Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dressed for Success... Fashion Accessories

Martinex1:  A good tailor is hard to come by.   A good spandex-sewing, color-coordinating, underwear-on-the-outside fashion designer is impossible to find.     What is the worst super-hero fashion accessory?  What makes you scratch your head and say, “Who the heck thought that looked good”?  Help the heroes so they don’t stumble on the red carpet.  

Why does Dum Dum wear a bowler?   Do you know why Cap has tiny wings on his head?   Should the Dazzler ditch the disco ball?   And does Ms. Marvel have a sore throat; what’s with the scarf?   All that and more today as we look at four color fashion faux pas!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Star Trek at 50: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Season 1
Episode 9: What Are Little Girls Made Of?
Filmed: July/August 1966
First Air Date: October 20, 1966 (7th episode aired)

Karen: The Enterprise's search for a missing scientist, Dr. Roger Korby,  leads them to a frozen world, where they discover that Korby has used ancient alien technology to create near-perfect android replicas of human beings -but at what cost? This is our first real exposure to 'technology gone amok' on Trek, and there is a strong component of morality to it, as we are also left wondering what is it that really makes one human? 

Karen: This episode came from a story from writer Robert Bloch, well-known in the horror genre. He  had written Psycho, which brought him to the attention of Alfred Hitchcock. He wrote scripts for Hitchcock's television show and others, and soon came to Star Trek. As Mark Cushman points out in These are the Voyages vol.1, the story Bloch submitted to Trek was similar in some ways to an H.P. Lovecraft novella, At The Mountains of Madness. Bloch was a Lovecraft fan and undoubtedly it had an influence on him. Instead of discovering an ancient frozen city in the Antarctic, Federation scientist Roger Korby discovers an ancient alien city on an icy planet. In the place of Lovecraft's 'Great Old Ones,' Bloch had substituted long-dead aliens known only as 'The Old Ones.' And instead of mysterious creatures called 'Shoggoths' roaming the caves, we now had the huge android Ruk, played by the towering Ted Cassidy, perhaps better known as Lurch from The Addams Family

Karen: De Forest Research, the firm which read over every story outline and script for Star Trek and checked them for scientific  accuracy and any legal issues, discovered that not only was Bloch's story similar to a Lovecraft tale, but it also had similarities to three of Bloch's own previously published short stories!This caused a stir, and efforts were made to incorporate changes to distance the material from previous efforts, including the twist ending, which I'll avoid mentioning here, since somebody (cough* Martinex *cough) may not have seen it yet.

Karen: I have to admit, before watching it again, I held this episode in rather low regard, mainly because I don't care much for Nurse Chapel. I always felt she was such a sad sack, just pining away for Spock and having no real life of her own. Here, she is Korby's fiancee, pining away for him. Back in the review of  "The Naked Time" I mentioned how Roddenberry essentially forced the character on the show so that his girlfriend (later, his wife), Majel Barrett, would have a role, and also to tick off NBC. Well, maybe that's why the character never felt truly developed. It wasn't created organically.

Karen: But I have changed my opinion on this episode. I find it very relevant in this age where people are talking about cyber enhancements to the brain, when some people want to download their consciousness into a computer to achieve immortality. What it is it that defines us as human beings? That core question is good science fiction.

Karen: Ted Cassidy is a joy as the menacing, alien android Ruk. Sure, he's in a weird puffy costume, but he's still scary as Heck. And he throws Shatner around like a toy. Really, watch the scenes with the two of them fighting -I don't see any wires! I'm sure that Sherry Jackson as Andrea, 'the mechanical geisha,' turned a lot of heads in her revealing outfit. I'm still amazed with the costumes they got away with!

Karen: Not that there aren't some rough patches here. We don't get much time on the ship, there's no McCoy at all, and little Spock - although the scene where Kirk's android doppelganger repeats the phrase the Captain memorized to try to cue Spock in to the problem -"I'm sick of your half-breed interference!" - is pretty awesome. Also, there's that infamous still photo of Kirk holding a rather questionably-shaped stalagmite...All in all though, a solid episode.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Convention Season!

Redartz: Spring is upon us, and the weather (theoretically, anyway) is warming. This is a sure sign that comic book conventions are going to be sprouting up like crocuses! Of course in recent years, cons have spread out throughout the year, and throughout the world. Big conventions, small conventions; some like Comic Con in San Diego are pop culture phenomenons in themselves. Others are local gatherings of comic book dealers and fans; buying and selling as they have since fandom began. 
The writer and his youngest son at Motor City Con

Today let's discuss comic conventions. Do you prefer a large, multi-media show, or a smaller, more intimate gathering? Do you go to buy, meet creators, see panels? Any cosplayers among us (one of these days I'll get up the nerve to go as Dr. Strange; my wife the quilter has already agreed to help). Have you any cool convention experiences to share, or are you still looking to attend your first one? 

And speaking of attending, this brings us to another question for you all. Upcoming at the end of April (specifically, April 29 - May ) in Indianapolis, Indiana is the Indiana Comic Con. This year they are featuring a pretty stellar group of Bronze Age comics pros, including: Neal Adams, Chris Claremont, Mike Golden, George Perez, Jim Shooter, Ron Wilson, Marv Wolfman and Bernie Wrightson.  This writer is planning to attend, probably on Sunday May 1. I mentioned it to Doug and Karen, thinking perhaps there might be others among us, located within a reasonable distance, who might be interested in attending also. They agreed, and also agreed that if this is the case, it might be fun to set up a little face-to-face meeting of said BAB attendees! Thus, I toss this question to you all, is anyone open/ interested/available for this? Any suggestions, requests or advice?

Monday, March 28, 2016

What If a Bat and a Cat Had a Kid? DC Super-Stars 17

DC Super-Stars #17 (Nov.-Dec. 1977)
"Secret Origins of the Super-Heroes"
Huntress Story --
"From Each Ending... A Beginning!"
Paul Levitz-Joe Staton/Bob Layton

Doug: Back on February 13 I told you that this cover made me buy this book. As many of you agreed, and since I have the trade paperback Huntress: Darknight Daughter (J.A. Morris reviewed the entire trade on his Bronze Age Reprints blog on March 14) we'll take a look at the cover story, a 13-page visit to Earth-2 and the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman. DC Super-Stars #17 landed right in the thick of my love affair with the revival of the Justice Society of America within the pages of All-Star Comics (All-Star Comics #69 [Dec 1977] gets equal billing as the debut of the Huntress). Like many here, the concept of legacy heroes was fascinating to me -- that the Invaders had preceded the modern Marvel Universe was as enticing as the notion at DC that Earth-2 had a heroic history that pre-dated "our" Earth's by close to 20 years. And the Super Squad of Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid, and Robin gave a kid like me an opportunity to further appreciate the classic heroes of DC's WWII era. Now the Huntress would be a part of that -- yes, the offspring of the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman. Gives me pause...

100-Word Review: On Earth-2 in 1955, Bruce Wayne married a reformed Catwoman – Selina Kyle. Two years later their daughter Helena was born. Helena grew to be as smart and skilled as her famous parents. But one day in 1976 Selina answered a call that would change all their lives. A former henchman blackmailed Selina into becoming Catwoman for one more job. But a stray bullet and the appearance of the Batman destroyed the Wayne family’s world as Selina plunged to her death. Shortly, a new bat-like figure exacted revenge for her death – the Huntress would protect Gotham from its criminal element!

The Good: About a gazillion things, really. Where to start? Joe Staton's art - go! Staton's art is perfect for these stories that have a "yesterday" feel to them. I've always felt that on the All-Star material. Sure, he was a nice fit on Green Lantern, but for some reason I like him better on the Earth-2 stuff. There's a certain quirky charm to his figures, and his facial expressions are top shelf. Staton made good use of montage panels/pages for effect. His camera angles constantly shift, keeping the reader on alert - no easy way out in his panel work. Paul Levitz's story is a somewhat typical "Got it all/Lose it all/Exact revenge" tragedy. However, because I felt already fully-invested in the character due to her relationship to the Batman, Levitz was able to tug at my heartstrings. Of course, also being a fan of Batgirl, it was exciting to immediately see those possibilities for Earth-2, as well as a a potential set-up of a "next generation World's Finest" team of Power Girl and the Huntress. What's more, I'm really feeling many of these thoughts now as I did when I was 11 and read this for the first time. While it's not an original concept, it's execution and subsequent roll-out (until the Crisis, that is) made for some fun.

The Bad: I really only have one complaint with the story, and it involves a general complaint many of us have had with the way the Batman has been depicted on film since the Burton/Keaton film back in 1989 -- I am speaking of the voice. The gravelly voice.  In the climax of this story, as Helena Wayne has adopted the Huntress identity, she sets off after Silky Cernak. Cernak had been a member of the Catwoman's gang who went to the Big House when Selina Kyle went straight. Now out, Cernak was the one who contacted Selina Wayne about doing one more job -- or he'd make it known that she had indeed killed a man, something she'd sworn to the parole board and to Bruce Wayne. Obviously, the blackmail worked, as it got Selina back into the Catwoman costume, where she eventually met her tragic end -- from a ricocheted bullet fired by what appeared to be Cernak's gun. 

Later, after tracking Cernak to the Gotham docks, the Huntress appeared to him from the shadows. Cernak sits, waiting for a meeting he won't have -- of course he's talking to himself. He says, "I was just mindin' my own business, tryin' to make a buck!" From the shadows, a gravel-voiced shadow says, "Crime is no man's business, Cernak!" Cernak is ensnared in a rope, and turning sees a silhouette of the Batman. In fact, he even calls to the shadow, "Batman -- you again!" Now I have to wonder why Levitz went this route? Sure, the Huntress costume with its pointed mask and scalloped cape resembles the look of the Batman. But even given that, I'm drawn instead to what young Bruce Wayne said to himself many years earlier:  "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible..." Well, if criminals are indeed superstitious wouldn't it have been better to have addressed Cernak in her own voice? Wouldn't there have been a chance that Cernak would have heard the voice of the now-dead Catwoman? Talk about instilling terror! But that's a very minor flaw in the overall story. It's just one of those "I'd have done it this way" sorts of things.

The Ugly: You get a big, fat N/A here, kids.

The trade I've used for reading and scanning retails for $20. Of course, we living here in the golden age of reprints know we can find discounted or used copies on the cheap. While this volume does not contain any of the All-Star Comics material (those are available in two trades and are also highly recommended), it does feature the Huntress's appearances from Batman Family and as a back-up feature in Wonder Woman. So feel confident that you'd be investing in some nostalgic time well spent! I would give one caution, however: Joe Staton's pencils can look very different when under the influence of various inkers. The first four stories were all inked by Bob Layton (as here); after that the art ebbs and flows, and is directly related to the embellishment. Ah, the Bronze Age and its inconsistencies...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Return of Tarzan -- Dueling Pencils

Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes #156 (February 1966)
Gaylord DuBois-Russ Manning

Tarzan #s 219, 220, 221, 222, and 223 (April, June-September 1974)
Joe Kubert

Doug: A long time ago I got the crazy idea to showcase one Conan story, "The Tower of the Elephant", but drawn by two Bronze Age masters: Barry Windsor-Smith (inked by Sal Buscema) and John Buscema (inked by Alfredo Alcala). People got a kick out it then, and lo and behold if the crazy idea didn't hit me again. Today we'll also look at the work of two masters, this time Russ Manning and Joe Kubert, both men inking their own pencils. Manning and his scribe, Gaylord DuBois, adapted the ERB tale "The Return of Tarzan" in a single issue; Joe Kubert took five issues (!) to tell his version. Today we'll check out a 100-Word Review of the basic plot, so those not in the know can consider themselves... in the know. Then we'll look at some key scenes as told by these two wonderful artists. Enjoy!

Thrown overboard from a steamer, Tarzan swam toward the African coast. As fate played out, he took shore a short distance from the cabin where he was born. Searching for arms, he encountered a Black warrior and saved the man from Numa, the lion. Welcomed to the tribe, Tarzan soon became their chieftain. Tarzan led his troops in search of a lost city – Opar! There he found danger in the form of the 50 Frightful Men and La, their high priestess. He also found gold beyond imagination, which he later plundered for his own benefit. And he won Jane’s heart…
Doug: I have to say that 100 words wasn't really enough to do the plot justice, but darned if that ellipsis didn't land after the 100th word - nailed it! Joe Kubert spent 2 1/2 issues to get to the spot where DuBois and Manning began their adaptation. Kubert gave quite a bit of backstory in regard to Tarzan's "rejection" by Jane Porter in her favor toward William Cecil Clayton, Tarzan's cousin and Lord Greystoke. Tarzan's friend, Lt. D'Arnot had gotten Tarzan a position as an international spy (just suspend your disbelief, OK?), and our hero encountered a certain Nikoklas Rokoff. Rokoff was a dangerous Russian criminal intent on all manner of do-badding. It was Rokoff and his assistant who assaulted Tarzan unawares on the ship's deck. But before that had happened, Tarzan had by chance met Hazel Strong, the best friend of Jane Porter. What a coincidence - to be sailing near the southern tip of Africa with an American woman from Baltimore who just happens to be friendly with the forbidden fruit of your dreams. Man... And then when she tells that Jane doesn't want to marry Lord Greystoke but some Tarzan fellow she'd met in the jungle... Of course, being chucked into the sea sort of put all that on the back burner.

Doug: I'm going to choose several examples of Manning and Kubert telling the same parts of this story. I think you'll see how illustrative Manning's work was, and how raw Kubert's was. Manning's work sort of feels like the Ron Ely Tarzan television show; Kubert's feels more like the Christopher Lambert film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. I'd also say that Manning's women evoke the glamour girls of 1940's Hollywood. When necessary, I'll tell you what's going on, or where the two men parted company in just how they told this story. You can imagine that with Manning using 24 pages and Kubert exercising his prowess over 90 pages there were some differences. However, what really interested me were some details that I felt were important to the story that Kubert skipped altogether, and how each penciler put certain events in a different order. Doing this post makes me want to reread the Burroughs novel!

Scans today are coming your way from the Tarzan Comics Library, Volume One (Dark Horse Comics 1999) and Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years, Volume Two (Dark Horse Comics, 2006).

Manning gets after it right away; it took Kubert almost three full issues to get to this scene below!

Interesting how the creators handle this scene with the lion. In the Manning issue Tarzan loses his balance and needs to be saved by the African; Kubert has the ape-man ever dominant. We can infer that Tarzan intended to kill the African for his weapons, but Kubert's jungle lord thinks to himself that he could never kill to steal -- Kubert's scene shows a more skillful and noble Tarzan.

Here, Tarzan -- apparently no environmentalist, agrees to go on an elephant hunt with his new friends. Kubert presents the scene as a rogue elephant has endangered the compound and must be dealt with.

In both stories, Tarzan learns of a lost city filled with gold. A member of the Waziri tells him the rumors, so Tarzan selects 50 strong warriors to accompany him on his search. However, stereotypical "savage" superstitions get in the way of the mission.

I'm always digging the 50 Frightful Men -- Burroughs painted such a picture in my mind that artists' renditions always fall a little short in comparison to the way I'd originally "seen" these brutes... sort of like the Seven Dwarfs as craggy cave men.

La. I think Manning got it "right" moreso than did Kubert. Of course, many artists have tried their hand at depicting the high priestess -- click here. In the scene below, Tarzan protects La from a mad suitor.

The great escape. This is another scene that Burroughs did a great job of painting for me. It's interesting that Manning has Tarzan find the gold right away; in Kubert's version Tarzan leaves to meet up with the Waziri and then comes back and discovers the gold later.

Of course, what would a Tarzan epic be if there wasn't a scene where Jane Porter fell into mortal danger? Here she is captured by the 50 Frightful Men and taken to Opar. Again, Manning and Kubert tell this scene a bit differently, and spaced differently in the order of events.

William Cecil Clayton, deceiver of many, meets his ending -- and title of Lord Greystoke:

Tarzan weds his lady. Jane nee Porter becomes Mrs. John Clayton, Lady Greystoke.

I hope you enjoyed our joint tour of these two tellings of The Return of Tarzan. I found it fascinating as I read each story how the creators chose to tell certain parts, to take artistic liberties with Burroughs' original writing, and even to reorganize major plot points. I hope you had a good time looking at the samples I've provided today.

Doug: I actually saw this on Thursday (3/24/16), but didn't want to hijack Martinex's $1 Challenge. Those of you who have found pleasure in my various reveals of the IDW Artist Editions may recall that I've pre-ordered the Jack Kirby's Thor book that is supposed to ship in May. Here's a link to a site offering glimpses of the book -- spectacular stuff! 

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