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.