Thursday, October 20, 2016


Very little must be as satisfying to the hungry blood of a young comics creator than to skip all the table setting and get straight to gnawing on the roast turkey, crouched in the middle of the table like a chimp.

So, that being said, Master Mystic must have been a very satisfying morsel indeed. Debuting in the sole issue of Green Giant Comics (1940), Master Mystic appears in a pleasingly monochrome story in the middle pages. Something about the pink and red pages surrounding this tale of a great defender of humanity whose powers are simply limitless suits it, like a fever dream induced by blunt force head trauma.

Master Mystic's identity, origin, and motivation all remain unknown -- and irrelevant. All that we do know about him is the important stuff -- how, when and why he'll sock the hell out of giant world-conquering mutants, and how good he'll look doing it.

There's a field of superpowered crimefighters whose powers are so poorly defined as to make them effectively omnipotent. Master Mystic, by contrast, is specifically defined so as to be omnipotent. "By concentration," explain one panel, "He renders himself immune to the laws of nature!" Well, problem solved, that covers everything.

Among his immense abilities, Master Mystic can fly at the speed of thought, create missiles out of thin air, levitate boulders, broadcast his thoughts to the whole world and create "liquidating rays" which penetrate his foes' skulls and melt them "into nothing!" He can also take a sunrise an sprinkle it with dew.

Mr. M exercises his limitless powers on the form of Rango, the overrated animated feature starring Johnny Depp AND also an ape-like maniac scientist who harbors intense resentment of the world for repeatedly rebuffing his efforts to conquer it. His latest invention, a drug which transforms its user into a massive giant (it's whatever steroids they use in the WWE, I think), taller than skyscrapers, and which sort of resembles Homer Simpson.

Master Mystic has the bizarre body horror and occlusion of boundaries which define a Fletcher Hanks comic, although the creator of this title is unknown. It is one of the more entertaining examples of its field, the manic art brut branch of the earliest days of superheroes. There's a comic to be made out of handing this character off to a half dozen of the most experimental creators working today and seeing what they can make of it...

"There will be no sequel."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


“Hey there, it’s The Teller again. And here’s your change. Nope, haha, just a little The Teller humor. Yes, I’m the Teller – teller of stories (oooh, mind blown!) that is! Except that this week I’ll continue to tell you about the quartet of monster mooks I’ve hired to do all my work for me. If that $15 minimum wage law goes through, these guys’re gonna break me.

Victor Vampire looks like character actor Frank Nelson, don’t he? It’s good that he too is a man of few words, since he doesn’t have much in the way of a motif to work with. Last week, I mentioned that my other assistants, Freddie Demon and Garry Ghoul, handled all the stories of the occult, the macabre, the bizzare (sic – I gotta work on that) and the tormented dead. What did Victor get to tell us about? ‘Selected stories.’ Yep, Victor’s one of those internet guys who ‘curates’ stuff. I bet he’s got a foodie blog, too, but he makes you scroll through like eight pages of backstory before he gives you the recipe. Dick.

Walter Werewolf is pretty much the ‘…and the rest!’ of this little Gilligan’s Island of goons. Where even the Vampire guy got to at least select some stories, Walter ‘also will contribute to my file of terror-producing tales,’ or so I said when I first introduced him. He’s actually not done much at all except ruin my carpets and get hair all over the couch. I’m going to have him put down.

“Meanwhile, it’s time to wrap up the public domain plunder which you’ve enjoyed the last few weeks. With a tale from Tormented vol.1 No, here’s a fat-shaming little fable called …”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


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

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A moldy tupperware container who walks like a man!
Season One / Episode Seven : Touch of Death

In which there's a strict hands-off policy.

Arcane and his bully boys are doing some night-hunting, bagging a 220-pound hick in the prime of his life. Too bad it’s off-season, them boys are gonna have to pay a hefty fine!

Turns out that the now-deceased swamp ‘bo is Mister MacCyrus (Mark McCracken), and he’s been killed for an experiment. Arcane injects the corpse with a version of the bio-restorative formula, expecting that it will revive the still-warm victim. I don’t know what Arcane expects the injection to do, really, since the guy’s heart has stopped and his blood isn’t moving anymore. I mean, I’m no doctor, but neither is anyone who writes for this show.

In the not-too-distant future ...

Disappointed at the lack of results, Arcane and his jumpsuited sidekicks – they genuinely look like they’re wearing KTMA-era Mystery Science Theater jumpsuits – beat cheeks back to the comfort of the Sunderland Corp. Not long after they leave, though – ta-daa, undead swamp cracker Captain Jack Harknesses himself from under a pile of wet leaves. He’s alive! Alive! And he kills whatever he touches! Shit! Bummer!

Promptly thereafter, he busts in on Will and Doc working on a boat, which sounds like a euphemism – and might be! Receiving a glancing touch from the hill-zombie has gifted Will with his own death-touch, starting with the family fish and unfortunately ending before a big group hug by all of the cast that isn’t Mark David Chapman or Dick Durock.

We get it, you vape.

While Will panics in the woods, Abigail has hired MacCyrus to do a little work around the house – you know, chopping wood, killing plants, killing pests, killing housepets. Handy stuff.  Just as she’s about to get all fruity and mystical and hippie nonsense and all that, Swamp Thing sweeps by and abducts McCyrus, ideally to protect Abigail from the dude’s deadly touch. Swamp Thing got speed!

But what he also has now is ONE HUMAN HAND! Yep, something about McCyrus’ post-mortem intravenous absorption of the bio-restorative formula not only kills people, but cures Swamp Thing! Or his hand, at least. It’s a start.

 "I am tired of these jokes about my human hand. The first such incident occurred in 1956 when..."

Arcane muses over his comatose wife Tatiana, figuring out that the bio-restorative formula only actually works on a subject after death. It’s a neat trick, but you can only do it once.

Will comes home if only to be locked in a room together with Abigail. It’s a young man’s fantasy but my fucking nightmare. Imagine if she (gasp) starts talking about her dreams again! Anyway, she’s keeping Will under wraps in the hopes that his death touch will eventually wear off. I can’t think of how you’d check for such a thing, but Will’s a young man with natural urges and I imagine all we have to do is wait and see if his dick dies. “My stack of Playboys has perished!” You know, that sort of thing.

"I can get you a nice couple chops, real lean, or a chuck roast. Rest goes to the dogs."

Arcane captures McCyrus, human-hand Swamp Thing gets in a crazy slapfight with Arcane, and McCyrus jumps in a big vat of acid. Well, problems all solved, really. Now if only Will can get his act together and do some lethal touching, we can winnow this show down to its star power.

Well, Swamp Thing’s hands come back and Will loses his death touch. We all lose our touch a little bit as we get older, Will, it’s no big deal. This is also the first time, I think, that we see Will and Abigail kiss, so this is a real landmark episode. Yup, circle the date on your calendars and stay tuned for next year’s parade. Meanwhile, the end.

He looks genuinely baffled.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Graves, Ghost Hunter, and the Mystery of the Clock That Was a Whole Boob

Among the multitude of Ghost Hunters, Ghost Detectives and Ghost Busters in the history of comics, few have gone on to any sort of long-lasting legacy. Much of that has to do with the changing mores of the culture, the waning and waxing of interest in the supernatural and horror genre. In some cases, however, it's plain disorganization.

Graves (Not to be confused with Dr.Graves, of the Many Ghosts of ... fame. He's sort of the Dobie Gillis of ghost fighters) bills himself as a Ghost Hunter, although he primarily lets the distressed spirits come to him. More specifically, he lets their intended victims come to him, and then he shows up later in a vain attempt to stop a bunch of murders. If only he can remember where he left his pen. And his lighter. And where's that pesky Ghost Disintegrator of his, anyway?

It was in a shoebox, his kids took it to school for show and tell.
Besides having a rep as a spirit-solving sleuth, Graves is armed with the Disintegrator, a device which can banish ghosts "back to the land of shadows where [they] belong." It's not clear who invented it, what other capabilities it has, or what exactly it does to the ghosts upon whom its ray is trained -- it's called a disintegrator, but Graves make it sound like it just shoves them back into limbo. More to the point, though, it needs to have a strap on it, because sometimes Graves misplaces it.

This is what happens when he faces off against the spirit of a vengeful witch (Crown Comics No.1, 1945) who visits death on the descendants of the Puritans who sentenced her to execution for witchcraft. I don't want to kibbitz here or anything, but ... clearly she was guilty? Take the "L" with some dignity, ma'am.

That kind of patronizing condescension isn't just a gimmick hauled from my "ironic sexism" comedy toolkit, it's also evident in the story itself. When Graves is made aware of a nearby death via poisoned claw, he muses "Only cats and women scratch." Put a sentiment like that on a coffee mug and it's never gonna sell as well as "Male Tears."

"Signed, Garfield."
Graves gets involved with the surviving members of the family, although he doesn't do much to save the family's last surviving daughter. Oh, only cats and women die of ghostly poisoning when their lives were supposed to be safeguarded by Graves, Ghost Hunter, is that it?

Before the avenging witch can extend her kill count to include the last male heir of the clan, Graves goes after her with his deadly Disintegrator ... or he would, except he misplaced it! He forgot where he put it! You might think that this was a scheme, some sort of long con, or perhaps the witch did something to the weapon ... nope, none of that. He forgot where he put it, that's all. Finds it later. Musta rolled under the desk.

Graves is supposed to have continued his adventures in Crown Comics, but it goes nowhere. My guess is he was slaughtered off-panel by a ghost while he was frantically searching for his Disintegrator. "Maybe it's in the glove compartment or, no, wait, I was at the library earlier..." are terrible last words, but I promise you they were his.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


“Hello, the Teller here again, to terrify you with – oh, wait, we talked about that last week. I’m not actually all that terrifying. At best, I have a greasy continental look about me, like a bad guy from a movie from the early Sixties about a chanteuse who ends up on a cruise ship with a repressed accountant.  I’d be played by Phil Hartman in the tongue-in-cheek ironic movie version of the book. Would’ve been, anyway.

“But enough about me, this week I want to introduce you to the first two of my four story-narrating subordinates…

Freddie Demon, my pocket incubus, who was in charge of all the stories that were ‘spine-tingling tales of the occult, of the macabre, and the bizzare (sic)!’ I don’t know how that differed from all the other stories in the book, but the guy never asks me, so I never ask nobody else. I dunno, he seems happy, look at that eager grin.

Garry Ghoul is what Garry Shandling is now (sorry, it’s clearly too soon), but is also the second of my assistants. Dressed in a plastic diner tablecloth, this little house elf supposedly focused on the stories that were ‘tidbits from the world of the dead … tales of tormented souls.’ That actually sounds relatively unentertaining, even if it’s the Hieronymus Bosch kind of tormented souls. I have no idea what the narrative would even be – “Oh no, the bird pope is pooping me out and I’m going to fall from his high chair into that lake where there’s a naked lady with a bird on her head! So many birds!” I mean, points for creativity …

“I’ll save my other two fiendish factotums for next week. In the meantime, here’s a gory bit of history from The Thing vol.1 No.2 (no relation to the big orange guy), a Bob Forgione tale entitled …”


Thursday, October 6, 2016


She's not THAT Black Widow, or even that other Black Widow. For that matter, there may also be another ten or twelve Black Widows of whom I've never heard that she's also not. What she is, however, is a one-shot avenger of the night who makes her sole appearance in the character-packed first issue of Cat-Man Comics (May 1941).

The domino-masked Black Widow is secretly Linda Masters, an actual widow whose husband was murdered by crooks off-panel before the story even started. Having never met the fella, it's difficult to say how we're supposed to feel about his untimely death. What if he were a horrible jerk? What if he were a one of those guys who clipped their nails on the bus? Maybe he deserved it, is what I say, and what I say to all widows whom I chance to meet.

That "Suddenly" is brilliant. Drink it in.
Black Widow plays second fiddle in her debut story, despite having her name on the splash page. Most of the action -- as often happens in these Golden Age comics -- is focused on the horrible villains of the piece. In this case, it's a witch-faced hag (or possibly a hag-faced witch) and her deformed son Igor, horrifying monster-people who use their terrifying appearances to commit crimes!

Well, the first one anyway. Mom and Igor scare the spleen out of their first victim, making off with the payroll he was counting out. The second victim, a night watchman, is overpowered by Igor and hanged from a nearby tree. I guess SOME guys got stronger constitutions than others.

The murders baffle the local authorities, represented here by Police Commissioner Thorpe and his factotum Blake. The two of them are apparently pretty used to be outclassed and out-maneuvered, though, as they take a phone call from Black Widow and hop to her every instruction.

Meanwhile, the Black Widow lurks around the bad guys' hideout, wasting panel space in what will be her very brief lifespan as a publisher superhero. She gets into a donnybrook with the malformed Igor, which inspires her to use her sole superpower, the only real superpower in the world -- shooting people and kicking them in the face! It works for the current Black Widow.

Jack Palance is unimpressed.
Widow is overpowered, though, and hauled unconscious back to the weird crooks' home, where Igor expires from gunshot wounds. Momma takes some offense at this and retaliates by burning her own home down, with the Widow inside. This is just like when sports fans' teams win the playoffs and they go around wrecking the stadium. Go wreck someone else's stadiums, you guys! Or at least go beat up an ice rink instead.

Anyway, Widow escapes the fire, Igor's terrifying mother runs back in and dies, and all that's left to do is forensics-shame the cops when they finally show up. "I knew that the persons responsible for those crimes were hiding in the country" she explains to Blake, idly loitering while all the action happens elsewhere. "If you would have looked better, you would have seen it too" she continues, "There were particles of mud at the scene of each crime!" There was mud at the crime scene so the crooks were hiding in the country, and she found their place immediately based on those clues.

I have to admit, the Black Widow knows her stuff, or she was just going around and murdering everyone she could find in a house in the country. One of the two. Either way,she never made a second appearance, probably sparing many lives and the ego of the local constabulary.

Not her finest moment

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


“Greetings fiends and freaks, I’m Mister Teller, the most terrifying horror host of them all! Because I work in a bank, maybe? No, wait, I guess it’s “teller” as in “teller of stories,” got it, that’s not actually very terrifying at all. Sorry. Or maybe I’m the silent half of a popular magic act? Also not that scary? Okay, I’ll work on my gimmick a bit, maybe buy some plastic fangs. I’ll figure it out.

“I was introduced halfway through the run of Horrific, a horror comic product out of Comic Media Magazines, a name I’m sure took ohhhh all of five seconds to think of. That’s not a company name, that’s a dictionary definition.

“Anyway, I didn’t come alone. The previously host-less book not only acquired me, but my four assistants – Freddie Demon, Garry Ghoul, Victor Vampire and Walter Werewolf – who’d each introduce one of the stories in the book. Is “being good at delegating” terrifying? I’m really working hard on this.

“Well, more about my sinister subordinates next week. Right now, I have for you a tale of captivity, insanity, and how your mustache determines your ironic fate in these magazines. From Mister Mystery Comics vol.1 No.8, this is …”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


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 "This Swamp Thing's of Ours" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A moldy tupperware container who walks like a man!
Season One / Episode Six : The Hunt

In which the apple falls far from the tree

The wretched Kipp family tree sprouts a new, poisoned shoot in the form of Will (and Jim)’s absentee scumbag of a father (Paul Coufos). Poppa Kipp introduces himself by jumping out of the shadows on a dark streets and viciously wrestling with his surviving son in a manner I can only describe as “How the audience would have done it, given half the chance.”

Besides a lurky weirdo, Poppa Kipp is also revealed to be an “adventurer” and “big game hunter,” by which we’re given to understand means that he is a poacher, crook, possible murderer and all-around cynical opportunist. It’s hard to imagine where young and vanished Jim got his penchant for sleeplessly wandering the streets of Philadelphia at midnight, seeking for souls to curdle and crucify. It’s in the genes.

Get him! Put the hurt on him! Teach him the meaning of loss!
Will isn‘t happy to see the pater familias, part of which may have to do with being choked half-to-death by dear old dad in a filthy alley in the bad part of the Universal Studios backlot. He also has no respect for his frequently-absent father, although that doesn’t hold a candle to the open contempt exhibited by his father for his pathetic baby of a son. Why, he can’t even fight off a surprise attack in an alleyway!

Meanwhile, in the swamps, there’s a very special and rare orchid blooming somewhere, and Swamp Thing talks to it. It might be his only real friend, considering what nuisances the Kipps and Abby consistently prove to be.

"You're my ... only friend ..."

The orchid, as it turns out, naturally produces a powerful defoliant. This … seems contrary to how plants are supposed to work. I dunno, though, I’m not plantologist. I’ll leave it to the fine folks at the Home Depot Garden Department to confirm the science.

Actually, there might be two orchids in play in this episode, I couldn’t really suss it out from, you know, watching and listening to this episode. In any case, one appears to spout defoliant and the other neutralizes the defoliant. Or it is the same orchid and there’s a way to make it do both. Or neither. Or I don’t know what they make or do not make or have or don’t or can be or whichever. Sometimes I get dreamy while watching this show. Sometimes I dream of better shows, like Match Game and that British show where they cut apart whole giraffes.

I don't know what you did, Graham, but it earned you a Level 2 Mark David Chapman Eyebrow Raise

Whatever the case, Arcane and his pal Graham (Kevin Quigley) are super-invested in the orchid(s) in question, and leave one at Abby’s lame mid-swamp nursery. This is where we learn that the orchid is not only lethal to plants, but to human beings with the intelligence and personality of plants – like Abby! Poof! Now she’s dying!

Poppa Kipp remerges around this time to continue being loathsome and make everyone happy that he’d been absent from the series for so long. He arrives at Tressa’s house/tourist-boat-business and forces some stiff Bill Clinton kisses on her unwilling face. This is apparently Tressa’s “thing,” though, and the two swan off to make gruesome love. We are thankfully spared the sight of this.

Looks like two rubber fists fighting over a walnut.

Hold on, clarification alert – yeah, it’s two different flowers. That makes more sense. I’m rewatching this as I write, just so you know my level of dedication and also how much attention this show requires.

Dad Kipp strongarms Will into helping him find the swamp orchid, which he promises to shoot with a camera. He instead shoots it WITH A GUN! SEVERAL TIMES. This is the manner in which this guy has chosen to pluck an orchid, one of nature’s most delicate flowers.

"Just mowing the lawn, sweetheart."

Turns out Kipp Sr is in the employ of Anton Arcane, and heeds not his son’s wheedling alto protests. Having helped his shitty dad steal the orchid, Will is subsequently disowned by his surrogate Swamp Dad. It’s a touching scene, and Will keeps it together as Swamp Thing rips off Will’s epaulets and demands his gun and badge.

The episode’s half over and a lot has happened. This has probably thrown the whole Swamp Thing team for a loop, so the remaining twelve minutes of the show decides to get out of its car and start walking.

We get it, you vape.

Ultimately, Will convinces his pop to help him turn the screws on Arcane, while Swamp Thing takes a defoliant flower for the team and saves Abigail’s life. Whoopee. Will and his dad also reconcile and bury the hatchet, which makes no sense because his dad has done absolutely nothing to redeem himself and just becomes absentee again at the end of the show. Family, eh? What can you do?

This is abjectly unearned.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I don't usually like to cover any character if I don't have access to their full catalog of original appearances. But, with Little Giant from O.K.Comics, I'd like to make an exception. This is in part because there are only two appearances, and I've at least got half of the full catalog. Also, because it's disturbing, delightful and a little bit insane.

To begin with, the story begins in media res, and in complete disarray. The opening panel of the series introduces the Little Giant -- a "little orphan newsboy" who's not entitled to a real name ("Rusty") until he's proven his value in a fight, evidently -- tearing the fuck out of the in-home laboratory of the kiddie-luring scientist Professor Abner Rednow. Seems that Professor Rednow, after checking his driver's license in a mirror just to make sure the name thing worked, enticed the apparently shirtless child into his house in order to experiment on him. Many episodes of Law and Order;SVU start the same way, dongk dongk.

He's gonna start poppin' and lockin'
Bellowing in pain, Little Giant wrecks shit like he gets paid for it. Luckily, this is the one trait most desirable in a golden age superhero.

Having been the recipient of the Professor's "Liquid Impurvogen" -- which is a secret superpower formula and not a euphemism for bodily emissions which would send any sane individual leaping in front of a train -- "Giant" now possess the strength of twelve strong men! Likewise, he probably possesses the strength of twenty-four moderately strong men, and as many as four dozen weaklings. He's like the Charmin toilet rolls of superherodom -- you need a slide rule to figure out how many "Regular Rolls" go into a "Giant Roll," you know?

Giant also gets a liberal brushing of the boss' liquid Impurvogen (Consult with your doctor before taking Impurvogen. Ask your pharmacist for more information before asking about Impurvogen. Impurvogen is a sedative. Do not lift two-hundred pounds tanks over your head with one arm while using Impurvogen. If your erection lasts more than four hours, call the newspaper and tell them "I've had a boner for one-sixth of the day, whoopee!" They will put your photo on the front page of the Lifestyles section and declare you "King For The Day." Impurvogen may cause diarrhea, loggorhea, Rhea Perlman, Ron Perlman and sleep gambling. Do not take Impurvogen). What a quick dousing with a housepainting brush accomplishes is to make Little Giant as invulnerable as he is strong! Therefore, he's as invulnerable as twelve invulnerable men!

Having run out of good names for his inventions, Professor Rednow gives Little Giant a suit of anti-gravity fabric. His array of scientific improvements allow the tyke to leap around like a little maniac, lifting full grown men above his head and getting knocked in the in the back of his coconut with whole literal chairs.

::slowly tips over and falls flat on floor::

The whole "child superhero" gimmick is an intriguing one, to me, because it's simultaneously ecstatic and odious. The idea of sending a child into a battle with gun-toting criminals ought to turn any responsible human being's stomach. Luckily, these are comic books we're talking about and there are no responsible human beings around to wreck things for the rest of us.

But, on the other hand, the comic superhero genre is one where ideas trump execution. And the idea of a kid superhero is one which resonates with deep-seated and long-forgotten feelings of juvenile helplessness and pre-adolescent energy and enthusiasm, for most folks.

"But first, turn your bodycams off..."
Little Giant captures that last sentiment dramatically (even if it begins with the former -- after all, having been lured into a stranger's house and experimented upon -- and it hurt! -- without his foreknowledge is pretty much the definition of the dynamic between child and adult power). With the Professor having adopted his guinea pig, the Little Giant finds himself thrown into action when "notorious gangster" Butch uses him for a human shield in a subway shootout with the fuzz.

Rusty's bona fides are proven even more dramatically when he and his pop visit an old friend, the local Police Commissioner. In order to prove his value as a potential special deputy to the gendarmes, Rusty beats the tar out of a bunch of cops and shames them by showing off his superior physical prowess. I guess Rusty's been watching the news.

Whatever happens in the second issue is anyone's guess ... well, some people own O.K.Comics No.2 so I guess they know. What I DO know is that I appreciate Rusty's zeal and his blase reaction to things like having furniture smashed directly in his face. With his and his adoptive pop's newly minted status as special deputies to the police department, I expect we'll see a lot more grown men carried like dinner trays being hefted by cartoon waiters.

"...and kind of looks like an idiot while doing it."

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