Thursday, December 31, 2020

Warriors of Mars by Michael Moorcock

 Warriors of Mars aka City of the Beast
by Michael Moorcock (as Edward P. Bradbury)
1965 Compact

Michael Kane is an Olympic level fencer and physicist who creates an experimental matter transmittal device that teleports him to ancient Mars. He involves himself with the locals, defends a city from an invasion of blue-skinned giants, and rescues a captured princess.

Fun, unpretentious, and well written action, with a great siege scene.  This is my first Moorcock, and lacks the depth and trippyness of his later works.  Kane is supposed to be an aspect of Moorcock's Eternal Champion, and Kane is definitely an archetype, if by that you mean incredibly generic.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Marvel 1964: Spider-Man

Not much changing with Spidey this year.  He's established as being a high school senior and loses his glasses at the beginning of the year.  By the end of the year it seems clearer that Pete and Flash were in the same friend group, rather than him being an outsider.

Don't know how strong he is, but he's stronger than Iron Man and Giant-Man, though not as much as Thor, Hulk, or Thing, a ranking that I dispute.

Amazing Spider-Man 8-19

Available from Amazon collected in Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Great Power

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Swordsman of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline

 The Swordsman of Mars
by Otis Adelbert Kline
1933 Argosy

Down on his luck Harry Thorne is kidnapped by a mad scientist who psychically switches his consciousness with his double who lived on ancient Mars.  His mission, to kill the subject of a previous swap who plans on using ray gun technology to threaten Earth.

More violent than I was expecting, with heads being cut off or in half and rolling all over the place.  Not as fantastical or literate as Princess of Mars.  Perhaps due to the read of the audiobook it evoked the idea of a Planet & Sword/Gangbusters crossover, but that was not to be.

Kindle and Audiobook from Amazon

Audiobook currently on Hoopla, check your library

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

TV Obscura: The People Next Door

 The People Next Door
1989, CBS
10 episodes, 5 unaired

Created by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner, of all people, The People Next Door is a sitcom about a cartoonist with an imagination so strong it comes to life, with hilarious consequences. Starring Jeffrey Jones, a man whose fantasies got put him on a register. Guest starring a bunch of folks who weren't too busy in 1989, including Tony Danza, Margaret Cho, Rob Lowe, and Alan Cumming.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Marvel 1964: Thor

Odin gets pissed at Thor for not giving up his love for Jane Foster, so he cuts his power in half. His strength is halved, though we didn't know how strong he was in the first place.  He loses his ability to control the weather and to travel to Asgard, which he does anyway a few months later.

New things his hammer can do: hypnotize people, emit melting alpha rays, create a space warp that teleports enemies randomly through space, and can freeze time.  Other hammer facts: as a child Thor could lift the hammer a little bit at a time as he became worthy; while others can't lift the hammer, they can lift the handle and pivot the head, and Don Blake turns to Thor if someone else hits his cane on the floor.

We get another sense that Thor and Blake have different consciousnesses - Thor does some basic electronics based on what he's learned from Iron Man, while we know that Don Blake is proficient enough to make his own robot, though I'm sure Stan Lee already forgot about that.  Going the other direction, Thor considered changing back to Blake to use his medical skills.

Still don't know if Thor is bulletproof, but he probably is as landmines only stun him.  Oh, and Thor helped spawn the human race.

Journey into Mystery 100-111

Available from Amazon collected in Thor Epic Collection: The God Of Thunder

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Bannerman the Enforcer by Kirk Hamilton

Bannerman the Enforcer
by Kirk Hamilton (Keith Hetherington)
1965 Cleveland Publishing (unsure of this)

Yancey Bannerman defends his brother against accusations of bank robbery, gets hired by the Texas Governor, and stops a bridge from being blown up.  Standard oater. Aside from some bits about customizing firearms, nothing of interest.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Marvel 1964: Ant-Man and the Wasp

 Pym starts to show some feelings, with them more or less being a couple by the end of the year.  Pym becomes Giant-Man, and is able to control his and Janet's height with cybernetic power, and communicate telepathically through their helmets (which I suspect gets forgotten).

Pym gets his secret identity discovered by a hood, but nothing a little mind wipe won't cure.

Never date a bio-chemist

Janet starts narrating a monster story in a framing device for the second story and gets a Wasp solo story before that slot is given to the Hulk.

Tales to Astonish 51-62 

Available from Amazon collected in Ant-Man/Giant Man Epic Collection: The Man in the Ant-Hill

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Jubal Cade 9: Days of Blood by Charles R. Pike

Jubal Cade 9: Days of Blood 
by Charles R. Pike (Angus Wells)
1977 Chelsea House

Trained to heal - born to kill! Jubal Cade is a bowler wearing doctor who is seeking vengeance for his dead wife, earning money to support treatment for his blind adopted son along the way.  There's a lot packed into this slim volume.  Bandits slaughter an entire town before hijacking a train.  There's a train shootout before it crashes in the snow, leaving Cade to lead survivors through the frozen wilderness ahead of a pack of starving wolves.  He runs into an old enemy in town while he takes a job escorting a rich widow back to Texas.

We get a dynamite siege of a church in a town run by fundamentalist, Indian attacks, a range war, naked hooker with a shotgun, sniper attack, ending in a final hand on hand duel.  Your standard western this size maybe has two set pieces, where this burns through several.  The sense of scale adjusts seemlessly, jumping between shootouts with a half dozen toughs to a one-on-one challenge, maintaining the sense of danger throughout.

The series is similar to Edge (it was originated by the same author, Terry Harknett), but with the puns and anatomical details toned down a notch. Cade is a bit more heroic than the rest of the Piccadillys, in that he occasionally goes out of his way to help others as opposed to being a complete psychopath.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

TV Horror Anthology: Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected

 Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected
8 Episodes
1977 CBS

Slow paced drudgery with recycled plots, such as this episode, a remake of the Invaders pilot.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Dark Shadows 30: Barnabas, Quentin and the Mad Magician by Marilyn Ross

 Dark Shadows 30
Barnabas, Quentin and the Mad Magician
by Marilyn Ross
1971 Paperback Library

World famous magician Cabrini comes to Colinwood, placing a character under his hypnotic spell.  A series of throat slashing murders casts suspicion on Quentin, while Barnabas helps solve the mystery,

Is the murderer the sinister magician? Is it one of the two main characters? Or is, it's the magician.  There is no mystery here.  This jives with the mood of what I remember from the series: we have werewolf boy not being a werewolf, vampire boy not being a vampire, and people discussing the discussions they've had about things that happened off page.

Audiobook available, check your library

Marvel 1964: Fantastic Four

 The series starts to settle into a regular rogues gallery.  Sue gains the ability to use forcefields and turn other things/people invisible.  Strange Tales shifts to a Human Torch/Thing duo, where Ben finally gives us his patented catchphrase.

Instead of being the family they're later know as, Reed Richards is the explicit leader of the group, and he's not afraid to say it, to the point of faking being a villain so he can show up Johnny and Ben.  

Reed is kind of a dick.

Fantastic Four 22-33; Strange Tales 116-127

Available from Amazon in Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan Of Doctor Doom and The Human Torch & The Thing: Strange Tales - The Complete Collection

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Series Showdown: Spaceways vs Wraeththu

 This was supposed to be the showdown of inappropriately sexy science fiction series, and instead both had less sex than non porn/erotica genre novels of the same periods.  Both had races of sex-crazed hermaphrodites, though strangely Spaceways dealt with gender issues more deftly.  That and it's shorter. So I'll go with that, I guess.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Wraeththu 1: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit by Storm Constantine

Wraeththu 1
The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit
by Storm Constantine
1987 Macdonald & Co

I was told there would be penis flowers.  Where are the penis flowers?

The Wraeththu are an evolved strain of humanity that live in an ill defined post-apocalyptic waste-ish land.  No sense of how far in the future - Wraeththu have been around a couple hundred years, but some of that presumably before the series of small things that led to Earth's decay.  There are still functioning vehicles and an abundance of commercial goods.

The Wraeththu are all male - there is some lip service to them being hermaphroditic, androgynous, or beyond human gender, but they're all dudes.  They reproduce by maybe doing sex to human males and turning them into Wraeththu, as well as being able to reproduce among themselves, though this evidently happens rarely and isn't explained.

Young Pellaz is a human boy who is picked up by travelling Wraeththu Cal who turns him into their kind.  They travel around a bit meeting other Wraeththu, Pellaz gets shot in the head, he heals, Cal and Pellaz are separated, Pellaz is told he'll be king of the Wraeththu because he's the prettiest or something, the end.

Poor worldbuilding, no plot to speak of, and anything of interest is hidden behind a curtain.  Few details of Pell's transformation, or how he was recreated after being shot, given that Pell was drugged unconscious through both.

Described as erotica, this is the most chaste novel I've ever read.  I had to go back and re-read lines to figure out where she faded to black.  Two characters hold hands then they're eating breakfast and you just assume something happened.  No mention of how they have sex, other than there are ways to do it that cause pregnancy and some that don't, kind of like human hetereo sex.  Then there are the flower penises, which, like all explicit sexual acts, are completely absent from this installment. 

The book has a nasty habit of just declaring something and then showing something else. Wraeththu are said to be incapable of individual love, yet every character pines over someone. They are beyond masculine concepts like war, which is why they will wipe out humanity under a central dictatorship. And they don't believe in rape, while the closest they come to consent is violating hypnotized teenagers.

On one level it reads like rural gay teen wish fulfillment - a sexy man comes to your crappy small town and whisks you away to a more exciting world.  But mostly it reads as female fascination with a sexless concept of homosexuality, like a twelve year old rubbing two Ken dolls together, only less graphic.  It's telling that the only female character is only there to hook two guys up in a goth club.

To say something nice, it comes before Vampire: The Masquerade, with it's vague pseudo-vampires and distinct clans, as well and Neil Gaiman's Sandman which has a similar vibe at its worst.  It has language that implies sex, violence, and horror, but there is none here.

Plot wise it may be some kind of sprawling Dune-like epic across various installments that can only be appreciated in its entirety, and I'm not exactly the target audience for this kind of thing, but I've seen referenced to how f'ed up this series is supposed to be, and it just ain't here.

Available overpriced on Amazon

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Series Showdown: MIA Hunter vs Stony Man

 MIA Hunter was better written, but Stony Man had more, and better, action.  Stony Man Doctrine has been listed as the first Super Bolan, as well as the first Stony Man.  Super Bolan was the closest in time, with Stony Man being continued eight years later.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Spaceways 1: Of Alien Bondage by John Cleve

Spaceways 1: Of Alien Bondage
by John Cleve (Andrew J. Offutt)
1982 Playboy

As we saw in the Crusader series, Andrew Offutt is totally capable of writing rousing adventures stories and full blown porn at the same time. This is neither.

Captain Jonuta is a space slaver who captures Janja from her primitive planet. She is sold, escapes, and everyone hangs around. Nothing happens in this entire book.

A little bit of world building. White people on Earth have been eradicated, with the non-white races having only faint racial memory of hate for them. Janja is white, which could get complicated but doesn't really matter much. Western culture is long forgotten, except for Marquis de Sade and John Norman's Gor series, which are referred to at length.

Tons of exposition with very little content, and the sex is mostly told rather than shown. Sex is talked about constantly, but barely happens on the page. The scifi potential for inter-humanoid sex is largely squandered - there's even a race of sex-crazed hermaphrodites that only see action off page.

Perfect for Playboy - softcore and dull.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Series Showdown: Flash Gordon vs Dark Shadows

Next up in the Novelizations and Media Tie-Ins division, a showdown between two titles in the "Media Tie Ins That I Wouldn't Have Expected to See Released in Audiobook and Free at My Library" category. In a stunning upset, I'm going with Dark Shadows. Flash underperformed, where Dark Shadows exactly fulfilled my expectations.  That and I know further Flash installments will just be more of "Flash tries to get the Badger Men and Wombat Men to fight Ming, but they don't like each other, and Flash does some kind of gladiator combat".

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Stony Man Doctrine by G.H. Frost

Stony Man Doctrine
by G.H. Frost
1983 Gold Eagle

Mack Bolan, Able Team, and Phoenix Force fight a coalition of gangs, commies, and Islamic fundamentalists seeking to attack America with chemical weapons.

HQ gets a lead, a strike teams shoots the place up, repeat until page count goal.  Less characterization than usual with way too many characters.  After all the Bolanverse novels I've read, I can name one character, Carl Lyons, the closest to having a personality.

Points for having a shootout at a massive abandoned amusement park in Central Texas.  Points off for not have a shootout on an operating ride, and night even a chase up a roller coaster track.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Dark Shadows by Marilyn Ross

 Dark Shadows
by Marilyn Ross
1966 Paperback Library

You grew up in an orphanage, knowing nothing about your family.  You get a job offer as a governess in a spooky house owned by a family who have been secretly financing your care.  A word of advice - if you are going to make out with any of the boys, I suggest you don't look at the hidden portrait in the locked basement.

Not a novelization, but a parallel set of stories to the gothic soap opera. Like the soap opera, the book series never answers the question of Victoria's parentage after being hijacked by time travelling vampires (though a Big Finish audio play does).  This installment has a self-contained mystery, but we never find out if she's in love with her probable half-brother and/or nephew.

I've never read a proper gothic romance, but this hits every square of the bingo card I've picked up from Scooby-Doo: stranger at the window, hidden portraits, secret passages, a locked room nobody's allowed in, suicide, madness, etc.

Available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon.

And check your library for an audiobook version

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Flash Gordon 1: The Lion-Men of Mongo

Flash Gordon 1: The Lion-Men of Mongo
by Con Steffanson (Ron Goulart)
1974 Avon 

Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov are separated as they crash land on planet Mongo. They do capture/escape routine several times, fighting slavers, mermen, and tiger men in gladiator pits, before running afoul of Ming the Merciless.

Not as much action as I expected, with most of the page count either travelling or talking about travelling. Goulart does a good job of respecting the source material without slipping too far into camp, keeping everything light.

The main issue I had is with the back story. In the original comic strip, like the movie, Ming is attacking Earth with advanced technology, with Flash fighting impossible odds for all humanity.  In this series, Flash and company are interplanetary explorers who find Mongo, a primitive backwoods planet. Humanity is far advanced technologically.  By the end of the story they could leave Mongo at any time, but stick around to fight Ming just for kicks. This lowers the stakes and takes away most of the emotional drive of the original.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Check your library for the Audiobook on Libby and Hoopla.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Tower of Evil by James Kisner

 Tower of Evil
by James Kisner
1994 BMI

I needed this.  After countless Zebra paperbacks set in small town America with body counts in the low single digits, a good urban gorefest.

Security guard Shannon is snowed in overnight at her Indianapolis office building during a blizzard.  The spirit of a murdered homeless man, Dead Ted, is able to control animate objects in the building with deadly effect, as well as animate the corpses of his victims.

So we get 300+ pages of late night lawyers and cleaning crews being slaughtered by vending machines and the like, then the bodies rising from the dead for further carnage.  Shannon faces off against the undead horde, her main weapon being a series of fire extinguishers, which make heads explode when you shove the nozzle in their mouths and fill them up with foam.

Severed body part masturbation, an endless litter of flesh earing demon babies, and a demon headed penis with acid ejaculate. Not particularly well written, with the author purposely hitting some of my buttons (every woman gets her breasts described, the Black characters unable to speak English, etc).  It's at its weakest with the scenes of Dead Ted, with way too much time explaining the rules of what he is or isn't able to do.  We never get an explanation of what brought him back, aside from hints of demonic power, and that's definitely for the best.

I'm a sucker for horror stories in office buildings, and you could do worse than someone trying to out-do Sam Raimi.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Marvel Year Two Overview

Lee and company have found a groove, mostly fitting a story within a single issue, and even have a couple two-parters.

A little time travel: Iron man goes back to flirt with Cleopatra, and we're introduced to Rama Tut, who later is also Kang and Immortus and several others.  No instances of anyone trying to change the past or future or issues with paradoxes or alternate universes.

The hollow earth gets more Shaverish.  We get abandoned advanced technology with Tyrannus and a whole underground society with Kala, Queen of the Underworld.  Lava Man are joining the gang as well.

Secret identities are in full force.  The X-Men know each other, but the Avengers don't (with the exception of Giant-Man and the Wasp).  Both Thor and Iron Man get found out, Iron Man twice, but the nosy parties are killed or banished to Limbo so all is well.

We have the first instance of Limbo, later to be merged with the Limbos of ROM and Magik

Repeated Plots:

Thor had a "trick shape changing aliens into becoming things of low intelligence" story, tricking the Xartans into becoming trees like Reed Richards hypnotized the Skrulls into becoming cows.

The Awesome Android, the Super Skrull, and Doctor Zaxton's duplicating machine give us villains who copy our heroes' powers, to be followed by Super Adaptoid and many, many others.

We can add the Actor, Space Phantom, Loki, and Mr. Hyde to the Chameleon and Skrulls for "villain impersonating hero" plot.  Thor gets impersonated at least three times this year.

Keeping track: Reed hasn't use hypnosis, Thor didn't use time travel and hasn't been hit by bullets.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Home Sweet Home by Ruby Jean Jensen

 Home Sweet Home
by Ruby Jean Jensen
1985, Zebra

When his father has to take his mother to the hospital for surgery, ten year old Timmy is left in the care of "Uncle" Dan, a camera salesman family friend with a custom van.  What could go wrong?

Dan takes Timmy to his cabin deep in the woods, where he joins several other children.  Dan acts increasingly more bizarre, referring to "Little Mother" living in the back room who nobody gets to see.  He also gets increasingly pervy.  "Gee, Timmy, I don't know what happened to your swimsuit.  Guess you'll have to skinny dip.  Let me get my camera."  Strong bicycle man vibes:

Good suspense, with the creep building up to terror.  The twist, if it can even be called that, was lazy, and the ending phoned-in, but it effectively taps into childhood fears of being left with strange adults with boundary issues.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Marvel Year Two: Atlantis

Growing up, when I thought of Atlantis I thought of it as an existing, living hidden civilization, either under an air dome or populated by mer-people.  This is the pop culture take, whereas a great deal of literature and pseudo-history take it as an extinct lost city, populated only in ancient times.

Before it sank into the sea, Atlantis is described as an advanced civilization - sometimes meaning advanced for it's time, sometimes meaning more advanced than modern technology.

In the Golden Age, Atlantis is first mentioned in 1949 in Sub-Mariner Comics 31.  This is reportedly the only mention of Atlantis in the Silver Age, and I'm not reading them all to confirm.

Atlantis is mentioned as the ancestors of Namor's people.  Atlantis was a surface city with technology more advanced than modern day.  Scientists invent a magnet that can attract anything, but the ruler thinks it's a bad idea and throws it into a lake.  The magnet goes deeper into the earth, and for centuries Atlanteans dig down after it, until the dig so deep it upsets the foundations of Atlantis, which sinks into the sea.

Some Atlanteans developed the ability to breath water after several generations, though I would think they'd need to be quicker than that.

These people are the ancestors of the current mer-people Atlanteans, and the magnet became the source of Earth's gravity, which is not only wrong but stupid.  The city/continent of Atlantis itself is described as lost.

Namor says this is just a story, and a wrong one at that, but there are similarities to later Atlantis depictions.

In the Silver Age, there is a quick mention of Atlantis by Namor referring to a sunken artifact, here Atlantis being a lost city.  It comes up again full force in Fantastic Four Annual 1, 1963, where Namor is reunited with his people after unknown years of living on skid row.

There's some backstory given to Atlantis and the evolution of merpeople - here merpeople evolved along a parallel track to humanity, and aren't evolved from the original Atlanteans.  In fact, Atlantis is depicted as originating under the sea.  I believe this is filled out later, with merpeople settling in the ruins of post-cataclysm Atlantis.

The bit about Namor trying to locate Atlantis confused me (wouldn't he know where it was?), until there was a reference to New Atlantis.  So, presumably, the Atlanteans call wherever they live "Atlantis".  Atlantis is located in Antarctica in 1920 (which makes Namor in his early 40s here).  As of FF Ann 1 it's in the Atlantic Ocean, but the Atlanteans pack up and abandon Namor at the end, so we'll have to wait and see where the settle next.

The first description of pre-cataclysm Atlantis is in an Iron Man comic, Tales of Suspense 43.  Atlantis is an advanced, terrestrial civilization threatened by tidal waves and earthquakes.  Atlantis is covered by a dome, which protects it as it sinks under the waves, through the earth, and eventually settling in the Earth's core like the magnet in Namor's stupid folktale.

It seems clear that Kala is talking about all of Atlantis, which is city size.  This is later retconned/corrected to being a city within the continent of Atlantis, with other parts presumably settling under water.

Atlantis is later involved in a great deal of Marvel pre-history, which, like the hollow earth stuff, will get a lot more convoluted as we go on.

Monday, October 26, 2020

City of Dreams, Macau

There's a slide between floors, y'all!

Kind of a chaotic layout, with tons of escalators, displays in the walkways, and shiny stuff everywhere.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Marvel Year Two: Nick Fury

Nick Fury starts out in his World War II adventures in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos.  This title is quickly integrated into the Marvel Universe as Reed Richards appears as an OSS agent.

Fury has both eyes and more of a brutish appearance.  His Howling Commandos are a melting pot, and we get the first Black character Gabriel Jones (though he's mis-colored as white in the first issue), and for that matter the first explicitly Jewish, Italian, Irish, and redneck characters.

Fury show up in the modern era as a Colonel in the CIA - the CIA doesn't have military ranks, so he's either active military working with the CIA, or former military who keeps his rank.  Or maybe he got it the same place as Sanders and Tom.

Glossary:No Prize | Marvel Database | Fandom

No-Prize time!  The Howling Commandos drop references to actors Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster, despite the fact that their film careers began after the war.

I can explain this one easy enough - Stan screwed up.  We could get into Marvel being an alternate history where WW II happened in the late 50s, but this creates more problems than it solves.  There's a trend that I see sometimes in Wold Newton continuity, where they tear apart the nature of reality just to fix a minor inconsistency.  Just leave it.

Available in Paperback and Kindle in Sgt. Fury Epic Collection: The Howling Commandos from Amazon.

M.I.A. Hunter by Jack Buchanan (Stephen Mertz)

 M.I.A. Hunter
by Jack Buchanan (Stephen Mertz)
1985, Jove

Former POW Mark Stone works as a soldier of fortune to rescue current POWs, working only for expenses (pro-tip: include your own salary as an expense).  Stone and some interchangeable soldiers of fortune go to Thailand, fight hired thugs when buying their black market arms, fight a patrol boat in the jungle, liberate a POW camp, and fight some more on the way back.

M.I.A. stuff, both in print and on film, has been one of my least favorite action sub-genres.  It always felt like it was meant for folks who want a do-over for the Vietnam war, only we'll win this time with the right bad ass.

The action scenes are better than average, if lacking in a sense of location.  No characterization to speak of, and the storyline is as generic as it could be.  I look forward to reading an entry later in the series when they mix things up a bit.

Available in Kindle from Amazon

Monday, October 19, 2020

Venetian Macao

 Lately been watching walking tour videos of malls, casinos, hotel lobbies, etc.  And Crom bless the channels that point the camera away from their stupid faces and keep their mouths shut.

I'm digging the fake upstairs windows, the fake sky, and the gondola. And the signage reminds me of Dead Rising.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Series Showdown: Adult Westerns - White Squaw vs Captain Gringo

It's Sex, Six-Shooters, and Sodomy in Adult Western Showdown!  Lot of similarities here - sex scenes out of nowhere, white people doing non-white people stuff better, butt sex.  If Renegade was an audiobook I'd have more issues, as half the text is him explaining things, but once I learned to skim it went by quicker.  Renegade had more of a sense of adventure, was more fun, twice as much ass play, and had train fights.  Captain Gringo to the next round!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Renegade/Captain Gringo 1: Renegade by Ramsay Thorne

 Renegade/Captain Gringo 1: Renegade 
by Ramsay Thorne (Lou Cameron)
1979 Warner Books 

Dick Walker is Captain Gringo, a military officer on death row in 1890s, there for showing mercy to Mexican captives and allowing them to escape.  He runs south to Mexico, is captured by Rurales, escapes, links up with and accidentally begins leading a gang of rebels on the run from Federales in a series of stolen trains, before escaping to become a soldier of fortune.

The action is more tactical than blow-by-blow, though there's a decent amount of gunplay, including some machine-gun action.  Mostly, he uses his tactical knowledge to outwit and out maneuver the enemy.  Gringo is an expert on just about everything, and he threatens to become the Cliff Clavin of the Old West if his knowledge wasn't put to use so often.  Walker's got some ideas on taxes and race relations.

It doesn't help that the whole "brilliant and reasonable character surrounded by idiots" theme directly translates to "white guy in charge because everyone else isn't white", but if you don't like that, you'll love him banging a teenage rape victim before abandoning her to her death.

He's not so much a sociopath as practical, with a sense of responsibility to care for his men, which sometimes involves robbing banks and letting innocent people die.  Well, maybe he is a sociopath, but what good western hero isn't.

And the sex - this is an Adult Western, after all, so there's plenty of women lining up to get acrobatic with Gringo on his way.

The whole series is available in Kindle from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Marvel Year Two: The X-Men

The X-Man, while not yet Uncanny, are pretty true to theme throughout it's history.  It's a problematic anti-bigotry metaphor (first racial, then sexual orientation) that has the same flaws as Harry Potter.  Our heroes face ignorant bigotry from a world who hates and fears them for being different.  But they'll show them.  Show them they're superior, not because of their choices or hard work, but because they're just born better than everyone else.

The boys are already in place, with Iceman at 16 and the rest around 18.  They've been in training, but haven't had a mission yet. 

Beast is a brutish horndog with no indication of his brains.  You can assume Warren Worthington the Third is rich from his name.  Iceman has his Frosty look, and we get the first clue that maybe Bobby isn't really interested in girls.

Cyclops is called Slim and looks it (sometimes).  The real question everyone came here for: do his eye-beams create heat?  The answer is no, as shown here as he breaks, but does not melt, ice...

And yes, as he gently melts off ice from Angel's wings an issue later:

And don't give me any of that "kinetic energy can create heat from friction" jive - if you can punch ice hard enough to make it melt (which you can't), it would be enough to jack the hell out of Worthington's dainty little wings.

Knowledge Waits: The History of Marvel's No-Prize | CBR

Clearly he's gently breaking pieces of ice off of Warren's wings and not melting it.  When Slim says "I'll have that melted in no time," he's talking about Angel's sensitive heart.

We get a little bit of Xavier's origins, which are all ret-the-f-conned later:
  • The world's first mutant (not by a long shot).
  • He's crippled from a childhood accident (later adulthood, I remember Juggernaut being involved).
  • His parents were involved in early work in atomic weapons.  If he's talking about the Manhattan Project, that would make him about twenty years old.

Knowledge Waits: The History of Marvel's No-Prize | CBR

Easy one: Xavier's a dirty liar.  He's also a bossy d-bag.

Starting out, there's not a lot of anti-mutant hysteria.  The X-Men seem well received by the public, and even have a working relationship with the FBI via Special Agent Fred Duncan.

(X-Men 1-2)

Collected in X-Men Epic Collection: Children Of The Atom for Kindle and Paperback

Thursday, October 8, 2020

White Squaw 1: Sioux Wildfire by E.J. Hunter

 White Squaw 1: Sioux Wildfire
by E.J. Hunter (Mark K. Roberts?)
1983 Zebra Books

Rebecca Caldwell is the White Squaw.  Her mother was captured by a Sioux tribe, with Rebecca being the result of her rape by the chief.  They escaped, only to be sold back to the Sioux with her mother by her criminal Uncles in exchange for their safe escape.

Rebecca is raised by the tribe, eventually going through a couple of husbands who die in battle, before she's rescued by Lone Wolf, a white man who lived with another tribe.  Once freed, the two follow a path of revenge against the men who sold her.

It started out a little rough for me - I had to re-read a couple of scenes to figure out what was going on, but eventually it went more smoothly, with later scenes having serviceable action.

The tone was a bit off for me.  Lots of sleazy elements (rape, sodomy, mutilation, graphic sex and violence), but it's as if the author's heart wasn't into it.

I think this is my first Adult Western (Longarm, Slocum, etc), and having a female lead is interesting.  One would expect sexually charged westerns to focus on a male lead with multiple female sex partners, and here we have the reverse.

There was a reference to a gay Sioux being called a Contrary, which seems to be a different social role among Plains Indians, closer to a jester.

Absurdly overpriced paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Marvel Year Two: The Hulk

They're still messing with the format - Banner is still using the gamma ray projector to change back and forth, but the results are becoming unpredictable.  He started getting buff as Banner, the change takes longer, and he even changes bodies but not heads.

We're introduced to the Teen Brigade, a nationwide network of ham radio operators who assist Rick Jones and the Hulk, or would if the series wasn't cancelled.  But don't worry, true believers, the Bruce Banner and his nerd rage will be back soon in the pages of the Avengers...where he leaves after the second issue.  In between the cancellation of Hulk and appearing in Avengers, Banner kept himself in purple pants money by making himself up as a robot and working in the circus.

We'll see much more of this green-skinned loveable lug in future years.

(Hulk 5-6, The Avengers 1-2)

Included in Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Man Or Monster? in Kindle and Paperback

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Soul-Eater by Dana Brookins

by Dana Brookins
1985 Zebra

When will I ever learn.  Every time, I lie to myself.  "They're building atmosphere," I say.  "This is quiet horror."  "It's a slow build, but it will pay off."

I don't know if Zebra had a stack of small town character studies in their slush pile and just threw in a haunted doll or whatever to make it horror, but there are a lot of these in the 80s.  Stephen King may have filled too many pages of this for my liking, but at least there's the original intention of writing something scary.

So, Soul-Eater.  An anonymous former resident of a small rural town buys some property through an intermediary, moves and installs a house, and gifts it to the town as a museum.  A museum of what I couldn't really figure out, but this is a very small town so they're very impressed.

The small town character study is good - a young boy caring for his grandfather, a girl with a deformed foot that the town simultaneously supports and looks down on, the town welfare case, the local newspaper owner with dreams above his station, the repressed single mother who gets off on douches and enemas, and her teenage son who gets off on listening to her.

A psychic boy has flashes of danger.  Town folk become obsessed with the house, leading to death for a handful.  And we get to the point that there seems to be something scary about to happen, leading to the scary stuff in act three...epilogue.  Things return to normal, time passes, things resolve.

But wait!  Turns out the house wants the psychic boy.  The hidden town benefactor reveals herself as the only character who doesn't make sense, brings the boy to the house, he burns it down, the end.  No clue what the house was or why.  You can't even say it's haunted, we only know it eat souls because the book tells us.

The prose was fine, though Brookins went out of her way to break my rule against "it's like something out of horror novel" rule.  She not only name checks The Shining in a book about a psychic boy and maybe haunted house, she mentions The Haunting of Hill House twice and includes a brief synopsis.

Available in ebook and audiobook from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Marvel Year Two: The Avengers

The world's mightiest heroes!  Thor!  Iron-Man! The Hulk!  (Gi)Ant-Man (and the Wasp)!

We get two issues this year, both involving the Avengers being impersonated by a super villain.  By issue two they're meeting at Tony Stark's mansion and we get our first roster change, with the Hulk storming off in a green huff.

Wasp comes up with the name, though Ant-Man will probably take the credit for agreeing with her.

Hulk doing his Mr. T act here.

Wasp get's billing in the splash page, but not on the cover, and she evidently doesn't get a deciding vote or count towards a quorum.

This is one of the worst line ups, as we've got a strong guy, a strong guy who's taller than the rest, and two strong guys who can fly and shoot energy.  After Pym changes to Giant-Man, Wasp is the only one bringing anything special to the group.

(Avengers 1-2)

Collected in Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Kindle and Paperback

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Series Showdown: Aliens vs Predator vs Aliens vs Predator

 The Alien franchise probably does better over all, but there's no competing with John Shirley.  Even though it's an outlier, Predator claws it's way to the next round.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Alien vs Predator: Prey by Steve Perry

Alien vs Predator: Prey
by Steve Perry
1994 Spectra 

A novelization of the 1990 Dark Horse comic, the first Alien vs Predator mini-series.  Good concept and set up, not so much with the execution.

Here, the Predators use the Aliens to train their young.  They have an enslaved xenomorph queen on their ship, collect her eggs on a conveyor belt, roll them out on the surface of various planets, wait for them to implant themselves in the local fauna, and hunt the drones that emerge.

In Prey, they do this on a planet colonized by humans in the future.  The adult Predator teacher is injured, and the students run amok, hunting both human and xenomorph without following the Predator code, with the humans getting it from both ends.  The recovered teacher joins forces with the colony administrator to wipe out both threats.

I don't know if it's because this was based in a comic with a different continuity, but there wasn't much of an Alien feel to it.  There are no space marines and the corporate head is the hero.  The xenomorphs are different too - the facehuggers have impenetrable skin, and the drones are considered easy targets, not cunning like in the movies.

Not a great sense of location, and the scope of danger was narrowed significantly by the end, with the young Predators being written off quickly and the colonists finding safety.  The action could be confusing, especially with threats being described as "the creature" or "an alien", without knowing which they're writing about.  Some scenes are written from two or three points of view, which got redundant when all three describe the same thing with slightly different words and no new information.

The main character was fine, except for a corporate head being trained in martial arts and following the Bushido code just cause she's Japanese.

This, and the sequels, are available in the Aliens vs Predator Omnibus, in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Series Showdown: Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery - Thongor vs Kothar

Two barbarians fight it out in the Sword and Sorcery match in the Fantasy division.

Had to write this quick, as I'm already beginning to confuse the two barbarians who both get magic swords from sorcerers and go on quests.  Fox's prose was better and his stories had a bit more of an edge to them, but (odd coming from me) the pieces were under written.  While epic fantasy takes too long to get from point A to point B, here I had some problems following what little story there was.

Carter's prose was a titch immature, though not always a bad thing for this kind of story.  His action scenes were more blow for blow than Fox's and the novel format benefited the series of scenes which could have been disjointed short stories.

I would say Kothar was better written, but Thongor was more fun to read.  Thongor moves up in the Fantasy division!