Archive for April, 2011
Well, if you watched last week’s exciting episode, you learned two things. First, this incarnation of Captain America is way different from just about any other. Second, flying in the face of movie serial tropes, you know who the mysterious Scarab is right off the bat! As for the cliffhanger? Let me tell you, that is definitely the most realistic building collapse a 1940′s serial budget could buy! That is to say, well, not terribly convincing. How do you think Captain America will get out of this one? If it were Steve Rogers, I’d bet he’d just shrug off a building, using his shield as a brace. For District Attorney Grant Gardner though? I dunno, maybe he’ll shoot it or something. At any rate, we’ll find out in chapter 2: Mechanical Executioner!
Hope you all liked that! As a bonus, here is the one-sheet poster for this very chapter!
This week’s FF is another Frantic look at history, through the lens of comedy. The Frantics have always had a humorous take on the history of the world, and it is one of the things I enjoy the most about their work. This clip comes from very early in the radio career of the quartet, but it’s still one of my very favorite clips. In this clip, we find ourselves in France where one of the most famous episodes of Vincent Van Gogh’s life plays out, though not in the way you may have learned in your history books.
In case you were wondering, Toulouse was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He is one of the greatest post-impressionist painters in history, and was really a contemporary of Van Gogh’s. He was also very short. “Claire” is probably a mash-up of two prostitutes from Van Gogh’s life, Rachel, who he actually did give his ear to, for safekeeping, and Clasina Maria “Sien” Hoornik, who he shared a relationship with. To be honest, I am not entirely sure on that, but it’s what my personal research leads me to believe. At any rate, the way the Frantics alter real life events for the sake of comedy is effective in a few ways. First, it’s really funny, second, it makes history a bit more fun, and lastly, it inspired me to learn more about the actual life of Van Gogh! That’s a testament to their skill, and I hope you were entertained and learned something as well!
If you read these columns, you must know by now that I adore the Marvel Family. I’ve previously brought you the origins of both Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr., but today the core of the Family gets completed. I’ve always liked Mary, even more than Supergirl, she is the definition of wholesome. While modern writers have both literally and figuratively corrupted her, when I think of Mary Marvel, I think of that header image to the side. She’s bursting with healthy beauty, but more than prepared to hold her own with the boys. Let’s get on with the show, and the Secret Origin of… Mary Marvel!
As our tale of whimsy and wonderment begins, we find young Billy Batson having a meet and greet with the contestants of a radio quiz show he’ll be hosting. First off is a stuck up young gentleman named Percy Pill. He is “the smartest kid in the state” so the board of education themselves has sent him to participate. He’s so unimportant to the story that he’s completely forgotten after he answers his first quiz question. The next contestant is Mary Bromfield. Billy takes an instant liking to her, which could be construed as kind of a crush, but we wont go there because it’s icky. Anyway, she was sent to compete on behalf of all of the girls. Billy finally gets to the third contestant, Freddy Freeman, who as you should know is really Captain Marvel Jr. Who does he represent? Well, let’s just say that in the 40′s people weren’t exactly sensitive.
The quiz show starts, and it seems all three children are pretty intelligent. Billy is still fixated on Mary though, noticing her odd, broken locket. The show goes on, and during an advertising break, Billy gets a message from one Sarah Primm, pleading for Billy to see her, as she is dying and this is “most urgent”. Billy, being the Mensch that he is, is right one the case, but not before Mr. Morris, the manager of station WHIZ asks him why is he abandoning his post. A valid question, but Billy assure Mr. Morris that he’ll be back in five minutes. Billy then says his magic word and shoots off to see Mrs. Primm as Captain Marvel! This could be seen as a blatant misuse of the powers of Shazam, but come on! The lady is dying, after all.
Captain Marvel reaches his destination, and turns back into Billy, seeing as he doesn’t want to give a woman on her deathbed a heart attack. As he reaches her, she immediately tells Billy she has a story to relate about his parents! Billy is all like, “What are you gonna tell me? I already know they’re dead.” Sarah says, yes, yes they are but his sister is not! Billy is pretty shocked, as you may reason, but the story he’s about to hear is even more shocking. So shocking that it could be the plot of a movie on Lifetime.
You can probably guess how this turns out, but that doesn’t make Sarah Primm any less of a ghoul. She steals the female baby away and passes it off as the dead child. It’s such a foolproof plan that no one even questions why there is only one Batson child now. Maybe hospital regulations were just really, really loose in those days. Billy obviously wants to know who raised his sister and where might she be. Sarah says he’ll know her by a broken locket, and she gives Billy the other half. Great, she’s not only a kidnapper, but she’s also a jewelry thief. She is about to tell Billy what his sister’s last name is, but she suddenly dies, but to be honest I think she faked her death so she wouldn’t have to face charges. Just then, Billy realizes his five minutes are about up, so he changes to Cap, flies back to the studio, rushes by Mr. Morris, who is impatiently tapping his foot. Billy tries to explain himself, but he is utterly flabbergasted.
Billy finishes the quiz show, which apparently only consisted of four questions, one for each contestant then a tie-breaker. Mary Bromfield wins the quiz, although there doesn’t seem to be a prize. After the show, Billy is saying his goodbyes to Mary and Freddy (I told you Percy was unimportant!). As Mary is chauffeured away, Billy ponders to himself that it’d be great if a swell gal like Mary Bromfield was his sister. Freddy overhears him, and Billy tells the story, ending on the locket. Then, mind like a steel trap, Billy learns to add two and two when he remembers Mary did indeed have a broken locket. Quicker than you can say Shazam/Captain Marvel, Billy and Freddy change into their alter egos. the speed of Mercury may not be what it used to be though, because Mary is being kidnapped! Thankfully, this trait doesn’t become an essential part of her character. The two Captains Marvel trail the bad guys to their hideout, which is nice and subtle, but once they arrive, they pretty much say “screw subtlety” by their actions.
The two heroes literally take down Mary’s assailants in one panel. After the fracas, Mary fawns over Cap Sr. at which point he just straight up asks her if she has the other half of the broken locket. It’s not like she just went through a traumatic experience or anything. The halves of course fit, and I’m guessing one of Captain Marvel’s lesser known powers is DNA Test Vision, as he instantly know that it means that Mary is really Mary Batson! Mary believes him, because the erstwhile Mrs. Primm told her that the locket would one day change her life, so there you go. Mary is a smart cookie though. She asks Captain Marvel where is Billy, anyway? Then the two Caps reveal who they really are. Mary gives her newfound brother a heartfelt peck on the cheek. It’s really quite sweet, but then Billy has to go and ruin the moment.
As the trio argue like well, siblings, the thugs turn out not to be as dispatched as we were led to believe. Being bad guys from a Captain Marvel story, they have no idea when the two Captains Marvel went, but are still prescient enough to gag both Billy and Freddy before they can say their respective magic words. Mary plays the role of mistress of the obvious, as she just repeats what just happened, but since she literally says “Billy can’t say Shazam!” Well, something pretty wonderous happens.
Everyone is pretty taken aback at this turn of events, Mary included. In fact, at first, she is completely oblivious to the baddies attempting grievous bodily harm, more enamored with the fact that she has what is an admittedly awesome costume. She quickly acclimates herself though, and it’s not like she can be harmed, so she gets a pass. After she gets shot at a few time, she really gets into the physical aspects of being a super heroine. and makes quick (and more thorough) work than her brother or Freddy did.
And so, the day is saved, thanks to Mary. The story isn’t quite over yet though. There is still the question of why and how does Mary have powers in the first place. Billy says that she can’t possibly have the same gifts he does, since Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury were all dudes, and she is “just a girl”. At this point if I were Mary, long-lost brother or not, I’d slap Billy silly. The trio decide to visit the old wizard himself to see what the heck is going on. They fly to the famous subway tunnel, are once again greeted by the statues of the “Seven Deadly Enemies of Man”, and before you know it, they have their audience with Shazam…
Shazam never actually explains where Mary got her powers, although it’s implied he did it. Who knows when though? Mary certainly doesn’t remember it. And Shazam is so riddled with age, that he probably couldn’t remember if he tried. Nevertheless, everyone is satisfied with this explanation, and they take their leave of Shazam’s abode. Once everyone leaves the subway, they say their goodbyes and give a little tease to the future…
Captain Marvel was true to his word. Mary not only got her own headlines in Wow Comics, she got her own self-titled book a few years after her debut. Mary was truly a pioneer. Heck, her stories actually stopped being published before Supergirl even debuted. She had her own line of fashion accessories/clothing for young girls. Truly she is one of the great characters in comic fiction. I just hope that one day a writer will come along and de-tartify her current incarnation.
This week, we’re starting a new serial! This one is really quite interesting, and it ties into the current movie season! Captain America is a Republic serial, that usually means a couple of things for serial fans. A) Expect a lot of fun and B) Don’t expect a faithful adaptation. Watching this, you’ll find that Captain America is not Steve Rogers, doesn’t carry a shield, but doesn’t have any qualms about gunplay. The thing that jarred me the most though is the lack of ears and wings on the cowl. It’s very surreal, but really fascinating to watch. It’s kind of the poster boy for keeping tight rein on your adaptation. As opposed to Green Hornet, I actually have a lot of stuff related to this serial, so I’ll be sharing some each week, but first, let’s watch Chapter 1 of Captain America: The Purple Death!
Crazy stuff. Anyway, here are some of the cool extras I have from this chapter of the serial:
Hope you liked the show! I’ll be back next week with Chapter 2!
This week, I’m presenting one of the Frantics most famous bits ever: Last Will & Temperament. It originated the whole “boot to the head” phenomenon. Being one of the most famous skits, when the Frantics moved to television, they brought some of their best material, and LW&T was no exception. Here I share with you, both that clip, and the original, which can be bought on the Frantic Times CD (sadly out of print). You’ll notice the audio makes up for not having the visual comedy of someone getting kicked in the face, by having a bit at the very end that could not be done on television. Enjoy!
It has been said a hero is defined by their villains. I think this is a pretty truthful statement. I like to think of it this way: Spider-Man had a live action TV show in the 70′s, the Flash did in the 90′s. Spidey tanked pretty quick, partly due to the fact that there weren’t any super villains on the show, and had the webhead taking on petty crooks and the like. While the Flash only lasted one season, it is better remembered, especially the episodes with the Trickster. Villains make the hero more entertaining just by being there! An easy way to create a villain is to use the “dark mirror” method of just making the villain the goateed evil opposite of the hero. This works well more often than not, but my favorite example of this is a dark mirror villain who takes that trope and spins it on its ear. This baddie has a similar origin to the hero, but the effects cause a decidedly opposite reaction, as we’ll see in: The Secret Origin of… The Leader!
As our story begins, the Leader is sitting, deep in thought with his newest creation, the Humanoid! That’s something you should know about a genius intellect; You can make amazingly sophisticated electronic apparatus, but you’re gonna suck at naming stuff. Anyway, the leader starts to remove his radiation/beekeeper’s suit and starts to think back to how he got his start…
And as always in the Marvel Universe, the laborer didn’t develop cancer or instantly die of radiation poisoning. Instead, he wakes up in the hospital pretty much none the worse for the wear. There is one thing though. The laborer (who is not named in this story, but is named Samuel Sterns) has gotten a voracious appetite for reading! Even after he is released from the best care an unskilled laborer’s pay will get you, Sterns finds himself soaking up knowledge and information better than even the leading paper towel brand!
Seriously though, what really happens is that it’s just taken this long for the Gamma Rays to kick in with full effect. Sterns collapses to the ground and falls into unconsciousness. When he comes to, his first instinct is to look into a mirror, where he find something startling… DC Comics/Hector Hammond are going to sue him for copyright infringement!
In addition to a visage that puts Master Billy Quizboy to shame, apparently Gamma rays give you a kicky mustache as well. With that, Flashback time is over, and we see The Leader remove his suit’s mask to reveal… well, himself really. He thinks to himself (because when you have a brain the size of Rhode Island of course you’re going to think to yourself), that the Gamma rays have made him the most formidable brains on Earth. He also muses on the vast network of spies he has amassed to take over the government (it was the 60′s after all). Finally, he boasts to himself that his humanoid is all-powerful, bringing us full circle.
We leave the Leader now, because while the origin is done, the story is not! It seem back at the army base, Dr. Bruce Banner has again invented such a mind-numbingly insane nuclear-powered device that Uncle Sam needs to see it personally. It’s being transported by train, and Banner has to be on board to show them how it works. “Thunderbolt” Ross and Major Glenn Talbot don’t trust Banner, thinking he’s somehow involved with this ongoing Hulk business (very astute, what with him always appearing in rags after a Hulk sighting). They tell him to his face, while one of the Leader’s supposedly ineffective spies overhears and goes to inform his master. Back at the Leader’s hideout, he already knows the situation and tries out his precious Humanoid…
After the Leader is done showing off, he thinks at the Humanoid to fly his helicopter and rendezvous with the government train Banner’s McGuffin, I mean, device. The Humanoid starts his attack, the soldier’s bullets go right through him. They say it’s like a sponge, but if that were the case, wouldn’t the Humanoid absorb the bullets? Anyway, comic book-based semantics aren’t going to get us anywhere. Ross & Talbot are informed of the attack, while Banner is understandably worried about his nuclear device. Instead of being rational, Ross locks Banner in the train car, thinking it is some elaborate scheme of his. Well, if you’ve ever read a comic, I don’t have to tell you what happens when Bruce Banner is locked up and agitated…
So of course the Hulk breaks out of the train car. Just as he emerges, the Humanoid is decoupling the rear cars, because that’s what you do during a train heist. The Hulk uses his mighty leg muscles to bride the gap. He one-man dogpiles the Humanoid just as the Leader, looking through its eyes, is about to get a good look at the device in question. The rubber/sponginess of the Humanoid causes the Hulk to bounce off, and the Leader can hardly believe what he sees…
The Hulk and the Humanoid tussle for a while, neither getting the upper hand, thanks to the Humanoid’s highly pliable body. As they reach an overpass, the Leader plays his ace in the hole. He commands the Humanoid to electrocute the Hulk, thereby knocking him off the train, and hopefully to his death below. If you think that’s what would happen, then you may be ready for an advanced physics class, but not Comics 101! Seriously though, of all the downright silly things I have seen in a comic (trust me, there are a lot), this has to take the cake as the most inexplicable, and that is due mostly to the explanation…
So after that defiance of natural laws, the two titans grapple again! The Leader tries for the electro-whammy again, but this time, the Hulk is ready for it, and just shakes it off. The struggle continues, stalemated, when the Hulk notices that their tussle is loosening the bolts holding Banner’s device securely to the train car! You might think the Hulk is too brutish for that to be the case, but we’re talking about the pre-Hulk Smash! day, where the green-skinned Goliath could speak and think semi-coherently. Anyway, the Leader switches tactics, ordering the Humanoid to smother the Hulk, guessing he’d be easier to subdue if he’s unable to breathe. The Hulk can of course, hold his breath a long, long time. Finally, in an act of either desperation, or sheer dumb luck, the Hulk flips both he and the Humanoid and manages to take out his adversary.
With the Humanoid taken out, the Hulk can focus on the task at hand. Just as the nuclear-powered device is about to hit the train’s tanker car, the Hulk leaps into action, tackling the device off the train. Astoundingly the Hulk’s actions didn’t cause a nuclear disaster, what with radioactive materials being volatile and all. The device itself is completely intact as well! With the adrenaline rush over, the Hulk reverts back into Banner, just as Talbot and Ross arrive on the scene. Since he was supposed to be locked in a train car, Banner is immediately arrested, giving the Leader a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, one which he’ll never know about. As we leave the players in this little vignette, one man discovers a life-long enemy and another is about to make the most fateful decision of his life:
The Leader/Hulk feud would continue in subsequent months, and both characters would go through a series of metamorphoses throughout the years. The underlying message is always the same though, sheer brute strength will defeat pure intellect always. Wait a minute, that can’t be right! Anyway, see you all next week!
So this is it! After 13 weeks, we finally reach the end of the Green Hornet’s adventure! Will he and Kato emerge triumphant or does gangland have one final ace up their sleeve? You’ll never know unless you watch Chapter 13, Doom of the Underworld! (Wow, I hope that title doesn’t give anything away!)
So, The Green Hornet is over, but this column is not! Here is your chance to have a say in the content on this site. Below is a poll with a bunch of choices. To my knowledge most of these are in the Public Domain, so I can definitely post them. I am not too sure on Superman or Batman, but if they win, I’ll still put them up unless asked to remove them. My personal preference is for Captain America, because it’ll tie in nicely with the upcoming movie, but I’ll defer to the poll winner. See you next week with a new serial!
What Serial Would You Like to See Next?
- Captain America (100%, 1 Votes)
- Finish Captain Marvel! (0%, 0 Votes)
- Finish Zorro's Fighting Legion (0%, 0 Votes)
- Batman (0%, 0 Votes)
- Superman (0%, 0 Votes)
- The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (0%, 0 Votes)
- Other (Specify in Comments) (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 1
This week, the work to track down a Frantics clip was done for me… by the Frantics themselves! If you didn’t know, they have their own YouTube channel! In the past, they haven’t really posted a ton of stuff, but the latest newsletter seems to indicate that is a thing of the past. They posted one of the skits from their 2006′s Frantics Reunion Special on the Comedy Channel in Canada. I was lucky enough to have a friend from the Great White North send this to me on VHS shortly after it aired, but from what I hear, it’ll be on DVD soon. This to me, is great, because while I love the Frantics, I hate having so much of their material bootlegged. The guys work really hard on their craft, so whenever something becomes available, I try and buy it to support them. If you like these columns, you should too! At any rate, here are The Frantics with… Sex Talk!
Once in a while, a character becomes popular in spite of their origins, and today’s subject is a good example of this. Today’s hero doesn’t have a bad origin, but it is full of stereotypical tropes, and one element that just screamed at me to be lambasted (read on and see if you can pick that moment out). The mainstream media has heard of him, thanks to his appearances on popular children’s cartoons, but even then his origin was glossed over. That’s why I am here for you, with the Secret Origin of… Cyborg!
As is the case with a lot of these origins it’s told in flashback. In Cyborg’s case, he’s on a bit of a furlough with his teammates in the Titans. The Titans sup and the conversation turns to the team seeing each other as friends. This causes Cyborg to reminisce that he lost all of his friends when he became the half man, half machine he is today. Before you know it, we’re off into flashback-ville. Cyborg, aka Vic Stone, relates that while his parents loved him, they were a bit pre-occupied with their careers as research scientists, and the environment he was raised in wasn’t exactly nurturing.
The experiments were pretty successful, and Vic ends up with an IQ of 170, well past genius-level. The result of this, is that Vic’s early childhood is filled with learning more than anything else, living quite a sheltered existence. When he got to be 8 years old, he started using those smarts to sneak out at night, just to experience the world around him, unfortunately for Vic, his wide-eyed innocent and naïvety leads him to almost be hit by an oncoming truck. Fatefully, he was saved at the last second by someone who would affect his life profoundly…
Of course this sort of behavior is going to catch up to you sooner or later, and Vic gets caught. A long and drawn out conversation with his parents ensues where both parties plead their case. Vic wants to go to public school so he can have something resembling a normal social life, and his father thinks that Vic should be doing so much more with his life, given his potential. Of course, he tells Vic in the form of a guilt trip, so he’s not exactly feeling the love. Time passes and Vic gets his wish to attend public school. While there, he focuses on sports, honing his body as much as his parents honed his mind. While he didn’t run with Ron’s gang any more, he still considered him a friend. Things at home still aren’t great though, as evidenced by this exchange:
After Vic leaves, his dad says a boy so full of rage is bound to explode sooner or later, and his words end up being prophetic when Ron returns from reform school. Ron asks Vic to lend his significant athletic prowess to join him in a “rumble”. Vic initially refuses, but is goaded into it when his life debt to Ron and race is factored into it, and the fight is on. Vic gets cut up a bit, and the beast within is unleashed.
Thankfully, Ron still has Vic’s back, owing him yet again. It isn’t long before police sirens wail, and everyone high-tails it out of the fray. Back home, Mom and Dad Stone are pretty ticked off that their boy is still getting into this sort of crap. Vic’s dad actually renounces any claim of fatherhood, and walks out, leaving Vic and his Mom alone. You might think his mother would be nurturing, even when her son seem like a common thug, but you’d be wrong. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back…
Sadly, Vic is still pretty hard-headed and he walks out. Time passes and Vic is nearing adulthood when he gets a message from Ron. Ever the good (yet not too bright) friend, he stops on over. Ron’s latest scheme to get back at ‘The Man’ is to take over the Statue of Liberty, by um, climbing it like a chimpanzee. Since Vic is educated, Ron wants him to be their spokesperson, but Vic actually shows some sense and tells him how stupid this course of action is. Ron tries to lay the guilt trip on Vic, but it doesn’t work. Vic, finally letting his mother’s words sink in tells Ron that breaking off their friendship is Ron’s decision, not his. Ron ends up in prison for his actions, while Vic is getting his own life back on track, becoming an Olympic hopeful! He even decides to square things with his Mom, so he visits her at STAR Labs. It seems Mom and Dad are working in probing other dimensions and military research respectively. This will define Vic’s life from this moment on as an experiment gone wrong brings Vic to the edge of forever…
Sadly, Vic’s mom was utterly consumed by the blobby-thing and it takes all of his Dad’s effort to reverse the dimensional portal to banish the thing back from where it came. Vic ends up with a good portion of his body literally dissolved. That’s where Vic’s father comes in. One of the weapons he was working on was a cybernetic suit specifically designed for war amputees. Before you could say “Six Million Dollar Man montage” Vic is rebuilt, given steel to replace lost skin. Thankfully, he is unconscious throughout the entire procedure. That doesn’t last forever though, and a month later, Vic wakes up…
After awakening, Vic confronts his father, who is grateful his son is alive. Vic, on the other hand, is royally P.O.’ed that his father his literally made him into the man he always wanted. He curses his existence and curses his father, saying outright that he hates him. The hatred only grows, because while Vic is alive, he isn’t ready to rejoin society just yet, he spend half a year rehabilitating his body, his father there every step of the way. You would think the two might have bonded after this experience, but Vic is still pretty hardheaded.
So Vic leaves again, continuing the pattern that has made his life such a bowl of cherries so far. Fate like repetitiveness it seems, because just then Ron re-enters Vic’s life. Ron has another “opportunity” for his “best friend”, but Vic is at least bright enough to reject his offer. Ron tells Vic that all of his problems are the fault of “Whitey” and he’ll come to realize it soon. Vic’s life continues, but he falls deeper into despair as his girl doesn’t return his calls, is thrown off the basketball team, and loses his scholarship. Ron is waiting on his doorstep. Vic breaks down and asks Ron what he wants. Ron’s plan is to set off an explosive device at the United Nations, because there is nothing like blowing up the symbol of unity to promote solidarity. Vic prepares himself for his role in this little play. He finally puts that genius IQ to work though and realizes he’s being set up as a patsy.
Cyborg shows some real heroism, making short work of the ill-advised thuggery. In the scuffle, Ron falls off the side of the UN building, hanging on by a thread. He begs Vic to save him, and of course he will, being a hero. There is a monkey wrench thrown into it all though, as it turns out the explosive device was jostled and is now about to explode, leaving Vic/Cyborg is a pretty big predicament.
So Cyborg hurls the bomb where it can’t damage the building. Vic intends to save Ron right after, but he couldn’t hang on long enough. The cops never found his body, but his death wasn’t for anything. Vic finally discovers that his life is in danger of being consumed by anger and hatred just like Ron’s. He eventually meet the Titans and learns what having real friends are like, and he even reconciles with his dad.
So Cyborg’s story ends on a bit of an up note. He went on to get involved with all sort of convoluted history that there is no way I’m going to get into now, but it is pretty cool to see a character break from the “angry black man: mold and become such an enduring character. He’s even getting a star turn in the upcoming Flashpoint event, so keep your eyes open for more Cyborg exploits!
This tale originally appeared in Tales of the New Teen Titans Vol. 1 #1 June, 1982 It was reprinted in New Teen Titans Archive Vol. 3.
It’s the penultimate chapter of The Green Hornet! The war between the racketeers and the Hornet sways back and forth every weeks, but it seems like the forces of good are getting a foothold, thanks to some recent arrests. When we last left our heroes, they were involved in a thrilling scuffle on the rails, how will they get from that to what lies in store for them in Chapter 12: Panic at the Zoo?! Well, watch and find out! I’ll meet you back here next week for the final thrilling chapter!