Archive for July, 2011

Movie Serial Saturdays: Captain America Chapter 15!

Hey! We’re finally at the end of the road for “Captain America”! It’s been an interesting ride to be sure, and it’s been fun sharing it with all of you. That being said, if you enjoyed watching the serial in, well, serialized form let your voice be heard! I have enough serials to keep this column going for at least a few years! Let me know what you’d like to see! We could share the various adventures of a downright violent Captain Marvel, find out the origins of the Misfits skull logo with The Crimson Ghost, or witness the trouncing of gangland by Dick Tracy! The serials are full of fun and history, and I want to share as much as I’m able! Until then though, let’s watch how Cap’s adventure comes to a close with Chapter 15: The Toll of Doom!

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For our final supplement, I have a Return of Captain America lobby card for this chapter. It’s nothing spectacular, I know, but it is better than a glorified screenshot. Stay tuned for when Movie Serial Saturday returns with… something. I haven’t made my mind yet. Anyway, enjoy!

Frantic Fridays: Heaven is for Presbyterians!

This week, I promised something a bit special, and I think I’ve found it. As fans of the Frantics know, the foursome made the transition from radio to TV with their show: 4 On The Floor. For Americans like myself, this is one of the most coveted pieces of Frantics material to get our hands on. Even clips on YouTube are difficult to find. That’s why I’m glad to share this clip I (well let’s just say obtained). It’s a video version of one of my favorite Frantics skits, Heaven is for Presbyterians. I’ll let the bit do the talking, but I am going to include the version from the Frantic Times CD for comparison.

And I’ll leave you with this note: Between Thomas Hatton and Richard Richardson, the Frantics sure seem to have a “beef” with butchers, killing them off like they do.

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Secret Origins: 1950′s Captain America!

Today’s featured origin is an interesting one, and probably can use a bit of setup. Captain America was of course created in the early 1940′s by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, he fought in WWII and all of that fun stuff. Eventually super-heroes fell out of favor and Captain America sort of went away for a while. Then, in the mid-50′s Stan Lee decided the time was ripe to bring Cap back to fight the “Red Menace”, but it didn’t take and Cap went away again. Lee decided to resurrect Cap again in the 60′s at the dawn of the Marvel Universe. This time it stuck, but there was a problem. Lee gave the in-story reason for Cap’s absence since the war due to the whole “frozen in a block of ice” thing. Because of this, there was no explanation for Cap’s 1950′s commie smashing adventures. Then in the early 70′s Steve Englehart came along and came upon an idea that fit those stories back into continuity without negating any of Stan’s stories. If he were a fan, Englehart would have won the ultimate No-Prize, but instead we got… The Secret Origin of the 1950′s Captain America!

As our tale begins, caption boxes nicely set the scene: Steve (Captain America) Rogers and Sharon (Agent 13/Cap’s girlfriend) Carter are vacationing in the Bahamas, unaware that two madmen calling themselves Captain America and Bucky are out to kill them! Cap and Sharon are oblivious to this fact for the time being, and they have some beach fun, until Steve catches a glimpse of a boy who looks amazingly like his former partner, Bucky! Cap gives chase. He can’t be sure the boy was Bucky, but he has to make sure, even though “Bucky looked like a lot of boys”. Sadly for Cap, but not for the story, Steve is ambushed by a flurry of fists, and we find that his attackers are of course the impostors mentioned before.

Oh Buck, what an unfortunate turn of phrase...

With Cap subdued, “Fake Cap” says all that’s left is to capture Sharon. He switches outfits to dupe Sharon, but the lady is a smart cookie and knows something is up. You see, her Cap has a bit of a sunburn from going shirtless in the Bahamas for so long. Sharon turns tail and flees. Ersatz Cap and Bucky are in hot pursuit, and things aren’t looking good for her, as she is about to be caught. Just as hope seems lost, fate (or the Falcon) intervenes! He initiates a stand-off, Sharon gets him up to speed, which causes Falcon to launch into a rage. Fake Cap recovers from Falc’s initial attack to shout some racial epithets and implies that Sharon and Falcon are Russian agents. Falcon is fed up with the bigotry of Fake Cap (they had words last issue, apparently) and calls upon his partner to deal with it, and Redwing, the Falcon’s, um falcon rakes his claws on Fakecap’s back. The evil Cap recovers and spouts more hate-speech.  Falcon says what everyone else is thinking and Fakecap replies in such a way that makes it really hard to take him seriously.

America, the exact opposite of Hitler!

The fight continues, but Fakecap is full of rage at being called “A Hitler” so he channels said rage… by beating a black man and a woman into submission. Very un-Hitler-like indeed. Once everyone has regained consciousness, Fakecap (now in full costume), reveals why he went to the trouble of capturing them all: So he could have a captive audience for his origin story! He then introduces himself as the Captain America of the 1950′s and turns on the flashback machine (not literally)! You see he was 11 in 1941 when Captain America came on the scene, and the young lad was enraptured. His world came crashing down when he read the news of Cap’s apparent death. Instead of being overcome by grief with the death of his hero, the boy decided to make it his life’s work to study Captain America’s life, in essence, he was the ultimate fanboy. As the years passed, the young man graduated summa cum laude in American History, writing his thesis on Captain America, because in the Marvel Universe, you could get away with that. It wasn’t enough though! Sure, the guy knew everything there was to know about Cap from the American perspective, but what did the Nazis think about the Star-Spangled Avenger? It turns out they didn’t like him. On a trip to Germany, the young man is poring over many volumes of text, most untouched for years, when he makes a startling discovery!

"But if I become Cap, I'll have to shave my awesome mustache! The toughest decision of my life!"

Of course the young man takes his finding directly to Washington, because a nameless guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Captain America apparently has that kind of access. The government suits decide it’s a good idea seeing as the Korean War is going on and they could use a Sentinel of Liberty. They want to hand-pick someone to be their super-soldier though, but ‘ol Fakecap won’t give them the formula unless he gets to be Captain America. The government must have been desperate for a super-solider, because they agree to these insane terms. After some tests on monkeys (because why not?), our nameless “hero” is ready to undergo the process himself, but not before a makeover…

-- Dance Lessons!

It wasn’t to be though. As soon as Fakecap is ready for his injection, the government gets cold feet, because the war has ended, so why bother? Fakecap is pretty PO’ed about this, but goes with it, seeing as you know, he’s not about to defy his government… yet. As it is, he is a little on the odd side. He decides to legally change his name to Steve Rogers and becomes a teacher. Life seemingly goes on until he comes across one of his young charges that is as big a fan of Captain America as he is.

Fanboys unite!

So you’d think sharing his sordid tale would ease “Steve’s” burden. This Bucky is a bit of an enabler though. “Bucky” keeps egging “Steve” to don the costume he made and take on the commies. “Steve” insists that he can’t because the Soviets would take that as a personal affront or somesuch. It isn’t until the twosome hear on the radio that the Red Skull has returned that “Steve” finally gives in. While “Steve” is still unsure about this course of action, he decides that this is fate. He offers to give “Bucky” an injection as well, to which the youngster is super-enthusiastic about. Their destiny lies ahead, so it’s time to shoot up!

You always have all the answers, Bucky. What's your answer to that? Captain America... is a JUNKIE!?

And so America’s Fighting Force is reborn! They easily topple the Red Skull (who isn’t REALLY the Red Skull, but that’s a whole other story), and go on to smash commies left and right! All is not well though, it seems that as time passes, Cap and Bucky start seeing communists everywhere (much like America itself– zing!) When the star-spangled duo start seeing Reds in Harlem and Watts though, it’s apparent to the higher-ups in the government that things have gone very wrong. The government bigwigs try to talk them down, going in for treatments, that sort of thing. “Captain America” isn’t really receptive to this though, so drastic measures are taken.

"Yes, lets keep them alive so they can menace us in the future!"

And so, because the government never learns from their mistakes, the two were freed in the 70′s. The catalyst? Richard Nixon’s trip to China. Their emancipator was afraid that America was about to be swallowed in a Red Tide, so not only did he let them out, he told them about the real Captain America, saying that he was a poseur. Now back in the present day, Fakecap is smug about his capture of who he thinks of as his successor rather than his predecessor. It’d be deliciously ironic if it wasn’t so tragic.  Falcon continues to be ballsy and calls out Fakecap as a loser. Why? Well, have a look!

"Now where's my Joker toxin? Oh wait..."

Not to take you out of the story, but I wanted to make an interesting observation here. Both the Captain America of the 1950′s and the Captain America from the movie serial lack stripes on the back of the costume. Both are also not the real Cap. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s still interesting. Anyway, Falcon’s gambit paid off. His tirade caused Fakecap to run off in a huff, giving the real Captain America a chance to free himself and the others. Now knowing the full scope of Fakecap’s madness, Steve Rogers vows to take him down, because as he says “It’s not his fault he’s dangerous, but that doesn’t make him any less malignant!” Now this is where the issue ends, but I didn’t want to end the column there without finishing the story. I’ll be back with part two of the 50′s Cap saga… right now!

As it turns out, Falcon, Sharon and Cap were aboard a plane after their capture. They wisely decide to bide their time until landing. As soon as they get back to U.S. soil it is, as they say, on. Cap takes the fight to his captors and is so clearly the superior fighter than Fakecap resorts to using a gun. He blows a hole in the side of the plane and the fight kind of comes full circle on the beach.

Ironically, ersatz Cap's shield was made in China.

A Coast Guard cutter happens to be off shore and orders the Caps to knock it off, but like that’s going to happen, this is a Bronze Age Marvel comic! Fakecap’s atom gun misfires and ends up putting a massive hole in the cutter as well. Cap is galvanized by this, and disarms his foe. Fakecap and Fakebuck know they aren’t on the winning side of this battle so they scurry away, but not before challenging Cap to a rematch. In the interlude, Cap, Falcon and Sharon save the members of the Coast Guard and inform the local authorities to the trouble. Cap intends to face his impostor one-on-one, but his partners nix that idea, reminding Cap that with the fake Bucky it’s wouldn’t be mano-a-mano anyway. The trio make their way to the appointed rendezvous with fisticuffs, but before they can reach their destination, “Bucky” ambushes them. His job is to distract Sharon and Falcon so the Caps can indeed duke it out without any interference. I could go on about the fight between a super-powered Bucky and our two protagonists, but suffice it to say “Bucky” lets out more epithets, pisses our heroes off and they end up using the power of teamwork to lay him out in a spectacular way.


With “Bucky” laid out, It’s time for some Cap on Cap action! As they fight, the two Steve Rogers talk about their ideals and how Fakecap is twisted by his tainted super-soldier serum. Now, if you think that Cap was able to reason with Fakecap, you’d be very wrong. All of the things “our” Cap tells Fakecap just further incense him. It isn’t until our Captain America reveals that he is indeed the original that Fakecap truly goes off the deep end.

"I love you, so I must KILL you!"

With that, Cap has actually won the battle. The overwhelming madness has made Fakecap lash out blindly and Cap takes him out with one mighty fist of justice! While the battle is won, Cap can’t help but feel down. You see, if he had gotten the same dose of the serum that Fakecap got, he very well could have gone down the same mad path, albeit he’d be obsessed with goosesteppers and not pinkos. So the story closes on a somber note…

Puny Humans never leave Cap alone.. Oh wait, wrong hero.

That isn’t the end of Fakecap’s story though. In later years, he was revived as the “Grand Director”, a true villain, albeit a mind-controlled one. Recently, he was used to great effect in the pages of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, where his real name was finally revealed as William Burnside, although he’s as crazy as ever. I personally think it’s really cool that what was originally a Stan Lee afterthought could be turned into such an interesting story in the hands of clever writers. That’s all for this week, why not hit the theater and see the real Captain America in action on the big screen?

This story originally appeared in Captain America #155-156, reprinted in Essential Captain America Volume 3.

Movie Serial Saturdays: Captain America Chapter 14!

I was talking to a friend recently, about Captain America and his role in the movies. Can you believe with the new flick by Marvel Studios, the star-spangled avenger has had a total of five live action movies? Sure, they are all critically panned, but it really speaks to the enduring nature of the concept that so many attempts have been made over the years. Early word is that the new Chris Evans film is excellent, but of course this film here is where it all began. I am proud to be able to share it with all of you! So, let’s all gear up for the penultimate chapter of Captain America: The Scarab Strikes!

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I don’t have any supplemental stuff for Chapter 14, but I do have one last higher res screenshot, so it’s better than nothing, right? In any case, get out there and watch the new Captain America, in theaters now. I can practically guarantee that the adaptation will be better than this one!

"Well, *I* believe you're innocent. However my partner, Mr. Gun, disagrees with me!"

Frantic Fridays: Sherlock Holmes, Frantics Style!

Hey Frantics Fans! I of course apologize for missing Frantic Fridays last week, and I have something special planned to make up for it, but not until next week. Instead today, I wanted to share a couple of favorite skits, both revolving around one of the most famous characters in literature, Sherlock Holmes!

A friend stopped by and we watched the first series of the BBC’s Sherlock. It was excellent, and it got me thinking about other interpretations of the character over the years, and of course the Frantics came up. During the course of the Frantic Times radio show, everyone’s favorite be-deerstalkered detective was featured twice. Each time was a slightly different take, but both kind of play on the idea that maybe Holmes isn’t super-brilliant. Maybe the people he surrounds himself with are just incredible dim-witted. In the first case, this works in the favor of Holmes, not so much in the second. Have a listen and laugh along.

First: The Case of the Avenging Heiress!

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Next up: The Mystery of the Gloved Hand!

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Movie Serial Saturdays: Captain America Chapter 13!

Lucky Chapter 13 at last. Well, maybe not so lucky for District Attorney Grant Gardner! OK, OK, we all know the man who in this reality is really Captain America will survive, so instead I want to point out something that I noticed about this whole sequence. You’ve got your exciting car chase, right? Turns and swerves everywhere, the bad guys are firing on Grant, but still able to focus on the road. Grant returns fire, but the way he does it is just kind of screams badass. All he does is use the door frame as an armrest, and just casually fires back. It’s like he knows he’s got the upper hand, cliffhanger or not, cause he is (ersatz) Captain America, dammit! Anyway, on that note, let’s watch Chapter 13: Skyscraper Plunge!

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I took a different tack with the supplement this week. I had a super-small image of a Captain America poster I’ve never seen anywhere else, but with the size of it, the quality was laughable at best. So this week, I did a vector recreation of said poster. It’s missing some fine details, but I am generally satisfied with how it turned out, and I hope you are too. Until next week, bust up some Ratzis with war bonds and stamps!

Secret Origins: Speedball!

Marvel has a tradition. Ever since the vast success of Spider-Man, they’ve tried once a decade or so to recapture lightning in a bottle. In the 70′s they tried it with Nova, in the 80′s with today’s subject, they skipped it in the 90′s to make 765 Wolverine clones, but in the 00′s they did it twice with Gravity and Ultimate Spider-Man. Sometimes worked better than others, but today’s hero had a lot going for him. He had Spider-Man’s co-creator, Steve Ditko co-plotting and drawing his adventures. He also had Roger Stern with along for a writing assist. So confident was Marvel that they started the character with his own #1 issue! Sadly, after 10 issues, that run ended. The character would go on to be a mainstay of the New Warriors, which would ultimately be his undoing. I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s find out the Secret Origin of the Masked Marvel, Speedball!

Our tale opens by painting a picture of the Robbie Baldwin, and the predicament his life is currently in. His home life is pretty idyllic, what with two loving parents, and nary an Aunt or stack of wheatcakes in sight. Rob does have a problem though, his body contains incredible energies (which we’ll discover later), and he’s having issues keeping them in check. But first, let’s have a couple of crooks describe the town they’re in, why not?

Springdale, typical American town, what with their Supermax Prison and scenic castles!

Then Mr. Career Criminal ties our threads nicely together, when he swears vengeance against the D.A. who just happens to be Rob’s dad. The narrative gives us a quick peek into D.A. Justin Baldwin’s life, where he turns down a plea bargain because he doesn’t want to see a criminal go free. Ah Marvel, sometimes I forget how unrealistic you can be. As the plane continues its tour of Springdale, we fly over the Hammond Research Center where Rob’s mother, Madeline is giving an impassioned speech about the importance of art in our culture. I will say this, while these things aren’t super important to the story, it is a unique way of introducing our cast. Finally, the plane motors by the local High School where we finally meet Robbie himself.  He’s mulling about the campus in classic Ditko-Spidey style, worrying that the slightest wrong move could unleash his dread power on an unsuspecting populous. Then, he’s angsting about his future in the world, and how he’s torn between what his father wants and what his mother wants for him.

Two seemingly opposite views in conflict? That’s not Ditko-ish at ALL.

As he’s lost in thought, Rob is almost pelted by a mis-thrown football, and he freaks out again, and walks off, wondering how he’s ever going to stay in control. Meanwhile, the plane has landed, and the crook and his pilot (also a crook, don’t get me wrong) meet with a third man, and their plan for revenge starts to get underway. Then, we jump back to Rob. Seriously, this story bounces around quite a bit, which I suppose makes sense, given out hero’s powers. Anyway, Rob is wondering if there is anyone he can confide in, who can possibly help him control his powers. Not being a mutant, I guess Charles Xavier is right out. A pack of winos see Rob moping away and decide to roll him because “kids these days always have money”. Now, I was a kid when this was published, and I didn’t even have an allowance, but Springdale does its own thing. The  bums decide to give Rob the Bum’s Rush under a bridge, but as they throw him against the wall, they find out they’re getting more than they bargained for.

The next thing you know they’ll be seeing pink elephants on parade. Oh wait…

The winos are (rightly) scared off, and Rob is able to calm down and return to what passes for normal in the Marvel Universe. We then cut to the Baldwin residence where Thuggy McGee and company are stalking the place so they can get the drop on the D.A. Madeline is also there, and they discuss their son and argue about his future. Too bad they aren’t including their son in the conversation, but I digress. Johnny Roarke (I like calling him by my name better), pulls a gun on the bickering couple, and it looks bad for them, seeing as there aren’t likely to be witnesses, what with forest surrounding the Baldwin estate. As fate would have it, Robbie’s trek home from school gets him there in such a way that he sees what’s happening without being seen and decides to leap into action. Well, “leap” probably isn’t the best term…

Luckily, you don't have to be full of grace to be noble.

As Speedball accosts the villains, his parents are still debating, now over whether or not their son’s super-heroic alter ego is altruistic or not. Nevertheless, Speedball’s bombastic bouncing is keeping the criminals distracted enough to not want to shoot the incessantly bickering couple in the face, so good on him, I guess. Rob doesn’t really have control of his powers, so his victory and his downfall are how unpredictable he is. Eventually, he gets the hang of things and knocks the baddies out, and his antics have gathered a crowd. Incidentally, the fracas has given Robbie both of his monikers, Roarke calls him “a speedball” and one of the gathered onlookers refer to him as a “masked marvel”. The fervor dies down, the cops haul Roarke and his accomplices away, and Robbie returns to his old self and meets up with his parents, but all is not well in Springdale, as Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin aren’t done arguing.

For a super-cool D.A. Justin Baldwin doesn't have a very keen grasp of the law.

And so the day is saved for what it’s worth. I kid about Robbie’s folks, but to be honest, it’s refreshing to have a character who isn’t defined by tragedy (more on that later). In the aftermath, Robbie is still in full on mope mode. People know that Springdale has a super-powered citizen within their midst. Robbie just wants to be normal, but feels like he’ll be hounded more than Michael Jackson. I don’t think that’s possible, but hey, dare to dream Rob!

You may have noticed that we’ve gotten through the story without actually revealing the origin of Speedball. That’s true, but I felt it important to establish the character, plus the issue I am sourcing from lists this story first. Now, on to the actual origin antics!

In our next story, appropriately titled “Origin of a Masked Marvel”, we open with a quartet of criminals in very unique, yet incredibly Ditko-y masks. They are discussing an upcoming heist at a place that is getting a rare metals shipment. It is a scene that screams “THIS IS THE SETUP FOR SOMETHING COMING LATER!”  Of course, that means we cut to young Rob at his weekend job as a gofer at the Hammond Research Lab. There’s no way these two plot threads will converge! Rob is doing a quick clean-up job so he can sneak into the lab and witness the day’s exciting experiment. So if you have ever read a Marvel comic, you probably know where this is going. Witness said experiment now…

"Ach, The dilithium crystals are shot, Captain!"

So yeah, in the space of two panels, things go incredibly wrong.  While the big brain scientists are spouting technobabble explanations with they’re going out of style, the energy wave itself lashes out at Rob, who was peeking in on the situation, and he takes the brunt of… whatever this junk is…

Osh Kosh B-Gosh, indeed!

As the scientists curse the fact that they’ve lost months of work, Rob is still undergoing his metamorphosis.  Before you know it, he’s in full Speedball regalia, complete with a weird, otherworldly change in his voice. Not wanting anyone to see him in this state, he flees to the roof, and futilely tries to peel his costume off. Before the narrative can hit a wall, the be-masked criminals arrive to steal their rare metals or whatever they were after. For plot’s sake, they decide to enter from the roof, so of course they run into Robbie who is still in mid-freak.

"One thing's for sure, you don't have enough expletives in your vocabulary to describe me!"

Dispensing with the pleasantries, Mr. Mask casually tosses Speedball off of the roof. Here, Rob gets a quick lesson in how his abilities work, as instead of dying or breaking a leg, he bounces back up. In fact, he bounds around so much that he can’t control himself. It seems that this is fast becoming his de facto method of crime fighting.  One of the hoods finally gets a hold of the Masked Marvel, but his tactics aren’t the best way to go about things to be sure.

"The sillier he looks! We won't be able to contain our laughter if we keep this up!"

Eventually, the villains manage to dogpile Speedball and things are looking dire, until police sirens wail and the thugs decide to rabbit. While the baddies try to make their getaway, Rob gets all introspective and slumps on the roof trying to make sense of everything that’s happened to him in the last couple of minutes. As the police chase rages, the miscreant’s van take a turn badly and they all wind up dying in a fiery wreck. Regardless, the police decide to check the roof, because they need to make sure that the van wasn’t just a decoy. As they reach the roof, the police find Rob, back in his jumpsuit. Even after explaining himself, one of the officers isn’t completely satisfied.

Jeez, So much for A=A eh, Ditko?

And after this, Rob is still unbelieving about his situation, so he tries to replicate conditions by hitting the wall, and this does indeed cause him to bounce off the walls and become Speedball again. As the story ends, Speedball questions his place in life and what the heck he’s going to do with himself, which leads into our first story quite nicely. It’s not a perfect debut, but there is a lot of fun to be had.

Sure you can Rob, It's called being a complete slacker.

And there you have it. As mentioned before, after his short-lived solo series, Robbie Baldwin ended up being the heart of the New Warriors, and overcame his angst to be a fun and fun-loving character. That is until the Marvel Civil War, where he inexplicably takes responsibility for a villain blowing up a town and starts living in an Iron Maiden-style super suit and calling himself Penance. Fans of the ‘real’ Speedball were given a version closer to the Robbie of old recently, but he turned out to be a damn dirty (Marvel) ape. Time will tell if a future writer will restore Rob to his former glory, but until then, there are always back issues for those of us who aren’t fans of darkening comics for darkening’s sake.

These stories originally appeared in Speedball #1 October, 1988. It has been reprinted in various places in part over the years, and is also available on Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited.

Movie Serial Saturdays: Captain America Chapter 12!

I wasn’t kidding last week about “The Republic Scream”! It appears again in this chapter accompanying a rather gruesome death. More important that the cliffhanger this week is the tried and true serial plot device of a scientist’s revolutionary machine falling into the hands of villainy. Now, when I first saw that it was a resurrection machine, I was a bit off put by how absurd that is, but then I reminded myself that this isn’t exactly Oscar material. Not to mention there are much stranger devices in other serials, such as the electric chair that somehow gives the wheelchair-bound the ability to walk again. Not to get off topic, but this was in a Batman serial, and I gotta wonder if that is how Barbara Gordon is going to get her mobility back. Nevertheless, enjoy chapter 12: Horror on the Highway! Let me tell you though, I live in the DFW metroplex, you haven’t seen horror on the highway until you travel to Dallas during rush hour!

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This week’s supplement is the re-release lobby card for this chapter. it has a bit of damage sue to age, but it’s still in very good condition. Enjoy, and as always I’ll be back next week with a new chapter. Until then, head to your local Dunkin’ Donuts and have a Cherry Coolata, and tell ‘em Josh sent you! Actually don’t, cause no one will know who the heck I am!

Frantic Fridays – Einstein: an Evolution!


Today, we’re looking at a true evolution of the Frantics over the years. Very early in the lifespan of Frantic Times a certain song was created that has continuously popped up over the years. Even so, it has only appeared on CDs released after their reunion in the mid-2000′s. It’s a favorite of mine, and I suspect a favorite of Rick Green’s who does the vocals in each iteration. There is a lot of cleverness to be had in casting Albert Einstein (Big Bad Al) to his friends as a physics-based Wild West gunslinger. Geeky references you may catch are Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the real life rivalry between Einstein and Niels Bohr, and of course the debate on the theory of relativity.

Surprisingly, the song hasn’t changed terribly much over the years. Sure, production values have gotten better, and the intro has changed, but it’s remarkable compared to other Frantics material that’s been recycled how little has changed, content-wise. I’ve included the original from the radio show, the version from the Official Bootleg CD and the most recent version from the Frantic Noises CD, which you can still buy here, so stop freeloading and buy some merch! Anyway, I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do, but if you don’t, it’s not like your paying to listen! Until next week!

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Secret Origins: Spider-Boy!

The 90′s get a bad rap in the comic world, and mostly for good reason. The market could only take so many variations of Death Blood Force Strike Works #1 before the bubble burst on lame concepts and lamer costume choices (pouches).  While some aspects of the generic term “the 90′s” indeed lasted throughout the decade (again, the pouches). In the latter half of the decade, comics toyed with some very fun concepts. Probably the biggest and most fun concept was Amalgam Comics. The idea behind Amalgam was a simple one; “What if the DC and Marvel Universes were combined?”. Sprouting from the pages of DC vs. Marvel, Amalgam, is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Of all of the Amalgams, my very favorite is the subject of today’s column. A mixture of the “cloned from Superman” version of Superboy and the ever-Amazing Spider-Man. A character whose appearances can be counted on the fingers of a career shop teacher, yet epitomizes the fun inherent in the Amalgam-verse. I give you the Arach-Kid himself Spider-Boy!

Our story starts on the ground running, as Spider-Boy and the scientists at Project Cadmus (Including the Challengers of the Fantastic) are facing the albino menace of Bizarnage (a mash-up of Bizarro and Carnage, natch). Bizarnage’s deal is that he wants to be like the Kid, but there’s only one Spider-Boy, so it’s a whole stalker murder/replacement thing. Biz is wreaking havoc, having bizarnagized Johnny Storm, aka Red of the Fantasti-Challs. Being the only spidery-powered teen in the area, Spider-Boy plans to sacrifice himself to save the denizens of Cadmus. Bizarnage is amicable to this plan, so he leaves Red and charges the Arach-Kid. Ah, but our be-jacketed web walloper is a clever teen. Just as Bizarnage is about to possess/kill the Kid, Spider-Boy jumps off the wall he was sticking to, revealing the door to a containment unit. Having trapped the imperfect symbiote, Spider-Boy takes a second to enjoy his victory…

The sad thing is, if he were really on TV, he'd probably be a sensation.

In the aftermath, we find Johnny and his 6-inch clone trooper are perfectly ok, so their trip to the Phantom-Negative Zone is still on. This doesn’t really pertain to the story at large, but it is awesome, so I included it in my recap anyway. Speaking of, we cut Senator Ben Grimm, calling for the head of Dabney Donovan, who is suspected of letting Bizarnage out in the first place. While in the DC Universe, Dabney is an evil so-and-so, in this case, he did not release the monster. Reed Richards did. Donovan is responsible though, thanks to the steady diet of “Evil DNA” he’s been adding to Reed’s food. We’re then treated to an inner monologue by Reed himself, masterfully conveyed by Mike Wieringo.

"They'll never suspect it was I who short sheeted all of the Cadmus beds! Bwah-ha-ha!"

Then, before anyone can catch their breath, Sue Storm, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the final member of the Fantasti-Challs enters the facility with a hurt Dr. Curt Connors. It seems when Bizarnage was wreaking havoc, the power grid went down and another monster imprisoned at Cadmus escaped! Namely, King Lizard (an amalgam of the Lizard and King Shark) has torn through the facility, Sue, Curt, and Dr. Pym’s particle accelerator! Now, the monster is growing at an alarming rate and is on track to decimate the city! Dr. Connors is cursing himself, but our hero comforts him, sort of…

Something tells me stuff like this is a normal occurrence at Cadmus.

Ben Grimm (aka Rocky) is ready to call the Army as well as the Challengers of the Fantastic to stop the threat. Spider-Boy intervenes, reminding Ben that Cadmus is a secret facility and it’d be in their best interest to let him go after King Lizard instead. Tough as nails Sue Storm give him the go ahead, but promises to call in her boss, Bruce Wayne, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. if things go tits up. Before Spider-Boy can jump into action, he’s stopped by Professor Ray Palmer, who asks if the Kid has had the chance to test out his White Dwarf Star device yet.  Spider-Boy gives with the small talk that it shrank him down into a sub-atomic universe, and we get an editor’s box referring to the non-existent issue this happened in. Then, to jam pack this issue with even more awesome, Dr. Palmer has a quick tête-à-tête with Dr. Pym about whether micro or macro is the way to go in their respective scientific endeavors. Finally, Spider-Boy is ready to make the scene, and he’s ready to clear the zoomway in his rocket car, prepped by none other than Dr. Otto Octavius. Some quick banter between the two, and a simple newspaper reveals how Spider-Boy is treated by his world’s public…

The baby has its father's eyes and its mother's antennae.

Anyway, while Spider-Boy is on auto-pilot in the zoomway, he decides to reminisce about his origins. Whew, I knew we’d get to it eventually! Spider-Boy thinks back to his “Uncle Gen”. Honestly, I think that’s really a stretched analog for Uncle Ben. Seriously, General “Thunderbolt” Ross doesn’t shorten well. I’ll let it slide though, because the rest of the origin is pretty inspired.

Thankfully, "Dr. Doomsday" is a concept that we get to see, albeit in a different book.

As comics-type experiments are wont to do, this one didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Peter Parker is killed in a power surge/explosion, and the clone is liberated before the process (whatever it was) is completed. The clone does has the odd ability to change his personal gravity, giving the illusion of walking on walls. He also has a modicum of super-strength, but he’s certainly no super soldier. General Ross does take the young clone under his wing (although he apparently never gives the lad a name). The General does however impart the famous “Great Power/Great Responsibility” speech, attributing it to Super-Soldier (the amalgam of Superman and Captain America). Despite the tragedy that “birthed” him, the Kid has a pretty ok life, thanks to the General, so of course we have to do something about that.

General Ross... possessed of the ability to roar like a Thunderbolt, but rather vulnerable to bullets.

After the tragedy, the Kid displays a massive amount of sangfroid, presumably brings “Uncle Gen’s” murderer to justice. And then decides to take to the spotlight so no one ever underestimates him again. He becomes Spider-Boy to be the over-the-top media darling. Wealth and fame are definitely not ignored when it comes to the Arach-Kid. The flashback ends when Spider-Boy arrives at his home. Apparently, King Lizard isn’t as big a threat as we were led to believe. Anyway, he uses his rooftop mounted catapult, the “Web Slinger” to arrive at the Daily Bugle, ostensibly to get a lead of King Lizard. Really though, I contend that you don’t need a lead to find a 35 foot tall Lizard! In his admittedly clever guise of Pete Ross (a mash-up of Peter Parker and General Ross, his “parents” and a reference to Superboy’s best friend), he’s instantly caught up in the newsroom drama, and we get a glimpse of this universe’s J. Jonah Jameson…

Spider-Boy is his own paparazzo, a "noble" profession, to be sure.

Finally, there are reports of King Lizard at the city docks, wreaking havoc. Spider-Boy uses his amazing web-gun to travel across the city, signing his theme song all the way. Truly, this guy doesn’t have a problem with using multiple forms of transportation. Before you can say “does whatever a spider can”. the Kid is on the scene, taking King Lizard on directly. While the battle rages, Spider-Boy tries the whole “witty banter” thing, but King Lizard isn’t exactly receptive to it. The Kid leads King Lizard on a merry chase through the city, where he makes a pretty astute observation…

Maybe it's because he you know, smashed through Pym's particle accelerator?

Rather than waiting until King Lizard grows so large that his skeleton can no longer support his weight (comics don’t always use you know, physics), Spider-Boy manages to lead the green gargantuan back home where he grabs Dr. Palmer’s White Dwarf Star device. Unfortunately, King Lizard smashes it, causing it to go into some sort of overload. Spider-Boy doesn’t want to find out what’ll happen when the thing explodes, but luckily he has a plan. He leads King Lizard up to the roof, where the device is prepped on the web-slinger. Spider-Boy pushes a button and…

"One industrial strength Alka-Seltzer coming up!"

And so, King Lizard starts to shrink, so much so that Spider-Boy assumes he’s now in the sub-atomic universe himself! There’s nothing like foisting your problems on another group of people, I always say. Anyway, with the day saved, Doc Ock comes out of the woodwork to congratulate the Arach-Kid. He has an ulterior motive though, as he’s also there to set the Kid up on a blind date. Just like in the old Spider-Man comics, the Kid is reluctant to go on a date with someone named Mary Jane Watson. Just like Peter Parker, the Kid is in for an unexpected surprise…

This image is a huge tease in more ways than one.

Sadly, despite the tag, the story wasn’t continued since it was intended as a one-shot. Spider-Boy would return the next time DC and Marvel decided to mesh, in an even crazier adventure though. He hasn’t really been seen since, as the two companies don’t really even have crossovers anymore. It’s not terribly likely that we’ll see the Arach-Kid again, but this book is a testament to the fact that if it’s obvious the creators have fun with a book and its concepts, the readers will too. That’s a good litmus test for any comic, in my opinion!

This story originally appeared in Spider-Boy #1 April, 1996. It was reprinted in The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection, which is out of print, but still available on Amazon… for a price.

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