Monday, February 28, 2011

Chaos Theory Vol. 3 - Coming Soon!

If my webstats are to be believed, one of the most popular entries on this blog is my discussion of the 2010 Chaos Theory show. With this in mind, I felt I should pass along the promotional material for the 2011 show. Who knows? There might be some local artists reading who are interested in contributing!

This year's show is going to be later in the year, so this entry's title is not exactly accurate. Hey, it sounded better than "Chaos Theory Vol. 3 - Coming One Of These Days!", so don't hassle me. The plus side to this is that there will be plenty of time to work what you'd like to do if this show intrigues you.

For more info, you can contact Eric Manuel at the phone number and/or e-mail address provided. There's also the the official website of the Henning Cultural Center. "Chaos Theory Vol. 3" just might be the best one yet, if we all work to make that happen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Wild" Bill Jackson

"Wild" Bill Jackson
"Wild" Bill Jackson artwork by Sara Duffield (Sara Denny) from 2008.

"Wild" Bill Jackson here is the oldest original character that appears in the Return of Jetman series. He's also the first original character of mine to make the leap to a completed story appearance online. I suppose one of his co-stars in that debut appearance technically should share that honor, but Wild Bill was much more fully-developed than that character by the time I made the decision to unleash them on the waiting world.

Here's how I explained Wild Bill in the Notes to ROJ Episode 10:

"Wild" Bill Jackson is a fictional pro wrestler that I created during my high school days for (*groans*) fantasy wrestling angles that I wrote. Please, keep your laughter to a minimum. I dusted him off for this special cameo appearance as a lark, and he ended up becoming one of the funniest things in the whole series.

The concept of using a pro wrestler came about because of the long history of that peculiar brand of sport and/or entertainment in Japan. Foreign wrestlers have long been a big attraction, and the "cowboy" is a favorite. Terry Funk is the biggest influence on Wild Bill's presentation in this story, but I also kept in mind such grappling superstars as Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen, and Dory Funk Jr. (Terry's brother).

The conceit of having all of Wild Bill's dialogue being in Japanese largely derives from the desire for self-parody. I am very aware of the inherent ridiculousness of a story set in Japan, featuring primarily Japanese characters, being written in a very informal sort of English. The unspoken "rule" that I follow is that ALL of the dialogue is really in Japanese, unless I specify otherwise. Hence the fact that [Daisaku] Kusama's brief smattering of English is rendered entirely in italics (as all English will be in this series, whenever it happens to turn up).

It's not out of the question for someone who spends a lot of time in Japan to have picked up the language, but it seems very incongruous coming out of the mouth of a very tall cowboy. And that's before you consider that he's a pro wrestler, too! I can't vouch for the grammatical accuracy of Bill's Japanese - I'm certainly not fluent myself - but I like to think that it would only add to its charm if it's somewhat "off".

There is a further translation of Bill's Japanese dialogue, but we'll omit that from this entry. Instead, let's consider his origins, and some of the revelations that occur during said dialogue.

As mentioned above, Wild Bill was born in fantasy wrestling angles. The star of these angles was "Hotshot" Johnny Flash, an arrogant and flashy heel that had turned face to fight off the even more rotten scoundrels in the wrestling company. Even though he had become a hero, Johnny still retained the cockiness that had characterized his success as a villain.

I don't think I'm shocking anyone who knows me by revealing that Johnny Flash was heavily inspired by real life pro wrestler "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert. I loved Eddie so much in those days that it genuinely didn't matter to me whether he was a good guy or a bad guy; I just loved to watch him on my TV. I was just a fan of his work, and I think he was the first wrestler where that transcended his allegiances in the story.

Sadly, Eddie died way too young, and the world has been a poorer place ever since. A small piece of him lives on with me every time I think about "Hotshot" Johnny Flash. I'll bet Eddie would have loved to know that teenage Chris wanted to build an entire promotion around a character based on him.

Of course, you cannot have a wrestling story with only one wrestler, so I created others to complement Johnny's adventures in the squared circle. One of those was "Wild" Bill Jackson. Originally one half of a tag team called the Rough Riders with his brother, "Dirty" Irwin Jackson, Wild Bill grew into a sort of foil for Johnny Flash. Sometimes they were bitter enemies locked in a violent feud; other times, they were staunch allies fighting off all comers. Yet no matter what, in my wrestling league, you could count on Wild Bill and Hotshot Johnny to pop the gate.

It was with this in mind that I felt absolutely compelled to have Wild Bill name drop "Hotshot" Johnny Flash as his tag team partner during the ROJ story. Without Johnny, there would be no Bill. There wasn't room to establish a feud, so they became the holders of the All-Asia tag team titles. Incidentally, this was a real championship at one time. It might still be, as I can't say I keep up enough to know.

As an aside, I have cannibalized the names of other wrestlers from this fictitious company for my Captain Satellite world. So, in a subtext that is only important to me, the Trumans (Tex, Joe, Dean) who have been Ultimate American and Danny (Drone Man) Graham all owe their names to wrestlers I made up in high school. I haven't found uses for any others yet, but don't count on it never happening.

An added bonus in using Wild Bill in ROJ was that it allowed me to homage something else that has zero to do with pro wrestling. Bill's incongruous penchant for speaking Japanese led me to "deduce" that he probably learned it from his Uncle Mark. "Uncle Mark", of course, was a reference to Mark Jackson, Diamond G-Man, from DOGORA THE SPACE MONSTER. Embodied so memorably by Robert Dunham, Mark Jackson is my favorite character in one of my favorite Japanese monster movies. And so, a connection was born that had never existed in my head prior to 2002.

Years later, when I decided that there needed to be a picture of this guy on the site, I commissioned Sara Duffield to bring him to life. Sara did not think she was an obvious choice, since drawing dudes like Wild Bill was not where she considered her strengths to lie. Still, she tackled the job like a trouper, and I think it was her very lack of affinity for the source material that caused it to turn out so well.

The first order was references for Terry Funk and other pro wrestlers that inspired Wild Bill. Next was pictures of wrestling belts, since we decided he should be wearing one. And then, it happened that I stumbled across an awesome picture in Larry Matysik's book on Bruiser Brody of both Brody and Stan Hansen in traditional Japanese regalia.
I couldn't find this photo online for Sara at the time, but I offered the idea to her as a way to make the piece something more visually interesting.

Well, you can see the amazing results. In fact, this is only a crop of a much larger image - but you'll need to go to the site to see THAT one. One detail that is easily overlooked is that Sara hit upon a motif for a tag team championship belt that I don't think has ever been used in real life. It seems obvious, but I can't recall ever seeing evidence of it. So bravo, Sara! Not only did you bring Wild Bill to life, but you managed to inject some originality into the world of wrestling, too!

I really have no desire to book my own fantasy angles ever again, so it made sense to lift Wild Bill out of that context and find a new use for him. In the process, I made Bill so quirky and memorable that he captured my imagination. I have idly tossed around the idea of writing a story someday where HE is the star, and it falls on his shoulders to save the day. Who knows? I might even carry out this plan that is not a plan. After all, crazier things have happened.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BOC via GdL16

A couple of days ago, the atomically mysterious Atomic Mystery Monster posted "Nosferatu - Blue Öyster Cult" over on the Gravedigger's Local 16 blog. Since I instigated this whole deal, I thought it only fitting to mention it here. Besides which, my comment touches on some things that I likely would never get around to mentioning otherwise regarding BOC. I reproduce it here for your pleasure, and to raise the BOC content on this blog:

When this popped up, I idly wondered if I was responsible. And lo, I am! :)

It's funny you mention the Halloween connection, because I *do* own a Halloween CD with "Nosferatu"! It's called Ghastly Grooves, and though a K-tel product, it's all original versions. But I agree that the song is usually overlooked. Such a pity.

Man, where to begin with BOC? They are possibly one of the nerd-friendliest heavy metal bands that ever existed. Here are a few suggestions (and a couple of links) for horror/SF/fantasy songs:

* Secret Treaties is my favorite BOC album and it's loaded with this sort of stuff : "Subhuman", "Harvester of Eyes", "Flaming Telepaths", and most of all "Astronomy". I essentially owe a great friendship and collaboration to "Astronomy", so I might be biased.

* "E.T.I." is from Agents of Fortune (same as "Reaper") and filled with UFOlogy stuff. This sort of theme would be revisited in songs like "Fire of Unknown Origin" and "Take Me Away", but "E.T.I." is the most obvious and vivid.

* "Tattoo Vampire" and "I Love The Night" are both also connected to vampirism. There may be others.

* Michael Moorcock co-wrote three BOC songs: "The Great Sun Jester", "Black Blade" (about Elric and Stormbringer!), and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars".

* Besides the songs already mentioned from it, the album Fire of Unknown Origin also contains songs inspired by the film HEAVY METAL and "Joan Crawford". Why do I lump the latter in with horror? Listen to it, and you'll understand.

* Its story is too convoluted to explain, but the entire concept album Imaginos is worth seeking out for the bizarre storyline therein.

* "X-Ray Eyes" from Heaven Forbid explicitly references the Ray Milland movie.

That should be a good start!

I'm glad you liked the song. Thanks for reminding me that I've been remiss in discussing BOC on my own blog. Need to fix that one of these days!

And now, I have.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sales In Crisis?

While reviewing this blog's entries the other night, I noticed something that I thought I needed to follow up. You see, I discussed the book Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5 a couple of times. I also discussed the sales of previous volumes in the series. But I never looked into the sales of Crisis Vol. 5. I cannot say whether it slipped my mind, or if I was too nervous at the time to research it. Still, it seemed like info I should post.

I sojourned over to the Comic Chronicles page for April 2010 sales data and looked at the trade paperback lists. The pre-orders for the book were 2,422, which placed it at 19 on the list. Ouch. This is the poorest showing for the series by far, and ranks Vol. 5 even below the two spin-off Team-Ups books. It's also the weakest placement on the chart for any book with this name.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that the pre-order numbers at this level are very tightly bunched together. The separation between #19 and #16 (Power Girl: A New Beginning) is only 72 copies, and the Power Girl book collects a current ongoing series. Crisis Vol. 5 is also the highest-ranking "classic" (pre-1990) material on the chart. By way of comparison, Showcase Presents: Dial H For Hero pulled in pre-orders of 2,121 (#27), and it was almost 300 (black & white) pages for $9.99.

Still, it's hard to spin this showing as a good thing. I have to think this jeopardizes the likeliness of DC continuing the brand as I suggested here. If the law of diminishing returns comes into play, would Volume 7 get enough orders to justify the cost of putting it together? That's a question the folks in charge would have to answer. They certainly seem open to publishing books from that time period and taking chances, and there's also the fact that much work is already in the can as far as producing further volumes. However, there is a new regime in charge since this enterprise began, and they might be more inclined to put their own personal stamp on the material by repackaging it.

Whatever ultimately happens, it's been a heck of a ride with the Crisis on Multiple Earths series, and I'm glad I have those books in my collection. They sit proudly on my shelf as some of my essential comic book reading. I'm looking forward to enjoying them for many years to come.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gokaiger Is Go

After talking about it, I finally relented and found the time to watch the first episode of KAIZOKU SENTAI GOKAIGER. To the surprise of pretty much no one, I thought it was really well-done and clever. I still question how practical it's going to be having five (and later, even more) members pulling all these multiple identity switches each episode. It was hard enough just for Kamen Rider Decade, and he was only one guy!

One aspect of the show that I liked was the ambivalence of our proto-heroes. They are, in fact, pirates (though more like JDs or rabble rousers), and it's made abundantly clear that they are going to have to grow into their roles as heroes. Since one of the great things about super sentai, and indeed a lot of Japanese superheroes, is the journey the series entails, this is a promising way to kick things off. They clearly seem like the type that WILL do the right thing, but they aren't quite there...yet.

I would be remiss if I didn't also address the opening, which is the big attention-grabber uniting 34 previous super sentai. It's a "wow" moment if there ever was one for the durable series, and while influenced by the opener from KAMEN RIDER DECADE, it is also notable for its differences. Once again, Toei displays their incredible genius in making the entirety of the series (from 1975 to the present) relevant as a whole. Toei is just SO GOOD at making sentai into a sort of honored fraternity filled with tradition that is handed down from one year to the next. I have a suspicion that the meetings of old and new in this series will be markedly different than the stories seen in DECADE.

Oh, and the hints. I feel like there were a number of characters and teams given spotlights (albeit fleeting) during the sentai war that will likely be important later. Was it an accident we get a good look at Big One from JAKQ? Maybe to set up a Hiroshi Miyauchi appearance? Or how about the tantalizing glimpse of Dragon Ranger from KYORYU SENTAI ZYURANGER? Most Americans would recognize the costume from the Green Ranger in MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, but there is the small detail that Dragon Ranger was totally dead by the time ZYURANGER concluded. Toei has been known to play fast and loose with such continuity, but this raises a boatload of questions. Is this the original Dragon Ranger? Was he resurrected? Or is this someone new in that uniform?

And on and on. One aspect that might be lost on the average non-Japanese viewer (but not this one!) was the voice casting during this sequence. Now, I don't know if these were lifted from the old shows or new recordings, but I heard a number of familiar voices throughout this big fight. I mean, there was no mistaking that I distinctly heard Yuta Mochizuki coming from Tyrano Ranger. But it was one character in particular that stood out to me, and left me with confidence that GOKAIGER will be just as rewarding a journey for the viewer as it is for its buccaneer heroes.

I'm talking about Aka Ranger, the ORIGINAL Red Ranger, from HIMITSU SENTAI GORANGER. He is depicted as unquestionably the leader among some 200 or so costumed champions. I was so heartened to see Aka Ranger essentially being placed on the same nigh-mythic level as Kamen Riders 1 and 2. But then he spoke, and I realized it was NAOYA MAKOTO - the actor who played Aka Ranger's alter ego Tsuyoshi Kaijo in GORANGER - doing the lines. That was the moment where I almost lost it in sheer enthusiasm.

It was only last year that I observed that Naoya Makoto clearly had no issue working with Toei or in super sentai (he appeared in the Abaranger film in 2003), so why not recruit him to reprise probably his most famous role? It seems Toei has found the right project to do just that, and with just a little bit of dialogue, they cemented a whole lot of legitimacy for their legacy sentai. Well played, Toei. Well played.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

John, George, Paul, Ringo

As I've mentioned more than a couple of times, I listen to rebroadcasts of 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 shows on weekends. Not only do I hear a lot of music from that decade (some classic, some not), but I also pick up plenty of trivia and extraneous topical references. I ask you, is there anything more entertaining than Casey Kasem of 1975 explaining the concept of a touch tone phone to his hapless listeners? I submit to you that there is not.

A few weeks ago, I noticed something interesting during one of the shows. As it happened, all four members of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr - as if you need me to tell you) were in the Top 40 at the same time. I made a mental note of this because it seemed like a cool fact, but it also struck me as something that must have happened a few times.

A lot (really, too much) has been written about the Beatles over the years. One of the most impressive aspects of their legacy to me is that each and every "core" member of the band went on to have a pretty nice music career after the break-up of that legendary outfit. Usually, when a group is big and splits up, one or two members might score solo success, but the rest fade into obscurity. It's not that they all descend into outright poverty or anything, but they're just never that big again.

The Beatles were different. Not only did all four of them chart records, but all of them had #1 hit singles on the American Hot 100. That is astoundingly good, no matter how you slice it. Some of them sustained that momentum longer than others, but the fact that the Fab Four all found success away from that collective is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, the only comparison I can think of is the the individual members of the 1980s vocal group New Edition, and I don't even think their achievements surpass those of the post-Beatles quartet.

So all of the Beatles in the Top 40 simultaneously was cool, but it wasn't that special, right? I resolved to look for the answer when I found the time, which turned out to be this week. I came up dry via search engine, though this doesn't mean the answer wasn't out there; I just couldn't find it. I turned my attention to my copy of Joel Whitburn's Top 40 book and started to put the answers together for myself.

What I found surprised me. You would think the Beatles must have made the Top 40 at the same time lots of times. You would be wrong. In fact, though there were often two or three Beatles in the 40 at any given moment, nailing down a period when all four of them were there was a challenge. I thought I had found one in 1971, but it missed by two weeks. Many other times, it wasn't even that close.

At last, I narrowed it down. It all began on October 5, 1974, when John Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" entered the Top 40. This turned out to be John's first number one song as a solo artist, and it stayed in the 40 eleven weeks as a result (one week shy of the run for "Instant Karma", as a point of reference). This song's durability is important.

In the eighth week of Lennon's single, on November 23, 1974, the Paul McCartney & Wings song "Junior's Farm" makes it into the Top 40. One week later, on November 30, 1974, Ringo Starr's "Only You" hits the chart. Three out of four Beatles were present and accounted for, but "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" had peaked by then. Would it happen?

Then, in the last week of Lennon's former #1 song on the charts, George Harrison's "Dark Horse" makes its debut. Just to make things even crazier, "Sally G", the flip to "Junior's Farm" begins its own separate chart run for Paul McCartney and Wings. That means that during the week of December 14, 1974, there were five songs by former Beatles on the chart at the same time.

This lasted one week. "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" dropped off the 40 while the rest of them continued to climb. "Junior's Farm" and "Only You" made the Top 10, but didn't quite attain the top spot. "Sally G" and "Dark Horse" were both Top 20, but the latter only lasted six weeks (this is a pity, as I think it is quite underrated). The odds of everything converging again so quickly seemed slim.

However, it happened. John Lennon's "#9 Dream" founds its way into the Top 40 on January 11, 1975 while the rest of the songs were losing steam. For that week and the week of January 18, 1975 (the final week for "Dark Horse"), there were again five separate songs by ex-Beatles in the Top 40. I am reasonably certain it was one of these shows that I heard which launched this bit of research.

You would think that would have been the end of it. Not quite! "Junior's Farm" concluded its Top 40 stay after January 25, 1975, but both "Sally G" and "Only You" hung in there an extra week. That was enough time for George Harrison's "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" to make its debut on the American chart. So, for the week of February 1, 1975, there were four separate songs by former Beatles occupying positions on the chart.

That would be the last time it happened. "Sally G" and "Only You" were gone the next week, and "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" quickly followed the next after a brief two week run. Though all of the Beatles would chart singles in the future, there would never again be a moment when all four of them were in the Top 40 simultaneously.

I've tried to tell this tale in interesting fashion, because I think it's something worth knowing despite being dangerously close to "inside baseball". The basic fact is this - despite the success that all of them attained away from their history-making group, there were only four weeks where all four of the Beatles were in the Top 40 at the same time. Four weeks, from late 1974 into early 1975. I wonder how many people realized the significance of it as it happened?

This is a forgotten aspect of the Beatles (and no, it doesn't deal with the full Hot 100; that is probably the path to madness). I am hoping that this entry will shed a little light on the subject for anyone who's curious about it. I know it's something I'm glad to know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shelly After Midnight

Hail hail, everybody! Today, we have a new piece by our friend Kabuki Katze. This one is a wee bit different than usual, and may possibly fall under the "NSFW" category. It is classy and stylish, but I understand some of you will need to heed this warning for one reason or another. I'll see the rest of you shortly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet

I have no great insights to offer you about VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET, but I watched the whole thing and surely I deserve a medal for that. What, say you? Why write about it if I have nothing of substance to say? If I had to suffer, so do you.

I exaggerate; it's not that bad. But it's not very good either. VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET is a dubbed and re-edited version of a Russian science fiction movie. I used to own the original movie in subtitled form on VHS, but I cannot recall if I ever finished it. Maybe? I recognized bits and pieces from that viewing, but the original Russian film might be even longer than VOYAGE. This would not be an enticement to get me to finish it.

The plot? Errr....OK, I got this! Spaceships are sent to Venus, though one gets blown up early. Landing on the planet, there are dinosaurs, lizard men, and killer plants. Sounds exciting, no? No. It's actually pretty dull, all things considered. The bulk of the plot is composed of one group of cosmonauts searching for the other. There is also a robot, and singing.

Nothing much happens in this movie that is worth remembering. It's a lot of aimless wandering and talking. Some of the talking is supplied by Basil Rathbone and Faith Domergue, both of whom look like they are eager to just get paid and go home. The nominal director is Curtis Harrington, though he uses the pseudonym "John Sebastian" here. This is allegedly a reference to Bach, but it does bring up one of the few questions that troubled me about this movie: Hadn't Harrington, producer Roger Corman, or in fact anyone involved with VOYAGE heard of the Lovin' Spoonful?

I am making this sound better than it is. It's not dreadful, but it's mostly good as a time killer. Back in the days when these movies aired on TV, it was the sort of thing that would have turned up on the late show. This is the perfect place for it, in my opinion. If you like it, you stay awake and see a movie! If you don't, it puts you to sleep and you get your rest.

Don't even take my word for it. You can watch the whole movie on Google Video if you want. I do like the paintings used over the main titles; they are probably more interesting than the movie itself. See what you think--if you dare!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

That Tree

Hey, you know that tree in the middle of my backyard? I can never remember the kind it is, even though it's been out there my whole life. When Dad was alive, he'd always explain everything about it, in minute detail. Dad was like that. Too bad I never bothered to pay attention. But then, you'd know about that better than anyone, wouldn't you?

We used to spend summer afternoons climbing that tree. I'd tell you that girls weren't supposed to be playing with boys, but you never listened. Besides, you knew the truth was that you were my best friend. When we were too tired to climb anymore, we'd lie beneath its spreading branches and try to imagine what life would be like when we were grown-ups.

That tree was where we would be sit and talk as we got older, when climbing it lost its majesty. I'll never forget that windy spring weekend when you came over after my folks had left for a swap meet. You were kidding me about that unkempt hair of mine, which looked like it'd never met a comb. You ran your fingers through it to smooth it out.

I reached out and caressed your fingers as they played through my hair. I didn't know what I was feeling inside, but I knew I didn't want it to stop. You inched closer to me - slowly, almost imperceptibly. I met you halfway. Our eyes darted back and forth, neither of us certain of what we were about to do.

Then, we kissed. As my lips brushed yours, we had our first taste of that grown-up world of our dreams. Was it inevitable after all those years? Or was our coming of age somehow different and special?

Whenever I'd walk out the back door of the house, I'd think of that moment as soon as I laid eyes on the tree. A slight smile would cross my face at the memory. Even as time marched on, I always knew the tree would be there. It would be a sort of landmark to the two of us.

The tree is gone now. Lightning hit it last night and cleaved it in two. I'm sitting on the back porch looking at the charred remains, still not quite sure I believe it. The proud branches that seemed to envelope us are scattered all over the backyard. Eventually, I'll have to help Mom clean up this mess. I guess I'm just in shock right now.

Maybe that's why I'm writing this letter to you? I mean, I haven't seen you or spoken to you in years, and I got the feeling long ago that was a deliberate choice of yours. I wouldn't even know where to send you this letter, because I don't know where you are. Maybe by writing this, I'm pretending that our love isn't really as dead as the tree in my backyard.

I don't know what I'll do with this letter. I keep thinking I should seal it in an envelope and carry it with me, just in case I happen to run into you. That seems as likely as the tree magically healing itself tonight. More likely, I'll put it away and it will be lost amid other miscellaneous papers. It doesn't really matter what happens to a letter that will never be mailed.

That's all I had to say. I should probably get started on collecting these limbs, so I'll wrap this up. Just thought you might want to know about what happened. I assume that tree was as big a part of your life as it was mine.

Hope you're well, wherever you are.

(NOTE: All characters & events depicted in this entry are fictitious.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It Would Explain So Much

Is it just me, or does the guy with the speaking role in this 5-Hour Energy Commercial remind you of Peter North?

I should warn you that, if you don't know who Peter North is, pretty much any search you make for him will be strictly NSFW. Consider this FYI my gift to you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Four More Personal Sketch Cards!

Please, do us both a favor and click that image to see these cards at full-size. You'll be glad you did!

As you may have gathered, I recently commissioned Sean Moore to do a few more sketch cards of my characters. This particular batch covers Doppelgirl, the Volcano Monsters, the Psychedelic Man, and Rex Coronado. This completes the roster of adventure-themed folks in the Captain Satellite mythos - at least for the time being.

I love what Sean did with these guys, particularly the Volcano Monster and Psychedelic Man. I gave him permission to "cheat" a little on the Psychedelic Man, and he elected instead to tackle him full speed ahead! And that Volcano Monster? Wow, he's everything I could have visualized when developing my own. Of course, Doppelgirl and Rex are no slouches either!

Why not check out Sean's page and see the rest of his work? And hey, maybe you could hire him to draw something for YOU!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday Foster #1 (October 1972)

I like to think of myself as pretty well-informed when it comes to old comics, but I had never heard of Friday Foster #1 until I purchased a copy for the princely sum of $3. One glance at the indicia compounded my confusion, since it was copyright the Chicago Tribune, and not publisher Dell as I would have assumed. Who was this Friday Foster, and what was her deal?

Well, turns out Friday Foster is the first black character to star in her own widely-syndicated newspaper strip. There was even a movie starring Pam Grier and a host of other familiar names that had somehow escaped my notice. That was why Friday Foster was deemed a worthy contender for her own comic, and I can't argue with it. Too bad the comic book itself does not live up to this fascinating pedigree.

It's certainly not the art that is the problem. Though he has been much-maligned in some quarters, I've always suspected Jack Sparling was a lot more talented than superhero fanboys would admit. I love the art in this book, which leads me to believe he was one of those whose strengths were not always in the sci-fi/superhero realm.

And if the GCD is to be believed, the scripting on Friday Foster #1 is by prolific old pro Joe Gill. I have no trouble believing such an attribution, since Gill penned more scripts than I can even imagine. The story has some interesting things going on, like an early portrayal of paparazzi that is almost eerily prophetic of Princess Diana. So if the scripting is by a vet, and the art is good, where does the problem lie?

Let's recap the story itself. Jenny Trevor (who is a synthesis of Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) arrives at the airport, returning to American soil for the first time since marrying "Prince Wimoweh of Teri-Aki" (groan!) and becoming Princess Shangri. Friday and her intrepid employer Shawn North (handsome blond WASP) are there to take pictures, but none of them come out. Why? Friday doesn't like this woman because she is rich and privileged, and sabotages the shots to make her look bad!

Meanwhile, Jenny and her two children are pursued by reckless and unethical photographer Ferdy Trask. When Trask runs them off the road, the time for kidding around is done. Jenny wants to sue Trask, but needs evidence of his harassment. Her lawyer contacts the magazine that employs Shawn, and the plan is launched that Friday will shadow Jenny to get this proof.

Friday still doesn't like Jenny, and is rather overbearing about it. She even questions the authenticity of Trask's existence (despite Shawn insisting the guy is real). That all changes abruptly and decisively when she encounters the creep himself. This leads inevitably to the Big Plan which leads to a Happy Ending for all. Except Trask, but screw that guy.

Not bad, huh? Well, no, it's not bad on the surface. The problem only becomes obvious when you consider the comic book in the context of the times, and the message it sends beneath the surface. Remember: this book came out in the early 1970s. In fact, it is probably the first comic to star a black female lead, and one of the first with a black protagonist at all. With that understanding, I REALLY question the decision to portray Friday Foster, a black woman, as prejudiced in the first issue of her own comic book.

No, really. Friday is completely closed-minded about Jenny Trevor until confronted with the fact that Jenny really is being hounded. She dismisses her out of hand. Jenny takes it all in stride and is totally understanding about the whole thing. By the end, they are BFFs.

The message I got from this comic book? "Black people should not resent rich and privileged white people, because golly, they are people, too. Sometimes, even nice people!"


To make the underlying racial issues in this story even more uncomfortable, none of the white people are ever portrayed as prejudiced toward Friday. Forget Jenny and Shawn; not even Ferdy Trask or the owner of an upscale dress shop named Armand make comments that are as loaded as Friday's toward Jenny. There is also a decided lack of black people in a comic starring a black person. I went back and checked and the only African-Americans in the book besides Friday are a maid named Yvette (two panels) and Friday's younger brother Cleve (four panels). There is a pimp-looking guy that was probably also intended to be black, but the colorist chose to render him as pink as the rest of the cast.

Setting aside the rather odd notion of a comic starring a black person where only the black person is prejudiced, I still don't understand the logic at work here. Yes, it's nice to have a story where a character learns a lesson and is changed by the end. Groovy. Is this the way you want to launch a book? This was the FIRST ISSUE of Friday Foster, and honestly, it doesn't give me a whole lot of reason to care about her. She comes across rather badly until her sudden change of heart. I don't know if I would have felt compelled to follow her further adventures if this was how Dell wanted to depict them. I would have probably been too annoyed by the approach.

It's all academic, though. This was not only the first issue of Friday Foster, but also the last. According to Don Markstein's link above, it might even be the last comic to bear the "Dell" name. Not exactly a high note to end on for a once-storied comics brand.

Friday Foster #1 : what were you thinking, Joe Gill and Dell Comics staff?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pure Power! From K-tel!

I love K-tel International, and I'm not even sorry. I mentioned last month that I had my own K-tel commercial marathon on Youtube one night. The very first commercial I watched was this one for the compilation album Pure Power.

Hot off the charts! K-tel's Pure Power!

This is an absolute masterpiece of the oversell. The voiceover, the excerpts, the cheesy animation and sound effects - it all comes together into pure 1970s cornball bliss.

As they used to say in the commercials, "But wait! There's more!"

K-tel has its own Youtube channel now, and they have been unearthing copies of their old commercials from the vaults. That's where the Shatner album I featured originates. So when I noticed recently that they had added Pure Power, I took a look to see about the quality compared to the earlier video.

I discovered something wholly unexpected.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Most Nonsensical Sentai Premise Ever?

Cool those heads, sentai fans! I am one of you, and I practically revel in both the insane and inane featured in the longest continuously running sci-fi TV franchise. That being said, I'm a little concerned at how practical this latest installment will turn out to be. I mean, it certainly looks like it might be fun, but...

If you are unaware, the new sentai series will take a page from the KAMEN RIDER DECADE series, and feature a team that can assume the identities of past sentai heroes. Just check out these pics, on a link sent to me by Igadevil! Crazy stuff, no?

I'll wait and see here, because Toei usually delivers something at least watchable. And hey, it has to be entertaining in at least a trainwreck sense, right? I just am not sure if I'm mentally prepared for lady versions of Kiranger, Big One, and Battle Cossack.

Then again, maybe I'm just having trouble with a show where the lead hero's name is "Captain Marvelous".

Monday, February 14, 2011


This is the last individual art component from the amazingly popular Blue Behemoth's Bulletin Board by our pal Kabuki Katze. The concept here was that I wanted a picture of BB as done by a young child. I even provided Kabu with a sample and invited her to use it if she wanted.

Well, wouldn't you know it? Kabuki is so versatile that not only did she do her own version, but she imbued it with a wonderful charm. Seriously, I dare you to look at that faux crayon drawing and not smile.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The BIG Cinnamon Roll

Kudos go out to Prairie City Bakery today. I made a stop on the way home from work this week and picked up the product which they call The BIG Cinnamon Roll. It is probably the best pre-packaged cinnamon roll I've ever found. It also definitely lives up to truth in advertising laws. It is bigger than my mouth.

If you know me at all, you realize what a profound statement the preceding truly is.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

There Is A Reason This Is Posted On Saturday

Yes, it's Yet Another Boring Label Entry. At least I only average once a year for this type of thing. And those of you reading feeds? Yeah, you might as well skip this entirely.

What's new? Actually, not much. I changed the name of "comic books" to simply "comics" to clarify that it can cover things like comic strips and adaptations to other media. Somewhat bigger is that I finally gave in and changed the "tokusatsu" category to "asia". It still deals primarily in Japanese sci-fi, but it was time to face the fact that things like anime and Korean movies didn't fit under the label I was filing them under.

I moved a few entries around, but it was mostly applying the "asia" label to things that were formerly under "general nonsense". I don't believe any other labels were impacted at all during the process. Just a bit of housekeeping.

Now, hopefully we can move forward with this major problem handled!

Friday, February 11, 2011

My World : Devil Dynamite (Redux)

Harrison Otto (“H.O.”) Godfrey is a former Third World agent who decided to strike out on his own. Stealing a prototype copy of Captain Satellite’s digital powersuit from a Third World laboratory, he christened himself “Devil Dynamite” and launched a noted career of villainy. Due to his origin as Devil Dynamite, H.O. Godfrey holds the distinction of being a rival of both Captain Satellite and Third World.

Devil Dynamite styles himself as the Captain's “evil opposite.” His more outlandish claim is that he is actually Captain Satellite's counterpart from a parallel universe. This particular yarn is his attempt to conceal his true identity, and play mind games with the hero. It is effective enough that Cap has gone so far as to quiz Thunder Man (an actual native of a parallel Earth) as to whether Devil Dynamite hails from his world.

The one saving grace for everyone is that Devil Dynamite’s ambition outstrips his effectiveness. The prototype powersuit he wears is notoriously unreliable and prone to malfunction. This leaves him perpetually in danger of dropping like a stone in mid-flight, which would make a more prudent thinker reluctant to take to the sky.

Devil Dynamite has thus far been unsuccessful in his efforts to rally his own paramilitary force dubbed the “Anti-Satellite League” (ASL). His powersuit currently on the fritz, he has recently been reported as making his living in the wrestling rings of Mexico as the masked luchador Diablo Dinamita. He makes no bones about the fact that he is plotting an elaborate comeback scheme.

Devil Dynamite is somewhat unique among the Captain Satellite cast, in that he is the only major character who was actually created during the big 2007 launch on deviantArt. The reason Devil Dynamite even came into existence is because I noted the paucity of villains among my pre-established characters. Devil Dynamite was my attempt to fill out the ranks of my rogues gallery a little bit, and I chose to use a conceit ("evil opposite of the hero") that had served me well growing up.

Trouble was, I didn't have a very clear idea of what exactly I wanted out of Devil Dynamite. To make matters worse, DD had the misfortune of being posted on my blog (site of considerable revisions of 2007 material) prior to my sudden surge on inspiration in 2010. His entry got short shrift as a result, and virtually nothing was done with it.

As I developed the "Owariverse" further, I realized I had co-opted most of DD's few distinctive characteristics for others. He had essentially become superfluous as originally conceived, and I gave serious thought of writing him out entirely. There would still have been a "Devil Dynamite" in continuity, but as a vital component, he came pretty close to being abandoned.

I didn't want to junk a character without at least trying to find a place for him, so I entertained a number of different concepts to retool him into something I could use. None of them quite clicked until I hit on the above. It incorporates elements of two or three different potential revamps into one hopefully entertaining hodgepodge.

This particular profile is a source of pride for me since I somehow managed to link Devil Dynamite to in-jokes for both cheap ninja movies and Mexican wrestling in the span of four paragraphs. I even did it while salvaging everything that has gone before. This is the single biggest retcon I've done with this universe, and I think I somehow pulled it off.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All-Protoplasman Color Cavalcade #1

I have not really discussed Big Bang Comics much on this blog, and that is something I regret. It's actually just a quirk of timing rather than a lack of interest; I was more than happy to ramble about Big Bang stuff from 1996 to 2007. That pretty much concluded when Big Bang went into dormancy after a brief return to self-publishing. However, I'd like to get back to talking about what was and is one of my favorite comic books of all-time.

A good place to kick off this renewed coverage is by telling you about All-Protoplasman Color Cavalcade #1. This comic is presented as a co-production of Big Bang Comics and Comicfix, and is a print-on-demand publication. It contains all of the Protoplasman stories which ran in the short-lived Big Bang Presents anthology book in 2006-2007. The big difference this time is indicated in the title - stories that were originally printed in black and white are now in COLOR! (as originally intended all along)

Protoplasman is a character influenced by Jack Cole's version of Plastic Man. In keeping with Big Bang tradition, that's just a jumping-off point for an alternate take on a ductile detective. You can see glimmers of Plas, but Protoplasman and his supporting cast veer off into some decidedly different directions (with nods to other Cole stories).

Gary Carlson turns in some fun scripts that are more offbeat than just standard superhero fare, but not out-and-out jokey either. No, there is some darkness and subversion mixed in with the zaniness, and it is certainly in the spirit of Jack Cole's body of work. Mort Todd's artwork is enjoyably cartoony, but doesn't shy away from the violence and occasional grossness of the proceedings.

Considering the poor fortunes of Plastic Man himself in recent decades, you could say Protoplasman is one of the less commercial efforts from the Big Bang Gang. Perhaps; I do know I would snap up a Carlson/Todd Plas comic in a heartbeat. But don't go worrying about such matters, since Protoplasman is a distinct character and more than just a carbon copy. All-Protoplasman Color Cavalcade #1 is eminently worthy of your funny book dollar!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Can a white guy get down and funky with the best of them? Before you answer that, give a listen to "Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band. Then tell me what you think.

I latched onto instrumental rock and soul during 2010 as something worth further investigation, and "Scorpio" was one of the discoveries I made during the process. I'd never heard of Dennis Coffey, and didn't realize he had been a session musician for Motown. I sure didn't know that he had done the theme song for the movie BLACK BELT JONES, and I've actually seen it. But you can bet I know that stuff now.

Like "Scorpio"? Why not check out Dennis Coffey's website? The man has a new album due out in a few months! I'll just bet it will smokin'!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Return of Return of Jetman

It returns! Yes, the site with the almost-living brain, Return of Jetman, has updated once again to amuse you!

But seriously, this minor news post is the first new post on the site for 2011. Contrary to appearances, I really am working on tying up the loose ends over there. Unfortunately, it has been slow going due to other factors.

I am targeting this month as the debut of ROJ Episode 13's Notes. Beyond that, I may roll out the latest revision of the History next while I decide to whether to dive into Episode 14 or post revised Notes for the first six Episodes of NROJ. Decisions, decisions!

If none of this makes any sense to you, you are probably coming in late to the Return of Jetman Experience. Why not take a look and see it for yourself?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ishinomori Week

That man among men, the one and only Igadevil, has done it again! Not content merely to be the genius of Kamen Rider, he has launched a series examining some of the OTHER famous creations of Shotaro Ishinomori. He's currently covered HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI and JINZO NINGEN KIKAIDA, with more slated to come in "Ishinomori Week."

There have been some delays, so this "week" may turn out to run a week and a half to two weeks. No matter! It is still going to be required reading.

Check out Ishinomori Week @ Igadevil's Kamen Rider Page! And tell him OWARI sent ya!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why Willie Dixon Gets Led Zeppelin Royalty Money

I do not link to my friend Kabuki Katze's travel blog, Wandering Kotka, nearly as often as her art blog, and that's a shame. It is loaded with plenty of insights about Bulgaria that you probably never even knew you wanted to learn. Her most recent post there discusses chalga music, and points out that music gets recycled in new and different songs, apparently completely legitimately. As I mentioned in the comments, this phenomenon has been going on for decades - though not always legitimately. (In fact, I suspect it dates back to the creation of music itself.)

As I also noted in the comments, there is a very famous example of this in popular music. So famous, in fact, that there was a lawsuit over it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My World : The Volcano Monsters

No one is quite sure how the Volcano Monsters exist in the first place. They are apparently a small tribe of semi-intelligent, rock-based humanoids that live within certain volcanoes scattered around the globe. The logistics of how this works are mind-bending.

When the Invincible Alliance journeyed to Japan to investigate suspicious activity originating from Mt. Aso, they had no idea that the case would change one of their members forever. But that is exactly what happened when the Volcano Monsters emerged from the simmering crater. Firegirl took the full brunt of a blast of magma from a Volcano Monster and tumbled into the boiling lava below.

Not only did Firegirl miraculously survive this experience, but she somehow gained the ability to manipulate heat and fire through her body rather than her Pyro Pistol. Blue Behemoth and Drone Man would later theorize that the Volcano Monsters’ magma possesses special properties that interacted with innate alterations in Firegirl’s body chemistry due to prolonged exposure to the Pyro Pistol. Firegirl sort of nodded silently at that explanation.

Using her newfound flame powers, Firegirl aided the rest of the Alliance in turning back the threat of a Volcano Monster rampage, and the creatures retreated back into the earth. There have been no subsequent sightings of the Volcano Monsters since that incident. However, it just seems like a matter of time until they crawl out of another venthole somewhere.

The Volcano Monsters are an awesome example of the good that input from others can provide you.

To backtrack, I introduced the idea of the Volcano Monsters in the "Firegirl's Internet Diary" story. They were given as the reason for her previously unexplained acquisition of fire powers, but nothing was revealed about them in this context. The name "Volcano Monsters" was inspired by an unmade film that would have used footage from the first Godzilla sequel in the context of an American-produced movie. That project never came to be, and instead we got GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER (GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN). But I liked the term and decided to use it for myself.

I finished a previous picture exploring this concept, but ultimately scrapped it as a representation of the Volcano Monsters. You can see it here. I was offered some valuable suggestions by Kabuki & Sara regarding that guy, and they made me rethink both my approach and my decision to go in a different direction (possibly with dinosaurs or dragons) with the name.

One thing that is important to remember is that influences are great, but they can also chain your imagination. I was sort of stuck on the Lava Men (Marvel Comics) and Moltar and the Magma Men (from Crystar toys & comics), and that limited where I could take the Volcano Monsters. It took two people unfamiliar with either to free my thinking.

Conceptually, the Volcano Monsters are no longer straight magma men, but rather living and walking humanoid volcanoes! I went in a slightly different direction from the suggestions, but they were my springboard. I did, however, make the Volcano Monsters both rocky AND goopy.

The Volcano Monsters have rock-based bodies, fueled by a fiery "heart" at their core. That isn't an insignia on the chest, but rather a hole through their body to lessen the internal pressure. (Pseudo-science!) Their extremities are formed by magma which they can manipulate. That includes their heads, though I couldn't resist giving them li'l rock hats.

I kept some elements of the old design and applied them to this guy. I might tweak it further eventually, but I like where we are so far. Thanks for the assistance in making it happen, folks!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Essential Avengers

My pal David McRobie over at Xenorama has mentioned his favorite run on the book Avengers several times, most recently here. Well, I have my own favorite run of the book, too. Not only is it different from David's, but it actually precedes my birth!

Part of why I was so disappointed in the old edition of Essential Avengers Vol. 3, and so jazzed about the upgraded current edition, is because it contains issues #55-#68, plus Annual #2. Those are MOST of the issues from that favorite run of mine. Go through to #76, and there you go. My favorite run of The Avengers is #55-#76.

Only why this particular run of issues? Those are the issues that were reprinted in the pages of Marvel Super Action in the late-1970s/early-1980s. Beginning with #14 (second part of the Masters of Evil/Crimson Cowl story) through the title's cancellation with #37 (conclusion of an Arkon story that brought Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch back into the fold), MSA was the Avengers book I preferred over the regular title. It was fun to be up-to-date, but there was something about the older stories that appealed to me.

I know now that it was the work of Roy Thomas and a talented array of my artists that swayed me. John & Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, and even Barry (not yet Windsor) Smith pencilled the book during that stretch. There was also the thrill of discovery in buying a new issue. I mean, I was familiar with characters like the Vision, Yellowjacket, and Nighthawk from then-contemporary Marvels, but it was special to read their first appearances myself. It was sort of like getting a key to the Secret Knowledge.

Speaking of which, one of the assets of the Essential collection is that many of those old reprint comics had to be edited in some way. Not so the Essential! While it may be in black & white, it contains the full story as originally intended. In many ways, it will be like learning new things about old favorites. I can't wait!