Friday, May 26, 2017

My internet's totally down as I write this one; so I'll have to come back to get this link for the cover: from 2016, Spidey #4, "Doomsday Off!" Written by Robbie Thompson, art by Andre Lima Arajuo, color art by Rachelle Rosenberg.

Marvel's done a few of these continuity-light, all-ages Spider-Man titles over the years, usually set in his early days as a hero; and this may be the latest. I did think it was a little awkward for him to refer to himself as "Spidey" to work the title logo into the opening, but that may be the only part that didn't work for me. Frustrated by bad press and school bullies, Peter opts to take a day off and hit the museum--I believe it's the Guggenheim. So of course Dr. Doom is stealing a painting there; or at least a Doombot in civilan clothes.

After stopping the "hipster" Doombot, Spidey catches news footage of other heroes fighting Doombots, and a suspicious power outage in New Jersey. At the power plant, Spidey finds Dr. Doom, who condescends to him before siccing his robots on him, and Spidey is blasted through an apartment building, in a pretty sweet two-page cross-section spread.

Landing in a park, Spidey meets a young fan, Owen; who helps out with a kind word, a jelly sandwich, and a replacement mask. Spidey realizes Doom is using the power plant to broadcast power to his Doombots, and smashes Doom's set-up. (On the news, we immediately see a reporter give credit to Captain America as the Doombots go down.) As the last one goes down--Doom having never actually been there--Spidey realizes they were all a blind, and Doom really had intended to steal the painting. Which he did, as we see Doom talking to his Doombots in Latveria, making him even lonelier than Spidey.

Not a bad comic! This wasn't a straight update of a classic Spider-Man story, but close; it wasn't as deliberately retro as the consistently great Untold Tales of Spider-Man; or as specifically all-ages as the underrated gem Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. I don't think it ran as long as either of those, possibly because there's another "back-to-basics" "meat-and-potatoes" Spidey book coming; Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert's Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. That one's supposed to be set in current continuity yet closer to the movies, or some such.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

We'll get to the issue after this one later--I had it as a kid, but not this one--but check the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover for this one, it's way more hardcore than the story! From 1979, Action Comics #494, "The Secret of the Super-S!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Frank Chiaramonte.

We open with Clark Kent returning to his old desk at the Daily Planet, and while Perry White seems pretty thrilled about it, Clark has to point out it's only for a week, a working vacation from his anchorman job. But when the mail room forwards up a mysterious letter, Perry may just have Clark's next assignment. The letter includes an unsigned note about unrevealed secrets of Superman, starting with an alternate, circular S-emblem that could have been his logo. The postmark on the letter was from Smallville, so for Perry it makes sense to send their reporter that used to live in Superman's childhood hometown. Still, Lois decides to go with him.

Making the trip by train, Clark has to feign "train-sickness" to get away from Lois long enough to save the train from a rockslide, and is slightly miffed at Perry for letting Lois go with him. He had put a lot of time and effort and wacky schemes into convincing Lois that Clark and Superman were different people, and didn't want to jeopardize that. At the Smallville train station, former police chief (and long-time Superboy supporting character) Parker was going to pick Lois and Clark up, but he's a no-show. Because he's being attacked by a Revolutionary War-era ghost at the Kent house!

Although scary, the ghost attack didn't hurt Parker; he wasn't even slimed. Still, after showing the reporters his impressive array of "para-psychologists" equipment, the chief is up and making dinner; while Clark checks his old basement and finds a secret trophy shelf he had neglected to move to his Fortress of Solitude. Not that there wasn't some cool stuff in there: "prisma-jewels from Andromeda," a trophy from the planet Zoltam, and oh yeah, the original S-emblem made by his mom. Man, Martha probably spent all day sewing that, then got completely upstaged by Jonathan Kent's better S. No Kryptonian symbol, "the 'S' stands for hope" business here!

That night, while Lois sleeps and Parker sets up his ghost-photographing equipment; Superman patrols Smallville, and stops a graffiti-spraying biker gang. He notices one had painted an 'S' like his mom's, and shakes him down for where he got the idea, when he hears Lois scream: the ghost of a World War II general (American, even!) takes a shot at her. Again scary, but Lois is unhurt; Parker and Clark didn't see the ghost at all. Clark does notice, with x-ray vision, that Parker's prints match the letter sent to the Planet, but Clark doesn't think Parker would willingly expose his secret identity. In fact, the next morning, when Clark takes off for some fresh air with a dizzy spell, Parker tells Lois that he had always been sickly. But for once, he hadn't been faking dizziness, he did feel momentarily unwell, and Supes takes a moment under a waterfall to try and clear his head. Meanwhile, Lois and Parker compare notes, and wonder if they didn't see the same spirit, one that appears as the archetype of warrior in a person's head. But what kind of warrior would Clark picture? They probably wouldn't have guessed a seven-foot-tall Dwalu warrior from Krypton's warlike past, but here we are.

Delivering a ton of thought balloon exposition after a blow to the head but before sinking under the water, Superman feels like powers or no powers, he would never be able to stop a Dwalu he right? We'll find out later! Also, this issue had the ever-popular U.S. Postal Service Statement of Ownership. Line C Total Paid Circulation: average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: 183,601. Single issue nearest to filing date: 212,899.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017


I'm honestly surprised TV Tropes didn't have a page for "space casino," since we're taking inspiration from several here. Star Trek had more than a couple, especially Deep Space Nine and Quark's, which featured the roulette-like dabo. I don't think we've seen a casino proper in Star Wars movies--yet!--but Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a game of sabacc: Lando was described as a professional gambler in several novels, so you know he visited a few; pity I don't think his Black series figure has come out yet. And the old Marvel comics featured the Wheel, a roulette-wheel shaped space station, where Han and Chewie lost their shirts (figuratively) and ended up in gladiatorial games.

When Pool rattles off the severe consequences of losing, "hocking body parts" was a subtle piece of world-building from early issues of Micronauts. When he killed the royal couple of Homeworld and took over, Baron Karza set up a brutally efficient pyramid scheme of organ transplantation with his Body Banks. While the rich elite could afford to buy new organs, the poor had three choices: gamble for life credits, possibly crapping out and losing limb and life. Join the Dog Soldiers, serve as Baron Karza's stormtroopers, and get the occasional replacement as needed. Or die, and probably get harvested anyway. If I recall correctly, his regime lasted a thousand years. Which always seemed terrifyingly plausible to me...

Slightly less plausible: the casino from the pilot episode of the original Battlestar: Galactica, "Saga of a Star World." Early on in their flight from the Cylons, the Galactica and its "ragtag, fugitive fleet" visit the planet Carillon, which has both supplies and a casino, neither of which they expected to find. The native Ovions had been using the casino to lure humans into becoming food for their larvae. Gross. You can probably find an Ovion action figure on eBay, but that was their only appearance on the show. I'm almost positive there were casinos in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV show--the too on the nose "Vegas in Space." I wonder if any sets or props were re-used there.

Also, I know Babylon 5 had casinos as well, as well as Penn and Teller guest-starring in an episode! A not-very-good episode, but still. Lastly, I hadda ask Dale why the space casino was so prevalent, and he pointed out a lot of these shows feature military types, in particular pilots, who spend as much of their downtime unwinding as possible. He also noted gambling was probably one of the, ahem, less unsavory activities that they might get up to; so we'll leave it at that! And hey, it's our eleventh anniversary! Man, I'm lucky it fell on Wednesday, and I didn't have to knock out another strip...looking back, I think I counted it as the 23rd last year, and that's what I thought it was, of the top of my head, until I looked!
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This is one of those things I'm hesitant to clue anyone else in on...

Aside from some robots that appear in tomorrow's strip, I think the last four or five eBay auctions I bid on or won have been for loose accessories. There's been a few for Playmates Star Trek stuff: that line ran for years, and while a lot of the pieces are in oddball colors, they're still nice. There was a Simpsons one--Playmates again!--that I lost, that featured a retro ray gun that I would've loved. And most recently, got a largish box of Marvel accessories!

These two pieces sold it for me--we'll probably see why next week!

I'm pretty sure that's a gamma bomb, but appears to have been glued together. Fine. There's a girder and a frankly huge tommy gun from the Hulk Legends line: the bomb came with Abomination, the girder with the Savage Hulk, the gun with Mr. Fixit--who I have, and who is getting a second gun! There was also what I think is most of the pieces from the 2007 exclusive She-Hulk. I wonder if they'll work with the She-Hulk I have...somewhere.

A spare Nick Fury jetpack, from his first Marvel Legend. Now, to see who it would fit...

Another gun I'd always wanted: Despero's, from the 2009 DCUC Captain Atom! To date, I think Wonder Woman and Artemis are the only figures I got from that series, so I had two of the same leg for Despero, but someone will use his gun at some point. It's Cable-level huge, though. Then, that big Carnage blob-head: I thought that would be a hollow piece, like a mask, but it's solid!

I haven't the foggiest where that Spidey mask originally came from. Searching the Hulk Legends was hard enough; finding that piece seems unlikely with all the Spidey series over the years. Maybe the Marvel Select Spectacular Spider-Man?
Pretty sure I have one of those Wasps somewhere, but I did have the rest of those pieces, even the garbage can from a pre-Legends Toy Biz Spider-Sense Peter Parker! And there's always room for another Cosmic Cube; and I wonder if that Yellowjacket will go in the back of the new Wonder Man figure.
Hey, not bad!

There's some other stuff from that box: a mess of Cap shields, a bunch of those hexagonal bases I like, some axes. Still, I'm hoping I don't end up bidding against any of you later...

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Some time back, we mentioned the Protector, who used to be Marvel Boy, and who I had the action figure of before reading any comics with him in that costume. In the same vein, we saw the Venom: Spaceknight figure briefly here back in February, since I bought it the end of December 2017. His title, Venom: Spaceknight ended with #13 two months prior. I think Eddie Brock even had the symbiote back before the Spaceknight was available; and I have no idea when I got this comic: from 2016, Venom: Spaceknight #6, "Broken Plays, chapter six" Written by Robbie Thompson, art by Ariel Olivetti.

Still in space but solo from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Flash Thompson has been having space adventures, which haven't been going as planned: facing the villain Mercurio, Flash has managed to make an ally out of mercenary Pik Rollo, but Mercurio has taken the Venom symbiote. Flash's narration explains, as a high school football star, and later as a soldier, he specialized in "broken plays," when the plan fails and he has to scramble; but has been trying to change and plan and ask for help when needed. For starters, when Mercurio comes to finish off Flash, the Venom symbiote returns to Flash, all part of their plan. (It also speaks, which I'm not sure I saw much before this series!)

Flash had put together a team of allies, who take apart Mercurio's forces. Mercurio tells Venom they are weaker together, and catches a beating for his backtalk. At the end of the issue, on their ship with their friends (who probably won't be seen again soon) Flash asks the symbiote what it wants to do, and it suggests going forward...but sees its old, tongue-wagging version in a reflection.

Olivetti did the art for DC's Space Ghost a few years back, so it's pretty fitting here.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

We're ever so slightly ahead of schedule here lately, so why not burn a day checking out some of the stuff I've picked up recently? First up: Toys R Us had a sale going on the DC Multiverse Wonder Woman figures, bringing them down to about $13 each. Somewhat disappointingly, the two Wonder Woman figures are the worst of the lot! The hooded WW with the winter fur wrap isn't removable, and I'm sure there's a plain version coming later. As for the Diana figure, Action Figure Barbecue had a review that pointed something out that you won't be able to unsee: she's sculpted wearing open-toed shoes...and her toes are an unpainted, shoe-shaped mass.

Huh, I just pictured Quentin Tarentino vomiting in terror. Weird. Anyway, I'm not sure there's a graceful way to fix that at this scale and price point, but that could bother some more than others. Hippolyta and Steve came out nice, and buy the lot of them and you get the "Collect & Connect" Ares, who is pretty sweet. Huh, just realized Ares gets bare feet, so it is doable, maybe? Overall, not quite Marvel Legends good, but you could get Ares way cheaper than the usual build-a-figure.

Also from Toys R Us: their exclusive Marvel Legends Groot! While not 100% necessary if you have the old build-a-figure, the pack-in baby Groot and potted Groot are fun. I thought I had got him for a couple bucks off as well, but he was about regular ML price.

This next one might be a hair more difficult to pick up: DC Icons Static figure. He had been downgraded a bit, from a more deluxe boxed figure (like their recent Batgirl with motorcycle) to a more standard edition; which meant losing a couple accessories: I think he was originally going to have some lightning effects, alternate hand or two, and a cloth coat. The downgrade should mean a lower price point, so watch that when you shop for him. Still, he does get an alternate head--although I don't think I'll have him without the 'X' hat--and a manhole cover and lightning for him to ride around on. Which would be cool, except the peg on the manhole is too small to keep him securely on there. That's annoying, but the sculpt and paint looks sharp, and it's a character I've wanted a figure of for about ever. And I had an old coat for him from a Marvel Legends Gambit!

Meanwhile, I'm waiting on a box from eBay; which is not coming any faster no matter how many times I refresh the tracking. I'll take a picture when I get it.

A couple months ago, I bought the Wolverine on Blu-Ray, to get a free ticket to Logan. I'm a pretty easy mark for that kind of promotion, it's like getting a free DVD for a movie I was probably going to see anyway. A couple years ago, I got Alien on Blu-Ray to get a ticket for Prometheus; so this week I bought Alien: Resurrection for a ticket to Alien: Covenant. I probably won't be able to go for a week or two, but I haven't seen Resurrection for a few years, either. The back of the case mentions a 2003 special edition; maybe that fixes some of the problems from the original. Couldn't hurt.

God, what CD did I have this on? Some compilation, somewhere...Chris Cornell's death is rough, man. Right now, it looks like suicide; and I just want to put this up here: Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255. There are hard times, but there are reasons to hold on, too. Take care of yourselves.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Somehow, I heard this story before I read it.

The Comic Book Shop had a pretty great sale last week--although a cynical man might think they were just trying to get my cash before the next local comicon--and I picked up another random Conan back issue, that turned out to have an interesting history: from 1980--sort of--Conan the Barbarian #116, "Crawler in the Mist!" Written by Len Wein ("Aided and abetted" by J.M. DeMatteis), art by John Buscema and Neal Adams!

Crossing the desert of Corinthia, Conan's horse is spooked by a snake that would be massive by any standards other than Conan comics; and Conan is thrown off and then bit. He tries sucking out the poison, then passes out, only to awaken on a camel? Honestly, that's not the weirdest scene transition-slash-place Conan woke up. He had been found unconscious by some traders, and one, the gnarled Rasto, has chained Conan to him as his prisoner, to be sold into slavery. Considering Rasto appears to weigh 90 pounds, and is suffering from "the wasting illness which has twisted his body," that seems optimistic. Conan proceeds to beat the other two slavers, with Rasto, swinging him on the chain! Using a handicapped man as a flail is morally suspect, but they were going to sell him, so...

Conan commandeers the remaining camel, but while being used as a blunt instrument, Rasto lost the key to the shackles. Conan appears to seriously consider lopping off Rasto's hand, but instead opts to allow him to come too, until they find someone to get them out. Riding into the evening, they come across a city; which Rasto wants no part of, believing it to be cursed. While such curses have probably come true ten times out of ten in Conan's experience, he still opts for the city, where the inhabitants are hiding and inhospitable. Possibly because a giant slug is roaming the streets at night!

The creature breaks the chain and takes off with Rasto, and while Conan doesn't owe him anything, he's come to kind of like the little guy. He ends up fighting another, black slug-creature, and crushes it with a pillar. Pretty standard operating procedure for Conan. But Rasto begs Conan not to kill the red slug, since it's really a wizard from another dimension! And Conan had just killed its soulmate, because she never learned to speak human. Harsh. The slugs had been gathering up the sick, aged, and infirm, and taking them to their "land beyond the shimmering veil," where they could live, healthy and young. Conan is so not invited.

When I picked up this issue, I thought Neal Adams was too big of a name for this era of Conan; and I was right! The bulk of this issue was from the 1976 Power Records set Conan the Barbarian: the Crawler in the Mist! I didn't have this one as a kid, but I know I downloaded it from Power Records Plaza, and so can you!
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