Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 35 - THE ORIGIN OF THE MICROVERSE


Micronauts vol.1 No.35 (Nov 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Val Mayerik/Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Tom Defalco
EIC: Jim Shooter

Well, Broderick is gone, and the book starts looking like every other low-selling book on the early 80s Marvel lineup. Honestly, with this tiresome Swordquest-lookin' story, plugged-in Faux-verine character Devil, and bog-standard artwork, it's impressive to realize that this goes another 30+ issues. I got my fingers crossed that it'll get better.

This is the big, double-sized issue which reveals the origin  of the Microverse. This would be great if it weren't, you know ... listen, maybe this revelation will be your cup of tea. It didn't do much for me, personally speaking. Stay tuned to decide if you're disappointed, too.

Booooooo.
Pharoid and Slug turn against Argon, giving the Micronauts a chance to beat cheeks for the Deadzone, based on a book by Stephen King. Argon, however, is in full Baron Karza cosplay and is gunning for them, hot on their tails. This is mostly an opportunity for Devil to talk like a dumb shit and hurl things at pursuing ships, and also I hate this character a lot.

Meanwhile, already in Deadzone and finally having beat off all of those demons*, Strange discovers the fucking origin of the fucking Microverse fucking finally. Will the wait be justified by the payoff? No, but pretend I didn't say that and stick around for the answer.

*I phrased that poorly

Aliens from space -- survivors of a thousand lost worlds, led by Prince Wayfinder of the planet Ithaka, in upstate New York -- land on primordial Earth, there to found a home "in the name of the homeless and displaced. Let all be content, and wage war no more."

It's a nice sentiment, but the prehistoric Earth is loaded with dinosaurs and DEMONS, the hateful jerks. When the aliens build a great city, the demons gather to destroy it, launching a huge dumb war. With the power of his enchanted blade, the Sword-In-The-Star*, Wayfinder manages to summon the power of the Time Traveler to this distant era, and tap the Enigma Force to imprison the demons for ... as long as they were imprisoned, I guess.

*Surely it should be the other way around...

"Let us build an Applebee's."
From here, everything appears to happen quickly, but it really doesn't -- it's a small amount of content spread out over some very chaste fighting. You'll possibly remember that early issues of the Micronauts pulled no punches in its fight scenes -- soldier and innocents alike were killed, maimed and purposefully hurt in the course of the battle, and collateral damage was high. In the scenes to follow, things will be pretty clean and fairly typical of your average comic book from the era.

Fireflyte uses her connection to the Enigma Force to rebind the demons, which is a super-lazy resolution to this threat that's been bouncing Dr.Strange up and down the driveway for the last three issues. When Argon and his Dog Soldiers catch up the Micronauts, they announce themselves with a volley of artillery which does little more than throw up some dirt, like low-budget squibs, and then ... and then Argon's "Death Squad" shows up.

The Death Squad sucks and are stupid. They are wildly unimaginative and arbitrary, and they feel like someone's bad idea of what a popular kids' toy line might feature, because they've associated "kids" with "tacky, stupid and willing to settle for whatever." The Death Squad is:
  • Ampzilla, who looks like a sassy fat Godzilla with a bunch of walkman stapled to his head and chest.
  • Battleaxe, who has an axe for a hand ... and a hand for an axe!
  • Lobros, the Power-Parasite, who legitimately looks like a Muppet wearing a fish for a tuxedo.
  • And Centauria, who is a centaur. By the way, I may not have introduced myself before now -- I'm Humano, the human.
  • There's also a Repto who just shows up out of nowhere.
Are they fucking kidding me?
Just as the battle starts, the demos break free, I guess to give Dr.Strange someone to fight. Rann and Fireflyte go to the temple to engage the power of Wayfinder, who is Rann's direct ancestor apparently. Everyone else fights Death Squad people. Demons briefly punch Rann all the way to Earth, to illustrate how this battle threatens the safety of Earth as well as the Microverse. Oh, and if I needed any better proof that it's the editor who's encouraging a lot of these terrible changes, Rann actually employs the most tired line in comics -- "Get out of my mind!" -- at one point. 

(It's not super relevant, but there's a subplot involving Nanotron and Microtron traversing Sandzone to recover the Endeavor. They'll eventually use it for the purposes of "You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home"-ing the final battle, so expect that. A cutaway back to them, however, focuses on Microtron blowing compressed air through Nanotron's circuits to revive and, um, clean out the cobwebs, as it were? I think Microtron and Nanotron fucked in the desert, is what I'm saying)

They're having sex, right?

Let's see -- as the battle climaxes*, the statues of the dead champions start glowing with eldritch power, the keys are inserted into whatever hokey science-thing makes use of their power, and Dr.Strange and Rann are fused together as Captain Universe, The Hero Who Actually Wasn't All That Impressive At The Time. `Still, they defeat the demons, so that's nice I guess. Oh, and the origin of the Microverse is that the alien champions from India made it up. Well worth the wait.

*And also, for all I know, Microtron and Nanotron too ...

When the Endeavor saves the day, the Micronauts fuck off for Earth, pursued by Argon's Death Squad. Mm.

Lettercol fun! Sort of, the letter columns back, and this guy wrote a terrible poem about it!




Thursday, September 14, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : REX THE SEEING-EYE DOG



Animal crimefighters are a fun-sounding idea which, more often than not, turn out to be a lot darker than the concept would suggest. For every Detective Chimp, there's a half-dozen crimefighting dogs, horses and ... uh, marmots? I dunno ... who keep finding themselves standing between the mob and innocents, or become involved in putting a kibosh to murder plots, or break up kidnapping rings. I mean, this isn't even a comic book problem, have you ever seen The Littlest Hobo? With a title like that, there should be musical numbers ...

Something is wrong with that lion.
Well, anyway here's Rex the Seeing Eye Dog, as far as I'm aware the only one of this breed of vigilantimal (copyright me, just now) who stands a very good chance of dragging a blind man to his death during one of his adventures. Previously, you had to be Daredevil or Dr.Mid-Nite to be a blind man in as much peril as this. It's a real step forward for human rights.

Rex is a service dog for Dan Baxter, the owner of Baxter's Circus and -- like all comic book circuses -- an institution rife with murder and racketeering. No wonder Ringling Bros is shutting down.

Baxter's circus really is a cesspool of anger and violence. On the very first page, we see bad trapeze man Karl haranguing good trapeze lady (and Baxter's daughter) Laura. Also, the circus' animal dealer, Jeffries, is threatening to take over the circus if the Baxters don't pay for a recent order of wild animals. Raise your hand if that's happened to you. I mean, if I had a nickel ...

Things get even more out of hand when a cart containing a vicious lion has its brakes cut loose, and it goes rolling through the crowd -- but Rex is there to stop it! He leaps on the roof to manage the brakes, which probably I wouldn't have put in a place where only a dog could get to it, but who am I, the boss of circus lion carts? Not anymore, I'm not, not since they started putting the brakes up on the top of the carts.

Rex! Get the gun!
Bruno the strongman is also murdered at this point, a crime which Rex could not stop. In fact, where was Rex when Bruno was murdered? Someone keep an eye on that dog, he's clever.

He's so clever, in fact, that he appears to be able to convey information to his blind master. When Laura is almost killed due to a faulty trapeze line (which, by the way, Rex presaged from his seat in the bleachers), Dan sics Rex on a figure dashing away. "Someone's trying to escape! Catch him, Rex!" Uh, not to be insensitive, and I do have friends with severely impaired vision so I know that blindness is a spectrum and all that, but Dan you better be fucking sure before you set the dogs on that man.

Of course, it pays off ... Karl and Jeffries are in cahoots, not only rigging Laura's near-demise and loosing the lion, but robbing the box office and passing some counterfeit cash into the mix. Amazingly, it's Rex who manages to coerce a confession out of Jeffries, solving the case.

The story ends with a text box celebrating seeing eye dogs and encouraging the kids who're reading the comic to do nice things for blind people, like helping them across streets and putting them on buses. You know, basically, trying to convince kids to be seeing eye dogs. I'm for it, gives the tots something to do in the Summer.

I forgot to mention "Tom the Midget," who does as much to
catch the crooks as Rex does, really.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : EASY PREY


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 ...



Hey, it's the first "sentient bird on the run" storyline in a Swamp Thing episode since "Falco" all the way back at the beginning of the first season. Gosh, I was beginning to think we'd never get to see any more longshots of hawks flying around against a clear blue sky that gives you no context for where they are or how fast they're moving. Am I ever satisfied with the change in direction!

Easy Prey isn't a very good episode, by which I mean it's pretty bad. Now, normally, if the episode was also as anemic as this one, I'd say "Fortunately, basically nothing happened." Instead I have to say "Unfortunately, I have to pad this out to at least five hundred words so that this article is as substantial -- judging by word count, anyway -- as all the other entries in the series. How'd I do? Someone count those. Meanwhile, here's the complete lyrics to British Prog Rock legends Genesis' 23-minute long 1972 concept album landmark track Supper's Ready ...

"I'm ... HUGE!"

Rich dick dad Tom Crown (Lou Bedford) takes his ungrateful, rat-faced son Jason (Bently Tittle, if you can fucking believe it) out to the swamps of Houma to kill things. Yes, Tom likes corporate acquisitions, crushing his enemies, capitalism and murdering things that cannot fight back. Jason ... does not? I don't know what he's opposed to, he just doesn't do whatever his father does so they can establish conflict in the story, I guess.

Spotting a rare, endangered hawk, Tom takes a potshot at it and wings (haha) the bird (oh no). This causes Swamp LSD Freakout Times for Will, who happens to be sleevelessly paddling through the bog water at this point. Theoretically, Will has been given an opportunity to see the swamp as Swamp Thing does, and apparently seeing the swamp means tripping balls because Will is FUCKED. UP. Swamp Thing literally has him do shit like look at leaves and cup water in his hand, just like the designated driver dude always does when you and a bunch of friends go do peyote in the desert.

"Like ... Alec? What if ... what if God ... is this leaf?"

Tom continues his hunt for the bird, even acquiring Arcane's permission to hunt the squab on his land. Okeedoke. He doesn't otherwise really feature in this episode, but he's nice to have around.

One of the weird things about this episode is that Tom and Jason's dialogue is so rife with exposition, but reveals nothing. We learn everything about these two characters, and it doesn't really shine any light onto them, about their motives or interests or pain or glory. Accusations fly wildly and feelings are hurt, but we could have seen that coming from the first scene.

They open on this shot on one scene, and I laughed for a solid minute.

In fact, I was expecting them to advance the tension to a twist of some sort. I had my hopes pinned on Jason turning out to actually being a stone-cold killer and murdering his dad in the swamp for the inheritance. But that didn't happen ... the tension stayed consistent, and that was hard to endure.

Even when Will is accidentally shot in the chest -- absolutely one of my favorite things that happens on this show, Will getting nearly murdered, every third episode or so -- there's not much added to the plot or pacing. Also, turns out that the wounded hawk has a mate. Also adds nothing to the episode.

Plus? That face.

The whole thing is, for some reason, centered around father and son Crown. Unfortunately, their storyline has no staying power. The hawks, sort of a B plot, I guess, seem fine and the wounded one has clearly just got ketchup on her feathers. The C plot of Will being high as fuck pays off in that he can telepathically tell the male hawk to, like, relax and don't worry about things. This fucking episode.

You know what it did have going for it, though? On two different occasions, this happens:

SWAMP HAWK

Monday, September 11, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 34 - BETRAYAL


Micronauts vol.1 No.34 (Oct 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick/Danny Bulandi
Letterer: D.Albers
Colorist: B.Sharen
Editor: Tom De Falco
EIC: Jim Shooter

Bob Layton and Klaus Janson on cover duties, which I'd normally be excited about except that I think it's the worst cover on a Micronauts book to date. Also, Devil gets to feature in the corner indicia, and that's bogus, because he hasn't even joined the team yet AND he gets a cover appearance. Someone clearly thinks Devil's gonna be this book's Wolvering ... in fact, stay tuned about that.

Speaking of whoever that's gonna turn out to be, they keep spelling DeFalco's name differently in each issue's credit box. Don't blame me if I get it wrong, blame 1981.

As the last penis-shaped ice
tower falls ...
The core group of Micronauts makes their way to the Sandzone and Prince Pharoid's subterranean city of Aegyptia, birthplace of Karza. The M'nauts barely have time to drink in the revelation that Acroyear is alive and has acquired the vital third key (plus exciting news about the Enigma Force, right from the Time Traveler's mouth) before they're beset by Pharoid's men. On the command of Argon, who wears his Force Commander armor and has stationed himself in Aegyptia (symmetry, anyone?) the Micronauts are captured -- including A'yo and Devil, bound by crazy looking space shackles.

 The capture does't last long -- chided by his conscience and the disappointed soldiers under his command, Pharoid commits to freeing the Micronauts and helping their escape. This leads to a big battle and the weird phenomenon of Rann invoking the names of his dead parents as an oath. Hanging out with Marionette has given the guy a touch of the old-time religion, evidently.

Meanwhile, Dr.Strange is still at the temple of the five champions who founded the Microverse, with demons crawling up his backside. We're briefly made aware that the Enigma Force had, primarily, been keeping demons from destroying the Microverse. Enhhhhh ... naw, that's not necessary.  We are forced to read that stupid prophecy again, so just so you won't forget it:

A time of darkness will there be;
Of great distress on land and sea!
Find thyselves, and thou wilt find me --
The secret lies in these keys three!
Back in Aegyptia, all hell has broken loose and a full-scale battle is going on between the Aegyptians and the Micronauts versus Argon and the Dog Soldiers he has surprisingly employed. The battle is just gooey, loud nonsense for the most part, with two notable exceptions.

Boooooo.
Acroyear -- who has his sight back, by the way, I should have mentioned that before now* -- only reluctantly fights the Dog Soldiers.  "It saddens me to battle you" he declares as he cuts down three soldiers with a single swipe of his blade, "There is no glory in dealing death. No glory at all." I harbor the suspicion that my boy A'yo is Mantlo's favorite character (tied with Bug, maybe), and so he gets the crunchy dialogue.

*So he gets his sight back and the question is -- why'd he lose it in the first place? It added nothing to the narrative or character. I got no joke here, it was just really lazy plotting.

The other thing worth mentioning is that Devil sucks and I hate him. I mentioned earlier that he's clearly being groomed as the Wolverine of this book, and that manifests itself with his becoming a crazy, carnage-happy murder-ape. He originally said he doesn't like to fight, but now he's hungry for it, with no real explanation. I hate it. He also picks up a catchphrase which I hate even more -- as he hucks some dude around like a rag doll, he bellows "You're going ... to the Devil!" Fuck that. That is awful. That should not have happened.

Let's see ... Rann knocks the tar out of Argon and grabs the purloined keys. Mari beats additional amounts of tar out of Degrayde, Karza's former chief scientist who now works for the corrupted Argon, and Nanotron joins the team. Whooptie doodle, although it does up the female side of the roster (although Fireflyte remains the only lady Micronaut who isn't another Micronaut's girlfriend). The scene in which Marionette encourages Nanotron to join them underlines a new and very tired direction in Marionette's character -- she's a slogan-shouting women's libber. Her already-threadbare personality will soon be reduced to spouting cliches like "Because I'm a woman???" and "Do you doubt my abilities because I'm a woman??" and "Remember Commander, I'm a woman!" and ... she's like the only actual woman on the crew,  why make her personality "Keeps reminding people that she's a woman"? There are better ways to portray a newly-awakened feminist character, all of which are preferable outside of the ones suggested by tubby guys with low-resolution YouTube channels ...

No letter column again, and the big finale is coming up next issue, with Argon hot on the Micronauts' tails towards Deadzone! I have forgotten every Christopher Walken joke I know, but I'll try to remember some by the time we get to next week ...

He doesn't have any pockets on that loincloth, where was she hiding?

Friday, September 8, 2017

THE NOWHERE-NEAR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ADVERTISING MASCOT SUPERHEROES : DRUGS!

Oh my god, let's get high and make mascots!

The pharmaceutical industry seems to live and die on superhero mascots, conflating the singular purpose and flawless heroism of costumed crusaders with the price-gouging and shortcut-taking which typifies Big Pharma. Actually, all superheroes are ideological lies wherein the rebel is actually the authority fink. Individualistic vigilantism in the name of law, order and the status quo is just the tyranny of the mundane and complacent. Enjoy your superhero comics, folks! Meanwhile, here's some heroes promoting the pharmaceutical industry!

Today we mourn the passing of Buddie, who crossed paths with Kevin Smith early this morning.

Buddie (ResponsibleOhio)
Creating, as it were, a significant buzz owing exclusively to his appearance -- and the argued inappropriateness of a Joe Camel-like mascot for cannabis legalization -- Buddie is an ill-advised, albeit obvious and hard-to-ignore mascot for the legalized/medical marijuana movement. Which is hilarious when you try to picture how someone who's totally fucked up on weed trying to walk.

If you wonder where I might fall on the question of legalizing marijuana, please recall that the last time we did this I agitated for Universal Basic Income. Also, I live in Seattle. Draw your own conclusions.


Samarium (Takeda Pharmaceuticals and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America)
Marvel Comics actually designed the hero for this very specific symptom of the ailments described in the above name -- Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Samarium's super-power is nanite-powered armor, because that's how you cure IBD, I think. I don't know, it's hard to figure out these Marvel-made advertising superheroes. I'm still trying to figure out if Vapora was pro- or anti-misuse-of-gasoline.

PhrmaIntern (PHRMA)
I don't believe PhrmaIntern is a legitimate mascot, but I stumbled across her while researching this article and I'm delighted both by the MSPaint manipulations of old Supergirl art and also panels like this:



Irritabelle (Viberzi)
She's not a superhero, but I thought it was worth mentioning that the sexy, naked personification of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is named "Irritabelle." I learned that recently and wanted to share.

C'mon, you would. You know you would.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : MR.IN-BETWEEN

Enough of this guy ...

What exactly is Mister In-Between meant to be between? A rock and a hard place? The Devil and the deep blue sea? Meals? Jobs? Relationships? No, not according to his introductory caption -- he stands in-between the law and the underworld! I guess he's Alt-Center.

What Mr.In-Between means by standing between the two extremes of society is that he's a private investigator and he will take money to beat up crooks. Sounds to me like he's actually a garden-variety capitalist and, by that reckoning, he has picked a side between law-and-order and criminality: He's picked both.

Our real hero.
Carter Mason, a.k.a. Mister In-Between, is a tough-guy detective much in the vein of Vernon Henkel's catalog of creative work. He boasts no super-powers except deduction and the lucky ability to dodge bullets, and a willingness to slug crooks or tell off the cops.

In fact, Mr.I-B isn't nearly the most interesting character in this singular strip -- that honor falls to Phineas P.Bizzy, a weird dude in a bowler who is, to all appearances, the wacky sidekick of the story. He is, however, ten times better prepared for trouble than Mr.In-Between and has a better backstory.

Bizzy joins the fray whilst eavesdropping on a crook who's calling in to his superior, blithely acquitting the widow of the murder of which she'd been accused. It's a bit of luck on Bizzy's lunchbreak, but he makes pretty good opportunity out of it. Specifically, he hucks a smoke bomb at a bunch of cops who're hauling the suspect away, punching a couple of patrolmen and absconding with the girl AND "our hero." Seems like maybe Mr.In-Between is actually in-between usefulness and sidekickery.

The origin of Phineas P.Bizzy is that he's an adventurous sort of fellow who's trapped in a dead-end pickle business. Successful but bored, he goes around solving crimes and getting into trouble in his spare time. Two other things you should know about Phineas: He hangs out in dive bars and is well-acquainted with the seamy side of the city, such as the nightclub called The Red Door which has *gasp* belly-dancing inside!

As catchphrases go ... this owns.
The other thing you need to know about Phineas P.Bizzy is that he always carries a pickle with him. Imagine saying that to someone in a very serious voice. Imagine saying that to Vinnie Jones or someone like that, some action star, just before your whole paramilitary crew deploys. "One thing you got to remember about Bizzy ... he always carries a pickle with him." Then they all basejump into a volcano.

While Mr.In-Between does all the grunt work -- dodging bullets, shooting crooks, breaking into offices -- Bizzy bides his time and catches the bad guys (the DA was responsible, for some reason I don't care about) while announcing his colorful catchphrase: "Pardon me! Have a pickle?" It's a good character. I could turn that into a twelve issue series with a heart-breaking third act in a story called, like, "Revelations" or "You Can't Go Home Again" or "Quite a Pickle" or something like that...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING : REVELATIONS


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 ...



Well into the third season, the creators of Swamp Thing finally decide that it's ridiculous to have Tressa Kipp be the only living creature in Houma, Louisiana, who is not only unaware that Dr.Alec Holland was transformed into some sort of monster dwelling in the swamp, but also that there was a swamp monster in the first place.

Mazel Tov! It's long overdue, particularly as there was no compelling reason for Tressa not to know about the naked bag of lawn trimmings who's been providing replacement dad advice for her two sons, one of whom is deceased/enslaved now and the other experiencing the even worse fate of being Will Kipp. This wasn't one of those sitcoms where the kids adopt a robot and have to hide it from mom, or something. This isn't E.T., although Dick Durock as Swamp Thing does look like E.T. if he were made of celery and creatine. Tressa not knowing about the existence of Swamp Thing never enhanced the drama or tension of the story, and it never really complicated any of the plots. It's not like Swamp Thing can fly down to Brazil to rescue Jim Kipp from a South American work camp -- he damn near died going into an attic. It was a conceit which never paid off.

The opening shot is a boot crushing a flower (read: a weed, actually), which is A METAPHOR!

The one down side to this change in the status quo is that there's no really compelling reason to fill her in on the matter, either. Knowing doesn't substantively change her relationship with any of the other players and, in fact, she ends up greeting Swamp Thing with the same sort of cloying, indifferent intensity with which she deals with everyone else. Well, it's early. Also, I sort-of laid the ground work here for explaining how this is a Carrell Myers-heavy episode, so brace yourself. She's all over this one.

However, first we have to deal with The Army! The army ... of Mercenaries, that is! Arcane has hired a bunch of trigger-happy stuntmen from the Universal Studios Waterworld Stunt Show cast, and sent them into the swamp with express instructions to ventilate Swamp Thing. He's gonna look like lattice-cut french fries after this.

I think this is Swamp Thing's Wrestlemania entrance.

Shooting Swamp Thing doesn't do much, of course, but Arcane has planned for that. A chemical he is pumping into the swamp is counteracting the biome's ability to connect with Swamp Thing, and to provide him with his power. So a mortally wounded Swamp Thing, dripping Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles playset ooze behind him like a gutshot cast member from You Can't Do That On Television, runs to the one person who can help him: a lady who isn't home.

Rushing to the boathouse laboratory of Dr.Ann Fisk (typically played by Janet Julian), Swamp Thing finds that she's not home. This leads to my favorite scene in the episode, wherein a bereft and panicked Swamp Thing keeps yelling Ann's name from outside the boathouse, like a production of Streetcar Named Desire set at a hydroponic weed farm.

Ah, swamp scat.

Evidently, Swamp Thing has a spare key. Letting himself in, he climbs into the Altered States chamber which he and Ann had previously built, and which looks like if submarines had tanning parlors. There, he transforms himself back into his human self (played once again by Patrick Neal Quinn, who's got the looks but I'm not sure about the acting*), despite the fact that he's still filled with green mash like some sort of walking Juicero. Am I overdoing the references? I'm a regular Denny O'Miller over here ...

*I always want to be fair about this criticism. Even if they were great actors, look at the scripts. And even if the scripts were great, look at the premise. It takes certain types of temperaments to find a handhold in a show like this ...

Now cosmetically human, at the very least, a weakened Alec Holland wanders into the swamp and collapses by a country road. This is because turning into a human being didn't actually heal his wounds. That was a good plan, Swamp Thing! Now when you die, you'll be eaten by scavengers instead of herbivores!

"Just fifteen minutes and I'll be ready for Summer!"

Meanwhile, the top mercenary guy, Donnelly, (Steve DuMouchel) just can't find it in his heart to get along with our boy Graham (Kevin Quigley). Now, Graham's been growing by leaps and bounds since about halfway through the second season (which, you might recall, owing to the berserk running orders of this show, might actually have all been intended to be shown in the third season. Whatever. I don't care). Anyway, he outshines himself by showing a certain wisdom and vulnerability when he warns Donnelly that, tacitly, if he underestimates his prey, then Swamp Thing will kill them all. Damn Graham.

Donnelly, for his part, can't stand hawaiian shirts and Jack Nicholson impressions, so he launches on a petulant laundry list of how many people he's killed and also that he did a very good job about it. Mercenaries seem very sensitive.

They give such a shit about everything.

Back at the country road, Tressa finds Holland dying on the side of the road, nonetheless obeying his mumbled requests about "no hospitals!" To Tressa's credit, she also picks up that Arcane is somehow responsible for this poor man's injuries, so she obeys his wishes and treats him at home.

There, the delirious Holland starts spilling all his swampy secrets, encouraging Tressa to check out the boathouse where he keeps his scrapbooks and craft projects. She finds photos, articles, and general evidence that Holland is the tragic, human form of an incredibly powerful swamp monster. She takes this in stride because she also finds a tape recorder wherein Swamp Thing says very nice things about the Kipps. One kind word, guys. Moves mountains.

"Officers claimed that their bodycams had mysteriously malfunctioned ..."

Arcane and his men raid the boathouse and take Tressa captive, which leads to a series of backs-and-forths (that could very likely not be how the plural works in this case), first with Arcane and then with Graham. Now, Graham plays it over the top, and Tressa makes the mistake of trying to keep up, leading to this small selection of facial contortions and oh so very many more*



*If just for this scene alone, I'd recommend checking out this episode. You also get to see a mercenary do a barrel roll through a closed window in the Kipp household, and then all his partners come in by the front door. "Unnecessary, Gary, this is somebody's home!"

I know this is a long recap already, but bear with me on this tangent, if you'd be so kind. A show like Swamp Thing requires actors of a certain perspective -- Durock pulls off his performance by remaining stoic and arch, Chapman goes the opposite way, crafting Arcane as a character for whom no rules apply and providing a performance to match.

I don't know what Carrell Myers is capable of outside of this show, but I strongly suspect that she realized the above paragraph as some sort of truth. Unfortunately, the lesson she took from it was to try to be as camp as Arcane and ... that's not necessarily something you can generate for the sake of a performance. You have to commit, as they say. And she does not, but it explains why there's so much conscious gurning from her in almost every scene wherein she has to act across from anyone.

"God, these are filthy. I won't have magazines like this in my boathouse!"

Anyway. Holland returns to the swamp before Arcane's men can find him recuperating in Tressa's bedroom, slowly losing his human form as he goes. While he still can't access his full suite of powers, he is able to do that thing where he snakes his dick into a room, using it to untie the ropes which bound Tressa. God, I hope that's all it did.

Tressa bolts, finding the comically large pipe which is clearly just shooting pool water into the swamp and which apparently is destroying Swamp Thing's connection to nature and its store of power. Turning a huge wheel which is clearly just stuck about three, maybe four inches into the ground, Tressa shuts off the chemical flow and Swamp Thing then hulks out and murders a whole bunch of people.

What the fuck, does this thing provide chocolate to Willie Wonka's fucking candy factory?

He beats the fuck out of a bunch of guys, shoots lightning at more of them, feeds almost all of them to alligators and just breaks and humiliates Donnelly.  I hadn't really thought about it, but I think I'm okay with Swamp Thing being a hero and still murdering people. Maybe I'm failing to mature in my old age.

In the final scene, Tressa and Swamp Thing meet more-or-less for the first time, or at least the first time that Swamp Thing wasn't watching her from behind some bush. She places a hand upon his cheek, he gently holds the hand against her cheek, three-second clips of adult contemporary music play over the remainder of this K-Tel Soft Rock Hits compilation commercial, and we're out. And does it matter that Tressa knows about Swamp Thing now? Probably not. Hooray! The more things change ...

"Oh .... it's gross."

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 33 - TROPICA


Micronauts vol.1 No.33 (Sep 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick/Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Simek
Colorist: Sharen
Editor: Defalco
EIC: Jim Shooter

DeFalco is on his own as editor here behind a Bob Layton cover. I like Layton, but I am worried about the increasing "whoever's available" sensation of the new cover philosophy. I know that assigning a dedicated cover artist to a book is a fairly new conceit (well, they've done it periodically over the years, as far back as Alex Schomburg illustrating every cover that needed to look like it came from a sociopath's dream journal), but there's not much of a rhyme nor reason to these assignments -- and the cover layouts are looking very typical of the Marvel line at the time.

Is it me or does he look exactly like Bobby Hill?
Acroyear lands on the world of Tropica, blinded by the glare of the comet which had decades earlier heralded his birth. This puts him on a collision course with two new characters who are about to join the Micronauts -- Devil and Fireflyte. I am familiar with both of these characters just by having seen them on the covers of assorted Micronauts issues over the years. Based entirely on those covers, and for few reasons that I could articulate, I do not like either of them.

This issue will go a little ways towards reversing my opinion, but maybe not that much.

The other Micronauts are preparing to leave the Subzero Zone for the next zone on their list in search for the final key. Before they go, they try one more time to get lovesick and bereft Prince Peacock to stop being a dick and use the key to save Polaria. He refuses, dooming thousands, and the Micronauts walk away shrugging like "Nothing we could do!" even though they literally have a thousand space guns and could kill Peacock, possibly with a lead pipe in the drawing room, and take the key. Do I have to think of everything here?

We also get to revisit the prophetic doggerel which is driving this ... slow-paced arc, in a scene where Argon appears to be showing signs that his brief flirtation with the power of Karza has corrupted him. Pharoid, for his part, merely resents that he has been secretly assigned by Argon to betray and capture the Micronauts, whom he admires. So do something about it, idiot.

"I desire fumigation."
Back on Tropica, A'yo has gotten into a brief, blind battle with the pink behemoth Devil and his glow-in-the-dark pal Fireflyte. It all ends amicably, and Devil introduces Acroyear to the really complicated culture of the ... Tropicana? Maybe?

We learn that all the Devils of Tropica are called "Devil," that they have some sort of intense cultural system where their greatest ambition is that all of the other devils of their race should be happier than they, and they're all stuck playing a game which a cloaked Time Traveler set them to play. Winner of the game gets a billion happiness points, losers get a Fireflyte to hang out with them, and which is apparently the equivalent of a Scarlet Letter in this culture. Tough burn on the Fireflytes.

The twist of the game is that any Devil acquiring true happiness would be happier than his peers, and the culture frowns on that. Why they play, I dunno, but it's one of only a few unanswered questions I have about these guys. They have cities, for instance, but they wear these torn-up loincloths that look like bath towels. Also, Devil has four legs the first time we see him, and then two for the rest of the times. Come on, guys. Get your legs together.

The game continues to be the focal point of the issue, when Fireflyte leads Acroyear to a bonus-sized version of the game, and a jealous Devil follows close behind. The two fight again, and a gamepiece is shattered -- and Time Traveler erupts from it like a stripper in a cake at a bachelor party. I heard that you've been feeling ill / headache, fever and a chill / I came to help restore your pluck / Because I'm the Time Traveler that likes to

Among the Time Traveler's revelations is that the Enigma Force really has passed beyond the vale of the Microverse, except he's here now, and all the Fireflytes are aspects of the Enigma Force, oh, and hey A'yo, here's the third key. Hold onto it while your dumb friends make idiots of themselves looking for it. A'yo is off to Deadzone! Who names these things?

Here are the rules of the game, so I don't have to explain it.

Speaking of Deadzone, Dr.Strange is already there, discovering an empty mausoleum of the ancient Indian champions whose legacy he pursues. Then he gets attacked by a demon as a cliffhanger. This is dragging on and I don't really think more antagonists are gonna help.

Lettercol fun! There isn't any! There hasn't been a lettercol for a few issues, and I don't think that bodes well. Even if it's a financial issue, better-selling books didn't have the same limitation. The other alternative is that they weren't getting any letters worth printing, so ... I mean, I sympathize.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : SPIRIT MAN




I genuinely have no idea who created Spirit Man (sometimes spelled "Spiritman") despite the fact that the dense, definitive artwork seems tremendously familiar as a classic golden age style. It's a tough call, so I'll end up just complimenting the book for having one of the most clever logos of any golden age hero I'd ever seen before. Look, the letters are sort-of transparent-y! Spirit letters! Nicely played!

The interesting thing about Spiritman -- a backup in Lev "A" Gleason's Silver Streak No.1, if you happen to find the name familiar -- is that he goes out of his way to not be noticed by any of the crooks and villains he fights. He'll slug the living tar out of them, but he does it while invisible. This is pretty much on par with any number of now-dead supernatural heroes (such as Sgt.Spook, Deadman, Kid Eternity and so on)  and their assorted modus operandi. But Spiritman, despite his name, doesn't appear to be a dead hero. Or is he? Is this some sort of Jacob's Ladder scenario? Is there a Culkin somewhere in the conclusion? I couldn't say.

Just five minutes a day can give you a beautiful tan.

Spirit Man/Spiritman -- a.k.a. Spirit Malcolm, which I think is kind of a weird thing for someone to name their kid -- and his best pal Ray Williams monitor the Futurscope, a device which allows them to commit sneaky peeks all around the world at will. They probably sell crazy amounts of bootlegs video recordings.

Spiritman also boasts "Mistodine,"  a powerful ray device which turns him into "an unseen shadow" (i.e. a shadow in a dark room, I guess) and allows him to fly, pass through solid matter, and arrange for all sorts of interesting murders. Also aiding him in his quest for death is a ray gun which can bore through solid matter. So, you recap: An invisible flying man with a death ray can watch you at any time no matter where you are. All on the same page? Okay.

When Spiritman and ... Ray ... see what appear to be coal miners on their Futurscope, they have to come to grips with exactly how far over the line their voyeurism has gone. They also realize that there's some sort of bootleg coal operation going on, and also a gold robbery. If you have a low bar for what deserves murder, then you and Spiritman are about to have an adventure!

This literally made me laugh out loud.

He traps a bunch of crooks in a cave and then finds an excuse to electrocute them seconds later. He hops into the cab of the crooks' truck and yanks the wheel violently, and then repeats the same trick on a nearby plane which MAYBE was also involved in the gold heist. MAYBE. He also guides the crooks' ship towards the Coast Guard but can't let them off that easy, so he blows up one of their cannons and pilots the ghost ship full of gold right to the authorities.

For all of his unilateral assassination of evildoers, the one travail faced by Spiritman and Ray is that they have a real hard time convincing the cops to do anything based on their instruction. Ray even complains in the last two panels "I ... notified the Coast Guard -- they didn't seem to believe me and I wasn't sure they would follow my orders." That seems like a good thing. Let's not suggest that the Coast Guard should follow orders from any invisible guy over the radio.

They really shouldn't.

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