Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Marvel Year One: Spider-Man

Peter Parker is an a-hole.

We know this, this is part of his origin story.  He uses his powers to make money, doesn't stop a thief when he had the chance, and his beloved Uncle Ben dies because of it.

But does he stop being an a-hole?  We'll take a look next year, as Spider-Man only makes one appearance in 1962.

We're also introduced to the Peter Parker Principle, which dates back in one form or another to at least the French Revolution.  So far we only have the narrator preaching it.  We'll see when Peter himself references the phrase.  Later (maybe much later), the phrase is attributed to Uncle Ben, and I now wonder how that came up.  "Peter, with great power comes great responsibility.  But even powerless milksops like you still have to take out the trash".

Spider-man is used with or without the hyphen, sometimes on the same page.

There's a notice about a change in the title.  It went Amazing Adventures to Amazing Adult Fantasy to Amazing Fantasy, stopping here at issue 15 until there were a couple more issues in the 90s.  The notice posted here talks about teenagers being embarrassed buying a comic with the word "adult" in the title.

Amazing Fantasy 15

Collected in Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power in paperback or Kindle

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Able Team: Razorback by Dick Stivers

Able Team: Razorback
by Dick Stivers (David North)
In the anthology Heroes
1992, Gold Eagle

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Just after the Executioner spin-offs Able Team and Phoenix force got cancelled and combined into Stony Man, Gold Eagle published three anthologies with stories from each team - I suspect to burn through stories they already bought.

In Razorback, a corrupt Sheriff from Gobbler's [Run, Arkansas, is the middle man in an arms dealing scheme, buying from bikers who steal from the military and selling to South American cartels.  Pol and Ironman are on the case while Gadgets is on leave, hunting hogs with his buddy from 'Nam, which also just happens to be at Gobbler's Run.  A third party also coincidentally joins them later, stacking pretty steep odds they all show up at a town of a population of just over a hundred.

Most of the story is taken up with the baddies, who are suitably sleazy and evil and thus much more interesting than our heroes.  The good guys spend most of their time telling women how pretty they are while hoping they can kill someone without a trial.

The action scenes were below par, with the vileness of the villains not quite making up for it.  One thing annoyed me - they have one of those "This mission is off the books, so if you're caught by local law enforcement you're own you own" scenes, sandwiched between a scene of the Feds ordering Gadgets released from a local prison, and the Able Team getting the full cooperation of the State Police.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Marvel Year One: Thor

What should be a simple premise is fraught with complications, the realization of which didn't come for some time.

Dr. Donald Blake is an ordinary surgeon, who presumably was born of human parents and has been alive for some decades.  He finds a magic stick that, when knocked on the ground, transforms him into the Norse god Thor.

At first it seems similar to Captain Marvel/Shazam - Blake remains Blake while gaining Thor's powers.  Blake has all own memories and personality (no thous and thuses) and at the start doesn't have additional memories - he only knows Loki from his knowledge of mythology.

But what of the Thor of legend?  At the first issue we don't know if he existed before, if he's still around, or if Thor was always a series of mortals granted power by Mjölnir.  Very quickly, Blake begins to become more Thorish, and addresses Odin directly as if from personal memory, and that the Thor of legend has been missing for some time.

Thor gets powered up pretty quickly.  Tapping the stick once changes Blake into Thor, once again changes him back, two times lets him control weather, and three times stops the storms.  It's complicated, and I think quickly abandoned, as he can control weather from the skies as well.  Blake is even able to control the weather without turning into Thor.

Technically Thor can't fly - he throws his hammer and grabs onto the handle thong.  But since he can control where the hammer flies, and can re-throw it a different direction or spin it around and stay in place, it's functionally the same as flying.  I will keep my eye out to see if Thor flies or floats when he's not holding his hammer.

Other powers include emitting anti-matter particles from his hammer, blowing hurricane force winds out of his mouth, tracking items by taping fragments to Mjölnir, and travelling through time.  He's the Silver Age Flash of Marvel Comics, inventing new powers as needed.  I remember these are explicitly removed later, not just forgotten about.

We have our first "could she ever love a cripple" romance comic anxiety piece, and our first of the few Marvel heroes to have a cape

Questions to keep an eye out - When does Thor start speaking in ye olden tongue?  Is Thor bulletproof?  My memory from my first read is that the handbook entries say all Asgardians are denser and bullet resistant up to 50 caliber, but that he's never actually been shot.

Journey Into Mystery 83-87

Collected in Thor Epic Collection: The God Of Thunder in paperback and Kindle.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Marvel Year One: The Incredible Hulk

After Pym's debut, but before The Ant-Man, we have the Incredible Hulk Bruce "Not Yet With Twenty Middle Names" Banner.  As simple as the basic concept of the most common configuration is (Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk when he's mad), right out of the box Lee is fiddling around with things.

After being zapped by the gamma bomb, Banner turns into the Hulk at night.  This Hulk is grey, not mindless but also not as smart as Banner, and is more actively malign than the "Hulk just wants to be left alone" that we're used to.  Mr. Hyde with a little bit of Frankenstein's Monster.

For an issue we get the Hulk being controlled by Rick Jones.  This doesn't last long before the next version: Banner has to be zapped with a gamma ray gun to change in either direction.  He maintains his consciousness and intelligence as the Hulk, though his personality is more aggressive.

So far, the change from Banner to Hulk is mostly predictable and you'd like him just fine when he's angry.  He doesn't say Smash and hasn't mentioned whether he'd just like to be left alone.

His powers change as well.  He starts off strong, but seems weaker than the Thing, and can be hurt by bullets (and Banner suffers the same wound after changing).  Later we get Hulk's sonic hand-clap and his ability to jump long distances.

When Superman started he couldn't fly, just jump long distances.  I think this gradually turned to flying as time went on as he started changing directions.  My memory is that the Hulk consistently jumped.  This may be true in later years, but within panels of being able to jump long distances, the Hulk is jumping horizontally and achieving lift.

You can tell they want to make Rick Jones a thing.  Maybe historians can make a case that him and Snapper Carr were actually popular, but I refuse to accept it.  Jones is established as an "orphan with an aunt" just one month after the more famous Peter Parker but before Ben Grimm.

Incredible Hulk 1-4

Collected in Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Man or Monster? in paperback and Kindle.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Marvel Year One: The Ant-Man

Our second superhero in the world of Marvel doesn't start as a superhero, but as a standalone story in Tales to Astonish.  Henry Pym shrinks himself with a shrinking potion, has an adventure with ants, before returning to normal size, pouring his formulas down the drain, never to be used again.

They are used again.  Pym gets a regular feature in Tales to Astonish at The Ant-Man, with the article and hyphen, though no hyphen on the cover, beginning Marvel's complicated history with the punctuation mark.

This is before the Wasp and before Giant-Man.  Pym and his ants face the street level crooks, mainly communists, and is about as exciting as this character gets.  Pym, a character so dull that he actually improved by becoming a wife beater, was the only Marvel hero to not graduate from a monster title to his own comic, and I think only headlined a comic decades later as the Wasp.

Tales to Astonish 27-38 (periodically)

Available in Ant-Man/Giant-Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant Hill in paperback and Kindle.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Come the Night (aka Chainsaw Terror) by Shaun Hutson

Come the Night (aka Chainsaw Terror)
by Shaun Hutson (also as by Nick Blake)
Originally 1984 Star


book cover of Come The Night

Handyman Edward Briggs has lived in London home with his sister since their father murdered their cheating mother.  Sis tries to move out, but incestuously obsessed brother calls a stop to it by cutting her head off.

After dispatching her boyfriend, Briggs introduces a series of prostitutes to his sister's rapidly rotting head before introducing them to his basement full of power tools.

Meanwhile, reporter Dave Todd has been working on an article on the sex trade, and uses the prostitute he's been sleeping with as bait for Briggs.  The book is pure video nasty, something straight out of 70's 42 Street, with a climax straight out of early Peter Jackson.

The book started as Chainsaw Terror under the name Nick Blake, later reprinted as Come the Night, before being included in an omnibus edition under Shaun Hutson.  I've compared the nastiest pages of Chainsaw Terror and my omnibus edition of Come the Night, and I can confirm that these scenes are word for word the same.  They even seem to have the same typesetting, with the same page and line breaks.  Other reviewers who have copies of each have confirmed this as well.

 From the text itself there seems to be scenes cut out.  One has Briggs slowly lowering a drill into a woman's eye, his Johnson out and ready, then...

Fates Worse Than Death: “What an Amazing Escape!” | Medleyana

Dot, dot, dot, she's already dead on the floor.  Like he didn't even re-write it, just cut it out.

Don't get me wrong, this is a nasty, distasteful piece of work.  Hutson strikes a good balance here, clearly making it nasty on purpose, but not enough to slip into cartoonishness.

If you're interested in just the text, the omnibus edition with The Abduction and The Visitation is the best value.  Tip o' the hat to @richleau666, @paperbacksnpugs, and @whatmeworry

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Welcome to the Fun Zone (1984)

Dr. Demento hosts three other hosts who host Welcome to the Fun Zone, originally aired in the SNL time slot.  The show peaks early with the best of Dr. Demento, which is of course Weird Al.  John Candy and John Carradine are in a weird horror parody short film which feels like it was unfinished footage of an abandoned project.  There's a perverted version of MST3K doing It Conquered the World, and various other novelty comedy acts.  Also with Santana playing with Booker T and the MGs playing with the Fabulous Thunderbirds.  None of it is funny, but it's a time capsule for this kind of thing.  Dr. Demento is wisely almost completely absent.