Cover art for Doc Savage magazine
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Doc Savage and his oddly assorted team might be considered the progenitors of today’s “Fantastic Four” and many other teams of superheroes — even Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.” -Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics’ “Spider-Man” and “The X-Men”
There are probably two reasons to read pulp fiction that’s 70, 80, 90, and even 100 years old. The first is that you’re a true fan of the genre. The second is, if not for these ancient heroes, we wouldn’t have the modern ones that, at least up until recently, were box office blockbusters at the movies.
In the mid-1960s as I was about to enter Junior High, I didn’t realize these stories existed and more, I didn’t know that various publishers had finally convinced the owners of these older properties to allow them to appear as paperbacks. It was the perfect time for me. I was the age and sex of the target audience, and the average price for a paperback was around 40 to 60 cents a copy. Heck, back then, even a comic book cost 12 cents.
So Edgar Rice Burroughs’ entire Tarzan and John Carter of Mars book series abruptly appeared in mall bookstores all across the country. So did E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series along with what Robert E. Howard and every other author under the sun wrote about Conan the Barbarian.
Images from “Uncanny X-Men #7,” “Uncanny X-Men #52,” and “All-New X-Men #40” found at “Bounding into Comics.”
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I received quite a bit of feedback on my last blog post, mainly in social media. So when insomnia seized me by the throat tonight, I re-read some other “controversial” material I’d sampled earlier and figured, why not? I need to kill some time and let being sleepy overwhelm my anxiety (long story).
I follow the blog Bounding into Comics and yes it does come from a somewhat conservative place socially. While I periodically complain that the entertainment industry has forgotten how to entertain, they/it does have other characteristics. One can be found in the “Bounding” article Every Single Comic Book Character That Has Been Retconned To LGBTQ+.
No, I’m not going to rant about LGBTQ representation in comic books or anything else. The world is a diverse place and that will naturally be reflected in what we watch, read, and listen to. Any form of entertainment is a product of its times which is why making and then remaking a movie or TV show decades apart will yield two different products. Compare the original 1960s Lost in Space with the much more recent Netflix remake (which admittedly I’ve never watched, but I’m convinced the two shows must be very different from each other). It’s also why it’s reasonable to have gay characters in comic books today when you would never have found even one when I was growing up.
Getting back to the article, there are only six DC and Marvel characters listed out of hundreds or perhaps thousands of superheroes, so it’s not like it is a big deal. The complaint that author John F. Trent makes is that each and every one of these fictional people started out as totally straight characters. Every single one.
And every one was retconned to become bi or gay.
Promotional image for season 1 of “Doom Patrol”
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Okay, so I just finished watching Season 1 of the Doom Patrol television show. I noticed that seasons 1 and 2 of the show were available as DVDs at my local public library and I thought, “what the heck?”
My Greatest Adventure issue 80.
Actually, as a kid, I really enjoyed the old Doom Patrol comic book. First featured in “My Greatest Adventure” comic title issue 80 (June 1963), it chronicled the saga of three misfits forged into a superhero team by scientist/genius Niles Caulder, also called “The Chief.” The original team was made up of Robotman (Cliff Steele), a race car driver who was in an accident so horrific that only his brain survived. The Chief put that brain in a robot body. Elasti-Girl was originally actress Rita Farr who, filming on location, was exposed to a volcanic gas enabling her to grow to giant size or to shrink into a tiny form. Negative Man was test pilot Larry Trainor who flew his rocket plane into a radiation belt. The plane crashed, and Larry discovered that not only was he permanently radioactive, but for sixty seconds, he could project a negative image of himself that could travel at the speed of light and had amazing abilities. The only trick is that N-Man has to get back inside Larry’s body before the minute is up or Larry dies and N-Man disintegrates.
In looking up the full history of the comic book (see above link), I saw that it had gotten a whole lot stranger than it first started out.
Promotional image for the tv show “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”
So I happened to read Cora Buhlert’s review of the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier called Marvel’s “New World Order” – Some Thoughts on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (spoilers) expecting something light and entertaining. Not exactly what happened.
First of all, let me say that I haven’t seen any of the WandaVision mini-series and don’t anticipate watching this new show either. It’s not that I think they’ll be bad or I won’t enjoy them. I just don’t subscribe to streaming services. Well, besides that, I don’t have the time to dedicate myself to television shows anymore.
I used to watch all of the WB produced superhero shows, popularly known as the Arrowverse, but they were consuming so much of my free time, I didn’t have any left for things like writing and a life.
Screenshot of the cover of the graphic novel “Superman Smashes the Klan” found at Polygon.com
I know I’ve been booted out as a follower of Mike Glyer’s fanzine File 770, but he can’t block my internet access, so occasionally I pop over to see what’s up. Most of the time it’s “not much,” but I did happen upon Pixel Scroll 10/23/19 The Little Green Man Was Very Sad, One Pixel Was All He Had.
Cover art for a World War 2 era “Superman” comic book
Item 11 is titled SUPE’S AN IMMIGRANT, TOO. It links to an article where a 1946 version of Superman fights Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and befriends a Chinese immigrant family. I was all prepared for yet another reinvention of Superman who behaves like a 2019 progressive over 70 years in the past. That is to say, out of character and historically anachronistic.
And yet the Polygon article The Superman story that set the Ku Klux Klan back years is now a comic was a pleasant surprise.
A few days ago, I wrote Truth, Justice, and the American Way to illustrate how classic superheroes such as Superman and Captain America represented, not necessarily the United States as it is or historically has been, but as we want to be as a country and a people, a united people.
Promotional image for the 2018 film “Aquaman.”
I happened upon the DVD of Aquaman (2018) at my local library and couldn’t pass it up. The film has gotten rave reviews, and given the DCU‘s relatively poor track record compared to Marvel, I decided they were due for a win.
First of all, I love Jason Momoa as Arthur/Aquaman. Even as a kid, the blond, orange shirted Aquaman of the comic books seemed pretty silly to me, especially when compared to Marvel’s Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, so Momoa’s interpretation of Aquaman is an incredible improvement and a joy to watch. I also loved Temuera Morrison as Arthur’s Dad Tom and Nicole Kidman as his Mom Atlanna. An additional treat was the appearance of Willem Dafoe as Vulko.
All that said, I thought the movie was “okay”. Oh sure, plenty of action, thrills and chills, but it didn’t really stand out. There are already plenty of films about reluctant, exiled kings and their rise to power against evil. Frankly, Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) did it better, although it’s tough to compare the two characters.
Promotional image for the movie “Captain Marvel” (2019).
I didn’t want to do this. I still don’t have to, but then again, there’s more hype about this movie than even last year’s Black Panther. When I was anticipating watching and reviewing that film, I was “irrationally” afraid that if I didn’t like something about it, I’d be forever labeled a “racist.” Fortunately I thought it was one of the better Marvel films, and that although it told a story of significant meaning to African-Americans, it also transcended race as the epic tale of a Prince confronting the realities of becoming a King.
However, Captain Marvel (2019) which will have its general release to theaters this coming Friday (March 8th), seems to be getting a lot more press than Black Panther, at least to the best of my recollection.
First of all, according to The Mary Sue (which leans pretty far to the left), the movie is getting tons of bad reviews pre-release, but it’s only being reviewed by misogynistic white males who hate the idea not only of powerful women, but of Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson) being the most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe, even more so than Thor or the Hulk (okay, I’m exaggerating slightly).
Warning: Some Adult Content
Okay, so DC has published its first issue of Batman Damned under its DC Black Label imprint, and boy is it adult. You actually get to see Bruce Wayne nude, not just from the back but the front. I’m posting an image below as proof, plus I archived two news sources just in case they get “poofed” for their content later on. Actually, that didn’t work, because the archived version doesn’t display the “adult” images.
Here’s a milder version at my archived version of the Popbuzz story, and the non-archived Screenrant missive.
Now here’s the image I captured.
I’ve written about the modern state of mainstream comic books before (DC, Marvel) including how at least some of them aren’t safe for children, and the whole comicsgate vs. social justice comic books drama. Some of this still pops up in my twitter stream, though I don’t respond because, why bother? Still, I do consider the state of the industry as it relates to some of the movies I watch (I caught Deadpool 2 on DVD the other day). And that takes me back to the comic books I used to read, many years…okay, decades ago.
I’ve read some things about the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, which seems interesting, and maps to the original Ms. Marvel comic book of the 1970s, based on a non-superpowered Carol Danvers who appeared in 1968 in this comic book:
Here, Captain Marvel was an alien spy, obeying the commands of his Kree overlords in a spaceship orbiting the Earth, but eventually, he used his space suit’s powers to help human beings, bringing his loyalty into question. Not long afterward, he got a make over and turned into this:
Promotional image for the 2014 film “Captain America: Winter Solder.”
After all the you’re a racist if you don’t believe Colin Kaepernick gave up everything to be Nike’s “Just Do It” 30th anniversary spokesperson garbage a few days ago, I decided I needed to unwind and experience something to restore my spirit. So I again chose to dust off the DVD and watch the 2014 film Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Why, you ask?
I can’t find the quote online, but I recall that actor Chris Evans, who plays “Cap” in the Marvel movies, said something like “Captain America does good for the sake of doing good. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be as a man.”
That’s probably not exact, but I’m betting it’s pretty close.
In the film, he says stuff like:
I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.
Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so the people could be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.
He didn’t act ashamed of America and, after all, the guy’s uniform is basically the American flag (I’d like to see someone try to stomp on or burn it while Rogers was wearing it). Steve Rogers is a living reminder why it’s okay to still believe that our nation is made up of people who do good and want to be even better.