Friday, October 31, 2014

FRIDAY FRIGHT MASK - BEE-MAN

Halloween approaches and with it the once-a-year dread of finding just the perfect costume. Well, this year, why not avail yourself of the back catalog of Gone&Forgotten's collection of fourth-stringers, Z-Listers, weirdos, misfits, almost-rans and never-weres? With nothing more than a pair of scissors, a color printer and a little imagination, you can slide right into the identity of the subject of your favorite Gone&Forgotten article. With a new fright mask (and accessories) posted every Friday throughout October, why not thrill your friends and terrify your enemies by disguising yourself as today's free download, BEE-MAN?




Instructions - it's easy!

1. Download and print the handy, full-color, three-page PDF file with this week's Fright Mask! (Preferably on cardstock paper, or paper of a similar hardiness - don't skimp on materials!)

2. Cut out the mask along the outside of the black outlines. Cut carefully along the blue dotted lines to create a comfortable opening for your nose (or other mid-face protuberance), and be sure to punch out the holes for the eyes, or else you might unknowingly walk into a wood chipper.

3. Punch out the circles on the tabs along the side of the mask and lace a string or other string-like substance through, to keep the mask attached to your head.

4. If you'd like to accessorize your costume with the enclosed word balloon and props, just cut along the outside of the black outline, same as with the mask. For ease of display, glue a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the back of the word balloon so as to quickly employ it when appropriate for the conversation.

5. Go forth and spread the magic!

And that's all there is to it! Have a happy gone and forgotten - and safe - Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : SIMON DARK

"Hey kids!"
Your Humble Editor usually takes pains to reach at least a couple of decades into the past to dig up a good truly Gone&Forgotten character, but the spooky synchronicity of timing this feature on the ay before Halloween lends itself to investigate the disappearance of “Gotham City’s OTHER protector,” the somewhat short-lived supernatural crimefighter Simon Dark.

Debuting and bowing in his own eponymous series between 2007 and 2009, Simon Dark was the creation of Steve Niles and artist Scott Hampton, known mostly for his dreamily painted, highly atmospheric artwork and who broke into comics with the underrated and unfortunately largely unacknowledged Silverheels, a book which could do with a reprinting.

A thematically-appropriate mishmash of horror-themed characteristics, Simon Dark was a fairy tale-like creature which haunted Gotham’s abandoned buildings and underground tunnels, invested with a child-like naivete and flat-out murdering dudes with his bare hands periodically. A bogeyman figure – not that anyone fights crime in Gotham without being dubbed ‘a bogeyman figure,’ I think you have to officially add that to your CV to even get in the door – Simon becomes the subject of the singsong nursery rhymes of the local kids, none of whom have apparently ever heard of Xbox and so they spend all day outside jumping ropes like idiots.

"We've been to paradise, but we've
never been to us."
The rhyme goes:

Lurks in Shadows. Hides in the park.
Simon. Simon. Simon Dark.
If you're good he'll stay away.
If you're bad he'll make you pay.
Lurks in Shadows. Hides in the park.
Wham bam thank you ma’am
Awwwwww Simon Dark!

Much of the series focused on understanding Simon’s origin, which was that he was the product of an infernal experiment by a power-seeking cult which imbues him with the souls of a couple dozen young innocents, the likenesses of which Simon can transform his scarred and totally messed up Gumby-lookin’ face. Along with that, Simon packs an arsenal of supernatural super-powers which cover the bases of pretty much whatever he needs to do at the moment, which is good Golden Age-style comic book thinkin’ there and I approve.

Simon also picks up a trio of familiars, all of whom are human beings transformed into weird Claymation-looking monsters by evil sorcerers, which is pretty much up this book’s alley. Atmospheric, weird, occult and agoraphobic, dark and shadowy and possessing a distinct look-and-feel only aided by the fact that a consistent creative team shepherded his book through the entirety of its incarnation, Simon Dark also felt suspiciously like no one had expected it to get past ohhhh eight or nine issues or so. It went to eighteen.

It’s almost definitely for the best that Simon Dark didn’t persist under other creator’s hands, since such a thing would have only led to streamlining the character, which these days mean a mandarin collar and a lot of seams on his new armor suit. Still, I bet he eventually shows up in Justice League Dark or, failing that, Justice League Milk Chocolate with Fruit and Nuts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MEPHISTO VS ...

These covers were always so excited to be part of a limited series.
Marvel Comics managed to get through the 1970s almost exclusively on a diet of mashed-up monster superheroes. Where there wasn’t room to actually make a monster the star of a book, then horror-themes became sort-of the setting and scene for some of their ancillary ongoing  titles – the Avengers and Fantastic Four were pretty straightforward sci-fi and superheroics, for instance, but titles like The Defenders and Marvel Two-In-One straddled an infernal line.

By the 1980s, the rampant runaway success of mutant mania meant that Marvel could rely on its homegrown heroes to fuel their line, and straightforward superheroes dominated the racks again. One of the last gasps of that era’s supernatural blend of spandex and sorcery happened in the four-issue limited series, Mephisto Vs (April through July 1987).

"...just sitting on the toilet, watching you brush."
This quartet of titles featured Marvel’s satanic stand-in Mephisto, a not-uncommon major baddie who got his start bedeviling the Silver Surfer, tackling the major super-teams of Marvel’s late-Eighties roster in a series of knockoff horror-style titles: Mephisto vs The Fantastic Four, Mephisto vs X-Factor, Mephisto vs The X-Men, Mephisto vs The Avengers, Mephisto vs Food, Mephisto vs Muhammad Ali and Mephisto Meets World., some of which I just made up. A product of editor, inker and this-time-around writer Al Milgrom paired with artists John Buscema and Bob Wiacek, the story featured the House of Ideas’ own Lord of All Evil carb-loading on superheroic souls in a sort of four-color Faustian riff on the guy who traded a paperclip for a house.

Through the four issues, Mephisto bargains, tempts, confuses and just generally shoots fire at a lazy susan full of superheroes, with the goal of trading up for increasingly valuable heroic souls. Starting with the Fantastic Four, Mephisto launches his assault by having Marvel’s first family discover a massive pit smack-dab in the middle of their headquarters. If I’d come across a giant pit in the Baxter building, I’d just assume it’s where the Thing leaves his cosmically-irradiated dumps or HERBIE throws the bodies of the hookers he kills, if not both.

What the pit turns out to be is a flame-spewing metaphor – the worst KIND of metaphor! – after which he proceeds to fling a shit-ton of hallucinogenic cheap shots at the heroes to unsettle them and rig ‘em for a quick trip to his infernal domain. He enrages Ben Grimm to the point of murder by engaging him in some sort of cuckold porn scenario, and likewise arranges for Johnny Storm to murder John McEnroe – the most unforgiveable murder of all, EIGHTIES MURDER! Not wanting to repeat a motif three times, he tricks Mister Fantastic into tampering with the mail – a federal sin! – and snags Sue Storm for wasting cooking oil, or maybe because she’s not a very good cook, something like that. The Bible is a pretty strict document, I guess.

"Well, if it'll help boost sales..."
Long story short, Mephisto comes out of the arrangement with Sue Storm’s soul in his possession. He originally traded her for the soul of her son Franklin Richards, but it’s revealed that Franklin’s contract was void because he was a minor. Also I assume infernal contracts can’t contravene federal law? Do you need witnesses for this thing? Are their satanic notaries? Leave it to the bureaucrats.

Mephisto catches up with X-Factor in the second issue, pleading his case to the mutant outcasts that he, himself, shares a lot in common with them as an outcast as well. It’s an interesting issue, if presented a little antiseptically, and then he repeats the hallucinogenic shaming-and-sinning gag from the FF’s issue with X-Factor; he makes Beast appear even Beastier, and banishes Angel to Marvel Fanfare. In the end, he trades Sue Storm’s soul for Marvel Girl’s, leading the Invisible Woman to complain that she’s being treated like a “Collector’s Item” and it is – at this moment – that you might begin to suspect, as a reader, that this book is a big satire about the changing face of the comic book company which employs Al Milgrom and how they perceive their own characters. Hold onto that thought.

As we catch up with the X-Men, Rogue – the team member who can steal the memories and powers of other with a single touch – is now walking around in patriot boots and loose sleeves, which is a pretty good formula for engineering “accidental” contact with someone else. It’s time to face facts: Rogue is engineering these accidents, clearly.

Mephisto trades Jean Grey for Rogue via something hilariously called a SOUL KISS via a single-page splash panel which looks like the worst makeout album cover of all time. The Soul Kiss nonsense doesn’t stop, though, as Mephisto forces Rogue to go around stealing everyone’s powers – and alarmingly their souls, too, which is not something we were told her powers could do. Rogue does this by contact, of course, which manifests itself as French kissing the male heroes and merely touching the female heroes. This is, of course, bullshit because if Claremont established anything with his X-Men, it’s that Sapphic underpinnings hold every female character together.

Eighteen great makeout hits! 


Mephisto uses Rogue’s soul-siphoning powers to snag his apparent ultimate goal, the soul of Thor, God of Thunder, primarily in a bid to unseat the ambitions of a rival underworld bigwig. The cap to the Thor scene involves Mephisto encasing the hero in “MYSTIC MYLAR” to preserve his soul for all eternity and THERE YOU GO, remember how I asked you to hold onto the idea that this was Editori-Al’s editori-alizing about the changing face of comics? Well, here you go.

Milgrom has always been a feisty so-and-so and, with a background working in creator-centric projects such as Marvel Fanfare, there’s a good chance that he found the comics landscape’s conversion to a collectors’ market and the increasing media interest in the creations of individuals who were simultaneously excluded from the benefits of that interest worth writing about. With Mephisto, the lord of all evil, playing the role of the buyer-seller, the deal-maker, and the hand holding the mylar bag. Is this whole book a metaphor for corporate ownership, for the diminution of characters for the sake of making them easier to market, a protest against the commoditization of idea? Hey, Al Milgrom is tricky, you guys, maybe it was.

Still, as a work of art, Mephisto Vs was badly overwritten, overlong, a little obvious as a tie-in product yet pretty ambitious despite having the most powerful scion of evil in the entire comic book universe fighting the version of the Avengers that had Tigra and Mockingbird on it. In a lot of ways, it’s like Contest of Champions except for garbage, or possibly just the weirdest nativity play ever.

He's been watching Dane Cook.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

COSTUME DRAMA : THE X-MEN'S TRADING CARD COSTUME PARTY

Typically, I try to keep the Costume Drama entries focused on the stories behind established characters’ weird and unexpected costume changes, rather than just creating a list of absurd superhero costumes. Beyond the fact that the internet isn’t exactly shy of “The Ten Worst Superhero Costume Redesigns in History” listicles from one end to the other, it’s not like most super-hero costumes aren’t ridiculous in the first place. One of the first occasions of disbelief comic book readers have to suspend in order to enjoy their books is that gods from space would wear bucket hats and the first thing a normal human being would do after gaining tremendous power in dress in head-to-toe lycra with the underwear on the outside.


This Halloween, however, I was presented with a straight-up oddity of the Nineties’ trading card craze and an array of alternate, seasonally-appropriate costume changes that came devoid of story: The 1996 Fleer Ultra X-Men Chrome Trading Card “Haunted Mansion” subset, featuring ten of the X-Men’s most prominent members in the cheapest Halloween costumes the local Party City could supply them at the last minute. To wit:

Professor X, for instance, appears to have either merely gotten his hands on the cheapest Hogwarts knock-off costume he could find (Hey, the X-Men travel through time, he could have easily jumped ahead a decade and gotten a $19.99 "Wizard Professor" outfit from the tentpole Halloween shop at the nearest failing mall) or he got some of the younger mutants to help him make a papier-mache wizard hat. Some kid with a beetle for a head pasting construction paper stars to a hat, another kid with wings made of fire drawing moons on a graduation robe with glitter pens. It's all very sweet until one of them gets abducted by Belasco and the other gets murdered by the Brood. Hey, how many graduation robes do you think Xavier's even has in stock? I bet it's one, because no one survives to graduation anyway.

Iceman makes Professor X's wizard robes look like that cardboard Optimus Prime cosplay outfit that actually transforms by comparison. Basically, he stole a few charcoal briquettes from Wolverine's barbecue - wait, I bet Havok barbecues more than Wolverine, I bet he considers himself a "grill master," somebody's scarf and a top hat made of cardboard. I bet he just stole that belt from one of the fat mutants. Also, some time next week someone's gonna be asking what happened to the broom and everyone else is gonna go "I think Bobby had it last" and Iceman's gonna be all "I 'unno, I put it back where I found it. Listen I gotta go, the Defenders need me for something" and the broom is actually under a pile of dirty clothes in his bedroom in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gambit's costume literally consists of an ugly hat and jacket which I can guarantee you he's owned for years already. He's even just wearing his regular costume underneath it. I bet it came down to the jacket with the fringe or a faux leather duster and fingerless gloves. And when someone teases him about it, he gets super sulky and goes "Oh cher dey don' even hav' 'Alloween in New Olrean', Idon' eve' 'no'wha'i's'" and whatever he's saying devolves into guttural sublimated consonants and no one can understand what he's saying, and then he just points at his ears and mouths the words "The music's too loud, can't hear, sorry!"

Leave it to Wolverine, the superhero whose power is that he always has six knives on him at all times and whenever there's a problem, he chooses to solve it with up to six knives. Yes, given an opportunity, he opts to get more knives. I'm not sure he even knows he's a pirate, I think he just picked the costume with the most knives associated with it. It was down to a pirate captain, a chef, a taxidermist or a knife salesman. 

Actually, this about how good that costume would have been - Wolverine in a cheap business suit, holding a briefcase, and whenever someone asks "So what are you supposed to be" he opens the case, shoves his adamantium claws through the bottom of it and says "I'm a knife salesman."

"Bub"

The Beast can't let any holiday go by without the opportunity to lecture someone about history, he did this at Christmas when he dressed as Euripides and the Easter he insisted he was Tesla and electrocuted a bunny. But at least this is better than the year he blacked up to go as Frederick Douglass and when the other X-Men gave him shit about it he blamed it on Dark Beast. Except Kitty Pryde, she didn't give him shit, she just got in the face of the nearest black person and asked 'em if they'd be cooll if she used the N-Word at them. That's like Kitty's thing.

I can't tell if Cyclops is dressed as Elvis or if this is what mutants think humans dress like. For Mutant Halloween, maybe mutants dress as normal people and this is what Cyclops thinks accountants wear. The year before, he dressed as Prince and insisted he was a YMCA lifeguard.

The back of the card attests to his relative cluelessness. "Viva Professor! X-Land is rockin' tonight! Don't be a hound dog! Have a 'hunka hunka burning fun'!" That's just an approximation of human speech (Immediately after saying this, he murdered the professor, adding "Return to X-Sender! In the ghetto! Haha, okay!")

The fun fact I learned from Storm's costume is: The X-Men have at least TWO brooms!

Psylocke's French Maid costume - complete with the frilly little apron flying up in the front to give us a panty shot that she's uually giving twenty-four/seven anyway- is just flat-out insulting. First off, surely she could dust telekinetically. Secondly, even if she couldn't directly affect dust with her mind powers, surely she could just create Psychic Feather Dusters, couldn't she? Is this canon? 

Actually, the weirdest part is that even with adding a low-cut front and a diaphanous, translucent apron to her costume, Psylocke's more thoroughly covered up than she generally is when going into battle. Apparently the mutant version of sexy Halloween costumes involves putting on more clothes.

Colossus probably went more all-out than any other X-Man, even though basically his costume makes him look like Mister Sinister. I wonder if he ever did that, just put a red jujube on his forehard, drew a goatee on with a Sharpie and walked around going "Scott, tovarisch, did I effer tell you, is much genetic potential has your blootline? Haha, okay, is I am kiddingk!"

Actually, that would require Colossus to have a bit of a wild side to him, and I'm not sure he's got any such thing, according to the quote on the back of the card:

"Okey, early bett-time for Piotr, goot night my party friends!"

Meanwhile, did Rogue and Colossus go to the party together? Because...

It's weird that Rogue opted to go as a vampire showgirl. Also that a vampire showgirl is basically just a Frederick's of Hollywood outfit with a cape and fangs, and also that she doesn't own a different colored headband. Did she not know you can buy them in red?

Actually, I'm not sure Rogue is going as a vampire showgirl here at all, according to the back of her card ...


I'm not sure, but I think this card is implying that she's dressed up as a vampire cocksucker.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MONDAY'S MONSTER - MAN-MONSTER


Comics are not shy of monsters which are really men under the scales, shells and swamp matter. Matter of fact, that’s kind of the whole “heroic monster” gimmick, from The Hulk to The Thing, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, the Heap, Man-Wolf, Morbius, et cetera and so on. It takes an Atlas-Seaboard, though, to hit the nail so precisely on the head with a man-monster actually called “Man-Monster.”

Debuting in Tales of Evil, Man-Monster shared company with another recurring Atlas-Seaboard man-monster, the Bog-Beast – unsurprisingly a loam-laden anthropoid who lumbered around and started fires, so in no small part inspired by Marvel’s Man-Thing – and a lot of werewolves. The Atlas-Seaboard comics had a pretty even investment in vampires and werewolves, with the majority of the latter sharing space in these pages.

Misandry is real.
Man-Monster, however, enjoyed a single appearance in the final issue of Tales of Evil, succumbing as it did to the total collapse of the Atlas line after a valiant effort to stick it to Marvel’s new owners, Cadence. Former Olympic champion swimmer and perennial bad boy Paul Sanders eventually becomes the red-skinned amphibian man while trying to impress a pair of lady reporters from “Women’s Lib Magazine”, which frankly sounds like a trade journal. Brash, swell-headed, and simmering with potent resentment against his tough, accomplished multi-millionaire oilman of a father, Paul takes the bikini-bedecked journalists out on a leisurely sail in his yacht to get a better look at his pop’s closest oil rig! Sure, that sounds like fun.

Showing off, the still-hungover Paul encounters a mass of a strange “bacterial force” unleashed from the bottom of the ocean by the drill’s persistent plunging. The force “activates” the “algae on the ocean’s surface” causing it to explosively bloom – into a tidal wave! I’m not sure that’s how it works, but whatever the case, Paul is swamped underneath a boiling tumult of microscopic lifeforms gathered up from the bottom of the ocean. Some combination of the “activated” algae, bacteria and possibly Paul’s besotted liver cause a weird change when the man is dragged back to the surface: He becomes a Detroit Coney.

Bright red, covered in scales and sporting a pretty punk rock fin, the former professional dog-paddler becomes a mindless, powerful brute, although luckily he’s given to fainting spells. Boiling water activated his change, and another dose of hot water from a hotel shower returns him to normal. This is also about the time we discover that one of the reporters from Women’s Lib Magazine was clearly written and drawn as a black woman but colored Caucasian. Well, one step forward, I guess …

Oh, so they're in Jersey.
Since it’s a binary switch flipped by heat, it takes a laser to cause Paul to turn back into his big red idiot phase. The laser is the property of Hell-Blazer, a kabuki-faced Gene Simmons-a-like who busts into Paul’s hotel room and threatens him with a gun unless Paul relents to assisting Hell-Blazer in bankrupting Paul’s father. Why, I dunno, Hell-Blazer just shows up with a plan in hand. We pick up from exposition that Hell-Blazer and Paul have a long history, with Paul having once refused a request on behalf of ‘Blazer to throw a swim meet, which I didn’t think would even register a blip on the “corrupt sports index,” but there you go. “Say it ain’t so, Shoeless Paul Sanders!” (Of course he’s shoeless; he’s a swimmer, they don’t wear shoes).

Paul rejects Hell-Blazer’s tempting yet poorly-timed offer and instead becomes a big weird monster and accidentally sets fire to the hotel (which also happens to be owned by his father, coincidence of coincidences). Saving one of the insensate Women’s Lib reporters from the flames, we leave Man-Monster as he’s confronted by a furiously angry father and a passel of trigger-happy boys in blue, loose plot threads dangling against the backdrop of a burning building …


A still from Man-Monster's MRA YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

SUNDAY THRILLER THEATER - TRICK OR TREAT

"It is I, DOCTOR DEATH, or because of a lawsuit from the estate of Jack Kevorkian, DOCTOR DE*TH. Embarrassing isn't it? Their lawyers suggested they were bringing the trademark infringement suit so as there wouldn't be any confusion in the potential marketplace. What, is Kevorkian hosting comic books now? Am I snuffing seniors in a motel room? No? I'd say we're good, but that's not what the Judge thought...

"You know, I never understood the issue with Kevorkian, anyway. Same folks who said they supported assisted suicide in terminal patients were furious with Koverkian because they perceived him as a murder-happy ghoul. Well, good? Like, if we ever did institutionalize assisted suicide, surely you'd want murder-happy ghouls manning the plungers, right? I mean, I wouldn't staff the whole place with them, I wouldn't suggest the janitor and receptionist ought to keep scrapbooks that are just photos of celebrities with the eyes gouged out with a half a pair of safety scissors or anything. Certainly no one who administers any kind of bedside service, nurses and such - they shouldn't be looming over the terminally ill, drooling as they intone "soo-oo-oon."

"But the guys who actually administer the final poison? Yeah, those oughtta be kill-crazy nutcases. It'd drive a decent person nutso and weigh heavily on their conscience, let the sociopaths do the heavy lifting, you know? Everybody's happy.

"Anyway, wrapping up the Theater section of the site's 31 Days of Halloween, here's a holiday-appropriate themed story from Surprise Adventures, TRICK OR TREAT!"


 

Script: Uncredited
Art: Mike Sekowsky

Saturday, October 25, 2014

SATURDAY CHILLER THEATER - RUN MARTIAN RUN

"Hey there, I'm Smurfette, and welcome to the last Saturday Chiller Theater entry for this year's 31 Days of Halloween.

"Of course, I'm actually Winnie the Witch, Charlton's bespectacled, blue-skinned and pulchritudinous answer to Vampira. You know when you get some blowhard arguing that he's not a racist because he doesn't care if someone's skin is white, brown, blue, purple or orange? Well, I'm the blue skin he's talking about! Thanks pals, I appreciate the votes of confidence!

"I primarily hung around Ghostly Haunts, until Charlton's waning days dragged a lot of inventory stories out of hiding, when Dr.Graves and I got to hang out and steal the hosting gigs from other established creeps and weirdos. Hey, work is work.

"In the meantime, here's a gruesome hit from the sci-fi-centric Forbidden Worlds and also what the Red Planet called "Lola Rennt", RUN MARTIAN RUN!"


 

Friday, October 24, 2014

FRIDAY FRIGHT MASK - NFL SUPERPRO

Halloween approaches and with it the once-a-year dread of finding just the perfect costume. Well, this year, why not avail yourself of the back catalog of Gone&Forgotten's collection of fourth-stringers, Z-Listers, weirdos, misfits, almost-rans and never-weres? With nothing more than a pair of scissors, a color printer and a little imagination, you can slide right into the identity of the subject of your favorite Gone&Forgotten article. With a new fright mask (and accessories) posted every Friday throughout October, why not thrill your friends and terrify your enemies by disguising yourself as today's free download, NFL SUPERPRO?




Instructions - it's easy!

1. Download and print the handy, full-color, three-page PDF file with this week's Fright Mask! (Preferably on cardstock paper, or paper of a similar hardiness - don't skimp on materials!)

2. Cut out the mask along the outside of the black outlines. Cut carefully along the blue dotted lines to create a comfortable opening for your nose (or other mid-face protuberance), and be sure to punch out the holes for the eyes, or else you might unknowingly walk into a wood chipper.

3. Punch out the circles on the tabs along the side of the mask and lace a string or other string-like substance through, to keep the mask attached to your head.

4. If you'd like to accessorize your costume with the enclosed word balloon and props, just cut along the outside of the black outline, same as with the mask. For ease of display, glue a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the back of the word balloon so as to quickly employ it when appropriate for the conversation.

5. Go forth and spread the magic!

And that's all there is to it! Have a happy gone and forgotten - and safe - Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : SON OF DRACULA

This isn't true. The strangest vampire of all is Inside-Out-Dracula. 
As a horror character, the primary problem with Atlas-Seaboard’s “Son of Dracula” was mostly that they didn’t give him any sort of unique name just for his-own-bad-self, like “Fangy” or “Bitey” or “Dracula Jr.” Or “Chocula.”

A product of the collaboration between Gary Friedrich and Frank Thorne, Son of Dracula debuted in the sole issue of one of Atlas’ broad-swinging umbrella titles, Fright, in the mouthful of a story “And Unto Dracula Was Born A Son” (August 1975). Which frankly sounds like a sequel to Marillion’s “Script for a Jester’s Tear,” I’m gonna look it up on Wikipedia.

"So you, uh, kinda OWE me, if you know what I mean"
The story opens on a seemingly innocent woman being burned at the stake for witchcraft, persecuted by enraged townspeople and possibly also some out-of-townspeople. Not everyone is always a local, you know? They mighta driven in just for the witch-burning. Maybe there’s a shuttle service.

Luckily for the almost-flambeed filly, infamous vampire and notorious pussy-hound Count Dracula is some sort of infernal pick-up artist, and can’t resist the opportunity to swoop in on a mega-negging of this intensity. Telling a girl she’s fat pales incomparison to actually sentencing her to be burned alive for witchcraft, I tell you what. Seeking to add the young lady to his stable of undead babymamas, Dracula rescues the girl only to discover – GASP – she’s his cousin! A bat-shaped birthmark on her neck keeps Dracula’s dentures at safe distance, although it doesn’t provide any protection against getting vampire boned.

Frustrated that he can’t – for whatever reason, it’s not really made clear – just murder or vampirize this lady, Dracula instead marries her with the hopes of gaining a male heir. Which he does, mazel tov Dracula! Mom has a weird plan, though, which is to confront the lord of the night and inform him that she and the baby are gonna r-u-n-n-o-f-t, at which point he kills and vampirizes her, which I thought they said he wasn’t allowed to do but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

"Scat, Son of Dracula" now playing
in a theater near you!
Still, the boy manages to escape his father’s wrath, taken by loyal peasants overseas to relative safety in the mountains of Appalachia. Just imagine what this guy’s accent is gonna end up being like, from Transylvania by way of Blue Ridge. “Ah these here chilluns of th’naght, that there’s some right durn lovely music they done makin’, git a boy so he wantsta HOOT and HOLLLA!” Please don’t write in.

Anyway, to speed this meandering origin along, Dracula eventually finds his wayward son, despite a caption in a previous panel explaining to us that he couldn’t.  “Not even the occult powers of the evil Count,” it explains, “Can span the vast Atlantic Ocean” and then literally two panels later Dracula shows up on the kid’s doorstep. Same rules that applied to Vlad not being allowed to vampire his wife, I guess. Heckuva double standard in the vampire community.

To save the boy, he’s hustled into a hillside hollow which is subsequently buried in a deliberately-set explosion. He emerges in 1975 as a professor of occult studies which is, as I understand it, how you get tenure.  Masquerading as Dr.Adam Lucard (uggggggh), the handsome young-looking academic lives a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence, keeping his vampire self at bay with the help of a V-shaped disco medallion. His additional nighttime urges to excurse and exsanguinate requires the help of a room full of occult geegaws and a heavy crucifix he balances on his chest while he sleeps. I would’ve given him a holy waterbed myself, but not like this character would have been improved by puns.

When a love-hungry female student breaks into Dr.Lucard’s (UGGGGGH) apartment in what appears to be either a Penthouse Letter gone wrong or at least a grim example of what life was like before Tinder, she manages to upset his Catholic steering wheel lock and unleashes the vampire side he’s kept at bay lo these many years. Quickly acquiring a cape, the now savage Dr.Lucard (UGGGGGGGGGGH) does what all recently unleashed bestial personas and no small number of career politicians on a Vegas retreat do – murders a few prostitutes!

Confronted with the horror of his now-liberated vampire self dominating his nighttime hours (although why he can’t just get back under the crucifix and get a more-girl-proof lock for his front door, I dunno), the Son of Dracula is left after his singular appearance in the midst of a terrible existential dilemma. Of course, he’s also one of at least three characters at Atlas-Seaboard who eats
people for a living, so at least he could probably form a support group.

It's the end.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES PRESENTS: DEATH


Roads to Regrettability: Death
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. Some are born regrettable, some are made regrettable, and some become heroes by the most regrettable means – death!

Jules Feiffer, in his excellent 1965 combination memoir and collection of classic comic book stories The Great Comic Book Heroes, makes particular note of the means by which the cloaked and short-pantsed supernatural hero The Spectre gains his powers – he dies! Acknowledging that superhero origins tend to involve a little murder here, some orphaning there, and the occasional destruction of a home planet, it’s the rare hero who actually has to up-and-die on his or her way to the four-color crusade.

Shortpants of the undead.
The blood-spotted floor of superherodom’s great hallways are littered with posthumous heroes. Kid Eternity, shuffled off his mortal coil owing to clerical error, returns with a magic word and the ability summon an array of heroes from fiction and history as varied as Lancelot, Knute Rockne and Carrie Nation. Also counted among the spirits rubbing shoulders with living men were the French Foreign Legion fliers of the Ghost Patrol, murdered by high-altitude sabotage while in the middle of disobeying the sinister orders of their Vichy leaders and thereby granted the liberty to hassle Hitler with their supernatural powers.

Like the Spectre, American Comics Group’s Nemesis was a former police officer who returned to life after kicking the bucket at criminal hands. Besides almost limitless supernatural powers and similar career placement exam results, Nemesis also shared much in common with the Spectre’s dress sense – short pants, little booties and a hood, an outfit which seemed to scream “Avenger of the Undead” in the comics of yesteryear.

More than a few flesh-and-blood heroes had the opportunity to share their lives with deceased siblings; Houngan hero Brother Voodoo carried the spirit of his brother and predecessor around during his supernatural slugfests, while the Golden Age’s Captain Triumph pressed a T-shaped birthmark on his wrist to recall and combine with the spirit of his deceased brother, doubling his strength and energy. (Marvel’s faux retro hero 3-D Man, while having the hero’s brother trapped in another dimension rather than actually being dead, operated under the same principle. Then again, what exactly is the difference between death and banishment in an invisible realm?).

Most of these heroes are lucky enough to receive celestial boons as a sort of compensation prize for having been murdered ahead of schedule or otherwise out of sight from St.Peter’s bookkeeping, but others snuff it on their way to serving satanic powers directly. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, most notably, rebels against his infernal master during his earthly mission to collect corrupt souls, but he’s not the first to play around with that shtick – Atlas-Seaboard’s Grim Ghost is a reincarnated highwayman given tremendous powers by the devil himself in order to bring evildoers to the gates of hell ahead of schedule. (Keeping in mind that this Grim Ghost is not to be confused with DC Comics’ Grim Ghost, a character only called that during his revival since his original name – the Gay Ghost – seemed apparently unpalatable for a contemporary audience)

Other heroes have merely faked their death in order to confuse enemies or increase their efficacy, but Will Eisner’s The Spirit faked his as part of his origin – now residing in a cemetery headquarters, the believed-dead Denny Colt uses his extralegal status as a non-person to aid the law and also to avoid anyone connecting him with that movie which Frank Miller made about him a few years ago.

Of course, the most famous dead superhero might be the one with his condition right there in the name – Deadman. Formerly a world-famous highwire trapeze artist, Boston Brand (a good name for a baked beans company if ever there were one) is murdered as an Assassins Guild initiation, which mandates that every member must fatally shoot a circus performer. Trapped as a ghost in the material world but blessed with the power to possess the bodies of living beings by the transcendent spirit Rama Kushna, his mortal infirmity hasn’t managed to keep Deadman from having a bunch of Batman teamups or occasionally having sex with hot ladies by inhabiting the bodies of their boyfriends. Amaaaaazingly creepy, that, someone should file a report with superhuman resources.

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