding. Assembling his armies from across time, Mordru attacks the outer area of Smallville and lifts the landscape from the very face of the Earth (in a scene very similar to Graviton's ploy in Avengers #158-159)! After the levitating settles in, the armies do invade and attempt to bring the Legion to the fore.

Karen: I was trying to recall where I'd seen that floating city idea used -good memory, Doug. Of course, Shooter wrote both of these stories! The only other one I can recall at the moment was the John Byrne Fantastic Four we reviewed not too long ago, where Terrax the Tamer did the same thing to Manhattan.

Doug: You're kind, but really it's "bad memory" to me, because I've read that Terrax story way more recently than I have the Graviton story!

Doug: The Legion, strange as it seems, really has no predisposition to heroism. When threatened, the girls act timid -- well, except for Lana Lang who is as feisty as always. Pa Kent gets roughed up, and Clark admits that he's Superboy. The soldiers reject him, however, because they state that if he really was he'd have used his powers. Witnessing all of this from afar is Pete Ross -- Clark Kent's best friend who knows that Clark is Superboy. Pete goes to see Lana Lang, who he knows is really the Legion reservist Insect Queen. Pete gives up Clark's secret, and then asks Lana to kidnap Clark. Using her bio-ring to take the form of a fly, caterpillar, and butterfly she successfully brings Clark to Pete. Using a mirror and an ordinary pair of scissors, Pete attempts to cut Clark's hair. When the scissors shatter, Clark's memory returns and he flies away "for reinforcements".

Karen: I had the same thought -it seems odd that without their powers or memories of being Legionnaires, the four of them become doormats. Pete and Lana come out looking like the real heroes!

Doug: This was my first exposure to Lana as the Insect Queen, and for some reason I thought her powers were dumb. Saying that, of course, I'd seen (obviously) Spider-Man, and a Spidey Annual around this time featured the Fly. Lana just didn't resonate with me in this role, I guess.

Doug: Clark gets the hypno-device and undoes the spell from everyone affected. Rejuvenated, the Legion attacks Mordru's army, but are soon captured -- or so it seems. Hiding in an alley, we find Superboy, Shadow Lass, and Insect Queen. Seems Pete Ross stood in for Superboy and Duo Damsel split and disguised herself as Shady, all in order to be captured. The captives are taken to the cave headquarters Mordru's set up, where they face the evil wizard. Suddenly, the real Superboy and his team burst in. Mordru's caught off guard, and the Legion does some damage. But it's not for long, and soon everyone is spirited away to a courtroom.

Karen: There was great set-up for that attack, but the attack itself didn't seem too well thought out! Oh well, they're kids, right? As an aside, I thought it was cute that Shooter had Mordru cast a spell referring to 'Yog Sothoth' -I guess he must have been reading Lovecraft back then!

Doug: Mordru surrounds himself with some of the most evil do-badders of the 30th Century, although none we've ever heard of. A prosecutor states the case against the Legion, while Pete Ross speaks on their behalf. While Pete does his best, this is obviously a "show trial" and the team is sentenced to death. But before Mordru can mete out a method, the prosecutor Wraithor offers to come up with his own special doom. Alas, he's working against Mordru and rather than encasing the good guys in a kryptonite and lead-lined vault it's in reality a paper-thin chamber. The teens break out and are met by their benefactor, who explains how Mordru had used him as a lackey. At that moment, Wraithor is vaporized and Mordru appears to confront the Legion.

Karen: Talked about a rigged jury...

Doug: Encased in a forcefield of Mordru's making, the Legion are powerless. Mordru creates an enormous fireball, but the mass of the construct is too much and the cave begins to collapse on him. Ironically, it's the forcefield that protects the Legion. Once on the surface, they debrief and then head back to the Kents'. There, Superboy turns the hypnosis ray on Lana to make her forget his secret. But when he attempts to turn it on Pete, Mon grabs it from him and turns it on Superboy himself. Mon can't tell Pete why, but tells the reader that in the future Pete will save Superman's life because he knows his secret ID. Back in the 30th Century, Invisible Kid, Dream Girl, and Ultra Boy relate how Dream Girl had prophesied the coming of Mordru. With help from her sister, the White Witch, and Princess Projectra, the Legionnaires were able to create an illusion that made Mordru think that they'd been destroyed. All's well that ends well -- until Mon-el has to go and ruin it with a typical Silver Age sexist comment -- "Well, I'll be darned! To think of all the trouble we had dodging Mordru! How ironic that he was foiled by three girls!"

Karen: This was a fun little story, although I can't help but note that the Legionnaires prove to be fairly useless against Mordru. They were lucky that Wraithor helped them escape, and lucky that Mordru brought on his own downfall. The 30th century team really didn't fare much better -they drove Mordru off but didn't defeat him. In fact he just went gunning for the Legionnaires still in the 20th century! This certainly wasn't their finest hour, but all in all, I enjoyed the story.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inaugural Post: What If?

Doug: Here's an idea -- we'll see what sort of feedback is received. If this seems like a good idea, it may pop up again! The premise: Some day in the future you may come by the BAB and see this logo. If you are the first commenter, then you're "the man" or "the wo-man" for the day -- you set the topic of discussion. I am going to start this to show how it should work. I'll toss out the question, and hopefully the comments pile up with your ideas and feedback. If this is a crash-and-burn, then ol' Uatu may never be seen in these parts again! Here -- have at this one:

What If Captain America and Bucky had BOTH been found alive by the Avengers?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Teenage Super-stars!

Karen: Who is your favorite teen-aged super-hero, and why? Anybody who started their career as a teen is eligible for this one.

Karen: There are a lot of candidates -all of the Teen Titans, the Legion, New Mutants, origin
al X-Men, and tons of solo stars, like Batgirl, Nova, and my favorite, good old Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. What is it about the teen-aged super-hero that makes him or her so appealing? Let's hear your thoughts.

Karen: Or are there those you out there who can't stand teen heroes? Let us know why you feel that way too!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Finding Silver in Bronze: LCE C-49 (Adventure Comics 369)

Limited Collectors' Edition C-49 (Oct-Nov 1976)
Cover by Mike Grell
Reprinting Adventure Comics #'s 369-370

Adventure Comics #369 (June 1968)
"Mordru the Merciless!"
Jim Shooter/Mort Weisinger-Shooter/Curt Swan/Jack Abel/Swan; Cover by Neal Adams

Doug: How much coolness is at the top of this post? And for a measly dollar?? Yep, I got this one from the grocery store when I was but a wee lad and loved every page of it! If ya think Curt Swan is good on the standard page, then "twice up" he's fantastic! Many of us have remarked how much we loved the "treasury"-sized books. There was just something about a comic that opened and laid across your whole lap. While there aren't too many extras in this book (there are a few pages of the lay-out of the new HQ, as well as the 2-page splash from the wedding of Duo Damsel to Bouncing Boy -- all Cockrum art), and to be honest it's a bit thin by treasury standards, it's nonetheless one of my favorite possessions. And if you want to know how this became a 4-D experience, just imagine that wonderful smell of musty newsprint as an old comic is cracked open. Ahhhh...

Karen: I don't have to imagine - I'm doing my part of the review using the actual issues!

Doug: For practicality's sake I am reading and scanning for these two posts (Adventure Comics #370 will run on Friday) from the Legion Archives, Volume 8. Thanks to the powers that be at DC, for a new Legion Archives is finally in the offing -- it's been far too long since Volume 12 came out. Look for Volume 13 coming in the spring of 2012. As I said above, enjoy the Curt Swan art in these two issues -- Swan always made the Legionnaires look like the teenagers they were supposed to be. And how about that splash page? The first appearance of Mordru the Mystic is a truly frightening image!

Karen: It's a very exciting, dramatic cover. I like the Grell on the treasury cover, although that's some poor foreshortening on Superboy. The splash page is excellent -you know it reminded me a lot of Barry Smith's Conan work!

Doug: It's certainly more detailed that anything else we'll find inside. Here's another thought -- although the Archives were restored in terms of color, I'm glad they used the same palette as in the original books. Any notion of shading is done strictly through the inks. It makes me glad in this case that they kept true to the originals.

Doug: We open with four Legionnaires in trouble. Mon-el carries a wounded Superboy, as Duo Damsel and Shadow Lass assist. Shadow Lass had only been around a short time (her 1st appearance was in Adventure Comics #365), so she was pretty clueless through the first scenes. Mon-el quickly tells Duo Damsel to program the Time Cube. As Mon gets in last, we see an ominous figure enter the time travel room. But, when they leave the timestream Superboy is back to normal -- and he isn't happy! Seems in the panic, Luornu programmed the Time Cube for Smallville in Superboy's time. We then get a recap of what all had just gone down.

Karen: Seeing the Legionnaires fleeing was quite striking. It captured my interest for sure.

Doug: Shadow Lass was exploring the Legion's new HQ (a definite upgrade from the "crashed spaceship" building), when she came across a heavy vault. Curiosity got the best of her (as was typical of all failing females in the Silver Age) and she began to turn the wheel to get inside. Mon-el came upon the scene and stopped her. He then related a tale of adventure where the Legion had fought one of the most dangerous enemies in their history -- an all-powerful evil wizard named Mordru. Mordru had managed to conquer all of the planets on the outer rim of his galaxy, with many planets just caving in at the mention of his name. The Legion chose to challenge him, and were nearly defeated before Superboy and Mon-el encased him in an impenetrable steel vault. But as Mon and Shady look at the vault, Mordru's arms suddenly burst through the side of his tomb!

Karen: I thought the Mordru backstory was really impressive. The idea that the free worlds stood back and did nothing against Mordru until it was too late was all too familiar.

Doug: Now on Earth in the 20th Century, Superboy laments that this may be the first place Mordru will look for them. I've read over this section several times, and can find no clue as to why they feel so certain that Mordru will come to Smallville. I suppose the Time Cube could have been set by a visible gauge or something, but there's just no evidence that Mordru knew anything about Superboy's life in the 20th Century. And you know what else I got to thinking? If this Mordru cat was so dangerous, why the heck didn't they just set the Time Cube to about 10 seconds before Shadow Lass started messing with the vault door? Duh... But then we wouldn't have this cool story, would we?

Karen: I don't know exactly why they assume Mordru will go to Smallville, other than the idea that in the future, people know where Superboy is really from. But yeah, who cares, on with the story!

Doug: Well, since the teens are going to be stuck in the past for awhile, they decide they might as well take cover and make the best of it. The foursome heads over to the home of the Kents, and I'll have to say -- in spite of the length of Martha Kent's skirt, Smallville was still stuck in about 1958. Think of American Graffiti or the first season of Happy Days, and you're there. Mon-el suggests that Shadow Lass's blue skin can be covered with make-up, so Superboy heads to his lab (remember -- he's a super-chemist, super-inventor, super-whatever!) and comes back with some normal-toned cover-up. Shady will be passed off as an exchange student named Betsy Norcross, and will stay with the Langs -- like Lana needs one more reason to snoop around about something. Duo Damsel impersonates a young cousin of Chief Parker's, and Mon draws the short straw and has to return to his previous guest-role as Bob Cobb, brush salesman. Ugh...

Karen: Bob Cobb...that's just so wrong. One of the most powerful beings in the universe, a brush salesman? Talk about demeaning. And how different are things today -if a kid showed up on my doorstep claiming to be a distant cousin, I'd suspect they were lying and up to no good, and send them on their merry way!

Doug: As everyone settles in, they suddenly feel the presence of a thick darkness passing over Smallville. All four Legionnaires determine that it must be the presence of Mordru, and all attempt to clear their thoughts. It's Lana who is struck down; possessed by Mordru, she is forced to let her eyes become his eyes. She passes out, but "Betsy" revives her quickly. Shortly, the four heroes meet in the Kents' cellar to plan. They decide that they must stay hidden for the time being, not even to talk to each other. As they disperse, Duo Damsel hints that she'd like to be walked home -- after all, it's the middle of the night. Stodgy old Clark, though, he has a plan... He shows her a tunnel that will bring her out in the woods adjacent to the Parker home. Gee, thanks Clark. Luornu is ticked, as she'd certainly liked to have been "noticed" by Superboy.

Karen: The Legionnaires didn't have much of a plan here -actually no plan! "This is it...our last meeting! After this we just fade into Smallville and forget we were ever Legionnaires until someone comes up with a plan to battle Mordru!" Somehow, I have a hard time imaging the JLA saying that. Duo Damsel's fixation on Superboy -and cattiness regarding Shadow Lass -was a hoot.

Doug: Mordru's next trick is to create illusions in an attempt to bring the young champions out of seclusion. Floods, monsters, etc. all menace Smallville, but the young guns keep to their oath of staying hidden. All is going well until "Betsy" loses a little make-up off her arm. As one of the jokers in the classroom draws attention to it, Clark acts quickly and shoots a bit of blue ink out of his fountain pen (see, 1958... no one in 1968 was using a fountain pen, ya think?) and everyone seems to buy it. Then on the way home, two trucks suddenly careen toward one another. The boys are helpless to use their powers, but Duo Damsel (in a display of powers I certainly didn't know she had) picks up a concrete-based stop sign and hurls it under one of the trucks -- effectively creating a ramp that tips it over and evades the potential crash scene. I'm sorry -- isn't she just able to split into two normally-powered girls? But crime also begins to go on the rise with no Superboy in sight, and the teens and townspeople begin to get antsy. Cue "King" Carter and his gang.

Karen: I thought it was interesting that of all the Legionnaires, Mon-El was the one who kept his cool and realized they were seeing illusions. Am I just imagining it, or was it indicated that he was a little older than Superboy? I don't now why Duo Damsel would have double strength, but she certainly got Superboy to look at her in a new light -"I never realized Duo Damsel was so pretty before!" Uh oh -we don't need any changes to the time stream!

Doug: A group of mobsters stroll into town and begin to terrorize the locals. With the townsfolk powerless, they get the run of the place quite quickly. But our youths are still heroes at heart, and with the help of Pa Kent and others who aren't happy with this turn of events, a revolt is staged which defeats the mobsters. Debriefing afterward, our stars decide that it's hypocritical to have encouraged the denizens of Smallville to face their demons while the Legion runs from theirs. Donning their costumes, they are almost immediately seen by Lana Lang -- who is the eyes of Mordru!

Karen: The whole mobster thing was extremely silly, but it was good to see the kids come to the conclusion that they needed to go after Mordru, not hide from him. The panel with Lana serving as Mordru's eyes was very effective. Next issue should be a heck of a showdown!

Friday, September 23, 2011

So, Who Got It Right?

Doug: Over the past week I've been reading and writing the review for our upcoming look at DC's Limited Collectors' Edition C-49, which reprints Adventure Comics #'s 369-370 from 1968. In issue #369, the Legion is faced with some organized crime-type thugs who take over Smallville. In the midst of the scene, the head goon says he has plans to take Metropolis next. Now, obviously it might seem a stretch to move from taking over a small town to a major American city. I was struck more with an issue of proximity -- if we are to believe that Smallville is in the middle of Kansas, as modern lore tells, and Metropolis is part of the Atlantic megalopolis, then it's a stretch to believe that such a plan would be on most baddie's radar screens.

Doug: So, today's question is this -- who has the better universe? Marvel, set squarely in the real world with heroes centered in real cities like Manhattan and Los Angeles, or DC, with the mythical realms of Metropolis, Gotham City, Star City, etc.? Does either scenario cause problems for the creators and/or the readers? As always, thanks in advance for your participation.

Doug: And come back next week, as the Bronze Age Babies celebrate teenagers in comics -- two issues of the Legion with an Open Forum in the middle! And for your additional weekend reading, Shooter has a post about Legion weddings (dated 9/22/11) for your perusal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Disney World Reflections, Part 2

Karen: Doug wasn't the only one to go to Walt Disney World this summer. I went for 9 days with my husband at the end of August. This was my second time there, the first time being with my husband in 2009. I was amazed the first time at how much it had to offer, beyond the typical rides. I grew up in California and have been to Disneyland half a dozen times or so, but as much as I love Disneyland, there really is no comparison. Someone once described it thus: Disneyland is charming, while Disneyworld is mind-blowing.

Karen: The big difference this t
rip was that we would not be alone; at the start of our trip, our group consisted of twelve people! Besides my husband and me, we had two of our close friends and their teenaged girl and her boyfriend (they stayed all 9 days). For the first four days, we also had six family members: my husband's mom, his sister, her husband, and their three great kids, two boys aged 4 and 15 and a girl aged 10. So you can see we had quite a crew! One thing I learned: it's very different coordinating a trip with two adults than it is such a large group of diverse ages. But despite some difficulties, everyone seemed to have a fine time. I should give some credit here to my hubby, who took all the pictures you see here except for the family one.

Karen: We stayed at the Polynesian Resort, which I absolutely adore. I'm a big fan of tiki-style, and this place has it in droves. My husband has also become a fan and one of our pals is a major tiki guy (he even built a tiki bar in his house) so it was pretty popular with the group. It didn't hurt that when we entered the
lobby they gave us -free! -fresh, hot chocolate chip cookies. Another big plus of the Polynesian is that it is on the monorail system and the transportation center is right next to it, so it is very easy to get around.

Karen: So much of the trip has blurred together,
I won't give you a day by day run down, but instead focus on some highlights. First up, we had some really good meals. I know, you're probably thinking "park food?" but Disney has some very nice sit-down options. Heck even some of the fast-food options are pretty good. The hands-down favorite meal for everyone was at the Polynesian, at the Ohana restaurant. This was simply fabulous. It is served family style, and you start off with platters of pineapple bread, salad, noodles, pot stickers, and sticky wings. Then they bring out the skewers loaded with grilled meats. Steak, chicken, pork, shrimp -whatever you want, as much as you want. Delicious dipping sauces are provided. My husband and I felt the pork was the best, but you couldn't go wrong with any of those choices. The whole meal was topped off by a gooey bread pudding and vanilla ice cream desert. Can you say stuffed? Other great meals were BBQ at the Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge resort, Mexican food at La Hacienda in EPCOT, and burgers at the Sci FI Dine In in Hollywood Studios. The Sci Fi Dine In is an indoor restaurant designed to look like an old school drive-in theater, complete with movie screen showing trailers from old science fiction B movies, and the tables are cars! As you can see from the picture, it's a gas! They had terrific burgers and the best desert we had on the trip: chocolate bundt cake filled with warm peanut butter! Out of this world.

Karen: As Doug mentioned, Anim
al Kingdom always seems the most hot and humid of the four parks -probably because of all the foliage. But we got on the first safari of the day one morning and saw a ton of animals. The whole experience is really well designed (just what you would expect of the Imagineers) so that you think there is nothing separating you from the animals as you drive through their habitat. We saw giraffes, rhinos, hippos, elephants, and even the lion and lioness. It was amazing.

Karen: The Haunted Mansion is always a hoot. It seems like every time I ride it, I see something new. As you enter you have the option of going through the regular line, or a line with some interactive exhibits. These features are a lot of fun, especially for the kids. You get to interact with the spirits by pulling, touching or standing near certain items, like headstones and tombs. A great way to break up the monotony of waiting -although we rarely had a wait longer than 20 minutes for any ride. They've juiced up some of the interior scenes from years ago -for example, Madame Leota's crystal ball moves around the room now. The Bride in the attic is also a heck of a lot scarier.

Karen: My husband and I and our friends went to the Spirit of Aloha dinner at the Polynesian one night. This is a dinner show. The first part of the show is very cheesy, with 'Auntie' and her nieces and nephews preparing a going-away party for 'Leilani'. But the second half is very entertaining as it features performers in costume doing Polynesian dances. The headliner is the fire dancer -this guy was unbelievable. He spun flaming torches around and breathed fire. Absolutely amazing. The food was just OK. I don't know that I'd do it again, as it was about $50 each, but I don't regret seeing it.

Karen: The Magic Kingdom fi
rework shows, which are nightly, are always spectacular. We saw them from both the park and from the beach at the Polynesian -it is across the lagoon from Magic Kingdom. The great thing at the Polynesian is they pipe in the music that is synchronized with the fireworks.

Karen: I saved the best for last. We got to ride the new Star Tours ride six times! Twice one day, and then four times in a row another morning. When we were at the park in
2009, we rode Star Tours and both my husband and I turned to each other and said, "They really need to improve that ride." Improve is an understatement. This ride is simply fantastic! You get a different experience with each ride, as there are now 2 different beginnings, 3 different middles, 3 holographic messages, and 3 endings. We got to experience all except one of the endings. They've incorporated many favorite Star Wars characters into the ride now and you really feel like you are in the Star Wars universe. The 3D effect is also very well done and not intrusive, nor are the glasses uncomfortable. This is a definite must-do if you go to Disneyworld.

Karen: There's so many things we enjoyed; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even though we had 9 days there, we still didn't get to do everything we wanted. We really wanted to see Festival of the Lion King but the times never worked out. We also
only spent one night at the World Showcase, and we never made it to Fantasmic either. But that just leaves some things to do when we go back. The family is already talking about a 2013 trip. Hopefully our bank accounts will have recovered by then!

Doug: Just to close out our Disney series, I just saw on the news that Disney has won the rights to build attractions at their theme parks based around the film Avatar. You can read about it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Slowing Down of Sorts

Doug: In the past during some surveys we've run, many of you have said that the Blog Archive feature on the sidebar is where you most often head for some spelunking. A glance over there will show that we've for the most part been a daily blog since July 2010. That's a lot of posts! And we've been faithful through our own vacations, illnesses, and creative lapses. But Karen and I have always attempted to maintain a passion for this blog and our daily audience, especially our regular commenters -- you 20-or-so readers are near and dear to the BAB community. That being said, we have decided to pull back a bit for the time being.

Doug: For me, this has definitely been a labor of love -- I've said that often. But lately, and I hate to confess this, I've hit somewhat of a creative wall. I've expressed this to Karen that sometimes when I sit down to write it just doesn't come easy (cue the George Harrison version of It Don't Come Easy). And it has affected the pace of the blog. If you could see the queue, it is sometimes built out over a month in advance. Lately, we've been catching up to ourselves, and that has perhaps created a bit more pressure to bring our product on a daily basis. So, after an editorial board meeting over the weekend, we've decided to go back to our original imagining of the Bronze Age Babies -- posts three times each week.

Karen: I have to echo Doug's sentiments. I love the blog, love getting up each morning and checking everyone's comments, but lately there's been a lot going on that's dividing my time. I have to say my blog partner has taken on more than his share of work here, for which I have been grateful. But going back to our three a week schedule will help us both.

Doug: We hope this scheduling change won't affect our readership, which is pretty strong. We would hate to feel like we are letting down any of the almost-300 people who call this a home on a daily basis. But in order to maintain our high level of quality, a scaling-back is necessary. You can still look for all of our regular features -- they'll come along, as they always do. But as a way to get your fix, we'd definitely encourage going back through some of our many comic book reviews and other topics, like the Open Forums. Go ahead and make a comment, even on an older post -- we'll see it. There's no reason for an old conversation to be "dead".

Karen: There have been a number of times where people have revisited an older topic and brought a new perspective to it, which is always nice.

Doug: And thanks so much for the interaction over the past 26+ months. This is really a fun place to hang out -- we look forward to the comments rolling in as each day goes by. You provide a service to us as much as we hopefully do for you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Left in the Lurch: Jungle Action #22

Jungle Action #22 (July 1976)
"Death Riders on the Horizon!"
Don McGregor-Rich Buckler/Billy Graham/Bob McLeod/Jim Mooney

Doug: Uh oh. The teaser at the end of Jungle Action #21 said T'Challa was going back to 1876 to fight the Klan. In the midst of a story about social justice, can that be good? And what's more, when I look at the credits, I see that Billy Graham is not alone on the art chores -- witness Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney creeping into our cast of creators. Something is amiss here in part four of our look at the mid-'70's Black Panther series.

Karen: The switch from the Graham-McLeod art to the Buckler-Mooney art is jarring. I have to say most of my problem is with Mooney's inks. After McLeod's tight, detailed inking, Mooney's thick brush-strokes look odd.

Doug: And, right from the splash page I'm a little disarmed. We see T'Challa leaping onto the Lynne's front porch, from a Wakandan cruiser. And piloting the cruiser? Monica Lynne, along with intrepid reporter Kevin Trublood. OK, this isn't cool. We've come through three issues of somewhat-urban action with T'Challa -- no tech, no overt superhero powers. Just a guy wanting to set things right against the evil of the Ku Klux Klan. That seemed to be the way to go in telling that story. But now? Easy boy... OK, I'll try to be civil as we go through this.

Karen: It was kind of an odd choice, but then again, we've also discussed how it seems strange to have the Panther in his costume all the time.

Doug: As we turn the page, there's just some simple banter among the Lynnes (including Monica, now landed), Trublood, and T'Challa. It's actually sort of fun, the slice-of-life aspect of it.
Monica and her mother remark how they used to get together as a family all the time, to roast marshmallows and tell stories of the past. Monica thinks back to a story about a Cousin Caleb, and his fate after the Civil War. Momma looks pensive as Monica urges her to tell it now.

Doug: McGregor now weaves a strange tale, each part told on two pages: on the left, history as Mrs. Lynne remembered it. But on the right side of the magazine, we see Monica begin to daydream, and fantasize, about the same story. And here is where Buckler and Mooney come in (the eyes are where you find Jim Mooney's inks -- unmistakable!): they illustrate Monica's version of the story, which includes T'Challa in the Old South, to save the day.

Karen: Hey, wouldn't it have been cool if they'd had Graham and McLeod illustrate the 'real' story while Buckler and Mooney did the 'imaginary' one?

Doug: OK, just to give our readers a look inside the BAB editorial offices: if you'll notice above, I said that Buckler and Mooney illustrated Monica's version of the story. Karen duly noted that they actually illustrate both halves of the 19th century story! Man, I so had Graham/McLeod on the left-hand pages and Buckler/Mooney doing the right-hand pages. But nope -- a "look again", as well as confirmation of my fading skills of artist deduction from the Grand Comics Database proves my eagle-eyed partner correct! Back to the synopsis --

Doug: Caleb was now a freedman in 1867, yet without education or much to show in his name. One day a band of hooded men rode near his home, a beaten down old shack. Monica saw a nice homestead, complete iwth windows and a cellar. And as the Klan arrived, the Black Panther was waiting to greet them.

Karen: Monica's idea of Caleb's 'shack' looks very much like her own home.

Doug: Caleb was afraid of these riders. And they yelled at him and warned him not to go to the Freedman's Bureau or the Loyal League. If he did, he'd know the wrath of the Soul Strangler. Monica saw Caleb stand up to the Klan, and as they rose to strike him down, a black bolt descended like a missile from the trees.

Karen: Monica's Caleb is also tall and muscular, much like her super-hero boyfriend.

Doug: Caleb made his way to the Freedman's Bureau anyway. Surely someone would help him. But what he found were two white men who only wanted his vote. Now able to cast a ballot, the black vote became worth something to white politicians seeking to better only themselves. Monica saw Caleb being taken advantage of, but a hero burst into the room and put the white men in their place -- depositing them on coat hooks to dangle there while Caleb and the Panther had a laugh -- and exited declaring that they'd confront the Klan as individuals.

Doug: Caleb and his wife and their kids hurried back to their home, trying to make it before darkness fell. The sound of horses overtook them before they even got close. Monica closes her eyes -- if T'Challa had been there, the Klan would never have had a chance.

Doug: A man in a red robe and hood rode up to Caleb, and extended a skeletal hand. Caleb took his hand. The man informed him that he had died at Shiloh, and that he and the rest of his men were spirits. Caleb was then to turn around and meet his executors. Monica knew the Panther wouldn't back down from this Soul Strangler, and he didn't.

Karen: I thought it was a nice touch that in Monica's fantasy, the Soul Strangler's horse was red and aflame.

Doug: Caleb was shot in the shoulder, and as he fell as rope was tied about his neck. The Soul Strangler took the end of the rope, righted Caleb, and began to ride. Caleb's wife stepped forward and was beaten. The Panther had none of that, and as a noose was slipped around his neck...

Doug: The Soul Strangler dragged Caleb over to a tree, where the rope was thrown over a strong branch. Caleb's body was pulled higher and higher, and tied off. It was there that he died. Monica knew the Panther would work against the noose, and find a way to defeat the Soul Strangler and his henchmen. T'Challa beat the men into submission.

Karen: Monica gives her version a nice happy ending, something that unfortunately never happened for Caleb and many like him.

Doug: Before we wrap this one, I have to ask -- what did you think of this dichotomous story? To be frank, I found it offensive. I think I know what McGregor was going for, but it comes off as a real slap in the face to a people who were powerless to change the course of their history. Monica attests that she was indeed having a fantasy, but it's still a bit distasteful to me.

Karen: Hmm, I didn't actually have a problem with it. I took it on face value -Monica simply couldn't handle this terribly sad story, so in her mind, she re-wrote it, making her ancestors triumph in the end. It's simplistic but I think it's not unrealistic -haven't we all rewritten some episode from the past in our minds, as a daydream, trying to turn failure into success, or sorrow into joy? I don't feel any sense of disgust or contempt for Caleb -we all know that in the real world, these things happened and their was nothing one man could really do. I'm actually more concerned that this issue does nothing to move the Klan storyline ahead. That would have been fine, if we were going to get back to the story in the next issue. But that didn't happen.
Doug: I don't know that I have any contempt for Caleb -- he played the hand he was dealt. I guess I'd like to know if Don McGregor was making any criticism of his own, through Monica. It just struck a chord with me, I guess.

Doug: Well, as some of our commenters have mentioned previously, this one didn't get finished before Jungle Action was cancelled. Although Jungle Action lasted two more issues, #23 was a reprint of Daredevil #68 and #24 began a new tale -- yet written by McGregor! And what's even more puzzling is the fact that the ending didn't appear for another 3 1/2 years! And, when wrapped up, it was written by Ed Hannigan and drawn by Jerry Bingham -- I'm talking about Marvel Premiere #'s 51-53. Weird... I don't have any of those (although at one time I did have #51 -- I recall that it was actually the conclusion of JA #24 with a dude named Wind Eagle), so any of you who do and want to give us a quick synopsis, feel free! It would be welcome!

Karen: The Wind Eagle story does include the Dragon Circle, and gives some more insight into Angela's death, but that's it. Now I feel like I need to find those Marvel Premieres. I also feel that perhaps we need to review some of the Panther's Rage issues, seeing as how that storyline is so highly regarded.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Checkin' In With Billy Graham: Hero For Hire #15

Hero for Hire
#15 (November 1973)

"Retribution, Part II"
Tony Isabella/Billy Graham/Steve Englehart-Graham/Graham

Doug: I can't tell you how cool it's been spelunking through the two reader lots I've won over the past few years on eBay. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of those, bringing Bronze Age love to you every so often. Here's one -- we've been digging on Billy Graham's pencils in our 4-part look at the Black Panther in Jungle Action. I saw this one in the pile, noticed Billy credited, and grabbed it. Let's see what he looked like on Luke Cage a few years prior to the arc with T'Challa we've been enjoying. By the way, how about the writing credits? Three guys? Hmmm... wonder if there will be too many cooks in the kitchen? We shall see.

Doug: To begin, I always like to do a quick page-through, mainly to see the organization of the book, see where the Bullpen Bulletins and letters pages are, check on the Marvel Value Stamp when applicable, etc. I was very surprised to see that this has two stories in it, and one's a reprint (a 1954 Sub-Mariner yarn by Bill Everett, of all things)! As this is part two of a story, and upon checking I found that the previous issue was all one tale, I wondered if perhaps this story may have been intended for a Giant-Size book. Well, so you don't have to look it up, I did. I found that Giant-Size Power Man (the book is still Hero for Hire here) wasn't published until 1975, but did indeed include this entire story! How's that for irony? Not bad when you can be right and wrong with the same thought! And before we even get into the story, I'm going to say up front that Graham's art doesn't look as polished as it did in the Jungle Action books -- here it seems to have a bit of a caricature-look and feel. I'm not saying that's bad -- just my first impression, that it's different. OK, enough pontification.

Doug: Wow. Just wow. After the splash page, I'm wishing I had the previous issue. This one looks like it's going to be good. Seems everything that's gone on in Luke Cage's life has come to a head at the same time, and it's not looking so hot for him. Complicated, but not positive. The writers really tell a rapid-fire story. The evil guard from Seagate Prison, Rackham, has come to New York to ruin Cage's life. He's brought along a Dr. Fox, but apparently in the last issue Rackham accidentally killed Fox. They had kidnapped a young black lady who they thought was Cage's girlfriend; she saw Rackham kill Fox. After Rackham had fled with the girl, Cage's real girlfriend, Dr. Claire Temple stumbled on Fox's body at (you guessed it) the exact moment the police arrived. So she's taken to jail. And on top of all of that, the second and third men to ever bust out of Seagate are on the prowl as well, and about to break into a liquor store in Harlem.

Doug: So Cage, in his office, gets word that Claire's in jail. He ain't happy, so heads to the precinct. The cop on duty gives him the business and refuses to let Cage see Claire. Moving outside, Cage goes to the top of the building across the street from the lock-up, and leaps from one roof to the other. Then making like Spider-Man, he climbs down the wall to the 6th-floor, where he knows Claire is held. Cage gets lucky and finds Claire pretty quickly. She is able to tell him what really happened with Fox's death, but as they talk a guard comes by her cell. Startled, Cage loses his grip on the bars and falls the six stories to the ground (shouting "Christmas!" as he takes his leave) -- but fortunately lands on the roof of a passing bus.

Doug: In a series of events far-too-convoluted for this jumping-on reader, Cage goes around town looking for information that will lead him to the killer of Fox. There are attorney names, informants, etc. Finally, he lands at a diner shortly after 8:00 am. His associate, Flea, tells him that he'd heard about Claire and figured that after putting 2 and 2 together that it all had something to do with Seagate Prison. Flea then took Cage a short distance to a liquor store -- the store that Cage's old prison mates had just knocked off. This doesn't look good...

Doug: And that's where it ends! Man, why isn't this story longer than 11 pages? It does conclude in Hero for Hire #16, which is the last issue before the title switches to Power Man. So, I am soliciting any of our readers who can fill us in on the before and after of this short tale. It was really engrossing, albeit a bit confusing since I was literally dropped right into the middle of it. Help a brother out, please!

Doug: Oh, I'd better finish my evaluation of the art. It is definitely different from what we've been seeing in Jungle Action, but it's not bad. It's funny, because I sometimes associate Luke Cage with George Tuska -- there's a bit of a Tuska feel to this. I actually got a little Frank Robbins vibe. But it's pretty good stuff. The writing is fun, too -- you can feel the "blaxploitation" era, for sure!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Someone Stop George Lucas Before It's Too Late

Karen: Today yet another brand new, completely revised version of the Star Wars saga is hitting the shelves, and once again, Mr. Lucas has felt the need to change things. Now, people have been discussing these changes for weeks, but we haven't talked about it here at BAB. So let's lay it out there -what do you think about even more changes being made to these films?

Karen: I'll get things rolling by discussing a few of them. First off, we're getting a completely CGI Yoda in The Phantom Menace. Now this doesn't bother me, as 1) I think CGI Yoda looks better and 2) I will never watch that movie ever again. Honestly, I despise that film.

Karen: However, I do take great offense with his tinkering with Ben Kenobi's Krayt dragon impression in Star Wars (it's always going to be Star Wars to me, not A New Hope). He just sounds utterly ridiculous, and almost pornographic. Seriously, check it out if you haven't yet:

Karen: But the change that has drawn the most criticism is the "Nooo!" added to Vader's scene in Return of the Jedi, when he saves Luke. Horrible, and completely unnecessary. Plus, it sounds just like the "Nooo!" in Revenge of the Sith, which provoked laughter in the theater. Why George, why?

Karen: So far though, it doesn't sound as if there's anything as egregious as the "Greedo Shoots First" scene which was added a few versions back. That change affected the perception of Han Solo's character, but most of the new changes seem to be mainly in the area of special effects. But one does have to wonder why Lucas can't stop altering his films. It wouldn't bother me so much if he offered us the original, theatrical versions in a high quality format, but he seems determined to force all of the fans to buy his latest vision of his films. Ironic, since he once railed against the very things he is doing. Check out this link from Topless Robot. There are some great quotes there, including this one:

American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history. People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians" -George Lucas

Karen: So - what do you think of this new set of changes? Outraged? Indifferent?

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