Wednesday, January 9, 2019

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: EYE FOR AN EYE

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 used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...



Kitties!

This episode opens with Swamp Thing pleading desperately with the swamp -- and I'm still not quite sure whether the semi-sentience of the swamp is a general mystical thing, a Parliament of Trees reference, or just how Swamp Thing works in this universe, it's a mystery. Whatever the scenario, the situation is clearly that Swamp Thing only holds so much sway over the source of his powers, and that the swamp has access to cats.

Give us this day our daily swamp bread...

The swamp has released THE PREDATOR (i.e. a very even-tempered cougar) into Houma to finally do what Swamp Thing won't -- kill Arcane! Which I think he did once. But now THE PREDATOR.

I'm sort of at loose ends with this episode on account of it's slim -- even for a Swamp Thing episode. The plot which motivates the Predator involves a radioactive waste dump in the middle of the swamp which sickens nature AND the residents of Houma. One by one, the Predator stalks everyone involved in any fashion with the radioactive waste, saving Arcane for last -- either for extra dramatic tension or because he lives in a compound with deadly electric force fields. The swamp has limits!

Scully to Will's Mulder.
Will recognizes that the many many victims filling up Houma's apparently only hospital emergency ward are suffering from radiation poisoning. This is an opinion left unshared by Tim (Christopher Carter), Will's pal and an orderly at the hospital. Tim is the highlight of the episode, easily, with breezy banter and an utter unconcern for the health and safety of the suffering and ill. Even though he recognizes the symptoms of radiation poisioning, agrees with Will that the symptoms match, AND observes that the radiation detecting badges found in one of the victim's office implies radiation, HE WON'T BELIEVE IT. It's beyond funny. Also, this is why I don't trust doctors.

Meanwhile, Graham has figured out the Predator's pattern, despite Arcane's disdain. "You're afraid of this pernicious puss" he sneers, delivering a line which makes the episode worthwhile.

Oh, and the sheriff is back, despite there being no running order in the series which explains his return to Arcane's payroll...
Here's what happens in the bottom third: Someone gives Will an uzi and a jeep. Arcane descends into some kind of steampunk boudoir panic room. The electric forcefield which is meant to keep Arcane safe is shut down when a panicked guard runs into it rather than facing the incredibly sweet, patient cougar.  And Swamp Thing explains why the Predator killing Arcane is a bad idea. Are you ready? It's good. It's perfect. It will make you a fan. Ready?

The panther, according to Swamp Thing, will -- in the process of killing Arcane -- "ingest Arcane's evil." Furthermore, as the cougar goes out into the world and procreates, "each panther," Swamp Thing warns us, "will be more evil than the one before."

Oh, look honey, it's that nice kitty from the TV...

It doesn't come to that, the world being overrun by increasingly evil cougars. What happens instead is that Arcane is forced to give an apology to the swamp. And "Sorry swamp" won't cut it!

"There have been a few unfortunate mistakes," he confesses, "But they were honest mistakes."

"There've been a few dead bodies here and there," he adds,  "and the rest have been nobbled for life, but they deserved it!" It gets cornier from here, despite being a real testament to Chapman being a fantastic melodramatician. It tests his skills, though, with the confession literally ending with him screaming "FORGIVE ME, FOR I HAVE SINNED" at an unidentified fern.

That steampunk boudoir panic room makes it all worthwhile tho ...
But at least it's all straightened out, and we still have the original amount of evil kitties!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: BROTHERLY LOVE

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 used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...




The unfortunate reality is that any time that you have an episode of a television show or an issue of a comic book which is titled "Brotherly Love," you are about to endure a story about two brothers who do not get along and which is going to take a real goddamn long time to get to the payoff. Writers overestimate the inherent drama of sibling rivalry, is my general assessment of the situation.

And that's more or less -- or, in fact, precisely -- what we get in this episode of Swamp Thing. In addition, Tressa is now involved with a new beau! If past episodes are any indication, this means we'll see Tressa slapped, struck, terrified and/or choked in her own home within the next eight minutes. Yay? She's got a type.

"Welcome y'all t'Gator Pete's!"

The episode opens with a longshot of the Kipp household, reminding me once again that I often mistake the Kipp household for a deep-swamp gumbo shack. Pulling up to the dilapidated hovel is Tressa and her date for the evening, Brad (David Rupprecht), a pleasant enough guy who spends every ounce of energy in his body pleading with Tressa to fuck him. He phrases it in terms like "why won't you give me a tumble" or "why are you giving me the cold shoulder" etc etc, even though they are literally going out on multiple dates, and she seems to like him fine, for no reason I can ascertain.

Will pops up on the front porch and basically orders Tressa to fuck the guy. I don't know why he's so invested, but he's practically furious that she hasn't put out yet. I don't know if Will's trying to wipe out a secret debt or something, but however unpleasant Brad is on the matter, Will is 500 times worse. Personal relationships have badly deteriorated in the Kipp household. This bodes poorly for the Swamp Tour business.

In this brief respite, no more than one and one-third of a second, this guy is changing the topic back to him getting fucked.
Tressa, meanwhile, has very good reasons for not trusting the guy. For one thing, he gave his home address as "the middle of Lake Michigan." Yeah, that seems suspicious. Also, his driver's license is under a different name -- and his address? ON DRY LAND! The sneak!

Anyway, this was an interesting decision to make: Beginning the episode in a darkened shithole amidst desperate sex-pleading and open hostility.

Another unsettling fact about Brad is that he's related to some hyper-violent dipshit in a Hawaiian shirt (Kurt Hewett) who kills the only likable character in this whole episode, gas station attendant Steve (Terry Jones). Sorry Steve you had to die, Steve. I love that you clearly softly rested your head rather than letting it hit something hard, tho, I respect your self-care regimen.

May a flight of angels sing you to your supper, or however that goes.

Back at Kippsylvania, Will is making a spaghetti dinner for the unhappy trio, and pretending to play guitar on the porch. I forgot how Will sometimes pretends to play guitar but doesn't, and I am awakened to the fact that he's kind of doing an Elvis impression for his character. Is this something Will's been doing all along? Has he been doing young Swamp Elvis? And, if not, can we get that character onto the DC streaming service?

So, I'd like to take a moment to check in with the status of Swamp Thing's world. At this point, Tressa and Will have both seen more awful shit than a six-tour 'Nam vet. They have had their home invaded by ghosts and evil spirits, they have traveled through time and other dimensions, the youngest member of the Kipp family was abducted and forced into slavery at a mutant mine in Brazil. And yet Tressa has uncovered so much shady deets about Brad, still lets him into her home, and Will is still shouting "FUCK. THAT. MAN'S. PENIS." every three minutes. Do they love death? Have they accepted that their own heroes' journeys may never begin, for corrupt lintel above the vital threshold? Will they refuse no call, forever mistaking death for adventure? What Houma needs is a trauma therapist or fifty.

"Let me play you a little tune I like to call 'Tressa, Give It Up To This Weird Asshole Already Whydon'tcha"

Speaking of which, Hawaiian shirt dude finally shows up, and Tressa just lets him in before he even knocks. Tressa's finest moment, that. She actually declares that it might be Will at the door, even though Will is literally standing RIGHT BEHIND HER at the time. This is what I mean. They welcome annihilation. Swamp Thing has done a great disservice to these two people, introducing them to a supernatural world where the only reasonable emotional states are apathy and welcoming death with open arms.

The shirt dude is, naturally, Brad's brother Kurt, who is nuts and blames Brad for the death of a mutual love interest, but for which he is actually responsible. Okay. That's it. Now let's have some Swamp Thing.

What the fuck caliber was this guy packing, signal flares?
Swamp Thing's powers, as far as the canon of the television show is concerned, are limited to what the swamp is willing to let him do. The swamp seems to have taken a real liking to Kurt, because it has limited Swamp Thing to actions which -- and I quote here -- "complicate [Kurt's] life." This entails a pouring rain and a downed powerline. Since Kurt is driving Tressa and Brad to a motel to kill them (despite the Kipp household being located right next to a corpse-devouring swamp, just saying), this is indeed ... complicating.

Brad has seizures in one arm, which Kurt takes advantage of in the following over-complicated way: He ties Brad to a chair and tapes a gun to Brad's shaky hand, finger on the trigger. He ties Tressa up and puts her in the path of bullet. Then he refuses to give Bradley medication, which is not cool, so that when Brad seizures -- pow, Tressa ... probably gets injured? There seems to be a lot that might go wrong here.

A real Rube Goldberg device they got there ...
Which is Swamp Thing's cue. He bursts into the motel room and, using the powers granted to him by the swamp -- slows down time.  He can do this. It doesn't actually seem like it makes anyone any all that faster, even though it's fast enough for Will to shove Tressa to the floor with alarming force -- Swamp Thing's most tried-and-true technique for saving a potential shooting victim -- and beat Kurt up.

But, just to clarify: Swamp Thing was only granted the following powers by the swamp -- raining and time-stopping. This is lighting a furnace to burn a hair.

But there is a happy ending: Tressa never fucks that guy.

I'd be a monster if I didn't show you Tressa's "Terrified Face" for this episode.



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: IN THE BEGINNING

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 used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...



In a fashion totally suited to the Swamp Thing live-action television show, this unusual episode simultaneously deserves accolades for getting the tone right, and then also deserves condemnation for ... being the Swamp Thing live-action television show.

"Stay down, big man. This is a job for  ... Will Thing!"

It seems as though there may be a few approaches to this show which work -- and going very very broad is one of them. This is, after all, a show about a mad scientist and his battles against a magical salad bar, plus the salad bar has many shirtless, profoundly confused and unendearingly confident teenage pals you have to occasionally kidnap and send to slave camps in Brazil. So, in this episode, Anton Arcane carving a kilometer-high cavern almost a mile below the surface of the Earth so as to manufacture a tiny biosphere for his rapidly-mutating army of malevolent murder-ferns which will, in turn, cover the planet and transform our antagonist into a living god is just about right.

The episode opens with Will impatiently sassing the swamp. It appears that Will attends regular "communicating with the swamp" classes, taught by Swamp Thing, and that he also has zero to little respect for it. "Hey swamp!' he hollers, "How's the missus -- I mean, the mosses!" he puns, adding "Aw, you're no fern -- I mean fun!" It only makes sense that he is almost subsequently murdered by a begonia.

Please enjoy this animated gif of the only thing I ever make animated gifs of: Will getting thrown around by plants.

Arcane has released one of his mutated murder-plants into the wild, and it nearly makes very short work of Will. Swamp Thing intercedes at the last second, receiving a face-full of dayglo-pink spraypaint in the face for it. He ends up looking like a variant exclusive sofubi.

Will and Swamp Thing decide to investigate the origin of the killer weed, which is also how I spent a lot of my time college. The neuro-toxin which Swamp Thing inhaled AND the underground biosphere (about which the duo is not yet aware) drain Swampy's powers, meaning that Will is going to have to investigate the origins of the deadly plant on his lonesome. That sounds like the opening line of his obituary, but it works out surprisingly well!

The Hunter S.Thompson look suits him.

Meanwhile, over at Arcane's labs -- Graham returns from vacation! And he brought Dr.Arcane a cool-ass tee-shirt! I didn't know that he was on vacation, but trying to foist a tourist-trap tee-shirt off on his boss is among Graham's finest moments and also possibly the high point of the episode. It's also preferable to what Graham almost did upon returning to the labs, which is to jam his whole hand into a terrarium full of dangerous murder-plants! "You almost achieved immortality" sneers Arcane, in a typically delightful Chapman delivery.

Down in the underground chamber, Arcane introduces Graham to his nursery of murder-plants. Mutating at "a thousand times normal"  -- which, I don't know what the standard amount of mutation is but a thousand times sounds good, so, that's cool -- the plants are also spliced with Arcane's DNA, making them his 'children.' They also grant him Swamp Thing powers, mostly, allowing him to control the weather using only his will (and also he shouts his commands so the crew knows when to turn off the sprinklers). This is also when Graham accidentally drops a box full of important electronics, or a box full of wires, whichever, we never get a very good look at it, but it plays a role later on.

Of COURSE I 'cappd the tee-shirt scene. I take care of you.

Will's efforts to infiltrate Arcane's lab are so awkward and inept that I assume they let him in only out of pity. He manages to play it cool while navigating the secure areas checkpoints of the high-security facility, as long as your definition of cool owes a lot to Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd's "Wild and Crazy Guys." He keeps SHOUTING his lines, like a really cool guy who isn't suspicious.

Some of the plants have managed to cobble together a huge, ridiculous robot body out of the dropped box of electronics, becoming "A plant that kills like a machine," according to Arcane. So ... it's a guitar.

"Beep Boop Give Me Chlorophyll Beep Boop I Guess"

"It feeds on metal, electronics and flesh" ponders Arcane, adding "-- Human flesh!" which is the prelude to Will getting tied to a tree as bait for the beast. This would be an easy fix for Swamp Thing, were he at full power and not wandering around the bog, puffy and confused, like if Steven Seagal were 100% chia.

Eventually, Swamp Thing and Woody Guthrie's guitar face off in the swamp. The machine has been savagely knocking people over, which appears to be its sole superpower inasmuch as I think it's just a refrigerator box with electrical tape all over it. There's nothing plant-like about the machine at this point, except that its eyes glow green. Like a traffic signal which, last time I checked, did not indicate "Stop / Caution / Plant Murder Machine Creature." And the fight scenes sound like a man passing a difficult stool while dremeling.

And Will? Will is ready for anything ...
Swamp Thing delivers the episode's killer line -- "You're not a plant. You're an aberration! You must die!" as he lunges into battle. Meanwhile, in a rare exhibition of cooperation, Arcane is destroying his own biosphere, so as to heal the swamp and return Swamp Thing's powers. With his murder plants growing out of control, Arcane has no choice but to rely on the aid of his old foe. Unfortunately, he finds that the plants have rebelled against him and are drawing power from an alternate source. Could it be -- love? No, it could not. It's a generator. He hits it with an axe.

The swamp indicates its return to robustness with stock footage of lightning and loads of air bubbles emerging from a deep pool. I assume the swamp is ... farting? Letting out some painful gas? Apparently that's all it required, because we end on Swamp Thing lecturing Will about how plant machines are bad, and ones that murder are worse, and even Will's expression seems to say "I never thought that they weren't." And ... scene!

It's sweet, he looks so excited.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 59 - HOMEWORLD



Micronauts vol.1 No.59
Writer: Peter B.Gillis
Artist: Kelley Jones / Bruce Patterson
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Ralph Macchio
EIC: Jim Shooter

Michael Golden returns with possibly his loveliest cover from a catalog of genuinely amazing contenders. What happens inside isn't his fault.

Here it is, the final issue of the first volume of The Micronauts -- a series about a bunch of cheap plastic toys which was turned into a strange and robust universe, an epic about the cost of humanity in the face of despotism, and a colorful document of war's stupid brutality. Although the book flirted with all of the standard tropes of fantasy and science fiction -- prophecies, enchanted weapons and the hero discovering a meaningful heritage -- it never surrendered to them.

Marionette hates it when Rann teases her about how she
became too callous and vengeful in the war, thus losing her
humanity...
Those contrivances were too clean and smooth-edged for Mantlo, I've come to think. He preferred messiness -- he wanted his wars to be a spectacle from a distance, but only tedious cruelty from a closer vantage point. Heroism cost more than it returned to the hero, or the heroine, and there was no saving the day until the day had already been more lost than not...

I'm happy enough imagining that the Micronauts ends with this cover. Before leaving Homeworld -- victorious, but limping and broken and sad -- they take one last look at their reason for existing, for the tyrant whose evils and excesses occupied their every waking moment for the last half of a decade. Acroyear knows war, and knows to walk away from the corpse. Rann, Mari and Bug, they'd been innocents before Karza's reign -- they look back with questing eyes, and Microtron watches his former mistress with roboidal concern. Where do they go from here? To another adventure ... but one we will never know.

Well, of course they actually go on for another twenty issues under writer Peter B.Gillis, with new penciler Kelley Jones, who together will continue the adventures of the Micronauts. Here's my takeaway:

I've met my fair share of folks who hated Kelley Jones' art. I've loved it since I recall first seeing it -- in Sandman, I think, and then Deadman. Here, however, he is Not. Ready. To. Helm. A. Comic.

One of the reasons I don't read much in the way of modern mainstream comics from the big two these days is that I can see through the digital colors. The novice artists they bring  in are usually saved by a good inker and/or a top-notch colorist, until they get their feet under themselves and can produce something that doesn't plainly look like an outright amateur's self-published book.

Jones' work in this issue is so baldly amateurish that it's unreadable.

That being said, I can enjoy the sense of promise provided by things like his depiction of Acroyear as a thousand-foot mountain of muscles and steel. Okay, I'm in.

My man? Oh, yes, my man works out.

I recall enjoying Gillis' Tailgunner Jo, an out-of-universe limited series produced by DC back in the days when they had a respectable sideline of out-of-universe sci-fi stories going on. I enjoyed it tremendously, although I wonder if that had a lot to do with the absolutely inimitable artwork of the late Tom Artis, paired with Ty Templeton and a spot-on Anthony Tollin.

Somehow he draws Huntarr
worst of all ...
I only say that because, while I think the dialogue is tighter, there's nothing else really going on in the story. It has the atmosphere of made-for-tv group therapy, they kind where everyone gets to tell a story and we don't really get to the bottom of anything.

After a brief introductory segment, the story involves Microtron and Biotron trying to fill in some empty spaces in their memory banks. Specifically they go around asking each of the Micronauts what simple human emotions mean, because I guess they don't have Wikipedia in the Microverse. Micropedia. Mikipedia. Anyway.

It goes like this: They ask Acroyear about Love, he tells them a story of how he lost his first love but gained a greater one in Cilicia. They ask Marionette about Fear and she tells a weird story about how she almost killed her father once. Bug's story about Beauty involves throwing a butterfly at a blind guy, Huntarr's Hope-related tale involves watching cops do graffiti, and then Arcturus Rann has a story about Death that involves a dead planet ghost woman and honestly I think he might've been high.

At this stage, I wonder if I'm going to continue with Micronauts: The New Voyages, the series' second volume. The point of the project was to finally collect and very slowly ingest this much-acclaimed series after decades of having never read a word of it. New Voyages may fall outside of that dictum, as no one has ever told me how great it was ... or mentioned that it ever existed. It fits both the "Gone" and "Forgotten" part of the mission statement!

But then he ended his first issue with poems dedicated to each Micronaut aaaaand I think I'm done.


"Biotron, Microtron, the musical fruit / The more they die, the more they toot ..."

---

It is weird to be done with this.

The project that led me this far -- idly picking up individual Micronauts issues as I found them in quarter bins and garage sales, waiting to read them until I had the collection completed, then approaching them weekly rather than in a few sittings -- filled up a greater part of the background noise of my life than I had realized. A part of my brain had been buzzing constantly with ideas and questions about Acroyear and Bug, Marionette and Rann ...

I ingested about half of the New Voyages after writing the above article, and it didn't do anything for me. The Micronauts are hardly characters in their own book, and the new mission they've undertaken requires their fiery spirits to be woefully neutered. It's a real let-down after Mantlo's admittedly often-rambling arcs, and a mistake to make the Micronauts supporting characters in their own book. Took a long time for Jones to get his sea legs, too, but it's all right.

Not that the New Voyages could possibly get a fair assessment; it's always going to suffer for succeeding the source material, by comparison.

The virtues of the Micronauts are many: Tremendous artists, stupendous colors -- Francoise Mouly over Michael Golden and Joe Rubinstein in particular being worthy of a mention. The core characters were tremendously rich, each one pursuing an arc, changing dramatically over the course of the series for better and worse. The interventionary Enigma Force provided mysticism and doubt without overreliance on it as a device of deus ex machina, and Karza was increasingly a bizarre and intense villain. I enjoy him tremendously as a baddie.

The faults of Micronauts are equally abundant. Mantlo either didn't see the bigger potential arc until the series had approached the fifty-issue mark, or couldn't convince his editor of the potential until then, and subjected the readers to three rambling years of fluctuating quality. The series was hard on ladies (Slug and Belladonna were building to an interesting subplot, only to be summarily snuffed. Lady Coral literally survived two genocides and an apparent one-on-one battle with Karza -- off-screen -- only to show up halfway to death in her final appearance, Jasmine, Nanobot, Fireflyte, etc).

The series wisely nurtured only one major villain. Lesser baddies ran the gamut from the likable weirdos like Odd John to the risible attempts of Computrex or Phillip Prometheus. Or The Death Squad. Oof.

Low points of the series: The crossovers with main Marvel characters were often disappointing, particularly a Fantastic Four crossover which should have yielded major dividends. Devil, Huntarr, Nanobot -- not just unlikable, but actually distracting characters who ate up time that would have been better spent ... anywhere at all. The origin of the Microverse seemed largely irrelevant to the larger story, and the Atari-esque quest for the keys which accompanied it, bleh. Prisonworld.

Best issues: The first twelve, of course, comprising the initial conflict between the Micronauts and Karza. The alliance between SHIELD and the Micronauts in the face of a Karza-led Hydra contingent, wrapping up in a battle royale at a Florida themepark was ::chefs kiss," especially with Broderick showing his major chops on art. An oblique continuation of a John Byrne FF story shows what gold could have been mined in an earlier FF crossover. The start of the final arc, around issue 44, doubles down on the menace and threat suffered by the Micronauts, despite starring literally almost every annoying character in the series so far. Don't sleep on 44-50. And Micronauts ... Triumphant.

That seems about even. As many issues as were bland or toneless, as many were superbly executed -- maybe even a few more. For a series inspired by a kid's toys -- literally, as Mantlo's son's affection for the Micronauts was reflected in the actual storylines -- the Micronauts accomplished something great, turning in some of the grimmest and most engaging storylines of the era. A very good epic storyline could be made by carefully selecting about two dozen of these issues into one volume...

What's next after Micronauts Monday? I'm tempted to try the same procedure with ROM: Spaceknight, even though I've read quite a few of those. I managed to recently pick up a whole run of Team America from a quarter bin but I've never really heard a lot of buzz about it. I dunno, anything with a supernatural motorcyclist is always interesting on the face of things. I'd love to hear your suggestions but, for right now, I'm going to put Micronauts Monday in the Hibernation Couch for a thousand years or so...


Popular Posts