Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Frank Review of "Happenstance" (Le Battement D'ailes du Papillon, 2001)

The Short Version? The Butterfly Effects.
What Is It? Foreign Comedy.
Who's In It? Audrey Tautou.
Should I See It? Yes.

In reading other reviews for the French film Le Battement D'ailes du Papillon ("The Beating of the Butterfly's Wing,") I've seen a lot of mention of chaos theory and consideration of whether or not it qualifies as a romantic comedy. I think some folks may have missed the point. Let me explain.

Irène (Tautou) is a depressed shop girl who is assigned a fate while riding on the subway one morning. Seeing as Irène, despite reservations, passively allows life to wash over her, destiny is likely to play out as planned. From there, the movie pulls back to gaze at dozens of lives at varying degrees of separation from Irène's. It isn't that the movie is about Irène (Tautou appears in a fraction of the film's 90 minutes,) it merely begins with her, and uses her as a sort of control. Everyone else in the movie is going on with their lives; the negligible acts of one person having massive impact on the life of another. However, these acts are not truly random, but part of a grand scheme, likely authored by divine hands (and specifically, a mysterious figure who appears twice on screen.)

Of even greater consideration is a speech given by a coffee house keeper, who subscribes to the very western conception of "instant karma." Basically, what you put out into the world, negative or positive, revisits you. Embodying loving kindness doesn't make your world one filled with incense and butterflies-- a little rain must fall-- but each person either makes an effort to consider others and preserve themselves, or else suffer cosmic judgments. "Happenstance" is not just about recognizing that life is both completely random and outside your control, but also redirected by every minute stimulus to an ultimately deliberate effect. The matter is left somewhat up to the viewer to decide, and yet not-- a contrary beast.

So by that standard, you can't really presume to definition the picture, at least not objectively. It features elements of a quirky romantic comedy, but it's still rather dry and matter-of-fact. You can project sentimentality upon it, or see it as a coolly clinical exploration of a notion. Happenstance doesn't exist in a vacuum, instead relying on the audience to meet it half way. You can allow each scene to pass through your eyes, taking it at surface value, or you can engage its myriad characters and complex structure-- working out the meaning and causality. With a bit of patience, it can be anything you want it to be, and for my part, its a pleasure to view.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Underlining Meaningful Passages In My Copy Of The Qur'an: Sūrah 2.40-48

Sūrah 2.40-48: "O Children of Israel! Call to mind the favor which I bestowed upon you, and fulfill your covenant with Me as I fulfill My covenant with you, and fear none but me. And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject faith, nor sell My signs for a pittance, and fear me and me alone. And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when you know it. And be steadfast in prayer, practice regular chastity, and bow down your heads with those who bow down. Do you compel righteous conduct on the people, and forget to expect the same of yourself, yet still study the scripture? Will you not understand? No, seek Allah's help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a humble spirit-- who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him. O Children of Israel! Call to mind the favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I preferred you to all others. Then guard yourselves against a day when one soul shall not avail another, nor shall intercession be accepted for her, nor shall compensation be taken from her, nor shall anyone be helped from without.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Emanuelle Nera (Black Emanuelle)" by Bulldog

Here's the title music from the 1975 Emanuelle Nera soundtrack, performed by Bulldog, and composed by Nico Fidenco.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Frank Review of "Syriana" (2005)

The Short Version? Oil companies are evil, though the Middle East would still suck without them.
What Is It? Drama.
Who's In It? George Clooney, Matt Damon
Should I See It? No.

This was not a good movie. This was like the political equivalent of a two-hour sermon, and not one of those Reverend James Brown/Jake Blues doing cartwheels in the ailes Protestant numbers. I'm talking Southern Baptist tent revival/snake handling/CBN broadcaster/too-lefty for Michael Moore kind of end-times prophesying. It was like watching one of those self-important downer 70's movies, without ongoing social revolutions to justify it. George Clooney is wonderfully low key and tubby for most of the film, but he breaks character twice for ClooneyCool moments that took me right outta the pitcher. Matt Damon is serviceable, Amanda Peet is distracting, and the Islamic subplot stars a cipher. Pretty much anyone interested in seeing this movie has chosen their sides with regards to the issues it tackles, so the whole affair seems pointless. It's very dry, you see.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Comic Book Heroes: The Marvel Age of Comics

Chapter 6 of Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones' 1985 The Comic Book Heroes, titled "The Fantastic Four," was heavily rewritten by Jones to become Chapter 7 of his 1997 revision, "With The Sudden Fury of a Thunderbolt." Jones placed heavy emphasis on the apocryphal nature of the infamous tale of a golf game between Jack Liebowitz and Martin Goodman. Supposedly the former bragged about the sales figures of the Justice League of America to the latter, who immediately demanded his cousin/nephew-in-law Stanley Lieber create a knock-off. Hence, the Fantastic Four was born, or so the story goes. The truth of the matter is less certain, as skin mag publisher Goodman was a slightly shady character. He burned through at least fifty corporate identities, often with several running simultaneously, to avoid any one's going under bringing down the whole "empire." As for Stanley Lieber, well, it's not like ol' Stan "The Man" Lee doesn't have a reputation for embellishing or misremembering the truth. "Others involved with the company have said that Goodman had a paid informant within Independent News," which distributed DC Comics, as well as his own.

Stan Lee had spent his entire professional life working under Goodman, and had been heavily influenced by the comic writers who had preceeded him at whatever his company was called on any given month. Of features like Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch and Captain America, the 1985 edition noted, "The elements embodied in these characters-- the antihero at odds with society, the extra-powerful being who is frail at heart, heroes who fight one another, and the hero as social or political symbol-- were to remain in Lee's mind through the 1960s." Jones continued in the '97 edition, explaining that Jack Kirby had first left Goodman's company over a royalty dispute, but was now cornered by strained relations with DC and the indifference of Archie back into returning to Goodman's fold. Lee also directed scripting jobs to his brother, Larry Lieber, and had fed newcomer Steve Ditko enough work to keep him from contributing much at Charlton. They combined to form the creative backbone of what would become Marvel Comics.

Kirby claimed he created the Fantastic Four all by himself, adapting his model from the Challengers of the Unknown to suit his new home. Lee claimed his authorship was inspired by a lecture from his wife to focus his attention on his comics work over random freelancing in magazines. Having spent all of his life inside comics, instead of doing time in the pulps like Schwartz, Weisinger & co., left Lee with no prose outlet for his more mature writing impulses. He instead directed them at his new project, the aforementioned Justice League swipe, and handed a two-page plot summary to Kirby. "What we can venture to say, after comparing their work together to their work with others, is that Kirby clearly appears to have done most of the plotting, and probably created most of the principle characters, but that Lee supplied all the dialogue and most of the character nuance. And that's probably enough to know, because it was their two talents together that made the Lee-Kirby, or Kirby-Lee, superheroes the most potent since superheroes were born."

You can buy the 1997 edition of The Comic Book Heroes: The First History of Modern Comic Books - From the Silver Age to the Present from

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obscure Character Handbook: Ace Harlem

Real Name: Ace Harlem
Occupation: Police Detective
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States
Place of Birth: United States
Marital Status: Presumed Single
Known Relatives: None
Known Confidants: None
Major Enemies: None
Base of Operations: The City
Place of Employment: Police Department
Eyes: Dark
Hair: Black
Intelligence: High
Strength Level: Average
Skills: Detective
Superhuman Powers: None known.
Personality: Non-nonsense hard case.
First Appearance: All-Negro Comics #1 (June, 1947)
Publisher: All-Negro Comics
Status: The Estate of Orrin C. Evans
Created by: John Terrell

In his single published appearance, Ace Harlem solved a series of gruesome strangulation murders. The killer's luck ran out, and he ended up accidentally hanging himself with his own chain.

Quote: "Never saw a case solve itself so quick before, those two took care of themselves! I know it sounds like old stuff to you – but I never heard of a crime yet that ever gained anybody any good!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obscure Character Handbook: Lion Man

Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Scientist, Defender of Magic Mountain
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States
Place of Birth: United States
Marital Status: Presumed Single
Known Relatives: None
Known Confidants: Bubba
Major Enemies: Doctor Blut Sangro
Base of Operations: Magic Mountain, Africa
Place of Employment: United Nations
Group Affiliation: None known
Extent of Education: College
Eyes: Dark
Hair: Black
Intelligence: High
Strength Level: Above average
Skills: Scientist, detective, and skilled combatant.
Superhuman Powers: None known.
Personality: Slightly haughty, sarcastic
First Appearance: All-Negro Comics #1 (June, 1947)
Publisher: All-Negro Comics
Status: Likely Public Domain
Created by: George J. Evans Jr.

"American-born, college educated, Lion Man is a young scientist, sent by the United Nations to watch over the fearsome 'Magic Mountain' of the African Gold Coast. Within its crater lies the world’s largest deposit of uranium - enough to make an atom bomb that could destroy the world. Lion Man’s job is to report on the doings of any treacherous nation that might seek to carry away any of the lethal stuff for the purpose of war."

In his single published adventure, Lion Man was joined by the young orphan Bubba in protecting the uranium from Dr. Blut Sangro and his henchman Brosser. Lion Man's detective skills made him aware of their presence, and equipment in his laboratory helped track them. Lion Man made short work of the pair. Though Bubba killed Brosser with machine gun fire, Dr. Sangro escaped to swear vengeance.

Quote: "That li’l devil will be the death of me!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "A Little Bit Of Soap" by the Jarmels

Written By: Bertrand Russell Berns
Released: 1961
Single?: Many times over.

This here's a great tune from the one-hit wonders the Jarmels. It's such a swell number, it's been covered a billion jillion times, yet I only heard it for the first time a few years back. Maybe the problem was each cover got a little bit more watered down and, frankly, whiter. Paul Davis and Nigel Olsson were the Michael Boltons of their days, tapping the song for hits in 1970 and 1979 respectively. Others included Diane Lawerence, the Exciters, Garnet Mimms, Showaddywaddy and Daniel Johnston.

A little bit of soap will wash away your lipstick on my face
But a little bit of soap will never never never ever erase
The pain in my heart and my eyes as I go through the lonely years
A little bit of soap will never wash away my tears
Mmm, a little bit of soap will wash away your powder from my chin
A little bit of soap will never never never ever begin
To take away the hurt that I feel as I go through the lonely years
A little bit of soap will never wash away my tears, mmm, mmm, mmm
Have you heard when love begins to die it leaves someone to cry night and Day?
Like a bird, you left your robin's nest and-a just like all the rest you flew away
Mmm, a little bit of soap will take away your perfume eventually
But a little bit of soap will never wash away the memory
Of your name in the night that I call through the lonely years
A little bit of soap will never wash away my tears
I'll never lose the memory of your name in the night that I call through the lonely years
A little bit of soap will never wash away my tears
Mmm, a little bit of soap-a will never wash away my tearsFADE
Mmm, it's gonna never, never, never, uh-huh, wash away my tears

Saturday, January 17, 2009

1970s Monster S-I-Z-E Monsters Ad

These ran throughout the decade, so pinning it to one year seems arbitrary. I believe I pulled the scan from a 1970 comic, though. "7 FEET TALL. In Authentic Colors With GLOW in the DARK EYES. ONLY $1.00. TEN DAY FREE TRIAL."

Friday, January 16, 2009

1970 Marvel Comics "Super Poster Offer"

Romita Spidey! Kirby Doom! Steranko Cap! Trimpe Hulk! All 4 three foot high posters for only $1.50? I can't even buy half a comic book for that anymore!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman? TPB

It seems like a good idea on paper: Return most of the iconic elements from classic Wonder Woman stories excised by George Perez in his 1987 revision of the character and relaunch her book for a new audience. Three simultaneous generations of Wonder Women, extensive rogues gallery, blind diminutive Asian mentor I-Ching, the Diana Prince secret identity, spinning transformations, invisible jet, and even some powerless globe-trotting adventures in white leather. You've got a well-liked television writer who'd successfully transitioned into comics at Marvel, and an artist whose popular work took cues from a fan favorite Wonder Woman cover artist. What could go wrong?

For starters, a five issue story taking a year and a half to tell, requiring other talents to continue the series, while the conclusion was served in an extant annual. Terry and Rachael Dodson's art was attractive, but for a book that very badly wanted to emulate Jim Lee's work on "Batman: Hush," not quite enough to put it over when the story proved weaker than Jeph Loeb's on "Batman: Hush." A good deal of the first issue was spent explaining that Princess Diana had become a wanted murderess who had fled from her duties and people. This is how you want to introduce new readers to the most famous super-heroine of all, and worse, mention it as an afterthought, without offering resolution nor redemption?

Donna Troy, the former Wonder Girl, had appointed herself the new Wonder Woman in Diana's absence. Never mind what a train wreck Donna's back story is, or how she's never had much of a connection to Wonder Woman beyond her name and powers. It takes Troy's defeat and capture to bring the real Wonder Woman out of hiding, which only reinforces Troy's b-list status, while making Diana Prince look no less the shiftless sort. There's even one of those vaguely misogynistic moments where a phallic object impales the heroine, for a bit of metaphoric rape. The whole legacy angle fairly reeks of other heroes' books, leftovers from the Superman or Batman Families foisted on Wonder Woman without regard for the ill fit.

Steve Trevor, little used since the late '80s and far from relevant, makes a cameo appearance as a hostage. The Diana Prince identity is actually created by Batman and gifted to Wonder Woman, making her new origin dependent on the Dark Knight, and undercutting any drive or resourcefulness on her part. Nemesis, star of a back-up series from 1970s Batman comics, is transformed into Diana Prince's new partner and love interest. So again, what was Steve Trevor doing here, other than to remind readers that we're meant to find Batman's cast-offs more interesting than anything from Wonder Woman's cannon? By the way, Diana Prince's new boss is Sarge Steel, an old Charlton Comics character that never amounted to much, but now gets to lord it over an Amazon Princess.

Villains Cheetah and Giganta are given redesigned costumes so similar and bland that they could be confused with one another. Circe's new look is so generic, her only memorable visual is when she changes into a lavender variation on the Wonder Woman costume. Dr. Poison, Silver Swan, and more appear as punching bags for a few panels here and there. The resolution involves an army of heroes coming to the Amazing Amazon's aid, insuring both victory and no additional credit being extended to our very needy heroine.

There's much seeming ado about "Who is Wonder Woman," but upon closer inspection, it all amounts to nothing. The plot meanders near endlessly, before fumbling toward a stopping point, but considerably less than an ending. Writer Allan Heinberg wastes Wonder Woman, his artists, and his opportunity. If he hasn't already, be sure not to let him waste your time, as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978) Conclusion: The Girls of Madame Claude

Character Name: Emanuelle
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: "La Via Della Prostituzione"
Known Aliases: "Emanuelle and the Girls of Madame Claude"; "Black Emanuelle in Afrika"; "Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade"
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: United States
Occupation: Photojournalist
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Locales: Nairobi, San Diego
Release Date: April 20, 1978 (Italy)
Director: Joe D'Amato
DVD: Black Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 2 (1976-1978)
Stats: Seventh Black Emanuelle

Story: While touring a market, Emanuelle spots the girl from the airport, now on her feet, being drug around by the man who seemed to buy her. Rivetti believes he's American, and in the white slave trade. Emanuelle, Susan and Rivetti have an irritatingly choppy three-way, filled with time lapses and black screens. On the way to the airport, Susan tells Emanuelle she learned the name of the slaver, Francis Harley (Gabriele Tinti.) They say their goodbyes, as Emanuelle returns to New York, and Susan to her mechanic.

At her newspaper offices, Emanuelle asks Walter about Harley, and is directed to a fashion photographer friend of hers, Jim Bonds (Bryan Rostron.) Jim in turn directs her to Eva Treddle, a model who fell for Harley, and a hostess at "Sailor's." Eva was out of contact, but directed Emanuelle to Ray Hamilton, a jockey that gives Harley betting tips. A few bribes later, she had access to a teenage white slave auction (virgins a valued premium,) where she snapped pictures with her lighter. She met with Jim Bonds again to relate her finds and intention to infiltrate the prostitution ring. Emanuelle begins crossing Francis Harley's path until he invites her to work a private club in San Diego. Before she leaves, Emanuelle hooks up with Jim in his dark room.

In San Diego, Emanuelle meets Madame Claude (Gota Gobert,) who explains that if she's discreet, Emanuelle will amass a small fortune within two years. If not, a powerful organization will close her mouth forever. Emanuelle stores a full-sized camera in her room, asks too many questions of the wrong people, and wanders where she knows it's prohibited. Her first client is too timid to initiate sex with women, so Emanuelle gives the Senator (Tom Felleghy) an intimate massage. Madame Claude watches behind a two-way mirror while fondling a young girl and herself. Emanuelle is later visited by Stephen (Nicola D'Eramo,) Madame Claude's transvestite confidant. The encounter with the senator was such a success, Stephen wanted to test Emanuelle's abilities on himself. She replied, "There are things that leave me cold," but she manages to sleep with him anyway, smiling the whole time.

Emanuelle trails Madame Claude to a forbidden adjunct, where she finds Claude and clients having sex with underage girls (just make believe, folks!) Emanuelle took lighter shots (I'd have said "flicked her Bic," but the assumed euphemism was not in effect under these circumstances.) "Sixteen-year-old" Midget, who tried to escape the compound, was later reported to have "fallen" to her death down a flight of stairs. For some reason, Emanuelle switched to the full-size camera once she snuck into Madame Claude's office to photograph documents. She's caught by Stephen, but talks the transvestite into helping her escape in exchange for an alibi when the police inevitably come knocking. Stephen agrees, but when the pair try to hide out at a bowling alley, Madame sends a gang after them. Stephen fends them off for a good while, but is beaten to death with a bowling pin, and Emanuelle is gang raped.

Madame Claude believes Emanuelle knows too much, so she'd drugged and committed. Dr. Rhine claims "Now days, a lobotomy can do miracles on patients like her. She won't remember a thing, and she'll live happily in complete oblivion." Others had been "lost" during the procedure, but the feeling is it would be best to keep the journalist alive through improved methods. "We'll operate on her tomorrow morning."
A lesbianic nurse complicit in these actions began to molest the bound Emanuelle in her hospital bed. "It's the first time I've done it with a woman. I rather like it, but wouldn't it be possible to give me something to relax me a little bit. I feel so tensed up." Emanuelle talked herself out of her bonds, then managed to drug the nurse after some obligatory caressing. Emanuelle actually wrestles with the nurse and wins-- no mean feat when you weight 65 lbs. and get raped every other movie.

Emanuelle tricked some of Madame Claude's "orderlies" into thinking she escaped out the window, but instead snuck through the hospital in the nurse's uniform. She hid in a laundry basket, and escaped in the service van. Somewhere along the way, she scored some shoes, and made her way to a fishing boat. Emanuelle called in her story to her editor, Mr. Hardy, who contacted the police. She also planned another date with Jim Barnes. Emanuelle finally had to willingly pay the ship crew for the trip from San Diego to Los Angeles with her body. "...My next article is on Sweden..."

Notes: Gota Gobert, who played Madame Claude, had a cameo in "Emanuelle in America."

Summation: Black Emanuelle movies have a story the way Uwe Boll flicks have direction-- in only the strictest sense of the term. Actually, co-writer/director Joe D'Amato was very much a Uwe Boll of his time, so that makes its own sense.

Trivia: "Kentucky Fried Movie" appears on a marquee.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lulu & Mitzy: Best Laid Plans

S. Eddy Bell's graphic novel was advertised as "Lucy and Ethel" working "in the world's oldest profession," and that's unfortunately too true. That far famed comedy team of early television were a couple of housefrau dilettantes who had misadventures whilst pretending to be something they were not. There were no real stakes, because you knew how every episode would end. They'd get caught by their husbands and chastised for sneaking about, but return next week for more of the same. What made Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance funny was their delivery, not their material. So here's Lulu and Mitzy, working bone tired sixty year old bits, without Lucy and Ethel's chops.

For much of the book's length, Mitzy is pretty worthless as a human being. She's ill-tempered, untrustworthy, lazy, callous, doesn't attract johns, thieving, and is often too anxious or high to perform. I don't like this character, and she rarely does anything outside of being caustic, but I've known her many times in real life. The humor is meant to come from Lulu, the "big" girl, always showing up her scrawny friend, and generally being too good to be true. Lulu is a smart, mannered, cultured, optimistic, tough, devoted, reliable, clean living woman with influential friends ready to help her at the drop of a hat. Yet, she's supposed to be an undocumented prostitute working a corner with Mitzy? Mitzy is the center of the book, and she's rubbish, so the book is rubbish.

About three quarters of the novel is episodic gag strip material, hardly reinvented by the inclusion of mildly salacious elements. It seems to assume you've never heard the one about Richard Gere and the gerbil. The presentation owes a great deal to Peter Bagge, but it's all second hand style and make believe, lacking the pathetic verisimilitude of a Buddy Bradley. Bell's take on prostitution seems not to have been researched so much as an internalization of cliché by osmosis. Maybe Bell swallowed too much "hooker with a heart of gold," and the book's the resultant stomach pump. The only time the material isn't obvious is when Bell's technique falters-- misplacing a dialogue balloon, or telegraphing a joke so forcefully the reader is confused about where the punchline was meant to be.

Bell's greatest sin is in the final quarter, when the narrative takes a "dark turn" that in truth propels the affair into "a very special episode." It's bad enough to fail as a cartoonist, but I draw the line at trying to shoehorn artistic pretension or... gag... "poignancy." Let's not, shall we?

Monday, January 12, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "Leftover Wine" by Melanie

Written By: Melanie Safka
Released: 1070
Album: Candles in the Rain
Single?: No.

What do you do when the people go home
And what do you do when the show is all done
I know what I'll do in the alone of my time
But what will I do with the leftover wine
A line from a poem of my childhood has said
That visions of sugarplums were gonna dance in my head
I'll spend my whole life making the time rhyme
But I'll still have a bowl of leftover wine
I'll spend my whole life making the time rhyme
And then I'll sing them a song of mine
You know I'm gonna do anything
Just to take up time
Cause I can't find a taker for the leftover wine

(and) what do you do when the people go home
And what do you do when the show is all done
I know what I'll do in the alone of my time
But what will I do with the leftover wine
I'm gonna spend my whole life making the time rhyme
And then I'm gonna run to the people
And I'll sing them a song of mine
You know I'm gonna do anything
Just to take up time
Cause I can't find a taker for the leftover wine

I'll drink some of yours
If you'll drink all of mine
Because I can't stand the taste of that leftover wine
And I'm gonna drink some of yours
If you'll drink all of mine
Because I can't stand the taste of leftover wine
And I'll drink some of yours
If you'll drink all of mine
I can't stand the taste of leftover wine

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Avengers #80 (9/70)

A wary man in a trenchcoat stalked the rainswept streets of New York at night, as a tomahawk flew by his head, embedding itself in the telephone pole he leaned against. A red-skinned savage in native dress scowled as he rushed toward the man, a war stick in his hand, and a wolf at his side. "Can't get away! No matter where I run, I turn around and see-- his shadow!" From out of the coat an automatic handgun was drawn, but all the shots missed their mark. The gunman bolted the scene, knocking over a passerby in his flight... but this was no ordinary pedestrian. "I cannot resist investigating this further, as--THE VISION!" The Android Avenger became immaterial, allowing his "coat, skin-like gloves, and rubberoid mask" to tumble off him like a second, collapsing form.

In the distance, the guman had fled into a dead end alleyway. "It is too late for you, Jason Birch-- too late for you to do anything-- but die!!" The Native American brute seized his prey, lifted Birch over his head, and was about to toss him down a construction hole when the Vision intervened...

"What? A man-- passing thru the very pavement beneath my feet! But, you will not save your friend's treacherous life!"
"That one is hardly my friend-- yet a human life is not to be lightly taken-- as I, who am not human, should well know!"

The self-proclaimed Red Wolf remained on the war path, even as his prey escaped. Through variable density that allowed the Vision to become diamond hard or ghostlike at will, both this American Indian vigilante and full-bred wolf were laid low. Both were escorted to Avengers Mansion, though Vision had just announced his resignation last issue.

Captain America and Iron Man were set on bringing down the new Zodiac group. Black Panther was more concerned with organized crime. "No gaudy masks-- no colorful costumes-- just a creeping, insidious evil-- which corrupts everything and everybody it touches! Right now, it's waging battles every day for the minds-- the bodies-- the very souls of kids like the ones I teach-- and it must not win!" Goliath (the once and future Hawkeye) thought that should be a police matter, which Scarlet Witch saw as being callous. Cap decided, "What I see, Avengers, is that we're on the verge of splitting into factions-- thereby losing our united power! We've got two urgent causes vying here, and..." the surprise return of Vision offered a third.

Red Wolf was stirring, as well as stewing. "You have kept me from the mission for which I was born-- the mission I crossed a continent to fulfill! I had business with the man you took from me-- deadly business! I see now that you are one of the far-famed Avengers! But that will not save you from me! Nothing will!" Well, Captain America's cool head could, as he talked Red Wolf into recalling his motivations...

"...of certain yesterdays, and of words spoken in unthinking ignorance... when the only world an Indian boy knew was bounded by mountains, by blue skies, and by my own unspoken dreams..." Even in his youth, Red Wolf thought, "What fools the Anglos are! They think their way is the only way-- their law the only law! They rush across the desert in their big cars, and they see nothing!" He knew the war dances his people would perform for the white man, but also the ones none may ever see-- the Dance of the Red Wolf! "They told of Red Wolf-- the warrior who came from the sky in days of old to lead the people... and they told how he would come again, when the need of the people was greatest-- and how none would stand against him---!"

As he grew, the boy lost hope over years lost to unanswered prayers. "There-- is no Red Wolf!" He recognized there were some good whites, as well as evil ones like Cornelius Van Lunt. The young man's soul was too restless to stay at home, so he traveled "half a world away," where he was nearly killed as a soldier in war. "When his wounds healed, he worked many weeks atop the steel girders of New York--- where the death-taunting Mohawks dance---!" The desert called to him, so he returned home, where he found Van Lunt and Birch making a "final offer" for his father's land. "Get out of here-- before I kill you!" That night, Van Lunt sent Birch and another thug to pull a drive-by, slaughtering the youth's parents. "They are dead-- both dead! And who shall avenge their deaths-- for they are only Indians-- ONLY INDIANS! Where are you now, Red Wolf-- now that your people have need of you?"

"Half feverish" from a flesh wound, the youth staggered to a hogan, where he found garb used in the Dance of the Red Wolf. "Up the people's sacred mountain," the youth danced in isolation, until a wolf-headed man appeared to him from out of his fire. "The Red Wolf who shall arise this night lives not in the sky-- not in the hollow of the moon-- but in the heart of one of the people! In you, young one! YOU are-- Red Wolf!"

The youth was stalked by a she-wolf on his way back down the mountain. "Back! It cannot be meant that I fall prey to the beast whose name I bear! Go! I do not want to fight you--! She attacks! Now, I must strike-- with all of my might! But why must it be thus? Why? WHY??" As his tomahawk drew blood, Red Wolf questioned the reason why the Spirit-Wolf allowed their confrontation. In answer, he found her cub. "He is a sign-- a living omen of the mission I must fulfill! And he shall be called-- Lobo!"

After months preparing himself, Red Wolf returned to the city-- to construction-- and to find Van Lunt & Birch. "They think they are safe here from the heavy hand of vengeance! Little do they dream they are watched in the glare of the sun-- and in the glow of the moon!" This was to be the night Red Wolf struck, first at Birch. "From that time, Van Lunt would live in fear-- though not for long--!"

The Vision ruined that plan, and though he was pleased to keep Red Wolf from being labeled a murderer, he yet knew remorse. The Avengers had dealt with Van Lunt three issues previous without resolution, after all. Regardless, others still wished to focus on the Zodiac, while Captain America did his typical deliberation. "Who's to make that judgment, Thor? You? Iron Man? Or must each man weigh them both, in his own heart? ...Point is-- we run around calling ourselves Avengers-- Yet, when this man comes before us with something to avenge-- a wrong that shrieks to heaven for vengeance-- we turn a deaf ear-- because his cause isn't world-shattering enough for us!"

Black Panther incredulously thought that meant Cap was siding with him, and when Cap explained it to him slower, he huffed "You already know my choice! But I can better act-- alone!" Hey, English isn't his first language, okay? Goliath, Vision and the Scarlet Witch would choose to aid Red Wolf. "I spoke before in scorn of the Avengers-- but I was wrong!" Cap further confounded with, "And, incongruous as it may seem, I'll stay with the search for Zodiac!" Vision later confided to Red Wolf, "I wonder-- have I returned to the ranks of the mighty Avengers-- only to see them go their seperate ways-- for all time??"

"THE COMING OF RED WOLF!" by Roy Thomas, John Buscema & Tom Palmer.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Custom Syzygy Darklock Overpower Chararacter & Special Cards

I've already discussed my custom (and extra cheaply) made Dreadstar & Willow Chararacter and Tactic Double Shot Cards. I managed to progress further into the company with the sorcerer Syzygy Darklock, giving him enough cards to be playable. His 7 in Energy seemed appropriate, though debatable, since the guy often petered out in combat. That was partially due to that 2 in Fighting, because the guy was routinely sucker punched by lesser powers and taken out of combat entirely. The 5 in Strength covers his cybernetic prosthesis, and the 7 in Intellect is again debatable (though a 6 seems like his minimum.) The Mystic Order of Vieltoor refers to where Syzygy turned from a mystic to the deformed powerhouse he would become. I wasn't willing to cut up my copy of "The Price," and its painted art wouldn't have worked here anyway, so I instead turned Vanth Dreadstar into the human Darklock with pens and markers. I are poor, yes? Sister Marion was of course the nun Darklock he loved at the Order, or alternately, Willow in a marked-on habit, taken from an old Dreadstar and Company reprint. Readers may recall that Sister Marion was part of the Price Syzygy paid for his power, along with most of his physical form. The card reflects this, as well as Darklock's regeneration. The art is of a victim of the nuclear holocaust directed by the High Lord Papel in Dreadstar #3. Syzygy defended himself and Vanth from this assault with a Sphere of Protection, used commonly enough to warrant as an Avoid.

I know they're cheap and ugly, but thought went into these specials that amuses me as I reflect on them years down the line. I wished I'd played Syzygy at least once, especially since I xeroxed and glued the non-One Per Decks to actual Overpower cards, making him ready to use...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Underlining Meaningful Passages In My Copy Of The Qur'an: Sūrah 2.30-39


Sūrah I: "Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds... Master of the Day of Judgment..."

Sūrah 1-2.7: Praise for the Muslim Bible.

Sūrah 2.8-12: "Of the people there are some who say, 'We believe in Allah and the Last Day,' but they do not believe. Gladly would they deceive Allah and those who believe, but they only deceive themselves, and realize not! In their hearts is a disease, and Allah has increased their disease, and grievous is their penalty, because they are false. When it is said to them, 'Make not mischief on the earth,' they say, 'Why, we only want to make peace!" Surely, they are the ones who make mischief, but they realize not.

Sūrah 2.13-16: "When it is said to them, 'Believe as the others believe,' they say 'Shall we believe as the fools believe?' No, surely they are fools, but they do not know. When they meet those who believe, they say 'We believe,' but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say 'We are really with you, just kidding before.' Allah will throw back their mockery on them, and give them rope in their trespass, so they will wander like blind ones. They have bartered guidance for error, but their traffic is without profit, and they have lost true direction."

Sūrah 2.17-20: Unbelievers are bad, and Allah will treat them very harshly.

Sūrah 2.21-22" "O ye people! Adore your Guardian-Lord," and here's more adulation to explain why Allah is grand.

Sūrah 2.23-26: "And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a sūrah... call your witnesses... to prove your doubts. If you cannot, and you surely can't, then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, which is prepared for those who reject Faith. But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are fed with fruits there from, they say, 'Why, this is what we were fed before,' for they are given things in similitude, and they have therein companions pure, and they abide therein. Allah does not disdain to use similitude in things, lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know it is truth from their Lord, but those who reject Faith say, 'What does Allah mean by this similitude?' By it He causes many to stray, and many He leads onto the right path, but he does not cause those to stray but which forsake Him"

Sūrah 2.27-29: Unbelievers are bad, and Allah will treat them very harshly.

Sūrah 2.30-34: "Behold, your Lord said to the angels, 'I will create an officer appointed as My deputy on Earth.' They said, 'Will You place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood... Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy name?' He said, 'I know what you know not.' And he taught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said 'Tell Me the nature of these if you are right.' They said, 'Glory to Thee, of knowledge we have none, save what You have taught us; in truth it is You who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom.' He said 'O Adam! Tell me their natures.' When he told them, Allah said 'Did I not tell you I know the secrets of Heaven and Earth, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal?' And behold, We said to the angels, 'Bow down to Adam,' and they bowed down. Not so Iblīs1-- he refused and was haughty... he was of those who reject Faith."

Sūrah 2.35-39: "We said: 'O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Garden, and eat of the bountiful things there as you will... but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression.' Then did Shayṭān1 make them slip... We said, 'Get you down, all you people, with enmity between yourselves. On Earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood, for a time.' Then learned Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned towards him, for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. We said, 'Get you down all from here, and if, as is sure, there comes to you guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be Companions of the Fire-- they shall abide therein.'"

1 Iblīs (إبليس) is essentially the Satan of Islam. The main variation is that rather than a fallen angel, Iblīs was a genie. Angels do not have free will, and therefore cannot rebel. That leaves humans, represented here by Adam, and djinn. Unlike demons, djinn can be good or evil, and can even worship as they so choose. They were created from smokeless flame, where angels were conceived of light, and humanity of clay. Djinn can be either sex, and can shapeshift-- often preferring black-furred animals when not in human form. They do this for limited amounts of time, as assuming a form forces them to obey the laws of it, leaving them vulnerable. They are most often invisible and immaterial. Again, while some djinn are altruistic, the satanic Iblīs and his lot are as wicked as the popular notions surrounding demons. Iblīs, which means "desperate," became Shayṭān when he was cast out of Heaven. Satan and Shayṭān are pretty much interchangeable terms, not only as a specific character, but as a type, as though all demonic forces were "Satan."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "I'm Gonna be a Wheel Someday" by Fats Domino

Talk about a study in economy. Two verses, one (charitably) serving double-duty as a chorus. Each verse features heavy repetition, often of whole lines. Taken out of the context of the song, the lyrics read like a schoolyard taunt. If this were released by Avril Lavigne, I'd tear her to shreds. From Fats though, it's awesome. It's all in the delivery, compelling you to sing along. You don't admire its complexity-- you just enjoy yourself on a tune you're actually capable of memorizing with ease. Plus, it's in and out in a couple of minutes, never overstaying its welcome...

Written by: Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, & Roy Hayes.
Released: 1959

I'm gonna be a wheel someday
I'm gonna be somebody
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.
Everything's gonna go my way,
and I won't need nobody.
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.

You will cry-ay-ay-ay-ay
You will cry-ay-ay-ay-ay,
You'll be wonderin' why I don't look at you
when I go strollin by.
I'm gonna be a wheel someday
I'm gonna be somebody
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.

I'm gonna be a wheel someday
I'm gonna be somebody
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.
Everything's gonna go my way,
and I won't need nobody.
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.

You will cry-ay-ay-ay-ay
You will cry-ay-ay-ay-ay,
You'll be wonderin' why I don't look at you
when I go strollin by.
I'm gonna be a wheel someday
I'm gonna be somebody
I'm gonna be a real gone cat,
then I won't want you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978) Part 1: Black Emanuelle in Afrika

Character Name: Emanuelle
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: "La Via Della Prostituzione"
Known Aliases: "Emanuelle and the Girls of Madame Claude"; "Black Emanuelle in Afrika"; "Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade"
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: United States
Occupation: Photojournalist
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Locales: Nairobi, San Diego
Release Date: April 20, 1978 (Italy)
Director: Joe D'Amato
DVD: Black Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 2 (1976-1978)
Stats: Seventh Black Emanuelle

Story: In Nairobi, Emanuelle met with British stewardess Susan Towers (Ely Galleani,) a friend from their modeling days. Susan tried to arrange a meeting between the photojournalist and Giorgio Rivetti (Venantino Venantini.) Emanuelle explained, "He's a gangster on an international level, and he went bankrupt in Italy. And then he slipped through the net, taking an immense amount of money with him. And now he's found a refuge here, where there's no extradition. And so he continues his business activities, honored and respected. So you'll see, it'll be quite a coup for me to interview him." An English reporter attempted to snap his picture previously, and ended up in hospital, so there was nothing doing. Emanuelle took some unauthorized shots of Rivetti's modest villa before being run off. She then joined Susan for a trip to the auto mechanic, where Emanuelle masturbated while Susan got down to dirty business in the pit under her Range Rover (a routine of hers.)

At the airport, Emanuelle spotted a young girl in a wheelchair being pushed by a man to a counter. Another man (Gabriele Tinti) arrived with a briefcase, which the first man took, as the second wheeled off with the girl. Authorities swooped in to take the first man into custody. Susan then returned with the idea that Emanuelle should pose with her as an air hostess greeting the just arrived Prince Arausani (Pierre Marfurt.) "Kenya Airways wish to welcome you, and hope that that you'll have a pleasant stay here. We've been put at your disposal." The trio tour the city, go for a swim, and have their cover blown by the Prince's secretary. "To be honest, I'll present you to Rivetti, but in your true colors. Take it or leave it."

Rivetti was displeased by the presence of the women, but accepted them into his villa as guests at the prince's insistence. Rivetti demanded that no pictures be taken of him, so of course Emanuelle had a ridiculous Bond gadget to break the agreement: a Zippo camera that snapped a picture each time she flipped the lid (lens optional.) Cue sapphic shower scene between Emanuelle and Susan as the pair settle in.

When Rivetti and the Prince come to loggerheads over a business matter, Rivetti suggests a safari at a national park. Joe D'Amato will be your director through a tour of African wildlife, as well as hot air ballooning, in yet another episode of Naked National Geographic Explorer. The group land in a native village, where Rivetti agrees to an interview, if Emanuelle can influence the Prince to his liking. In a rapidly cross-cut scene, Susan sleeps with Rivetti while Emanuelle beds the prince, often mirroring positions, as the tribesmen dance and sing. Contracts are signed, and the Prince is on his merry way.

While touring a market, Emanuelle spots the girl from the airport, now on her feet, being drug around by the man who seemed to buy her. Rivetti believes he's American, and in the white slave trade. Emanuelle, Susan and Rivetti have an irritatingly choppy three-way, filled with time lapses and black screens. On the way to the airport, Susan tells Emanuelle she learned the name of the slaver, Francis Harley. They say their goodbyes, as Emanuelle returns to New York, and Susan to her mechanic...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #23

Ambush Bug: Year None #5
Final Crisis #5
Haunted Tank #1
No Enemy, But Peace #1
The Spirit Special #1
Vixen: Return of the Lion #3

Been just under a month since I did one of these, and unless I get a back issue jones, it'll be another month for the next. I decided to shoot my "new comic" review load in the one shot...

Ambush Bug: Year None #5 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
Well, the book is back to being amusing again, but then its lampooning "Countdown To Final Crisis," a rich vein of stupidity to draw from. There's more than a slight hint of Venture Brothers in the shenanigans, as well. Whatever you might have to say about Dan Didio, you have to give him credit for allowing such a scathing satire of his regime whilst under it.

Final Crisis #5 (DC, 2008, $3.99)
Everything has finally been coming together as-- another friggin' bid to make the New Gods cool? Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, but I'm regretting this series. Cliche? You're soaking in it. Another trial for a "disgraced" Hal Jordan ending in his exoneration and ultimate triumph? Another last stand for humanity, complete with ace up our sleeves meant to screw with the supper-baddies? Another final confrontation spotlighting the author's obscure pet characters? Lex Luthor as an anti-heroic wild card? Meaningless seeee-crets? Stop it! Just stop it! I'm so damned sick of Black Adam at this point, I cannot tell you. Supergirl versus a character somehow more overly sexualized than she herself is? What in the holy hell does "If Gods made i-Pods that were alive" mean? Telepathic shuffle? Impregnable DRM? Holographic album covers? Grant, lay off the hallucinogenics and get hooked on phonics so your editor can figure out you probably meant something only slightly less grating, like an "Omnipotent Blackberry." Or "Blakkk-barie." Whatever gibberish strikes your fancy. Finally, Carlos Pacheco continues to make J.G. Jones absences barely noticeable, but who's responsible for those last few crappy pages with Darkseid? Marco Rudy?

Haunted Tank #1 (Vertigo, 2008, $2.99)
Well... that wasn't quite what I was expecting. I figured there'd be some tense humor amongst battle action, but this book seems to be a comedy above all other considerations. I've never heard of Frank Marraffino, but his script positively screams for a film adaptation in such a way I suspect screenwriting may be his first love. His characterization is far to broad and ethnocentric to be taken seriously, but since the book seems to be about stereotypes and the comedy of errors, fair enough. Henry Flint is adept at both violence and slapstick, so he was also a good choice. I don't think this is really my thing, but folks who get off on the lighter side of Garth Ennis might ought to give this one a shot.

No Enemy, But Peace #1 (Machinegun Bob Productions, 2008, $3.00)
I decided to try this book, depicting true events during the Iraqi occupation, based on a number of glowing reviews. Fuck the lot of you idiots. Rather than being a soldier's story, it's a bunch of rah-rah macho bullshit drawn with all the nuance of early Image house artists like Brian Denham, Marat Mychaels, and Dave Finch. Between quotes from Shakespeare and a nine page recitation of the Rifleman's Creed is terrible dialogue, non-existent characterization, baldfaced heroic mythologizing, and a meandering non-ending. The comic isn't about a soldier saving the lives of his brethren, but spraying the innards of them thar' Islamofascist sand-niggers all over the walls with U.S. firepower. The only reason other reviewers weren't crapping all over this like it was Rob Liefeld on G.I. Joe was because they were duped by the veneer of biographical authenticity. The Haunted Tank rang more true.

The Spirit Special #1 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
Well, DC rushed out this quickie reprint sampler to cash in on a movie that bombed, and I glad for it. Will Eisner has always been one of those creators I meant to read, but never did. Almost as soon as I cracked open the book, I started spotting all the artists I admire who liberally stole from this work. Jim Steranko... Bernie Wrightson... Frank Miller (when he was good)... Comics really do owe this man a debt of gratitude. Regardless, the question is whether the stories stand on their own without history propping them up, and indeed they do. Three complete stories, two at only seven pages, and an epic running fourteen. That's bang for your buck, Sally! "Sign of the Octopus" is pretty lightweight, favoring violent action and an introduction to the Spirit's nemesis, but it's good for what it is. "Black Alley" is better, helped by mood, tension, and twists. "Sand Seref" was pretty much the template for the revered '80s Daredevil reworking, complete with a mini Elektra Saga. Talk about all killer, no filler. My only complaints are that the art is sometimes a bit too loose, and most of the Spirit catalog is only available in overpriced Archive editions.

Vixen: Return of the Lion #3 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
I've sampled a little bit of G. Willow Wilson's work, which led me to give her upcoming "Air" trade a spin. That was in spite of "Vixen," though, who increasingly bears no resemblance to the Gerry Conway character. This is an issue of mystical mumbo-jumbo, complete with the sudden appearance of an elder mentor figure you just know will buy it in issue #5. The only thing worse would be keeping him around afterward, and considering some of the backlash I've read online regarding Vixen's role in the modern JLofA, that would be another step in the wrong direction. This is some tired Joseph Campbell wannabe shit, except instead of a hero(ine)'s journey, we're stuck with a washout passively guest-starring in her own book. All the action is supplied by the Justice League of America, whose tangentially investigation takes up thirteen pages, sans the titular "star." Wilson herself doesn't seem interested in how she's writing Vixen, so why should anyone else be? Cover artist Josh Middleton continues to impress, as does Cafu, though his JLA seems off model and out of place.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Frank Review of "The Amateurs" (2007)

The Short Version? Small Town Irregulars make an amateur porno.
What Is It? Indie Comedy.
Who's In It? Jeff Bridges & a cast of dozens.
Should I See It? Probably not.

So here's the thing-- I saw this movie-- Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Pretty much the same movie, but released after "The Moguls," now known as "The Amateurs," which has been on the festival circuit since 2005. The main difference is that while a lackluster effort itself, the Kevin Smith movie was funny. "The Amateurs" isn't, and is similarly saccharine to boot. It's totally limp on the comedy front. No laughs at all.

The only reason to watch this picture is the inexplicably great cast. Jeff Bridges' performance is wonderful, and thanks to his narration, there's nary a scene untouched by his magic. It's been too long since I've seen Glenne Headly in anything, and this reminded me that I've missed her. When was the last time you saw Valerie Perrine in anything, and hey, it's Ms. Teschmacher in a threeway? I also like William Fichtner in pretty much anything, and he's great here in a minor role. Brad Garrett and Elden Henson are good in a one scene skit. Melinda Dahl so authentically delivers what should have been a lame monologue, I want to see how she handles herself in future projects.

The cast is so large, that there is a good deal of waste. Tim Blake Nelson is nice, but pretty much sleepwalks. Lauren Graham has more screen time in the making-of documentary on the DVD than the actual film. Joe Pantoliano's character is actually named "Some Idiot," but he doesn't quite sell it. Jeanne Tripplehorn, Isaiah Washington, Steven Weber, Judy Greer and Patrick Fugit are in this movie, technically.

So yeah-- that's it. If you love Jeff Bridges, absolutely check this out. He's great, and y'know, his resume between "The Door in the Floor" and "Iron Man" was pretty dubious. Otherwise, man, just don't. It's pretty bad. If you put forth a bit of effort, you can probably find an actual porno with stronger characters and a better script.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Justice League of America #96 (February, 1972)

"Space-Mariners speak in soft, guarded whispers when the starwinds cease to blow, for it is a portentous sign of storms at hand, screaming in violent fury! But... on this day the winds suddenly stop! And then... the starwinds stir and swirl, ominously building, bellowing into a cosmic hurricane! -- THIS IS A DAY OF HOLOCAUST! A DAY OF DREAD, A DAY OF DEATH-- 'THE COMING OF-- STARBREAKER!'"

In the two previous issues, the Flash Barry Allen, Hawkman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan had vanished while teleporting to the JLA satellite. Green Lantern had managed to call on Superman for help with his Power Ring, and now the Man of Steel was making his way toward the planet Rann. There he found the trio of star-lost heroes at the mercy of giant mechanical insects powerful enough to withstand direct action from the mighty Kryptonian. "Huh-- not even a dent-- and my hands... hurting?!" Superman determined that his X-Ray Vision mucked with command transmissions being sent to the ant-like monstrocities, and confused them into turning "their jet-streams on each other! --Turning to molten metal--" The bugs exploded in an atomic blast contained by Green Lantern.

The recovering Hawkman explained to Superman that Black Canary's having made routine maneuvering of their satellite had unintentionally crossed its teleportation ray with an incoming Zeta-Beam, which periodically links Earth to the planet Rann. Green Lantern continued, noting that the trio had found Rann threatened by the villainous Starbreaker. The Guardians of the Universe had information about this evildoer invested in their Power Rings...

"Starbreaker is unique among galactic humans! He has the ability to absorb enormous amounts of energy into his body-- and release it at will! From time to time, he dispatches 'Mechanix' to tap the energies of solar system planets... by causing them to hurtle into their suns... The crashing of planet-into-sun releases waves of tremendous energy... picked up by Starbreaker's stand-by spaceships, and thence relayed into his own body! In due time, Starbreaker discovered that the greatest of energies were contained in the minds and emotions of intelligent beings... energies heightened tenfold in the face of solar death! Thus, this living battery constantly seeks out populated planets for his prey! Without compunction, Starbreaker auctions off his ruthlessly gained power to the highest bidder! Though one of the most wanted men in the galaxy, he has defied capture-- even by the Green Lantern Corps!"

The "Cosmic Vampire" intended to devour the world of Rann, like some curious cross between Dracula and Galactus. Flash bemoaned that no one had been able to "find a weakness to drive home a silencing silver spike!" The four Leaguers split into pairs to fend off another couple groups of the Mechanix insects that were preparing Rann's demise. This did not go unnoticed by Starbreaker: "Though I come from the outer limits of space, even I have heard tales of the legendary Superman! Now I find he had a hand in destroying two of my planet-moving deputies! To avoid a repetition of this, I shall personally protect the others-- with energy-duplicates of myself at the two remaining sites! This will necessitate the utilization of a great deal of energy, especially in my specialized offspring who will deal with Superman! But to rid myself of the Kryptonian-- along with a Green Lantern as bonus, is a fine investment! --A very fine investment indeed!"

Disgruntled citizens of Rann had created an experimental new city-state named Narzam, but had to abandon it to the Mechanix. Ever the science geek, Flash Barry Allen felt compelled to gather "valuable inventions and priceless instruments" caught in their wake, "hopefully to be used another day!" Hal Jordan meanwhile fretted over his recent absence from the Justice League during his trip with Green Arrow in "search of America," Barry's having gotten married in the meantime, and his diminished status amongst the Green Lantern Corps in the face of his new found doubts. Jordan capped the antennae of the Mechanix, only to have his Power Ring constructs shattered by a Starbreaker. "My power is of a hundred suns, Green Lantern! Your ring is weaker than most of your corps-- and I can best them at will! To survive, you must surrender--"

The Flash briefly spun Starbreaker "like a top," but the villain recovered, and forced the duo back. Green Lantern determined this Starbreaker was a copy by his limited powers, and that it required concentration like his own to command its power. Jordan tricked Starbreaker by "jiving" him, telling the "Star-Baby" his masters "get their jollies cuttin' off my power every now an' then!" GL pretended to turn over his Power Ring, but instead KO'd Starbreaker with an energy fist. Flash tied up Starbreaker, and dismissed Jordan's previous concerns about their partnership. "Hey, Hal-- c'mon! You always were the moody type! Only you could worry about something as irrelevant as that!"

A Mechanix rolled through a wall of the holy city of Abdukara, curled up like a pill-bug. From above, Hawkman was offended by this sacrilege. "For this winged one knows deeply the past of many worlds, rooting himself in their treasures-- richness which he will ferociously fight to preserve..." The Winged Wonder cleverly wrapped his anti-grav belt around the artificial insect's leg, flipping it over so that he could skewer it with an ancient diamond-tipped spear he had found.

Elsewhere, Superman launched a Heat Vision-enabled precision strike against the final Mechanix, to prevent it from detonating another A-Blast. Struck from behind, the Strange Visitor from Another World was told, "Though you defeat my machines, Superman, you are no match for Starbreaker! I alone have solved the mystery of linking science and magic! Today my power is that of star-suns... tomorrow it will be that of galaxies!" Hawkman again protested, but was left with his wings and belt torn from his body, falling to certain death. "Think, Hawkman-- think! In your moment of peril, you will energize my battery of power!" Superman rescued his cohort, but demanded "That mind-sucking monster must be stopped! But even thinking of solutions works against me!" As had Flash and GL, Superman distracted Starbreaker long enough to simplistically beat him into submission. "While I gather up your feathered wings, Hawkman-- blindfold, deafen and gag Starbreaker so he can't use his magical science when he comes to!"

The four reunited heroes congratulated one another, and were applauded by the people of Rann. The earthman Adam Strange, Rann's usual defender, had also arrived on a follow-up Zeta-Beam. That was shortly before the effects of the first Zeta-Beam wore off, returning three of the super-heroes home. Superman watched as the faux Starbreakers vanished back to their template's lair, where he slapped and reabsorbed them. "It's intolerable that I was beaten! Compared to Starbreaker, the Justice Leaguers are infants-- physically and mentally! To have been outwitted by such insignificant beings galls me! Almost as bad, I expended a great deal of salable energy! The situation is this-- the Justice League has returned to Earth-- Superman will rejoin them! Shortly thereafter, I will follow-- with the raging power of a super-nova, contained in one body! Yes-- I will restore my lost energy-- at Earth's expense! Beware, Justice League! Beware Earth! Your hours are numbered!"

Written by Mike Friedrich. Illustrated by Dick Dillin and Joe Ciella. Edited by Julie Schwartz.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "Fake Tales Of San Francisco" by Arctic Monkeys

Fake Tales of San Francisco
Echo through the room
More point to a wedding disco
Without a bride or groom
There's a super cool band yeah
With their trilbys and their glasses of white wine
And all the weekend rockstars are in the toilets
Practicing their lines

I don't want to hear you
(Kick me out, kick me out)
I don't want to hear, you know
(Kick me out, kick me out)
I don't want to hear you
(Kick me out, kick me out)
I don't want to hear you
I don't want to hear your...

Fake Tales of San Francisco
Echo through the air
And there's a few bored faces in the back
All wishing they weren't there

And as the microphone squeaks
A young girl's telephone beeps
Yeah she's dashing for the exit
And she's running to the streets outside
"Oh you've saved me," she screams down the line
"The band were fucking wank"
And I'm not having a nice time."

I don't want to hear you
(Kick me out, kick me out)
I don't want to hear, you know
(Kick me out, kick me out)

Yeah but his bird thinks it's amazing, though
So all that's left
Is the proof that love's not only blind but deaf

He talks of San Francisco, he's from Hunter's Bar
I don't quite know the distance
But I'm sure thats far
Yeah I'm sure thats pretty far

And yeah, I'd love to tell you all of my problem
You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham
So get off the bandwagon, and put down the handbook
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook
Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook
Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook
Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook

Friday, January 2, 2009

Custom Dreadstar & Company Overpower Tactic Double Shot Cards

Just as I was sick of having to play with Marvel characters to make my Overpower decks work, I was also tired of their ugly, poorly rendered Tactic cards. I figured while I was busy cutting up old Dreadstar comics, I might as well use leftover panels to improve my view with Jim Starlin artwork. Team-ups mostly centered on Vanth & Syzygy or Darklock & Willow, though the High Lord Papel and his god turned up twice.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Custom Dreadstar Overpower Chararacter Cards

Over at my Martian Manhunter blog, I've been pulling out all of my old Overpower Collectible Card Game stuff, to explain the basics of a pastime I wasted way too much money on. Since I wasn't happy with the character selection, toward the end of my involvement, I decided to try my hand at making some of my own. Lacking a computer or real money to speak of, this was accomplished by cutting up old Dreadstar comics and pasting them onto cards. I've loved Jim Starlin's Star Wars rip-off since I was a wee lad, so those characters were an obvious choice to play with.

The first card is intended to be Vanth Dreadstar as he appeared in the Metamorphosis Odyssey and the first dozen comics in his own series. Overpower rated powers on a scale of 1-8, so his middling Energy of 4 was meant to cover ray guns and projections from his sword. A 6 in Fighting was pretty respectable, comperable to the better fighters in comics. His 6 in Strength is about right, I figure, along the lines of a juiced-up Bane, Beast and Sabretooth. Being a solid planner, a 5 in Intellect placed him with bright combatants like Shang Chi and specialists like Blue Beetle. All those mid-high Rankings would help with Spectrum KOs, but his 21-point total would keep him as either the front man of a low point team or background amongst heavy hitters. Seemed about right.

I never got around to assigning Willow a Power Grid, as I was trying to use her to help design a team around Dreadstar and Company that never materialized. I also meant to give her an Inherent Ability, as the image I cut out of her was light enough to type on directly. Low rent, right?

The second Dreadstar(s) was meant to reflect the version of the character that finished out the Instrumentality war, basically a poor man's Captain Mar-Vell. Because Vanth had internalized his sword's power, and I though the team could use a high baller, he now had a 7 in Energy. That was probably too high, but Overpower was never overly concerned with accuracy, so there was play room there in favor of gameplay. Since Vanth got away from hand-to-hand combat, I dropped his Fighting to a 4. His Strength remained the same, and his Intellect dropped a point, as his plans became increasingly lackluster.


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