Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Operation:Annihilate!

Season 1
Episode 29: Operation: Annihilate!
Filmed:  February 1967
First Air Date: April 13, 1967

Karen: We made it! This is the last episode of the first season of the original Star Trek. The show closes out its maiden voyage with an action-adventure yarn with creepy alien parasites that can control their human hosts. When an entire planet is taken over by the creatures (as well as his nephew and Mr. Spock), Captain Kirk is faced with the dilemma of how to defeat the things without killing the hosts.

Karen: This episode owes quite a lot to the book "The Puppet Masters" by science fiction legend Robert Heinlein. Heinlein's book, written in 1951,  is about alien  parasites who infiltrate the US, controlling people by attaching themselves to their backs. Sounds familiar? I read it as a teen and immediately said, "Hey, Star Trek ripped off Heinlein!" Well, so did The Outer Limits! In the episode "The Invisibles," a government agent infiltrates a secret group that is using alien parasites that attach to people's backs to control their minds in order to take over society. As far as I can tell, Heinlein didn't raise an issue with either TV show, although he did sue the makers of an earlier film, The Brain Eaters, for plagiarism and won. This Trek episode was the product of many hands (again) but the story idea is credited to Steven Carabatsos, who started the first season as story editor. Once again, D.C. Fontana, Gene Coon, and Gene Roddenberry would all pitch in on the script.

Karen: On first blush, this one feels like your typical action episode. But it has a real dark side to it -we have Kirk's brother dead right at the start (played by a mustached Shatner), his sister-in-law dying soon after, his nephew in jeopardy, the people on Deneva at risk of all dying, and then Spock in extreme pain and finally being blinded (he got better). That's a lot of suffering for an episode! 

Karen: The parasites were made by prop man Wah Chang, who had also worked on The Outer Limits, although the two parasites look nothing alike. On Trek they are like blobs of jelly - "flying omelettes" is how James Doohan (Scotty) described them. And fly they do, a bizarre, wobbling flight, obviously on strings, which tends to lessen their believability in my opinion. Let me say it straight: they look goofy. But once plastered on someone's back, like our dear Mr. Spock, the threat seemed quite real.

Karen: I could never understand why Spock and McCoy could not wait for the test results to come back before they decide to blast him with the super-bright light. It seemed so unnecessary -and it was, a plot contrivance to make Spock blind, and we all knew that wouldn't last.  But there are some good moments in this episode, primarily between the three leads once Spock's been infected. McCoy's guilt over blinding the Vulcan  is well done. Nimoy keeps a stiff upper lip as Spock, despite the incredible pain he's going through. But all in all, I'd say it's just an average, or even slightly below average, episode. Not the strongest way to end the season. It would have been better to go out with "City on the Edge of Forever."

Karen: Seen only in this episode is "Yeoman Zahra," played by Maurishka Taliaferro, a model, who I can only conclude must have been dating someone in the production crew. Also in this episode was Craig Hundley as Kirk's nephew, Peter. A scene was filmed but cut from the episode, for the ending, where Peter is dressed in a gold command tunic and sitting in the Captain's chair on the bridge. Hundley claims Roddenberry would have liked to have made him a regular (shades of Wesley Crusher!) but his schedule wouldn't permit it. Nothing against Hundley but I think that was probably for the best. I don't think Kirk would have handled a kid on the ship too well.

Karen: And that's a wrap! Season one is in the can. This reviewer is going to take a little break, and then we'll warp into Season Two. Thanks for joining me on the voyage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Who's the Best... Captain America Cover by Mike Zeck?

Doug: Thomas F. is back with another Who's the Best? covers post. And he has some beautiful offerings for your consideration today.

Thomas F.: Talented penciler Mike Zeck got his start in the comics industry at Charlton Comics in the early Seventies. Most of his subsequent work, though, was for Marvel, with the occasional cover or one-page job in an anniversary issue for DC. Most of us are most familiar with Zeck’s artwork in the pages of Secret Wars, GI Joe, Master of Kung-Fu, and the highly successful 1986 The Punisher limited series which ran for five issues.

Incidentally, the first Thanos solo story, featured as the backup tale in Logan’s Run #6, was also penciled (and inked) by a twenty-seven-year-old Mike Zeck in 1977. As for why the story was included in the pages Logan’s Run #6, of all places—and not in The Avengers—tight deadlines was the official reason cited.
But for me, some of Zeck’s best work was in the pages of Captain America. During his popular run on the book, which lasted from 1978 to 1986, Zeck turned out some truly striking covers, many of which would make fantastic posters or pinups. I couldn’t help but notice that the cover of Captain America #277 is obviously a swipe of Neal Adam’s Detective Comics #395, from 1970.I’ve selected a dozen of my own favorite Zeck covers here. (If I had to choose just one, it would be a tie between #332 and Annual #8.)

Which do you like most, and are there any you feel I’ve left out?



*Doug: Apologies to Thomas and our readers for the less-than perfect lay-out today. You know I wanted those covers to be justified on the margins. But it just wasn't happening!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Buried Treasures - Super Powers Mini-Comics, part one

Doug: No review this week, kids. Busy, busy, busy with moving our youngest son out of the house (probably permanently) and on to graduate school, and school of my own just kicking my butt to start this year. So, although I meant to bring you something off my beaten path with a review of an old Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, it will wait until a later day. Instead... it's back to the auction block.

Last week we finished a look at some 4-panel comics that adorned the back of the packaging on Mattel's Secret Wars action figures. Now I'm selling my Super Powers stuff and what did I find but several mini-comics! Yay! For your discussing pleasure (but you'd have to leave a comment, you know) I scanned the seven comics that I had. Not all of them turned out perfectly, so we'll take a look at two of the better ones today, and another two at a later date.

I am frustrated, however, that I am having the same difficulty with these that I had with the Secret Wars comics -- who in the world created them? While both the Grand Comics Database and the Comic Book Database have entries, neither site lists creators definitively. So see what you can come up with as you read - recognize anyone's work? Looking through all of the comics, I sometimes got an Ernie Chan vibe; at other places I was feeling the work of Irv Novick.

Have fun!



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Geek or Nerd? Dork or Dweeb?

Karen: Back on Tuesday (August 23rd), in a post about stuff we didn't like, after a mention of geekdom, Doug made a comment that he didn't consider himself a geek, and even found the term offensive. After some ribbing by regulars Tom and Mike W., our esteemed leader conceded that "I suppose by someone's standards all this stuff we like is geeky. I never really cared for John Wayne films, so maybe I am geeky. I'll go fetch my pocket protector."

Karen: Today's question for you is what constitutes a geek? How about a nerd? How do you feel about these terms? Once thought of as derogatory terms, they now carry a veneer of coolness, as mega-nerds like Bill Gates conquered the world, and all the top films seem to be about super-heroes or space battles. On the other hand, dorks and dweebs are still at the bottom of the social ladder.

Karen: However, sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, especially nerd and geek. I always thought geek > nerd, because to me, nerds might have been into all the weird stuff geeks were, but they were also stuck with crushing a lack of social skills. I thought of myself as a geek, someone who loved science and the space program, science fiction in all forms, the Lord of the Rings and of course, comic books! But I could still have a conversation with a 'normal' person and not tip them off that I was of a different species. A nerd on the other hand, might love the same things as me, but would stumble and fumble their way through any social encounter, either heading for the nearest exit or loudly and awkwardly demonstrating their otherness.

Karen: I came across this Venn diagram that has divided up the terms and given them basic attributes.

Credit: Matthew Mason

Karen: So what do you think of this classification? It seems pretty good to me. The geek seems to come out ahead, and certainly, if you're a fan of comics, science fiction, and other genre fandom, you'd rather be thought of as a geek than a nerd based on these definitions. And no one would want to be a dweeb or a dork! But I'm sure there are dorks who think they are nerds...or nerds who think they are geeks...

Karen: You could probably argue for other characteristics that could define geeks/nerds/etc. And is there really overlap for all of them? I mean, could a dork just be socially inept? Or how about a nerd being more about math and science, while a geek might not be as academically inclined but more of a genre fan?

Karen: As I mentioned at the beginning, there's some thought that these terms, particularly geek and nerd, are used far too cavalierly nowadays. Most people think of nerds as being very smart, but you have a lot of folks self-labeling as nerds. Can the average person really be considered a nerd compared to, say, Neil Degrasse Tyson? And there are geeks everywhere now -I get annoyed with the self-proclaimed "Marvel geeks" who claim expertise on the characters when they've never opened a comic book -but hey, they've seen all the films five times!

Karen: No, geekdom and nerdiness are medals that were won with sweat and tears (maybe even blood, if you got beat up), and those of us who truly earned them, back when it wasn't cool, are the only ones entitled to wear them. The rest of them are just ...mundanes? What's the word for them?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Buried Treasures: Mattel's Secret Wars Bad Guys!

Doug: Hey, friends. We're finishing a 2-part look at the back panels from Mattel's Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars action figure line, on sale way back in 1984 and 1985. There were two series sold in the United States, and a third wave sold in Europe that featured Electro, the Constrictor, and Iceman. While I never had those, I did have the 13 figures that were available domestically. I say it past tense, as I sold them last week!

Last week we looked at some Handbook entries and 4-panel comic strips from the heroes' packaging. Today, it's Bring on the Bad Guys! And be sure to check the bottom line on Magneto's card. Say what?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Five Guilty Pleasures... Edo Is Correct!

Martinex1: Last month, in the responses for my post of Five Guilty Pleasures, longtime and frequent BAB commenter Edo Bosnar mentioned that there was really nothing to be guilty about in my offerings and that in fact most were quite enjoyable and honorable forms of entertainment.   Well chum, I am here to say, "You are correct!"   I was previously looking at the topic as an exploration of hidden gems and smaller works.    But in this post for August,  I am digging a little deeper and sharing some of the sheer nonsense for which I cannot deny having a fondness.   I hope you all find this a bit more cringe inducing but entertaining nonetheless.

As always, we will take a look at five out of the six categories:  Comics, Movies, Television, Literature, Music and/or Food, and identify the associated guilty pleasures.   So without further ado...

COMICS:  Cap Wolf!   Mark Gruenwald had a great run as the writer on Captain America that spanned about a decade.  His best known contributions to the series may have been stories like "The Bloodstone Hunt" and the addition of Diamondback as a supporting character and love interest for Cap.   However, I have to say I prefer the outlandish Cap Wolf arc (issues #402 - #408) in which Captain America transformed into a werewolf.   It had all of the markings of a B-Movie,  an anything goes approach, or a last ditch effort to break a writer's block.   It was just silly... but I liked every minute of it.   Only here could we see a crazed creature with the nobility of Steve Rogers, still wielding a shield, learning to speak, fighting other lupine Marvel creations, and finally battling the villainous cosmic Star-Wolf.   It has all the shortcomings of early 90's art, but it is a classic in my eyes.   I am willing to bet you won't see this story on the silver screen, but even I was shocked when I saw the action figure. 

TELEVISION:  Battle of the Network Stars!  In November of 1976, American television reached a new apex with the premiere of the pseudo-sports competition between various series' stars representing the ABC, CBS, and NBC networks.    I recently stumbled upon some reruns and was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of this 20th century strange extravaganza.    The show hosted stars like Scott Baio, Richard Hatch, Toni Tennille, Catherine Bach, Lou Ferrigno, Leif Garrett, Greg Evigan, Willie Aames, Erin Gray, David Letterman, William Shatner, Sarah Purcell, Howard Hesseman, Larry Wilcox and countless other actors fighting it out in rubber raft races, games of "Simon Says", tug-of-war, and obstacle courses... what could be better?   Some would say...the dunk tank!   I honestly cannot believe this show ever aired and I doubt it would be possible today.    Between corporate liability and less campy sensibilities, I don't think we will ever see anything like it again.   This belongs in a time capsule and on every DVR!

MOVIES:  Airport '77!  In past posts, I highlighted works from Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock. One of these things is not like the others!   As the series of four Airport movies stretched across the decade of the 1970s, they continued to get more and more outrageous as disaster movies peaked.    But this one captivated ten-year-old me, and I still cannot turn away whenever it airs.   A luxury airliner full of priceless art and aging Hollywood celebrities finds itself crashed and submerged in the Bermuda Triangle.   There is so much wrong with this film - from Jack Lemmon cast as the heroic pilot to the horrible song the pianist sings to his lone adoring fan.   But it is also so perfect, with Lee Grant chewing the scenery as a scornful and neglected wife and the blundered escape with a bursting pressurized hatch.   It also inexplicably has a scene where one of the hijackers dons a complex costume with a wig, fake mustache, and cheek implants only to have him meet one of his fellow hijackers which runs no risk at all.   Plan a double-feature of Airport '77 and Airport '79: The Concorde if you enjoy disaster movies and movies that are disasters.  

LITERATURE: The Weekly World News!  Okay, "literature" may be a stretch, but it does have words in it.    This supermarket tabloid mainstay offers some of the most creative headlines and stories you will ever see.    A college roommate introduced me to this paper decades ago and it always entertained during late night breaks.  Just thinking about it makes me chuckle.    The samples here speak for themselves.

FOOD:  Bomb Pops!  As a young kid, I would see these advertised on the side of ice cream trucks, but I never had enough to buy one as they were high-end treats that exceeded my pittance of an allowance.   When I finally got my hands on one years later from the penny-store freezer, I was treated to the sugary sensation of Cherry, Lemon, and Blue Raspberry!    Each flavor mingles slightly with the next creating a wonderful taste sensation.   I don't buy them anymore because I am pretty sure I would eat the whole box before my children could get to them.   Who thought of blue raspberry anyway?  He or she should be on the Mount Rushmore of flavorists!

So that is it for this month; we will cover "Music" next time around.    Enjoy the last days of Summer break, and stay guilty my friends!

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