Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Weird-ass game of Twenty Questions.

I'm sure, like me, when you're confronted with the image of the Caped Crusader admitting to his teen partner "Yes, Robin, I've become a human fish," you read it in the same triumphant voice in which Bruce Wayne once spoke "That's it, I shall become a bat!" As though it's an alternate origin for an entirely different, absolutely new vigilante avenger of the night - part bat, part fish, all man!

"Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot" thinks the crimefighting billionaire one night while resting in his study, adding "But also several of them share a severe allergy with seafood and shellfish"

Batman does not live in your belt, Robin.
"I must choose a disguise to strike terror into their hearts!" he adds, just as a bat carrying a fish breaks through the closed window of his study and perches (haha, get it?) on a nearby bust. Or perhaps it's a fish carrying a bat, that might be a thing fish do for all I know. Whatever the case, it's the story behind the exciting origin of Bat-Fish-Man, the Shark Knight Detective!

Unfortunately, what actually happens to Batman in the pages of Batman vol.1 No.118 (September 1958, "The Merman Batman" -- not to be confused with "Wet Hot Ameriman Batman") is carelessness. Pursuing some crooks down at the docks on a particularly stormy night, Batman is climbing a metal ladder when he's suddenly struck by lightning and knocked into the filthy waters of Gotham harbor. And that's the end of Batman, good night!

Robin, disposing of his tormentor once and for all.
Batman, unsurprisingly, emerges relatively unscathed from the experience, with one notable difference - he can no longer breathe out of water. That's ridiculous, Batman's supposed to be the world's best-trained crimefighter, and I learned how to breathe out of water, like, day one! Tsk, someone was out sick the day we all learned how to breathe out of water.

As far as explaining the bizarre circumstances, Batman's keen deductive skills take the day off to go antiquing. "That accident has somehow transformed my physical structure" he explains, incuriously, from inside a man-sized aquarium tank, adding that the strange event must have been triggered by "the combination of the lightning and the chemicals in the capsules of my utility belt!" He concludes "I've become a human fish!" Well, that's an exaggeration, Batman. For one thing, fish rarely wear belts.

Not one to let a little setback like "asphyxiating in an oxygen-rich environment" keep him from crimefighting, Batman dons a fishbowl helmet filled with sinkwater and returns to his pursuit of the original offending bad guys. It doesn't take long for one of the brilliant criminals to come up with the devious plan of smashing Batman on the head with a big thing. The crack in his helmet leaves the cowled figure sputtering, soaking wet and gasping for breath on the floor, like me when I lost my virginity.

This doesn't last long, though. Robin manages to keep Batman drenched until the fish-thing just plain wears off. It's not a very satisfying conclusion to such a weird circumstance, but then again there wasn't a very satisfying explanation for how he got the powers in the first place.

Monday, October 5, 2015


It seems like every major comics company needs to have one swamp monster in the lineup, but leave it to Atlas-Seaboard to put their own peculiar spin on things.

To start with, the name Bog Beast is, strictly speaking, a misnomer. The brackish, red-skinned critter who crawled out of Atlas-Seaboard's black-and-white horror magazine Weird Tales of the Macabre (Vol.1 No.2, "Bog Beast," March 1975) and into the pages of Tales of Evil (Issue Nos. 2 and 3, April and July 1975) emerged from the La Brea tar pits. He only emerges from a bog in the loosest sense of the word, but for many reasons I can assume they wisely chose not to dub the monster "Tar Baby."

"Like our knowledge of how to terrify people"
Secondly, he's far from a beast. Apparently a representative and explorer from an ancient, subterranean race which once shared the surface of the Earth with humanity, the Bog Beast has emerged once again into the upper world to catalog the changes to the surface world, make contact with humanity, and to share with them his people's many discoveries.

It's likely that those discoveries are "how to be super gross" and "best ways to terrify people." Despite the alleged peacefulness of his mission, the Bog Beast spreads fear, terror, shock and violence wherever he goes. This may be partly due to the fact that he looks like a movie theater floor given life, or a ventriloquist dummy made of blood blisters, or a spaghetti and meatball platter that came alive and ran through a pile of autumn leaves and pine needles.

The other part of the problem is that the Bog Beast's people have apparently lost the ability to form speech, and communicate largely by sneaking up on people when they're asleep and reaching out for them with a steaming, skinned, claw-like arm. I dunno why people don't warm up to that, I really couldn't say.

Because everyone hates nerds.
Meanwhile, despite the terror he inspired in others, the Bog Beast maintains a clinical distance from the festivities. His thought balloons catalog the observations he makes of the outside world, stuff like "The female seems confused by my appearance" and "these men in uniform must be the authorities" and "probably the best way to make my presence known will be to lurch out of these shadows and rake my scarred talons at these fine folks' faces, I'm sure they'll understand that for the gesture of open love and peace as it's intended."

For the Bog Beast's part, it's lucky that he's apparently made of some spongy material through which bullets pass harmlessly (although it still confers on him tremendous strength), given the number of times that the cops just plug him fulla lead.

Whatever became of the Bog Beast's exploration of the surface world is, as it were, "up in the air," inasmuch as Atlas-Seaboard shut its doors before, really, ANY of its characters could enjoy any kind of satisfying conclusion. I like to think he would have become the runaway smash hit of the line, given time, and headed up an Atlas team-up book; lurching out of dimly lit corners at his guest stars and pawing morosely at them until, in their terror, they lashed out at the nearest target and defeated whatever passed for a villain in that particular issue ...

Bog Beast's been watching the news lately.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


"Greetings all, it's me - Lucien! Host and caretaker of DC's short-lived Tales of Ghost Castle! Although, to be fair, you're most likely to remember me as the librarian from the Nineties' spookiest-ookiest comic book series, the Sandman.

"According to that book, I was a deferential, humble, softly-spoken subordinate, which resembles my original character from Ghost Castle in absolutely no way whatsoever. This may come as a giant shock to you, but I'm not a hundred-percent sure that Neil Gaiman reads the source material before he appropriates previously existing characters for his comics. Me and Element Girl and those poor kids from Infinity Inc, we never expected the Nineties to happen to us.

"ANYway, why don'tcha enjoy this classic horror story from the pages of Web of Evil, featuring a gloriously decadent and explosive splash panel. Me, when they brought me back for Sandman, all I got for splash panels was Mucha borders and pastoral lakes. I coulda used an exploding door and a saw-wielding cave monster now and again ..."

Saturday, October 3, 2015


"Hey, pal, is the coast clear? I'm trying to avoid my 'uncle' - Professor Coffin. Is the coast clear? Check the hall. Oh, thank god ::lights cigarette::

"He'd lose his mind if he caught any of us smoking. Hi, I'm Margaret, but around here I'm contractually obliged to go by the name 'Arachne,' just like the other seventeen girls who've been hired to play the role of Coffin's 'niece' in the pages of Charlton Comics' Midnight Tales.

"I don't even know why I'm blurting all of this out, I'm in violation of my NDA. I guess sometimes I just get scared that I'll never get to tell anyone about what it's like around here. I mean, I don't want to die like Arachne number eight, with my family not even knowing where I am and me living under a fake name in another girl's abandoned bedroom. Lord, I never should have left Wisconsin. I wonder if my parents worry.

"Look, I can hear my phone ringing - and it's his ringtone. I better get going. You don't want to be the last Arachne in the room, not with the holidays coming up. Budgets get tight and sometimes some Arachne has to go.

"Don't tell him you saw me smoking, okay? Here's a classic horror story in return, I better run, and remember - never accept a "personal assistant job through Craigslist!"

Friday, October 2, 2015


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, BARNEY THE BEAR?

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 1, 2015


"Santa Claus IS a Martian!"

One of prog rock's lesser lights but a real boon to the ghost-fighting profession, it's Dr.Styx, general troubleshooter of the supernatural.

It's a Boglin.
Appearing in five subsequent issues of Treasure Comics from Nos.2 through 6, Dr.Styx kept company with some generally quotidian types of adventure heroes. Paul Bunyan and Marco Polo populated the pages, although their adventures were wildly extrapolated from any available text. His other fellow features included a desert adventuring Arabian Knight, a gorilla, and a cash-happy horror host (stay tuned), so Dr.Styx didn't really have to do much to stand out as a wholly original idea.

With that said, he may be the twentieth supernatural figure I've seen in golden age comics - give or take - whose costume consisted of a suit and hat with a cape. There must've been a great deal in the Sears-Roebuck catalog.

Where Dr.Styx comes from, where he gained his immense arcane knowledge, and why he hangs around the mortal plane at all is left up in the air. Although it's never explicitly explained, Dr.Styx is clearly a ghost or spirit of some kind, although we never receive any indication of how he became a supernatural being himself, and what keeps him coming back to help the flesh and blood types.

"Well leave a light on for ya"
His first adventure gives him a challenge on a significant scale - saving the entire world from destruction at the hands of H.P.Lovecraft's Elder Gods. The Necronomicon, its author Alhazred and Chthulu (sic) are all explicitly mentioned in the text, even if their depiction doesn't really resemble anything like the vinyl window clings and novelty magnetic fish where these figures make most of their appearances now. In fact, with a cover date of August 1945, this might be the first time Lovecraft's characters are ever referenced in a comic book, despite their depiction.

Despite being described as a dabbler in the supernatural, Styx possess no small amount of knowledge and some terrific resources. When he's faced with a modern-day Mr.Hyde, he stops the purely evil juggernaut by siccing a pet genie on him, Xaczakra, who pops up out of nowhere with no real explanation or origin and then vanishes just as quickly, never to be seen again.

For the most part, Styx relies on cutting sarcasm and some judgmental tutting to get him through most of the story. It's only when the bad guy is genuinely about to win the day - whether it's a property-destroying poltergeist, a hate-hobbled haint or the original Devil himself - that Styx breaks out some indistinct, undefined and effectively omnipotent display of his powers. He might also do Mr.Roboto, but only as the second encore.

Emerging with no origin and no reason, Mr.Styx disappeared much the same way after a brief handful of experiences. Since he'd been passing his time in the mortal world as an occult investigator - though how folks knew of him or got hold of him were also left up in the air - it's just as likely that he's still doing that in some obscued four-color dimension beyond out sight. Or that Chthulu and the Devil teamed up and handed him his ass. One of the two.

Death by chocolate.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


In previous entries, I’ve expressed a somewhat still-simmering affection for anthropomorphic superhero comics, a medium of which I wouldn’t have considered myself a big fan in the abstract. Whether it’s nostalgia that has rekindled my interest in books like Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and Peter Porker, Spider-Ham, or merely a desperate desire to see a superhero comic try something to distinguish itself from the indifferent repetition dominating the vast majority of the weekly racks, I couldn’t really say.

What I can say, with some confidence, is that when I talk about how much I’d like to see a few funny animal crimefighters back on the roster, I absolutely do not mean in any fashion that I ever want to see The Power Pachyderms come back again … except on fire.

It’s hard to rationalize so much of the “comedic” content which came out of Marvel Comics in the Eighties, considering they had been the home of Not Brand Ecch (a book which admittedly owed a lot to MAD Magazine’s previously extant superhero parodies) and that they had Kyle Baker on payroll at the time. Not that they were flowing over at the brim – between What Th-!? and Slapstick, that was the majority of the straight-for-laffs content of the company for a solid decade following the demise of Crazy (which was, you know, a little bit hit-and-miss itself).

This book cost $1.25. In 1989 money.
Still, 1989 brought the world Power Pachyderms, a half-swipe of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles combined with an X-Men parody and brought to life by noted humorist Roger Stern, a man whose surname alone is a synonym for “stark and humorless.”

The book is a confusing mish-mash of apparent gags – although, to be honest, it was primarily an amalgamation of pop culture references liberated from context, poorly executed sight gags which counted their origins around turn of the century slapstick and black-and-white movie shorts, and the anticipated (but unrealized) frisson of characters breaking the fourth wall.  I’ve never felt that the gimmick of having a character in a comic being aware of being in a comic to be enough of a joke on its own, but right there is where me and Power Pachyderms must apparently agree to disagree.

Although the title “Power Pachyderms” is a play on the company’s pre-adolescent cosmic dogooders Power Pack, the four members of the Pachyderms are anthropomorphic riffs on popular X-Man Wolverine, his distinctly less popular partners Cyclops and Colossus, and Daredevil’s femme fatale Elektra. Why they didn’t commit to doing all X-Men, or replacing their Cyclops analogue (Trunkclops, by the way, feel free to never laugh again) with a Daredevil equivalent, since he and “Elektralux” (there’s no joke there, keep walking) are romantically involved, I dunno. Could they not think of an elephant-related pun for Daredevil? Eardevil. Daredevilphant. There’s two, they suck, but they’re about right for this book…

In addition to mashing up the X-Men, Power Pack and Daredevil franchises, the origin of the Pachyderms is a Hulk riff as a circus train is bombarded by radiation, mutating the elephants. This origin takes three pages and nothing funny happens, which is also true of many police departments’ booking documents.

Since this is a partially a TMNT parody – somehow – the Pachyderms also have to develop martial arts skills, which they do by meeting up with four wise monks living on top of some mountain, and who are all versions of the Three Stooges. Again, this is comedy that predated the audience by half a century, so it’s a longshot, PLUS they had both Shemp AND Curly in the quartet, which we all know basic physics tell us is impossible. If Curly and Shemp were to simultaneously exist in the same space, it would result in an explosion which would destroy all life on Joe Besser.

No thank you.
(The self-aware gags get a real work-out in this segment, with no fewer than three jokes about characters reading from the book’s script. “Rumbo,” their Wolverine parody, will continue to hit this gong about every two pages throughout the rest of the book, possibly in an attempt to mirror Groucho Marx’s “strange interludes,” I suppose)

The aged routines are one thing, the toothless parody is another, but the worst part of the book may be that THY KEEP PUTTING THE LADY ELEPHANT INTO SEXY POSES.  I’m not here to judge, but if a peach-colored, putty-limbed elephant with tits strutting sexy over the joint or hopping around naked in the shower is your cup of tea, more power to you. I’m impressed that you can maintain an interest in what you consider “sex.”

Whatever rails there were by the beginning of the book, the story flies completely off of them by the climax. “Clarinetto,” leader of the “Brotherhood of Evil Musicians” (and a neo-nazi, for some reason) appears as the book’s primary bad guy. Having milked nothing out of a superhero parody, Power Pachyderms begins to suck dust from the withered teat of pop music satire. Lampooning Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Prince and Madonna via translucently insubstantial lookalikes, the Pachyderms are swerved off course into a second-level satire.

So when Electralux falls into a vat of radioactive makeup in the bottom of an evil music academy, there’s really nowhere further down they can go. She becomes a Dark Phoenix parody called “Rogue Elephant,” which appears to be the single dumb gag the entire book is predicated upon.

There’s a conclusion to the story, but it’s barely worth mentioning. This is also what I’d say about Power Pachyderms itself except that this is the second time I’ve written about this book and I just popped out nearly a thousand words about it. Either I need therapy or death will be a welcome alternative, whichever.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The only Fantastic Four you can afford.

I have to admit, I find it unusual that the fandom has risen up as one to take arms against whichever studio it is which owns the film rights to the Fantastic Four (RKO? Selznick International? The Foster Photoplay Company?) in order to call for the transferal of the rights over to Disney's Marvel Studios. I suppose this is because I recall that the majority of those same fans couldn't have given a World's Greatest Comic Shit about the Kirby clan gaining a share in those rights or enjoying the profits of their limitless merchandising, and many of them called for our corporate overloads to prune the King's line with fire. Still, in times like these, I like to rely on the wisdom of my family's motto, the shibboleth inscribed on the load-bearing brow of our lineage: "Nerd culture is the fucking worst."

Nonetheless, I like to be of some help, so how about this: If Marvel Studios can't claim the film rights to the adventures of Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, the Thing and the Human Torch, how about Big Brain, Ultra-Woman, Dragonfly and The Mandroid?

This is the Fantastic Four as depicted in What If? vol.1 No.6 (December 1977, "What If The Fantastic Four Had Different Super-Powers?"), a hiccup in the general premise of the What If title being an examination of the Marvel Universe but for want of a nail.

Nothing in particular causes the FF to gain different powers. In fact, everything up to the point of reveal is identical to the origin on record: The foursome steal the rocketship which Reed designed from its short-sighted owners, take it on a joyride in space, get bombarded with cosmic rays and crashland on Earth changed.

Looks good, ship it.
It's pretty much accepted that the FF's powers are loosely based on the traditional "four elements" - Air-like invisibility, water-like fluidity, and then something about rocks and fire, who can figure that out - but their new powers are based on the idea that the original FF's powers represent internal characteristics. Originally, it was Ben Grimm being a stalwart rock, Sue being too timid to believe (since she stowed away on a fucking rocketship), Johnny being a "hothead" and Reed willing to - ahem - "go to any lengths." The new versions represent Ben's love of flight, Johnny's love of cars, Reed's love of his brain and Sue not having a personality so she just gets Reed's old powers. OH YOU GUYS.

The new FF turn out to be:

Mandroid - Johnny Storm becomes a metallic superman capable of super-strength feats and something called an "empathic ability to turn on any kind of machine." Sounds hot, let's get it on film.

Dragonfly - Ben Grimm's incredibly sucky new identity, wherein he gets dragon-like wings and also the power he's always wanted the most - the ability to plow Sue Storm.

Ultra-Woman - Sue Storm called "not it" slowest when the group said "Okay,someone has to have a totally shitty superhero name," so she gets dubbed Ultra-Woman, possessing the powers Reed Richards already had because no one could think of anything better, which is weak.

And lastly, Big Brain, which is the telepathic and disembodied brain of Reed Richards, capable of floating around the Baxter Building in fluid-filled tubes like an important piece of mail.

Excepting their new powers and identities, pretty much everything else remains the same for the FF, including their roster of foes. Doctor Doom shows up halfway through the story, interrupting his efforts to summon "a demon from the nether regions." If he stops now, he'll have to console himself with conjuring a leprechaun from the swimsuit area!

Still, Doom can't help fucking with Reed Richards, in this case offering him a synthetic body in which to house his powerful mind. He actually comes through on that promise sort of, but not before putting the alternate FF through some bullshit stunts and traps like you hafta do in these one-shot Fantastic Four adventures.

What happens at the end is that Doom's castle explodes and Doom dies, but Big Brain is able to transfer his intellect into Doom's dead body, so that's a win all around, presuming Sue's okay with that goddamn face. Still, whatever its shortcomings, I understand it's gotta be better than the most recent Fantastic Four reboot, and probably better than the next three which ought to be coming out in the next six years,

It's super-bogus that nothing resembling this scene happens in the book.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Under the auspices of his original author, Steve Gerber, Howard the Duck was the perfect target for shadowy and squeaky-clean conspiracies. A feathered every-duck representing the institutional malaise afflicting the Boomer generation during the Seventies, Howard carried a little bit of Potter Stewart with him in his quest for something resembling a comfortable, happy, worthwhile existence - he couldn't define it, but he'd probably know it when he saw it.

In the interim, Howard was bounced around a full prog-rock concept album's worth of institutional absurdity, ending up everywhere from the wrestling ring to the booby hatch in his quest to make it in a world he never made. So in addition to absurd foes like the Space Turnip, Doctor Bong and the Turnip Lady, he was also subject to the squeaky clean intentions of SOOFI and their living man-soap monster, Sudd.

Most of Howard's colorful enemies were somehow institutional and authoritative, people or organizations whose aims were objectively beneficial but whose zeal made them greater menaces than the filth they fought. Such is the case with SOOFI, standing for Save Our Offspring from Indecency. Being a radical terrorist organization with an inclination towards suicide bombing, however, meant that the offspring enjoyed by SOOFI members would have been few and far between.

Joe Simon wasn't alone in seeing a claustrophobic, all-consuming menace in the insipid glare of the ubiquitous Happy Face symbol, using it as the visage for Prez's Boss Smiley. Gerber saw it too. The happy-go-lucky, all-signing and all-dancing SOOFI armada - decked out in spotless white janitor suits and bearing pushbrooms - wore them as well, as did their Supreme SOOFI, a faceless army of bland, meaningless smiles. Did I say Prog Rock, earlier? This is definitely some Dead Kennedys material.

They explode in the next panel, and never would the "B-ROOM" sound effect have been more appropriate.

In any case, more to the point: Sudd's origin involves a lowly dishwasher and over-devoted advocate of a pornography-free civilization who blithely plops a can of lemon-scented cleaner into a microwave and switches it on, transforming his whole body into a mass of abrasive, cleansing, sentient and homicidal suds. You might think it's ludicrous, but the Flash got hit by four shelves full of chemicals and a lightning bolt, which burn wards across the United States will inform you only helps you run very fast because you're on fire. 

Avoiding her creditors?
His crusade to clean up filth becomes very literal even as his mind is submerged beneath soapy brutality, and Sudd takes to the streets. He murders a few bums along the way, but wipes literally decades of gross muck off the streets and buildings, and the local residents see that as a pretty fair trade-off.

Defeating Sudd brings Howard to the attention of the Supreme SOOFI, whose operatives are busily walking into adult bookstores, dirty movie theaters and glam rock concerts in order to blow themselves to pieces. Naturally, the death toll is still considered slightly acceptable, if only because it cleans the streets. Same thing happened when Giuliani Disney-fied Times Square, and now everyone wants the hookers back.

The end of the conflict involves Howard being kidnapped by SOOFI, dressed up to disguise his animal nudity (where did they get square shoes anyway?) and defeating the entire magilla with the one tactic no one thought of: hitting a girl. Slugging the Supreme SOOFI breaks her mask, revealing the back of what was clearly meant to be anti-gay activist Anita Bryant's well-coiffed noggin.

These days it would probably be Kim Davis, or the Chik-Fil-A guy, or whoever the anti-gay activist at the moment is, because the twenty-teens are feeling a lot like the 1970s in a lot of ways. And the only reasonable reaction to that may be the way Howard handled the unmasking of the Supreme Soofi herself -- he just walked away disgusted.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Counterpoint: Lukewarm sales.

Marvel's kid-friendly Star line seemed to be based on a trio of lucrative principles. The first was, naturally enough, license everything humanly possible. The next two were "swipe straight from Harvey's popular children's line as much as you can" and "puns."

Denied in the case of the first rule - Marvel had attempted to license the then-retired Harvey line of characters, but no deal could be reached - they embraced the second two, even though they could've left the last one well enough alone.

Planet Terry was Marvel's space opera by way of Richie Rich, more or less, featuring a desperate orphan boy exploring the universe in what should have been the vain hope of finding clues to his origin and the whereabouts of his parents. Far from being a difficult search, pretty much every other person Terry spoke with on his quest had some valuable info to pass along. This was going to be a short mystery, in other words.

Take that, haters.
Or it would have been, had Terry made it past twelve issues, and if the universe didn't seem content on jerking him around. Right out of the gate, Terry learns from an old-timey space prospector (a weird archetype in space dramas but what are you gonna do?) the details of his origin - born on an interstellar vessel, infant Terry is placed in the sterile environment of a lifeboat for his own safety. And is then launched into space. This is a powerful reminder to folks that spaceship lifeboats are for being shot into space first and used as incubators second.

It speaks poorly as to the design and efficacy of the lifeboat that the parent ship was unable to find it, much less space-based emergency services. Lacking some sort of emergency beacon, apparently the one thing you gain out of leaving a damaged spaceship via lifeboat is "a slower death,"

Well, Terry doesn't die, but he does lose his parents forever - unless he can find them, that is, which is the crux of the book. Along the way, he picks up Robota, a robot laborer otherwise condemned to the scrapheap and a character whose name must have been decided upon in something like ten seconds. She also has flowing locks of gorgeous red hair which is SUPER IMPORTANT in robot labor.

Also accompanying the duo is Omnus, a pile of netted laundry possessed of tremendous strength and the intolerable patter of a barbarian nitwit. Together, the three of them pursue the rumors of Terry's birth vessel, The Space Warp, across the universe, meeting bad guys and generally wasting a lot of time along the way.

Like other Star books Royal Roy and Top Dog, Planet Terry was illustrated by veteran Harvey artist Warren Kremer, giving it a visual connection to the world of Richie Rich and Hot Stuff. Perhaps that's where Terry should have looked next, perhaps Timmy Time could have given him some pointers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Since The League of Regrettable Superheroes was published, there are a few criticisms I tend to hear repeated. About half of it comes in the form of folks offended to see favorite - or, at least, much-beloved - characters included in the roster which they mistakenly interpret to be a Hall of Shame, and the rest comes in the shape of the hated "You forgot ..."

But I do often hear folks list off the superheroes they felt were "missing" from the book. I can guarantee you that almost none of the recommendations went unconsidered. The original list of candidates for inclusion numbered in at around a thousand.

This was whittled down to the one hundred (and a few extras) which comprised the content of the book. It's important to note, too, that the book was never intended to be (or ever advertised as) either a comprehensive list of every superhero ever which was a near-miss or off-the-mark, or a definitive ranking of the absolute one hundred most absurd, misbegotten, neglected, or what-have-you characters. The entries were chosen on variety and context - the most important factor for inclusion was that there was something interesting and, ideally, unique to say about the character. It was never meant to be a holistic catalog including everyone everywhere.

Still, with all that in mind, I often see reviews which accuse me of "forgetting" some particular character (and I'm not sure what folks want me to do about that. I guess I could recall all the books and write a short summary of every missing character in the margins of every copy), and no character is mentioned more often than Arm-Fall-Off Boy.

In the almost-impossibly unlikely event that you are unfamiliar with Arm-Fall-Off Boy, here he is: Debuting in Secret Origins vol.1 No.46 (December, 1989), Arm-Fall-Off Boy was reportedly the very first rejected applicant to the futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes, appearing and failing to pass the inaugural occasion of the venerated Legion Tryouts.

As the name implies, Arm-Fall-Off Boy's power is that ... his arms fall off. "Observe, as I detach my limb" he tells the founding trio of the Legion, doing just as he says, "And transform it into a deadly weapon!"

And that's pretty much it for Arm-Fall-Off Boy. Striking a chord with the Legion's very dedicated fandom, Arm-Fall-Off Boy or some version much like him has managed to find his way occasionally into Legion books, but that's not where most folks heard of him. Most folks heard of him from internet lists of lame superheroes.

Arm-Fall-Off Boy was, of course, on the original list of 1,000 candidates for the League of Regrettable Superheroes - how could he not be? The internet listicle of "lame superheroes" is easy-to-manufacture clickbait (I think you'll find, and I say this with love, that MOST superheroes are at least weird, off-putting, bizarre and, yes, sometimes lame, if even only on occasion) and Arm-Fall-Off Boy is pretty much on all of them.

Part of this is owing to the incestuous nature of internet humor - where do you research your internet list? Why, on the internet, of course! And there's Arm-Fall-Off Boy - on "The 15 Lamest Superheroes of All Time," and "Twenty Superheroes With Useless Powers," and "The Ten Dumbest Superheroes Ever Conceived," and so on, and so on.

The thing about Arm-Fall-Off Boy, though, is that he's actually just perfect for his intended purpose. Arm-Fall-Off Boy was originally intended as a satirical take on the often-absurd powers of the Legion and their prospective members. Keep in mind that this was the highly-imaginative Silver Age organization which included heroes like Matter-Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy, and once admitted a fellow named Nemesis Kid without realizing that he might be a bad guy.

The insistence among fandom that Arm-Fall-Off Boy must be "lame" because he's not some sort of standard-issue superhero with enviable paranormal abilities or vigilante skills - because he's not serious - is one of the big problems with mainstream comic readers in general. There's a disinterest among the audience for enjoying anything once it leaves a particular milieu. Mainstream comic fans either want their street-level vigilante, their grim avenger, their upbeat retro-friendly superhero, their knockoff Batman, their knockoff Superman, their 90s artifact, Silver Age antique, Bronze Age comfort, or they want nothing at all.

Once fandom becomes constricted by a concrete avenue of mortified preference, it tends to foment a genuine incuriosity and absence of tolerance of anything which doesn't fit a very narrow idea of a "valid" character. This is particularly tru among the superheroes themselves, and that's an attitude that serves both the reader and the industry very poorly indeed.

With all of this in mind, then, I'd like to officially say that the reason Arm-Fall-Off Boy wasn't in the League of Regrettable Superheroes is that he wasn't regrettable. Additionally, he's not lame, he's not stupid, and he's not useless. He's perfect for exactly what he was made to do, and as long as this blog exists there's one place on the internet that considers him absolutely fine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


"I walked through a burning fang of fire..."

Those early 1970s Wonder Woman stories – wherein she’d lost her powers, her costume, her mission, her boyfriend AND the top half of her masthead – had a bad habit of focusing on anyone else than Wonder Woman. The uncomfortably represented Asian mystic martial artist I-Ching was already taking more-than-equal billing with Wonder Woman, and the book was as likely to promote guest-stars, new villains and supporting characters as it was Diana Prince herself.

Take, for example, Wonder Woman vol.1 Nos.201-202 (August/September 1972), wherein Wonder Woman splits the cover with Batman baddie Catwoman in the service of introducing Fritz Leiber’s popular fantasy characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser to their short-lived DC Comics incarnation.

The story opens with Wonder Woman attacked in her apartment while saddled with two useless men. On the one hand, there’s nearly-incompetent private detective Johnny Double, currently abducted and on the other there’s her “mentor” I-Ching, peppering his running commentary on the events with useless aphorisms like “Persistance in Righteousness brings reward!” Hold it, that’s from a fortune cookie, isn’t it?

PS We're out of milk.
Ching has a lot of opportunity to comment as Diana and he are wrapped up fighting ninjas or something right out of the gate. It’s worth mentioning that, with her powers gone, Wonder Woman has to fight menaces like that using contrived martial arts, primarily in the form of kicks which allow the reader to look right up her skirt. No wonder Gloria Steinem campaigned to have her get back in costume.

To get the ninjas off their backs and rescue Johnny Double, Ching and Diana are tasked with retrieving The Fist of Flame, which sounds like a medical condition. It’s actually a mysteriously powerful gem ensconced in a statue inside a hidden land in Asia. Oh, THAT Fist of Flame.

Naturally, they head there right away, only to find Catwoman also on the trail of the Fist of Flame. In fact, they get there at the same time and there’s literally a segment of this book which is just people looking at the Fist of Flame and then getting conked in the back of the skull. First Wondy, then Catwomen, pop pop.

Waking later, they’re not only captives of the resident secret landians, they’re also forced to fight some sort of Cirque de Soleil battle over a flaming wok. This kills a little time until the hidden purpose of the gem can be revealed – it can cross dimensions! It can cross dimensions – to Erewhon, where Catwoman and Wonder Woman find themselves, the home of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser!

It’s exciting to see two beloved sword-and-sorcery characters show up in a Wonder Woman comic, except that the duo … really rapey? As the titanic Fafhrd looms over Diana, she thinks “He’s grinning, but what he’s reaching for probably isn’t what I want to give!” Oooooh, Fafhrd – friendzoned!

A dignified form of attack.

Ching adds his own two cents, even though they weren’t reaching for his elderly goodie bag. “I sense thievery – or worse – as these men’s motivation!” Maybe he’s talking about murder here, but is it really better if he is?

The introduction of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser actually doesn’t accomplish much that Wonder Woman and Catwoman probably couldn’t have done. The story, though, is basically a stealth pilot for the characters’ soon-to-be appearance in the racks in Sword of Sorcery. In the interim, everything that happens is basically dumb nonsense that doesn’t make anyone better, anyone smarter, or anyone more interesting. Suffice it to say that everyone ends up back in their own dimensions, in their offices, and made bereft of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser at the last second so that the last half-page of the book could be an ad for their series. Some guests.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Everyone who reads comics are familiar with the goodie-packed pages promising endless rewards on this imperfect Earth for any child dedicated and focused enough to sell seeds, cards and Grit to his or her neighbors. Very few of these full-page ads full of questionably useful goods and garments ever gave the potential sales individual an impetus to get out there and sell-sell-SELL! Very few, that is, except Cloverine salve - the best there is at what it does! Cloverline (snikt) sponsored full-page ads featuring the adventures of a similar set of kids engaged in important adventures, aided by the garbage they could earn by hocking skin cream on their reluctant-but-obliging neighbors.

I'm kind of alarmed that NASA apparently lost track of that thing as soon as it was launched.
Bearing some combination of names like Bobby, Jim, Judy, Sally, Hortence, Balthazar and Champion, except for those last three, the collection of everykids found themselves heroically saving the day with their Cloverline-sponsored garbage, such as ...

Sussin' out a fink's easy cash ...
The "art picture" is where he stashes the heroin.
Saving innocent maidens from culture-appropriating hooligans...

And bringing consumerism to the far reaches of the galaxy ...

Does anyone else read those calls to action as desperate voices in an unwell person's head? "Act now! We trust you! Let's go! The President is not human! Let's go! Our 58th year!"
Of course, the primary role of any of these product-shilling kid corporations was to tame wildlife, such as in this adventure where a cross gorilla becomes an issue ...

Why did they just let a kid walk into a zoo carrying a 22 rifle? Because of the prestige he earned as a salesperson of Cloverine White Pertolatum Skin Salve, the greatest kind of man you can simply ever be. Don't delay! Act now! WE ARE RELIABLE!

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