Thursday, May 26, 2016

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : FLY-MAN

Science, death and stickum, this one has it all!


Grim from the git-go, Sam Glanzman's first comics work -- Fly-Man from Spitfire Comics No.1 -- is one of the grittier characters in the history of comics. Even the panels drip with ink, grime, gore and implements of murder -- which is fine because Fly-Man doesn't pull any punches.

Why do so many people plan for small superheroes?
It'd be bad for his career, for one thing. Kentucky-born Clip Foster makes it all the way to Madison Square Garden for heavyweight championship bout. Shrugging off his manager's offer to throw the fight, Clip walks out the winner ... and heads straight for his scientist father's secret laboratory. What's in store for Clip? "The ray will effect (sic) your pituitary glands. They control the growing of the skeleton - the ray will cause them to shrink and you will become smaller" explains old dad.

Well, it sounds great, exactly what the top boxer in the world could use. But what else, pop? "The experiment isn't dangerous" he continues, "But I haven't found an antidote which will make you regain your normal size." That sounds plenty dangerous to me, but I'm a layman.

Clip gave his word, though, so world championship and threat of imminent smallhood aside, he allows his father to make him his guinea pig - or as big as one, anyway.

His morning routine
The experiment works, although Billy's tiny, comatose body needs time to relax. This is when his manager shows up with two thugs in tow, demanding that they too be made quite small. How word got around about the small-man-making machine, I dunno, but that's the power of advertising.

While his men are shrinkified for criminal purposes, Clip's manager takes out his frustrations on his former client, hurling his tiny body into a bunch of vials of acid which burn his skin and face and stuff. This necessitates Clip disguising his horrifying scars, which is a good idea because I imagine it probably made his tiny head look like a wet thumb. Luckily, dad left Clip a tiny orange uniform. Why? "Dad wanted me to fight crime in this costume" he says, raising a lot more questions than are answered.

Clip, as Fly-Man, catches up with his former manager and his diminutive pals and makes short -- and gruesome -- work of them. The killer final panel of his first appearance has Clip flinging a knife through the body of one of his opponents, with the blade cutting him stem to stern. It's gross.

As an artifact of Glanzman's storied and fascinating career, Fly-Man deserves a little better treatment than to be a forgotten figure. With only two adventures, there's nothing much to collect, but his public domain status and legitimately harrowing adventures should appeal to any current creator looking for an interesting -- if blood-soaked -- character to revive.

Whoops, somebody left their George Bellows book open.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BATMAN V SUPERMAN : PRISON FOR HEROES



For superheroes, long partnerships must carry with them the same frustrations which long-time employees in a shared office have to face. All of the breakroom birthday parties and team-building trust falls in the world can't spare you the slowly-building frustration of enforced day-to-day togetherness in the paperwork mines, and sometimes you need an outlet.

Maybe it's passive-aggressive notes on the fridge, maybe it's sneaking an extra smokebreak between meetings, maybe it's cutting the brake-lines on your boss' car - for Batman and Superman, long-time partners in the World's Finest Team, it's trading turns whupping one another with the electro lash.

In "Prison for Heroes," originally published in World's Finest Comics vol.1 No.145 (November 1964), Batman is recruited by a giant alien soap bubble to pick up a second career as a whip-wielding warden for an intergalactic gulag ... for superheroes.

See, that would just alarm me more.
But whaaaaaa, you might ask? Well whaaaaaa is that anonymous alien forces make themselves known to Batman in the bowels of his Batcave headquarters with a request that the Caped Crusader join them on the other side of the galaxy "to face a great emergency." While Batman is arguably the poster child for Stranger Danger Awareness, he nonetheless dumbly steps inside the glowing sphere and is whisked across known reality (personally, I would not enter willingly into anything made "of pure energy," since that stuff's legendarily deadly, but then I also never dressed like a rubber ferret).

The end of Batman's long journey is at the gates of the "greatest maximum security prison in the universe," the "prison for heroes" mentioned in the title -- and Batman will be the warden! Naturally, the Dark Knight Detective demurs, but some aggressive alien hypnotism quickly turns him into a spandex-clad Strother Martin, eager to stick it to super-heroes!

Using his Little Oprhan Annie decoder ring and a deep-space transmitter, Batman lures Superman to the gulag - promptly rendering him powerless with a big floating red lens which drapes the region in red-sun radiation. I never liked that Superman's powers could be negated by a pair of novelty Haight-Ashbury Lennon shades, but I guess we all have our weaknesses. I like cake, for instance.

Everybody talk about ... pop music!
Trapped in prison -- and repeatedly swatted by Batman's electro-whip (now watch him nae nae) -- Superman joins a quartet of other imprisoned do-gooders: Electric Man, a lightning charged hero whose exposed brain is either the source of his powers or the reason that moviegoers sitting behind him often vomit; Balloon Man, who can "super-inflate" his lungs which is a bogus power across the board; The Freezer, who holds cuts of beef during the Summer and, lastly, The Flame, a hot dude.

As hypno-Batman continues to top Superman's bottom with chains, whips and forced labor, the Man of Steel's resentment grows -- and a plan forms. Actually, the reader is repeatedly informed that the red-solar-ray-thingamabob depriving Superman of his powers has some sort of flaw which allows him to keep his super-breath and a little x-ray vision, so when he uses those two powers to formulate an escape, it's not really much of a surprise.

At this point, the story turns into some sort of 50 Shades of Grey affair, with a musing Batman delighting in the observation "Tomorrow Superman will be even weaker from lack of food and water, and I'll show him what real discipline means." When Superman busts through the door and incapacitates Batman, the Caped Crusader observes "I feel helpless, numb, cold in your grasp..." Erotic, don't you think?

It's about time.
From this point on, Superman reverses the roles and starts whupping Batman's ass with the electro-lash. Arguably, this kind of nonsense could have continued for the rest of time -- imagine if World's Finest had just become a comic where, every month, the heroes alternated which one got to wale the tar out of the other, like an intentionally homoerotic Zack Snyder film.

Naturally, of course, it's all part of a complicated plan to force the schemers of the scheme (an alien race called The Vorian, famous for their weird fetish stuff on DeviantArt) to reveal themselves. While Superman explains how the other alien superheroes helped fabricate the appearance of his superpowers, an unhypnotized Batman -- nursing a buttful of electrolash swats -- launches a rocket into the big red lens messing up Superman's day. Within moments, the aliens are imprisoned in their own jail and Superman is bringing all the heroes back to their respective homes, neverminding how the ending to this story got all Myra Breckenridgey all of a sudden...

"Peanuts! Popcorn! Red hots!"

Thursday, May 19, 2016

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : HARRY HOT DOG

I do have to say, though, this is one of the best comic book logos I've ever seen. 
Despite having once enjoyed their own burst of popularity which rivaled that of super-heroes, funny animal comics have always gotten a bit of a short shrift. Superman and Batman, in two different eras, exploded from the comic pages into the public imagination and across all sorts of media, but funny animals very often had to work the other way -- once they'd made it big on the silver screen, they trickled down into comics, for however long.

The admittedly large volume of funny animals who were launched within comics had their own hurdles to overcome, not the least of which was merely fighting for recognition on a shelf where movie stars like Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse and Tom & Jerry were already attracting the eyes of cartoon-hungry kiddiewinks. Perhaps that explains the quick-to-anger antics of Harry Hot Dog, the star of a mid-1950s production from Magazine Enterprises, starring comicdom's maddest mad dog.

You heard the man/dog.
Starring in "Hot Dog," the very first thing the reader sees Harry Hot Dog do is kick a television set to pieces, punching it so that it folds like an accordion, disassembling it with an axe and flinging knickknacks through its screen. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Harry Hot Dog's first impression is "this is a dangerous maniac barely in control of his temper."

Which is a pretty accurate description of the obviously severe emotional deterioration evidenced by Harry Hot Dog at a rate of "three out of every five panels." The laffs in Hot Dog come from Harry's violent, over-the-top responses to the world at large -- seemingly unprompted by anything. Even Donald Duck needed an impetus to go buck wild on those poor, mischievous nephews of his. Harry Hot Dog would murder a kitten just because he had nothing better to do before breakfast.

In his first issue alone, for instance, Harry does the following: Smashes the aforementioned TV set, punches a television director pretty clearly in the balls, stuffs a plant down an opera singer's throat, kicks over a kleig light, smashes a second television set, shoves a cop, knocks a bunch of hats off of a guy wearing a bunch of hats (to be fair, I might have done that too, myself), cracks the town mayor over the head with a walking cane, beats a doctor within an inch of his life, bites through a thermometer, and just generally verbally and physically abuses every individual he meets.

This is basically the same ending as A Clockwork Orange
Chief among the targets of his ire are his dumb but devoted pal Throckmorton -- frequently kicked in the can for offenses big and small, imagined or otherwise -- and possibly the only character less appealing than Harry, his sometimes girlfriend Fifi. If absolutely nothing sets Harry off on a tirade, Fifi's persistent attempts to "fix" Harry -- lady, you can't fix a house if it's on fire -- generally set him off worse than imaginable. I mean, it's not her fault, but she's clearly the match placed next to the powderkeg, but maybe she should talk about setting up boundaries against toxic people the next time she's at the therapist.

Harry's unspoken backstory seems promising, but never investigated -- and for god's sake, why would it be, this ain't Proust. A prime physical specimen, the powerfully strong and easy to enrage figure has at his disposal all sorts of circus skills, including a little fire-eating, sleight of hand, acrobatics and -- inexplicably -- the French Horn. Who are you, Harry Hot Dog? What made you the way you are?

Probably the most off-putting thing about Hot Dog, besides its unprompted level of violence, is how few characters smile. It's one thing that Harry himself only smiles in rare periods of smug self-satisfaction or indulgence, but even the anthropomorphic citizens of his world barely crack anything much more than a leering grin. This book is like The Purge set in Duckburg.

Still, as the Golden Age of Funny Animals is so often overlooked in favor of the super-heroes, westerns and horror comics which seemed to define the age, you can't turn your back on such a stand-out example of the genre. I mean, seriously, you cannot turn your back on Harry Hot Dog, because he might brain you with a boat oar.

There is literally no reason for him to be beating the holy hell out of this cat, but he's doing it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

...UNTIL SOMEBODY LOSES AN EYE.

This is a lot of pressure to lay on a seven year-old with a pencil.


Marvel's long-ago activity book comic Fun&Games has always been something of a paradox, to my mind. A lifetime involved in the fandom has made me aware of an entire category of collectors whose entire remit is "rarity," and another (of which I'm a member) focusing on "oddity," of which Fun&Games is a fine example of both -- and yet you never really hear of anyone slabbing their collection, or crowing about finding a VF+/NM- copy of the one where Willie Lumpkin's head was a terrifying maze.

Hell's gates are swung wide today.


In the magazine's favor as a desirable collectible is that, surely, so few issues abound in an enviable Mint or Near Mint state, being as it was an activity book for pen-wielding kiddiewinks intent on identifying all the words you can make out of "Hulk" (hint: one). So much as a single completed puzzle, even in puzzle, should be sufficient to drag a book down to - at best - "Fine" status, the speculator's equivalent to "toilet paper."

This also seems like a tall order for a seven year-old with a pencil, unless he's at a boarding school in Edwardian England.


Working against the title is that it's not a comic book in any sense except that it was made to fit on the comic rack and used the same paper. Published in the late Seventies and early Eighties and overseen by unsung Canadian comics mastermind Owen McCarron, Fun&Games was an in-house spinoff of Marvel's fairly successful Activity Books and featured the usual collection of word jumbles, crosswords, trivia, find-the-difference and what-have-you. Its mandate was the Marvel Universe -- sometimes the most obscure corners of it -- and sometimes it created its own characters.

Crosswordo III: Master Race


Making me all the more confused about Fun&Games' lack of demand on the collectors market -- riddled as it is with nostalgia for useless shit, providing the target of acquisition had at least been pre-owned in one's shortpants days -- is that you absolutely can find near-mint copies all over the place. I walked away from a recent convention with ten unmarred issues, untouched by human hands (mine included; I had that "baboon hand" surgery you might've read about in the papers) for five clams.

Still, the appeal of this particular series might simply be middling at best. The corniness factor is high, but the payoff isn't particularly toothy. There's a lot of potential in completing the limericks presented to the reader* or drawing the "other half" of Spider-Woman on assorted activity pages, but even the thrill of making your childhood favorites particularly dirty can't carry you for long.

* to wit:
This is Reed, the man who can stretch
Most anything he's able to fetch
When there's nothing to do
And he's at home with Sue
(Blank)

It took Fun&Games to find an uglier superhero costume than Captain Britain's original...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: SPIRIT OF THE SWAMP

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I like to call "He's Got That Swamp Thing Special" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A fern with a mad-on for evil brings his bloody war to the Universal Studios backlot in Florida... 
Season One / Episode Nine : Spirit of the Swamp

In which Roscoe Lee Brown goes slumming.



Roscoe Lee Brown is, to be blunt, a character actor and television show guest-star staple who nonetheless deserves a lot better than this. That being said, it's interesting to see him gussied up like a voodoo houngan, since I primarily recall him playing exceptionally educated and regally dismissive figures in an assortment of sitcom appearances. Only rarely have I seen him hypnotize a snake into a rigid bar, Thulsa Doom style. Luckily, here's Swamp Thing to help me out ...

In the introductory segment, a pair of Arcane's assistant freaks attempt to capture Swamp Thing by using a piece of contemporary Swedish furniture. Naturally, Doc Holland makes short work of what IMDB credits as "Mutant #1" (Sandi Beach) and "Mutant #2" (Toni Marini). Back at Dr.Arcane's subterranean fuck-cavern/weirdo-factory, the evil scientist comes face to face with his own shortcomings as he beats his pet mutant and pontificates. Surely where science has failed to stop Swamp Thing, magic could succeed? Sure, man, anything;s possible on late-night basic cable.

Two mutants running around with Claes Oldenberg's paperclip.


Enter Duchamp (Roscoe Lee Brown), a swamp resident and practitioner of black magic who is, so far, the only character in the series whose inner monologue can be clearly heard by the viewer. Or the sound editor was taking a nap, it's hard to say for sure.

Duchamp is questing for the Black Rose, a plastic flower currently in Arcane's possession and which Arcane clearly picked up from JoAnn's fabrics during Halloween clearance. He's left it sticking up from the middle of a pink-lit pool of water in the back of his cave, possibly where he stores his dry ice as well, considering the bubbling clouds which idly surface from the puddle.

99 cents at Walgreen's, plu like five bucks for the dry ice.


The Black Rose is a key ingredient in the magic of "The White Darkness," which is what they used to call the Big Show, I think. It's some sort a "zombie business," according to Arcane, and it's good to hear that the undead are getting into the market. A lot of zombie small businesses fail within the first year, so any help that the Black Rose can give ought to be welcomed.

In the swamp, Duchamp finds Arcane's assistant who Swamp Thing turned into a tree way back in episode one. This encourages him to paint his face and do a dandy little dance for a moment, which brings Swamp Thing around. This is sort-of like the weigh-in before a title bout, with both parties smack-talking each other. It ends up going like this:

Duchamp: "Voodoo is very powerful"
Swamp Thing: "So is ... the swamp!"

Keep these two apart!


Duchamp's magic more or less does the trick. Burning a bullfrog alive in the middle of a circle of stones makes Swamp Thing run around the swamp like a five year-old on a sugar rush, right into a ring of magic fire. The flames entrance Swamp Thing, putting him at Arcane's mercy - and what Arcane chooses to do is make Swamp Thing hot for Tressa! Too late, Arcane, that uncomfortable plotline has already been rocking since episode one.

"Just having a stroll through the swamp in my nightie, no big whoop everybody"


Cut to Tressa - or a reasonable simulation thereof - doing Jessica Rabbit walks in a red nightie with her boobs half out through the bog, luring horny Swamp Thing directly into Arcane's mancave. Tied up in one of Arcane's alcoves and wearing some sort of black magic pukka shell necklace, like a haunted hackeysack player, Swamp Thing is theoretically helpless. Of course, he's close enough to the single spot of sunlight which breaks through the cave's interior to power himself and send fake plastic greenery -- and a little bit of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle play ooze -- through the cracks of the cave.

Arcane and Duchamp, in the meanwhile, are jousting elsewhere in the cave. This verbal sparring leads to possibly the greatest line I've yet heard in the show, and which I plan to use to describe it to the curious going forward: "I want your voodoo secrets, and I'll turn you into a mutant if I have to to get them!"

Things get a little BDSM-y for Swamp Thing.


So anyway. Swamp Thing kills a bunch of mutants with his clinging vines, wrecks the cavern, and tears the magic necklace off his neck which if he could do that why didn't he do that first? This sends Arcane and Duchamp scurrying, one for safety and one for the Black Rose --- which is dead in its pool. Possibly because someone put a shit ton of dry ice in the water.

Since you can't bury Roscoe Lee Brown in such a terrible role, he gets one last chance to chat with Swamp Thing before the stinger. Their conversation ties in a little to latter-day Swamp Thing stories in which the local cajun community refers to him as a benevolent spirit of the swamp, but they're gonna drop that pretty quick for the rest of the season, just like they do when Duchamp says "we'll meet again" and they tease the Black Rose returning to life. Whooptie.

He doesn't seem happy with this role. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : HERO HOTLINE

The team of Bob Rozakis' and Stephen DeStefano's collaborative influence on DC Comics was largely relegated to a pair of books and brief period of whimsical delight, but the legacy they left was absolutely unique. Besides their most high-profile creation, the humble 'Mazing Man, the pair brought to the DC Universe the bottom tier of super-hero action in the street-level heroes behind the emergency number phone-bank, Hero Hotline.

Bankrolled, according to a passing reference, by Wayne Industries, Hero Hotline existed at the other end of a 1-800 number where anyone could call for superheroic help. Compared relentlessly - and not unfairly - to Marvel's Damage Control, the highlight of Hero Hotline was that it showed the periphery of superheroic adventures in something resembling more the everyday world which the reader experienced.

Hero Hotline interacted with a lot of thinly-veiled
versions of established comics characters -- Nancy
and Sluggo, Donald Duck and, in this instance,
the Comedian's button from Watchmen!
Unlike Damage Control, however, which employed a cast of normal human beings as their regulars, the heroes of Hero Hotline were distinctly superheroic. The Coordinator, the boss of the outfit, was a typically unseen Tex Thompson, a Golden Age character with a lineage as long as Superman's and who'd fought crime under the names of Mr.America and the Americommando. Assisting Tex is Soozie-Q, a floating robot with a mannequin's head over a bank of television screens, through which they monitor the field team

This is Tom Longacre (aka Stretch, an elastic hero who, like the Elongated Man, uses the fruit of the gingold tree to give himself the power of super-elasticity), busy mom and radioactive superhero Belle "Microwaveabelle" Jackson, easily distracted Private Eyes (aka Lester Lee, adorned with a pair of super-binoculars), Diana "Diamondette" Theotocopoulos and her hard-as-diamond nails, voice-throwing Voice-Over (aka Andy Greenwald), fire-flinging Billy "Hotshot" Lefferts and, lastly, Sturgis Butterfield, a muscleman whose identity changes as often as his vanity allows.

The street names of the superheroes made up a significant portion of the appeal, as the story was as much low-stakes soap opera as it was superhero drama. While they dealt with occasional superheroic menace, they also dealt with common domestic issues (abusive spouses and stalker fans) and additionally would simply have human conversations between one another.

Plus the villains were real pips.
If this summary is lacking in the usual jokes and asides, it's because I couldn't write anything funnier than the funniest moments of Hero Hotline, and I'd only be diminishing its expert drama but finding a wisecrack in it. Superhero comics have peaks and valleys, and Hero Hotline has a great view from on high.

Hero Hotline, for the most part, experienced only a four-part tryout in Action Comics Weekly and then a six issue miniseries of their own, after which they basically vanished. Mention was made in later books -- Infinite Crisis, Swamp Thing, and so on -- but, fortunately for the legacy of the concept, these were usually relegated to passing reference. A reprint volume wouldn't go amiss, mind you.

The charm and humanity of Hero Hotline would have made them a bad fit for the antihero age of the 2000s, so it's appreciated that they were pushed aside as DC's heroes got darker and meaner. In the era of never-ending TV adaptations of old comics, there's probably very few better contenders for a primetime slot than Hero Hotline --- providing they can translate Stephen DeStefano's superb costume and character design to the small screen ...

I'd be remiss in not also mentioning the graveyard shift ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

MAD AD : SAVE YOUR HAIR!

I keep reading the headline to the tune of "Bang Your Head"

The preponderance of anti-baldness ads which populated comic books in the days up through its adolescence confused the matter as for whom comic books were intended. The audience was arguably always children, until the wave of underground comics in the Sixties and Seventies started ramping up the sex, gore, violence, illicit antics and subject matter. That's not where these ads appeared, though, raising the question of how many eight year-olds were obsessively checking their hairlines in the bathroom mirror every morning, back in the Fifties ...

If you can't double your hair, at least you can double your money.

Of course, adult-targeted ads dispel one of the common myths about comic books. Even as the books were publicly targeted at children so that adults -- or sufficiently old teens -- were shamed for indulging in "kids books," they were obviously being read by adults.

You can imagine the pitch the ad reps at assorted publishers may have made to potential advertisers. "We entertain a significant demographic of adults with disposable income, but get this -- they also read at a third-grade level. Our research indicates they're plenty dumb and awful gullible ..."

Kill these hair-destroying germs ... with fire!

Adults indulging in entertainment intended for younger audiences is more generally -- and even gleefully -- accepted now. As a for instance, take a look at the blog you are currently reading. It's worth mentioning that Pixar films, Harry Potter, Legos and a thousand other forms of entertainment you'd have gotten your ass kicked for enjoying in junior high school some years back is now effectively mainstream adult entertainment. It's also rewarding to imagine ads like this shoved in the middle of a Hunger Games novel, mind you. "Katniss and Peeta are in a real hairy situation, but are YOU in a hair-LESS situation?" Or even better, as pitched above, "DOES YOUR HEAD STINK?" I didn't even know "head odors" was a thing...


I also start wonderful self-massaging action within 3 seconds, but then I'm easily excitable.


There's still a Ward Laboratories out there, but this incarnation seems to be an agricultural science institute rather than a hair-growth scam ... but why can't it be both? There might be some cows out there with lovely golden locks ...


Jut so you know it's not all bad news, here's what to do when you get back all that lovely hair ...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE MANY FOES OF BLACK GOLIATH

"...For the next five issues anyway!"

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Black Goliath, a character who was given something only vaguely resembling a fair chance with his own title and who I thought made for a compelling hero. You have here a self-made man, a heartbroken and hard-working genius with a gruesome stint in Vietnam dogging his memories, whose scientific abilities improved on the work of one of Marvel's consistently-billed "greatest minds in the world," and who ended up kind of murdered by two of Marvel's top-billed superheroes with effectively no repercussions. That ... that last part should have been addressed at some point.

For five issues between February 1975 and November 1976, however, Black Goliath was given a chance to helm his own title. The end result was ... mixed. The giant-sized scientist's alter-ego of Bill Foster was given a wan supporting cast, a sort-of vague super-scientific job, and some relatively well-trod nail-biting and clothes-rending about the Black Power movement, which every black superhero in the Seventies needed to be seen denouncing in some form of the other, at least once, if they had their own title. When Chris Claremont took over, Goliath's cultural concerns took a backseat to some star-spanning superheroics, none of which was particularly memorable. On the other hand, at least it was ramping him up to first-level heroics.

Along with all the other trappings of his spandex peers, Goliath picked up a small roster of superfoes in the pages of his book --- most of whom are pretty much dead now, so that's worked out well. Let's take a look at Bill Foster's ironically diminutive rogues gallery ...

"We do take pre-orders, though."
THESE IDIOTS
In Goliath's first issue, he was accosted in the streets by a trio of switchblade-wielding smartasses, Decked out in what I suppose passes for urban gear -- a turtleneck and a fedora? A porkpie and a cigarette? I think these might be Mingus' band -- these incorrigible kids assault Bill Foster as he indulges in misty nostalgia on the site of his former stamping grounds in Watts. For their troubles, two of them end up getting knocked about fifteen feet parallel to the street by a flung garbage can, and the other one gets tied in a steel knot at the top of a streetlight. At least they made it out alive, which you can't say for everyone.

"Oh my god, he called me HIS gigantic fool.
He must truly love me after all!"
ATOM-SMASHER
For instance, there's Atom-Smasher -- a radioactive rogue whose scalp is consistently orbited by little intersecting lines -- the classic cartoon shorthand for "dizzy, drunk or dazed." He may as well have had little singing birdies flapping around his noggin.

Breaking into Foster's super-secret lab for a shipment of radium, the energy-emitting evildoer leads a squad of tangerine-colored compadres straight into a confrontation with Black Goliath. Despite possessing the power to convert his body into pure, destructive energy, his initial outing ends in spectacular failure -- he inadvertently ignites "ten million gallons of gasoline" under his very feet. Well, baby steps, man, baby steps ...

If that failure weren't enough, Atom-Smasher not only ends up defeated but dead -- shot through the brainpan by a sniper presumably hired by his employer to tie up loose ends. I think those little head-things made for a good target.

By Krom!
VULCAN
Following Atom-Smasher's attempt to steal things from Bill Foster's lab, Vulcan came around to steal things from Bill Foster's lab. Popular lab.

Bearing the deformity of his namesake, Vulcan also possessed the almost-mandatory tremendous size required of Black Goliath's enemies, as well as superhuman strength and a set of highly-destructive wrist blasters which we never really see in action (he blows up a wall in silhouette, but it's not the clearest indicator of a superpower). In spite of his considerable power, he nonetheless relies on a bunch of hopped-up motorcycle weirdos to carry out his basic thieving and such. He manages to make it out of his encounter with Goliath intact, if you don't count how he was a messed-up lookin' giant freako in the first place.

"By which I mean ... tall!"
STILT-MAN
It's mandatory to borrow a villain from another hero when you're starting out, and it's always worthwhile to plump Daredevil's rogues gallery. After all, half of those guys he borrowed from Spider-Man and Thor in the first place.

If you're going to go for tall bad guys, then, you'll want to go with Stilt-Man, a villain who possesses the proportionate power of stilts! Bitten by radioactive stilts as a child, Stilt-Man grows up with the ability to be pretty unbalanced when standing still, and to play one of those rabbity lookin' things in The Dark Crystal.

The greatest shame of Stilt-Man is that he manages to beat Black Goliath. That's gonna look bad on the ol' CV.

MORTAG
When Goliath's adventures go intergalactic, it's Mortag - conveniently a fifteen foot tall alien villain - who's there to meet him. Guarding the super-scientific redoubt of Kirgar, Mortag's mission is to kill any who wander through its threshhold. Which Goliath and his pals do, including a soon-to-be-heroically-sacrificed alien buddy who looks like a squid crossed with a goldfish crossed with a Ren Faire.

Dude, look at your eyes. You are super-high.

And that's it, not counting two established white superheroes who apparently are allowed by law to sic cyborg clones of Norwegian death metal album covers on unsuspecting superheroes -- his most dangerous foes of all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PLANET OF THE CAPES!

This is either stupid or insensitive, if not both.

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, is always a good go-to title if you're looking for broad, inventive, some-might-say "careless" Silver Age oddness. Even the repeating themes of the book -- Jimmy's turns as Elastic Lad, his weird transformations, his occasional junior-grade replacement of Superman, his romance (of sorts) with Lucy Lane -- still managed to find strange twists, turns and unexpected weirdness to seem fresh with every issue. 

And then there's also the weakest pun in the book's history -- The Planet of the Capes.

Caped Perry White has an admirable
lack of fucks to give.
Arriving in the middle of the barren desert in the company of the Superman Family's resident archaeologist and tomb raider, Professor Lewis Lang, Jimmy and his guide encounter a giant magenta honeycomb-riddled monolith. The prologue informs us that the device was dropped on Earth back in the age of the dinosaurs, which means that the multiverse is now packed with dinosaurs -- since we learn that the artifact is a dimensional doorway! MULTIVERSE OF THE DINOSAURS. Tell me you wouldn't buy that book in a heartbeat, and I will call you a stone-cold liar or a reader with little interest in dinosaurs. One of the two.

Jimmy, naturally, dives straight into one of the honeycombs -- chasing his pith helmet. As do many young men of his age. Unfortunately for Jimmy, the honeycomb in question leads him to a partially-identical world with a strict caste system based on outerwear; capes! 

Yes, citizens with capes are the masters, citizens without capes are slaves. Shocked, Jimmy reflects on the misfortune his capelessness has caused him. "My Earth was nothing like this" he ponders as he's hauled off in the paddy wagon, "These parallel-world people are either caped lords or uncaped slaves!" Jimmy, I don't know how to tell you this, but your world is actually a little like that.

That's as good an explanation as any.


The differences between the worlds of Jimmy's past and present experience differ in subtle ways. There is, for instance, no Daily Planet but rather a rooftop dining experience called The Daily Palate. That is, of course, a joke that only works if it's a pun on Daily Planet, which does not exist on this world. Layers within layers, the planet of the capes.

Additionally, most animals on the world have horns, Clark Kent is a swinger playboy-slash-secret agent with face full of chameleon powers, diamonds are worthless, and then there are other things I don't really give a shit about. 

Most of Jimmy's old friends fail to recognize him -- because that world's Jimmy Olsen is a famous movie star, which makes them not recognizing him actually much more confusing. What Jimmy does have on his side is the slightest glimmer of intelligence, as he simply restitches his jacket to look like a cape and gains his freedom. No one else on this whole planet ever thought of that. 

National Lampoon's Interdimensional Vacation.


The origin of the caped world turns out to be that Krypton's eminent scientist Jor-El survived his planet's destruction, came to Earth, set himself up in a modest hut and sat around waiting for an opportunity to murder people with his ray gun. When heroes from the mainstream Earth accidentally land on this alternate Earth, Jor-El shoots them -- with the wrong gun! Womp womp! Since he shoots them in their collective backs, the gun he'd grabbed -- his duplicator ray -- creates duplicates of the heroes; cloaks. "I'll make a limited number of duplicates and sell them to the people at sky-high prices!" he thinks to himself. An entrepreneur, that's our Jor-El.

Paranoid and quick to shoot people with weird rays, Jor-El zaps Jimmy with his a ray that sends the boy reporter to "The Dimension Zone," although that turns out to be the Earth from which he originally came. Or so he presumes. Whatever the case, thankfully Jimmy returned from having idiotic adventures in another universe so that he could continue to have idiotic adventures in his own universe. The end.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: NATURAL ENEMY

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I like to call "Swamp Thing Wild" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A show about a steroidal kiwi fruit smashing evil wherever he finds it...
Season One / Episode Eight : Natural Enemy

In which Jim gets caught with his fly down.



Someone on the design team engineered a fuckin' horrible animatronic fly face, and watching it writhe in sensuous delight is what we get this time around instead of any sort of story-related prologue. "The pest is prologue" as they say, I suppose.

Swamp Thing takes Jim on a walking tour of all the places in the swamp that Jim should never go, in a scene slightly reminiscent of Tim taking Lassie on a romp through the tall grass. Is the pairing of Jim and Swamp Thing some sort of Calvin and Hobbes thing? Is Jim just traipsing through the rotting vegetation and mildewed logs with a potted fern he insists on talking to? I guess there's something magical about their relationship after all...

Swamp Thing steers Jim directly into a smoky alcove, which any kid with the common sense to detect even the most basic danger would've noticed and steered clear'a. Earlier, Jim had been sniffing carnivorous pitcher plants, so I don't know what the kid's got going on in his head.

The smoky alcove holds some sort of hypnotic appeal to Jim, apparently. After having been dropped off at his dead grandma's place, Jim muses for a while -- staring out the kitchen window -- and then bolts back for the forbidden place with the determined step of a man deciding to confront death face-to-face. He balks at the last second, but not soon enough to avoid being bitten by ... the fly.

God, I hope that's the fly's mouth they keep showing us.


Jim gets dropped off at the ICU, which prompts lots of blue-lit closeups of the fly's orgasmic head-sphincter and dizzying, hand-held camera manipulations. Maybe that's why the kid got sick. Attending to the tortured tyke is handsome Dr.Bloom (Bill Cordell), a hefty, shiny bohunk with news anchor hair whom Jim's mom Tressa seems to get the horny giggles from. Just because her kid's dying doesn't mean mom doesn't have needs.

Arcane shows up for a mousse-off with Dr.Bloom, who'd earlier detected the twin bitemarks on Jim's scalp -- each one about the size of a dime, so I don't understand how you could have missed them. Arcane, of course, knows exactly what bit Jim and is eager to see the results. Luckily, as far as television is concerned, anyone wearing a white coat can pass as a doctor, so he swipes someone's jacket and goes to sneak dirty peeps at the delirious, comatose Jim's wounds. It's his biz.

This would be one well-moussed three-way.


Back in the bog, Swamp Thing is beating himself up over letting Jim get bit by the writhing fly of poisonous delight. Naturally, this leaves him only one option -- to sneak into the hospital. If you were ever keen to see a five-hundred pound bag of tobacco shavings climb through the air ducts like some sort of vegetarian Die Hard, then have I ever got the show for you!

Ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun.
Tressa finds herself trapped in an otherwise-empty room with the jiggle-fly, which has already given her a bite and mostly just hovers around so that the cameraman can break out the fly-eye lens. It's also a real chance for Tressa to bust out her acting chops, as she needs to fling herself around a room swatting at an invisible fly. Julliard pays off!

They get a lot of use out of this filter.


Even for a scant 22-minute runtime, this episode has a lot of dead air to fill, so Fly Vs Tressa goes on for several minutes, as does Swamp Thing's John McClane impression. There's even a lovingly lacksadaisical scene wherein Tressa receives a band-aid. I'm surprised that we didn't get an extended sequence of the ambulance driver making a K-turn to back into a parking space.

Like a lithe spirit, the living potato sack that is Swamp Thing drops cat-like into Jim's room, and gives him the swamp business. Tressa's going to have to wait for the doctors to fabricate an antidote, but Jim just gets pure carrot juice when Mr.Thing plugs the boy's IV tube into his own forearm. This is wildly unsafe. Also, will he now become Jim Thing? One can hope. Also, wait, doesn't Swamp Thing die if he's away from the swamp? Well, at least he's in a hospital.

"Oh yeah, that's an STD all right. You're gonna want to make some phone calls."


Jim recovers, Tressa survives, and Swamp Thing gives Arcane an imaginary talking-to back in the swamp, which rapidly fades into credits. It's amazing that they couldn't find time to do an appropriate coda but we got a cumulative five minutes of Jim sleeping and Tressa freaking out. But then again ... it's Swamp Thing!

Popular Posts