“Doc Savage, Man of Bronze:” The Origin of the Superhero Group

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Cover art for Doc Savage magazine

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.

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Film Review of “John Wick” (2014)

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Promotional poster for the 2014 film “John Wick”

I’ve been hearing a lot about John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves), but mainly as a meme. Basically, if you kill Wick’s dog, he comes after you with a vengeance. I didn’t really know what it meant.

I knew there were three Wick films out and a fourth pending. I thought maybe the movies were based on a book series or something (they’re not).

So when I was at my local public library yesterday and saw the 2014 original “John Wick,” I figured “why not?”

Knowing nothing about the film or the character, it was hard to get into at first. Who is this wounded, dying guy at the beginning? Why is he watching a video of a woman, apparently his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan), on his phone as he bleeds out.

Then the rest of the film as a flashback.

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Book Review of “Cibola Burn,” the Fourth in the “Expanse” Series

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Last night, I finished Cibola Burn (2015), which is the fourth book in The Expanse novel series by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). As with the previous novel Abaddon’s Gate, it was a little difficult for me to get into at first, but once I was hooked, I was hooked hard.

The general plot is pretty straightforward. Now that the Ring is operational and the gateways to other parts of the galaxy are open, a group of belter refugees took their ship on an unauthorized journey through a gate and ended up in another solar system. For a year, they’ve been colonizing Ilus (called New Terra by the UN) and have set up mining facilities. However, the UN has chartered the Royal Charter Energy (RCE) corporation to both scientifically explore and materially exploit the world, seeing the settlers as “squatters.”

A small group of settlers, including Basia Metron who we briefly saw in Caliban’s War (yes, people who have appeared before come back) planning to blow up the landing pad for the RCE ship’s big shuttle as a protest don’t realize the shuttle is on final approach. In trying to abort the explosion, Basia sets it off, either killing or terribly wounding everyone on board including the UN appointed regional governor.

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Book Review of “Abaddon’s Gate,” the Third in the “Expanse” Series

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“Abaddon’s Gate” by James S.A. Corey

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Finished reading Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) which is the third in the Expanse series. It was a little harder for me to get into at first, unlike Leviathan Wakes or Caliban’s War. Starting things off with Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante drinking and gambling in the casinos of Ceres didn’t set the right tone for me, at least not in the beginning.

Also, there was the plethora of new characters to absorb. True, each of these novels introduces characters unique to a particular book, but this one seemed to have a ton, including Anna, Bull, Tilly, Cortez, and Clarissa/Melba, and that’s just the short list.

Since each chapter is told from a specific person’s point of view, I had to keep reminding myself who that person was in the earlier portions of the novel. It was a tad “offputting.”

Oh, and Joe Miller makes a comeback but not as you might imagine, thanks to he, Julie Mao, the asteroid Eros, and the protomolecule all being thrown into the atmosphere of Venus, “cooking” for a while, and then having “something” emerge.

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Review of “Doom Patrol” Season Two

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Promotional image for the second season of Doom Patrol

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I finished watching season 2 of the Doom Patrol TV show last night. As I mentioned in my review of season 1, the show is available as a set of DVDs at my local public library.

The show remains heavily based on many of the later issues of the comic book, which means it’s even more bizarre than when I was reading it as a kid in the 1960s and 70s.

Season 2 picks up where season 1 left off with the “Patrol” including Cyborg/Vic (Joivan Wade) and the Chief’s/Niles Caulder’s (Timothy Dalton) daughter Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) shrunk down to “Ant-Man” size after their escape from Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) in the “White Space.” They end up living on Robotman’s/Cliff’s (Brendan Fraser) large model race car track which includes tents and various other structures.

The team is still shaken by the revelation that the horrible accidents that left each one of them disfigured, ruining their former lives, were directly engineered by the Chief in his attempt to uncover the secret of immortality. They are all just failed experiments.

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Review of “Doom Patrol” Season One

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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?”

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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.

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Book Review of “Caliban’s War,” the Second of the “Expanse” Series

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Promotional artwork for the novel “Caliban’s War”

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Not long ago, I reviewed the first book in the “Expanse” series Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Almost always when I read and review the first book in some series, I tend to wander off in a different direction afterward. I did that for N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo award winning The Fifth Season, for David Weber’s On Basilisk Station, for Martha Wells’ All Systems Red, and in fact, for just about every book I’ve reviewed, regardless of how well I did (or didn’t) like them.

However, “Leviathan” really hooked me, so much so, that I immediately checked book two out of the public library. I just finished reading Caliban’s War and absolutely loved it. The quality was just as high as for “Leviathan.” I was reintroduced to familiar characters such as Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos as well as new characters such as Prax, Bobbie, and Avasarala.

It begins on the Jovian moon Ganymede, the “bread basket of the belt,” which is the best location to grow the food needed for the colonized asteroids. It’s the best place for pregnant women to gestate to term. It’s also, apparently, the best place to spawn protomolecule monsters.

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Book Review of “Leviathan Wakes,” the First of the “Expanse” Series

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Cover image for the novel “Leviathan Wakes”

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I just finished reading the 2011 science fiction blockbuster Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (really Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). It’s the first in the nine-book Expanse series and is the basis for the television series The Expanse.

In the future, humanity has spread out from Earth and colonized Mars and the Asteroid Belt (or just “the Belt”). However, political, social, and financial enmity exists between the three populations and tensions could be ignited into war at any moment.

Chapters in this tome alternate between the perspectives of Joe Miller, a burned out, alcoholic detective working for an Earth-funded police force on the asteroid Ceres, and Jim Miller, the executive officer aboard a “water freighter” Canterbury.

On Ceres, the mysteries mount. Why did all of the gangs on Ceres suddenly vanish along with the police’s riot gear? Why has the IPO, the Belter activist group on Ceres, become so reasonable and cooperative? And who is Julie Mao, an heiress-cum-revolutionary, the girl he was supposed to kidnap and ship off to her wealthy parents as a “side job?” Trying to solve Julie’s mystery along with his drinking and general ineptitude get Miller fired, but that’s when his adventure really begins.

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Film Review of “Blade Runner 2049”

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Promotional image for the film Blade Runner 2049

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I finally got around to watching Blade Runner 2049 (2017) last night on DVD. At 2 hours and 44 minutes long, I felt it was too long. Yes, there was a story to tell, and it’s a good story, but if this is the theatrical version, then the studio allowed director Denis Villeneuve to indulge himself.

I’ve never seen the theatrical version of Blade Runner (1982), only the Director’s Cut which I reviewed here. It’s considered the better of the two 1980s films, so I probably will never get around to seeing the original.

Since this movie is four years old, I’m not really worried about revealing spoilers, but if you’ve never seen it and want to at some point, stop reading here.

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Review of the Lovecraft Country Episode “Strange Case”

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Wummi Mosaku as Ruby Baptiste in the television show “Lovecraft Country”

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So, I watched the Lovecraft Country episode Strange Case last night. The title refers to the title of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only Misha Green‘s version is far more disgusting.

The show starts where A History of Violence leaves off. Yahima (Monique Candelaria) has seemingly disappeared. Leti (Jurnee Smollett) thinks that Montrose (Michael K. Williams) has just let her go, but Atticus (Jonathan Majors) knows his Dad killed her. In a rage, Tic tries to beat Montrose to death, but Leti manages to stop him.

Montrose also destroyed the Book of Names, but Tic figures out that Leti photographed the pages. After rough sex (doesn’t this guy ever just kiss his girlfriend and treat her gently?), she develops the photos and he starts to work deciphering the code.

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