Archive for May, 2011
I know in my lead ups, I always tend to talk about the cliffhanger from last week. It’s mainly because those are my favorite parts of the serials. Sometimes they can be incredibly goofy, but when they are done well, they actually still work in a suspenseful way. Take the last cliffhanger for example, Gail is about to be guillotined for failing to reveal Cap’s identity. Sure, it’s a tried and true death trap, but the way they lead up to it in this case gives me a case of white knuckled thrills if ever there was one! Will Cap save Gail, or will she be getting a head in life? Let’s watch Chapter Six: Vault of Vengeance and find out!
And for this week’s supplementary material, I don’t have anything directly related to this chapter, but I do have a giant scan of the poster art I used for the header image. Wheras most movie posters are one sheets, this baby is a three sheet! Apologies for slower load times, but I didn’t want to sacrifice quality. Enjoy!
This week, I’m going back to an old Frantics standby, Mr. Canoehead! This time though, things are a little interesting. When the Frantics were doing their The Frantics Look at History series, they did a heck of a great job, bringing their brand of humor to events throughout time, but it was missing a crucial element to tie it into their previous projects, and that was recurring characters! While it would have been easy to have Mr, Interesting* come on and just spout facts, the fabber four instead adapted their most famous character to have a lone adventure in the Old West. They even brought in his arch-nemesis! Both characters have some interesting changes to their appearance to fit in with the times. If you’re a comic fan, you could consider these the Golden Age versions of the characters. So listen and enjoy the adventure
s of Sheriff Canoehead!
*I am aware that Mr. Interesting had his own spinoff in the early 2000′s called Mr. Interesting’s Guide to the Continental United States I haven’t ever heard it though (I’d love to be able to!)
Sometimes, I find myself with a problem when I do these columns. When a character has been around a while, there are so many re-tellings of an origin, adding and subtracting certain elements and sometimes using new characters with the same name! I always wonder which is the “best” origin to showcase. When searching through my back issues for today’s subject though, It was particularly difficult. In the end, I decided to focus on my favorite version of a character rather than drown in a sea of minutia. This character’s atomic structure is complex enough as it is, so let’s just dive in and check out… The Secret Origin of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man!
As many origins go, this one starts with a framing sequence. In this one, it’s pretty obvious that Firestorm is new to the hero scene, as he’s still testing out his abilities. He’s flying above the city, and causing quite the commotion. Such a distraction is he, that he ends up having to save an onlooker who’s about to get hit by a taxi. Now if this were your run of the mill hero, like Superman or the Flash, they’d just speed in front and scoop the guy to safety, or just smash the taxi for dramatic effect. Instead, Firestorm uses his ability to alter matter to turn the taxi into water. Now, I’m no physicist, but just because something changes its atomic structure doesn’t mean it loses velocity, so Firestorm actually turned the pavement into a very painful Slip ‘N Slide. After that, Firestorm changes his
destiny density and flies through a passing helicopter, freaking them right the hell out. This sort of irresponsibility is not what I want out of my heroes! To add an extra bit of weirdness, a disembodied voice tells Firestorm, or rather Ronald, that’s he’s doing a fine job!
And so, Firestorm flies off to confront Earhart, but when he gets there, the threat of death causes the Nuclear Man to flashback! Unlike most flashbacks, Firestorm’s only goes back to earlier that day. We’re looking in on the life of Ronnie Raymond, who is apparently the “Ronald” that the voice mentioned earlier. Anyway, it seems Ronnie is the new kid in school, but he must go to school in Bizarro world, where the jocks are picked on by the nerds…
Cliff’s taunts continue throughout the day, finally getting the better of Ronnie in the cafeteria, where he lashes out! Unfortunately for Ronnie (and his burgeoning lady friend Doreen), he up ends his lunch tray and pelts the two of them with grade D meat and other things resembling food (this is a public school, after all). The day continues as such, with Ronnie lamenting that he flunked out of jock school and that he didn’t make any friends. Truly does it bring a tear to the eye. To keep up from getting too choked up, the narrative now takes us to the Hudson Nuclear Plant where we are told resides someone else very important to Firestorm, Professor Martin Stein.
Before Stein can truly savor being master of the atom, a former assistant busts in along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The assistant, Danton Black, accuses Stein of stealing the plans for the power plant. Of course Stein objects, saying Black is nothing but a thief and a liar, but the NRC says the plant isn’t allowed to open until a trial is held. It just goes to show you, no matter what super powers you have at your disposal, bureaucracy will always win. Stein is pretty broken up about it. Even though The China Syndrome wouldn’t be out until next year, he’s still keen enough to know that the public will assume the plant isn’t open because something is wrong structurally. Since this takes place in the DC Universe and not real life, Stein has a plan.
Leaving Stein to his mad scientist ways, we switch back to Ronnie, who is checking out the news where there is a nuclear protest being led by the previously mentioned Eddie Earhart. Ronnie, being a dumb ass teenager, decides he can save face with Doreen and everyone else, if he joins up with Earhart’s group and takes a stand for something. Even if he personally doesn’t care about the issues, he’s gonna be popular, dammit! Apparently, the news story tells where the group is headquartered, since Ronnie finds it with no problem. It seems like it’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but Ronnie seems to have a blind spot when it comes to people with outrageous facial hair…
Predictably, the group plans on raiding the nuclear plant that night, and as soon as they break in, Ronnie protesting all the way, they knock the foolish high schooler out. But Prof. Stein was watching all of this while powering up the atomic pile. He’s taken all he can stand at this point, and since there are no guards due to the plant, you know, not being open he decides to take matters into his own hands. While Stein has the element of surprise on his side, there is no way he can contend with the awesome mutton chopped might of Eddie Earhart!
Now with any opposition knocked out, the nicely coiffed criminals set their explosives, because… well their motives aren’t exactly clear. I mean, blowing up a nuclear plant might get the point across to abandon nuclear power, but it’s more likely going to just kill a lot of people. At any rate, Ronnie, being hard of head, comes to just as the bad guys are leaving. He hears they’re next going to hit a plant in Jersey, but he decides it’s probably a better idea to save his own life at the moment. In said moment, a number of things happen. Danton Black shows up to steal Steins computer designs, Ronnie finds Prof. Stein and tries to save him, and oh yeah, the bomb goes off!
Black is also caught in the explosion, and it’ll cause him to later become the villain Multiplex, but seeing as this isn’t his story, we’re going to ignore him for now. In the heart of the explosion, Ronnie is experiencing sensations altogether new to him, and frankly, he likes it! It seems he and Professor Stein have fused into one being, albeit a naked one. Ronnie seems to have a lot of knowledge he didn’t previously, and instinctively knows how to alter matter. Thankfully for the reader’s eyes, that extends to clothing, and Ronnie whips himself up an outfit. He even goes as far to name himself Firestorm, because why not, and then we finally learn who the disembodied voice was from the beginning of our tale. If you didn’t figure it out on your own by this point though, please turn in your “Grasp of the Obvious” membership card.
Now we’ve come full circle, since Firestorm now goes off to test his powers. The flashback ends, and apparently Firestorm can give the Flash a run for his money when it comes to the fast thinking department, because all of that back story was recounted in a fraction of a second! Firestorm is in the thick of the fray now, Earhart orders his men to kill the Nuclear Man yet again, but the Ronnie/Stein combination is too much for the collective no-goodniks. He turns immaterial, he transmutes guns into cucumbers, he shoots blasts out of his hands that may or may not cause instant cancer! At this point, Earhart knows he’s licked, so he does what many a desperate man does and tries to kill everyone along with himself! It doesn’t quite work out that way.
Firestorm instead opts to just knock the guy out, which also works. The day won, Firestorm flies off, but being a fused being, he has a mini freakisode when he realizes that he may just be stuck as he is forever. We get a half page of a guy who could probably kill everyone on the planet going nuts, which is a little worrisome. The collective DCU breathes a sigh of relief when things calm down.
At this point, Ronnie and a Professor Stein who doesn’t seem to remember a thing about their adventure stumble off into the sunset, beginning the strangest friend/partnership since peanut butter and bananas. Firestorm would go through many, many incarnations over the years, including the really excellent Jason Rusch version. The current Firestorm is a weird mix of Ronnie and Rusch and has just finished up a stint in Brightest Day, and it remains to be seen where the character will go from there. If nothing else, at least he has a pretty awesome costume, right?
This story originally appeared in Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #1 March, 1978. It’ll be collected in a trade paperback in July.
I’ve read a lot of Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited lately. It’s a great way to read some of Marvel’s vast catalog. When a comic from before the days of computer coloring goes up, it always gets a digital re-coloring. Sometimes this is a great thing, as there is no color bleed and classic art pops even more than usual, but sometimes, something goes wrong…
No, your eyes don’t deceive you, that’s certainly Ronald Reagan, gearing up for the 1980 Presidential vote. It seems in this case, he’s traded Grecian Formula for something a bit more provocative. The Gipper certainly looks supremely confident with his flowing red locks. Sadly, in this story, 1977′s What If #26, Ronnie loses the election to Captain America. We can’t say that his new ‘do lost him the election, but it probably didn’t help.
To be fair to the re-color, the original was reddish as well, but it leaned more towards brown than what I like to call “Osborn Red”. Here, compare for yourself.
Last time, our ersatz Captain America was careening wildly in a remote-controlled truck filled with explosives headed for an orphanage full of nuns! Just kidding about that last part. One thing I love about old stuff like this is how etymology has changed. We’d never say that something is a robot car because it can be controlled remotely. I think we should bring it back though. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fire this my “robot viso-screen” and watch Chapter 5 of Captain America: Blade of Wrath!
As for this week’s extras, I have both the poster and the lobby card for this chapter. The lobby card is from the film’s re-release, but the poster is the from the original release. Hope you enjoy them!
Well, if you haven’t heard, tomorrow, May 21st, the Rapture is supposed to happen. I don’t know about you, but in times like this, I need some comedy to help wash the crazy down. With that in mind, I thought I’d share another of The Frantics’ takes on religion. I actually have two versions of the same skit today. The first appeared on the Frantic Times radio show, while the other appeared on the Boot to the Head LP. They both have their strengths, although I believe the newer version is a bit better, especially when it comes to the hymns. They are used to different effect, but I like the originality of the latter one. The Church is actually given a name the second time around, which also earns it points in my book.
Also, as an aside, one this that I wonder about is if the writers of Futurama ever listened to the Frantics. When it comes to religion, the Frantics first came up with the whole “Amalgamated Church” idea and The Church of Trek about 20 years before Futurama did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Futurama, but I have to wonder is all…
Today’s spotlighted origin just had his first big screen appearance, and while that was just a cameo, he’ll likely have a more prominent role in the upcoming Avengers movie. That’s very fitting, seeing as this guy is one of the most prolific members in Avengers history. It wasn’t always that way though. Much like Pinocchio, our would-be hero is led astray by misunderstandings and less than scrupulous companions, and he actually starts out as a villain! Yes, I of course speak of one of the only heroes able to pull off a predominantly purple union suit, the Avenging Archer, Hawkeye!
Hawkeye’s story actually begins with one Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Iron Man is spending his day as usual, pretending to be his own bodyguard and saving his employees from the dangers of working in his own factory, as well as insinuating company time is better spent not lollygagging about. After that Stark-approved PSA, Tony’s chauffeur, Happy Hogan asks for a minute of Shellhead’s time. It seems Happy (who, incidentally, always has a frown on his face) wants Iron Man to get their boss, Tony Stark to help out the ol’ love life by asking Pepper Potts to go out with him. This is a problem, because Stark likes Pepper as well, but refuses to go out with her because the shrapnel in his heart could be an embarrassing ice breaker over dinner at Chez Affluent.
Later, Tony asks Pepper about a date, which she infers means that Tony wants to ask her out. Tony, being of two minds of the subject, just kind of stammers his way into a date, when he obviously could have just said it was a misunderstanding. Instead, in classic Marvel fashion, Tony decides to take Pepper on the most pedestrian, unromantic date he can, so they go to the carnival! Finally, the real story can start. At the carnival, Tony and Pepper happen upon a tent, featuring “Hawkeye, the World’s Greatest Marksman!” This is great for two reasons, the first is that Hawkeye already has a built-in codename, and second, well, let’s have Tony tell you.
Before you can say “plot complication”, one of the carnival’s rides goes all screwy, and Tony makes a lame excuse so he can get knocked around in a portable garbage can. Fortunately for him, this is attaché case-era Iron Man, so he can put the armor on in seconds. He somehow stops the flying pinwheel by giving it a big bear hug. Before you can start to apply logic or physics to the situation, the danger has passed and Iron Man flies off, pre-occupied with explaining to everyone how Iron Man was on the scene so quickly. He settles on “Iron Man is my bodyguard, and he was following us, yeah… That’s the ticket!” As you might expect, everyone is thrilled that Iron man saved the day. Well, almost everyone.
Well, it seems there is no greater motivator than jealousy, because that night, Hawkeye sets off to make himself a hero. He comes up with a gaudy costume, and whips up some trick arrows. I don’t exactly know how he does this with the obviously limited resources of a carny worker, especially since his DC counterpart Green Arrow uses his vast wealth to do the same thing. Maybe things are just really cheap to manufacture in the Marvel Universe. All the while, he complains about his hurt pride, and how he’s going to make everyone else look like a piker. There’s no way he’s doing this to compensate for anything…
Eventually, he’s all set and bounds off for the rooftops, because that’s what costumed characters do, dammit! He runs across the city a bit, truly exhilarated at his own prowess. Modest this guy is not.
Anyway, Hawkeye shows that he does indeed have the chops to be a hero. he spots a jewel thief, and stops him in jig time. Unfortunately for our bountiful bowslinger, he stops to check out the swag the jewel thief leaves behind. The police arrive on the scene quickly, because this is comics and not real life, and assume Hawkeye is an accomplice. While you can’t fault the officers, given that there is a be-masked vigilante with a bunch of jewels in his hands, you’d think they’d know a hero when they see one. Hawkeye doesn’t even try to explain himself, and he runs off. He probably would have gotten away with it to, if not for
those meddling kids a mysterious stranger picking him up.
The mysterious lady turns out to be the Black Widow, who is still a communist spy at this point of her career. All you need to know about her at this point is that Hawkeye is a lovesick puppy for her, and that she and Iron Man have clashed in the past. BW proposes a partnership with Hawkeye that’ll be mutually beneficial. She shares her resources with him, and in return she only asks for one small thing, a pittance, really.
Hawkeye wastes no time breaking into Stark’s munitions factory. He uses a new explosive arrow to get inside, which brings him to the attention of Iron Man, just like he planned it. Hawkeye is a pretty awesome strategist though, even at this early point in his career. He sticks to the shadows firing off trick shot after trick shot. He finally pelts Shellhead with a trio of errors that cause Iron Man’s suit to rapidly rust. Since Iron Man doesn’t have any WD-40 on him, he only has one course of action…
Because he was a Boy Scout, Tony is prepared and just happens to have spare armor pieces lying around his factory. While he scrambles to get some fresh armor on, Hawkeye takes the opportunity to steal the discarded pieces of armor, but also has ample time to get away. You may wonder why this is. It turns out that Tony doesn’t want to go into battle with only one boot. No, seriously. Tony Stark, freaking Iron Man lets the criminal get away because he’s missing a bootie. He does finally find it, but by that point Hawkeye has a pretty good head start…
Hawkeye, now reunited with the Widow, are speed towards LaGuardia airport. Iron Man has had enough though, and just hits their car with a power ray. Well, he says it’s a power ray, but it certainly looks like a death ray to me, especially considering it totals the vehicle. Hawkeye and Iron Man continue their battle, neither having a clear headway. Hawkeye fires a shot, Iron Man repulses it away. You’d think Iron Man would have the advantage in speed and maneuverability, what with the ability to be airborne and all, but Hawkeye is Just. That. Good.
Iron Man has about had it and gains the upper hand when Hawkeye tries to ensnare him with a nylon rope arrow. Calling this a misstep is a bigger understatement than saying “clowns are damned creepy”. Iron Man lands himself on the pier where Hawkeye is standing with so much force that the wood splinters and Hawkeye is cling on to a remaining post for dear life. Iron Man then proceeds to knock Hawkeye out cold, or so it would seem. Anyone familiar with Hawkeye will tell you that his skull is thicker than the mantle of the Earth, so when it’s revealed that this was a feint, it’s no surprise. As Iron Man turns his back, Hawkeye prepares his most potent arrow, the Demolition Blast! Sadly, all it does is ricochet off of Iron Man’s metal hide and ends up seriously harming the Black Widow.
Apparently the blast was enough to stun Iron Man, so Hawkeye beats feet to help his lady friend. It’s obvious she needs a hospital. Hawkeye shows genuine concern and frantically decides what to do. Conveniently, the Widow had a boat already ready in the harbor, and the twosome flee the scene post-haste. Iron Man flies off to pursue, but gives up when he realizes that he’s in LaGuardia’s airspace. So our story ends with no clear victor, but an obvious loser.
After this tale, Hawkeye and the Widow continued their team, and their love also grew. Eventually, Hawkeye saw the error of his ways and applied for member ship in the Avengers. His audition kind of leaves me scratching my head, however.
Astoundingly the Avengers accept him (it’s later revealed that Jarvis was saved by Hawkeye earlier and they set up this display to impress the others), and Hawkeye has been one of the most stalwart members of the Avengers ever (except for the time when he was Goliath, but man, that’s another story entirely)!
This story originally appeared in Tales of Suspense #57 September 1964, It was reprinted in Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man Volume 3 among others. The final image is from Avengers #16 May, 1965.
You know, I was gonna give the Grant Gardner incarnation of Cap here some credit. He’s taking on the forces of the Scarab because he loves his county, but he’s still just a man. There is no Super Soldier Serum running through his veins, he doesn’t even have a shield! He has a lot going against him, but he still perseveres. I was rooting for the guy, despite not being “my” Captain America. Then I watched this episode, and he broke the cardinal rule of heroism (for me, your mileage may vary). I won’t spoil, as you’ll see it in a few minutes yourself, but bad form, ersatz Cap… Bad form. At any rate, here’s chapter 4: Preview of Murder!
This week’s additional content is a lobby card for this serial’s re-release in 1953. It was re-titled Return of Captain America, and as far as I can tell, it was just as inaccurate the second time around. At least we almost, almost get Cap punching
Charlie Chaplin Hitler.
Today is my birthday, and as such, the clip I’m posting today is one I like very much, but others may not. Indulge me anyway, OK? I like history, and I like humorous takes on history even more. I’ve featured some of the Frantics history bits before, but I left this one out, just so I could spotlight it today. Today’s subject is Amerigo Vespucci, the guy they named the Americas after.
I of course learned about him (briefly) in grade school. but all we were taught was that “Oh yeah, that guy. They named America after him.” Nothing else was really said about him, sure he was a navigator, and he was a contemporary of Christopher Columbus, but we were never taught why America was named after him. Does it just roll off the tongue better than North, South and Central Magellan, Columbus, or Cortez? Hell, even his Wikipedia page has little to say about him! Then I came across the following rant via The Frantics’ Dan Redican. He feels the same way I do, and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. I hope you enjoy it too!
Everyone remembers their first comic book, or at least, the one that got them into the hobby in the first place. I’m sure I had some random Superman, Batman or Spider-Man comics, seeing as I like their Saturday-morning adventures, but the one that hooked me for life is probably an unlikely one, The Incredible Hulk #285.
I remember when I got this comic as well. Back in the 80′s you could still find comics everywhere. My mom and I were at a Woolworth’s where they sold polybagged 3-packs of various comics. It was a bit of a crapshoot, as you could only see one of the books, but the cover of Hulk #285 spoke to me, so I asked for it. 3 for a buck was a good deal, so I went home with this in my hot little hands. I also got US 1 #3 and ROM: Spaceknight #44, but I was too young to appreciate their awesomeness back then.
I was already familiar with the Hulk thanks to the hour block of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends/The Incredible Hulk on Saturday morning. Even if I wasn’t, there was a handy origin recap in this issue, which made it a great jumping on point for impressionable young minds like my own.
To be honest, when I was a kid, the whole framing sequence with a be-lab coated Hulk didn’t do too much for me. I appreciate it much more now, but I was hoping for “Hulk Smash” Action! Instead, we get introspective Banner. As the tale went on, I was getting a bit disappointed. We have a little vignette with Rick Jones, that I also really didn’t care about. I was about ready to give up and confine my love of superheroes to the small screen. But just when I was about to give up the ghost, the book turns into a true Marvel Masterwork when this guy shows up…
Now we get a classic Marvel throw down. Zzzax and Bannerhulk have a pretty one-sided fracas. You see, Banner is over thinking the fight. He’s trying too hard to be the Savage “Hulk Smash” Hulk, instead of the hybrid he’s become.
The battle rages for page after page, but Zzzax seems to have the upper hand, batting aside Bannerhulk with ease. All the while, Banner is cursing himself because he just can’t get mad enough. In retrospect, this is kind of silly, because he’s definitely mad enough at himself. To his credit, Bannerhulk is incredibly tenacious. He’s not giving up no matter how ineffective he seems. That did, and does appeal to me. What happened next is what cemented me as a life-long comic fan. Banner started using his brains.
And with that, Bannerhulk sent Zzzax back from whence he/it came. I was a really nerdy kid, and the fact that one of the superheroes I already enjoyed could use his considerable brains to solve a problem when others would just punch first and ask questions later. Instantly, the Hulk was my favorite hero. Even though this intelligent Hulk didn’t last forever, it led into the amazing Hulk #300. If I wasn’t hooked before, I definitely was by then. I tried to get every new issue when they hit the newsstand. I thrilled when the original grey incarnation of the Hulk re-emerged in #324, but shortly after I stopped getting it for a couple of ironic reasons. Todd McFarlane and Peter David. At the time, I really didn’t like the personality of the Grey Hulk. I thought he was too mean. As for the art, I just was not into the McFarlane style. Once my tastes were more sophisticated, I went back and enjoyed the heck out of David’s run (still not a big fan of Toddy Mac’s art, though). It was about that time, I found out about back issues and used book stores. Along with older Hulk issues, I got cheap books covered the vast array of costumed heroes from both Marvel and DC. I’ve never looked back since.