Tuesday, January 31, 2006

THE F*@% YEAH FILES (Movie Version) #2

More off-topic fun as we continue to look at some of my favorite F*@& Yeah scenes in film. Don't worry, we'll return to comic books shortly.


In the Heat of the Night (1967)

You can’t go wrong with Sidney Poitier. This F*@% Yeah scene was famous with a whole generation of movie goers – so famous that they named an entire movie after the line Poitier utters in the scene. That’s how bad-ass this scene is. I’d love to see a Star Trek movie starring George Takei called “Target the Center of That Explosion and Fire!”

Anyway, In the Heat of the Night is a gripping crime drama about a black police detective named Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) who investigates a murder with a redneck sheriff (Rod Steiger) in a small Southern town. Hilarity ensues. The great thing about the movie is that at the end, Tibbs and the sheriff haven’t magically become buddies and come to understand each other or some happy bullshit like that. At best, the two cops have formed an uneasy d├ętente.

There’s a famous exchange at the beginning of the film where Steiger and Poitier’s characters become acquainted. The sheriff asks Tibbs in a disrespectful tone, “What do the call you up there?” Poitier fixes him with a “fuck you” glare and says in a dignified, outraged voice: “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”


F*@% Yeah! I love that scene!

In the Heat of the Night was so popular that it led to a sequel called – you guessed it – They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, a TV show starring Carol O’Connor, and a series of TV commercials. “They call me Mr. Tibbs – by dialing 1-800-COLLECT!”

OK, I’m kidding about that last one.


To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Harper Lee’s classic (and only) novel was the inspiration for an equally classic movie starring Gregory Fucking Peck as Southern lawyer and widower Atticus Finch, who raises two precocious youngsters while defending a black client unjustly accused of the rape of a white woman. If you have not read the book or seen the movie, you are missing out BIG TIME and are probably a communist.

Again, this is a movie with more than one F*@% Yeah moment, but my choice is the scene where Atticus Finch gathers his papers into a briefcase and walks out of the courtroom. In the segregated South, all the black townfolk have to sit in the courtroom’s hot balcony, and as he passes below them, they all stand out of respect.

Atticus's daughter Scout is hanging out in the balcony – a black reverend turns to her and says: “Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing.”


F*@% Yeah! That gets me every time.
I’m sure Willem DaFoe would agree with me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

THE F*@% YEAH FILES (Movie Version) #1

I thought I’d take a brief detour from the well-traveled road of comic book mockery and veer off into the world of cinema to discuss the greatest F*@% Yeah moments in movie, according to Dave. Please forgive the digression.

For those who are not familiar with the concept of F*@% Yeah, I invite you to turn your attention here. It’s a simple enough idea: a F*@% Yeah moment is something in a work of art that stuns you with its total coolness and wrenches the phrase “F*@% Yeah!” (or its equivelant) from your lips. Previously we’ve just discussed F*@% Yeah through the lens of the comic book, and we shall do so again, but for now let’s discuss the phenomenon as experienced through the magic of film.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list – I’ve left out some of the more obvious F*@% Yeah moments that might immediately spring to mind, like the sword vs gun scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example. Everybody knows that one. Hopefully I’ll have picked some of the lesser known F*@% Yeah moments, but we’ll start with what I would hope any geek would agree with.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I’m going to just lay this on the table, and you may mock me if you will: The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies. Ever. It kicks ass on so many levels. Even my wife likes it. This was one of the most transformative movie experiences in Young Dave’s life – I was so excited when I first saw it that I skipped school and saw it again the next day. My love for this flawed masterpiece knows no bounds. It’s got everything you want in a movie – revenge, sacrifice, friendship, cunning ploys, space battles, mind controlling ear worms, massive reversals of fortune, and valor. Lots of valor. This movie has like, FIVE F*@% Yeah moments, but I’ll just pick one:

The famous communicator scene between the revenge crazed Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and his quarry Captain Kirk (The Shatner) needs no introduction, but introduce it I will. The madman Khan thinks he has won: he’s hijacked the all-powerful Genesis torpedo and stranded Kirk and company inside a presumably lifeless planetoid –Kirk tries to goad Khan into beaming down and facing him, but to no avail.

Khan says, “I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her: marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet, buried alive. Buried aliiiive…”

All of Kirk’s frustration and rage bubbles up in the greatest scenery-chewing moment in The Shatner’s fabled career, as he screams into the communicator: “Khaaan!” His cry seemingly echoes through the planetoid and out into space while gooesebumps crawl up your arms.

Man, I loved that. It’s so operatic, so epic, so… so right.
F*@% Yeah!

My Favorite Year (1982)

A light comedy starring Peter O’Toole and that guy from Perfect Strangers, My Favorite Year is about a young production assistant named Benjy Stone who works on a comedy show loosely based on Sid Caeser’s Your Show of Shows, tasked with babysitting a drunken cinema idol (O’Toole) and making sure that he shows up for rehearsals and the show on time and sober. Set during the age of live television, My Favorite Year is a valentine to a bygone era, full of sweet humor and anchored by a fantastic performance by O’Toole as the aging lothario Alan Swann, who is clearly based on Errol Flynn.

SPOILER ALERT! I may ruin the end of the movie for you, so beware.

The climax comes on the night of the live show, when a bunch of mob thugs visit King Kaiser (Joeseph Bologna), the show’s hot-tempered star, to punish him for mocking their boss on TV. Simultaneously, Swann realizes that the show is - gasp! – actually live, and he freaks out five minutes before curtain and heads for his limo and a stiff drink. Benjy gets in a furious argument with his idol, and all seems lost. The curtain raises on Kaiser getting worked over by the thugs -

- and then the spotlights and cameras swivel up to the balcony. Alan Swann, in musketeer garb for a sketch, swings down over the audience and comes to Kaiser’s rescue, thrashing the thugs. The audience thinks it’s all part of the show and gives Swann a thunderous standing ovation.

The movie ends on that scene, that last moment of glory for a fading star.

I swear, I’m getting misty just typing this. My Favourite Year rules, and it’s due in no small part to O’Toole’s spot-on Oscar-nominated performance and this triumphant, wonderful ending.

Willem DaFoe, can I get a F*@% Yeah?


Let's do more tomorrow!

Friday, January 27, 2006

If I had a time machine...


... I would travel back to June 25th/26th 1993 for this :

Thursday, January 26, 2006

GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #2 DC Comics, 1993

In 1993 DC Comics released a series of inter-related annuals called “Bloodlines” that followed a time-honored tradition in the television world: the spin-off. While most TV spin-off shows feature cast members from the original series (think Frasier or Angel or, if you must, Joanie Loves Chachi), some spin-offs come from stealth pilots.

What’s a stealth pilot, you ask? A guy that flies an F-117? Yes, but in this case I’m referring to the sneaky practice of incorporating a guest character into a regular series with the sole purpose of spinning them off into a new series of their own. The new series is only tangentially related to it’s progenitor. Stealth pilots are a sneaky way of testing the water and trying out new characters/concepts on a target audience before committing to a whole new series. In effect you’ve broadcast the pilot of your new series on an unsuspecting audience. Hence the term “stealth pilot.”

Lots of TV shows do this. Walker, Texas Ranger begat Sons of The Dragon and (I think) Martial Law. The Practice begat Boston Legal. The Golden Girls begat Empty Nest. And, of course, comic books do it, too.

Ever read Uncanny X-Men #261, featuring Hardcase and The Harriers, a group of tough, forgettable mercenaries? What about the Cyberforce and WildC.A.T.S. issues that Chris Claremont wrote featuring The Huntsman? Those are stealth pilots.

The most blatant example of the stealth pilot are the Bloodlines annuals. They should have just called them: “Do you like this character?”

In the Bloodlines books, a group of evil shapeshifting aliens who look like a cross between H.R. Giger paintings and cow skulls come to earth to suck the lifeforce out of the back of their victims’ necks. Some of their prey, however, are mutated into superhumans instead of dying. It’s a lame “just add water” approach to a superhero origin that is as lazy as it is unimaginative. Each of these suck-ass new superheroes debuts in one of the Bloodlines annuals and gets exposed to readers who might not otherwise take a chance on a whole new series.

In Green Lantern Annual #4, we’re introduced to Nightblade, a young man who loses his legs in an accident but develops incredible regenerative powers when one of the cow skull aliens tries to swallow his soul. His legs grow back, and he decides to fight crime or something. Through trial and error he discovers his regenerative powers, meaning some alien-possessed goons chop off his arm:

As somebody that can regenerate, he takes the obvious superhero name: Nightblade! I guess he can, um, throw steak knives, too. I’m to assume that if Nightblade had ever caught on and starred in his own series, he would lose a limb in damn near every issue so the reader can see how his power works. “Hey, Nightblade! Will you get this fork out of my garbage disposal for me?”

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Nightblade. Nobody has. If you look up Green Lantern Annual #4 in the Overstreet Guide, it will read: “1st appearance of what’s-his-face.” The beauty of stealth pilots like the Bloodlines annuals is that if the characters don’t catch on, no harm done. Nobody will remember the other Bloodlines characters like Layla or Argus or Ballistic. DC published a few mini-series featuring “Bloodpack” characters, but unless I’m mistaken, and I often am, the only character from this series to actually catch on and get a regular series was Hitman.

Oh, yeah.

Green Lantern is in this comic, too. I almost forgot.

In Coast City, Hal Jordan’s former girlfriend Carol Ferris is being stalked by one of the shapeshifting cow skull aliens. This one can turn itself into a hypnotic tramp in order to seduce people before sucking out their spinal fluid. Hal crosses paths with Nightblade and the two team up to stop the cow skull alien and her horde of demonic pawns. Wackiness ensues.

This issue was written by Gerard Jones, who was everywhere in the nineties, with art by Mitch Byrd and inker Dan Davis. Jones is a competent writer and I’ve always kind of liked Byrd’s work, so their work raises this annual above the other Bloodlines annuals, which mostly sucked ass. There’s a surprising amount of gore in the book, which has some strange sex/violence subtext going on. It’s all Comic Code approved, so enjoy kids!

Yikes. Somebody's seven-year old son got this back in the nineties and now they're a serial killer - all because of this book!

The cover is awful, but Mitch Byrd’s interior art is pretty solid. Byrd draws dynamic action scenes, the “camera” is always well-placed, and his figures look three-dimensional and real. His art has a distinctive look; all his characters have button-noses and seem a little over-rendered. Plus, he draws every woman with thick legs and plump butts. Mitch Byrd is the Ass-Man of comics, the counterpoint to Jim Balent’s breast fetish art. Seriously, the man is like Sir Mix-a-Lot with a pencil – he likes the flank steak.

Mitch Byrd’s not the only one who likes rump – check out Hal:


It’s his duty to please that booty! Watch out, Hal, she only wants you for your spinal fluid.

Big butts aside, the other noteworthy thing in Green Lantern Annual #4 is how many times Hal Jordan gets smacked in the head. I’m going to have to scan some panels and send them to Scipio over at The Absorbascon, who collects images of Hal getting brained. It’s actually kind of funny how many times he gets clocked in the noggin.


How embarrassing. What, he can’t set his ring to warn him about sucker shots? Ultimate weapon of the universe my ass!

Green Lantern Annual
#4: the best of the Bloodlines annuals. That’s damning with faint praise, but it’s true. If only Nightblade had caught on… Sigh.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Disturbing image of the day


I promise I will lay off the Master Pandemonium imagery from now on, but I couldn't resist this panel from Avengers West Coast #52 that shows Wonder Man getting suckled by a hideous demon baby/hand. God, how humiliating that must have been for him.

If you like, here's the extra-crispy version of the panel:

Friday, January 20, 2006

THE LEGION #6 DC Comics, 2002



I grew up reading The Legion of Super Heroes. One of my earliest comic book experiences was a Legion issue where the ultra-powerful sorcerer Mordru escapes from his airtight prison and hands the super-youth of the Legion their collective asses. Young Dave found that shit terrifying and fascinating.

The Great Darkness Saga? The Sensor Girl mystery? Frickin’ Superboy? I ate that stuff up with a spoon. Which is why I don’t have any more of my old Legion issues: I poured milk all over them and ate them like cereal so they could be part of me forever. Then I pooped them out.

Sorry; I’m still in the grips of diaper-changing dementia.

For those of you who don’t know or care, The Legion of Super Heroes is an army of teens with fantastic powers in the future (once led by a time-displaced Superboy) who help protect the United Federation of Planets from galactic menaces while wearing fabulous disco costumes. Sound corny? Hey, shut up, they’re better than your stupid X-Force, you big stupidhead. I love the Legion more than I love my first dog, which might sound mean, but my first dog was sort of an asshole as dogs go.

DC has published God-knows-how-many Legion of Super Heroes series over the years, probably because the editors and creators are mired in nostalgia and desperately cling to the memories of their youth – just like me! At this point, I’m honestly not sure that there are enough people in the world who adore the Legion of Super Heroes to make it a successful book, but DC keeps trying, bless their hearts.
------
"I love the Legion more than I love my first dog..."
------

Here’s an example of one of the many doomed incarnations of the book, called simply The Legion. Written by the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Olivier Copiel, The Legion is one of the best versions of my childhood favorite. They deftly avoid/ignore/handle the continuity traps and complicated back story that have made The Legion of Super Heroes such an impenetrable book for new readers, but retain the glamour and drama of the golden age of the Legion. I loved it.

So of course, it got cancelled.

Abnett and Lanning’s work is hit-or-miss with me (Bloodstone, anyone? Yech.) but they hit more often than the miss, and even when I don’t like their stuff I still feel like their hearts are in the right places. Darn it, they just want to tell good comic book stories. I can definitely say that The Legion was a creative success, even if it was axed, and the highlight of the series was the Ra’s al Ghul storyline.

Whaaat? Isn’t Ra’s al Ghul a Batman villain? Isn’t Ra’s al Ghul actually Liam Neeson? Well, yes. But now he’s a Legion of Super Heroes villain, too!

In a nutshell, the Legionnaires discover that the President of The United Federation of Planets is actually Ra’s al Ghul in disguise. The bastard is still alive hundreds of years into the future, no doubt due to the Lazarus Pit spa treatment he regularly receives. That, and a lot of water-rich foods and plenty of exercise and fresh air. The fact that he’s still alive kind of makes him the winner in the big Batman vs Ra’s contest, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Ra’s has always been keen on remaking Earth and ushering in a new age of perfection, and in the future he’s found the means to do just that, and big time. He unleashes a destructive wave across the planet, “terrorforming” humans into creepy pure lifeforms.

Naturally, only The Legion and one plucky six-year old girl stand in his way. Sadly, the plucky girl gets crushed by a rhino on page two – so it’s up to The Legion!

I loved this story because it caught me by surprise. As a reader you knew something was fishy about the President, but when it’s finally revealed that he’s Ra’s al Ghul in holo disguise – somebody give me a F*@% Yeah! That’s just a great idea.

My favorite bit in the storyline (which spans numerous issues of The Legion) is the part where Ra’s captures Mon-El and inters him in a chamber bathed with red solar light that saps him of his Daxxamite powers. Mon-El has spent some time in the 20th century as the hero Valor in the DC series by the same name, so he knows what Ra’s is capable of, but he can’t warn his fellow Legionnaires. We get this great scene where Ra’s shows up to give Mon-El the typical “join me or die” speech:


Mon-El tells the villain to get bent, which may not be the best idea because Ra’s is packing some heat, Dirty Harry style. Weakened by the red solar rays, Mon-El’s invulnerable body is
anything but… and Ra’s pops a cap in his ass!

That’s cold.

Does Mon-El die? YES. He totally dies! Oh, hang on. I just flipped through the comics again. No, he doesn’t die. My bad. Still, it makes for a great cliffhanger. Please note that I’m cheating a little and am including scans from other issues in the storyline, not just issue #6.

The whole damn thing is well executed and fun. The story is epic, fast-paced, and features a host of characters – just like the Legion stories I read as a kid. Every Legionnaire gets a chance to kick ass or gets a good line, and they’re all wearing chic superhero uniforms, just like in the good old days. They even slip a roll call page in issue #6 for the benefit of new readers. Check it out.

Olivier Copiel’s art is crisp and cute without being too cloying. I don’t know if that even makes sense. If memory serves Copiel left the book shortly after this storyline to draw Chuck Austen’s run on The Avengers, which proves that there is no God.

I’m a big fan of Copiel’s work, and with The Legion he is at the top of his game. It looks like he’s having fun. What comic book artist wouldn’t want to draw spaceships and sexy women and weird aliens and Science Police? It might be a lot of work, but if I were an artist I’d rather draw that stuff than twenty-two pages of Peter Parker and Mary Jane talking in a bedroom.

Plus – look at Copiel’s Shrinking Violet! I guess she’s called Leviathan in this series, which is not the nicest thing to call a lady, but she’ll always be Shrinking Violet to me. Look at how cute she is, with the hairband and the little flower insignia on her costume. I’ve got a bit of a crush on her.


Yes, I know that she’s fictional and that I’m married, but I love Shrinking Violet. Testament to the power of The Legion.

So there you go – I heartily recommend hunting down The Legion in the back issue bins – you won’t be disappointed. It's good old-fashioned high concept futuristic fun, and that's never wrong.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Hazards of Blogging While Sleep-Deprived



had a little baby, Thasbnks for all the nice comments and stiuff, veryu nice. Still blkogging like a motherfucker thought, even though no sleep. Sleeep. Two litttle girls, lots of diapsers and pooo - poo can;ts stop me! HA HA HA! Im, poo lord! Lord of the Poo like Michael Flately

Her;s Mindhunter, a dark horse comic starrring The darkeness and Withcboob and ALiens and Predatorr and Emeril Lagfasse. Ba,m@ He;s going to crank it up a notch ha HA ha ha ! Wee!

There;'s lot s of boobs and stuff and ass0-pshots as Withcblade teams uyp with Darkness guy and goes into space to fight bad guys and alens and predatrors and shit. Memo to SDark Horse: strop wioth the liocensed comcis. nuff already. Let it gfo dudeds

Looky here at this panels theres a dirty word sorry abotu the sloppy scanning



s
Stropry involves psuchic guy whose fucking with poeples heads and a female predator and aleins and witch blade;s ass. Lots or boobs in this one doesn;t shje gfet cold. My daighter Mirea would like thgose boobs although they lkook fake to me.,


He ha ha tlook at the deude pioking Im so tired

So tirded

must sleeepo

must change diaper

poo
poo

poo

HA HA ha

,.

help me

cutre lutttle girl thouygh

thnaks for all the nice comments

poo

[ppoo

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lame-ass villain #13 - Master Pandemonium



Just look at this chump.

Movie studio executive Martin Preston (M.P. – get it?! Preston has the same initials as his alter-ego!) got shitfaced and drove his Jag off a cliff one night, but was “saved” by Mephisto, the Marvel Universe version of Satan. Preston lost both his arms in the accident, but Mephisto replaced them with, yes, demon arms! He became Master Pandemonium, but his friends call him Master P.

Of course, if you have demon arms you have to be a bad guy – it’s a rule - so Master Pandemonium gives himself a villain name, grows a Fu Manchu beard, and picks the worst possible outfit and goes into the super-villain business. Myself, I would just enter arm-wrestling contests with my demon arms, but I’m not a “big picture” thinker like Master P.

He had all sorts of cool demonic powers, like spitting fire and shit. No, no – he didn’t really spit shit at people – that’s a different guy. It’s a figure of speech. Master P’s arms could turn into demons and separate from his body, leaving him armless. That doesn’t sound like a great power, does it? What if the demons decide to go get a burger or something? Dude’s got no arms until the munchies are over.


"Snack attack motherf***er!"

I briefly mentioned Master P in a previous post, and DLB reader Stacie Ponder rightly pointed out that Master P and his crew look like they're line-dancing in the panel above. Another drawback to having demon arms - you have to wait until "Achey-Breaky Heart" is over before you get your arms back.

I think the final indignity of the whole demonic arm thing is that Master P couldn't really trust those things while he was sleeping. I can just see him trying to get some shut-eye in his waterbed while his arms move on their own power, lighting cigarettes, turning bad Lifetime movies on the TV with the remote, or - gasp - even worse things. Demon arms can get pretty naughty when you're not paying attention. He'd have to change his name to Master Bates!

Oh, snap! You don't know how long I've been waiting to do that lame joke.

The most famous Master Pandemonium appearance has got to be John Byrne's Avengers West Coast #51, in which Master P swaps his stock demon arms for custom arms made out of The Scarlet Witch's toddlers! Behold:

Yeah, I don't know exactly how having baby arms makes one unbeatable. Take it from me, Master P, when your arms get hungry you're going to be looking for some boob, and fast. Yet another reason why Master Pandemonium is included in the ranks of lame-ass villains.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Return of The King, baby!

...and we're back.

Sorry about the lack of blogage recently, but we welcomed a new addition to our family last week, a strapping 10.1 lb baby girl named Mira. Now I have three girls (two daughters, one wife) to love and take care of and all that, and I'm as happy as I am tired - which is quite a bit.

10.1 lbs. Do you know how heavy that is? That's like a bowling ball, or a sack of potatoes, or a big bag of flour, or... or a 10 lb weight. My wife did the whole thing completely natural - no meds, just sheer Amazon power. She was amazing, the whole thing was amazing. I couldn't do what she did. Imagine a 10.1 lb bowling ball coming out of your vagina. Well, not your vagina, my wife's vagina. On second thought, let's skip the whole imagining thing.

Anyway, I'm a very proud and happy daddy. Thank you for your patience - we will resume our normal glib, trite blogging shortly. As usual I found the comments from readers hilarious.

Here's me and Mira, who if she could speak would be saying something like, "Get that damn camera out of my face!" Except she wouldn't say "damn." That's like swearing and stuff.



Sadly, in my absence from work the Yard-o-Beef died. The mold was too much for it and my co-workers. Hopefully somebody took pictures...

Friday, January 06, 2006

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, DELUXE EDITION #8 Marvel Comics, 1986



My copy of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition #8 is beat to hell. I’m not complaining; a lot of my comics are kind of trashed. Let me share a little secret with you about my comic book collection, which is bigger than some and smaller than others:

None of my comics are in bags.

Sure, I have a few dozen cherished comics that are bagged up; for some reason all of Grant Morrison’s JLA comics are in bags and are therefore in great condition. But the rest of them are just sitting naked in my long boxes, vulnerable to the ravages of time, ultraviolet radiation, and my cat. Believe me, I have tried bagging them in the past, but I have so many frickin’ comics now that the prospect seems daunting. My laziness is going to be the death of my comics collection some day.

You know what? I don’t really care. I’m one of those strange people that buys comics to read. Bags just get in the way.

Anyway, if the condition of a given comic in my collection is an indicator of how much I enjoyed it, then OHMU(DE) #8 and I should move to Oregon and get legally married, because that comic is fucked up. You should see my copy of Daredevil #181, it looks like it’s spent a year on the bottom of an elephant cage. It would make you cry how badly I’ve taken care of it.

This beat-up edition of OHMU(DE) has mandroids, Man-Thing, The Mandarin, and a roster of The Masters of Evil drawn by Kevin Maguire. Is it any wonder why I love it so much?

Plus! Ripped from the pages of West Coast Avengers, one of the Greatest Villains Ever (he said sarcastically): Master Pandemonium!

I had started to describe Master P, the man with the demon arms, but he is so lame that he is worthy of a post all his own. For now, be satisfied with just gazing on his OHMU(DE) entry and contemplating the brilliance that is Master Pandemonium.

You know who really is one of the coolest villains ever? For reals? The Mandarin, the incredibly powerful Iron Man villain. First conceived as a Fu Manchu rip-off, The Mandarin has evolved over the decades into… well, okay, he’s still sort of a Fu Manchu rip-off, but that’s part of his charm.

In addition to the Mandarin character entry, OHMU(DE) #8 has this great layout of The Mandarin’s rings of power. For those who do not know and love The Mandarin like I do, let me explain: The Mandarin wears ten strange rings of alien origin, each with its own super-power. Check them out:

The rings are, from left pinky to right thumb: ice blast, mento-intensifier, electro-blast, flame blast, white light, black light/dark force, disintegration beam, vortex beam, impact beam, and matter rearranger. (Stupid spell check doesn’t think that “rearranger” is a word, but if it’s in OHMU, then it’s a word.) Any one of those rings would be enough power for most villains, but Mandy wears all ten at the same time, making him insanely powerful. Seriously, The Mandarin could kill Superman. And his dog.

The Marvel Universe version of Merlin is included in this issue as well, and boy does he look pissed:


Hey, is Merlin flipping us off? Not only is he flipping us off, his middle finger is glowing with eldritch power for extra style points. That is one pissed-off wizard.

Maybe it’s the cone hat. I’d be in a foul mood if I had to wear that, too. Merlin’s probably just angry because people mix him up with Gandalf, even though he precedes Gandalf by a couple hundred years. I can just imagine some punk kid coming up to Merlin and yelling: “Hey, Gandalf! Yooou shall not pass!!!” I’ll bet he gets that all the time, and if people don’t think he’s Gandalf they think he’s Santa. No wonder he’s so agro. There’s only so much disrespect a wizard can take before he turns somebody into a frickin’ toad.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, DELUXE EDITION #1 Marvel Comics, 1985



Now we’re getting into some serious shit. The Official Handbook of the Frickin’ Marvel Universe – DELUXE EDITION. You heard me – deluxe, baby.

But before we start with the Deluxe Edition, can I talk to you about the Yard-o-Beef?

Some kind souls at work gave me two swell presents for Christmas: a kid’s gun safety video hosted by Jason Priestly (who I’m guessing was doing the gig as community service instead of jail time, n'est-ce pas?), and a Yard-o-Beef. A massive Hillshire Farm summer sausage, the Yard-o-Beef is the size of a child’s leg. It is so stout it could be used as a bludgeoning weapon. You laugh, but tell me that it wouldn’t hurt to get brained by a three pound club made of hardwood smoked sausage.

Anyway, really excited about the Yard-o-Beef. When I got it I was so excited I had to play with it. I swung it over my head, roaring like a Viking. I smacked my hand menacingly with the sausage as I stalked through Cubicle Land. It’s empowering, holding that much beef.

In my enthusiasm I may have torn the plastic packaging that keeps the Yard-o-Beef in a timeless sleep. A small tear, true – tiny beyond notice, but deadly nonetheless.

I left the Yard-o-Beef on a shelf in my cubicle and went home for the long holiday weekend. I thought nothing of it.

When I returned to my cubicle today I found mold growing in white circular patterns the size of a quarter on the Yard-o-Beef. The end of the beef shaft was pretty bad, covered with festering discs of mold. The wrinkly, puckered membrane at the end of the sausage was coated with a putrid, fuzzy growth. It was disgusting.

I have nobody to blame but myself for the diseased Yard-o-Beef. The Hillshire Farms folks make a fine product and their packaging is robust. I handled it roughly, like it was a toy, and I paid the price. The warnings signs were there: REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING. I was just too self-absorbed to read them. It’s all about me, isn’t it? Never the Yard-o-Beef. And now look: my self-absorption has killed it. I’ve killed the Yard-o-Beef.

So naturally I’m going to keep it at my desk and watch the mold kill it, unless the smell gets too bad or the spores go airborne or sentient.

I’ll take pictures.

Right: The Deluxe Edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was a series of thick 64-page compendiums with even more space devoted to the minutiae of second-string comic book characters. The Book of Weapons and Crazy Shit, which was published separately in the original OHMU, has been folded into the regular series, so you would get an entry on Captain America and a diagram of his shield. Much as I liked the Book of Weapons, it makes more sense to put all the maps and diagrams and cross-sections in the main volume.

The first issue of OHMU(DE) covered the letter “A,” as you might imagine – from The Abomination to Batroc’s Brigade.

My one gripe is that Batroc, the French savate master with the pointy moustache who is figured so prominently on the cover, does not get his own entry, he has to share it with his Brigade. That hippy Angar the Screamer gets a full- page entry, while Batroc is crammed in there with Zaran and Machete. That ain’t right.

In the Marvel Universe, “A” stands for Avengers, and this issue of OMHU(DE) is packed full of Avengers goodness. There’s a complete roster of all The Avengers current and past (circa 1985), schematics for the Avengers Mansion, The West Coast Avengers Compound, and a full-page breakdown of that archetypal Avengers ride, The Quinjet, courtesy of Eliot R Brown:

This is a particularly strong issue of OHMU(DE), with a map of Asgard, a diagram of the psychedelic Norse universe, a big entry on Atlantis, a kick-ass Ant-Man entry with cross-sections of his cyber helmet and shit. All that and a full-page devoted to The Aquarian? What more could you ask for?

I bring you grace! I bring you skill! I bring you Aguila!

The Aguila page is pretty typical for OHMU (DE): A description of the characters history, powers, and skills on one side and on the other side, a static reference shot of the character with one or two panels illustrating the character’s powers or history. Behold the Aguila entry:

Now I ask you. El Aguila gets a whole frickin’ page, but Batroc doesn’t? What kind of crazy world do we live in???

Nothing against Aguila. I think he bears a striking resemblance to George Hamilton in Zorro, the Gay Blade:


Now I know who I’m casting in my soon-to-be-released Aguila: The Movie. George Hamilton has a magic that only a few men have.

Some of the images used in OHMU (DE) #1 are a little baffling. Here’s a panel from the entry for the supervillain known as The Armadillo. I believe these images are used to depict the characters’ powers and abilities, but what in the hell is going on in this picture? Is this telling us that Armadillo is strong enough to carry one of the rare South American machine gun trees?


Man, I hope that is his tail.

Monday, January 02, 2006

THE OFF-WHITE HANDBAG OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #9 Marvel Comics, 1983



Issue #9 of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHMU) covers Quasar to She-Hulk and a bunch of lame characters in-between. Not that Quasar isn't lame. (My apologies to the three people out there who love Quasar.)

One of the interesting things about OHMU #9, which was published in 1983, was the amount of space they devoted to some characters. For example, Red Wolf and Scarlet Scarab get full-page entries, but Sabretooth only gets half a page. To be fair, Sabretooth was originally a minor league Iron Fist villain, so I guess that makes sense. But only half a page for Shamrock? WTF? Where is The Love?

You know who does get a full-page entry, as well as a prime spot on the cover?




ROM!

How can you not love Rom, space knight of Galador? The Rom comic book was a tie-in with the fantastic Rom action figure, a jumbo silver toy that probably never won any design awards, but had a retro charm nevertheless. Keep in mind that back in the eighties, children actually read comic books, so marketing toys through comics actually made sense. I have a few Rom issues that are deserving of a post - I should dig those out.

Myself, I was more of a Shogun Warriors / Big Jim kid, but my friend had a Rom action figure that we tortured, er, played with. We would make Rom battle the Shogun Warriors, Stretch Armstrong, and BB guns. That Rom figure ultimately fell in battle against his mortal foe: lighter fluid.






















Vaya con dios, Rom. You served us well.

OHMU #9 also featured the Fantastic Four villain known as The Red Ghost, a Russian commie who could become intangible at will. That's a good enough power as is, right? Anybody else would be satisfied with that, but not Red Ghost. In addition to becoming intangible, The Red Ghost had a trio of super-apes who did his evil bidding.

You hear me: super-apes.

I have no idea how primate henchmen fit into the whole Red Ghost brand identity, but I say if you have the opportunity to use super-ape flunkies, use them! Who cares if they don't fit in with your powers or your costume? "They call me Queen Cobra! I spit venom, I have a lethal bite, and I have these three super-apes that rob liquor stores for me!" See? Super-apes are never a bad idea. I want that phrase on my gravestone.

The Red Ghost also bears an uncanny resemblance to Canadian rock god Neil Young:

Another icon of the four-color world that gets the full=page treatment is The Ringmaster, leader of the Circus of Crime. Armed with a hypnotic top hat and a set of teeth that could open cans of chili, The Ringmaster was a crafty opponent who would hypnotize circus audiences so his henchmen could rob them. I don't know, that seems like the kind of scheme that would only work once, yet the Circus of Crime appeared again and again.



I think The Ringmaster bears more than a passing resemblance to actor Willem Dafoe. Slap a fake moustache on Willem and give him a top hat and The Ringmaster's own mother wouldn't be able to tell them apart.



The Ringmaster's costume isn't just the 'stache and top hat, though. An often overlooked but crucial part of The Ringmaster's wardrobe are his pimp boots, which have a hypnotic allure all their own:


That is the coolest footwear I have seen in my life, better even than Man-Wolf/Stargod's leg warmers and toeless boots. I bet just wearing those bad boys instills The Ringmaster with a sense of confidence, a swagger, a pimp vibe that you just cannot get from normal boots.

I want a pair. Bad.