Archive for January, 2008

WHAT’S IN THE BOX!?!

January 31, 2008

This past Christmas my good friend Billy (aka EG) sent me a delightful box of comics; a dizzying collection culled from the 10 cent boxes of the mid-west, it is two parts 90’s era foiled-enshrined crap and two parts bronze-aged love.  Over the course of the next few months I will be dropping brief reviews of the issues as I read them and sharing them here in this series entitled “WHAT’S IN THE BOX!?!”  (to be exclaimed out loud by the reader in the manner of Brad Pitt at the end of “Seven” just before learning Gwyneth Paltrow’s hat size)

INSTALMENT #1:  My new favorite Galadorian cyborg!

ISSUE:  ROM, Issue #34

Subtitle:  “Someday my prince will come, or…Enter: The Submariner!”

(Cover date:  Sept. 1982)

Written by:  Bill Mantlow

Penciled by:  Sal Buscema

Cover:  Al Milgrom

Funnily enough, the earliest comic I can remember reading was either an issue of “G.I. Joe” or an issue of “Rom.”  I’ve never been one for remembering issue numbers or early childhood in general so I couldn’t tell you which I read first, what happened in either of them, or what was on their covers. 

What I do know is that after that first experience outside a Woodhaven, Michigan gas station (the beginning of a family road trip of epically miserable proportions), I never read an issue of Rom again.  GI Joe definitely won the comic book battle that day as I would go on to read more of their elite terrorist-fighting exploits in the years to come.  But, sadly, Rom was left in the dustbin of my memory banks only to be hinted at to me decades later in whispers and murmurings in the initial issues of the current “Annihilation: Conquest” miniseries.  (However, I don’t know about a comeback as my understanding is that Marvel no longer has the rights to the character.)

So, I came to this issue of Rom knowing very little.  And, I can’t say I know him much better now.  But, I do know enough to be utterly confused as to why the child version of me didn’t love this book.  An alien cyborg fighting to rid the Earth of Wraithkind by banishing them to Limbo with a Neutralizer gun summoned from sub-space!!!  I mean, I’m a little disappointed with my young self.  What else did you need from a comic you greedy little punk?  Did he also have to submerge himself into the depths of the ocean and be attacked by mutant sea-creatures only to be saved by Namor, prince of Atlantis?  I mean, what’s it take to please you!?! 

But wait, that too happens to Rom, Spaceknight and in this very issue no less!  I hate that my childhood was robbed of such awesomeness because 8-year old me decided he’d rather know what happened next to Snowjob even though he could see that every afternoon on TV. 

Stupid kid.

To young me’s credit, though, Bill Mantlow’s dialogue is a little distancing for the reader.  I get that he’s a knight and a cyborg and that such a conceit allows him to utter such wooden prose as “You have suffered much – LOST much to the evil of Wraithkind, child, you stand alone in your world.  And, sensing their evil as you do, ‘twould not be long ere they sought to slay you…or worse.”  However, as fitting as it may be for the character, it does take you out of the story a bit. 

And, in fact, as stories go it’s a pretty engaging one.  I don’t really know the context of it, but it begins with Rom convincing a blind girl, Sybil, to come away with him after she’s been attacked by some gnarly Wraithkind, presumably in the previous issue.  She hesitates at first, but Rom figures out a way to use one of his sub-space ray guns to blast “bands of darkness” from her retinas which returns her sight.  Following that, he agrees at her urging to blow up her super cool cliff-side house because it’s still covered in “Wraith stink.”  (Man, wouldn’t some 409 or bleach be enough to get the Wraith stink out?)  From there, Rom flies off over the Atlantic Ocean with Sybil sleeping in his metallic arms.

I’m not sure their destination at that point but it doesn’t matter because they are soon separated.  Rom, thinking that Sybil has been abducted by undersea baddies goes deep down looking for a fight while Sybil is quickly saved by Namor.  Rom, not knowing this, finds the fight he’s looking for and ends up having to be saved by Namor as well. 

It’s a pretty good little undersea battle, rendered well by Buscema and ending with some hairy sea-beast emerging from an undersea cave ready to destroy them all.

Who knows what happens next.  The very randomness of this box of comics is its primary curse.  (Well, maybe not the primary curse. I do believe I saw some Liefeld covers lying in wait for me further in the stack.)   Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have a problem offering up a few more dimes to get the rest of the story so I’m going to call this issue a success!  First one out of the box too!

Oh, and speaking of things that I was robbed of in childhood.  Here’s the ad from the back of this issue; an ad for a film that I have no doubt would have been the mind-shattering pinnacle of my young life had I been able to see it…

MEGAFORCE

Holy mackerel!  I still don’t think I’m man enough for Megaforce.  Would you look at that guy!!!

Rom #34 Wrap Up:

Favorite moment:  Namor commands a giant fish to blow a protective bubble for Sybil to ride along in.  Ah yes, a spit bubble from a carp – the only way to travel!

Favorite line:  “Yes, some places once touched by Wraithkind are no longer suited to human habitation.” – Rom, prior to blowing up the Cliff House.

Genius from the letters page:    “I believe that ROM is unnecessarily grieving over his “lost” humanity.”  Yeah, Rom, get over it already!  Humanity is totally overrated!  I wish I could lose mine.  Wait, what?  You’re saying that just my writing in to “Space Notes” was enough to prove that I too have lost my humanity?  Sweet!!!

Favorite Ad:  See above.

Runner Up:  MPC Model Makers and their new line of military aircraft models.  I guess at the height of the cold war it wasn’t as alarming or disheartening to read ad copy such as this:  “Announcing a New Military Build-Up in America!”  Yikes. 

Separated at birth?!?

January 28, 2008

The cover of Batman #676, set to hit stands on April 23, 2008:
Photobucket
An uncooked Turkey:

Photobucket
You be the judge.

Roaming through the night to find my place in this world…

January 25, 2008

You know, I’ve been wondering about my purpose here on the Steve Austin Book Club Blog.  Oh, I know about the whole reading and reviewing of the monthly book, and I’ve enjoyed throwing in the snide remark in the comment section to OG’s posts… and, yet, I wonder that there isn’t something more I’m meant to do.

Maybe I’m the generally quiet and refined half of this buddy-cop relationship with OG… the one that when they think of OG and EG, they think of me as the Ed McMahon to his Johnny Carson (wow, look at me showing my age with that comparison).

If that is indeed my place, I shall take up that banner happily.

But I do intend to participate at least a little bit.

Like today.

I love finding random yet delightfully out of context comic book images on the net.  Like this one:

Photobucket
Who can blame Supes, really?  I mean, she just kept going on and on and on…

Why am I never considered the leader of the Justice League?  Why didn’t Superman give me a chunk of Kryptonite in case he ever went nuts?  Why can’t I have cool gadgets like Batman?  Why do Batman and Superman get to star in a combined 38 books a month while I only get one that has trouble coming out on time?  Why do Batman and Superman get movie franchises while I haven’t had a movie in over 20 years?  Why don’t I get to wear pants?

KLUDD!

I mean, someone had to do it.  Superman clearly didn’t want to, but that voice of hers just starts grinding on every last nerve.

C’mon, people.  Next thing you know, Diana would have gotten on some soapbox about getting equal pay with the guys in the League.

Sheesh.

EG, Out!

(The participants of this blog in no way condone the smacking of women in the back of the head, regardless of how much they prattle on.)

(The participants of this blog in no way mean to imply that women prattle on and on, especially about how they are somehow discriminated against by society.)

(The participants of this blog in no way mean to belittle the plight of the female in society.  It is just a joke.  If you can’t laugh it off, then you probably deserve to have Superman come along and KLUDD you upside the back of your head, too.)

(Unless you are a woman.  That would be wrong.)

Ex Files

January 23, 2008

Remember the “X-Files?”   

Boy, that show was really, really cool until it really, really sucked.  A great few years of classic sci-fi anthology storytelling marinated in a rich, well-crafted mythology that built up conspiracies within conspiracies only to squander it with two (arguably three) final seasons and one passable film that did nothing to pay off the years of speculation and mystery that had been created.  And, for our endless patience and faithfulness as an audience, they gifted us with a bored, half-awake David Duchovny (who only bothered to enunciate his lines or “act” when they gave him the occasional vanity episode to write/direct), a floundering Scully with pregnancy/cancer melodramas to muddle through, and two replacement leads in Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish as Agents Grumbly Pants and Vacant Stare respectively.  

Oh, and then there was the “Lone Gunman” spin-off.  The “Joanie Loves Chaci” of sci-fi entertainment.  (Yeah, I watched it.  And, yeah, I hate myself a little bit for that.) 

Ya know, you hurt me “X-Files.”  You took me in, held me tight, and made me feel alright about being home on a Friday night.  You gave me a place when no other show would have me; when all the cool kids were hanging out on “Melrose Place” making fun of my knock-off Bugle Boy jeans.  But, not you “X-Files.”  You were there for me.   And then…you hurt me.  You hurt me real bad.  In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it still burns a little when I pee. 

But, that’s okay.  I’ve gotten over it all.  I’ve moved on.  It’s been six years.  I’ve been seeing other shows and they’ve been treating me a heckuva lot better than you ever did; treating me with more respect.  “Lost,” to name one, has given me mysteries too; perhaps even similar to the ones you gave me.  But, they’ve also given me an end game and the promise that they saw what you did to me and aren’t going to leave me hanging the same way. 

Oh, there are others I could name.  But, I’m not trying to make you jealous “X-Files.”  If you are then that baggage is all yours.  I’m free now.  And I’m beautiful.  You won’t ever make me feel ugly or stupid again! 

I hope. 

So, I see you’re coming around again with a new “movie.”  I guess I’m supposed to get all excited just at the mention of your name.  Perhaps you expect me to get myself all dolled up again, put on my best dress, and wait outside for your car to come around the corner all shiny and new and stop at my door.  Well, not anymore mister!  I respect myself too much to do that again!   

(A long pause as I look into the dark recesses of my weary, pathetic geek soul.  The very same soul that actually got excited about “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” even after watching the first film resurrect Jack Kirby only to visit Biblical levels of punishment upon his writhing, moaning zombie corpse.) 

Oh, who am I kidding?  I love you “X-Files.”  I always have and I always will.  I know you’ll try harder this time.  I know you’ve learned from your mistakes and that you’re ready to put the full 110% into this relationship again.  I know you’ve got it in you to be good again.  To be good to me!   

I’m waiting for you “X-Files!”  Opening weekend baby!  You, me and a big bag of popcorn.  This time we’re going to do it right.  This time it’s gonna last forever!   

What’s this?  A new promotional picture.  Ooh.  Well, I must confess I’m dying to see what you’ve done with yourself all these years….

Zzzzzzzzzzz…..huh?  What’s that?  Oh, goodness me.  I fell asleep just pasting that image there. 

You haven’t changed a bit, have you?  I should’ve known.  You’ll never change!  You disgust me!  I don’t ever want to see you again!!!!!

 So, um, er…. I’ll see you opening weekend, then?…Great, great…What’s that?…Don’t wait up? … You’ll call me when you’re ready? 

Oh, okay.  That’s cool.  Well, talk to you soon.  I love you. 

Hello?  X-Files?  Aren’t you going to say you love me too? Are you there?

Hmm.  Must have lost the connection.  I’m sure he’ll call back.

If this be DOOMSDAY!

January 16, 2008

 

I’d like to say that my fascination with the concept of a being mighty enough to devour an entire world began with a fortunate, early introduction to issues #48-50 of Lee & Kirby’s initial, mind-blowing run on Marvel Comics “Fantastic Four.”   Or, that I had this really cool Uncle that dropped John Byrne’s “Trial of Galactus” issues of FF in my lap to shut me up one rainy Saturday morning inducing paroxysms of adolescent glee. (I’ve heard of so many cases of uber-cool Uncles off-loading collapsing long-boxes of life-altering comics to their young nephews as they headed out the door to college that this type of story has become just another of the “Rite of Passage” myths I’ve studied from other cultures.  One generation passing down funny books like a Judaic mantel as they crossed the threshold into the world of milk and honey.)  But, that wasn’t the case for me.  No early FF exposure.  No cool Uncles.  Indeed, I was not fated to meet the mighty Galactus and his ever-expanding roster of heralds until, ironically enough, I entered my own college days.   For me, long before there was a Galactus eating up worlds to fuel the Power Cosmic there was… 

Unicron!

To many a cineaste, the name Unicron is but a sad footnote on the IMDB filmography of Orson Welles.; his final film roll as a voice actor in “The Transformers” animated feature film along side such luminaries as Judd Nelson and Casey Kasem.  No wine before it’s time?  Perhaps not. 

But, to me, Unicron was the end all, be all of movie villains.  By that point I had seen many of the greats of film villainy – Karloff, Legosi, Jason, Freddy, Rawhead Rex.  But, none of their collective horrors could compare to the galaxy-spanning terror of a sentient machine capable of swallowing up all that I knew with one, efficient bite.  Oh, Lord, a planet eater.  Oh, heavens, a devourer of worlds! 

Perhaps such a threat seemed more real to me as I was growing up in the 80’s under the penumbra of “mutual assured destruction.”  Films like “War Games,” “Red Dawn,” “The Day After,” and “Def-Con 4” (heck, even “Spies Like Us” and “Rocky IV”) had me ever aware of the death that would soon be brought down upon us from the skies – a fiery Armageddon that would strip my bones and the bones of my family clean.   Half-baked pop psychology aside, Unicron had me shaking in my hand-me-down parachute pants and peeing in my Mad Balls pajamas; an impossible threat, to be sure, but one that cut right to my fear center. 

Interestingly, as I cast about Al Gore’s Greatest Invention I am hard-pressed to find many other entities in science fiction that fit the “planet eater” description.  There are plenty of world-destroyers, to be sure.  But, beings that consume whole worlds for their life-giving energy are few and far between.  Closest I could find was Rosie O’Donnell and she’s really only consumed a fleet of Hostess products and the souls of most middle-aged American women who made up the View’s core demographic from Sept ’06 to April of last year.  However, she’s hardly reached Unicron status.  Yet.

For now, I’m happy to report that there aren’t any other pretenders to the throne and that there are still only two players in the outer reaches of space that are dining on that scale.  Given the vastness of the universe and our relative insignificance in it, I feel like things are pretty safe here on this little mud-ball, Earth.  Because really, once you’ve stared down the dual threat of Russian nukes pointed at our shores and cosmic entities opening their mouths wide for our world, it’s really hard to take something as measly sounding as “global warming” seriously. 

Now, if they called it “Warmacron” or “Globactus,” then I’d be worried.

TODAY’S POTENT QUOTABLES:

“Yes friends, act now, destroy Unicron.  Kill the Grand Poobah.  Eliminate even the toughest stain.”

–Wreck-Gar, “Transformers: The Movie”

“The game is ended!  The prize has eluded me!  And at last I perceive the glint of glory with the race of man!  Be every worthy of that glory, humans…be ever mindful of your promise of greatness!  For it shall one day lift you beyond the stars…or bury you within the ruins of war!!  The choice is yours!!”

—Galactus, “Fantastic Four, Issue #50”

“Stupid planet-eaters.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil”

FUN LINK:  Watch a tribute to the mighty Unicron here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qdhk4tDSvBE

Forget drugs, man! Gimme more COMICS!

January 15, 2008

COMIC REVIEW:  Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 

(Editor’s note:  For those with no appetite for self-indulgent meandering, limited time, or both please skip ahead roughly 600 words to get to the actual review.)

I’m told by scientists… 

Okay, okay, I’m not told by any scientists.  Scientists and I aren’t really on speaking terms since that party at Dave’s house and the whole Bunsen Burner Bake-Off Incident of ’98.   But, just go with me here.  I’m told by scientists that all of us dream every single night whether we can remember it or not.  Not sure how they know that but I’m sure it has something to do with charting brain activity in sleeping simians!  (Alliteration!!  Yes!!) 

The reason I’m dubious of that fact is that on the rare occasions I do recall a dream it is in such furiously intricate detail that I just can’t imagine that that kind of stuff is going on in my brain every night without me knowing about it.   Anyway, Sunday night I had one of those dreams and it really shook me up.  In it my wife and I were living under a very ominous cloud brought on by the recent news that I had contracted a mysterious and soon-to-be-fatal brain disease and had maybe a month to live.  My wife, ever anxious, booked an appointment for us with this doctor who we found working out of a crumbling underground lab straight out of “Jacob’s Ladder.”  Flickering fluorescents, peeling walls, water stains, exposed wires.  We made our way through upturned office furniture and eventually found him in a grungy back room.  (Note:  In one of those odd dream gaps I can’t describe the doctor to you.  Though he was talking to us we couldn’t actually see or hear him.)     

So, Doctor Nobody explained that he had a very experimental yet extreme treatment to recommend but one that had been proven successful on other patients.  Since my brain was inoperable he would have to decapitate me.  That’s right – a complete head amputation.  But, not to worry, he’d be able to keep my body alive while administering a full work-up of chemicals he had developed which would slowly regenerate a new head on my body within a couple of months.  The downside (as if complete head loss didn’t qualify) would be that head regeneration is exceedingly painful without the benefit of consciousness to work through the pain.


Despite that unfortunate side effect and the overall foreboding sense I got from the doctor’s “offices” my wife was enthusiastic about the procedure and was begging me to get it done.  Neither she nor the doctor could understand my reticence.  I wanted to know whether my head would grow back in baby form and if I’d have to wait another 30 years to get it back to where it was.  And what of ”Cogito, ergo sum?” (I think therefore I am.)  If mind and soul are truly interconnected, wouldn’t it be the head of a brand new man that would grow back and take charge of my body and my family?
 

The dream ended with those doom-filled philosophical ruminations and my Monday morning was filled with a queasy feeling of existential dread.  Sure the dream sounds utterly goofy now.  But, it was completely real to me and ruined the day’s first cup of coffee. So, why do I tell you of this dream?  Well, for one, I had to tell somebody.  That’s one crazy dream!  But, for another, if this mundane life of mine is a novel being written by God, then that dream could be considered a bit of ham-handed foreshadowing on the part of the Big Guy.  For, not more than six hours after escaping near head removal by the greasy hands of Dr. Nobody I read a 48-page comic book that tore my head off anyway!  And, frankly, I’m not sure it’s ever going to grow back no matter what chemicals or electrodes are applied to the exposed brain stem that’s been left flapping about my open neck.  (more…)

January’s Selection: ASTRONAUT DAD

January 14, 2008

 

Greetings Book Clubbers!

 Since we’re getting a pretty late start here we’ve decided to pick a small graphic novel for the month of January to kick things off.  And, what a better way to start then with a dip into the early days of the space program that astronaut Steve Austin owes so much to! 

 The pick is “Astronaut Dad” by David Hopkins & Brent Schoonover.  While I’m not at all familiar with Hopkins writing I have been introduced to Schoonover through his interviews on Comic Geek Speak and Word Balloon.  He’s got a really clean and classic illustration style that hits me right in the sweet spot.  Even if you don’t read this month’s selection, do yourself a favor and check out this guys portfolio at his website.  You won’t be sorry!

 Anyway, here’s the brief synopsis of the book:

Astronaut Dad
Volume 1
Black & White Graphic Novel
Story by David Hopkins
Art by Brent Schoonover

Published by:  Silent Devil 

Astronaut Dad is a coming-of-age story about the children of astronauts during the early 1960s right before the Apollo program took off. It’s a fictional account of Jimmy Norton and Vanessa Kelly who discover that their dads, as Astronaut reservists, are actually part of a spy orbital program. In book 1, Jimmy and Vanessa uncover the mystery behind a fall-out shelter in the backyard. In book 2, tragedy strikes both families, and the two kids struggle with understanding their fathers. The story marks the transitions we go through with how we perceive our parents — first as idealized heroes, then as the enemy, and later in life, to see them for who they are.

ON DECK FOR FEBRUARY:  Coming up in February we’ll be reading Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.”  Check out the synopsis and details here.

POSTED BY:  Major Thom

January’s book selection is…

January 11, 2008

We don’t know yet.  But, we’re figuring that out.  Should be posted within a day for you, non-existent blog-reader, to join in!