Monday, January 16, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : 02 - EARTH


Micronauts vol.1 No.2 (Feb 1978)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Francoise Mouly (!!)
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Leaving behind the oddly pro-Oligarchy glint of the first issue, the crew of the mighty Endeavor -- that's Commander Arcturus Rann, the desposed princess Mari(onette) and equally-deposed prince Acroyear of the Acroyears (argh!), the roboids Biotron and Microtron and character find of 1978 Bug -- find themselves pursued into the "Fringe" of reality beyond their world! That was a long sentence! I'm gonna go for brevity from here on out.

Their sometimes ally Time Traveler, wielder of the Enigma Force, briefly appears to warn them of a pursuing battleship and then fucks off to nowhere. This leaves the Micronauts a little time to assess their individual situations. This also fills in the new reader on the backstory so far. How are these short sentences working out? Still a little too long? I'll go for expressive grunts.

Rann provides the lynchpin for this cobbled-together resistance. Contained in his brain is the telepathically-gathered knowledge of a thousand years' worth of space exploration. Karza, having already conquered or destroyed dozens of worlds in his quest for total domination, fears that some hidden weakness might be gleaned from Rann's subconscious. Try asking Lucasfilm to sue for copyright violation, that'll do him in.

It's not an atypical plot device in toy-inspired stories to have the heroes mistaken for actual toys, but it's hard to imagine another writer/artist team besides Mantlo and Golden making it abjectly thrilling. Exploring the other-dimensional world on which they've crash-landed, the Micronauts barely have time to take in the implication of finding a backyard swingset the size of Kilimanjaro before they're attacked -- BY A GIANT COCKER SPANIEL!

Micronauts: DOGWAR!


The battle is briefly interrupted by a flash-sideways to Homeworld -- where we learn that Mari's brother and deposed Prince Argon (the most abundant gas in Earth's atmosphere, good for you Argon!) is alive and captive in Karza's bodybanks. The precise nature of the Bodybanks is a little ambiguous. The life-extending procedures are apparently dependent on sacrificing the lives of lesser classes so, in that way, it's basically the same cultural model as everything that already exists ever (citation: The World Book Encyclopedia, volumes The Dawn of Time through Probably The Future Too).

Meanwhile, the Micronauts' battle against a giant lapdog continues, and I can't tell you how enjoyable this is. That these stories aren't collected and reprinted is a legitimate crime.

They dispatch the dog (harmlessly, we'll find out next issue, which is too long to wait to find out if the dog is okay) and nearly bite it when confronted with a lawnmower. The hands which drive the lawnmower belong to the ominously named tween Steve Coffin of Daytona Beach, Florida. It's not the "Coffin" part that's menacing, it's the "Florida" bit.

Prince Shaitan, brother of Acroyear the Acroyear whose name is actually super-easy to pronounce so I don't know that Acroyear's damage is, finally catches up with the Endeavor. This results in a battle which devastates the Coffin's backyard. Shaitan is sent scattering when Steve smacks him with a rake, which is how I separate dogs that are fucking on my front lawn. Also, apropos of nothing, my spellcheck keeps trying to change "Shaitain" to "Shitstain" so now you have an adroit idea of what kind of conversations I have online.



The final shot of the issue is the devastated yard of Steve Coffin's suburban swamp home, rendered as beautifully as an aerial battlefield photo. It's a moment of relative peace for our tiny heroes, and it all picks up with more sci-fi action in the heart of Daytona Beach next issue ...

This issue's Mighty Marvel Bonus poster:



Friday, January 13, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : BIRDS OF A FEATHER



Last year, I had the pleasure of having my first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, published by the fine folks over at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, PA. Although the cat has been out of the bag for a little while, I'm nonetheless proud to announce that the logical sequel -- The Legion of Regrettable Super-Villains -- is slated to debut on March 28th! You can now pre-order the book over on AmazonBarnes&Noble, and probably on the weird superhero book black market. It does thriving business!

To whet your appetite for the new book, every Friday leading up to the release date, I'll be providing brief snapshots of just some of the 108 (!) historically effed-up bad guys covered in the book (and that's not even counting the sidebars).

Villainy can find its inspiration anywhere, even in a world of canaries and cockatiels. What follows are a foursome of felonious felons with a feathered fiend fetish. These crooks are for the birds, rather literally...

THE CROW
Created by Bill Woolfolk and Harry Sahle
Debuted in Black Hood Comics vol.1 No.1 (MLJ Comics, March 1945)

As I understand it, opera singers are a testy lot, and cannot stand criticism in the slightest. I guess that's why the famous Pagini, returning from retirement and drunking it up on the night of his debut, probably tried to strangle a couple guys and murder a few more for convenience's sake. Having seen his once-beautiful voice reduced to croaks and caws thanks to professional-grade alcoholism, Pagini lashes out at the innocent cast and crew of the opera. And all they did was let a pet crow fly around backstage, seemingly mocking the formerly great star. We've all done that once. That the hot-headed tenor then decided to start murdering people in retaliation probably isn't a surprise, but that he chose to dress up like a giant crow to do it is maybe the weird part. And I don't mean a crow-inspired costume, I mean he was dressed as a crow. It looked like goth Big Bird finally snapped.

THE HAWK
Created by Klaus Nordling
Debuted in: National Comics No.55 (Quality Comics, August 1946)

Circuses are apparently hot seats of rampant evil, and I don't just mean the soul-withering sight of clowns and their hateful antics. No, I mean crooks, con men and strong arms messing around with the carnies and performers just for the fuck of it. Pardon my french. This is what highly entertaining golden age hero The Barker had to endure when the hawk-like, feathered, beak-nosed little freak calling himself The Hawk started pressuring his circus' performers to pay protection money. I don't why the hawk costume seemed relatively important to a protection racket, but he wore one nonetheless. Possibly, he was trying to convince his targets that he was some sort of Manimal, appearing to transform into an aggressive hawk on several occasions. What a hawk's gonna do with protection money, I dunno.

MOTHER GOOSE
Created by Bill Woolfolk and Harry Lucey
Debuted in: Pep Comics vol.1 No.30 (MLJ Comics, August 1942)


Well, this is a phony entry on more than one level. A sinister poetess calling herself Mother Goose arranges to kill three argumentative brothers within the period of a few nights. Her weapon of choice -- nursery rhymes, rewritten to seem more menacing. And then she stabs them or something. "Ring around the cock robin because the sky is falling on the woman who ate a fly and lived in a shoe," for instance, is a sample of an actual Mother Goose rhyme (I have clearly remembered nothing from kindergarten). Then, the victim would be killed in some ironically appropriate fashion - stabbed with a robin in the cock or something. Anyway, it ends up turning out that the murderous Mother Goose is actually ... a dude! What a twist! But the real fakeout is that this wasn't the Mother Goose portrayed and promised on the cover of the issue -- that one was a real lady! With geese! I bet she'd even known the joys and the sorrows of motherhood! Men just cant fake that, you know?

POWERHOUSE
Created by: Erik Larsen
Debuted in Savage Dragon vol.1 No.24 (Image Comics, December 1995)

The genuine, likely reality of Powerhouse is that Erik Larsen used to watch Super-Chicken cartoons when he was a kid and then decided to make a supervillain out of him. That's not the in-canon version of the story, that's just sort of the obvious reality of it. The in-canon version involves a lonely, scrawny teen who discovers that he's the last in a line of ancient Egyptian super-warriors, all of whom have a chicken head. Because of Horus. Nice try. While the power turned most of his relatives into nutcases, he adopts the disguise (and the tiny domino mask that goes with it, to protect his identity in case someone recognized his chickenhead without its mask on) and becomes the sometimes-heroic Powerhouse! Buk buk BUK!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : LUCKYMAN

We get it, you vape.

Superheroes have begun careers on lesser gimmicks than sailor Danny Barr, but not by much. While other characters, boasting as little as a knowledge of boxing or a few years with a Far Eastern temple and their arcane martial secrets, at least had a backstory going for them, Danny Barr -- a.k.a. Luckyman (he was!) -- didn't even have that.

What did he have? He was pretty lucky pretty much I guess its fair to say. It's not the greatest endorsement in the history of comics, but it works for him.

How did your luck get you into that situation in the first place?
A Cambridge House character who'd originally appeared in Star-Studded Comics (and later was part of the inventory stock reprinted in Gold Medal Comics), Luckyman's sole adventure is a litany of fortunate happenstance and an obsession with a chicken's wishbone which he carries on him at all times.

Besides a handful of interior bird garbage, Barr gets around with a typical sailor's suit, a black domino mask, and unsightly yellow stains on his fingertips which, judging by the amount he smokes in this story alone, can probably be seen from space. Hey, I wonder if he smokes Lucky Strikes? Hanh? Hanh? Get it? Because he's, he's lucky, you see? Ahhhhh, you guys...

Luck comes in big and small forms for Luckyman as he investigates a chain of insurance fraud on the high seas. In order: He seems to admit that his wishbone speaks to him, makes a lucky flip of a coin, has his ropes dragged and cut by a ship's motor while he's unconscious underwater (how, um ... how lucky of him), then cuts his wrists free with a nearby tin can that also happens to have an important piece of clue-bearing paper lying nearby, lands a plane in a storm right next to the ship he's investigating and then a guy gets burned to a millions pieces of ash because of acid that was meant to destroy Luckyman but, you know, luck.

Whatever the case, he manages to figure out the crime and see to it that everyone involved is arrested or, you know, horribly burned. Seems like real luck would be that the criminal enterprise in question would fail in the first place and we'd all be better off. Just playing Devil's Advocate.

Still, with a little backstory and some higher stakes, it could have been an entertaining repeat feature worth returning to. Hell, it could have made a pretty passable noir/comic tale, a la Midnight and many of the Spirits. Never came through, though. I guess it just wasn't his ... night LUCK! LUCK! I meant to say it wasn't his luck, not his night. Sorry, sorry everyone, can we start this one over?

"And my hip bone told me it was connected to my thigh bone!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

QUARTER-BIN HEROES: TIME OUT OF MIND


TIME OUT OF MIND (Graphic Serials)
4 issues, 1985-1985 


Inherent in the DNA of pretty much any self-published comic from the black-and-white boom period is an enthusiasm that far outstrips ability. This might sound a little bit like an insult, but I swear that it is something I immensely admire in these books. In fact, it might be the only thing I admire about these books on the whole, outside of the bare-knuckle brass ones it took to self-publish in that market in the first place.

But if you think of enthusiasm as fuel and ability as engineering, then you realize that these books wouldn't have even been possible without an abundance of hyped-up chutzpah. After all, if you have the skill to build a perfectly aerodynamic vehicle, flying without so much as a ripple of wind resistance, then you can get that thing up in the air with a little push. On the other hand, if you're trying to launch a wheelbarrow into orbit, you're going to need the nuclear option.

Even for stealing candy from babies, that is an
unacceptable way to do it.
A space-bound wheelbarrow riding a nation-shattering explosive wave is a pretty good metaphor for Time Out Of Mind, a 4-issue series which had ambition, incoherence and the typical presumption of the young comics-publishing magnate in equal measure. As for the plot, I don't know what to tell you.

For instance, each issue begins and ends with the type of thumbs-under-the-suspenders, self-promotional speechifying that was so typical of the black-and-white comics of the time. Covered in the inside-front-cover intro of the first issue was a reassurance to the book's allegedly-already-extant audience of eager readers that their patience and loyalty will pay off in the upcoming, planned, epic tale covering the next eight issues or so. Optimism is the hallmark of these books.

So is jaded admonition, which Time Out Of Mind hits by issue number 3. That's where the author/editor/probably-everything-on-this-book takes a moment to wag his finger at "the young people" who complain about indie comics pay-rates. Life comes at you fast.

The third issue is also where I actually was able to learn about what was going on in this book, thanks to a "Our Story So Far" sidebar. It goes like this; we have a trio of characters. Adriac, a Sci-Tech from the realm of the futuristic Temporals ("Emissionaries of the Creator"), is sent to present-day Earth to prevent a weapons manufacturer ("Patentholder: 1979, Concussion Blaster, used by Law Officers during crowd control"), Wm.Connors, from traveling back in time to contact and make deals with ancient Mayan/Egyptian alien beings.

Adriac gets shot, crashes into an apartment building and welcomes a knife into his abdomen, all in the first two minutes of his mission.

Cutting their losses, the Temporals hire a comic book-obsessed grown-ass adult nicknamed The Arkansas Traveler (real name: Travis) to pick up on Adriac's mission. He does this with admirable elan, I think, although it's tough to pick up the specifics of what's happening from panel to panel.

About three days into the weeks-long
rape scene.
Making it worse is that the Traveler's wife looks exactly like the third hero of the book, more or less, hooker and med student Rhoda Moore. This is not a plot device, it's just that the only two female characters in the book are drawn in exactly the same way. The only way we, the audience, can tell the difference is that the Traveler's wife spends most of her time taking care of a baby while Rhoda primarily gets stuck in a pre-rape sequence which lasts the better part of two issues. Rape is overused as a device in comic books to begin with, but a full two issues of poorly-actualized gang-members threatening Rhona that they'll "show you a real man" is really going for some sort of award.

Traveler burns most of the ink in the book flitting around time and trying to find/retrieve/fight/I dunno the corporate raider Connors. We also learn that some side-effect of radical science has turned Connors into a nuclear time-bomb, set to go off in 36 hours, whatever that means in a time travel book.

I don't hate Time Out Of Mind, excepting the four thousand pages dedicated to a presaged sexual assault. But the greatest appeal of the book comes from the author's tendency to add one letter too many to fancy words. A prison is described as part of the "penial" system, the book is a "triology," plentiful oxygen is "too substantiall," it's pretty great. There's also random capitalization going on in the typewritten dialogue balloons and captions, so random words take on Significant Meaning without any Particular rhyme or Reasion. It feels like the entire book is being described at breakneck speed by someone hopped up on cough medicine.

Where Time Out of Mind would have ended up had it gone beyond the four actually published issues is laid out for the reader. This is a handy failsafe device for books with a limited lifespan. What we missed out on, therefore, after our heroes finally assemble in the same place (and Traveler gets an opportunity to beat Rhoda's would-be rapist with the handlebars of a bike that must have been off-panel) is the routing of a terrorist hijacking of a plane-full of United Nations diplomats and a near-nuclear showdown between the US and USSR over the existence of Travis, which I could explain further but choose to leave at that compelling sentence fragment.

"Near-nuclear showdown between the US and USSR over the existence of Travis." Rumors of Travises have been at the root of all international dilemmas, really, if you read the right history books.

"And it's about to get a lot dirtier!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : 01 - HOMEWORLD


Micronauts vol.1 No.1 (Jan 1978)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Josef Rubinstein
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

The Micronauts team does not do a stellar job of grabbing my personal sympathies right out of the gate.

The Micronauts saga begins with open rebellion on "Homeworld," the crown jewel of the Microverse. We find Prince Argon and Princess Mari (I put the stress on the second syllable, myself, as in "Ma-RI-oh-net") fleeing for their lives from a violent armed rebellion. Who are the rabble who dare rise up against the "hereditary rulers" of Homeworld? Well -- everyone.

"The elite of Homeworld has been overthrown -- not by a small body of insurgents, but by an entire world!" Well, with that being said, I guess I'm instinctively on the rebellion's side? A small band of elite, hereditary rulers being violently unseated by the entire population which they once ruled doesn't necessarily encourage a lot of empathy on my part, sight unseen. As a matter of fact, I sort of feel like joining 'em. "DOWN WITH ARGON! DOWN WITH ALL THE OTHER DUMB ELEMENTS! UP WITH WHATEVER WE'RE DOING!"

The politics of the Micronauts' universe are laid out in quick succession. Mari and Argon are the last surviving members of the royal family of Homeworld, aided by their "roboid" servant Microtron. Meanwhile, an extremist/fundamentalist junta has become a popular movement and led the population into active rebellion, aided by the alien super-warriors The Acroyears and helmed by the black-masked, heavily armored and sometimes-a-centaur Baron Karza.

Actually, why am I bothering to describe these guys? The comic does it for me.

Karza has brought to Homeworld the technology of the Body Banks, genetic garages where old bodies are made young again, lost limbs can be regrown, and immortality is basically assured for anyone who pledges their allegiance to Karza and his alliances. Now, THAT part is bad. It's so bad, in fact, that Argon has summoned a/the Time Traveler, a hazy but powerful embodiment of a googly, all-powerful but ambiguous cosmic power, The Enigma Force.

Elsewhere, deep space explorer Arcturus Rann and his roboid pal Biotron return from a thousand-year exploratory journey aboard their space vessel, The Endeavor. Most of his time has been spent in suspended animation, telepathically communicating with the weird races discovered along the way. Also, as it will turn out later in the story, he's a former student of Karza's AND the only surviving child of Dallan and Sepsis, agents of the original resistance to Karza's encroaching domination of the Microverse and also two things you can get from sharing needles.

His lineage sees him escorted, at gunpoint, from his freshly-landed ship to the type of bread-and-circuses arena you always see in these kinds of dystopian sci-fi. There, he encounters the last two members of the band: Bug, the Ringo of the Micronauts, and Acroyear, its Billy Preston. Acroyear is the unseated Prince of the Acroyears, which is going to get confusing fast. He's so named - as opposed to his subtly-named brother Shaitan, an ally of Karza's - because his real name is so difficult to pronounce. I assume it's "Farblaublebubblegarglethunglebngleplapamuckalip."

The players come together in the arena, marked for death by way of Large Toy Convincingly Rendered As A Genuine Mechanical Threat By Michael Golden. It's a mouthful of a name, but it conveys the premise well enough.

Princess Mari has been masquerading as some sort of dancing robot lady doll, hopping around on strings operated by the roboid Microtron, a popular entertainment in Karza's degrading empire. They haven't yet gone into why everyone on Homeworld is so into watching a roboid make a lady do the mashed potato. It must be a fad, like planking.

"What else is on?"


The story ends with the heroes smashing the bejeezus out of the Large Toy Convincingly etc, beating cheeks to the Endeavor, and fucking off out of Homeworld -- and the Microverse -- and into "The Fringes," beyond which no one even knows what's out there! It's like living in Tucson, believe me.

Much hay is made of The Micronauts' plain-faced swiping of more than a few themes from Star Wars. I'm not sure you've ever heard of Star Wars, it was a little-seen science fiction movie which came out in, I don't know, 1956 or something. No one had high hopes for it and it faded into obscurity, except for it being everywhere at all times.

There's also more than a little of Jack Kirby's New Gods influence in it (which itself was allegedly an influence on Star Wars), but the first issue really had me thinking that Mantlo was crafting a rockets-and-rayguns metaphor for the impending Iranian Revolution (still a year away at the time of the book's publication, but the demonstrations against the Shah on behalf of a fundamentalist opposition had been a presence in the news). The timeline might be off and it might actually be impossible, but it's hard to parse the "it's bad that the whole planet didn't want a small band of elites to keep them from living forever" sentiment of the first issue without thinking of the global political environment of the day.

More issues will prove or disprove the point, I'm sure. In the meantime, the Micronauts are off to the wild spaces beyond their reality, and there's a promised senses-shattering second issue in the next installment ...

Friday, January 6, 2017

THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS - FORGOTTEN FOES : PAINT IT BLACK



Last year, I had the pleasure of having my first book, The League of Regrettable Superheroes, published by the fine folks over at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, PA. Although the cat has been out of the bag for a little while, I'm nonetheless proud to announce that the logical sequel -- The Legion of Regrettable Super-Villains -- is slated to debut on March 28th! You can now pre-order the book over on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and probably on the weird superhero book black market. It does thriving business!

To whet your appetite for the new book, every Friday leading up to the release date, I'll be providing brief snapshots of just some of the 108 (!) historically effed-up bad guys covered in the book (and that's not even counting the sidebars).

To start us off, let's begin with the sinister semiotic, villains who precede their names with "Black" and "Dark" and "Shadow" and "Sunlightless" and "Eclipse-oriented." No, wait, you know what? Lets just go for "Black" and "Dark," like I like my men and my coffee!


THE BLACK HAND
Created by: Joe Blair and Lin Streeter
Debuted in Blue Ribbon Comics vol.1 No.16 (MLJ Comics, September 1941)

There's probably nothing quite so embarrassing in the super-villain community than accidentally creating your own nemesis, but The Black Hand managed to do just that. In his defense, he hadn't expected that flippant playboy Tommy Townsend would be saved from a savage torture session at the haaaaaand of The Black Hand's men by a giant fucking eagle. Out of nowhere, Tommy is taken away to a distant mountaintop, trained (by the eagle) to fight crime, and returns as The Black Hand's starred-and-striped nemesis Captain Flag! Having messed it up once, The Black Hand returns frequently to make attempts on Flag's life -- this is easy for the skull-faced baddie, whose eponymous mitt possesses the touch of death -- but ultimately ends up literally hoisted on a petard. I don't know if it was his petard or someone else's. I didn't check the ownership papers.


BLACK TARANTULA
Created by: Unknown
Debuted in Feature Presentation vol.1 No.5 (April 1950)

Undying evil is a common theme in comics, but The Black Tarantula might be doing it wrong. Having terrorized a medieval village -- for love of being evil, evidently, which is the villainous equivalent of "shits and giggles" -- The Black Tarantula finds himself not actually defeated but rather condemned to a graveyard for the subsequent thousand years. Worse yet, the guy got real confessional in the interim. Part villain and part horror host, The Black Tarantula spins his yarn to anyone who'll listen, which is mostly corpses. While he'd begun his career turning guileless maidens into horrible spider-people, these days he spends his time bending the ears of the dead and buried, who probably thought they'd be done with talky boors like this.


BLACK TALON
Created by: Gene Colan and Len Wein
Debuted in Strange Tales vol. 1 No.173 (Marvel Comics, April 1974)

A classic of goofy villainy, Black Talon is a voodoo villain with an eye on harassing Afro-Caribbean crimefighter Brother Voodoo. There was no way to write that sentence without using "voodoo" twice. Dressed like a professional wrestler with a heavy metal chicken theme, the finger-lickin' good baddie has actually stood his own not just against Brother V, but also against the full roster of The Avengers! Maybe they were having an off-day. Slightly better than the Black Talon's ridiculous San Diego Chicken Of Death outfit, though, is one of his successors who traded in the chicken suit for a duck costume. Personally, I suspect he was just a Disneyland employee with the afternoon off. 


DARK ARCHER
Created by: Unknown
Debuted in: Thrilling Comics vol.1 No.26 (Nedor Comics, March 1942)

Archery-themed bad guys are pretty much a dime a dozen, as well as being villains who pretty much write themselves. Arrows suck, you know? I mean, they're great in theory, but they're all sharp and they can get into you if someone relatively far away just dislikes you enough. Or if there's a strong breeze at the archery competition. Lacking gimmicked arrows, like some other villains I could name, The Dark Archer made his name by personalizing the delivery system -- he didn't shoot his arrows, he just stabbed his victims to death with them. Seems to me he could've saved some money on replacement arrows and just bought a decent knife. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : BEAU BRUMMELL

Can you believe it? That's how he dresses when he doesn't go to the Opera.

Holyoke hero Beau Brummell takes the motif of the dashing playboy-by-day/strangely garbed crimefighter-by-night to its logical destination. He is a dashing playboy by day who undertakes a war on crime in the disguise of ... a dashing playboy by day.

The original Beau Brummell was, of course, the style icon of Regency England, and the progenitor of the Dandy look (and way of life). What the fictional, four-color Beau shares in common with his namesake is a snazzy suit of threads and, as it turns out, a name. He also has a bit of a glib tongue in his head, but it doesn't get much more of a workout than your usual crimefighting blabbermouth.

Fighting crime with the power of Fucking Right Off!
The crimefighting Beau Brummell makes two appearances, in the ominously-titled Atomic Bomb Comics and and a slightly less apocalyptic but still explicitly aggressive Triple Threat Comics, released between 1945 and 1946, and neither providing much of an origin. What we learn from his appearance in Triple Threat is that he doesn't really have a job to speak of, but he's otherwise loaded. "Beau Brummel leads a life of leisure, and that takes money" explains the introductory caption to his first adventure, "And where do you think he gets it?" Junk bonds, is my guess. Skimming. Maybe he's been raiding the employee trusts and leavin' em bone dry. I don't know, I pick up all of this stuff from the newspapers.

"Brummell owns stock in big companies, you see," the caption goes on condescendingly. We're not idiots, caption, just tell us the fucking story. Still, owning the stock in one of those companies gets Beau involved in upending a full-on Christmas assault against the Simbel's Department Store by a character you might call in hope "a super villain" but is mostly just an investor with a short temper and the unfortunate last name of "Gimmick."

How ironic. He, who fights crime with a thing that you smell,
is brought low by a thing that he smelled.
His "Gimmicks" to destroy Simbel's involves: A horde of angry Santa Clauses, a little cottage float for the Christmas Parade and also it has a cannon in it, and disguising his gang as mannequins and stealing a bunch of shit when the store's closed. Beau defeats one of these attempts by slyly filling one of the parade floats with tear gas and then pointing it at the open window of the cottage/tank. For god's sake, someone just call the cops.

He's involved in a slightly more complicated plot in his Atomic Bomb appearance, wherein an evil creep is abducting actresses and singers, then replacing them with untalented lookalikes so that the actresses and singers will pay a small fortune for their freedom and to save their reputations on the stage. Again, call the cops, Beau.

With his name so blatantly recalling the clothes-horse of years past, you'd probably expect Brummell to bear a small arsenal of weapons in his clothing. He has a gun, which is one way of hiding a weapon in your clothes, I guess. He also has a boutonniere on a spring which can knock you on your ass. Thaaaaa-aaat is pretty much it, except he fought off the fake Santas in the first story by using a fake Santa nose that shot out and poked people in the eye. Enh. If it's a choice, I'd go with the spring-loaded lapel garnish.  Beau could've gotten by calling himself The Bouttonniere, probably.

The power of Fucking Right Off triumphs again!
He also had a cane which -- and sit down, if you have a weak heart, it'll be quite a shock -- was also spring-loaded. One idea, bespoke suits -- it's Beau Brummell!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : SMOKE AND MIRRORS

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 ...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
Season Two / Episode Eleven : Smoke and Mirrors


As far as Swamp Thing goes, "Smoke and Mirrors" is a gift, and its generosity is manifold.

Among the delights which this atypical episode brings us is an absence of Kipps. All the Kipps are otherwise engaged during the course of this 23-minute slice of heaven; Teresa has fucked off to some ambiguous place and subsequently AirBNB'ed her swamp-laden shanty to this episode's guest star, Will is off getting laid, Abigail isn't mentioned although we can safely assume that she probably got distracted by a shiny pebble or wondering if herons have emotions or something like that, and Jim is dead.

The downside of this largesse is that there's no Arcane and just about zeee-ro Swamp Thing in this episode. What we get instead is another gift, it's former MTV VeeJay Adam Curry playing the role of jaded, malaise-ridden rockstar Nathan Stone. Why a rockstar, you might ask? Because this episode is a cautionary tale about how heavy metal is evil and will force you to kill yourselves! Yes, it's a tale ripped from the headlines of about ten years earlier! Brace yourself, Rob and Ozzy, the Swamp Thing writing team is about to hand you your asses!

I........would not go sleeveless if I were you, Adam.

"Smoke and Mirrors" is ostensibly a public service announcement about the perils of listening to too much hard rock, it appears to be completely sincere, and it adopts an absolute hard-line pose against rock and roll. From the perspective of the episode, heavy metal absolutely DID kill those poor kids who had, in high profile cases from the Eighties, taken or attempted to take their own lives. This is the Seduction of the Innocent for hard rock, except instead of being the product a respected-if-misguided child psychiatrist and cultural activist, it's the product of a late-night basic cable horror anthology starring revered character actor A Large Broccoli and which is broadcast between commercials for Up All Night and Freedom Rock.

The official flag of Things Being Bogus

Before we even meet "Nathan Stone," -- the rocker with the least rocking name in rock (for my part, it sounds like the fake-ass name you'd give a corrupt businessman in another show which possesses precisely the same amount of gravitas as Swamp Thing. Hell, it might roll around on this program next season, it sounds so half-assed and likely) -- we hear his music. It's powerful stuff, crafted with an artist's sensibility, and speaks to an entire disaffected generation with lyrics like these:

"(Chugging guitar x4)
Put your pedal to the metal what the hell you waiting for?
No one knows your name and no one cares 'bout Dinah Shore
You act like artichokes sitting watching your TV
Mayan fuckin' mimes are buggle blub blub beeble bee
SO DO IT DO IT GET A BIG PLUMP SHREW IT PLBIBLBLBB
Awwwwww Suffragette!"

I think.

We hear this track over what appears to be footage from a twinsies snuff film as sponsored by Urban Decay. Joe Rohland and Matthew James (he went to the Lee Strassberg school! It paid off!) play the roles of Dead Teenager #1 and, in the role of a lifetime, Dead Teenager #2. Inspired by the really affecting lyrics of Nathan Stone, the two ... brothers? Lovers? Lifting buddies? Counter clerks at Hot Topic, Venice Beach branch? Whatever ... the two "teens*" march solemnly up to a pair of nooses hung so closely together that the only way both of these guys are gonna hang themselves is if they hug while they do it.

"I love my large dead goth teenage twin sons!" 

*For values of "teens" in the mid- to late- Twenties.

After Heckyl and Jeckyl snuff themselves, we finally meet Nathan Stone, disaffected rockstar with just the worst attitude, just, just like unreasonably uncooperative and snide. He's a dude with no time to be, like, polite to cops and just, like, he can't believe how bogus all of this is. He smokes like dank marijuanas, man. He is also addicted to swinging his head around in a super-exaggerated action. As an actor, Adam Curry is really good at introducing corporate-rock-era Heart songs.

The Swamp Thing players aren't always given the best material with which to work, and it takes a Mark David Chapman or a Dick Durock to figure out how to have fun with the roles. And don't tell them I said this, but I don't even believe Carell Myers (Tressa Kipp), Scott Garrison (Will Kipp), or Kari Wuhrer (Abigail, a sheet of cardboard which was given a role on the show this season) are bad actors, per se. They just don't know how to inhabit their roles and give it much life beyond the scripted word.

This pointless dream sequence happens near the end of the episode and lasts four hundred thousand minutes.

None of this is an excuse for Adam Curry. I mean, the guy hosted Headbanger's Ball, how is it that he acts like he has never seen a rock star before? It's only worse if you imagine that he's doing an impression of a particularly disliked former interview subject, because you'll have to imagine that he foisted that on his coworkers in the breakroom at the drop of a hat.

Whatever the case, disdainful and jejune rock god Nathan Stone is advised by his manager to go lay low somewhere in the swamps of Houma, while prosecutors are assembling a case against him for, um, musically commanding two large teenagers to hang themselves. It turns out, the best place for him to hang out is in Tressa Kipp's abandoned house, rented out specifically for the moody young musician. The place has it all -- bog views, the smell of hot quagmire, humidity, alligators, and a judgmental pile of relish that walks.

"Welcome to Up All Night, we're the skeletons of Gilbert Gottfried"

Swamp Thing really has it in for Stone for some reason. The distant suicide of two squat-addicted headbangers/lifters/definitely-teenagers-and-not-full-grown-adults seems to have gotten under his bark, and he turns all his simmering rage on Stone by way of hallucinations, and also one time appearing on the TV like some kind of salad-encrusted evangelist. I don't know how Swamp Thing can appear on TV, by which I mean I still don't understand how this show got greenlighted, what they're even doing, or why it ran more than an episode. BUT HERE WE ARE

Swamp Thing plays such a minor role in this episode that he isn't even Stone's primary accuser. That comes in the form of a television anchor who leaps out of the television screen and becomes a preacher and also the Devil. This is played by Michael Callan, whom I primarily know as Metallo from the syndicated Superboy show. This guy is practically superhero TV royalty!

Tanned, rested, and ready to give Superboy the bizness.

Stone gets into it with whatever Callan's supposed to be (see the credits for clarification), leading to this amazing exchange and a shibboleth for a whole generation, maybe, only probably not:

"That whole rap of your is bull, anyway. Good ... evil ... its all the same crap. Rock and Roll is the only thing that counts, dig? Hard-ass, blistering, awesome Heavy Metal ROCK ... and ... ROLL!"

"Huu teeny!"

The emotion-packed ending of the episode sees Stone accept the consequences of his actions and swear off rock music forever. The kids stay dead. This is exactly what caused Darius Rucker to go Country. This is also the only possible conclusion to what was clearly a leftover script from the guy who brought you Mazes & Monsters. No, I kid, but the screenwriter for this episode did write a lot for Riptide. And maybe was Tipper Gore. I don't know, I didn't check. Awwww Suffragette!


"It's a living!"





Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY : WATCH THIS SPACE!


I was a kid when Marvel's licensed Micronauts series was on the racks, and I loved them. I lived and breathed the Micronauts comic, I admired and appreciated the Micronauts comic, I was thrilled and excited to see each new issue on the racks. Also, I had never read it, not even once. I was in college when I found two issues of the four issue "X-Men vs The Micronauts" miniseries in a local used bookstore's dime bin, and I only got around to flipping through them four or five years ago.

But there's a manner kids have of being able to love something -- to be completely consumed with it, obsessed with it, to have it be the boundary of their perceptions and expectations of their universe -- without ever having experienced it. It's difficult to put into words, the nature of that emotion, except that it might be the triumph of a juvenile enthusiasm wherein ideas are super-ordinate to execution.

I can understand why Micronauts prompted such an all-in embracing of an unknown quality, though. Everything about it glowed with weird adventure. The toys were hot (if a little hard to find), the characters in the comics looked weird and compelling, and it was obviously an obscure cult product from the git-go.

I never consummated my love for Micronauts, but the idea of it still always held a thrill for me. In recent years, when surveying back issue bins, I'd come across a couple of issues and be taken aback by the elegance of Michael Golden's art, and the garish strange coloring. Or I'd find a Gil Kane cover, one of them looking like a rough, dynamic sketch of a French Revolutionary painting, striped with the bold design of Marionette's costume. I noticed it still looked good, it must have been working out. But I'd still never read it.

So I decided to start picking them up as I found them, but beholden to one rule: I wouldn't pay more than a quarter* for any single issue. I had seen so many in back issue bins that I was fairly sure I could assemble a complete -- or nearly complete collection -- for pocket change, if I were only patient enough.

* (There were only three exceptions to this rule. I was having a devil of a time finding the second Annual, as well as the penultimate issue to the first series, No.58. Also, the eighth issue of the original series commands collector prices. This is because it features the first appearance of Captain Universe. You know, that wildly popular hero who might be you. People love Captain Universe. No wonder it's such a rare book. Captain Universe. Woo. I only wish I could afford ten of those, it's a sound investment! PS when I'm done with it I am gonna burn the shit out of that book for having the effrontery to pretend it's some big fucking deal that Captain Universe debuted in it)

For more than two years, I picked up every Micronauts comic I stumbled across -- including a multitude of duplicates. Dozens of duplicates. I have as many dupes as I have actual issues of Micronauts, although not a second set (who could even afford a second debut-of-Captain-Universe book, not me, what am I, Uncle Scrooge?). I had decided, at some point, to forgo keeping a list of what I had. Ostensibly, I was imagining I could replace the frequently-shoddy issues with increasingly better copies, but mostly I am like super-lazy as fuck.

But now, it's complete! I finally get to start reading Micronauts and, you lucky fuckers, you get to watch me read along! Starting next Monday, I'm supplementing the Swamp Thing TV show recaps with a weekly, issue-by-issue Micronauts recap! Maybe it doesn't sound that thrilling now but what if I told you that we're only a few weeks away from covering the debut appearance of Captain Universe? Woo boy, now we're talking.

Since its inception, this site has largely been focused on dumb, weird, absurd, and occasionally half-assed comics. I know Micronauts' reputation, and I know it's nothing of the sort. What it is, though, is a book that will very likely never be reprinted in its entirety -- the curious nature of the in-continuity licensed book makes it a regrettable* rarity, a thing which exists in a half-state, possessed by two owners and shackled by both.

* (See what I did there? It's the same reason that ROM:Spaceknight ended up in my book, despite its inarguable quality. Licensing makes fools of us all)

So while the Micronauts license prevails, its original incarnation is close enough to "gone" and "forgotten" that I feel like it warrants a regular feature here. Plus, what if I continue to never get around to reading it? I'll never learn about the debut of Captain Universe, and I don't know if I can live with that!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

GONE & FORGOTTEN : ON HIATUS

Hey folks! If you've been following this blog for a few years, you know that I usually prepare a big stock of daily December content in advance, to see us into the New Year while I work on new content.

This year, I'm going to shut down a little early -- today, in fact -- and have the site go dark through the end of the year. This is largely so that I can prepare even bigger and more content for 2017, as well as announce some outside projects.

I hate to do this. Since I revived the site in 2013, I've kept new content coming in without missing a single day. Hopefully the new content going forward will make up for a five/six week hiatus.

In the meantime, you can always keep up with some of my Tumblr blogs:

You can, of course, also find Your Humble Editor on Twitter, and my artwork over at Tumblr or Instragram.

Lastly, if you'd like to help support this site and all my other assorted projects, you can always contribute to my Patreon account for a mere dollar a month. This gives you access to each month's Gone&Forgotten content in advance, as well as an exclusive digital sketchbook for patrons only, and additional secret stuff I share as they pop up. 

Thanks folks, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season leading into a significantly better year than 2016 was for most of us.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: POISONOUS

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 "Is It Swamp Thing I Said?" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A man-shaped heap of pencil shavings and coffee grounds does the hard work you're too delicate to handle. 
Season One / Episode Ten : Poisonous

In which the writers sort-of cribbed from a Rick Veitch story.



You may remember the issue of Veitch's Swamp Thing in which TV Exec Roy Raymond and Congo Bill's former pal Janu the Jungle Boy are trapped in a speeding limousine by an insane swamp monster. It's a good'un, but it doesn't influence this episode much except for the sleazy reality show television personality trying to get evidence of a swamp monster.

The cast for the made-for-TV version of Jurassic Park.

This is Ian James, a fourteen-karat schmuck who introduces invasive species into natural habitats in order to spice up his nature programs. This is exactly what happened at Jurassic Park. In this specific case, he's introducing highly poisonous frogs into the swamp, letting 'em kill an alligator to prove a point, and planning to get the whole thing on tape.

He's assisted by his mewling factotum Yuri, who is reluctant to help. Why bring him along, then? Yuri's whole job is to dump a box of frogs on a dead alligator. That's something you don't really have to delegate.

Poisonous frogs don't want to be fed ... they want to HUNT!

Ian James and Yuri end up visiting the Kipp household. Tressa turns out to be a fan of this shitty Steve Irwin. More than that, she's legit hot for the dude, owing to her laser-guided crap taste in men.

You'd forgive the episode for returning ONCE FUCKING AGAIN to the "Tressa can't get laid" storyline, if only it didn't take up so much space in this episode. There's so much dead, pointless screen time dedicated to Tressa being awful at seeming interested in a human being. Hours. Hundreds of hours. A lifetime. It continues now and will outlive the sun. HOURS, I TELL YOU.

Thursday Sexual Frustration and Casserole Night at the Kipp household.

So much time is spent on Ian James' over-aggressive come-ons that the entire episode seems like a stealth pilot for a show about nature programming and sexual inappropriateness.

The closest thing this episode has to a hero is studio nudnik Mike Steinmen, James' immediate superior who spends a lot of time angrily challenging the naturalist's expense account. THIS IS GREAT TELEVISION. Meanwhile Swamp Thing saw some frogs.

I can't believe they end up making you want to root for this guy.

The frogs are supposed to be the ticking clock of this episode, you know? You're familiar with the idea, I'm sure. A movie or show has got something bad that will happen after so much time has passed, and the heroes -- whether they're aware of the danger or not -- have to somehow resolve the problem before the timer runs out. Easy peasy. The Swamp Thing writers are unaware of this technique. The frogs just sit around waiting for the go-ahead to be invasive and dangerous.

They don't really get to, since Swamp Thing -- who, it turns out, can control the weather and the temperature of water -- boils the swamp water in which the frogs live, and they all die in the same three-foot radius where they were deposited earlier. I think they're probably still woefully poisonous, and a few more alligators are gonna die.

Aw no, you poor little guys!

There aren't a whole lot of high points to this episode; Ian James almost redeems himself by braining Will with a tree branch, Will exhibits some laughably incompetent guitar strumming in the episode, and Swamp Thing actually gets to use the line "How dare you bring your evil here?" Yeah man, didn't you hear him earlier! DON'T bring your evil here! DON'T. He couldn't be more clear.

Outside of that. there are only low points, This while episode was dragging a muffler from minute one. The entire romantic subplot between James and Tressa ends up resembling a sexual harassment seminar training film, while the second subplot of Ian James acquiring photographic proof of Swamp Thing's existence comes so late in the episode as to be irrelevant. When the tapes turn out to have been slimed in some capacity, it doesn't resonate on any level because the audience didn't have time to really process the threat.

This is like the punchline ending to a Meatballs sequel.

I don't know how to say this without it sounding particularly cruel but -- this was a substandard episode even for Swamp Thing. Never venture outside without Anton Arcane ever again, USA Network's 90's era Swamp Thing television series. You'll just disappoint us all.


"I don't CARE if it's the top trending genre on PornHub, I'm your stepmother and that's gross!" 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

P-S-Eh? : MEET THE MAN WHO DRAWS SPEED CENTAUR

When it says "Uncle Joe," does it mean "Stalin?"
I featured Speed Centaur - a crimefighting centaur who, when not battling evil or exploring strange, time-tossed worlds, disguised himself as a common horse by way of a rubber mask he wore over his upper body - in The League of Regrettable Superheroes because ... well, he was a crimefighting centaur. I don't really need to elaborate overmuch on that. Surprisingly, even as the horsey hero shared a name with the company which published him, Centaur Pub. thought they might've had something of a franchise player in the character. A relatively lengthy - and snooze-filled, if I might say - profile of his creator, Martin Kildale, seems to be part of the larger package.

What we've learned about Martin Kildale: He played baseball but wishes he could play football, he can't even afford to go to Mexico, and he lives in a world full of people who simply can't understand someone going to a bookstore just to buy old books. Martin Kildale seems to have been born into a very peculiar and dismal level of Hell ...

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