Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 39 - STARTING OVER



Micronauts vol.1 No.39 (Mar 1982)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Steve Ditko and Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Okay, so, let’s say you missed all the alerts and warnings about the Micronauts’ upcoming exclusive availability. Perhaps you somehow didn’t register that the book is only available through subscriptions and the Direct Market. Perhaps the in house ads and lettercol announcements weren’t enough. Perhaps it would have been better if there had been a narrative element in an earlier story which explained it! That would be handy, because if they waited until this issue to inform the readers of the change in the clearest possible venue, well, it’d be too late. How would they know where to buy the comic.

"Excuse me as I drop cigar ash on these original Kirby pages"
BUT WAIT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID! The weirdest opening sequence in any issue of the Micronauts starts here, outside the modest storefront of the New York comic shop “Funny Business” (“Catering to the Comic Book Connoisseur”) into which Micronaut fans Donna and Chris are walking. As they enter, Donna is painstakingly explaining to the absolute dullard Chris that the Micronauts, owing to their discerning (read “small but vocal”), will now be available only at shops and by subscription. The store’s cigar-smoking owner (that’s gonna lower the resale value of these comics, pal) adds that newsstands were always unreliable, anyway.

This is so odd, and you wonder how they’re gonna get to the main story – which they do by having the owner hold aloft a copy of Micronauts which proceeds to glow and become a portal allowing the Endeavor to burst into the shop! And like the last time Ditko joined the book, Bug gets into a fight with a bunch of Micronauts toys! I’m sure the toy collecting community in the Marvel Universe searches fruitlessly for an unblasted Force Commander figure.

Oh, and I can’t recall if this came up before, but we’re informed that the “HMS” in “HMS Endeavor” stands for “Homeworld MicroShip.” I love how the Micronauts all know that they’re tiny, even when they hadn’t ever left the Microverse. 

And chill.
They leave the shop in utter chaos, and take a quiret moment to catch the readers up on everyone’s current damage and concerns. We establish that Rann and Mari are still fucking (they hadn’t seemed particularly close these last few busy issues). Meanwhile, Acroyear is still bereft over the loss of his homeworld, his mate Cilicia, and his being branded a traitor by his people. Bug is doing nothing. Devil has been paired up with Microtron because it honestly feels like Mantlo is trying every possible combination with this guy and just nothing is sticking.

Back on Homeworld, Huntarr is confessing to Force Commander his failure to kill the Micronauts. Rather than being blasted to atoms, Huntarr is forgiven and sent back to the Body Banks to get a little weirder. Oh, and this reminds me that Huntarr invokes the name of Sepsis, Goddess of Rebellion, as he leaves the scene and … I don’t know, that seems ballsy to me? I don’t understand Microverse theology. 

While we’re in the royal chambers, the spidery old broad Belladona hobbles in, creaking like an army of old chairs at a fat man’s convention. She claims the body of Force Commander’s former betrothed and rebel leader Slug as her own, planning to transfer her mind into Slug’s young body. Watch what happens closely, the rich buying political dissidents so as to wear them like long underwear is the next stage of Capitalism, I promise you. 

Behind the curtain of Argon’s bedchambers stands Lady Cilicia, Acroyear’s one-time intended. She has been pressed into an alliance with Force Commander and agrees to send a squadron of Acroyear Elite warriors to Earth to finish the Micronauts once and for all.

The subsequent battle takes place at a construction site; setting the stage for another one of those fights were tiny everyday objects become weapons. I’m sort of okay with that in general, and it’s okay here, except that things at a construction site are sort of famously large? “Bring in the very small backhoe, you know, the one my dog can hardly drive? Yeah, my toy Pomeranian, Lucy. Right, that backhoe.” And then there’s a backhoe in a shoebox and they build an industrial park with it.

Devil continues to irritate me, and I’m just waiting for a chance to go off on the pink idiot. Although Devil is “a jester,” he enters the fight cracking no jokes, wiseassing not at all, and not doing anything acrobatic or exciting when fighting his foe – he just hucks rivets at them. Meanwhile, Bug is leaping around, smartassing and shooting dudes in the back of the neck with his lance while still smartassing. We don’t need Devil on this team if his role is just to be the guy who says he’s what another character actually is.


The battle is overwhelming the Micronauts, but luckily it’s interrupted by – construction workers! Oh yeah, now it’s sexy! Baffled by the sight of tiny aliens roughhousing where they work, the guys make a snap judgment (based on Marionette being a tiny hot blonde, as stated explicitly) to join the side of the Micronauts instead of the elite Acroyears. How they could tell one from the other, I dunno. Maybe they hit Funny Business on the way back from lunch and picked up a copy of the book.

Then there’s a lot of Acroyears getting smashed by sledgehammers and other reminders that Bill Mantlo is a dream and you know it.

Unfortunately for our heroes, they end up getting swept into the sewers after the fight, complete with a heavily-damaged Endeavor. This makes Rann say his mother’s name as an epithet, and I confess that I really just don’t understand this universe’s theology.

They're gonna GET Sepsis.

Meanwhile,  in the lettercol, someone finally gets around to fancasting a Micronauts movie!



Oh, and a bonus pinup!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN: WHAM-O GIANT COMICS PRESENTS TOR

He's a growing boy!
TOR AND THE MAN FROM AEONS
w/a Lou Fine

Some beautiful artwork on this piece from the great Lou Fine, as though that were some sort of surprise. It’s almost frustrating how lovely the rendering and storytelling is in this two-page tale, knowing how much gas Fine still had in the tank, with a heart attack only four years in his future. Then again, that’s sort of true of everybody, so … I guess we should all get back to work instead of wasting time doing whatever it is we’re all doing right now?

Back to Tor, however. Despite having his name in the masthead, Tor doesn’t show up almost til the end, has no appreciable dialogue, and fulfills the role of genie more or less.

AEONS is The Atomic Expeditionary Overseer for Nuclear Services, and the Man From it is Commander Briggs. The lantern-jawed Briggs pilots the Cobalt, a multipurpose craft capable of descending into the ocean, traveling on land, or flying, just like any car can presuming you don’t want it to be drivable in two out of three of those circumstances.

Answering to Briggs are Hawkins, a first mate or something, and Explorers Scout Sandy Powers! Briggs explains patiently that the Pentagon – his bosses – wouldn’t have allowed them to take an underage Explorer Scout on this mission if it were in any way dangerous. And while it didn’t start out as a dangerous mission, it takes that turn by panel ten. Briggs, very responsibly, accounts for the safety of his juvenile charge by going ahead and putting the ship in danger, and then warning Sandy that he “may never be able to mention this part of the voyage to [his] own parents.” Mr and Mrs Powers, please come collect Sandy.

He'd say you shouldn't tell your parents.
Deep in an uncharted cave, to which I would not personally have brought a child, the crew of the Cobalt meet the world-conquering General Hong. For a Yellow Menace/Red Menace (perhaps I should shorten that to Orange Menace, insert your Donald Trump gag here), Hong isn’t portrayed in anything like an egregious manner, which is an insanely low bar to meet but here we were in 2018.

Before being captured by Hong and sentenced to death by Gamma Ray Gun – you may never be able to tell your parents about this one, Sandy – the Explorer Scout had discovered a tiny “stone doll” depicting a caveman-type character. In fact, it looks like Fred Flintstone crossed with the Venus of Willendorf. Quite a find! We’ve finally proven that mankind descended from Barney Rubble. I suspected all along.

The radiation from the Gamma-Ray Gun has the effect on Tor of turning him into a highly destructive giant. He basically single-handedly destroys Hong’s entire base, although Briggs really takes the fucking credit for it in no small way. Once Hong’s headquarters are destroyed, Tor politely returns to the size of one of those cheap toys you get out of a machine for a quarter at the supermarket, only he probably has enormous B.O.

Possible future adventures are left open when a relatively incurious Briggs posits “I was wondering … if the gamma-ray gun made Tor grow, would the smaller laser pistol, the small nuclear gun, have the same effect on him?” Well heck man, you’re the one with a small nuclear gun I assume from that sentence, let’s find out!

I, too, am too huge and unpredictable to be allowed on a submarine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: HIDE IN THE NIGHT

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 ...


One of the frustrating elements of USA Network’s early 1990s late-night television show Swamp Thing is that it often seems as though the writers don’t really understand what kind of show they’re writing for. Sometimes it’s an ecological fable, sometimes a beauty and the beast story, a monster movie, a ghost story, a story of revenge, a Twilight Zone thing, a meditation on the mind and from where evil comes (I mean, seriously, I’m not even being facetious – sometimes this show really examines the origins of human evil) and so on. And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the show being any combination of these things, but they’re so rarely put together in the right combinations.

BUT THIS TIME THEY GOT IT RIGHT! “Hide In The Night” is pretty much the apex, to date, of what Swamp Thing can be at its awful best. Owing to the budget and the two-and-a-half years of theme-establishing which precedes this episode, there’s always going to be a high level of camp and Wiseau-esque narrative to Swamp Thing. This episode is no exception, to be sure. But, beyond those likable limitations, it finally feels like they balanced all of the elements of the series in one nice package. And that package is Graham!

"You ever dance with the swamp monster in the pale moonlight? Well have you?"

Graham lucks into this episode’s lead role by dint of the absence of Anton Arcane. The episode opens on the chaotic scene inside Arcane’s personal laboratory. Alarms are sounding, crazy 90s juice bar venue lighting covers the whole place, and there are panicky Un-Men hanging out! Un-Men! We ain’t seen those Un-guys in forever! I even recognize the one guy with the pig head from the makeup test polaroids in that episode with the guy who used to be a bird, back in season one!

"Ladies and gentlemen ... it's HEART! ::cue "Barracuda"::

Through the lens of Arcane’s surprisingly gentle and sweet new assistant, Stella (Robin O’Dell, first seen in The Handyman), we learn what’s happened: During an experiment to grant himself raw physical power, Arcane vanishes, sending his Un-Men into a panic. Graham thinks Stella has something to do with the matter (stay tuned for why), and he hauls her off to figure out his next steps. A cruel guard stays behind to torment the Un-Men for a while, which is what they’re largely good for. For this, he receives – a beat-down from Un-Arcane! Anton Arcane turned himself into a cool mutant! Yay!

Big ups to makeup, they went above and beyond.

This gives the show something it’s never been able to do before – have Arcane fight Swamp Thing on even footing. While Chapman’s prosthetics are a lot less bulky than Durock’s, he does seem to have some trouble moving around in them. No training, one supposes. He’s great at the facial expressions, though.

Whatever the case, a physical knock-down drag-out between the series’ primary protagonist and antagonist has been long in coming, and actually provides a good catharsis – even though we’re not resolving the whole series yet. But the important part is that it taps something emotional in the viewer, because this episode – is about love.

Sparks fly as Stella fills the Un-Men's paws with generous lashings of Mutant Chow.

Graham and Stella search for Arcane, but they both have ulterior motives. Graham believes that Stella arranged the ‘accident’ which turned Arcane into a monster, so as to drive Graham out of his heart and leave only room for Stella. Scurrilous Stella! What a schemer! And Graham lets her know in no uncertain terms that he’s onto her.

Stella, for her part, just wants to talk about how Arcane tried to fuck her once and she didn’t let him and he got angry but he hired her anyway? It actually sounds like a major red flag. But also, she wants to tell Graham that she l-o-o-o-oves him. This is unfortunate, because Graham only loves Arcane, with all of his heart and soul. I am not kidding. He has a moving monologue about it, actually, and his eternal fear of being replaced and discarded. 

"My desires are ... unconventional."                                       "So show me."

Stella gets through to Graham, but unfortunately only right before she’s abducted by Un-Arcane. Un-ton Arcane. I’ll go with that one. 

To rescue her, Graham teams up with Swamp Thing. Seems like Arcane might die if he doesn’t get a special antidote, which Swamp Thing is preparing as Graham – his eyes opened and his soul fully awake for the first time as he receives the only unconditional love he’s ever encountered in his whole life – suggests maybe they ought to just let Anton Arcane die maybe?

"Whatcha thinking about? Swamp Stuff?"

This episode is one hundred percent a Graham showcase, this is Kevin Quigley’s proudest moment. On the show, anyway, I’m sure he has kids or something. 

During the final boss battle between Swamp Thing and Un-Ton Arcane, Stella is snuffed. Graham, the only individual in the whole gang to be carrying a bunch of cure-Doctor-Arcane-juice in a tank on his back, is torn. He hovers over Stella’s body, wracked in grief. He reluctantly gears up what looks like a knockoff Ghostbusters pack and sprays his former boss with baby powder or something turning him human again.

AND THEN GRAHAM PULLS A GUN ON ARCANE. This is like if Robin pulled a gun on Batman, which is a thing I say knowing full well that it has probably happened a thousand times in assorted comics and films. Okay, it’s more like Costello pulling a gun on Abbot, which I am also sure has happened, only in reality.

Who ya gonna call? Graham's Bucket!

Despite Arcane’s disinterest and lack of regret, Graham ultimately caves and lowers the weapon. Walking away defeated, Graham has nonetheless wrapped up an arc that’s been building all through the third season. I have renewed hopes about the finale.

One thing I forgot to mention: There’s a scene where Stella has gotten through to Graham, and they’re excitedly working together in the lab. There’s a whole thing about Graham adopting a pseudonym, or something, and it goes like this, more or less. Stella calls him “Graham…”

He replies “Call me Doctor.”

“Doctor Graham” she says

“No,” he corrects her, “Just … Doctor.”

And then it’s never referenced again. I have no idea what the plan was for that, or if it was just a really weak Doctor Who joke? I got nothing. I’m willing to forgive it because this was such a great episode to come back to after the hiatus … 

Although I'm fairly certain that he's fucking the car in this shot.


Monday, January 8, 2018

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 38 - FIRST-FLIGHT / THE FORGE OF FRIENDSHIP



Micronauts vol.1 No.38 (Feb 1982)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: John Garcia and Danny Bulandi (First-Flight) / Gil Kane (The Forge of Friendship)
Letterer: Jim Novak (First-Flight) / Diana Albers  (The Forge of Friendship)
Colorist: Bob Sharen (First-Flight) / Christie Scheele (The Forge of Friendship)
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

It’s issue Thirty-Eight and we are in the Direct Market now, baby! Along with Moon Knight and Ka-Zar (an underrated book I’m considering using as a follow-up to this series of articles), the Micronauts is now only available through direct market outlets and subscription. The amount of warning given to the buying public erred on the side of minimal – a banner ad in the letter column of the previous issue sent readers scrambling for the subscription form or hunting down comic shops in the Yellow Pages. 

(Good luck with that, by the way, world of 1982. I remember what it was like trying to find a comic shop in the directory. Under “Comics,” it says “See Books, Comic” and you go there and it says “See Specialty Shops, Literature,” and then you go there and it just says “See Garbage, Because Comics Are Garbage and the People Who Read Them Are Also.” Quite a burn, Yellow Pages)

With a move to the direct market comes the move to a new editor, and it’s Editori-Al Milgrom, possibly the bestest Marvel editor of the era! I also offer goodwill points to Archie Goodwin. Either way, after a Tom DeFalco run which seemed to last eons, we’ve got a whole new editorial style.

Taking advantage of the higher page count and lack of ads, Micronauts No.38 contains two stories. First-Flight is an origin story of sorts for Arcturus Rann, who has gotten three or four origin stories at this point and we could arguably skip it. Artwork for the story is courtesy John Garcia, whose name rings no bells and whose art is all right. He appears to be a young artist trying to match a house style, which strikes me as the wrong move for the first issue of a direct market exclusive book whose move to limited distribution was based on its appeal to “discerning readers.” It’s also a bit of a let-down after seeing a beautiful Michael Golden cover gracing the exterior of the book, but it’s not as though it were so bad as to be distracting. There are no jokes in this paragraph. Sorry.

The book opens with the Micronauts clusterfucking around a bird’s nest and no one knows what’s going on. Bug has crawled into a bird’s nest to examine some eggs (out of mere curiosity), while all the other Micronauts are flipping out for various reasons. Is Bug going to eat the eggs? I thought Insectivorids hated egg-thieves. Did the bird grab Bug? Here’s the bird! Do we have to fight the bird? Do we have to save Bug or is Bug okay? So many questions!

I enjoy scenes like this where no one’s sure of each other’s motives, and so they have to figure them out in this cacophony of opposing intentions. Plus, the scene appears to have outed Rann as racist against Insectivorids, but just in that super-WASPy way that some people are racist. “I’m not racist, but Mexicans – they just don’t know how to make clam chowder!” You know, just some messed up prejudice they picked up somewhere and they think is so widely acknowledged that they can just say it. “Show me a Mexican chef who makes a four-star clam chowder, I’ll wait!” 

(For clarity’s sake, I’m pretty sure Mexicans could make clam chowder, although I don’t know why they’d want to. Clam chowder is gross)


Rann’s derring-do with his glider-wings forms the focus of the story, as it lets him regale his crew with the story of how he became a registered Space Glider. This is a thing I do not really care about because Space Glider is still the dumbest of Micronaut names, not discounting Slug. 

I don’t particularly care about Rann’s Space Gliding bona fides, but it is refreshing that he’s being given a chance to explore the background of the Microverse again, instead of another pointless chase scene.

The story takes us back 1,000 years to Homeworld when Karza was still merely a pedagogue for Homeworld’s aristocratic families and Rann hadn’t yet embarked on his journey aboard the Endeavor. I don’t know if this related fact was ever really dealt with, but before being mythologized as icons of rebellion, Dallan and Sepsis were Homeworld’s regents. How all of this relates to Marionette is an interesting question. I suppose a millennium is enough time for one to feel free to fuck their cousin, as I assume that Homeworld’s ruling elite are as inbred as ours. More to the point, though … Rann is the legitimate heir to the throne of Homeworld, is he not? I wonder if it ever comes up in bed.

Karza, at this point, is instructing a group of young Microversian royalty the use of Wile E.Coyote’s bat-winged flight suit, evidently. I am positive that the resemblance was intentional. Anyway, during the lesson, Karza idly tries to get Rann killed, only to find the resourceful Space Glider Cadet capable of saving his own life just fine, thanks. Although Rann suspects Karza’s interference in this test flight, the young prince returns to his family’s castle, accessible by space-car or something. I have someday got to get to the bottom of comic writers’ fascination with mashups of Medieval and Futuristic motifs.

One of two.
Having survived the earlier assassination attempt, Rann finds himself beating off a half-dozen assassins in his bed chambers. I’m sorry. I meant to say “Rann finds himself into beating off a half-dozen assassins with both hands in his bed chamber.” Sorry folks, I’ll pay more attention.

I will tell you, Rann has never seemed so alive as a character in this book than when he was murdering assassins. As they climb the wall to his chambers, he flies around them in his Wile E.Coyote suit and just knocks them to their death and stuff. My favorite bit was that he steals a gun from one of the assassins, killing its former owner with it. When that gun is knocked out of his hand, Rann steals a second gun from a different assassin and kills him with it. I’m laffin’ just writing it.

Rann is commended by his parents and Karza is ordered to make the young man a full-fledged Space Glider immediately, and that’s the origin. Nothing amazing was revealed, but it was fun.

Second story is The Forge of Friendship, a tale told to Devil who – having only recently joined the Micronauts – wants to hear about some of their old adventures, preferably as illustrated by the legendary Gil Kane.

“Forge” fills us in on the backstory between Bug and Acroyear, who were already boon companions when they were sentenced to fight in Karza’s coliseum, way back in the first year of the series. 

Bug provides the forward motion in this story, escaping from the Kaliklak jail where the colonial governor has banished him. The jail, by the way, was formerly an Insectivorid hatchery, and it’s actually unsettling to see the shards of smashed baby Insectivorid shells lying around. I enjoy it when Mantlo goes dark with the consequences of the battles in this war. More than any other superhero writer at either company at the time, he could make actual conflict look gruesome and unlovely.

Bug escapes in a stolen ship and quickly encounters an Acroyear raiding vessel! “Dashma!” This is the Microversian profanity which Bug spits out. As a judge of spaceship profanity – that being the bullshit bowdlerization of common profanity which so many sci-fi shows employ to get around the censors while still pretending that whatever they’re writing is for adults – I declare Dashma to be good. It sounds like a genuine foreign epithet, it sounds good when muttered or exclaimed. Makes “Fark!” sound like “”Shazbot.” Five out of five stars.

This scene: Bug battles his way out of the dungeon, steals a ship, plows it through the bodies of a dozen pursuing guards, murdering them all and, not knowing what he'll find, absconds into space. His memory of that night, though? "I'd never seen the stars so *tik* close!" This is a gorgeous scene. Mantlo and Kane pulled something off here that is worth mentioning. 

Out of fuel for his own ship, Bug boards the Raider, where he finds Acroyear being tortured by his evil brother Shaitan. Sneakily freeing Acroyear, and thereby earning “the undying friendship of Acroyear, Prince of the Acroyears!” And then they kill like fifty Acroyears and escape long enough to join the resistance and then get captured by Karza. Eh, you win some …

On the way out, the lettercol tackles the issue of the move to the Direct Market, which I hope the guy who wrote the letter can read because, you know, it’s only available through the Direct Market now …



Thursday, January 4, 2018

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN: WHAM-O GIANT COMICS PRESENTS RADIAN

The Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of comic book characters you've never heard of before...
In the grand parade of comic book oddities, it's always unusual to me that Wham-O's enormously oversized introduction to the medium is so frequently omitted from the discussion. The most I've ever really heard about the book, prior to buying myself a copy, was that it (A) contained Wally Wood stories and (B) is large.

The largeness seems to have been the book's demise. What it appears happened -- according to my amateur detective skills, I would love to hear corrections -- is that Wham-O opted to release the book through a traditional periodicals distribution network. At a whopping 14x21 inches, the bigger-than-tabloid book  weighed in at fifty-two pages and was ... was just a fucking burden. Besides finding a place to display something like this, can you imagine a newsstand operator having to successfully refold it after some idly-curious kid pulled it apart, manhandling it while trying to manage the unwieldy thing.

If Wham-O had decided to distribute the book as a toy, to toy stores and department stores, and build a display within the toy departments where Wham-O toys were already available, it might have developed a following. Unfortunately, this weird project tanks at one issue.

Besides the scale and short life of the book, the absence of any Wham-O-like properties in the comics seems unusual, although this was obviously approached as a publishing venture rather than an advertising one. You'd think someone in there would have been fighting crime with a superball ...

What's remarkable to me about WGC isn't the size so much as it is the format. This is the closest I've seen an American comic come to the British boys' adventure anthologies for which I have so much fondness. While superheroes were the order of the day in 1967, WGC also includes science fiction, historical fiction, comedy, (light) horror and  so on. Considering the quality of the contents, it genuinely strikes me as one of the most unique American comics of the medium's history. It deserves a better look, anyway.

The stories which ran in WGC don't resurface elsewhere, making most of the book a playground for the truly gone and forgotten. I honestly think they should be better-known and better-elevated so, for the next few weeks, your Thursdays will be spent at the knees of the greats who brought us the forgotten characters of Wham-O Giant Comics ...

Radian
w/a Wally Wood

Wood's powerful Radian opens the book with three busy pages, cramming an origin, a rundown of the hero's powers and weaknesses, the introduction of a major villain and his ultimate undoing, a little sexual tension and a good old-fashioned deathtrap into the space Brian Michael Bendis would have to use to show someone just asking for a price check on a value-pack of toilet wands.

Radian's resemblance to Wood's Dynamo is often commented upon, although the art style employed here is as much MAD Magazine as it is THUNDER Agents. Owing in no small part to the cramped space in the pages of the comic -- boasting "over 1,500 action panels," after all -- Radian's dynamic super-leaps and pulse-pounding punches involve him folding over like a crumpled copy of Wham-O Giant Comics being inexpertly re-assembled by a frustrated newsstand operator.

In the abbreviated adventure, Radian meets his eerie nemesis -- the Steel Skull -- within the first ten panels of the comic. Immediately taking a dislike to the sinister, shiny skeleton, Radian's attempts to battle the gruesome figure come to naught. All he does is waste energy on fighting a hologram and spur Steel Skull to reveal that he knows all about Radian's origin!

Radian was once Gilman Graves, "formerly a low-grade technician at the Pine Ridge atomic power plant." I like how in comics all the atomic facilities have these nice, gated-community style names. "Pine Ridge." "Sun Valley." "Glowing Oaks." "Blast Zone Vista." All the nice places.

When an accidental radiation leak apparently claims the lives of several employees at the plant. Gil is the sole apparent survivor, but it's a real shitshow for Reeves and Smith. Sorry guys, you sound like a 1970s comic revival act, I bet you were nice guys (PS I bet wrong).

"...which shouldn't be hard as long as he's running like that."
Gil is discovered alive, and is placed into the care of Barbra Scott, "The World's Foremost Woman Physicist." Not my words, mind you, I'm just letting you know what the Sixties were like. Barbra insists that she can save Gil, pushing him through  his atomic poisoning, to the other side, which involves powers. In a line which I'm sure the eternally dirty-minded Wood meant as a hella doubled entendre, Barb leans over Gil's supine form and declares "The only chance Gil has is to go all the way ..." Well, all right Gil!

Gil awakes with powers and proceeds to use them to cheerfully wreck things as he discovers the extent of his new abilities. He busts up a hospital bed, knocks out a ceiling, hucks around some immense but important-looking equipment INSIDE A NUCLEAR PLANT WHICH I BET WAS PRETTY IMPORTANT and beats up a safe before Barb comes in like "Hey, can we talk about you punching everything to death?"

Barb also economically informs "the atomic Hercules" of his potential vulnerabilities -- specific wavelengths of radiation and, oddly, hypnosis -- before sending him out to punch a ton of robots before she gets kidnapped.

Naturally, Radian saves the world's foremost woman physicist, which was probably a real blow to the world's secondmost woman physicist at first, although I'm assuming that she eventually came to realize that acclaim earned through mere attrition is without lasting value. In some ways, it seems like the world's secondmost woman physicist is the wiser of the two, you know?

The Steel Skull is revealed as Reese, one of the presumed victims of the Pine Ridge atomic incident, of which I just realized there are probably many many more. "Victims of Pine Ridge" I mean to say. I bet that whole town has cancer. Reese's big plan involved recruiting Radian to his side and forcing Barbra to build "an army of superhuman thugs," which is such a great comic book bad guy plan. "I need a friend and some guys to beat people up for me." What kid reading this wouldn't sympathize?

The End.

For extra Radian-related entertainment value, please enjoy this TV ad from the era, complete with zippy soundtrack clearly intended to evoke the Batman TV show (Everybody was on that thing's coattails back then, weren't they). I'm also fairly sure that this would be the only time Wally Wood comic art had ever been shown on a television commercial ...



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: A RECAP

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 ...



After a long hiatus and considering how many episodes have been covered in this feature so far, I thought a recap might be in order. Even long-time readers may not recall all the substance and nuance of the USA Network’s early-1990’s late-night television series, Swamp Thing…

Swamp Thing ran during a late-night block on the USA Network from a period between 1990 and 1993, and appeared to have spun off directly from the 1982 Wes Craven film (but not its 1989 sequel, presumably being filmed while the TV series was already well into production). As in the film, Anton Arcane seeks the secret of the bio-restorative formula, a creation of brilliant chemists Alec and Linda Holland. When their lab is destroyed by Arcane’s men, Linda is killed and Alec rushes off into the swamp, only to emerge later as a garbage bag full of brussels sprouts. Then, there are mutants.

The TV series returns Alec and Linda to marital status (the Craven film cast them as siblings, so that Swamp Thing could chase Adrienne Barbeau around a coupla ferns here and there), adding a new supporting cast (but keeping the mutants). Ostensibly set in Houma Louisiana, the series is filmed on the Universal Studios Backlot, and sure looks like it.

Chief among the show’s supporting cast is Tressa Kipp (Carrell Myers), matriarch of a weird, partially-shirtless clan of dangerously slow-witted boys. Kipp returns to her native Houma in the wake of a messy divorce, eventually setting up a swamp boat business on the edge of her family estate. She provides a half-hearted and only occasional love interest for Swamp Thing whenever the writers remember that they’re supposed to be putting that in the stories. It’s believable because she goes full thirst on any half-handsome bachelor who walks into her line-of-sight (half of whom try to kill her or someone she loves, but hey). Also – and I hate to say this, because I’m sure she’s perfectly fine in another genre, another venue, but – she is terrible at acting. Just … just so bad. It’s like her face refuses to do the emotion the script says she’s supposed to.  “Do angry” and she whistles through her fingers or something. Something should have been done.

Tressa’s youngest is the alarming Jim Kipp (Jesse Ziegler), a troubled pre-adolescent whose pathology manifested itself in that he used to sneak out of his home late at night and wander the darkened streets of Philadelphia with no fixed target, for no apparent reason. Jim is a psychopath and generally got Swamp Thing into way more trouble than he solved – possibly on purpose. I can’t imagine that anyone liked Jim. Who was tuning in going “Shit, I hope that malevolent dwarflet with the porcelain rictus of gloom lurks into this episode!” Madness. Jim is anathema. The writers do us all a favor by having him abducted and sent to a work camp in Brazil. The abduction is covered up by staging a deadly accident in which Jim’s bike collides gently with a parked car AND THEN EXPLODES. That’s obviously suspicious, but Jim’s mom just takes it at face value. Again, that’s probably on purpose.

Filling Jim’s slot – and not just Jim’s, rowrr – is eternally-unsleeved Will Kipp (Scott Garrison), Jim’s older half-brother and the show’s handsome new leading man. Way too many episodes focus on Will, who received a muscle shirt instead of a personality, generally speaking. Again, the writers are no saints in this situation. Will forms a bond with Swamp Thing not dissimilar to the one shared by the bog-monster and Jim, except without how you’re thinking “this kid should be in therapy. This kid should be in jail.” The thing about Jim is that, when they let him do a little light comedy supporting player routine, he’s a really fun character. Now ask your second question: How often do they let him do light comedy as a supporting player? Not often, kids, not often …

Abigail (Kari Wuhrer) shows up in the second season, when the show was deliberately importing elements from the acclaimed comic. While both the comic book and the theatrical Abigails were the niece of Anton Arcane, this Abigail is basically a fruitfly. Grown in a secret lab by the evil and forever-unseen Dr.Jason Woodrue (another comic reference), Abigail possesses minor telepathic powers and precognitive ability. She’s also a manic pixie dream girl type, and her deal is she concocts horrible natural poultices and such for every purpose – food, medicine, car wax, the possibilities are endless! They don’t give her much to do except to lean out of windows, way far, a little further Kari, okay, Camera Two, really get in there, you got the shot? if you catch my drift. She couldn’t have enjoyed having practically nothing to do except vamp on a show which regularly contained about eleven minutes of dead air per episode, and so is killed as she lived – in a fog with a tiny child riding on her shoulders like a monkey.

The real stars of the show are, naturally, Swamp Thing and Anton Arcane. Reprising his role from the Craven films, Swamp Thing is played expertly by Dick Durock. Even if he were in a supporting role, I maintain that Durock would have been one of the better performances on the show. He seems at ease with the turgid, awkwardly-lumbering scripts, and can really emote considering that he has ninety percent of his face lacquered under a banana skin. I once thought that no incarnation of Swamp Thing would live more brightly in my mind than Alan Moore’s, or prove more terrifyingly campy than Rick Veitch’s, but then Dick Durock learned how to do “sassy face” buried under a mound of peas and now I have a new favorite.

As great as he is solo, he really comes alive when interacting with Anton Arcane (Mark Lindsay Chapman). As a former soap opera actor, Chapman knew his way around a bit of kitsch. He proves repeatedly to be the one actor willing to really go for it in his performance. From sneering mastermind to gibbering genius, one of Lindsay’s most amazing qualities is his complete knowledge of his space, and how he interacts with it. That he improbably gives Arcane a sympathetic background in season two without ever becoming less evil is a genuinely laudable task. I dunno if you were expecting any jokes in this bit, but I actually really admire both Durock and Chapman, and I only made jokes about Durock because he’s wearing a kale onesie.

Some other minor characters:

Arcane is frequently assisted by a grimy local with low self-esteem, Sheriff Andrews (Mark Macauley), who craps out after one of those episodes where the whole thing is a really obvious metaphor happening in a dream. I swear, if you can’t survive at least one of those on a late-night low-budget early 1990’s cable television series, stay outta the kitchen.

Graham (Kevin Quigley) launches his service as Igor to Arcane’s Frankenstein bearing nothing more than a Jack Nicholson impression. He turns that into some good sneering, lewd contortions and one of the better-rounded characters on the cast. He’s that little fat guy to that big handsome guy in that Disney movie about Beauty and the Beast. I never saw it, but I get the power structure implied therein.


Swamp Thing is occasionally ogled by a frankly painfully slow-witted scientist named Dr.Ann Fisk (Janet Julian) who falls in love with the walking salad bar. I imagine it’s because the network execs didn’t want to have to depict a woman riding reverse cowboy on a watermelon, but she tends to turn Swamp Thing human a little ways after showing up. This hunky lunk of Alec Holland is played by Patrick Neil Quinn who looks like he was photocopied right out of an issue of Swamp Thing, and acts as well too. Julian ain’t no great shakes. Again, sorry, probably it was the thin gruel of a script, but lord is it painful to watch…

Then there's also General Sunderland, a crazy circus guy also played by the guy who played General Sunderland, and a crazy mystical agent of fate who was played by the same guy who played the crazy circus guy and General Sunderland, and also Wolfman Jack.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

MICRONAUTS MONDAY: 37 - THERE'S A REASON THEY CALL IT THE DANGER ROOM!


Micronauts vol.1 No.37 (Jan 1982)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Keith Giffen/Greg LaRocque and Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Novak
Colorist: Sharen
Editor: Tom Defalco
EIC: Jim Shooter

The last issue of Micronauts found the other-dimensional do-gooders trapped on Earth (again), pursued by a group of microcosmic heels imaginatively dubbed “The Death Squad,” and killing a lot of time throwing office supplies around. Issue 36 was no great shakes and, in fact, might have been the worst issue of the series so far. But number thirty-seven … ? Thirty-Seven’s got moves!

Frankly, it’s pretty much the same plot and setting from the previous issue – it’s even taking place in a school – but a few of Marvel’s familiar faces bring a welcome change. Listen, I haven’t read a Micronauts issue at all during the hiatus, so I’m just glad to be here.

Well, fourteen times isn't all that much spread out over forty years...

The Micronauts meets the X-Men! Sort of!  But what Marvel always insisted on calling its “merry mutants” open the book with a two-page adventure wherein they attempt to clean and then are almost killed by the Danger Room. I don’t know if Mantlo was angling for an X-Men job, but he’s got the Danger Room mechanics all figured out.


The Endeavor lands just outside the Westchester academy which houses the X-Men, at a moment where apparently all the X-Men except Nightcrawler have fucked off to the movies. A familiar beat in Mantlo’s Micronauts, the team uses this interim to catch up on character development. Bug is growing jealous of the tight bond being formed between his best friend Acroyear and unconvincing high school sports mascot Devil. Devil is gassing on about how he’s used to the fun-loving, devil-may-care (great, now I’m doing it) lifestyle on his home planet of Tropica, despite the fact that he is no fun and he won’t shut up about anything.

Microtron uses an extending arm to fix the Endeavor’s warp drive, and the resulting feedback damn near kills him. It’s in this moment that we are informed that Homeworld Roboid manufacturers give their creations “pain receptors.” Why. Fucking why. Is it no fun to enslave a creature if it can’t feel pain?

Mari reclines like a very tiny odalisque and muses about her mad brother Argon’s rule of the Microverse, leading us to check in on horse-boy. He’s busily shoving a Homeworld tramp into the body banks and bringing him back out as a wad of snot in boots. This is HUNTARR, a guy taking the place of the Death Squad, which is a real monkey’s paw kind of situation.



(I feel awkward savaging any of the creations in this series, suspecting that they might be the brainchildren of Mantlo’s son, who’d pushed him to do the Micronauts book in the first place and apparently helped with the background info on the characters. If this is his kid’s creation, I won’t say nuttin’. I bet DeFalco came up with it, though)

Back at the Endeavor, they’ve decided that Devil is a whiz with machines which makes no sense, but it seems that they’re desperate to give this guy something to propel him to popularity. If he can’t be the team’s Wolverine, maybe he’ll be the team’s Chewbacca? I wish he were the team’s rug, but I didn’t get a vote.

Huntarr wastes no time in crossing the Spacewall and hucking his nuts at the Endeavor. It seems that he can make any sort of weapon or device out of the mass of his body, so if he hits you in the face with what seems to be a beanbag, you might taste pancreas.

The battle takes them inside the X-Mansion, directly into the Danger Room where the malfunctioning equipment proves a hazardous battlefield. The highlight of the fight scene is probably a scene which depicts the world which Nightcrawler sees when he teleports. I feel like they used to do that all the time in the late 70s and early 80s, but they stopped showing it after a while. Anyway, it’s a groovy visual. I like it.

This is either a panel from this issue of Micronauts or every issue from Jim Starlin's Warlock...

The issue ends suddenly with Nightcrawler and the Micronauts proving to be good chums. Huntarr is last seen within the Danger Room where he is literally just being ruthlessly fired upon by everything the room has to offer. He’ll be back. I’ve seen the covers.

This wasn’t a great story, but it was a palate-cleanser after the last issue. It may have largely been the same plot, but the forced gag of using stationary supplies as weapons (and the inclusion of the Death Squad) benefitted the tale by their omission.

Nothing great in the lettercol, except that the Micronauts’ upcoming shift to a Direct Market prestige publication is announced in the back pages. They’re not going to give you a chance to forget, believe you me… 



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ON HIATUS!


Hey all!

I usually write the entries for Gone&Forgotten a month or more in advance. Unfortunately -- or, actually, really fortunately -- I've been tied up with a couple of huge projects which kept me away from the site. So, what this means is -- hiatus! For a couple months, at least!

Think of all the free time you just got back! Why, you could grow a beard, or learn to knit a macrame hammock, or get that ol' elusive GED your mom always told you you'd need if you wanted to advance past "flipping burgers at forty-eight years of age, for God's sake, Rodney" -- the possibilities are endless.

I'll return to the blog no later than the end of the year, and will pick back up on all the Micronauts, Swamp Thing and Truly Forgotten fun, plu-u-u-us a couple of new features which I hope you'll enjoy.

In the meantime: Since the site came back in 2013, I've been maintaining anywhere from three to seven articles a week. This means you've got literally hundreds of back articles to keep you occupied. But if that's not enough, you can also check out:

  • The Chronological Superman: Cataloguing the Man of Steel through every form of media in which he ever appeared, on a year-by-year basis (also presently on hiatus, but there are more than 110+ pages of entries)
  • Gone and Forgotten on Tumblr: New out-of-context panels from weird old comics, every day!

And if you'd like to support the site:

And if you find yourself missing my constant droning on about inanities, you can always just follow my Twitter or Instagram.

Thanks for being part of the blog, and I'll see y'all in a few months! I'm sure the comics and tv shows will still be largely awful by then.

Cheers!
-Your humble editor, Jon

Thursday, September 28, 2017

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : SUPER DOG



Many years before the debut of Krypto the Superdog, there was a floppy-eared superhero dog enjoying an adventure or two in the pages of Zoo Funnies. This was "Superdog," the hero hound of Animalville!

A product of Ellis Chambers -- best known for Dizzy Duck, if you're into this sort of comic book funny animal lore -- the unnamed puppy who became Superdog began life as the owner of "more comics than any other kid in all Animalville." These youngsters who get superpowers because they're hoarder nerds is a pretty consistent theme in comics, and I begin to wonder if there's an invisible hand of the market at play around here somewhere. Imagine selling your books on the principle tha, if you had enough, you'd get superpowers. If that were true, I'd be Galactus or some shit.

Terrifying.
The tiny pup is visited by The Spirit of Comic Book Animals, an anthropomorphic comic book (figures) who promises the pup superpowers if he'll just do him the courtesy of running headfirst into a tree.

I assumed the book is basically Jacob's Ladder, at this point, and everything that happens next is just a lengthy hallucination upon dying.

Anyway, the young pup gains not only super-powers -- specifically flight, super-strength and, I hope, a measure of invulnerability going forward -- but a super-costume and the identity of Superdog, which he promptly uses to stop crooks from ... being crooks. It's a kiddie book, man, he's not gonna stop murderers.

All it takes from Superdog is to punch one crook, and the bad guy plus his two accomplices turn themselves in to the cops. It didn't even seem like all that great a punch. No wonder kids were enthralled by the fast-paced adventure and Superdog certainly ran many more adventures than just this one, probably.



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