Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Comic Book Heroes: "The Other Guys"

"In the 1940s the Big Companies-- with real offices, carpeted lobbies, pretty receptionists, "respectable" product, parental advisory committees, Hollywood licensing deals and deep-pocketed owners-- were National/DC, Fawcett and Dell/Western. Below those three snow-capped peaks stretched a bloody battleground of independents, hustlers, speculators, trend-watchers, pretenders, fly-by-nighters, check-bouncers, soft-porn peddlers, and moonlighting pulp publishers." Per Joe Simon, Leon Harvey pronounced that superheroes were still dead in early 1959. His Harvey Comics were all about kid-friendly fare like Casper the Friendly Ghost, while the former MLJ was now Archie Andrews' world. Fawcett was mostly out of the business, Charlton was geared toward keeping their presses running with low rent comics, Gilberton found their niche with Classics Illustrated and Martin Goodman's various lines were just another of the bunch of poor quality "mystery" comics still eked out under Code restriction against "horror."

After DC found some success with their super-hero revivals, these other publishers took note. While Archie was doing gangbuster business, they dipped their toes into the coming trend with Simon and Kirby's The Adventures of the Fly and Simon's The Double Life of Private Strong, both begun in 1959. According to author Gerard Jones, "Then National's lawyers got a look at Private Strong and sent a letter claiming that the Shield too closely duplicated Superman's powers. The series was instantly cancelled..." Meanwhile, Archie Comics managing editor Richard Goldwater didn't like Jack Kirby's art on the Fly, wanting that slick look the DC books had. "The new Fly crew-- John Giunta and John Rosenberger, a couple of DC backbenchers-- did indeed have DC's Frigidaire gloss, but their work was as dead as an empty refrigerator, and the hero buzzed along listlessly only until 1964." It was trailed by the "equally dull" The Jaguar, dead inside two years.

Charlton Comics took a stab in 1960 with the Captain Atom feature in Space Adventures. The title was usually "devoted to dark and apocalyptic SF in the pre-Schwartz mold," and mostly distinguished by the art of Steve Ditko, an unrecognized talent light years removed from the DC/Archie style. While the Captain Atom premise had promise, "in practice it rarely transcended red-baiting jingoism... reviving the aesthetic of the failed super-hero comebacks of 1953, when everything stank of McCarthyism. Captain Atom lasted only nine issues, by which time Ditko was able to make a living almost entirely from the Goodman company." Charlton tried again in 1964 with a Blue Beetle revival, whom they had bought cheap from Victor Fox. It ran a year and a half under Joe Gill, Bill Faccio, and Tony Tallarico.

"Western was an anomaly in the business, a respectable children's press," wrote Jones. "Through Dell it was hooked in the American News Company, making it the only comic book publisher with access to the erstwhile monopoly's high-profile newsstands." They held all the big licenses, like Disney, and were said to cancel any title selling under 600,000. "The the '50s it was the giant of all comics publishers, at times reportedly outselling all of its competitors combined... This was an old-line 'class' company. Remarkably few Jewish and Italian names appear in Western's credits in the early days, quite a contrast to the competition." The closest they came to superheroes were Turok: Son of Stone, The Phantom, Tarzan, and Korak: Son of Tarzan. That is, until they leapfrogged from a dime standard price to 15¢, 3¢ more than other publishers. Dell's bottom fell out, and there was a schism with Western, which began its own Gold Key imprint. National took the front in the aftermath, and their continued success with titles like Justice League of America inspired Gold Key to create Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom in 1962 and Magnus, Robot Fighter in '63. Lesser lights included Space Family Robinson, Mighty Samson, and Total War/M.A.R.S. Patrol, all in the mid- '60s. "Western's adventure line was ever thus: finely wrought, never electrifying."

Gerard Jones continued by noting, "For all their efforts at modernity, what's astonishing in these comics is their profound conservatism." Black and white morality, celebration of bourgeois self-sufficiency, preindustrial values and so on. "Magnus was at once a man-versus-machine tale with nineteenth-century echoes, a work-ethic warning of the dangers of indolence, and a flashback to the aristocratic terrors of losing control of the workforce-- not excluding the white terror of a slave insurrection from the antebellum South. One can read Magnus himself as the ultimate overseer, raised by a slaveowner's fantasy of the loyal slave to battle renegades and abolitionists. This was not, of course, the intention of the creators, but Western's traditional aesthetic adventure aesthetic carried with it old cultural shadows... well-intentioned and well-composed, but impossibly out of step with the youth culture of the 1960s."

American Comics Group stuck with "mystery" monster fare, aside from Nemesis, Magicman, and Herbie Popnecker's excursions as the Fat Fury. Harvey Comics stuck to its guns, only offering reprints of The Black Cat, while Jim Warren circumvented the Comics Code with his black and white horror magazines Creepy and Eerie (as well as Blazing Combat.)

Amongst all these throwbacks and parodies were few challenges to National's ascendancy, at least until Stan Lee decided to make his own run at Martin Goodman's company...

"The Other Guys" was chapter 6 of the 1997 edition of The Comic Book Heroes, and was not present in Gerard Jones' earlier collaboration with Will Jacobs. 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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Frank Review of "V For Vendetta" (2005)

The Short Version? Nutty super-hero & cute chick vs. totalitarian government
What Is It? Action/Political Intrigue
Who's In It? Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt
Should I See It? Maybe.

I caught "V For Vendetta" with some friends when it was first released. I'm not a huge fan of its author, Alan Moore, and changes were certainly made. All told, I think it was about as good as could be expected given the source material. Hugo "Agent Smith" Weaving was far more riveting as "Crazy Guy In Inexpressive Mask" than anyone who's ever played Jason Vorhees. Natalie Portman's English accent was vastly superior to the American accent of her genetic duplicate, Keira Knightly. John Hurt, supposedly ironic as the fascist leader given his role in the film adaptation of "1984," actually turned in the single worst performance of his career. Given the ink slung over the parallels between the movie's vision of Britain's future and Post-9/11 America (the original book riffed on Thatcher's government and pre-Glasnost relations with the U.S.S.R.,) one would think the de facto Emperor of England would be more charismatic in a Bush vein. Instead, he had all the appeal of Hitler, right before he ran off with Eva to the bunker for a Luger breath mint.

What I really liked was the torture sequence, which lifted Moore's monologue for the heroic lesbian prisoner wholesale. It played very well, and its straightforward nature puts shame to Bryan Singer's more subversive, yet mostly toothless, homosexual metaphors in the X-Men movies (and likely "Superman Returns" as well.) The final knife fight was also bitchin', and likely guest directed by Los Bros Wachowski in a flavor missing from the "Matrix" sequels.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Super-Hero Feast

The ...nurgh... has a lifelong love of the super-heroes, but addressing that adoration can become a bit random at times. This index will thus be a nearly all-inclusive look at posts related to comic books! Check these subdivisions to optimize our geekitude:

The Unofficial Obscure Character Handbook of the Multiverse
Abel Carmody (DC)
Ace Harlem (All-Negro)
Baron Death (DC)
The Book of Fate (DC)
John Henry (DC "Silver Age")
Kishana Lewis (DC)
Lion Man (All-Negro)
Martika (DC)
Mr. Gargoyle (DC)
Madam Fatal (Quality)
Muhammad X (DC)
Pierce (DC)
The Wonder Man (Fox)
Wyldheart (DC)

The Super-Hero Books:
(The many discussions of comic books appearing in proper books.)

"A": Things I learned from "The Superhero Book"
Amazing Heroes #202: Aborted Titans/Nightwing Plans (June, 1992)
"B": Things I learned from "The Superhero Book"
Chuck Patton Profile
The Comic Book Heroes: The First History of Modern Comic Books from the Silver Age to the Present
The Comic Book Heroes: The Marvel Age of Comics
The Comic Book Heroes: "The Other Guys"
The Comic Book Heroes: The Return of the Heroes
"C": Things I learned from "The Superhero Book"
"D," "E" & "F": Things I Learned from "The Superhero Book"
"G" & "H": Things I Learned from "The Superhero Book"
The Great Comic Book Heroes (2003 Edition) by Jules Feiffer
The Great Comic Book Heroes: Batman, Fox & Fiction House
The Great Comic Book Heroes: Captain Marvel & The Spirit
The Great Comic Book Heroes: Superman
The Rehabilitation of Eel O'Brian by Don Thompson
The Yellow Peril & the Yellow Claw!

Four-Color Philosophy:
Baby's First Comic Book Writing Principle
The Obligation of Renovation
The Bane of Multiversalism
The Absence of Origin
The Delano Theory of Seminal Integrity in Super-Heroic Fiction
Secret Origins Matter (or How Hawkman Got His Wings!)

Political Musings in Metropolis:
The Grand Old JLA
Justice Liberals of America
The Super-Hero Registration Act and the Common Good
Super-Heroes On Gay Marriage
Superman Red State/Superman Blue State
The Two American Avengers

The Trouble With Super-Heroes:
(Even beings with powers far beyond those of mortal men can be boring if they're not handled correctly.)

The Trouble With Aquaman
The Trouble With Nightwing
The Trouble With Wonder Woman

NEW CAP! Like New Coke, but shinier...
Huntress/The Question: Conquest '52
Defending "John Henry" in "New Frontier"
Conquest '07: Huntress vs. Black Canary & Co.
Why I Don't Hate Iron Man
FLD's State of the Marvel Universe Address for 2008
Ms. Empowered
Matthew McConaughey as Captain America? F*** NAW!
Ineffectual Video Commentary
Jordan League of America
Whatever Happened to the Negro League?
San Diego ComiCon 2008 Analysis
Sexual Harassment @ ComiCon
Virgin Sacrifice
Empire Magazine's 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters

More ...nurgh... Indexes for when Super-Heroes come to feast...
Comic Box Trot Index: Lengthy Synopses of Interesting Issues
The Dirty Trader Index!: Paperback Reviews
Smelly Brown Paper (Scans of Yore): From the pages of your favorite periodicals come ads and miscellanea.
Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care: Another damned comic book review column.

Current as of 4/4/09

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Emmanuelle Index

The following pages are devoted to Emmanuelle Arsan's most famous creation. With all the sequels and imitations, Emmanuelle became synonymous with Euro-centric Softcore Erotica, and so we'll also look at other examples of her genre.

What is Emmanu-Wednesday?

Marayat Andriane/Bibidh/Rollet-Andriane Pages (the "real" Emmanuelle)
Marayat Andriane Bikini Pin-Up
Marayat Andriane Bikini Beach Pictures
Marayat Andriane Black & White Head Shot
The Sand Pebbles (1966) Synopsis
The Sand Pebbles (1966) "Frank" Movie Review
"The Sand Pebbles" Cast and Crew on Marayat Andriane

Emmanuelle Movies (Based on Emmanuelle Arsan's original characters)
Emmanuelle (1974, Sylvia Kristel) Synopsis
Emmanuelle (1974, Sylvia Kristel) Movie Review
An Erotic Success: The Making Of Emmanuelle (2007, Sylvia Kristel)
Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman (1975, Sylvia Kristel & Laura Gemser) Synopsis & Review

Sylvia Kristel Emmanuelle Custom Barbie Doll
1995 Korean Emmanuelle Television Series Ad

Black Emanuelle / Emanuelle Nera Pages
Black Emanuelle 2 (1976, Sharon Lesley/Shulamith Lasri)
Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976, Laura Gemser) Part One, Part Two
Emanuelle in America (Part 1, 1976)
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978) Part 1: Black Emanuelle in Afrika
Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978) Conclusion: The Girls of Madame Claude
Emanuelle in America (1977)
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Epilogue
"Emanuelle Nera (Black Emanuelle)" by Bulldog
Emanuelle in America Theme (Instrumental Version)
Laura Gemser Head Shot Pin-Up #2
Laura Gemser Interview Excerpts from "A Hard Look" (2000)
Understanding "Emanuelle in America" (Part 1)

Pseudo-Emmanuelle (Name Only Rip-Offs)
Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle (1976, Laura Gemser & Annie Belle) Synopsis & Review
Emanuelle on Taboo Island (1976, Laura Gemser) Synopsis & Review
Emmanuele 3 (1980, Silvia Castell/Sylvie Cointre) Synopsis & Review
Emmanuelle Goes to Cannes (1980, Olinka Hardiman) Synopsis & Review

Emanuelle Bianca e Nera Videos

Current as of 6/26/09

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006)

The Short Version? Neo-Con Propaganda as Cannibal Feast
What Is It? Horror
Who's In It? Umm... Billy Drago?
Should I See It? No.

When I caught this remake, it had been so long since I saw the original movies, I'm not even sure if I'd caught them all. As I remember, it was basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre transplanted to a Southwestern desert locale, and most memorable for the body count and Michael Berry's naturally jacked-up features. I tell you this because I hated the 2006 edition, and not on the grounds of nostalgia. Now let me tell you why...

I saw director Alexandre Aja's previous film, "High Tension," on DVD previously. It was initially plodding and excessively violent, but the murders were hard core, and once the story got moving it held up on the suspense end. Most people had trouble with the big reveal in the final reel-- whether it was too soon or just wrong depending on the person. I agree with the former, but still saw potential in the work, especially thanks to the film's truly haunting final image. That's why I gave the new "Hills" a shot, but frankly, it just wasn't half the movie. Once again we have a very slow build leading to a relatively brief sequence of overwhelming brutality, followed by the survivors skulking around and having close calls with grim fate for the rest of the flick.

I was with the movie up until the main bloodbath, but then began to wonder about the point of it all. In a sense, I as an audience member was experiencing survivor's remorse, except in my version, I wondered why a just God allowed survivors. In another recent movie of the same stripe, "The Devil's Rejects," it was made clear that we had victims who, while hardly innocent, in no way deserved the sadistic torments inflicted upon them. In that film, due in equal parts to direction and the actors' performances, you were sympathetic to both the hostages and their captors, who seemed at times driven to kill despite themselves. In "Eyes," you only feel for the lost family what you project onto them, because they're damned near stock characters, and their reactions are typical horror movie melodramatic cliche. The killers' motivation isn't far off from Chevy Chase & Dan Ackroyd's parody of the genre "Nothing But Trouble," except with less dimension. In fact, the film is muchly a third generation copy, from a near perfect replication of the credit sequence from the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, to moments and directing cues from the "Texas Chainsaw" remake, to the cartoonish excesses and mutant redneck cannibals of "Wrong Turn." Like Eli "Cabin Fever" Roth, director Alexandre Aja cheerfully wore his influences on his sleeve in his previous film. Here, he waves a banner reminding seasoned horror fans from whence he swiped. Hell, the aftermath of a nasty gunshot wound to the head even had me thinking of what we missed after the opening sequence of "Kill Bill."

Speaking of waving flags, it took me until the final reel to figure out the point of all this seemingly random and unoriginal viscera: I think I just watched the first true Neo-Conservative slasher flick. Oh sure, Jason Vorhees' fixation on dispatching promiscuous, refer lovin', left-leaning camp councilors may be worth examining in this light... but we all know that was just an excuse to show doped up chicks' titties. Let me break down down this movie's overt text for you:

The U.S. government seizes control of land held by poor miners for bomb testing. These crusty desert types refuse the feds orders, hide out in mines, and are thoroughly irradiated for their stubborn ways. A half century later, a modern "nuclear" family, innocent of whatever crimes you might choose to lay at the feet of their government, are lured into the desert to be raped and butchered by the miners' amoral mutant offspring. A liberal who married into the conservative family is then forced to recognize the need to take up arms and protect his family and way of life from these desert savages. In a particularly transformative moment, our newborn hero even feigns returning to his bleeding heart, lily-livered pinko ways before skewering a terrorist with (are you ready for this?) a handy American flagpole (as inspirational music soars.) Our Dustin Hoffman shoots right past "Straw Dogs" into "Braddock: Missing In Action" territory.

Guided by the eye of a French creator, one has to wonder if this was actually intended to be the comically over-the-top vindication of Bush's overseas adventurism that Parker & Stone were shooting for in "Team America: World Police." I'd guess I felt the same as a Republican walking out after the ham-fisted politics of Romero's "Land of the Dead." Both films were amateurishly bad about allowing their subtext to overrun the the plot of the film to the point of negating it.

In summary, the movie is overly political, terrifically violent, disturbing in a variety of ways, highly derivative, and filled with lousy performances. I should point out that after the chief massacre, the movie starts dragging again, except when it launches into (literally) dizzying, nonsensical action sequences. I'm trying to avoid specifics in the film, but one of these portions sees a villain dispatched in a spectacularly wasteful Pyrrhic victory that once again makes me ask, why did you do that, and why exactly are you one of the survivors again? Oh, and why waste Billy Drago's naturally creepy features by burying him in latex? He's one of the only "name" actors in this mess, and let me repeat, I'm talking about Billy Drago here. Have you ever heard of Billy Drago? I figure he's going to be part of the next obscure reference wave, perhaps after Chuck Norris has been exhausted (with whom he shared screen time in, I believe, "Delta Force II". I'm more of a "Vamp" fan myself.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

1968 Action Comics #360 "You Too Can Play The Game" Supergirl Ad

An inventive cover and dynamic ad featuring a Supergirl board game. 1968 ad for Supergirl's appearance in Action Comics #360. The art is credited to Curt Swan, but man, I can't see him at all in the Supergirl images. I can only assume George Klein inked the heck out of those, and rightly so. Contrast her pretty face with those stiff Swan figures at the stating point.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Frank Review of "Walk The Line" (2005)

The Short Version? Johnny Cash & June Carter bio-pic.
What Is It? Drama
Who's In It? Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick
Should I See It? Maybe.

I enjoyed River Phoenix’s work when he was with us, and continue to enjoy his brother’s today. Joaquin in his best roles radiates with intelligence and sensitivity, and many still remember his excellent turn as a baddie in "Gladiator." In "To Die For," he captured that Zen blankness/neural inactivity that has pretty much defined the careers of Keanu Reeves and Josh Hartnett. So taking all this into account, I know he’s acting in "Walk The Line." I just never realized Johnny Cash was a mongoloid. Considering how often I’ve heard this film compared to "Ray," I’m concerned that when I do finally catch that flick, I’ll be treated to the sight of Jamie Foxx finger painting with his own feces.

Acting possibly as a sequel to "Pumpkin," at its heart "Walk The Line" is the story of a romance between a beautiful young woman and her mentally-impaired stalker. As the screenplay was based on two autobiographies, I suspect Johnny exaggerated his youthful dopiness for comedic effect, only to have his memory mauled by someone who played that angle straight. In this movie Johnny’s life is portrayed as a mishmash of every other early rock doc you’ve seen, with emphasis on "Balls of Fire" (Johnny played as an object of ridicule badgering teenyboppers into marriage and engaging in epic consumption.)

Early reports had one of Johnny’s daughters from his first marriage complaining about her mother being portrayed as a shrew who tried to derail Johnny’s career in music, even after he proved a success. I just don’t see it, as all audience sympathies seem directed at the poor girl, neglected and abused by a selfish moron who’s transparently directing his affections at another woman. It doesn’t seem enough for Johnny to be unlikable in this film, which I could have gotten behind, considering his early reputation. The filmmakers go that extra mile to make Cash seem utterly pathetic. As he pursues June Carter throughout the film, it seems each time she shuts him down (always with good cause,) we get a sequence of Johnny hitting the bottle/pills with increasing severity. In this Post-Oprah age, I was seized with the urge to project self-esteem and maybe a little Girl Power through time into the Man in Black’s heart. If he was that sorry as a boy, it's no wonder his daddy named him Sue.

So suffice to say Phoenix pisses away any potential sex appeal in this role, which at least counters his being entirely too good looking in this part. Even when he’s pulling goofy faces onstage, I’m thinking how much better he would have been as Elvis. The King does have a small role here, as does Jerry Lee Lewis and a host of other rock legends, but close friend and country superstar Waylon Jennings barely gets a mention, even as his son plays him in a cameo too brief to warrant Scooter’s credit sequence mention. Robert Patrick is one-note as Johnny’s unpleasant but hardly terrible father, and after spending two hours plus with this Johnny, you can forgive him for wishing the boy had traded places with his brother in that lethal saw accident. In fact, the only moment that rang true for me with regards to Johnny in this picture was his cursing up a storm while badly operating a tractor after Patrick reminded him once again what a fuck-up he was.

So after this drubbing, you probably expect me to tell you to pass on this feature. While I’d certainly recommend waiting for video, one turn was so rewarding as to edge the film into the black for me. After a loathsome collection of trailers and the lukewarm critical response, the last thing I expected was to see this movie salvaged by Reese Witherspoon. While I held respect for her from her early works like "Election," my companion at this showing knew only disdain for the "Legally Blonde" romcom magnet. Even he had to confess admiration for Witherspoon’s June Carter, a charismatic, centered, utterly believable woman caught between her showbiz existence and the oppressive realities of 50’s life for a single woman with children. Witherspoon is utterly winning here, seemingly transformed by raven locks that highlight a jagged, rural bone structure in her face I’d never seen before. The only thing that keeps her from being 100% perfect is her singing voice, which is actually a bit stronger than the real June Carter’s. If anyone can convincingly give cause for Johnny’s creepy pursuit, it’s this woman.

I remember hearing the story of up-and-coming country singer Rodney Crowell meeting wife-to-be Rosanne Cash’s parents for the first time. Adding the normal anxiety with it taking the form of country royalty, Crowell drank a might heavily on the plane ride to their home. Upon arriving, Crowell made a stink when he learned Johnny & June had set up separate bedrooms for the young couple. More than a bit tired of this kid, Johnny looked Rodney straight in the eye and calmly explained, "I don’t know you well enough to miss you if you were gone." Virtually the last person in "Walk The Line" you’d expect to have that kind of snap would be Johnny Cash, so I can’t help but feel a little cheated. As I recall we’re treated to only a decade of Cash’s life, almost exclusively centered on his twisted courtship of June Carter, and none of it imbued with that distinct Cash flavor. I wanted both more and less from this experience, and as the movie’s done reasonably well at the box office, I’m hopeful another creative crew will take a swing at continuing Cash’s story. At the very least, I’d like to see the Ostrich attack, right?

Friday, November 21, 2008

1968 Revell "BIG MAMIE never lost a man" Model Kit Ad

A lot of men loved "Big Mamie". And she never lost a lover. Officially, she was known as the Battleship USS Massachusetts, but her men gave her the affectionate nickname...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marshal Law #5 (December, 1988)

Marshal Law #4 (August 1988)

The Sleepman was lost in a personal reverie in anticipation of his first meeting with Martial Law since his secret identity was revealed.

Danny Mallon was raised by his mother to hide his super powers and hate super-heroes, though he often failed at both pursuits. Danny would drape a curtain off his shoulders, and mother would paddle his bottom and call him "dirty boy!" She was highly manipulative, psychologically destructive, and set on using her son to avenge her dignity.

Even as a toddler, Danny had powers. In his teens, they prevented him from having sex with humans, but not fantasizing about it. His enormous penis proved a source of embarrassment when a daydream caused it to lift his desk. Like a Ditko character, shouts of "elephant's trunk" and visions of tape measures were all the anxiety Danny needed to self actualize. Ramos, a constant irritant, was murdered by ray blast under a bridge around October 4, 2008. Danny was finally ready for mother to tell him his origin story.

On learning his father, Buck Caine, had tried to murder mother and himself while he was still in the womb, Danny wanted the rewards he deserved as the progeny of the Public Spirit. "I'm a super hero... Where's my mansion?" Caine's crime could never be reported because of the inevitable SHOCC cover-up and dissection of Danny, so the pair lay in wait to take what they most desired in the future.

Danny became a computer expert, hacking SHOCC files to learn more truths. Doctor "SHOCC" Mendel's "hot-house" methods helped him turn embryos into future super children, with the consent of all-too-willing mothers. "Newly conceived embryos were washed from the womb, genetically reprogrammed with super physical characteristics, then replanted. My mother and father were among the early results." As time went by, Caine grew up, and helped "sell" super heroes to the general public. This led to eager young volunteers to become supers and fight in the Zone.

"Meanwhile, South America had conducted its own experiments in human engineering... As far back as 1979, Venezuela 'hot-housed' its entire 14 million population-- raising their mental skills... Other South American countries followed, hoping their 'super children' would find the solution to the continent's poverty. But when they grew up, many saw Marxism as the solution. South America exploded... The Zone began."

"The Big One" provided Danny with an excuse to play cripple, so that he would be above reproach when his intended patricide came due. As a secret policeman, he kept tabs on his returned father, and close proximity to personal hero Marshal Law. Danny also lusted after his father's new girl Celeste, which infuriated the sexually frustrated Virago, who demanded "I want you to kill her!" Danny practiced as Sleepman before the big kill. Danny wanted to confess his crimes repeatedly, but the timing was never right.

"I've rehearsed in my mind again and again what I was going to say to you, Marshal. Once you, too, knew I was bacteria. Now that moment has arrived. I hope you'll be tolerant enough to listen and not consider it too much of an imposition. You were always a very good friend to me. I realize I've let you down. Especially with Lynn. So I'd like to start by saying how sorry I am for what I did to her. I can't have given you a very good impression of me. But I didn't know she was your girl."

The Sleepman looked on as Public Spirit and Virago argued about old times on the beach. "Vi, have you forgotten how we were like brother and sister... before we were lovers. We grew up together... comforted each other when Doctor SHOCC was experimenting on us... I'd have never survived without you." Caine tried a bribe, but Virago wanted justice, with her son's help. "Bitch! Still trying to trap me! I'll shut you up for good this time!" The Sleepman only laughed, not lifting a finger as his father beat his mother to death.

Sleepman and Public Spirit traded ray blasts, until Caine fled when Marshal Law's Eagle craft appeared overhead. Law landed, and traded glares with Danny, who unmasked himself. "I was expecting an epic battle... A clash of titans..." Instead, Law calmly called him "bacteria," then gave him the "three star" treatment: a trinity of simultaneous shots of different types from his gun. "I was so surprised, I couldn't concentrate my electro-magnetic field to repel them all... And that was that. The end. Bit of a disappointment, really. But... you know best, Marshal. And, now I'm out of the way... you can go after father... Now he's finally killed mother, he can't escape justice... And I can sleep forever." Danny sank into the water, a wound through his left breast trailing blood, and lay at the ocean floor swaddled in his black cape...

Created and owned by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill

Marshal Law #6 (April, 1989)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Emmanu-Wednesday: "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)

Character Name: Maily
Actress: Marayat Andriane
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Character Nationality: Chinese
Character Age: Early 20s
Occupation: Bar girl
Religion: Catholic
Married: Frenchy Burgoyne in 1926
Locales: China
Release Date: December 20, 1966 (USA)
Director: Robert Wise
DVD: The Sand Pebbles (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Stats: Non-Emmanuelle related, though the actress is the basis for the character.

U.S. Navy sailors are in a Chinese bar in 1926, when Stawski (Simon Oakland) asks "Hey, Mama Chunk, where's the new stuff?" Chunk (Beulah Quo) ignores him at first, saying the same old sailors should like the same old girls. However, after she greets her friend Frenchy Burgoyne (Sir Richard Attenborough,) she's introduced to the San Pablos' new engineer, Jake Holman (Steve McQueen.) "Have got one piecee new girl topside. Brand-new. She just now makee pretty. I supposee she come see you?" Frenchy nonchalantly told Mama Chunk to send the girl over.

Stawski was headed upstairs with a couple girls, prompting a confederate to say his eyes were bigger than his... when Mailey appeared at the top of the stairs. The crowd went silent, which was curious, as there was nothing special about Maily. She was humbly dressed, her hair drawn back, and her face slightly distressed-- not the sort of thing to attract attention in a whorehouse. Stawski backed away in awe as Maily descended, forcing an awkward smile. Stawski tried to take Maily upstairs directly, but she explained she only drank with patrons for tips. "I keep books for Mr. Shu... and act as hostess." A crowd surrounded the couple, again for no apparent reason beyond novelty.

Maily caught sight of Frenchy, who was already clearly smitten, far more understandably than the horny drunks. She was uncomfortable with Stawski's pawing, and as hostess was meant to mingle broadly, so she tried to excuse herself. Stawski insisted she stick with him, and Maily replied, "I don't go upstairs. I'm only a hostess." Stawski started forcing his hand up her dress, and as she fought and cried, Frenchy demanded Ski leave her alone. A military policeman intervened, stating "This little girl's got duties, just like sailors." Mama Chunk then steps in, explaining that for this girl's first time, it'll cost $200.00. Ski was disbelieving, but from his corner, smoking aristocratically, Victor Shu (James Hong) reiterated "Two hundred dollars."

Well beyond Stawski's pay grade, Mama Chunk moved Maily along to the newly bashful Frenchy, who drug Jake Holman along for support to a table sitdown. Maily tried to entertain Holman with her exceptional English and knowledge of U.S. landmarks, but she clearly had eyes only for Frenchy. Jake knowingly excused himself, and Frenchy began delicately grilling the girl. Maily needed $200 to be free of Shu and move on to Shanghai, but was ashamed to discuss why. Frenchy then set about getting the two bills for her... not for sex mind, but for chivalry.

Later, Holman got into a fight aboard the San Pablo with Stawski over his friend Po-han. The coolie was ejected from the ship based on Stawski's false testimony, so Holman bet him tiny Po-han could beat him in a boxing match, with the prize being cash and Po-han's return to duties. The match took place at the bar, where Frenchy worried for Maily's virtue, while Maily felt she was Stawski's if God intended it. Maily confessed she had been found as a baby and educated by American missionaries, whom she later robbed when they pressed her into becoming one of them. Maily had hoped to escape to Shanghai, then earn back the money she took to send back to them. She made it no further than Changsha, where Mr. Shu advanced her the money she owed, and bought her in return. Maily felt that not only must Shu be paid, but also God, as punishment for her sin.

Frenchy argued, "You're bughouse, Maily. What kind of religion did they teach you?" He was vindicated when, after several losing rounds, Po-han knocked out Stawski. Then again, Po-han was later captured and tortured by Communists, only to be shot dead as mercy from Holman, so maybe God is that vengeful. Holman and his love interest Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen) were separated for most of the picture, while all of China seemed to turn on the U.S.-- the San Pablo in particular. The crew were called back to the ship before Victor Shu could be paid, leaving Maily to continue hosting until Frenchy's return.

Frenchy found a room to rent for Maily, then met Holman at the bar, and gave him the dough to bail Maily out. She was sitting with a group of Americans at the time, who decided to start an auction for her. One stood Maily up on a table, as Shu encouraged a bidding war. "Ladies and gentlemen, now just look at this merchandise. What am I bid for this clean, delicious piece of girl flesh? ...Fresh new goods untouched by human hands." The white "auctioneer" kept stroking at Maily and tugging at her dress. Once the bidding hit 350, chants of "strip her" began. By this point, Maily was hyperventilating and holding back tears. At 400, the auctioneer ripped down the front of Maily's dress, exposing her bra and midsection. Holman threw the first punch, but more followed into a bar brawl. Frenchy carried Maily off the table and into the street. Jake followed, as they spirited the girl to the room Frenchy had set for her. A kindly old woman lay her to bed, though Maily initially protested out of her obligation to Shu. Frenchy visited Maily before returning to ship that night. He explained that he would pay Shu the $200 he was owed the next day, but he wasn't buying Maily. He wanted his time with Maily to "be something," but not "like that." Maily pleaded with Frenchy not to leave her, so he held the girl for a time before leaving with Jake. On the ride back to the San Pablo, Frenchy told Jake he wanted to marry Maily. Jake protested, saying it was illegal, and a world of trouble.

Unable to gain a proper marriage, Frenchy and Maily still made vows to one another in a church, with Holman and Eckert as witnesses:

"We're mixing our lives together, Maily. We'll never be able to unmix them again... and we'll never want to. I take you for what you are and all that you are... and mix you with all of me. And I don't hold back nothing. When you're cold and hungry and afraid, so am I. I'm gonna stay with you all I can... and take the best care of you I can. And love you... till I die... Now you say it."

"I will always love you... and honor you and serve you... and stay as near to you as I can... and do everything for you... and live for you. I won't have any life... except our life together. I will just love you, Frenchy. All of me loving you forever."

"Now we're married."

Luck is wished, but in no way received. Holman notes that they've got a block committee already trying to kick them out of their room. "Where are they gonna go? Just running from hole to hole."

Frenchy sneaks off ship at night to visit Maily, but the night swimming in winter waters catches up to him. Maily feels that she is nothing, neither American nor Chinese, and that their unborn child will also be nothing. "He'll be ours, like you're mine. That's all we need."

Frenchy turns up missing, and Jake Holman investigates while delivering a communique to the U.S. Consul. Frenchy had died in Maily's arms that night. Jake found her huddled next to him, swollen with child. Holman was all set to go AWOL, and hole up in China Light with the missionaries there. He wanted Maily to come with, but a mob burst into the room. While Holman was carried off into a hallway by the men, another murdered Maily. Holman was later accused of the murder by the Communists, heightening tension with the U.S., who refused to turn him over. In the end, Holman and most of the crew end up dead, with Shirley Eckert among the few probable survivors.

Notes: "Marayat Andriane" is the screen name of Marayat Bibidh, the wife of "Emmanuelle" author Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane and supposed basis for the character. For the geeks, Stawski was also Tony Vincenzo on "The Night Stalker" series, Frenchy was John Hammond in the "Jurassic Park" movies, Po-Han was the wizard in "Conan the Destroyer" and Victor Shu was Lo Pan in "Big Trouble in Little China."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Noble Causes Vol. I: In Sickness And In Health

I never had much use for Jay Faerber. He kicked around the industry quite a bit in the late '90s/early '00s, mostly on books I had no interest in reading. When he did cross my path, it was usually on forgettable fill-ins, or fodder for anthologies. The only extended consideration I gave him was on "Titans," where he followed Devin Grayson's disappointing run with some okay stories that didn't manage to keep me buying the book. I noticed that as his mainstream work seemed to fizzle out, he carved a little niche for himself with a small line of related super-hero titles at Image Comics. I figured, "good for him," but gave it little more thought.

This leads me to my theory about the downfall of super-hero comics: the weight of expectation. I was really looking forward to Devin Grayson taking on Titans after some nice solo Nightwing stories she had done, only to find she didn't seem to have the slightest idea of how to handle writing team dynamics. The truth is, Titans fans have been waiting for someone to recapture the magic of the Wolfman/Perez "New Teen Titans" since about 1987, and that's a pipe dream. After all these years, you'd really think we would have learned our lesson.

By the same token, when everyone and their brother was conceiving whole new universe to compete with Marvel and DC in the early '90s, I was there to sample each of them, dollars in hand. I sunk a lot of bills into awful Image comics, not to mention Dark Horse Comics Greatest World, Valiant, Malibu Ultraverse, Triumphant, Defiant and even a few Jim Shooter had nothing to do with. Of course, none of these matched the excitement of first discovering the Big Boys, or Star Wars, or Indiana Jones, etc.etc. You can't fabricate lightning in a bottle, after all.

Which brings me to today, when I'm finding that with the coming new year, I have exactly one DC Comics series I can look forward to collecting every month (R.E.B.E.L.S., the very last revival of a beloved series I ever expected to happen.) I haven't supported a Marvel series in a long time. I'm so tired of waiting for someone to get my childhood favorites "right," which typically means exactly the way I remember them from when we first became acquainted. Nostalgia will eat itself, whether through numbing repetition or the heinous shock tactics that have sullied all our super-heroes in recent years.

Here's the thing: some characters were created to be fucked with. Guys like Adam Warlock and Guy Gardner positively beg creators to dick with them, as they were misfit toys their own "parents" cast off, but were redeemed through odd twists and perverted currents. Today, even the weirdos are too sacred to be played with, typically just killed off and replaced before the inevitable resurrection. I'm sick of the same old, but I don't want to see some twisted version of Kitty Pryde, either.

What I've found I need is to locate creators who work in their own little niche, crafting stories they're personally invested in and have complete control over. You know, guys concerned mostly about pleasing themselves first, but inviting you along for the ride. I don't need a monthly fix, but I'd like to enjoy a good comic book on something like a regular basis.

Re-enter Jay Faerber. With his "Noble Causes" series coming to a close after years as a cult favorite, and heat surrounding his new "Dynamo 5" series, I figured it was about time I gave the guy a proper chance. I'm damned glad I did, as the initial Noble Causes trade felt like a remedy on my reading.

I recon every variation on the super-hero has been tried, so nothing is going to be entirely original. You can sum the Noble Family up as "Fantastic Four meets All My Children," but I never liked the FF, and Faerber doesn't wallow in analogues like Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis. The Nobles have their own feel, unique make-up, and some gloriously dark turns from the norm. Their adventures are exciting, funny, and compelling. The characters are developed well enough to take on a life of their own, and this first trade is not only an excellent entry point for decades-long fanboys like me, but also their wives or precocious children. Reading "Noble Causes" reminds me of why I loved comics when I was seven, but is written in such a way that I can take full pleasure in them again in my thirties. Bottle, meet lightning.

Those kudos extend to the art, another area this book was blessed. Billy Dallas Patton opens things nicely, but the real gem is Patrick Gleason on one of his earliest efforts. It's amazing how good this guy was from "go," and he just gets better with each passing issue. There are also a series of back-up stories providing history on the family by talents like Amanda Conner, Jeff Johnson, Jimmy Palmiotti and more. It's a feast for the eyes.

My only complaint is it all ends to soon, but I intend to seek out the Archive edition to pick up on more of this series. After years of feeling lost amongst corporate comics, it's great to find more work from people who seem to take as much pleasure in producing as I do in reading.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008)

The Short Version? Eight year old son of evil Nazi befriends 8 y.o. Jewish inmate.
What Is It? Drama
Who's In It? Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis
Should I See It? No.

At some point, "never again" really needs to apply to Hollywood productions. The Holocaust has become a genre unto itself, after all. There's only so many different ways fetishized Nazis can torment emaciated bald ethnic types before descending into not only cliché, but outright exploitation. They're now an unholy marriage of the heartwarming "retard" Oscar-grab performance and a slasher movie. "Pajamas" is an excellent example of my theory, as it never met a trope it didn't like.

David Thewlis plays a father who doesn't appear to love his children, commands a labor camp, wears a Totenkopf, smirks at the funeral of his own mother, and generally turns a blind eye to the most egregious breaches of decorum. Vera Farmiga is the ambitious mother, who is somehow unaware of the treatment of Jews under Hitler until the closing months of the second World War, when she is suddenly struck by overwhelming conscience. David Hayman is the semetic former doctor turned humble and hobbled servant with a heart of gold. Rupert Friend is the sexy but overzealous young Nazi with a dark secret. Amber Beattie is the lonely daughter who finds puppy love and ideology among the Third Reich. Asa Butterfield is son Bruno, just trying to understand this gosh-darn mixed-up world he's living in, with his only friend being Zac Mattoon O'Brien, the Jew "playmate" whose jacked-up teeth do most of his acting for him. Wrapped up in a PG-13 rating, this is a loving tribute to the After School Special by way of Merchant Ivory.

The entire movie is oh so very on the nose. It seems to have been written by imputing every other Holocaust movie into a computer program, then running some sort of "high concept" filter over the material to insure it prints out an appropriate script-- the first time it saw human hands in the process. The film is completely obvious and paint-by-numbers until the very end, when Baruch Adonai, the bastards dial the presumed poetically ironic ending up to "11." It's one of the most outrageously stupid and implausible finales since "High Tension." M. Night Shyamalan wishes he could match it. It puts the "camp" in "concentration camp." Oy vey.

Side Note: I was making out with my Mexican girlfriend before the coming attractions, marking the umpteenth time I had to choke down a Seinfeld reference she wouldn't get.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

1987 Epic Comics "The New Alien Legion" Ad

Alien Legion was an early and among the longest lived ongoing series of the Epic Comics line. Created by Carl Potts as a French Foreign Legion in outer space, the 1984 series was restarted in 1987 at a lower cover price with a new status quo. Per GCD: "Two years after losing Nomad Squadron on a suicide mission on Quaal, Major Sarigar resigns his commission. Sarigar then searches for answers about what exactly happened on Nomad Squadron's last mission." I wouldn't know myself, as I think I only ever read one issue something like twenty years ago...

Friday, November 14, 2008

1987 Epic Comics "Video Jack" Ad

I became a huge fan of Keith Giffen's "Jose Munoz" period art style at an early age, but I could never get into his tendency toward vague, alienating, avant-garde stories, especially in that same period. Just as "Justice League" was turning into a hit, Giffen tried his hands at a creator-owned series about a couch potato who is literally sucked into TV-land. I read one of the six issues when I was maybe twelve, couldn't follow it in the slightest, and never bothered with it again. Still, the series is now being serialized for free at Komikwerks, so maybe I'll give it another shot sometime...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Frank Review of "Pumpkin" (2002)

The Short Version? Sorority Sister falls for Special Olympian.
What Is It? Dark/Romantic Comedy
Who's In It? Christina Ricci, Dominique Swain, Melissa McCarthy
Should I See It? No.

This movie would like to be a dark, edgy satire. It is instead soft and dull. Its characters are thin, its performances are broad, and it plods at every turn. It tries to recall John Waters and films like "...But I'm a Cheerleader." It instead plays like a limp teen comedy. There are moments here and there that might give one pause... cause a bit of minor unease... but they never go on long or travel far enough to be of real concern. If you enjoy playing couch quarterback, thinking of directions not taken that would have made for a better film, this would be excellent inducement for discussion of the many ways it could have been improved. Sookie from "The Gilmore Girls" plays "Sookie: The College Years." Dominique Swain's role is so minor and drab, you'd be forgiven for missing her presence entirely. Christina Ricci is pretty and rarely wears a bra. That there is the only cause for recommendation I'm prepared to offer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Black Emanuelle 2 (1976)

Character Name: Emanuelle Richman
Actress: Shulamith Lasri
Actual Movie Title: Emanuelle Nera No. 2
Known Aliases: The New Black Emanuelle; Black Emanuelle No. 2; Black Emanuelle 2
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: U.S.A.
Character Age: 23
Occupation: Model
Religion: Catholic
Married: Fred Morgan on April 19, 1973 at St. Paul's Church
Locales: Beirut, Venice, Manhattan
Release Date: July 31, 1976 (Italy)
Director: Bitto Albertini
DVD: Black Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 2 (1976-1978)
Stats: Second Black Emanuelle #2

Story: The movie starts with a black screen and the words "THE SICKNESS THAT DISTURB ME MOST IS MYSELF," attributed to Sigmund Freud. Next, we see the new, African-descended Emanuelle fully nude with her arms bound above her head. She's whipped bloody by a medieval torturer and ordered to speak, but refuses. Next, she's barking in a bamboo cage in the jungle, wearing skins, as a white poacher threatens her with a pitchfork. Next, she's taunted in a Latin prison by a knife wielding officer who cuts the threading of her dress to expose her large breast. Next she's kicked to the forest floor by a guerrilla, again demanded to speak. Next she's manhandled under the hot lamp in a jailhouse interrogation.

That was the title sequence. It had nothing much to do with anything, and it's all downhill from there.

The new Black Emanuelle's story really begins in a mental health clinic, where she's suffering from amnesia and wild delusions. We are told she was in Beirut in January 1976, where we're shown a surprisingly well staged action sequence, as warring factions exchange gunfire on a ravaged street. The world-famous model is being guided through the chaos by her photographer, John Farmer, but an explosion knocks her unconscious. From there we're back to the booby hatch.

Her therapist Paul (Angelo Infanti, a young Martin Landau lookalike) is trying to help Emanuelle Richman regain her memory. He's less concerned with his recently-returned niece Sharon, who sees her routine institutionalization as a vacation and opportunity to seduce her fellows. Paul also has an attention-starved wife at home, Susan (Dagmar Lassander,) who pouts that the clinic has "widowed" her.

Paul sets about investigating Emanuelle's past, starting with what looks to be the same newspaper/magazine offices the Laura Gemser Emanuelle works out of. Paul questions the photographer, John Farmer, who has a great professional relationship with his model, but tense personal one. Per his account, Emanuelle once seduced him, only to violently spurn him before actually copulating, screaming he was a "filthy pig." Emanuelle later claimed she was the one seduced, but the photographer attacked her while wearing black leather and a red motorcycle helmet.

Emanuelle next recalled her father, who she said was a ghetto alcoholic trumpet player who tried to molest her. We're even treated to his vomiting in a gutter, which sure turned me on. Thing is, Emanuelle's father came to visit her, well-dressed, and never having had a drink in his life. He was a musician, but mostly played piano, as well as guitar and cello. He revealed his daughter's mother had died in childbirth, and "left us both pretty lonely." Mr. Richman (Don Powell) played night clubs, while Emanuelle grew up isolated, but otherwise average. "Except that I think she was more intelligent than most kids." She grew up in Harlem with Fred Morgan (Percy Hogan.)

Emanuelle became friendly with a nurse named Gloria over her stay, who was sleeping with the night watchman. Overbearing niece Sharon thrust herself into Emanuelle's life, declaring all psychiatrists "voyeurs," then began manipulating Emanuelle for her own satisfaction. While playing an audio tape relating Emanuelle's childhood arousal at watching animals mate, the pair engage in brief mutual masturbation.

Mr. Richman visited Emanuelle's estranged husband Fred Morgan in the city, hoping he could help his daughter, but was refused. Richman then visited Emanuelle for the first time since her arrival at Paul's approval, but she didn't recognize her own father. With concentration, she saw him as the fictionalized derelict, and then as husband Fred, who she tried to make out with. Mr. Richman pushed her away when she went for his pants, and he left her room in tears.

Fred Morgan, famed pro basketball player (formerly of the Black Tigers, now with the Five Stars) was interviewed by Paul (posing as a columnist) about his temporary decline on the court two years earlier. Fred blamed Emanuelle's sexual insatiability, and forsook the marriage for his game.

Sharon talked Emanuelle into drunken nude body painting and cavorting in the only extended sequence of interest. Sharon then triggered an alarm, left Emanuelle sauced on an observation room floor, showered, and called her uncle's wife to insinuate he was having an affair with Emanuelle. Paul figured out who was behind the debacle, and quelled his wife's fears.

A long dull period sets in here, partially involving a silly subplot with a committed military general. Fred remembers his romance with Emanuelle, including their near-first time at the beach. Just as suddenly as she wanted sex, Emanuelle threatened Fred away with a rock, calling him "filthy." Their attempts at sex always floundered. On their wedding night, she revealed she wasn't a virgin, and had been with many men, perhaps white-- she couldn't remember. After that confession and with Fred's tenderness, Emanuelle switched from frigid to ravenous with her husband.

Paul made up with his wife. Sharon took Emanuelle to the shore for an awkward three-way with a well hung beach bum. Emanuelle was reunited with Fred, her mind envisioning their wedding day as present. Fred later hooked-up with Sharon, who called to tell Emanuelle in the midst of the action. Emanuelle remembered a motorcycle accident. Paul's research into archived newspapers turned up an article (sics-o-plenty):

"The red helmets strike again

Sam and Emanuelle Richman, a young negro brother and sister, were attached last night by this violent and elusive gang.

Sam died under the vicious blows of the as-sassins. His sister is will recover within five days. The Police are working in the dark."

Paul confronted Mr. Richman with the new evidence, the key to Emanuelle's fractured psyche. Dad was all out of the town at the time, like that mattered when it came to revealing this huge trauma, or leading the audience on that Emanuelle was an only child. The movie eats itself. Paul leads Emanuelle to a motorcycle stunt show, which triggers the repressed memory of Sam's murder and her rape. Emanuelle is cured and released from the hospital.

Emanuelle is forced to choose who she'll leave with: her father, her husband, and (out of nowhere) the photographer John Farmer. A figure rides up on a motorcycle, covered in leather with a red helmet. It's crazy niece Sharon, with whom Emanuelle rides off to catch a plane to Maui. Paul and his wife go to see Mr. Richman play.

Notes: In regard to its place in the "Emanuelle Nera" cannon, this was "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch." It's a series entry with a numerical designation, but was released after the second Laura Gemser entry, and featured entirely different characters and situations of limited interest to fans.

Summation: The second Black Emanuelle is actually black for a change, but she's no Emanuelle. While attractive and questing, this Emanuelle has a full backstory and crippling inhibitions that separate her almost entirely from all others. While this entry is probably the best written movie of the Black Emanuelle series, as it has a proper story, it's also the closest to a wet blanket with its frustrating lack of healthy sexuality. The sex scenes are perplexing in their brevity and interruptus. Ultimately, unlike the Emmanuelle series, Black Emanuelle is really defined by one actress, Laura Gemser. Saddled with a script that confused neurosis with sexploitation, Shulamith Lasri never stood a chance of unseating her, and she never made another picture. There are so many unrelated Laura Gemser movies re-branded as "Emanuelle," it's easy to forget this number and assign any one of them the role as second in the series.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marshal Law #4 (August 1988)

Marshal Law #3 (April 1988)

Celeste worried about the effects of her fiance Buck Caine's use of anabolic steroids-- his mood swings, depression, and other health concerns. All the other heroes are doing it, but she can't stand not to get to her peak on her own...

The California Bastards moved into Gangreen's territory, molesting civilians and extorting money. A rumble ensued, drawing the attention of Marshal Law, hovering above on the Eagle. Exchanging fire with the Bastards, the talons of the Eagle latched onto their car, and dropped most of them in the bay. One survived to climb toward Law, with his obscene muscles and claws protruding from his fists.

"The California Bastards were amputees who'd replaced limbs they lost in the war with weapons... and undergone extensive self-mutilation. I figured he was the leader. Following the mauling Gangreen had taken recently, it was inevitable they would stage a take-over." Law needed Gangrene to maintain a peaceable balance of power, so he mauled the Bastards to even things up.

As the violence ebbed, Law found Mrs. Mallon's corner store had been ransacked. She moaned, "I tell you, when I die, I won't go to Hell, because I've had my hell here with super-heroes... They're filth! Bacteria! The lowest form of life!" Danny was present as his mother ranted, and apologized for her histrionics while offering new information. "It's about the Public Spirit... He's taking anabolic steroids. It strikes me as totally ridiculous he should have so much attention and acclaim when he owes it all to a needle... I wonder if Father O'Brian found out. He's pulled out of the wedding now... That should be all you need to prove he's the Sleepman? You're going to arrest him at the wedding?"

Marshal Law visited Father O'Brian in his confessional, demanding to know why he'd pulled his services from Public Spirit and Celeste. "...We both know you're not as strong as Montgomery Clift. We both know about the times you yielded to temptation." It seemed the Father still had lust for the ladies in more than his heart. O'Brian said Caine admitted to killing the Siren Virago, who had tried to trap him into marriage with their unborn child. Caine had the matter brought to mind because he also suspected Virago had survived and given birth...

Celeste prepared for her big day: "They call me a star whore... a female icon who's set the cause of women's emancipation back thirty years... I call them a bunch of jealous dykes... They're trying to say I encouraged the Sleepman. You know the argument-- if you have a ten dollar bill hanging out of your pocket, expect to be robbed. Sorry-- but it's still stealing... Anyway, that's all over and done with now. I'm getting married to Buck and we'll live happily ever after... If that's being a 'star whore'... Guess who pulled the best trick in the world?"

Sleepman made an argument of his own, as he burst into Celeste's room...

Outside, Caine's estate was swarming with super-heroic guests and media. The Public Spirit had a perfectly canned greeting, but was visibly annoyed when one reporter asked, "So we can expect children, then? If it's a boy, he'd have both yours and Celeste's super powers. Surely that would make him the greatest super hero of all time...? Will you re-invest your dreams in your son? So he can reach even greater heights than you?" Commissioner McGland smirked as the Public Spirit excused himself.

Marshal Law stormed the compound, gun drawn, searching for Celeste. The revelry he took in en route shook his slightly. "If Hydroman, Aquanaut and H2O Lad want to hold a depilatory party... I guess it's none of my business."

Law found Celeste's body. "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Should have realized it was you all along-- only I wanted it to be him so badly... I was too eaten up with hate for the Public Spirit... The two of you used that hate... to wind me up... to set me up... I'm the patsy. The fall guy. The executioner. Like a siren, you seduced me... with your song of hate... He failed to kill you... so for twenty five years you 'slept'... waiting for him to return from the stars... Dreaming of a thousand ways to hurt, humiliate and destroy him... as he'd destroyed you. Using a disguise a thousand times more effective than all the masks, hoods and secret bases... a corner shop. Where you and Danny planned a punishment to fit his crime: Public Castration. And found someone stupid enough to do it for you."

Marshal Law burst into the chapel, and drew down on Public Spirit, voices in his head compelling him to "Blow his balls off! NOW!" Law fought off the telepathic suggestion, and tore the maid disguise off Mrs. Mallon. She continued to expose herself, revealing the Virago costume underneath her clothes...

Created and owned by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill

Marshal Law #5 (December, 1988)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

1988 Epic Comics "Doctor Zero" Ad

The short version? Ozymandias: The Ongoing Series. Or not, seeing as the title lasted only nine issues. A little loved nor missed line, assuredly.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

1988 Epic Comics "St. George" Ad

I only read an issue of this series, about a human man who uses Shadow Dweller armor to battle corrupt members of a secret, super-powered race. Didn't take, neither with myself nor the other disinterested parties who saw the book canceled in less than a year, assuming they took note of it a'tall.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Justice Liberals of America

Long months ago, I gave my opinions on the political affiliations of The Avengers and The Man of Steel. I even speculated on the The Grand Old JLA, then blew off bothering with my own party until now. I haven't read "Decisions", but I figure I can still spot the members of the Justice League of America who helped carry Obama to victory a few days back...

Green Arrow (Oliver Queen & Connor Hawke) & Red Arrow (Roy Harper): Duh.

Black Canary (Dinah Lance): A left-leaning feminist moderate, partly through association.

Green Lantern (John Stewart and Kyle Rayner): A former black militant and a freelance artist with as many gay friends as straight? Duh duh.

Batman (Bruce Wayne): One of those scary, fascistic Democrats that gives Rush Limbaugh night terrors. The Joker is the new Willie Horton. Batman has devoted his life to combating amoral capitalists, while himself a liberal elitist with deep pockets. In favor of gun control, counciling over imprisonment, welfare programs, and has occasionally even taken over the media through hi-tech means.

Wonder Woman: A Hillary Clinton "It Takes a Village" type, perfectly willing to send the troops after WMDs, then personally investigate issues with child support payments for her low-income friends. The most inclusionistic leader of the JLA in history, without regard to race, creed, color, gender identity, power level, general lameness or planet of origin.

Aquaman (Orin/Arthur Curry): An unpopular reformer amongst his people, with some viewing him as a criminal and outsider. Victim of religious persecution from dangerous fundamentalists. Married outside his dimension, adopted a boy who turned to sorcery, soft on crime, and constantly struggles to keep his citizens and military from instigating conflict with neighbors.

Martian Manhunter (J'Onn J'Onzz): An admitted Communist, the second and longest-term inclusionist JLA leader, opposed to the death penalty in even the worst cases, and constantly at odds with conservatives Hawkman, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Atom and Triumph.

Zatanna Zatara: A stage magician and member of the Detroit-based Justice League who practiced tantric magic with John Constantine. Didn't she shoot one of those "Don't Vote" viral videos with Shirley MacLaine and Tom Cruise?

Mister Miracle (Scott Free): After decades spent on Apokolips, you couldn't really call him a liberal. He's most concerned with the happiness of himself and those nearest to him, but even still, he can't rest easily when others are not as free as himself. A moderate.

Rocket Red 4 (Dimitri Pushkin): Was communist loving freedoms of assignment in Land of Opportunity! What a country!

Fire (Beatriz da Costa): You know she's a Hugo Chavez fan, right?

Ice (Tora Olafsdotter): Environmentalist. Animal right activist. Bleeding heart.

Blue Jay (Jay Abrams): Ditto, though I'd say less concerned about PETA than GLAAD.

Animal Man (Buddy Baker): As above, but less a bleeding heart.

Lightray (Sollis): He's from New Genesis. They're all about the Great Society.

General Glory (Joseph Jones): A New Deal/Yellow Dog Democrat, not unlike the Marvel Comics model.

The Flash (Jay Garrick): See above, without the Marvel aside. Slightly more metropolitan that Barry and Wally, don'cha know? Contrasts Alan Scott's conservativism.

Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins): An Australian poof. He'd damned well better be a liberal.

Crimson Fox (Vivian and Constance d'Aramis): French. Need I elaborate?

Nuklon (Albert Rothstein): He took a hard right turn for a bit there, but he's still a nice Jewish boy who spent most of his time in the JLA with Fire and Obsidian.

Obsidian (Todd Rice): An unsteady Dem, as he was raised by Midwestern sociopaths, but finally stopped being so emo and came out of the closet.

Amazing Man (Will Everett, III): Like Will Everett II didn't march and have a picture of Kennedy and/or Johnson on his wall?

Blue Devil (Daniel Cassidy): He's one of those "Hollywood" types. Not counting Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer.

Icemaiden (Sigrid Nansen): A Norwegian lesbian with a thing for Fire. Do the math.

Plastic Man (Patrick "Eel" O'Brien): A reformed thief whose best pal/sidekick is also a reformed thief, and who had a child out of wedlock. Hoover must have been dyspeptic.

Moon Maiden (Laura Klein): Such a product of '60s Camelot, how could she not?

Ambush Bug (Irwin Schwab): A "Boll Weevil."

Black Lightning (Jefferson Pierce): Though part of the Luthor Administration, still a tireless social reformer focused on equal opportunity through education.

Geo-Force (Prince Brion Markov): Self-righteous Euro-twat.

See also: Steel (John Henry Irons,) Hippolyta

I have to say, the republican list was more surprising, and of a higher quality. Maybe it's about historically uptight DC skewing right wing?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

1988 Epic Comics "Powerline" Ad

After "Elektra: Assassin" made Marvel all that money as a mature readers take on a corporate-owned character, they looked to have cast about for a way to further capitalize on the trend, without endangering the licensing ability of their bread and butter heroes. Shadowline may have been one result, a shared universe under the Epic imprint. While Archie Goodwin generated most of the characters and concepts, just as happened with Jim Shooter's "New Universe," the actual books were passed off to unknowns and wash-outs. Hiring Elektra's Bill Sienkiewicz to paint the initial covers was ultimately perceived as putting lipstick on a pig, and the three titles were all canceled with a year. For similar failed attempts at sell-out books dressed-up like creator-controlled projects, see Dark Horse Comics Greatest World and Malibu's Ultraverse...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Marshal Law #3 (April 1988)

Marshal Law #2 (February 1988)



Under the Secret Powers Act no mention is to be made of the following:
1) The death of the Public Spirit's first fiancee, the Siren Virago, twenty five years ago in a drowning accident.
2) The false accusation of police auxiliary Marshal Law that she was murdered by the Public Spirit because she was pregnant.
3) His further accusation that her pregnancy would have prevented the
Public Spirit from going on his star mission.
4) SHOCC Policy that such astronauts must not have children, due to time dilation on ships traveling close to the speed of light.
5) Any connection between the Public Spirit and the Sleepman: the murderer and rapist of five women dressed like the Public Spirit's second fiancee, the Siren Celeste.
6) The rape and murder by the Sleepman of the student Lynn Evans who was dressed as Celeste during a feminist protest at the Superdome.

Marshal Law fought to contain the caped criminals' violent breakout at the Superdome, but broke off engagement when he spied the Sleepman flying overhead. The serial killer landed in Hero-Land, where he was found by a pair of boys playing at being super. "They, too, have been afflicted by this super hero disease. Fortunately, I can cure them. I could not bear for them to go through what I went through as a child..." The boys were soon no more among the living. "Now, be brave lad... Remember... you're a hero."

The Sleepman lay in wait for Marshal Law, firing energy blasts from his hands into Gilmore's chest. "You would not think he was an antibody. When you look at him... you see, at first, a brutal thug... But when you look closer, you see... a brutal thug. But look closer still-- behind the mask-- and you see... the face of justice. The face of ordinary humanity. Fighting back, with righteous anger, against those of us who act as if we were gods... who look down from our Olympian mansions on lesser mortals... I salute you with my beams, Marshal. I love you. I love the work you do." Law and the Sleepman continued to exchange fire and blows, until the filth humbled the Marshal long enough to escape.

Marshal Law hit his regular corner store on the way home, where he chatted with MILF proprietor Mrs. Mallon, and picked up a noticeably lighter order. "She's left you then? Oh, I'm sorry, Marshal. I know how you feel. I remember when Danny's father left us... I never thought I'd get over it-- but you do... in time..."

Joe Gilmore began rebuilding the wall that separated his apartment from that of his murdered girlfriend Lynn. Earlier, her majorly uptight parents had stopped by to collect her things. "How could they ever understand Lynn? They told me they'd tried. They told me about all the arguments. All the unhappiness she'd caused them. I should have told them not to worry, she wouldn't make them unhappy anymore... but I was choking at the time. As they left, he whispered, 'Did you see the needle marks on his arm? He's another one pressing the self-destruct button.' Before I met Lynn I thought I knew everything. Then I read her books. Listened to her ideas... She'd opened up my world. But her parents were right. I was on something all right. Pure hate."

Returning to duty at his secret police cave, Marshal Law learned Scapegoat had been arrested from Danny. "He confessed to being the Sleepman. Wanted to know if he'd done enough to go to the chair." Danny then briefed Law on new evidence gathered that Public Spirit had the same rare blood type as the Sleepman. Kiloton added that he'd heard at a party from She-Beast that Buck Caine was furiously jealous over Celeste's sexploits as a Siren. Marshal Law presented these findings to a disinterested Commissioner McGland. "I was a SHOCC Officer in the Zone. Marshal Law served under me, so I know how to handle him. Especially as I'm a super hero myself. I'm a super liar." Appealing to his patriotism, promising action after Caine's nuptials, and noting Public Spirit's upcoming donation of a million dollars to the Midnight refuge for disabled heroes/veterans, McGland brought his dog to heel. "I save the best for last... I arrange for the Public Spirit to visit the Midnight to present the check... Marshal Law has to make a welcoming speech... It nearly kills him... I've put the lid back on the scandal and no... unpleasantness."

Buck Caine made with messianic posturing amongst the hobbled Midnight patients, while Sorry the Nearly Man tended to their needs without any sign of glory forthcoming. When the Public Spirit made his exit, he found Gangreen vandalizing his car. Caine blew Hot Head's cranium to pieces with an energy blast exactly like the one the Sleepman had launched earlier. Marshal Law jumped into the fray, bludgeoning Suicida and his gang with a sledgehammer. McGland was pleased that the San Futuro Police Department's own vigilante lawman, their "lunatic with barbed wire wrapped round his arm, who out-Ramboes Rambo," would continue to show the public they were on top of neighborhood crime at "a fraction of the price of really policing the inner city." Public Spirit was glad to be off Law's hook. Sorry proclaimed, "A team-up at last!" And Marshal Law himself...?

"Enjoy your freedom... Until your checks cleared. Until-- the wedding. Then I'm coming after you again... Buck. If you're the new messiah... I'm going to be the one to drive in the nails."

Created and owned by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill

Marshal Law #4 (August 1988)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008)

The Short Version? See title.
What Is It? Romantic/Sex Comedy
Who's In It? Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords and lots of other cameos/bit parts.
Should I See It? Maybe.

I like Kevin Smith. He's a funny, quick-witted guy. As a writer given time to carefully consider his words? Not so much. Everything that makes him seem clever in persona drags his films down. Off-the-cuff dialogue, characters that are mild variations on a single mold, and ultimately a predictable, saccharine nature masked by excessive profanity. Since "Jersey Girl," Smith has seemed geared for generic date movies/family fare, and "Zack and Miri" is no exception.

Part of the problem is Smith's raiding the cast of Judd Apatow regulars, drawing comparisons to recent classics like "Knocked Up," "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express," against which "Zack and Miri" pale. When you're not being faced with cameos by the lesser members of Apatow troupe to take you out of the picture, it's a Smith regular doing their usual mugging, or someone like Traci Lords to really distract. Brandon Routh has some meta-fun with the confusion around his gender identity, while Justin Long draws laughs as he hams it up with a Dr. Girlfriend voice. At times, the whole affair seems more like lighter John Waters than Kevin Smith, and certainly Waters own take on this material (A Dirty Shame) had more bite.

I personally find Seth Rogen a pretty appealing guy, but setting him up with Banks without referencing the disparity between his attributes and hers (as was done in "Knocked Up") is far-fetched beyond words. For the first time in recent memory having not contributed to his own dialogue, Rogen has little of interest to say, delivery unable to cover the weakness. As difficult to believe as Rosario Dawson would have been as Miri, a role written for but rejected by the actress, Elizabeth Banks is an even further stretch. A woman as conventionally beautiful and whitebred as Banks needed massive psychological problems to play the roommate to Seth Rogen in a hovel. Instead, there's no reason given for why she hadn't been scooped up by the first well-heeled stranger to cross her path, rendering the entire story some sort of misguided romantic farce.

Even the staunchest defenders of porn recognizes its creation alters everyone involved, but somehow this is the most light-hearted, feel-good fuck fest ever put to film. It comes across as terribly naive, with the only repercussion being a typical last act break-up before the star-crossed lovers inevitably reunite. This is a Kate Hudson movie with a cockring, to vile for the Meg Ryan devotee, but far too tame for fans of edgier fare. The movie is good for some chuckles, but I find it falls flatly on the "Mallrats" side of watchability.

NSFW, but more amusing than most of the actual film:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Xavier Institute For Higher Learning Diploma (1998)

This came bagged with an issue of Wizard years back. I'm afraid I treated my copy poorly, partly due to my becoming an anti-mutant bigot sometime after Chris Claremont left the X-Men and people like Rob Liefeld stood in his stead.


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