Wednesday, June 21, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : NIGHT OF THE DYING


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 ...




I'm having some genuine anger issues at this point when it comes to the order on the Swamp Thing DVD series. I preferred to use the DVD order in lieu of the IMDB order, or the broadcast order, or even the shooting order, because there were compelling arguments in favor of all of these except that I had the DVDs and I'm lazy and stupid. Lazy and stupid always win out!

But what that's left me with is a season three opener which clearly takes place at the beginning of season two, even going so far as to be a sequel to a late season one episode. It also ends up being a Graham-and-Arcane-centric episode which takes place back-to-back with another Graham-and-Arcane-centric episode, although I don't really mind all that much because Kevin Quigley is really growing on me as an actor and Graham actually gets some character development in this episode! Yow!

"What is this, a fruit pie? I don't remember putting  fruit pie in my jacket." ::eats it:: "Well, this isn't a fruit pie..."
Anyway. We open with Graham and Arcane purchasing an ancient tome containing the incredible secrets of voodoo -- titled, as far as I can tell, "The Incredible Secrets of Voodoo!" This sounds like something you'd buy from a supermarket checkout aisle but, in fact, it's purchased from a twitchy wharf rat standing on the side of a handgun that you typically get to walk away from.

The voodoo book that reveals all the mystical secrets of the universe -- written by Baron Samedi himself, which just made me picture Ernie Kovacs in Bell, Book and Candle -- turns out to be bad for you! It's bad for Arcane, anyway, who spends the rest of the episode dressed like a guy running his own cult on an episode of CHiPs, howling with all the fury of an entire foley department having just recently acquired tapes of zoo sounds. Swear I heard him trumpet like an elephant once.

Hm.

While Arcane flips out, Graham proceeds into Houma to find DuChamp, the mystic houngan played by Roscoe Lee Browne in season one. DuChamp is d-for-dead, unfortunately, so after Graham plays footsie with what the credits list as "Strange Woman" (Cheree Vandoren, who tries to lure Graham into some sort of implied danger and then turns his gun into a snake, for no good narrative reason I can suss) he finds DuChamp's son ... DuChamp! They don't go for first names 'round here.

DuChamp Jr pledges to help Arcane in return for the voodoo book, which would rock except for two things: One, DuChamp's no good at doing voodoo and, two, he has to have Swamp Thing do it for him.

What keeps DuChamp from being able to help Arcane is two-fold, and part of it is Graham. The long-suffering lab assistant has to come clean on some destructive secret onto which he's been holding, and which is screwing up the good voodoo up to this point. As it is, the secret is -- humility. Graham can't allow Arcane to die because he's attached himself to Arcane's coattails. Graham admits that while he considered himself a scientist, he realizes that he is a "mere technician," and if he doesn't stay with Arcane -- whom he unironically calls "a great man" -- then his whole life will be without value or purpose. Goddamnit Graham, you went and got good on me.

Graham clearly shops for clothes at the supermarket.

The other obstacle is DuChamp's sister, Lady DuChamp (called Tanda, actually, played by Karen Fraction). Tanda has been poisoning the magic well in an effort to ice Arcane -- even the twitchy wharf rat was under her pay, delivering the book as a honey trap. The reason, it turns out, is ... HOLY SHIT HOLD ON YOU GUYS, IT'S CONTINUITY! ... to avenge the abduction of Jim Kipp!

Tanda tells her brother of their mother's cousin in Brazil, whom he doesn't really know for some reason. Seems the cousin's daughter fell into a river and was rescued by an American boy working as a slave in a nearby camp. and that boy's name was Jesus Chr- I mean Jim Kipp! And to return the favor and bring justice to Jim, she's gonna kill Arcane.

She's so over this conversation and its voodoo-shaming.


Alternatively, tell the authorities about the work camp maybe, or use your voodoo shit on someone who can get Jim out. It's what I would have done, but then, I'm No Houngan (that phrase is copyright me and you can buy it on t-shirts).  

Anyway, this all comes down to Swamp Thing needing to put things right. Up to this point, he's only been showing up in Arcane's hallucinations, berating him about voodoo for being bad for the swamp. "Voodoo is against nature!" he keeps saying, and it sounds racist although I couldn't tell you exactly why. Young DuChamp offers to make Swamp Thing human again -- his exact wording was "I have come to make you a man!" -- if Swampy helps Arcane, but the swamp monster instead decides to keep his humanity for a while longer. Allowing Boy DuChamp to transform him back into a human would just make him a creation of the houngan's, rather than his own person, he explains. Also, he'd turn into that fucking plank of wood from that season two episode, and nobody wants to act that poorly if they can avoid it...

I got nothing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 23 - FIELD TRIP


Micronauts vol.1 No.23  (Nov 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

We catch up with the last missing Micronaut, Biotron, who has ended up where all toys end up; the dump. He's there looking for replacement parts with which to repair the Endeavor, but mostly he accidentally locks himself inside an abandoned refrigerator. I guess he never saw the after-school special.

He busts out easily enough, but startles a nearby wino who, grasping behind himself in search of a bottle, accidentally connects with the discarded wand previously owned by Molecule Man. Apparently -- and don't @ me, I didn't know this was how it worked -- Molecule Man's wand contains Molecule Man's actual mind, which then takes over whomever is holding the wand and makes them the new Molecule Man. I sure wrote "Molecule Man" a lot of times in that paragraph.

You'll never be alone so long as Styx needs something to base a robot design on...

So, a page is pretty much blown giving backstory for the possession angle -- which, I'll be blunt, I needed -- but the rest of the issue is almost entirely given over to Biotron's battle with the new Molecule Man. Oh, I forgot to mention how the new Molecule Man is one of those guys who's trying real hard not to sound racist but sounds way worse? "Eh, black skin?" he says, looking at his gloved hand (I shit you not), "Interesting! This is the first time I have taken a body not of my own race!" Ooh, phrasing, Molecule Man, phrasing.

The fight between the two is actually pretty entertaining, but relating it would be mostly "and then he and then he and then he" for a few paragraphs, describing who shot what and turned what into something else. Biotron gets a lot of good musing and internal monologue, and that's honestly making him one of my favorites in the book.

Biotron defeats Molecule Man by electrocuting him and slugging him with a telephone pole,  which probably caused his host body all sorts of internal trauma. Oh, but, hey, the rest of the Micronauts are waiting back at Odd John's barn for their missing compatriot! Yay, they're all reunited! Now what?

A MIGHTY MICRONAUTS BONUS FEATURE IS WHAT! A four-page interstitial acts as a showcase for increasingly fleshed-out (if you'll forgive the use of the term) Microtron, who's job right now is plodding around the Endeavor, confirming that it's ship-shape, and stumbling across the other Micronauts trying to have just one goddamn moment of peace, come on Microtron! Use your brains!

Cilicia and Acroyear are engaging in Spartak foreplay, namely "one of them holds a whole spaceship above their heads and the other one messes around with the toolbox. Meanwhile, Bug is wrecking the "food dispensers" in order to make copious "slug loaves," a preferred Insectivorid delicacy that was introduced all the way back in the start of this second arc. And, lastly, Microtron walks in on -- I think, judging from the panel -- Rann going down on Marionette. This book just got mature.

And yet, the real purpose of this aside seems to be to re-use the blueprint of the Endeavor from the book's inaugural twelve issues. Any excuse for an Eliot R.Brown schematic.

"...the King of Swing, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business..."

TALES OF THE MICROVERSE! Argon and his Centaur associates dash across the desert with Slug in tow, summoned by Prince Shaitan. He's made base in some elegant tents on the blasted plain and Slug, being a fresh face in the endless parade of tired factotums who have had to hear Shaitan go on about this a hundred times, gets to hear the albino Acroyear brag about being all kinds of immortal now.

Just when he gets to the good point and starts doing all the voices, desert raiders attack the base -- but not just any desert raiders! These are the soldiers of Prince Pharoid, Lord of Aegyptia! I didn't even know they made a character from that guy! This ought to be good! Continued next issue!

There's nothing all that great in the letters page, but Michael Golden's unpublished first issue cover is reprinted, and it's neat.




Friday, June 16, 2017

FRIDAY FRENEMIES : IF LEX LUTHOR WERE SUPERMAN'S FATHER

"...and that I'll soon get blown up with this whole planet."

I'm going to let this feature take a break from the continuing mutual homicide pact between romantic rivals Lois Lane and Lana Lang, for just this one entry. This is because I'd like to share with you possibly the most gruesome and messed-up plot Lex Luthor ever hatched against his nemesis, Superman, which is, namely, to fuck his mom.

One of the inventions of Superman's Silver Age was a robust backstory and series of empathetic asides for Luthor, a character who had been around in the assorted Superman comics for twenty years before he was even awarded a first name (Which was "Oliver." Anything you've ever heard to the contrary is a total falsehood).

In the span of a few, short years, it was revealed that Superboy and Luthor had once been boyhood chums, that Luthor had a sister from whom his entire family had kept hidden the shame of an arch-criminal relative and that he'd frequently ally himself with Superman, Supergirl or other forces of good for that sister. He received a love interest on an alien world which worshiped him as a hero, and imaginary stories frequently popped up wherein Luthor would genuinely turn over a new leaf (this is as opposed to the most famous Imaginary Luthor story in which he turned straight just so he could totally murder the Man of Steel later on that week).

Damn, that's a burn.
BUT! In Superman vol.1 No.170 (July 1964), Luthor hatches his most bizarre scheme ever, and it only begins with him turning himself into a giant so as to break out of prison. That was his prelude. Shit got real after he turned himself into a giant and smashed a maximum-security penitentiary into beach sand. After.

Luthor's larger machinations require him to dress up like a space Roman, travel to the past and pass himself off as a galactic hero on the pre-destroyed world of Krypton (because it would be pointless to try this on the post-destroyed world of Krypton. Hard on the feet, anyway, hopping between debris in a newly-formed asteroid belt and all). There, he is feted by the Science Council and other Kryptonian luminaries as Luthor the Noble, whose heroism is proved by a bunch of videos that Luthor keeps patting himself on the back for faking. Dude built a time machine and he's, like, "Damn I'm good at After Effects."

"Predicting" the abduction of Kandor, Luthor gains a lot of cred -- particularly with Jor-El's lab assistant and unrequited love, Lara, Superman's future mother. It's from this point that Luthor launches his insidious plan, apparently utterly ignorant of how genetics work: He's going to become Superman's dad!

Personally, I would've just been Lara's second husband, because being Superman's step-dad is probably just as good and, also, that's actually how genetics work.

Luthor goes on to rig an undersea accident wherein Jor-El is trapped at the bottom of one of Krypton's oceans, surviving with only enough food and water for a week. Since Luthor is a master of all technologies and sciences, including mastery of all the forms of PUA  -- Mantis-style, Tiger-style, Fury of the Fedora, Double Reverse Negging, all the classics -- he uses this week to set up his master plan and get it rolling. It looks, believe it or not, like this:

"What shall we name him?" -- "Whatever it is, I want to give him my ex-boyfriend's surname..."


So, the short version of the conclusion is that Jor-El manages to escape his watery tomb, pops up in time to find Luthor and Lara getting married by way of some sort of giant Kryptonian Jumbotron, and then totally The Graduates the wedding while it's in full swing. Luthor's special devices which keep him from dying in Krypton's intense gravity break down at the crucial moment, revealing his duplicity, so he escapes back to Earth in the modern day. If you think about it, though, everyone on the planet was killed in a cataclysm so Luthor really won after all. Check and mate.

He could probably still eke out a small victory just by describing to Superman just how Lara smelled. "I was THIS CLOSE, Superman, damn near fucked your mom. I eat ass, too, you know. I eat it like cinnamon toast. I was gonna eat your mom's ass." I've gone too far, but I still don't think I went as far as they did.

I hate to imagine what other tapes he faked during this trip.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE WHITE RIDER AND HIS SUPER-HORSE

He looks so uncomfortable.

Generally speaking, origin stories are a lot harsher in Western comics than they almost ever are in superhero books. There aren't a lot of brilliant scientists and strange rays or secret lammissarial techniques of mind and body out along the Pecos and all that.

Super-Horse loves death.
What there ARE a lot of, at least back at the turn of the last century and all that, was murderous desperadoes. Which I say as though we don't have any murderous desperadoes today -- Well, let's say these were a different kind of murderous desperadoes, leaner, more natural. A murderous desperado you can trust.

Take, as a for instance, young Peter whose parents are killed by bandits who have attacked the weekly stage. Pete's pop gets lucky, in that he just gets fatally shot within seconds of trying to stand up and defend his wife and child. Mom has to get trapped on a stampeding stage dragged by panicked horses which then shatter an elderly wooden bridge with their frantic hoofbeats, drowning in the rapids below. Moms always have it harder.

Young Peter, though, just gets dragged by the river until it reaches a strange, hidden canyon. There, the young boy is rescued by a beautiful white stallion, and here's where it starts getting erotic.

 Peter is introduced to the canyon's only other human inhabitant, "Old Jeb," a hermit from central casting who's made the canyon his home since accidentally stumbling upon in decades earlier. His subsequent searches for an exit have borne little fruit, so he's built a little cabin in the idyllic spot, and effectively adopts Peter and the super-horse now known as Cloud.

But, oh wait, here's the twist -- the canyon is so deep that the gravity within it is more intense! I don't know if that's right, but let's run with it. The effect of the higher gravity is that Peter develops additional toughness as he grows up, and Cloud becomes fuckin' super and stuff. Not so super than they can exit the canyon on their own, though. It's a deathbed confession from old Jeb, dying from puma wounds as do we all when the time comes, which alerts Peter and Cloud to the existence on an egress hidden behind one of the many waterfalls in the canyon. This place sounds lovely.

When Peter takes advice, he doesn't do it by halves.
Buck naked and soaking wet, Peter and Cloud emerge into the outside world for the first time in decades. Surprisingly, the first thing Peter sees is a wanted poster featuring the face of the man who murdered his father. Short, sharp shocks abound in the upper world, or so Peter has learned.

Decked out in a very discreet all-white ensemble -- think "The Man in the Yellow Hat" but after a bleaching accident -- Peter redubs himself The White Rider and Cloud is also redubbed Super-Horse and they go off to literally murder the man whom Peter is sure killed his father. Like, not to undersell this, but Cloud actually stomps a man to death inside a saloon. These guys have grit.

It's worth mentioning, as I'm sure many of you picked up on, that the title of this story sounds like a white supremacist Golden Book. I'm happy to say that it doesn't really manifest itself that way but, you know ... bad optics right there, White Rider. Consider a more egalitarian handle, I guess.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LI'L ABNER AND THE CREATURES FROM DROP-OUTER SPACE

This honestly looks like Abner stole her man.

Here's what I know about Al Capp: He had a wooden leg. He was a helluva cartoonist but Li'l Abner looked tremendously better when Frazetta was drawing it, as Capp's assistant. Nonetheless, Abner was a cultural phenomenon which took all media by storm. Col.Potter read the strip where Abner and Daisy Mae got married over the intercom during one episode of M*A*S*H. Um. He got super-rich but it made him less happy and more self-aggrandizing, he tried to force himself on Goldie Hawn and he hated the counter-culture with a red-hot passion. He was, in essence, the original Scott Adams. But with a wooden leg.

That last bit, the part where he hates the counter-culture with a burning passion? Well, that didn't only manifest itself in catcalling and kibbitzing John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It also showed up in this promotional comic for the Job Corps program, Li'l Abner and the Creatures from Drop-Outer Space. Get it, kids? They're drop-outs and they're like aliens because they're so weird, not wanting to have anything to do with the cultural system which allowed a grope-happy establishment crank to get rich by exploiting the historically oppressed economic and regional underclass of America's rural poor? God, how fucking weird. Kids are messed up.

Anyway, capitalizing on what he says is his own background as an uneducated juvenile delinquent and high school dropout, Capp (or someone) pens the story of Abner trying to turn around Danny Driftwood, a promising but idle young man. Daisy Mae expends her efforts on Sloppy-Belle, "who is unkempt, unemployed and undated" which is bullshit because she looks hotter than a Weber on fire in hell. If Capp's suggesting that he's picky when it comes to pulchritude, then he's got some explaining to do.

Well, bless your heart, ma'am.

Danny Driftwood's got it bad for a coiffed and coutured redhead named "Bouncy Belle," like some goddamn kind of Smurf, but he settles for Sloppy-Belle because, christ man, why wouldn't you? Also, these names were never near as clever as Capp thought they were.

Abner spends a decent amount of the opening pages slut-shaming Sloppy Belle and predicting dire circumstances for their future kids, which is jumping the gun.

Anyway, the book finally gets around to lauding the Job Corps, which is good because they're a pretty handy organization. Danny goes away, gets some skills, comes back as a technician of some sort and hooks up with Bouncy Belle whose high standards have apparently kept her dateless for the subsequent year. I don't have a problem with this, but fucking Capp burned Sloppy Belle by insinuating that no one would date her so who's the unlovable mess now, Capp?

Naturally, the Job Corps is set to straighten out Sloppy Belle, too. And look at the promising careers awaiting her!



I expect they've updated their allowances at this point ...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 22 - THE BEST DARNED BURGLAR IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD

Micronauts vol.1 No.22 (Oct 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Armando Gil
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

While Marionette and Rann are running around and protecting the flower shops of Manhattan, the remaining Micronauts have taken the Astrostation to the skies in search of their missing comrades. Microtron, Acroyear, Cilica and Bug are also on the lookout for Biotron, who works to repair the Endeavor somewhere unknown to his allies.

This book is at its best when it tackles a few things. First off, the ideas and systems implied by the nature of the Microverse, and whether the individual members of the team deserve human rights. You will be happy to know that the answer is "yes, of course." This includes Microtron and Biotron, but fairly recently did not include Bug and his insectivorid race. This seems to imply that full rights were only granted under the Karza reign, which you might think would make a significant portion of the insectivorids dedicated followers of Karza, across the board. Let's see if that ever comes up.

The other thing which this book does when it's at its best is pit the Micronauts against some quotidian object made into a menace by dint of scale. In this situation, the Astrostation-occupying 'Nauts fight a speeding semi truck inside the Holland Tunnel*

*Well, in some tunnel in New York, "Holland Tunnel" always sounds like the best place to have a speeding car fight when you're in New York).

The fight goes on for four pages, featuring Cilicia avenging herself against the truck's air horn, Bug getting pinned to the grille, and then the whole shmear crashing into a legitimate McDonald's (they show the golden arches and everything),  interrupting a robbery in progress!

Rodney, the burglar in question and a former (and easily recognized) employee of the restaurant, responds to the chaos immediately. Spying the tiny figures which he declares to be "poltergeists" or "gremlins," he starts taking potshots at them -- leading to my favorite scene this issue. ACROYEAR CATCHES A BULLET.

I mean, catches it, a bullet the size of his torso and he just catches it and lets it crumple against his armor. I genuinely, genuinely love Acroyear. He is super-tough and has a great aesthetic, and he's a pretty sensitive, thoughtful guy, to boot. Swipe right. Plus he gets knocked into a vat of fry grease (he's okay).

Pal, you are about to get murdered.

The ruckus at McDonalds draws the attention of Mari and Rann, somehow, so they're able to rejoin their peers. This leaves Biotron and the Endeavor lost somewhere, which next issue promises to find.

I never liked this guy.
TALES OF THE MICROVERSE! We catch back up with Slug, betrothed to Prince Argon and the future queen of Homeworld. Since we last saw her, she started rocking a sort-of Dejah Thoris thing, but with her tits in. She's going to probably want a little more protection since flaming meteors are smashing down all over the city.

Actually, they're missing one target -- Karza allegedly demolished Body Banks! The hated ruins of the Body Banks had been left alone by Homeworld's citizenry, but something is obviously gathering in the edifice for some sinister reason or another.

Slug breaks in but soon faces fire -- from Argon! He's gone all bad because of a post-hypnotic command left in his brain back when Karza turned him into a centaur. Yeah, I didn't think he got turned into a centaur for centaur's sake. Had to be a Plan B. Flanked by centaurs of a desert-dwelling tribe, Argon incapacitates and abducts his former bride, and hints that Karza may not be as dead as he seems ...

LETTERS PAGE! We get a brief history of counter-revolutionary pop culture baby names from a concerned reader.


Friday, June 9, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES : RENEWABLE POWER

Superheroes are all about power, as are the companies providing fuel for America's many industrial, commercial and domestic needs. Also, everything in America is about power, because our system of capitalism is poisoned with rot from root to crown. But what they have and we don't is superhero mascots!


Super Energy Man (Gulf Breeze Natural Gas)
You have to admire not only his dedication to clean-burning natural gas power, but just how content he seems with his healthy physique and spectacular facial hair. This guy seems relaxed, confident with the power of natural gas! Also, the appeal of speaking in these laudatory terms about the fuel industry has worn off, so I'm just gonna go back to sassin' this stuff.

Super Energy Man has quite the origin story. It's a rollercoaster:
Super Energy Man is the official spokesman for Gulf Breeze Natural Gas. His job is to create public awareness of natural gas as America’s Super Energy. The actual man in the Super Energy suit is Harrold Hatcher, who has managed our marketing and safety programs for over 20 years.
Dang Harrold, congrats on the promotion!




Captain Mercaptan (Baltimore Gas and Electric Company)
Capt.Mercaptan has already scored a promotional comic tie-in with Iron Man, so the kid has legs ... and a dead-eyed rictus in lieu of a genuine human smile. This is a good mascot to have visit kids if you want them to associate gas and electric power with the dread of being abducted by circus folks in Carnivale masks.

Propane Joe (North Carolina Propane Gas Association)
...Or that's my best guess, anyway. Propane Joe, a flame-haired hero who shows up whenever inefficient energy is being used somewhere (so ... everywhere), holds a place of honor* on the portfolio page of the advertising agency which created him, but the NCPGA's site has no trace of the guy. Is this one of those event comics where parts of history were overwritten? Is Propane Joe the victim of Zero Hour? Is he The Sentry?

*Enh, maybe

I don't know why his insignia says "LP." "Look, propane!" maybe.

Pen-Oil Kid? (Peninsula Oil & Propane)
I have no idea what this character's name actually is, what powers he has, what he represents in the grand scheme of the company's mission. What I do know is that his enthusiasm is visibly waning in the header photos which feature his likeness throughout the Peninsula site...



It's been a long day ...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : SGT. SPOOK

Wait for it ...

I've written many times before about the heroes with the toughest origin stories of all -- the ones who had to die before they gain their powers and their mission against crime/evil/injustice/parking violations and so on. For the most part, they fall into two categories*: cops and kiddies, with some outliers like Deadman making a decent stand for assassinated circus performers.

* And "historical medieval-type guys," I know, don't @ me, it's just the two (Gay Ghost and Mr.Justice) and the latter of them was an English prince murdered by Scotsmen, so I'm on their side.

"Ho-hum, I'm dead, better crash on the couch here..."
Among the kiddies, there's Kid Eternity (murdered by a Nazi U-Boat and drowned) and Maureen Marine (murdered by a Nazi U-Boat and drowned, maybe by the same Nazi U-Boat, as they had a reputation to uphold). As far as goes the cops, there's famously the Spectre (murdered by crooks), The Collector (murdered by crooks), Nemesis (murdered by crooks), and Duke of Darkness (murdered by crooks). And then, to wrap it all up, there's Sgt.Spook (murdered by being stupid and careless).

Created and originally crafted by Martin Kildale** and running for an obscenely long time in Blue Bolt Comics (plus a few others), Sgt.Spook literally passes through this mortal veil because he blew himself to hell. Unwisely smoking in the Forensics Lab, Spook (real name: Sgt Spook, evidently) absent-mindedly puts his still-smoking pipe down on top of a stack of volatile chemicals. Kapow! He's dead, the end.

**Kildale was also the creator of y'boy Speed Centaur, the only superhero whose secret identity involved putting on a huge rubber horse head mask and hauling young lovers on romantic tours of the park. That I know of. 

Without any sort of explanation, Spook finds that he's become a ghost capable of interacting in a limited fashion with the real world. While he's completely invisible and cannot be heard by the living, he can also either pass through solid matter or become solid enough to interact with the material world, such as to slug a crook or hold onto a crook or hold onto a crook long enough to slug him.

See? Chicago.
Most striking about Sgt.Spook's debut -- besides the explosion that killed him, I suppose -- is his blase manner in the face of his sudden demise. "Gee," he mutters as he observes his own smoldering corpse, "That's me lying there! I'm dead -- ... why - why - I must be a ghost!" He takes it so well that you assume he might have been expecting something like this to happen. Even his fellow officers aren't too shaken by the sudden death of their young comrade.  "He was such a great guy, too" offers one cop, hands casually on hips, standing over the still-burning cadaver. There's a real lacksadaiscal attitude to death in this precinct house. Must be Chicago.

Sgt.Spook picks up a genuinely interesting gimmick later in his run, as he begins to police the actions of other ghosts -- BAD ghosts -- from history who are using their powers to continue to commit crimes in the world of the living. You almost get the feeling that it was his destiny all along, but he jumped the gun on snuffing it and had to wait around, stopping quotidian gangsters and common crooks until the real reason he's become a wispy force of justice came around...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : MIRADOR'S BRAIN


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 ...






As the series progresses and either I am having the subtle genius of the program shown to me OR I am losing my mind at an alarming rate, I think I have really come to love Graham. Any Arcane-centric episode is already a winner, thanks to the theatrical scene-chewing of master thespian Mark Lindsay Chapman -- a man who dances like no one is watching. But Graham was a tougher sell. Actor Kevin Quigley is, either intentionally or otherwise, doing a sort-of Jack Nicholson impression combined with the physicality of a loping chimp, plus also he's sometimes horny. That's a recipe for a disaster or a must-watch drama, I couldn't say which.

In this case, Arcane is a feature of the episode, but he's lab-bound for the most of it. This means: It's Graham's time to shine!

Weird yearbook photo, Anton.

Arcane acquires the brain of his recently-deceased mentor, Dr.Karl Mirador (played in a mirror, for the most part, by Harold Bergman). What's he gonna do with his old boss' brain? Well, he's gonna hook it up to what appears to be a giant plastic gumball machine and/or the Slurpee machine which Jabba the Hutt sucked frogs outta, and then he's going to shove it into his own brain! Figuratively! Or literally, it's hard to say, they don't really go into the procedure here.

Arcane is desperate for the transfer of knowledge, owing to the fact that Mirador was "the most brilliant scientist since Einstein." Which, I guess, explains why I've never heard of him. These fictional geniuses are always smarter than Einstein and you never hear about them until one of their experiments is about to blow up the moon accidentally or something. 

There are risks to the procedure, which leads Graham to openly cruise for a whupping by trying to be reassuring and supportive. "Rome wasn't built in a day" and "But youve only had success with animals last year." Man, that last one ... leave the man's love life alone, Graham. 

To prevent the worst from coming to pass, Arcane has invited Mirador's granddaughter Dana (Jill Whitlow) to come reminisce about her beloved peepaw and possibly also have her spinal fluid sucked out of her when she's not looking. Who's the right man to lope into town and charm Dana into fluid donation with all the charm of a balding Christian Slater? Graham, that's who!

"You make me want to be a better chimp."

Unfortunately, Graham is creep-blocked by Will, who's dressed like a made-for-TV Indiana Jones. That's apparently Dana's "thing," because they're off canoodling in the swamp within four minutes of meeting each other. There they share important revelations, like how Dana's grandfather sometimes did grandfather things, and that Abigail is dead. Abigail is dead? Did I know this? I think we did. The messed-up order of these episodes is taking its toll on me.

Meanwhile, taking its toll on Arcane is the fact that the transfusion of brain power is driving him mad. This is a plus for us because Mark Lindsay Chapman chewing the scenery is the best part of this show. Him hopping around and scribbling on walls and bellowing is good. You know how sometimes someone says an actor is so good that you'd pay to watch him read the yellow pages? I'd pay to watch Mark Lindsay Chapman chew the yellow pages. It'd be masterful.

So, the brain is driving Arcane insane ("insane in the arcane/got two brains/gone insane") and giving him crazy forehead brain lines, like he fell asleep face-first on a plate of noodles. This madness comes about not just because the whole idea of inserting someone else's brain into your own is fuckin' nuts, but because Mirador was ... SCHIZOPHRENIC! You have to assume I wrote that in a Haunted House  kind of voice, because they use a lot of reverb when Mirador says it in the show.

He looks like an evil Worzel Gummidge
Just as a serious aside, I think maybe they should have left Mirador's actual medical condition a little more vague. Actual schizophrenia is a serious mental issue which makes life difficult for a lot of people and their loved ones. Treating it like shorthand for "evil" is frankly irresponsible, particularly when it's conflated deliberately with multiple personality disorder, and is coupled with lines which shit all over the idea of medication as a treatment. It's unfortunately typical of fiction to treat mental illness like an eternal sentence of violent insanity, and I just hate to see it. Mentally-ill characters so rarely get better or learn to manage their illness, and the cure is so often depicted as worse then the illness (I'm looking at you, Law and Order). Anyway, it kind of put a damper on how generally fun and stupid this episode is.

And yes, I know I'm saying all the above despite having frequently, blithely described Jim Kipp as a sociopath, but I stick by that.

Come enjoy our scenic SWAMP TOURS
Back in the swamp, Dana is boring Will to death, which is impressive. I mean, this is Will Kipp, for someone else's life to bore him it must be a real snoozer (it is). Swamp Thing, for his part, watches all of this from behind a fern, which isn't creepy at all. This means he's watching when Dana, later that night, is abducted and taken to Arcane's lab. Swampy manages to short-circuit the bad guys' plans by mentally commanding the van carrying Dana to crash and then making a big windstorm to knock out the bad guys.  

Another fun part of the episode happens right here, where Swamp Thing spirits Dana away to safety in the swamp and she is. Not. Having. It. Swamp Thing tells her that she was in danger, she replies "I'll take my chances, thank you." He says "But you don't know these men," she replies "I don't know you either." Where was this when she was introduced? The girl is a firebrand.

Gon' shoot me the MOON!

Meanwhile, Arcane is fully mad now and grabs a machine gun from one of the guards. I will never not mark for Action Anton Arcane. Holding a hostage in the middle of town, this causes Will to get deputy sheriff Jensen (Bob Barnes), who could not care about fucking anything. He goes out of his way to not do anything if he can help it. When Arcane is holding a hostage and firing wildly in the air, he's like "Oh for fuck's sake, not this again." I like this guy. I like his moxie.

In the end, Swamp Thing ends up having to save Arcane again, dousing the evil scientist in green rays that set everything to rights. Swamp Thing's green light is Superman III's "Fix the Great Wall of China vision."  I guess this means Arcane is liberated from Mirador's schizophrenia, but he still has the dead man's brain which I'm fairly sure is a criminal act. Swamp Thing oughtta fink to the AMA, at the very least.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 21 - SAY IT WITH FLOWERS

Micronauts vol.1 No.21 (Sept 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Armando Gil
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Editor: Milgrom/Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

Just to catch you up-to-date: The Micronauts recently found themselves on Earth once again, only to be separated by individual menaces lurking in the rustic acres of Saugerties, New York. They reunite to save Bug from a backwoods scientist named Odd John, but are once again separated in the battle!

Rann is so sarcastic.
In fact, this isn't too far away from what happened the first time that the Micronauts came to Earth, as related in the first twelve-issue 'arc' of the series. It's a handy device, I'll say that much for it -- it allows Mantlo to focus on different members of the crew without having anyone drown in the backstory, and gives everyone a pretty coherent mission. On the other hand, maybe it's time to find a new way to do that?

This issue also, once again, has the Micronauts run head-first into a run-of-the-mill Marvel character. This has been a real mixed bag for the series so far -- Ant-Man's recent guest shot worked well if only because the actual interaction between the two properties was kept at a bit of a minimum, while the lengthy Fantastic Four crossover started off somewhat tedious and ended up excruciating. Man-Thing is somewhere in the middle of all of that.

In this case, an unconscious Rann and a very alert Mari narrowly escape a garbage truck compactor, escaping into a floral shop owned and operated by a woman named Fawn ... Fawn's Flora. That's good, I'll let Mantlo enjoy himself. And Mari and Rann may also enjoy themselves, and do! Hidden from view by hiding in a knothole or something, the romantic leads are getting all up in each other's business and not noticing a spontaneous burlesque performance going on outside.

Fawn's business fortunes are evidently sinking, but her romantic possibilities picked up, thanks the to attention of graying wolf Sam Smithers. Mari doesn't like him much, on sight, but she might have liked even less watching him get stark naked in the middle of the shop, just to dress hgimself back up -- as PLANT-MAN! I like this guy. He wears a corsage on his belt and his whole costume looks like he was freshly bagged.

Plant-Man has been stringing Fawn along just so that she would (a) trust him enough with the shop to leave him alone there after closing, so he could (b) command her veritable armory of potentially-deadly plants (when subjected to Plant-Man's plant-fucking-up ray gun) and (c) break into the bank next door. Except for breaking an innocent woman's heart and destroying all the stock and storefront of a struggling business, it's a good plan!

You leave my man A'yo alone!
The subsequent fight is perfunctory, and the Micronauts win, of course. You start to get the feeling, this far into the series, that the appearances of super-heroes and -villains from the Marvel macro-verse aren't of any particular interest to Mantlo, and are probably mandated by editorial fiat. They do spin the wheels, even if the art is enjoyable and the writing is, as always, compelling. It's good soap opera, at the very least.

But Mantlo DOES get to have fun, and it's back where it counts. Beginning this issue: TALES OF THE MICROVERSE, which brings us back to the Micronauts' home universe and shows us what's happening in the recently-liberated civilizations of a post-Karza society.

Back on Spartak -- the world which my boy Acroyear called home, and the throne of which he abandoned in order to continue to battle great evils, Conan-style -- Games of Thrones happen. Weird white-skinned creatures, their flesh decaying and morbid, have a big hand-holding prayer session around a raging fire in The Temple In The Rock. Acroyear soldiers rush the eyeless, albino weirdos, but are easily rebuffed -- and then murdered by a resurrected Prince Shaitan, brought back to life by unknowable energies for insidious purpose. What purpose is that? I dunno, but there's an issue that comes after this one. Maybe it has the answers!

Lettercol time! The Maryland Comics Book Club of Bel Air (hey holmes, smell ya later) announces the recipients of their first annual Microawards. Giving Best Artist to Mike Golden and Best Writer to Bill Mantlo is, you know, really taking advantage of the small field. Personally, I can't take the poll seriously - my boy A'yo is not the third best character in the book, not by a long shot. "Runner-Up" my micro-ass.


Friday, June 2, 2017

FRIDAY FRENEMIES : THE PHANTOM LOIS LANE

They like to watch.

A meaningful warning may be made of the lesson learned in the story, "The Phantom Lois Lane," originally published in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane vol.1 No.33 (May 1962), which is -- watch it, because Lana Lang will straight up send your ass to the Phantom Zone.

Enh, she has her moments.
The story begins -- and resolves with -- Superman bringing his best girls some brooches from space. BROOCHES FROM SPAA-A--A-AACE! Glittering with the properties of "unusual alien metals," the Man of Steel also has a third one, which sends Lois and Lana into some idle pondering about the third recipient. Then things get gruesome.

After tricking Lois into reading a bit of a fabricated script, depicting a woman reluctantly leaving her man, Lana reveals that she's scored the Phantom Zone Projector from Superman's Fortress of Solitude, and even I feel embarrassed by how dumb those words sound when they're all laid out in a string. I've been doing this for too long. I should try reading a book one of these days.

In the Phantom Zone, Lois can watch Lana cackling and crowing about having removed one of her rivals from play. She can also watch Jimmy Olsen on the toilet, if she wants. This is a thing that I always disliked about the Phantom Zone, how they could just loom in nether-space and watch absolutely everything everywhere all the time. If they had cameras, they could make the Fappening look like a Sunday School Easter play. Don't make me spell it out.

"...Lana does drugs!"
Lois also gets to watch helplessly as Lana descends to Atlantis ("I'm certain Atlantis is below" thinks Lana, bolted into a deep-sea diver suit and lowered into the deepest part of the ocean, on a hunch). Superman's mermaid girlfriend, Lori Lemaris -- a pretty passionate character when she was first introduced, relegated to a fairly bland role in the Silver Age Superman universe, where she primarily played a chaste deus ex machina for any undersea disaster befalling the Superman Family -- also gets zapped into the Phantom Zone. At least Lois has someone to talk to.

Feigning concern over Lois and Lori's fate, Lana manages to nonetheless command Superman's full affection -- even though Superman sees through her scheme. See, he'd earlier given Lana and Lois matching fur coats, and now Lana has TWO fur coats! She's obviously guilty, no one would ever own two coats. Men have gone to the chair for less.

It turns out that the unusual alien metal had some kind of make-you-evil property, which is a likely story but I don't want to ruin any of Lana's future attempts to savagely merk Lois. "Ooh, the brooch made me evil, probably!" Superman frees Lois and Lori, and everyone is sort-of happy about the whole affair I guess? Lori spends a lot of the episode sitting on an armchair in Lois' apartment. Also, she doesn't even get a brooch for herself, that last one was for Supergirl. Bogus.

While everything resolves soundly, I'd like to suggest that the evil perpetrated by Lana Lang couldn't have manifested itself out of whole cloth. Somewhere in Lana Lang lurks the shadow of a woman who will blast a rival into an other-dimensional hellscape just so she doesn't have to go to dinner alone. Hell, it makes me kind of like her better, knowing that.

Five minutes later, they sent each other to the Phantom Zone.

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