Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.31 (Jul 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick/Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

Frank Miller on the cover duties this time around, marking only the second time that the cover was illustrated by someone not involved on the interiors of the book. The other time was the first issue, so it's been a good run. Golden turned in some mind-numbingly great pieces, and Broderick owned that space all on his own.

Thanks to much of the first half of this issue, it's a mistake to call the book "The Micronauts," when the masthead should clearly read "Dr.Strange and a forgettable exchange with The Micronauts." I've turned into that guy from last issue's lettercol.

Strange really does occupy an inordinate amount of the book, but only because he's got to establish the stale mythology which will explain the upcoming "Origin of the Multiverse." This is a big, important arc and it's being presented as such, but the "plod around worlds looking for keys" plot, combined with the "ancient prophecy" bit is two marks against it. This book has been awfully unpredictable up until now, I dislike watching it fall to formula.

Anyway, Strange is meditating over the obelisk which bears the prophecy. Entering the astral plane, he follows some mystical tether to the scene of a great city beset by "strange, swirling demonic forces." This is as opposed to plain ol' swirling demonic forces. Strange places the city in ancient Bahawalpur, although he puts Bahawalpur in India, and I thought it was in Pakistan. I dunno.

It's the Goth Planeteers.

In Bahawalpur, Pindiastan, Strange witnesses four great champions stand on a battlement and complain about demons. What great champions! They are comprised of Dreamer (who casts illusions), Yama (who has a death touch), Agni (who uses something called a "fireflash," which sounds dirty and infected) and Kali, who is a fucking nutcase and keeps referring to herself in the third person.

The champions are led by Prince Wayfinder, a blind hero who spends the demonic invasion arguing with a sassy sword from Brooklyn. Bear with me. The sword -- called The Sword-In-The-Star -- speaks, and it speaks like Leo Gorcey Jr. "So sue me, kid!" it exclaims at one point, "Start giving with the miracles and they're never satisfied," it complains later. There is zero explanation for this. I assume they wanted something dumb as hell to punctuate this heavy exposition, to prove that we're paying attention.

Utterly pointless.

Back in Seazone, Lady Coral is leading a war against the subaquatic Oceanians, the leader of which is, unbeknownst to her, her transformed and presumed-dead brother Aquon. A-Rod commands hordes of undersea monsters, so the fight is pretty lopsided.

The siblings eventually meet, reveal all secrets, and then keep fighting even worse because Coral is insane and Aquon is some sort of dope. While the next wave of the prophesied cataclysm strikes Seazone, sending its chief city into the depths, Aquon makes use of the first key -- and turns everyone into a merperson! Including the Micronauts! Except Microtron, probably, although I'd love to have seen that.

Coral chooses to remain human as penance for fighting Oceania for so long, and having allowed so many of her people to die before Aquon could transform them to survive in the ocean. Aquon chooses to keep being a dope, but he gives Rann the key and reverses the merpeople hoodoo on the Micronauts. Off to Polaria! I wonder what that place's deal is...

On a one-page coda, Acroyear sees, once again, the Herald Comet which had marked the occasion of his birth, passing through the benighted Spartak sky. He pledges to follow it wherever it goes (hint: it's an oval) for some ambiguous reason! Okay! I accept as much! Next issue, Polaria! I can't really get excited about that!

Dang, lookit them fish.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Aw, that raccoon really loves him.

As I continue my tour of the early-1970s career-oriented Popeye comics and their distinctly art-house feel, I stumble upon Popeye and Hospitality and Recreation Careers – which appears to be Popeye’s condemnation of capitalism. Stick around, kids.

"They're gonna fuck!"
Popeye is a great symbol of the irrelevancy of capital; he spends the first few decades of his existence earning and giving away fortunes (primarily to widders and brunecks), acquired with little more than grit and savvy, and lost through charity and mercy. Money grows on trees in Popeye’s world! A chicken can break the bank at the greatest gambling house in the world! What need has Popeye of money? What is a King to a God, and what is a God to a Sailor Man?

Which allows for the quotidian jolt of Popeye’s travails in the world of give-and-take, navigating the choppy waters of labor and its constantly contested value. In Popeye’s world, there are no bosses – there are guys putting up the money, but they’re your pals and equal partners. They go on your adventures with you, they take an equal share for equal risk. The guys behind the desk, laden with sacks of “$”-emblazoned dosh and growling under their handlebar mustaches – those aren’t bosses in Popeye’s world, they’re the enemy*.

*And in the real world too.

What does this have to do with careers? Is this about
the commodification of the female body?
In this installment of Popeye’s world tour of soul-crushing jobs, some of Popeye’s radical New Deal-era sentiment slinks through, at least insofar as it doesn’t too seriously disrupt the educational component of the book. More or less.

Right from the git-go, Popeye establishes the boundaries: “There are blue collar jobs as well as white collar jobs in the hospitality and recreation field, kids, all important!” Despite inevitably resigned to grunt physical labor, Popeye shills unconvincingly for the Suits on the top floor. His loyalties inevitably lie elsewhere…

Popeye’s manifesto includes the segregation of workers into the intellectual and the physical. “Some people like to work with ideas, some like working with people, and some like working with tools.” And just when you think that Popeye has taken a Randian turn with his labor sentiment, he adds “People who work with things usually do more physical work than those who work with ideas. They are important to the professionals because both are needed to carry out a program.” Popeye, did I just hear you advocate for the seizure of the means of production? I’m pretty sure I did.

The young will eat the old, it's true.
Going through the long list of hospitality-related professions (and continually cheating the reader of getting to hear Popeye say “horspiktalitky” or something, thanks to the banal bowdlerization of his dialect), Popeye seems to be hinting at the secret key of capitalist oppression of the workforce. He opines about tipping in a sneering manner, “A waiter who likes his job and understands the people he is working with gets compliments and large tips.” I read that in David Thewlis’ voice, from the last season of Fargo. It begs to be capped off with some sentiment involving the word “neutered” and “meaningless.”

Perhaps the slyest element of the book involves Popeye’s tour of deprecated professions. Hey kids of the early 1970s, try to retire early – Popeye just recommended that you seek a career as a dance instructor at a retirement community!

I mentioned in an earlier article that these Popeye Career Guidance comics have a Tati-esque feel about them, and this one almost most of all. Having navigated the sparsely-strewn hospitality careers, occupations which involve constant kowtowing and scraping for tips, Popeye and Swee’pea disappear into a sort-of vaguely defined, misty carnival environment. So many of their friends are waiting for them there. Roughhouse is making burgers, Wimpy loiters nearby. The rides spin and whirr. Modest and charming cottages line the wide thoroughfares and banners hang happily from the sky. “Humans are creatures of play” Popeye seems to be saying, “So let us forego the theft of labor for the wealth of play.”

Or, perhaps, “Letsk us forgoesk the theftsk of laborks for the whelks of playing huh kuh kuh kuh…”

"Drugs, guns, pornography, nachos ... the whole magilla!"

Thursday, August 17, 2017


It's nice to see Canada represented in the very American genre of the super-hero comic. Or, so I assume, because despite dressing up as a Canadian mounted police, The Scarlet Sentry is a straight-up American vigilante type. Heck, he's from Ohio! He's round on both ends and high in the middle!

Landed right in the "Comical German Expressions" boat.
(Just as an aside, you can spend an interesting afternoon reading up on the history of the RCMP, particularly when it gets to the part about how America (a) objected to them, fearing a buildup of Canadian military might on the border and (b) repeatedly were the very criminals the RCMP was sent out to reign in. We're trouble, we children of liberty. USA! USA!)

The Scarlet Sentry is former OSU college football star Don Lawson, a man dedicated to serving his country in any way imaginable. Specifically, he imagines dressing up like a mountie and slugging evil men who have unfortunate male pattern baldness. Theoretically, Don's motivation is that his father had died "a hero" in some ambiguous way. Normally, he would've been killed by Nazis or crooks and Don could revenge himself upon them, but he might've rescued a kitten from a fire and fallen into a manhole when he went back in for the family quilt, for all I know.

Still, it's good enough to warrant ordering a bullet-proof mountie costume through the mail. Surely that's illegal, right? At the very least, it'll get your name on a Homeland Security watchlist.

"...a nap!'
Sentry's opposite number is the leering, ghoulish Herr von Krane, whose plan involves blowing up a bridge while a bunch of American soldiers are crossing it. Damn that insidious man, and damn the fuel and tire shortage for making all of our soldiers walk all the way to war in Europe from the Midwest.

Scarlet Sentry doesn't boast much in the way of powers and, in fact, allegedly has none. Still, he's able to effortlessly climb to the top of a bridge and then jump into a rowboat below, chuck a tank of nitroglycerin a good forty feet into a nearby body of water, and jump high and fast enough to catch hold of a low-passing plane. That can't all have been side-properties of the bulletproof mountie costume, could it?

The Scarlet Sentry also leaves the worst kind of calling card in superherodom; the long, hand-written letter. "This is Herr von Krane," he writes in a letter pinned to the corpse of his enemy, "Late leader of a gang of would-be wreckers of Democracy. Just a taste of what his kind will always get." That literally sounds like a mocking letter from the Zodiac Killer. Oh, maybe we found him!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


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 ...

Just as I'd long anticipated the episodes of  Swamp Thing which boasted the appearance of Terry Funk, and the later one which cast Kevin Nash and Giant Gonzales as Mayan ghosts, I have long been awaiting this episode. Who wants to see Wolfman Jack as the corrupt leader of a drug cult who also runs a carnival of child runaways-turned-petty thieves? Ooh, me, me, I do!

This will be a Will-intensive episode, but at least we don't start out on the series' typical lie that "Will has friends" or "Women find Will attractive and compelling." In fact, what we start out with is a beefy, anonymous teen getting manhandled at a bus stop by a gang of Sons of Anarchy cosplayers. And I don't mean in the way you have to pay for, I mean they really hand him his ass. And, again, I don't mean it in the way you have to pay for ...

"Ohhhhhh yessssss!"

From there, we proceed to the carnival, where Wolfman Jack is painted up like a cross between Paul Bearer and Svenghoulie. He's playing Hurley, the raspy-voiced owner of the carnival and, as we'll discover, oh so very much more. It's good to have interests outside of your occupation. It keeps you agile and excited about life.

Will is also at the carnival, where we find him flirting with a carny (Amanda, played by Caroline Strong) who is, frankly, out of his league. As a matter of principle, ALL carnies are out of Will's league. Their flirtation takes the form of Amanda coyly making eyes at Will so that he'll play the rigged game at the baseball-throwing booth which Amanda mans, proving that Will is the kind of guy who thinks that the stripper "really liked me. I mean, I know, but I think she really liked me!"  His response involves actually asking her to finger the ball "for luck," because Will's got real style...


A tussle starts with some of the boy carnies, and Hurley has to break it up. Wolfman Jack is actually some exceptional casting for a cult leader/carnival owner. Normally, those sorts of characters are played by handsome -- if not fading -- slim actors who definitely look like the central casting idea of charismatic prophets. Wolfman Jack is obese, wears tropical shirts, and has a beard that weirdly doesn't connect with his temples. Now THAT'S a cult leader!

The day after the scuffle, Amanda finds Will in Houma and makes a gift of the incredibly tacky jacket to him, arguably as a peace offering from Hurley. Will couldn't live if his arms were covered by fabric, since he breathes through his shoulders, so he gives it to Amanda to wear, and a romance in born.

I take it back. This jacket owns.

Despite having done all of this in Mirador's Brain, the audience is treated to a fun day of dating activities with Will and his new girlfriend. They go rollerskating -- evidently for the first time in their lives, to judge by their forms -- then they go to a movie, she reads his palm by a fountain, and then they share a mixtape. And Swamp Thing watches it all from a nearby fern, the creep.

Returning to the carnival, Will is ambushed by carny Chuck (Bill Orsini), although someone calls him "Derek!" Jay Derrick plays another carny, Jeff, in this episode, so if they were accidentally shouting the actor's name instead of the character, they weren't even yelling it at the right actor.

Someone steals the tape deck out of Will's truck, and Amanda gets the blame. She insists that Hurley makes his employees steal shit, and also there's a cult they have to belong to. This sounds like late stage capitalism, I believe every word of it. Wolfman Jack even has a monologue he delivers to Will wherein he sings his praises as a really good, fair, kindly boss, when we know he's about to stage a black mass on the Universal Studios backlot.

I really can't accept how his beard doesn't connect with his temples.

Wolfman gets practically gnostic as the evil cult ceremony is staged, with a kidnapped Will as the intended sacrifice. This is no skin off my back, man, go for it. Give him the business.

While Hurley growls something about "wings of a raven, the four corners of hell," which is a heckuva signoff for the radio broadcast, Will just sweats shirtlessly in the circle of worshippers, themselves all jacked up on hallucinogens in the water. This also marks the longest amount of time Will goes shirtless before Swamp Thing shows up. I can't imagine what slowed him down. Maybe there weren't any shrubs nearby to hide behind ...

I can't imagine why he's so pissed off. He's never been so sleeveless in all his born days ...

Swamp Thing's been hiding under the water, actually, and he leaps up to save Will just as Hurley is actually starting to buy his own power. I mean, the bog monster leaping out of the swamp and claiming the sacrificial victim as his own is puh-retty black magicky. Wolfman might have something there.

Hurley plugs Swamp Thing a couple of times, which I realize happens almost never in the show. Maybe it makes it a little too Adventures of Superman. The brief conflict ends with Hurley dying as he lived -- in an exploding display of dangerous fireworks.

I know this is hard to parse, but it's Swamp Thing bleeding out.

The next day, everything is fine again, plus there's apparently an abandoned carnival on the edge of town and an ambitious soul could walk away with their own corn dog fryer. Amanda has a brief and sentimental farewell with Will, wherein lingering camera shots really drive home how Caroline Strong is way too good an actor to be on this show. She walks away without her fuck-ugly jacket, which Will thoughtlessly returns to her. I am positive she left it on purpose, Will, don't be a dick.

Get in, nerds, we're looting a carnival!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Yankee Comics vol.1 No.1 - Harry "A" Chesler/Dynamic Comics, Sept 1941

Monday, August 14, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.30 (June 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colorist: ?
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

Before the Micronauts make it back to the Microverse -- following their role in the battle between SHIELD and a Karza-led incarnation of Hydra -- the story begins in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, where a Dutch archaeologist named Martin Vandenburg (sic) has discovered a golden monolith, much like the one in Arcturus Rann's brain! Only it's large and not in Arcturus Rann's brain! Differences abound!

On The Endeavor, the Micronauts are discussing the very same monolith, and Rann reveals that it has been inscribed with an intolerable piece of doggerel outlining some sort of prophecy of destruction. Prophecies are almost always a bad sign in science fiction, and this awkward song-poem doesn't fill me with hope:

A time of darkness will there be;
Of great distress on land and sea!
Find thyselves, and thou wilt find me --
The secret lies in these keys three!
Whatever ancient alien wrote that is really into irregular punctuation.

Hope you enjoyed this, because it's not going away ...
Rann explains that this prophecy of the Enigma Force instructs them that they must find three ancient magical keys in order to save the Microverse from some horrible destruction. This absolutely sounds like the pitch for a really unremarkable video game. Still, without the keys and their nebulous purpose, the assorted individual molecules of Homeworld -- which are, themselves, small life-sustaining planets -- will 'splode.

At some point, a vagina
fwooshed into the book ...
As they prepare to take off for this journey, Acroyear folds. He's still bugged by having destroyed his home planet, watching his brother die, and getting told off by his old lady. It's time for him to return to Spartak, much to the consternation and despair of his teammates. They're good folks.

Back on Spartak, Acroyear is unsurprised to find the sphere a cold, lifeless hunk of rock. Having used the Worldmind to defeat Baron Karza, Ayo had destroyed his planet's living soul, sending his people off to find homes among the distant worlds. But not before they leave him a poison pen letter! The one source of light and heat on all of Spartak glows outside of the chamber which once housed the Worldmind, bearing a red-hot brand (declaring, we're told, "T" for "Traitor"). Ayo wastes no time in SLAMMING HIS FOREHEAD ON THE BRAND AND LETTING IT BURN HIM, which is pretty extreme, but that's my man Ayo.

With Acroyear's absence and Biotron's death, the Micronauts have room for some new members. While 'she' doesn't join right away, the golden cyclopean roboid Nanotron -- clearly on the horn for homeworld-famous roboid Microtron, even though they have the same last name and might be related, I guess -- shows up, boobily. This book went a long time without introducing a robot with tits, good for them and their restraint.

"Uh ... Can I call you
Steve for short?"
Pharoid also joins the Micronauts on their quest, if only to hitch a ride back to Aegyptia -- or so he says. In fact, he's been charged by Prince Argon to spy on the Micronauts, to ensure that their loyalties remain with Homeworld.

Speaking of Homeworld, its molecule is the first one to experience whatever the Great Cataclysm is. The entire capitol city is burning and broken after one tremendous earthquake, which is unnecessary because the Micronauts were gonna go on this dumb quest anyway. No need to kick their asses, they got it figured out ...

The crew of five -- Mari, Rann, Microtron, Bug and Pharoid -- head over to Seazone, seeking the city of Oceania, wherein they hope to find help on their quest. This part ... this part ... is boring. But bear with me.

Flying over the endless waters of Seazone, the Micronauts' Astrostation is attacked by "Leviathan," a very large fish. A brief scuffle separates the team -- Rann and Mari get eaten by a fish, the rest meet Lady Coral, heir to the throne of her addled father Tybaldt and carrying a major  mad-on for the merpeople jackasses of Seazone. This is because she believes that these creatures abducted and killed her brother, Prince Aquon, BUT ...

...Aquon is not dead! He's a goldfish! And he helps save Mari and Rann from being digested by a large fish, although he does that by trapping them in a much larger fish which will digest them more slowly. Can't ask for more, really. Aquon also happens to have the first key strapped to his chest. That was easy!

On the outro, Vandenburg has taken the monolith to an auction house in New York City, because fuck Pakistan's claim to artifacts found within its borders, I guess. What Vandenburg finds, however, is ... Doctor Strange! He's wearing a coat and saying ominous-sounding things! Where was he when everyone was fighting Nightmare, anyway...?

Life comes at you fast...

Friday, August 11, 2017


Sports mascots continue to be a bizarre conglomeration of superheroes and animals. I'll focus on the superheroes, someone else can do the animals. When we come across a superhero who is also an animal, we'll fight over it.

Crunchman (Syracuse Crunch)
This lumpy, ill-fitting superhero was apparently at the center of some body-shaming controvery, having received a facelift and tummy tuck between seasons. The fact is that, yes, he is a very awkward-looking superhero, with molded muscles and even topographic dimples which leaves the whole affair seeming like a three-dimensional map of the uncanny valley itself. I'm not saying I wouldn't fuck 'im, I'm just saying I wouldn't want to.

Probably the weirdest thing about the dude is that he's wearing navy blue cargo shorts. First off, I wasn't aware that you could get cargo shorts in navy blue. Secondly, I wasn't aware that Kevin Smith was a sports mascot awwwww no Kevin Smith is getting to be all right, he's fine.

God, his crotch is unsettling.

Golden Hurricane (University of Tulsa)
Speaking of ill-fitting bodyshapes, here's Golden Hurricane, another controversial mascot usurping a popular predecessor. The previous Golden Hurricane was apparently a ... hurricane. I'll save him for the Nowhere-Near Complete Guide to Advertising Mascot Natural Disasters, along with Hasbro's Tsunami TSimon, McDonald's Flesh-Eating-Virus-burglar, and the United States Government Foreign Policy.

And, yeah, he's mostly blue rather than golden. I see it, too.


Venom (Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
Okay. Let me see if I can explain this one in a coherent fashion.

The original mascot of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers is Viper, predictably enough. Viper's gimmick is to do the usual amount of mascot fuffing around, but also he frequently injects attendees at the games with poison. I ... I don't know if it is real poison. I hope not but, like I say, America is changing. This might count as healthcare, five or six repeal-and-replaces from now.

What venom does it run around and cure people who have been injected with poison by Viper. See, I told you! Modern-day health care! It's the single-viper model, which is gaining a lot of traction among the millennials...

Thursday, August 10, 2017


There's heroines from distant, fantastic lands whose journey to the modern world is undertaken in order to bring the ideal of peace and enlightenment to a wart-torn global civilization. Then, sometimes, powerful amazon warriors just leave home because they are so fucking bored t's unbelievable.

While the first kind of amazon warrior just got a popular film franchise started, the other is Amazona, The Mighty Woman, a Wonder Woman by way of Frigidaire, possessed of "surpassing strength and unmatched beauty" and whose people are the last survivors of a deadly ice age. For some reason, they celebrated this fact by establishing an entire civilization in the middle of the arctic circle. And Amazona goes around wearing a leotard and slippers. They laugh in the face of their near-extinction, is what I gather.

Arctic Explorer Blake Manners wanders the lonely ice plains after his ship is frozen in place. He finds a strange, lipstick-shaped palace in the middle of the lifeless expanse, and discovers, to his delight, white people inside! He was really excited about it, honestly. I think he thought he'd found North Dakota.

Some party!

Leaving the company of this isolated nation, Manners is joined by Amazona, despite his protestations. Amazona wants to journey back to our world with Manners, largely because I think she was the only woman in the whole city and she was "lonely." Lonely for not being bothered by sex pests, is my guess. Smurfette probably had the same problem.

Amazona exhibits her tremendous strength by single-handedly freeing the frozen ship, and then furthermore shows her bona fides by punching a cab onto its side, knocking over a bunch of crooks, and surviving a fiery car wreck. She does most of that in the city. I didn't mean to suggest that she was knocking over cabs and crooks on Manners' boat.

What's really charming about Amazona and Blake Manners is that they seem united by self-doubt. Despite her prodigious strength and tremendous courage, Amazona is nervous about appearing in public for the first time. Blake is, likewise, anxious about the social niceties of society. These two have a connection based on social anxiety. They're a very modern couple. They need fidget spinners.

If Amazona worried about her acceptability, she has the reassurance of the cab driver. "Don't worry babe," he gumbles helpfully, "Those society guys will go for a sweet gal like you!" At which point she grabs him by the collar, hauls hum out of his seat, beats the tar out of him and wrecks his hack. Clap back, Amazona! Everything else she does to crooks after this point just seems like gilding the lily.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


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 ...

Oh boy, here we go. After two other appearances of Doctor Ann Fisk (Janet Julian), we finally get to see her first appearance! I'm not gonna fuss and feud about the running order, any more. It is what it is and here we are, all suffering together. Dick Durock may have been the one wearing the giant suffocating rubber swamp suit, but in a way we're all wearing the giant suffocating rubber swamp suits of our conceits.

An amateur hour Boss Hogg named Carter Sinclair Larouche (Don Hood) holds court at the edge of the swamp in order to announce his intentions to build a recycling plant in the bog. I don't know why he's having a big rally about it, surely that's something you pitch to the City Council and let the Chamber of Commerce do your fighting for you. But LaRouche is obviously intended to be a conman, because they play him like some lip-smacking Foghorn Leghorn and he's just oozes insincerity. They could have almost had him announce "And this recycling scam -- uh, I mean PLANT -- which I intend to fleece -- er, BUILD, I should say," and so on...

"Otisberg, ah say OTISberg, y'see, it's jest a li'l ol' teensy-tiny town ..."

Ann has been brought on by Larouche as an authority in environmental sciences, to verify the safety of the plant. Speaking of "the plant," Swamp Thing is watching the whole biz from his box seats in the mud waller, and the sight of Ann sends him all the way back to his days as a science teacher, when he was human but somehow even more wooden than he is now (thanks to the portrayal of Alec Holland by Patrick Neal Quinn, the man who looks just like comic book Alec Holland and acts slightly less convincingly than the reams of paper from which comic books are made).

A surveyor gets snuffed out in the swamp and his body washes up to the edge of Larouche's outdoor presentation. This is all the impetus it takes for Anton Arcane to show up and harass the living hell out of Larouche, who, Arcane hates and also it is pretty obvious that they're in this together. Moving on.

This man brought to you by Hickory Farm.

Swamp Thing finds an opportunity to approach Ann when she sets up a camping expedition in the swamp, talking to her from the darkness and alarming her in her underwear. I mean, yeah, seems like the best way to approach the matter. He warns her to not trust anyone, and I bet he had to bite his tongue to refrain from telling her to not bring her evil here, either.

Ann does some research into the conditions in the swamp, and stumbles across some tainted samples (whoa-oh-oh-oh). She reveals this information to the community at a church, for some reason, which mostly gives Larouche the opportunity to have stained glass behind him when he offers to buy up all the land surrounding the tainted swamp so that no one needs to be saddled with lousy property. BUT OH WAIT he and Arcane are planning to build a sun-and-surf resort. That is ... inconsistent with Arcane's motif.

I strongly suspect that this is the Universal Studios backlot.

With all the twists laid out in the first twelve minutes, we now have half an episode to kill while we spin our wheels. Ann goes back into the swamp to check out more samples (weirdly, they're all fine! That's because Arcane tainted them in the lab. The dude taints stuff left and right). Arcane and Larouche go with them, which puts them in Swamp Thing's territory. And how does he exercise his wrath? Well, he puts worms on Larouche. That'll show him.

When Larouche abandons his desk to scrape the worms off, Anton gets a good look at his partner's actual plans (to "drain the swamp," which has additional connotations these days, of course). Knowing that destroying the biome will put them on a direct confrontation with Swamp Thing, Arcane fucks right off, leaving Larouche to get almost drowned when our hero uses his powers to flood the campsite. Or Larouche has a bladder problem, one'a the two.

"♫Are you ready for the Summer ...♫"

Anyway, Swamp Thing confronts Larouche with visions of the surveyor he'd murdered earlier and sends him to the booby hatch after his mind snaps, the following day. Arcane uses this as an opportunity to butter up the crowd and remind them that he (as far as they know, anyway), always opposed Larouche. Here's a great exchange from Graham to Arcane:

 Graham: "They love you, sir, You're a hero to them."
Arcane: "Yes they do, don't they? Bunch of wallies."

Anyway, it wraps up with Dr.Ann Fisk hanging out with Swamp Thing and him saying things to her that he'd said earlier in the flashback. Then, literally, she only gets it on the drive home. 

"... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... OH!"

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Black Diamond Western vol.1 No.10 - Lev Gleason, April 1949

Monday, August 7, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.29 (May 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Doc Martin
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

The following bit of information doesn't say much for my powers of observation, I'm sad to admit. But perhaps it's indicative of just how deeply ensconced I am into the world of Micronauts that I hadn't previously noticed that Michael Golden hadn't done the last five covers (including this one). Pat Broderick has been on cover duty and, while it's not indistinguishable from Golden by any means, it captures the same level of highly palatable detail but simmers with kinetic energy in Broderick's signature style.

This seems strangely intimate.
Still, at this point, the only original crew members on Micronauts are Bill Mantlo and Jim Shooter, the latter of which I'm not sure we should count since he was editor-in-chief at the time, and was on every credit box. While the original Golden/Mantlo run was an unlikely labor of love from a tremendously synchronized creative duo, the book appears to have settled into the glut of monthlies. One unfortunate editor reassignment and this could all go downhill in a hurry.

But that's enough behind-the-scenes, here's the skinny: Providing a coda to the knock-down, drag-out rematch between Karza, Hydra, SHIELD and the Micronauts which took place at a lookalike Disneyworld, we have the traditional post-climax cool-down. The heroes stand over their fallen comrades -- the Micronauts honoring Queen Esmera, Biotron, and what remains of Shaitan, while Fury and the other agents of SHIELD look down on a hangar-full of flag-draped coffins. It's gonna be hard for mommy to explain to little Billy that daddy can't come home because an action figure teamed up with a green plastic Nazi and blew him to pieces all over Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, where are you gonna take the kid to cheer 'em up, Disneyworld?

I keep forgetting to
mention that this book
really leans on the
"milady" ...
This book has surprised me across the board with exactly how long they've kept key characters dead-as-doornails. Bug's Insectivorid girlfriend Jasmine has been moldering in Saugerties for more than a year now, and Biotron was demolished several issues back (with no sign of return). Shaitan and Esmera (the second lady Insectivorid to bite it in the pages of Micronauts, which bodes poorly for Bug's dating life) are newly-snuffed, but it'll be interesting to see if they -- or any of them -- ever come back.

Post-ceremony, supporting "Incredible Hulk" character Doc Samson is summoned to help rouse Arcturus Rann from the coma into which he was shocked by the dissolution of the Enigma Force. Doc's one of two very well-done crossovers into the Micronauts universe in this issue (three, if you count SHIELD), and should probably be a blueprint for how to do it right. Most of these crossovers with mainstream Marvel characters have come off anywhere from lackluster to awful. Perhaps Mantlo's happier with the weirdos.

(Part of the charm of Doc's appearance, for me, was that his entire spiel was inspired by Julian Jaynes' early-80s psychology tome, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. This was the first "smart book" I read when I was a kid, and I read it entirely because The Beast mentioned it in an issue of The Avengers. I'm delighted to find a second Marvel comic making direct reference to it. I imagine a copy must have been floating around the bullpen ...)

Doc shrinks a trio of Micronauts down to Fantastic Voyage size. Marionette, Bug, and Acroyear (whose lover and fellow Spartak warrior, Cilicia, has just cursed his name and left him following Ayo's choice to deplete the Worldmind and condemn Spartak to lifelessness) lead the crew, with Microtron and the faux-Spartak Dagon keeping watch over the Commander teensy-tiny body.

Inside Rann's head, the trio are separated and faced with distortions of their greatest fantasies turned into terrible ... Nightmares! Woot, it's Doctor Strange's mystical foe Nightmare, the character I like to pretend is Neil Gaiman's Sandman slumming in the Marvel U. Nightmare's been drawn by the broken Enigma Force and, while searching for a way to commandeer what's left of it for his own needs, he torments the good guys for not much of a reason. It's still good though.

The fight with Nightmare occurs simultaneously as Dagon makes his move in the waking world -- he's gonna slaughter the sleeping Rann! It turns out that Dagon is a Dog Soldier and that his arc wrapped up a lot faster than I expected. That makes me a little uneasy for the future. Dagon is also uneasy about his future, because he does not have one, because Microtron kills him with the roboid's boob-cannons.

As the Micronauts manage to pierce the blocked brain barrier which keeps Rann asleep, they discover a strange golden monolith in Rann's mind, bearing a strange inscription. The mystery is enough to send them ... back to Homeworld! And a whole new arc!

Lettercol! It's this ungrateful jerk, buying a book he doesn't like just to write pissy letters about it. Is he the Internet's father?

Friday, August 4, 2017


"Like my vacuum cleaner with the hot rod flames painted on it, or the guy feeding jackets to a large steak knife."

In the early 1970s, King Features (via Charlton Comics) introduced their iconic sailor character Popeye to the general workforce in a series of fifteen free comics aimed at teaching kids about careers. I started collecting these books a few years back (around the same time that I wrote about two of them on the blog, lo these many moons ago), idly as copies presented themselves cheaply online.

"...and THAT'S the trap of COMFORT!"
At first, I collected them as an oddity, but – well, to be fair, I’m still collecting them as an oddity. But the original oddity was merely the sight of removing Popeye from his familiar surroundings and portraying him as a wandering ghost among busy people going about their daily lives. Plus, the team of Joe Gill and George Wildman, despite having shepherded Popeye through his Charlton Comics days, had never to my understanding been celebrated by Popeye fandom (of which I admit to knowing very little; for me, for better or worse, Popeye began and ended with E.C.Segar). I was curious about how they’d handle the property in a wildly off-model universe where fights were verboten and Popeye spoke with the elocution of a Shakespearian actor.

The thing is, the more I read these books – painfully, inching word to word in dense and unlovely prose which had never been intended to be enjoyed – the more I started uncovering an overarching motif to the entire enterprise. Or, at the very least, it started to seem familiar. A surprisingly eloquent Popeye, Swee’pea in tow, narrating his impossible navigation through the tedium of common labor, towards an ambiguous ending -- devoid of catharsis, epiphany or context – spoken in a tone-poem of statistical facts and figures gathered by the United States Bureau of Gettin’ Goddamn Paid.

With every additional instance of Popeye elucidating a marketplace of unremarkable domesticity forever looping in dignity-eroding futility, I came to realize; this is an art film. It’s like if Robert Altman had passed on directing Popeye so they handed it off to Jacques Tati. Only sadder.

Never mind a budget, man, call the cops!

I ask you to take, for instance, Popeye and Consumer and Homemaking Careers, in which Popeye – perhaps inadvertently – dissembles the suburban dystopia and the behemoth of a market which is harnessed solely to maintain it in its permanent state of dizzying entropy. Also he shows you how to be a dietitian!

The arc of these comics does tend to go from white collar to blue collar, leaving the broom-shoving jobs for the end. In this case, however, Popeye must set up the joyless, interminable cycle of American home life. “This family and millions of others have to be supplied with food, clothing and furnishings for their home,” he unlispfully explains, showing Swee’pea an ouroboros of vans, trucks and laborers helplessly looping around the nests of their patrons. I think they meant to make it look chummy and cooperative, but it seems like an indictment.

Popeye’s narrative is central to the book, such as it is. As he wanders from job to job, you begin to wonder what Popeye’s role in this world must be. Here he associates with Dietitians, there he’s feted by Interior Designers, Home Economists and Fashion Designers sing his praises. But as he descends from those lofty positions, he enters the backbreaking world of upholsterers, domestic servants and physical laborers. And yet, there is still no role for Popeye. Popeye the Sad Clown. Popeye the Reflection of Man. No rest, brave sailor, but the rest of the grave, that your tears will hollow from gallows soil. Get to it.

As the mystery of Popeye’s place in this world deepens, the readers are whisked off to a secondary tale, told almost entirely in silence, akin to the sudden aside undertaken in Moby Dick when the Town Ho chapter steps up. AND SPEAKING OF THE TOWN HO how do I do the strikethrough tag, I forget.

There’s a strange aside involving a dark-haired young woman who is apparently making a journey up the career ladder as a domestic servant. Nameless and mute, she nonetheless picks up a gig as a Kitchen Helper (no relation to “Minnie” or “Hamburger”). In short order – to suit her short skirt – she works her way up to Housemaid and then a flirty Nursemaid, getting it on with a cop right in front of her infant ward. Well, I exaggerated there. Still, this all takes place as Popeye rambles on about the specifics of her position, the education requirements, the general rate of job satisfaction and opportunities for advancement. It’s like Himmel Uber Berlin here.

Both of these panels look like the scenes in porn films before the action starts.

As we wrap up and leave the Maid Ho behind, we continue Popeye’s cheery, informative jaunt down the job ladder. As he approaches an office building, we see him comfortably kipping in a lawn chair in a furnace room, eating lunch off an oil barrel, and dusting lamps. Yet, just as you think Popeye has left the ocean and its adventures behind for a cellar bunk under the water pipes, we catch up with him on his delivery route.

Popeye delivers! Does he ever! It’s milk in the morning and drycleaning in the afternoon, but at least it’s portrayed happily. His happy van jaunts into the sunset! He shares the road with merry bread trucks and such. It’s all worked out, it’s a fine ending, at least Popeye has a job which keeps him in the outdoors and moving merrily along. How sad if the high-seas-sailing hero were confined to a dank basement all day? What a wry twist that would be! Well, I’ll just close the book and take a casual glance at the back cover which will certainly not derail my happy speculation …

Maybe this is just where he keeps that garbage can they mention in the song...

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