Stranger Th1ngs HAVE Happened!: Season One Celebration

“Something Is Going On Here!”

Please Note: This Post contains copious oodles of chocolate pudding and LOTS of tears…

Jim Hopper: “99 out of a 100 times kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or relative.”

Joyce Byers: “What about the other time…? The one!”

If it had been on disc available to rent from the Public Library – and if my laptop had not detected a virus upon first clicking on Netflix.com last Winter – Brad would have watched Stranger Things lot sooner. 

After a spate of lousy movies and TV shows, and yearning to escape the humdrum of daily toil, the hype for this show could not be ignored forever. Upon learning that Season 1 is set in 1983 – imho, one of the best years ever! – my heart leapt, and thus, my Netflix sign-up duly completed.

Heck, Stranger Things was awesomely hookable enough to watch through several nights AND drag me away from my morning (breaks) of coffee and CONTEMPLATION to compile this Post.

Unfortunately, on this tea and scones side of The Pond, we don’t have Eggo Waffles, but seeing how chocolate pudding is universally scrumptious enough to be found in the fridges of both Hawkins Middle School AND Brad Manor, one reckoned that sumptuous treat would make an ideal accompaniment through this binge-watching malarkey. 

Okey-dokey, got your Eggos at the ready? Let’s engage! 

Mrs. Wheeler: “I hope you’re enjoying your chicken, Ted!”

Mr. Wheeler: “Hey, what did I do…? What did I dooo?”

“On his way home from a friend’s house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab…” 

The opening eight-minute pre-credits sequence of Chapter One is a masterpiece. 

Not only effectively setting the dark and creepy premise, but, with the unexpected aid of Dungeons & Dragons, it introduces our main protagonists as a thoroughly likable gang of Tolkien-crazed perishers. At its simplistic best, this wholesome scene sets Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas as the sort of friends we would want to have hung out with back in the day. How else can it be explained that so many viewers have become so emotionally invested in what befalls them?

Interestingly, their role-playing gaming also informs us as to which beastie we will have to confront: the Demogorgon (a Demon Prince of the Abyss, it is considered the most powerful villain in the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons). Said beastie and a “mysterious girl with psionic abilities” have gone missing from a top secret facility: Hawkins Lab on the edge of this supposedly quiet town.

What about Chief Jim Hopper (FREAKY FACT: Named after the unfortunate MIA character killed by the Predator (1987); incidentally, Hawkins became the first member of Arnie‘s combo to be eliminated by that eponymous hunter). When we are introduced to him (waking up on his sofa) the immediate reaction was: oh great, methinks, another stereotypical deadbeat cop. But, fortunately, Hopper – played exceptionally well by David Harbour – quickly establishes himself as one of the outstanding integral characters of the series, even driving the plot to such compulsive extremes.

No matter how sternly he warns the D&D gang to stay away from the hunt, they – naturally! – head off into “Mirkwood” anyway to try and find their friend themselves.

This whole opening episode is riveting to watch. And it culminates in the dramatic encounter with the “weirdo” in the woods.

It was a dark and stormy night… 

Lucas: “I bet she escaped from the nuthouse in Curly County.” 

Dustin: “You got a lotta family there?” 

Lucas: “Bite me!” 

One of the crucial factors in this show’s success – and popularity – is the gang, played by an amazing bunch of young actors. It’s oh-so-easy to see how Dustin quickly became a firm fan-favourite. But it’s Mollie Bobbie Brown as Eleven who really steals the show here. With little to no lines to work with during her introductory scenes, her expressive performance is quite easily the most striking by a child-actor seen in a long time. Dr. Brenner summed her up perfectly: “Incredible.”

Sometimes, flashbacks can screw up the narrative flow, but in Stranger Things they work really well, particularly Eleven’s unfavourable memories of “Papa.” It would be convenient, at this point, to mention how great it is to see Matthew “Birdy” Modine again, after too long away from our screens, here playing a villain for a change: Dr. Martin Brenner, Director of Hawkins Lab, and – gee whiz! – such a nasty piece of work too.

Is anybody going to mention what a swell diner Eleven finds?! Any hangout that plays Jefferson Airplane and The Seeds is a cool dive in my book. ‘Tis written: play the White Rabbit song and this White Rabbit blogger will always be pleased no end! 😉

The bickering interaction between the boys in Mike’s basement offers particularly commendable scenes. We get to learn more about their individual characters as they try to work out how to deal with the “Weirdo On Maple Street.” This scene is notable for two reasons: first, the boys learn that Eleven has “superpowers,” and secondly, that’s a swell Dark Crystal poster on his wall! 😉

If Chapter One had the best series opener ever, then Chapter Three offers arguably the most heart-wrenching end sequence of any TV drama: a child’s body is retrieved from the river; Jonathon gets a hug from his mum, whilst Mike pedals home to get a hug from his mum, as Peter Gabriel’s achingly beautiful version of Bowie’s Heroes plays.

And Brad almost chokes on his chocolate pudding. Seldom has one witnessed anything so moving during the early hours…

“Mike?! Mike what?! You were supposed to help us find him alive. You said he was alive! Why did you lie to us? What’s wrong with you? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” – Mike Wheeler.  

Speaking of flashbacks, in one striking scene, we see the Byers brothers in an endearing bonding moment: bopping along to The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, which later takes on creepy significance as the mystery gradually unfolds.

Oh, what the ‘eck! We’ve held off this track long enough – you just can’t have a Stranger Things Season 1 round-up without The Clash. Honestly, listening to this ol’ classic stomper will never be the same again.

This is your cue, Joyce:  

“COME ON! COME ON! TALK TO ME! I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!” 😉

Jonathan Byers: “Let me get this straight: Will, that’s not his body, because he’s “in the lights”, right? And there’s a monster in the wall! Do you even hear yourself?!” 

Joyce Byers: “I KNOW it sounds crazy! I-I-I sound crazy! You think I don’t know that? It IS crazy! But I heard him, Jonathan! He talked to me! Will is- is calling to me. And he’s out there. And he’s alone, and he’s scared, and I don’t- I don’t CARE if anyone believes me. I am not going to stop looking for him until I find him, and bring him home!

“I AM GOING TO BRING HIM HOME!!” 

Joyce Byers stubbornly refuses to accept that her youngest boy is dead. Winona Ryder plays the stressed-out mum really well here – a career-best performance, perhaps? 

Right, there are lots of good, freaky stuff in this first season, but none more so than during the fourth minute of Chapter Four. Chief Hopper leaves Joyce sitting, worried and confused, on her coffee table. The camera pulls back, and THIS begins to play.

WOW:

“You can keep the mix if you like. Really, all the best stuff is on there: Joy Division, Bowie, Television, The Smiths. It’ll totally change your life” – Jonathan Byers.

We see Jonathan Byers locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Atmosphere by Joy Division on his headphones, trying to shut out the upsetting possibility that his mother has gone insane. 

You see, that was ME exactly thirty years ago, locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Joy Division Atmosphere on his headphones, playing and rewinding it over and over and over again, trying to shut out all those scholastic, social or psychological problems… Watching an uncanny biopic of This Brad’s Lifeespecially at that time of night – should be unsettling, but on the contrary, it’s gratifying to learn that someone in the crew saw fit to apply such fine taste in music.

In order for El to try and locate Will, the boys have to smuggle her into the AV room at their school. So they give her a makeover – she has such boyish looks that even wearing Nancy’s old pink dress and a blonde wig – an obvious nod to E.T.’s disguise! – she still looks like Charlie Brown in drag!

Speaking of Peanuts, whilst compiling this Post, this amazing mash-up turned up.

El’s dancing and the Demogorgon’s yawn still crack me up every time.

Good grief! 😉

Joyce Byers: “If he’s so wise, why does he need fireballs? Why can’t he, y’know, outsmart the bad guys?”

Will Byers: “Most of the time, yeah, but sometimes the bad guys are smart too, y’know?” 

Joyce Byers: “Alright, I don’t know who’s been raising you, but I’m going to get you some new crayons (because it looks like he’s shooting cabbages!)” 

Lookee here: ANOTHER quintessential ’80s trope: a lone hero sneaks into a top secret facility and hiding in doorways whenever one of its dodgy denizens happens to walk down that very corridor. In this Stranger Things case, it’s Hop who sneaks into Hawkins Lab in search of that most elusive quantity: the TRUTH.

Really digged the scene following that bogus funeral for Will  in which the boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension. Gee, what a great teacher Mr. Clarke is! He helps the gang cope with their “mourning” by explaining the theoretical principles of parallel universes. Spiffing! 

“You guys have been thinking about Hugh Everett’s “mini-worlds” interpretaion, haven’t you?” 

Yeah, man, not a day passes… 

And so, the gang set off to find the portal that should lead them into the Upside Down. 

Chapter Five ends on a suitably sinister note, with that unlikely pair of Nancy Wheeler and Jonathon Byers venturing out to try and find that “faceless” entity she witnessed behind Steve‘s gaff. Yay, Nancy manages to escape from the Upside Down (at the beginning of Chapter Six). Did anybody doubt that she would? A particularly fine performance from Natalia Dyer, whose character develops from shy cardy-and-long-skirt-wearing school swot to assertive jacket-and-jeans urban monster-hunter. 

And – ha ha ha! – how the blazes could we forget Steve (“This is crazy. This is crazy!” etc.) Harrington? He starts off as the cool cat: “King Steve” = Stephen King – nice touch! 😉 – turns into an annoying douche halfway through this series, but redeems himself by ending up getting stuck into the spirit of urban monster-bashing. 

The same chapter ends with a gripping confrontation between Mike, Dustin and those school bullies. And wahey! Guess who shows up to save the day?

“Yeah, you’d better run! She’s our friend and she’s CRAZY!”

WOO-HOO!

One of my instant favourite scenes, and yours too, no doubt! 😉

Dustin: Do you know anything about sensory deprivation tanks, specifically how to build one?”  

Mr. Clarke: “Sensory deprivation…? What is this for?”

Dustin: Fun….?” 

Mr. Clarke: “Okay, well, why don’t we talk about it Monday, after school, okay?” 

Dustin: “You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find. Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?” 

As expected, the penultimate chapter really gets busy, beginning with a tribute to E.T. – the gang are pursued through the Watkins streets by the “bad men” in their matching vans.

Having just wiped my face (and keyboard!) dry after that emotional embrace between Mike, Eleven and Will on the clifftop during Chapter Six’s finale, so Chapter Seven compels me to ransack the manor for MORE tissues as Lucas makes his heartfelt apology to Eleven, and Mike and Lucas shave hands – everything’s fine and dandy now?

Oh no-ho-ho! 

In come more extras from E.T. Luckily the Chief of Police turns up just in the nick of (clobberin’!) time.

Assembling a salt bath in the school gym is kinda rad, man! Another great, creepy sequence.

And as the gang wait for the grown-ups to return, Dustin goes to raid the school store for CHOCOLATE PUDDING. Attaboy, Dustin! 😉

Hey, if MY junior school had stored such a humongous stash of gooey goodness, then – by Jiminy! – all those detentions would have been way more bearable… 

“This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy! THIS IS CRAZY! What are you doing?! Are you INSANE?!” – Steve Harrington. 

And before you know it: my binge reached the final episode. Gee, it all went by so quick; but wow, what a crescendo.

At the Byers’ residence, Jonathan, Nancy and Steve are occupied with paranormal threats, while the kids are chased through their own school by the “bad men.” Meanwhile! Joyce and Hopper – Hazmatted-up and venturing into the Upside Down to rescue Will – offers another irresistibly creepy highlight. Ultimately, Hop makes a deal with the shady cohorts of Hawkins Lab but what price will he be paying…?

Eleven has a final showdown with the Demogorgon in one of the school’s classrooms, and both are whisked off… to the Upside Down? Eleven has to return in Season Two, right?! Boo-hoo! She’s just got to!  

Actually, before proceeding with Season Two, this brand new Stranger fanboy went back and watched this whole corking caboodle all over again. 

Is this love…?

“Only love makes you that crazy, sweetheart, and that damn stupid” – Florence.

Eh? Come again, Flo?!

Seriously though, this Post set out to be a Review, assessing its faults in addition to gushing over its awesomeness. Let’s face it: tried my BEST to find the WORST, but there are no niggling negatives to be gnawed at here. 

However, one crucial point should be made though:

Got to love the way in which this is described as “A Netflix Original Series.” On the contrary, of course, Stranger Things is a cut-and-paste show, with nods to The Goonies here, E.T. there, and so many references to Stephen King sprinkled everywhere! But it’s all concocted in such a deliciously fun and engrossing way that it can – and should -be savoured as a loving ode to the ’80s. And – oh yes – that synthtillating soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is wonderfully evocative of the best decade ever.

Primarily, what appeals to me here is that it’s not so much a horror show; rather, its emphasis leans more towards dark fantasy (an intriguing subgenre that is currently fueling some of my best fiction writing!) There is menace; there are one or two moderately gruesome moments but nothing gory. The 1983 setting is mighty fine and dandy – a story such as this could not have worked in the 21st century – gimme walkie-talkies, NOT mobile phones, ANY day! 🙂 And you know the writing is top class when it becomes impossible to select just one favourite character. 

All in all, glad that time and technology could finally coalesce in a highly fortuitous manner to make Stranger Things Season One happen for me. At last! It’s a splendid, but rare treat: watching a perfect piece of television such as this for the very first time. 

Ah yeah, this series grabbed me by the Goonies from the get-go and never let go.  

Now, Brad has to go and replenish his fridge with MORE chocolate pudding, but he WILL return VERY SOON and present you with an Xtra special feature about El, a Season 2 Review and -hey! – a Season 3 Review.

Promise 🙂

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Pretty… good…” 

Marks Out Of 10? ELEVEN! (or El for short) 😉

 

“Friends don’t lie…” 

 

“On My Command – Fire In A Series Of Rapid Proton Pulsations!”: More Mega Mags From Mighty Marvel

A Cool, Candy-Coated Cavalcade Of Classic Corking Comics

Dr. Rachel Sweet: “The humans will be here any second, ROM!”

ROM: “They will find only an empty laboratory, wraith, for Firefall and I will have long since gone… And you shall be drifting in the shadow realm of limbo!”

Dr. Sweet: “Will I, ROM?! To banish me you must first recover your neutralizer, and not even you can free it! You couldn’t penetrate that force-sphere without expending all of your armor’s energy!” 

ROM: “For a Spaceknight to do so would mean death!” 

Welcome back, True Believers!

In an attempt tp slink back into a more regular blogging groove, yours truly thought it best to compile another batch of titles acquired during my Bronze Age expeditions. However, this just happens to be the one series in this blog that has, curiously, become quite a laborious chore to compile; thus a whole backlog of Reviews remain unfinished!

So how can one remedy this?

Rather than utilizing a fancy gimmick, or theme, for this Post, as per usual, ishs were selected entirely at random. By reducing the number of ishs featured per post to just FOUR, hopefully the output of these comic book reviews should increase. Also, note to self: try not to be so meticulous when discussing plot-points, especially with the more awesome ishs.

Okey-dokey, ready for some rapid proton pulsations?

Let’s get stuck in, starting with a true classic:

 

Dr. Daedalus: “See the genius of Galadorian cyber-surgery! Human organs and cells genetically grafted to spaceknight steel! We are looking at a suit of living armor!” 

The Most High One: “What we are looking at, Dr. Daedalus, is an enemy who has pursued us across the cosmos for 200 Earth years!” 

“By the Golden Gates of Galador!”

Wow, ROM, WOW! 

What a rip-roaring – and strangely moving – ish ROM #11 (October 1980) is.

The Greatest of the Spaceknights has discovered that Project Safeguard – the US government initiative set up to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats – just happened to be established by none other than the Dire Wraiths: the most malevolent extraterrestrial threat Earth could ever face.

In this chapter, entitled: “Standoff!” ROM – held prisoner within a stasis-field in the top secret depths of Ultralab – must free himself and defeat a wraith in the guise of scientist Dr. Rachel Sweet. She is seriously dischuffed at being ordered to exterminate ROM – she would have preferred to keep him alive and learn the secrets of Galadorian cyber-surgery, thus advancing wraith-science. 

ROM wins this round, but only through the unexpected sacrifice of Archie Stryker, a petty (human) criminal who had sworn to destroy the Spaceknight (before being tricked by the wraiths and grafted into the late Firefall’s armour).

Those proton pulsations did the trick: in the climactic panel (below) the Ultralab guards burst in to confront the “evil robot from outer space.” 

Those top co-imagineers: Bill Mantlo (script) and Sal Buscema (art) have excelled themselves – this is one brilliant ish, absolutely BRILLIANT.

“She’s stallin’ — up to something! Wait! That instrument panel she’s leanin’ against… Of course! It’s gotta be tied into the intercom system! She’s been screamin’ stuff about us killin’ her for the benefit of the security forces upstairs!” – Firefall.

 

Mr. Gyrich: “As the authorized agent of the National Security Council, I hereby revoke your Avengers’ priority status! From this moment on, your ties with the federal government are severed…!”

Iron Man: “Gyrich, wait! You can’t! That affects almost everything we do…! Great! Just great! Now we can’t fly our aircraft, we can’t use our monitors, our security clearance and priority status are gone–! Now what?” 

“ANYBODY HOME?! Hey,  Avengers! Where’s the cake and the brass band, huh? HAWKEYE’S BACK!” 

Searching for pre-1981 ishs of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – especially at affordable rates! – has been one of the toughest objectives encountered during my Bronze Age expeditions. So imagine my surprise, but sheer delight, upon stumbling across The Avengers #172 (June 1978) “Holocaust In New York Harbor!”

Clint Barton returns, but to an abandoned Avengers Mansion. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, meanwhile, are uptown, having defeated Ultron in the previous ish. Upon their return, ever-dependable butler: Jarvis runs in to inform them that Atlantean rapscallion: Tyrak (Tie Rack?! arf, arf, arf) is running amok around NY harbour. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, and Ms. Marvel head for the waterfront to confront their fishy foe, while Iron Man stays behind to try and solve the mystery of the vanishing Avengers.

So, was this ish worth the bother?

Despite Hawkeye’s prominence on the cover, we barely get to see him. Considering how this team “were born – to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand,” this particularly ineffectual nerk could easily be sorted out by, say, Shellhead, or even the Cap – or, more appropriately, Namor The Sub-Mariner – in any of their solo adventures.

Come ON: apart from a big mouth and some right hooks, what threat does he seriously pose? Get a load of that orange vest, and those yellow fish-scale tights, especially against his sky-blue skin. But the REAL “danger” lies in those PINK BOOTS. Obviously, this ish’s colorist had been itchin’ to try out his new box of crayons…

The final panel reveals those missing Avengers encased in cryo-tubes and only the hands of a mysterious supervillain operating a snazzy console hint at a more dangerous threat to come in the subsequent ish.

But come ON!

Yer ol’ buddy Brad strode all the way across ol’ London town to track down this precious ish – only to find a noisome nautical nincompoop with a bad attitude, appalling dress sense and those blamed PINK BOOTS?!

No reward is worth this…

“Did you think that anything short of total disintegration could stop me? YOU WILL NOT TOUCH MY WIFE! You HATE the sun’s burning rays — I trust that my thermo-optic beams are equally loathsome!” – Vision.

 

Dr. Strange: “Good morrow, milord. This lady and I be weary travelers, who have journeyed far to speak with thee. Might we have a moment of thy time?” 

Sir Francis Bacon: “Indeed, sir! Sit, I prithee. I warn ye, however, that I am yet new to my governmental duties, so any pleas–!”

Dr. Strange: “No, milord. ‘Tis Bacon the philosopher and author we seek.” 

Sir Francis Bacon: “What? Not more allegations that I wrote the works of William Shakespeare, surely? I deny it absolutely!”

“By the Crimson Crystals of Cyttorak!”

Every once in a while, ’tis a joy to return to the Master of Mystic Arts!

This title radiated awesomeness whenever co-imagineers: “Smashin'” Steve Engelhart and “Genial” Gene Colan were at the helm, so the reputation of Dr. Strange #17  (August 1976) deservedly precedes it. Honouring that year’s bicentennial celebrations, this chapter: “Utopia Rising!” explored the origins of America. 

That desperate ne’er-do-well: James Mandarin has committed the ultimate crime: stolen a selection of antiquarian books from Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. One of the recovered books: “New Atlantis,” in which Sir Francis Bacon outlined the “dream of a new form of society… of free men, where neither princes nor pontiffs shall hold sway, and the governors shall be the governed,” piques the interest of Stephen’s apprentice, Clea. So he takes her back in time to Stuart London, 1618, “to plunge into the mad babble of the rabble in the tavern” to meet Sir Francis. 

After Stephen and Clea leave, they are attacked in the street by a gang of bawdy blackguard bounders, who turn out to be minor magicians…

They’d been dispatched to steal the manuscript of New Atlantis, but by whom?! 

Later, in a hastily-procured hotel room – Dormammu’s Demons! – the Sorcerer Supreme of the 20th century is ambushed by Stygro, the Sorcerer Supreme of the 17th century. Here, Colan is at his expressive best: the unusual, magik-tinged combat is accentuated through his distinctively giddy, mad swirls of flying furniture and twirling tomes.

The finale is marked by Sir Francis’ confession that he never intends to publish New Atlantis in its entirety:

“Let everyone believe it lost, to fan interest in its unanswered mysteries!”

And his revelation that King James had recently appointed him to direct “our colonization effort” in the New World. 

“Need I add that only those who who seek true freedom shall I send?”

Thus, Dr. Strange communicates with Clea telepathically:

“And that, Clea, is why “New Atlantis” marks the REAL beginning of America!”

A veritable Bronze Age masterpiece, brimming with class, maturity and sophistication.

“Next: Ben Franklin struts his stuff!”

Whoa, can’t wait… 

“Thou dost speak like a wine-besotted fool, Mister Strange. The drift of thy speech, therefore, eludeth me entire” – Sir Francis Bacon.

 

(Hey! Coulda swore I saw somethin’ move up there! You’re actin’ like a scared kid, Lucas – jumpin’ at shadows! But shadows don’t make noise… It sounded like it came— from behind me!) 

“SWEET JUMPING CHRISTMAS!” – Luke Cage. 

“You cooked him, Mistah Fish! Fried ‘im like a flounder!”  

Last – and probably least? – in this round-up comes Luke Cage, Power Man #29 (Feoruary 1976). It’s an odd lil curio, but with such a badass (lameass…?) title as: “No One Laughs at Mr. Fish!” how could Brad – nay, anyone! – refuse?!

Imagineered by those ever-trusty stalwarts of awesomeness, “Boisterous” Bill Mantlo (Blimey! Him again!) and “Gorgeous” George Tuska, this, unfortunately, has all the hallmarks of a last-minute filler job – desperate for ideas with a deadline fast approaching…

Therefore, in addition to being a far-fetched creation, “Mr. Fish” cannot be considered to be anything other than irrelevant and disposable. Moreover, by today’s standards, Mr. Fish’s henchmen could easily be deemed racist caricatures.

Luke, of course, is cool and tough as always, but deserved much better material than this. 

You can read this ish…and still not believe it. It’s okay, but nothing special. And probably may not stay in my collection for much longer… 

But hey!!

At least Mr. Fish didn’t have to rely on pink boots to intimidate his enemies!

Cheers!

“The others fled as I – glowing from the contaminating isotope – dove into the filthy waters of the East River! And though I stayed beneath the water for what seemed like hoursstill I burned from within! My entire being aflame as I… changed! …I knew instinctively that I would never be the same again!” – Mr. Fish.