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!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Kothar - Barbarian Swordsman by Gardner F. Fox

Kothar - Barbarian Swordsman
by Gardner F. Fox
1969 Belmont


Three short stories: Barbarian Kothar gets a magic sword from an undead Lich in exchange for rescuing a sorcerer.  The sorcerer has been flayed alive, kept skinless through malevolent magic, so Kothar has to fight a sea serpent to gain his magical cloak.  In another he fights a minotaur in an enchanted labyrinth, in the last he fights otherworldly warlocks to get a strand of hair to free a witch.

Leans into the horror aspect of Sword and Sorcery more than most I've read, with hints of cosmic horror, though not specifically Lovecraftian.  This is the direct source of the lich in Dungeons & Dragons.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Marvel Year Two: Doctor Strange

Dr. Strange starts to replace the monster stories after the Human Torch feature in Strange Tales.  He's unusual in that we don't get an origin story until the end of the year, and with the kinda exception of Thor he's the only character who had been active for some time prior to his first appearance.

Strange was supposedly popular with acid heads in the 60s, but there was next to no recreational use of LSD in 1963, another way Marvel was ahead of its time.

Strange is one of my favorites, despite the fact that Marvel didn't really know what to do with him.  By the year's end, he's the only character who hasn't been given a connection to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

(Strange Tales 110-1, 114-5)

Available in Doctor Strange Epic Collection: Master Of The Mystic Arts

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria by Lin Carter

 Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria

by Lin Carter

1969 Berkley

The Wizard of Lemuria.jpg

Thongor is a young barbarian in ancient Lemuria.  He kills an officer in a bar fight, is arrested, escapes,  steals an airship, is attacked by flying reptile birds, crashes, and is rescued by a sorcerer.  The sorcerer has a quest - to forge a sword from a fallen star to defeat the ritual of sorcerers descended from dinosaurs.  Along the way he gets captured and escapes at least four times, picking up another fighter and a princess as companions.

A fun read, lots of adventure and action, plenty of monsters, though the pulpy pace leaves out a lot of  descriptions, leaving you guessing what a lot of these monsters look like.  Unlike Conan, Thongor is explicitly decked out in Frazetta fashion, with a loincloth and leather harness.  He wakes up naked after being dropped in a giant reptile-eagle nest, so I can only assume he was naked through the rest of the book.

A fun, short read that probably covers as much ground as a 800 page epic fantasy.  Somehow, the first version of this from 1966 was even shorter.

Kindle ebook from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Marvel Year Two: Captain America


Cap doesn't get thawed out until next year, but he gets backdoor pilot in Strange Tales by way of being impersonated by the Acrobat.

He shows up at an auto show, which I think had even less dignity back then than showing up at conventions does now.  At first it's unclear if he was an historical figure or a comic book character,

But of course, in the world of Marvel Comics, you can be both.  Cap has been missing for years - how long he's been missing and why will change.  The character last appeared in 1954 in our world, but the rebooted Cap went missing during the war, before things get much more complicated by the introduction of at least three post-WWII Captain Americas.

Also of interest, the in-comic comic of Captain America reveals Captain America's identity as Steve Rogers, so it's presumably widely known to the Marvel Universe at the time.  This gets complicated, as Marvel tries to re-secretize his identity more than once, and how this works with the idea that his death was covered up.  We'll keep an eye out.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Atrocity Week by Andrew McCoy

 Atrocity Week

by Andrew McCoy

Sphere 1978

This one went down hard.

A South African company, Ultimate Test Incorporated, takes miserable rich people on helicopter safaris to hunt Black natives across the border.  Meanwhile, Idi Amin has paid African terrorists to attack their settlement to cause political turmoil.  Violent, gory, nihilistic, unrelenting, bleak.  

While horrific, this is not a horror novel.  It's much closer to the Men's Adventure magazines, right down to the animal attacks.  Early in the book the company puts on a presentation of a baboon fighting off dozens of dogs.  The baboon is gut shot and rips out it's own entrails in a rage.

All the characters are horrible.  The hunt in question involves a Japanese businessman, a British inventor, and an American doctor.  The Japanese are straight out of the feudal era, the Brit is a sniveling piece of garbage, and the American beats his wife.

The hunts themselves are a bit monotonous, as the hunters take turns forcing their victims to run before finally shooting parts of them off.

Most of the text is miserable people being miserable to each other, but there are plenty of atrocities: murder, gang rape, torture, dismemberment.


Supposedly based on a true story, there's a smidgen of pretension to being an anti-racist exposé while just being outright racist throughout.  All the Black characters are interchangeable NPCs, barely getting a mention even when they die.  The only exception is the head terrorist, who just happens to have light skin.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

TV Obscura: Outlaws (1986)

 A sheriff faces off with the villainous Pike Gang in 1899.  Lightning strikes them, sending them into the year 1986, where they hold a truce and start a detective agency.  With Charles Napier and Richard Roundtree.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Marvel Year Two: Iron Man

After helping a playboy millionaire arms dealer, you're hired to be his driver, only he does most of his driving himself, leaving you time to hit on his secretary.  But you're on call 24 hours a day, because at any time your boss can call on you for help.

You find him weak and disoriented.  Your job is to get him to his office, a hotel room, or even a restroom, and whatever you do don't call an ambulance.  After fifteen minutes, he comes out as if nothing has happened.

No, your boss isn't a heroin addict.  He's Tony Stark, the Iron Man.  And you're Happy Hogan

Stark's captured in South Vietnam by communist warlord Wong-Chu, and invents the Iron Man armor with the help of professor Yinsen.  This is rebooted much later to the Middle East in what I believe is the first full blown rewrite of an origin story, as opposed to giving more details or politely omitting outdated parts.

The original Iron Man concept is that he's powered by magnets boosted by powerful transistors.  Stark builds devices on the fly as well as using gadgets built in to the armor.  Later he narrows down his toolbox to mostly just repulsors and jet boots, with the occasional unibeam.

Three major costume changes in the first year.  He starts with the bulky grey suit, then painted gold, then the sleeker model that is the basis for all later outfits.  The last suit has visible eyes, because criminals are as scared of a stern glance as they are bats.

At this point Iron Man is presented as Stark's friend, but he's empowered to boss around Stark's employees.  No name of his business yet, just Stark's company or Stark's lab.  His US office is in Flushing, NY, next to the World's fair.  He has a lab in every continent, but I doubt that we ever see more than Europe or maybe Asia.

Iron Man faces the usual early Marvel villains, though by the end of the year he faces saboteurs of various stripes.

Stark is definitely a player, but the only mention of alcohol is him turning it down.

I don't remember his drinking being an issue until right before they did his alcoholism storyline - something we'll keep an eye on.

(Tales of Suspense 39-48)

Available in Iron Man Epic Collection: The Golden Avenger for Kindle and paperback from Amazon.