The White Lion And The Dessert Rats

Up The Creek, Down In The Desert… 

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“The Sand People are easily startled, but they’ll be back, and in greater numbers…” – Obi Wan Kenobi.

 

Missing In Awesomeness!

Following an unexpected Imperial entanglement, the Calista Blockhead was forced to make an emergency landing on Bitumen IV in the Itaintalfotmum System. Although Brad Company managed to escape from a Zandokan ambush, Mitch Quintana was mortally wounded, and Brad Fartlighter was captured.

In the meantime, a dangerous new band of Tahntah rebel fighters has emerged in the Djinn Wastelands, led by the notorious chieftain:

Darb Dak’ar Dinari – known to his Followers as

The White Lion.

Their raids on Zandokan stations are increasing in deadly frequency, complicating any chances of rescuing your hero!

Yet from amidst the mysterious sandscape, an encouraging distress signal has been picked up. The Calista is now speeding over the Dune Sea into hostile tribal territory, and the Company are on their perilous way to bring back their Brad

 

“Okey dokey, fellas! We’re comin’ up on the Tahntah camp!” Chief Engineer Harris Wrench announced enthusiastically.

“Settin’ her down… now!” cried Helmsman Gaz Murphy. 

“Watchit, you lot! Ya bedder be on yer guard,” the Chief yelled, lowering the hatch and bounding out onto the velvety golden sand before he had properly activated his respirator.

“‘Ey, ‘Arris?!” Second Officer Lexi Waldorf yelled, racing out after him, the rest of the Company tagging cautiously behind.

“Don’t get sooo excited! Wait up, willya?!”  

“These Tahntahs are mean beggars; top desert figh’ers – tough as crud! They’re renahned fer takin’ nah pris’ners. They all go arahn’ swathed in yajhmakhs: tribal gear coverin’ ’em from head ta foot. These savages are crackshots wiv their looong tahndiggi rifles. An’ they all speak some’t indecipherable called Bit’i – not a frickin’ word a’ English, which is-“

“A real frickin’ drag, is it not, Earthman?” the Tahntah scout growled as it abruptly sprang out of the sand right in front of the startled Chief.

“Uff, frickin’ tourist… Shoutin’ yer lousy head off loud enough to betray our position to the Zandokans. Wanna know how “crack” I can be with this, sunshine?!”

All Harris could do was freeze… and stare with dread down the looong barrel of a tahndiggi rifle. 

In an instant, its buddies had emerged from the ground all around the terrified Company to gesture impudently at them.

“Hey, loudmouth Earthman! We take you all back to our camp; Darb Dak’ar Dinari is… expecting you! And then we show you ignorant lot how frickin’ “savage” we can really get, heh heh heh…”

“Truly, for some men nothing is written unless they write it…” – Sherif Ali.

Deep within the Tahntah base, in a subterranean tribal assembly room, a mob of Tahntah warriors had gathered to gloat at the hapless outsiders. The fearsome fighter: Tahntah Khasabah stepped onto a raised platform and proudly announced the arrival of Darb Dak’ar Dinari.

In an instant, the tension – and noise – dissipated; the crowd parted and a tall and imposing figure, bedecked in a dark, hooded cloak swathed around his sandswept yajhmakh, strode menacingly forth. Darb Dak’ar Dinari stopped to flick back his hood, and he gleered at Bad Company with sinister eyes as black as night.

“Ay caramba!” Nacho gulped.

“Keep back, Lex!” Gaz whispered. “I gotta feelin’ this moofmilker’s gonna chew all the scenery…”

Raising his right gloved hand to salute his guests, the mighty Darb spoke in a terrifying guttural drawl:

“Tahn diggi! Tihn diggi diggi tah bishkah!”

“An’ a-diggi diggi to ya too, fella,” Harris sighed despondently.  “Soz, but we dahn’t un’erstand yer lingo…”

“Nuh fret!” Darb announced heartily. “Aycan speaky yer lingy…”

“Cor, blimey – tha’s a swell piece a’ luck… Er, yer ‘oldin’ our Commander. We came ta geddim back, like; any chance we could see ‘im, umm… Mister Dinari, sir… please?”

“Ha ha, no hold…! He free man! Heere on Bi-tu-mee-een…!”

“Well, where is ‘e, like?!”

The great tribal leader switched off a Voice Modulator under his chin. From thenceforth, his speech lilted… in a more familiar dahn-ta-Earth tone:

“Ha ha ha! ‘Oo loves ya, baby?!”

Lexi stepped forward, gawping in disbelief. “Aow, fer cryin’ out loud!” she beamed.

The others just turned to stare at her.

“I just KNEW it…! Hey, guys: WHAT’S DARB SPELT BACKWARDS…?!”

Undisciplined… unpunctual… untidy. Several languages. Knowledge of music… knowledge of literature… knowledge of… knowledge of… You’re an interesting man, there’s no doubt about it!” – General Allenby. 

“Good on ya, Lex! Groovy. Thought ya might suss me aht before these nerks, ha ha!” Brad cried as he revealed his ridiculously good looks.

Nacho ran towards his Commander, giving him a big hug.

“Oh, tu madre loco!” he blubbed.

“Ha! Yeah, guess yer right, Nach… Good ta see ya ‘gain too, fella!”

Barb Degoya watched with a big dopey grin across his Rontavahrian chops.

“You never cease to amaze me, my Commander…!”

“Cheers, Barby!”

Gaz shook his awestruck head.

“Trust you, Brad, to act out your Loz o’ frickin’ Araby fantasies…! You’re one helluva crazy Brit, but I’ll always folla ya!”

“Heh, cheers, Gaz. Didn’ wanna disappointcha!”

“How have you survived here, all this time?”

“Easy peasy, fella. These Tahntah bunnies are such swell, ‘ospitable peeps; their kebabs are among the finest in the galaxy; they make the most scrumptious dessert: tahndiggibaklava – aww, ya jus’ gotta try it! – an’ luckily enough, I ‘ad the Desert Eagle e.p. in me Zune ta pump me oop for all those raids, but… ah, me Comp’ny – I missed y’all, so I nabbed an Imperial Com’unica’or for ya to come an’ get me!”

Lexi chipped in: “An’ you topped up yer tan as well, I see…”

“Ooh, it’s lovely, in’it? I got- ‘EY! Cheeky gal…”

Brad glanced at his Chief Engineer. “Ain’tcha gonna join in wiv da wisecracks, fella…?”

“Bleedin’ ‘ell…!” Harris muttered. “The ‘White Lion’…?”

“Ah, oho! Well, y’see… they love me porcelain complexion round ‘ere, y’know! An’ dahn’ ferget me lustrous blond mane! Ha ha, blimey Charley! Jus’ listen to ya: ‘Ooh, Mister Dinari, sir’, heh heh heh – shoulda seen da look on yer mug!”

“Aow, leave it aht, Brad… Uff, shoulda known…”

 “Yeah, fella… ya shoulda!”

At that mo, Harris’ blood curdled; that scout wandered over… and extended his hand. 

“Accept, please, my apologies for the…”act” … ‘Arris, is it not? Brad neglect to tell me how… sensitive you is…”

“Ha ha ha! Are ya?!” The Commander wrapped a reassuring arm around his Chief’s shoulder. “Nah worries – meet me new mucka: Tahntah Bosskhah.  ‘E may look as fright’nin’ as fudge, but ‘e’s really a mild-mannered  gent, like meself! ‘Ey, dahn’t be so easily startled, fella!”

“Yes, ‘Arris, chill out… man. Have some tahndiggibaklava…”

“Ah yeah! Ha ha! Amen, bruvva!”

“Give thanks to God that when he made you a fool, he gave you a fool’s face” – Auda Abu Tayi. 

Suddenly, a teenage Tahntah fighter leapt into the chamber, squawking something in Bitti. At once, the older tribesmen grabbed their tahndiggi rifles and began to disperse; Brad Company looked at each other uncomfortably.

“What the fudge is goin’ down now, Commander?” Gaz frowned.

“Sounds like we gotta Zandokan contingent ‘eadin’ our way…” Brad moaned, loading his rifle. “Confound it! Looks like the baklava’ll ‘ave ta wait…”

“Brad?! You’re not thinking…” 

“It’ll be okay, Lex – just one more time-“

“WHOA! Reverse thrust, Mister! We risked EVERYTHING ta get you back! We’ve been through too much to… aah, fegeddit. C’mon, ‘Arris, leave the lunk’ead ta linger here with his cosplay and tahn-frickin’-‘klava! GAH!”

And with that, Lexi stormed out, with the Chief sauntering sheepishly behind.

Tahntah Bosskhah had stood behind them, watching all the while, arms folded and head shaking.

“Oof! Doth my eyes deceive me? Can this be true? Looks like the Lion… just got tamed…”

“Aow, shush you…” Brad blushed.

The desert warrior wrapped a reassuring arm around the Commander’s shoulder.

“Do not be so easily startled, fella…! Wonderful girl… I… do not know. What you think? You think a Furie and a fella like me-“

“No! Oh me giddy aunt, no! She’ll make mincemeat outta ya… fella…”

“So be… never argue with the White Lion…! In that case… I long, instead, to see a real lion – you portray them as such fine, noble creatures…” 

“No such luck, amigo…” Brad sniffed. “They’ve been hunted ta the brink o’ extinction…”

Tahntah Bosskhah shifted uneasily.

“Tahntahtheos, no…! I know now why you were so eager to flee Earth. Truly, therein lie the real savages…”

“Do you think I’m just anybody do you? …The best of them won’t come for money – they’ll come for me!” – T.E. Lawrence

Tahntah Bosskhah surveyed the uncompromising Kazvini Plain with his “acquired”  Imperial ocular device.

“Has been an honour to fight by your side, Inglish… So, are we to ride and raid – one last time, or does the need to avenge your fallen comrade take precedence? I think we both know that Kismet will sweep you away along the latter path…”

“We both know that I dahn’ wish ta leave, but it’s uncanny – after ages thwarting the Empire countless times, the most onerous challenge I must confront involves… executing a coward…”

Tahntahtheos be with you in what perils lie ahead…”

“Cheers… Need all the strength: physical – and mental – that I can muster…”

“…You, my friend, the White Lion – what a privilege to state even that – have made… such a strong impression in such a short time! A redoubtable warrior; a formidable philosopher; a mighty eater; surely no other Earthling could cross the Anvil Of The Twin Suns unscathed? Tell me, is there anything you cannot do, Inglish?!”

“I can NEVER give up hope that, one day, the Empire will fall…”

Sherif Ali: “Have you no fear, English?”

T.E. Lawrence: “My fear is my concern.” 

Harris had taken Lexi out onto an alcove cut high into the Tahntah‘s great mountain fortress to let her simmer down. Tahntah guard wandered out to watch over them; but they all ended up watching the brigade – to an accompaniment of darbuka drums beating furiously – gallop away across the Djinn Wastes…

The Dak’ar Dinari actually stopped to turn and wave to them. Lexi reluctantly waved back. 

“Yeah, ‘bye ‘bye, lunk’ead; if you’re not back by midnight, we’re takin’ orf withoutcha… Do you think he will make it back…? In time…? ‘Arris…!!”

He flashed a wide, dopey grin stretching from one side of the galaxy to the other. 

“Well, fe fi fo frickin’ fum, fella!” he chortled. “I smell the blood o’ me Commander!” and turned to the guard, who lowered his rifle and stared back in shock.

“Jeez, Chief! How’dya know it wuz me?!”

“Ha, I ain’ gonna fall fer the same trick twice! Y’shoulda known that!”

“Yeah, fella… I shoulda!” Brad retorted, unwrapping his yajhmakh. 

“Huh, I shoulda guessed…” Lexi added, with a grin – albeit a wry one – finally returning to her lips. “Actually, I shoulda looked closer no other bunny in this tribe has so many tahndiggibaklava crumbs on ‘is yajhmakh. Lookachu! Messy pup… Okay, so who was the guy wavin’ at me?”

“Tahntah Bosskhah – I reckon you are ‘is Desert Rose-“

“Weh-heh-hell, nuts ta THAT! When? Can. We leave?!”

“As soon as yer ready!” Brad laughed. “Oh well, the new Dak’ar Dinari doesn’ get the girl, but ‘e should manage – gave ‘im me Zune! ‘E loves that Desert Eagle e.p.‘Onestly, ya jus’ couldn’ ride into battle wivaht it. Lookee ‘ere – the only bunny on this rock wiv a music player – if that doesn’t consolidate ‘is leadership, nothin’ will. Okey dokey, notify the others – we’re ‘eadin’ back to the Block’ead.” 

They were just about to move out, when Brad drew them into his arms.

“I know who the traitor is,” he whispered softly. “I’ve been ‘ere long enough ta work it aht.”

“Excellente!” Lexi snarled. “Poor Mitch. I’ve been itchin’ fer payback… ever since he…”

“I know ya have, lov, but this is some’t I ‘ave ta do… considerin’ who it… is…” 

She prepared to argue her case for a bigger role in this Bradventure, until she noticed REAL TEARS welling up in the hero’s eyes; she gave him a big hug before they all turned to leave.

Tahntah Khasabah appeared in the doorway.

“I’ll meetcha aboard in ‘alf a tick, guys – there are some farewell wishes I must pass on…”

“‘Tis true, then? You must leave now?” Tahntah Khasabah spoke (in Bitti). Alas, your glorious chapter in our story comes to a bittersweet end; we should have held a banquet in your honour.”

“We can have that…” Brad replied (in faultless Bitti). “…’Pon my return!”

“Ah! Then you are coming back?!”

“Of course! I could not stay away from all those savoury and sweet delights for too long…” 

“Ha! Praise Tahntahtheos for delivering thee – the ravenous White Lion – unto us!”  

“A thousand thanks for bestowing upon me the honour of leading your warriors into battle…”

“You are most welcome, Inglish. Besides, I needed to repay you for helping me defeat that band of Gondobek brigands, back in the day…”

“You already did when you rescued me from that Zandokan division. It was… Gondobek…? Ha, I had forgotten about them!”

“Glory! I thank Tahntahtheos that the White Lion is on our side…! Now the mantle of my tribe falls to Tahntah Bosskhah – he becomes the rightful Dak’ar Dinari… Once upon a time, I would have ached to join the brigade riding off this evening, but now… I just ache… I grow weary of battle.”

“What will you do now…?”

“I wish to retire, far below, and meditate beside our subterranean glacial pools. I yearn to write poetry, but the Zandokans deem me “savage” and decree that I cannot…”

“No! ‘Tis your life; your love… Do anything YOU want to do…”

“Absolutely! We both know that I will, Inglish. From now on, I will fight only to uphold every right, and strive to ensure that my people survive…”

“I very much look forward to reading your poetry… Follow your heart and smite the trolls.”

“Perhaps… Perhaps I should compose The Saga Of The White Lion; celebrate for evermore how our lives were blessed by such a remarkable man from beyond the stars… Who bewitched us all with his striking blue eyes…”

“Bless your heart, Tahntah Khasabah. You are a remarkable woman…”

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“I think you are another of these desert-loving English…” – Prince Feisal.

Damnation and blast, Brad!” cried Major Spoiler, more than dismayed to see the Battleforce Commander-turned-desert fighter appear before him on the vid-conf screen.

“How are you still alive?!”

“Yay, the bees-knees ta see ya too, Major Crotchstain,” Brad drawled, now ensconced back on the Calista as it zoomed up and away from the Tahntah camp. 

“And what the blazes is it with all that ridiculous tribal get-up?! Amateur theatricals?!”

“Yeah, some’t like that…”

“A nest of savages cannot protect you forever… fool. I will finish what Baumer was unable to do!”

“Sooo… ya wan’ ta terminate me? …With extreme prejudice, am I right?”

“Right!”

“WRONG! I may be as stoopid as I look, Major, but dahn’t think fer one frickin’ minute that I’m gonna fall fer yer dodgy schemin’…!”

Suddenly, Brad leered right into the screen, hollering through gnashed teeth.

“JEEZ! I KNEW IT WUZ YOU!! The set-up…? The ambush? YOU arranged it all, didn’tcha, fella…? DIDN’TCHA?! I’ll track ya dahn, trai’or!”

He held a clenched fist up against the monitor.

“Then I’m gonna download THIS into yer cake’ole, ya treach’rous moofmilkAH!

And with that, transmission abruptly fizzled out.

The Militia officer swivelled round to view the Zandokan delegation seated behind him. A familiar Dark Lord sat at the top of the table…

And did not look at all chuffed.

“Vell done, Mehjair. Yo rilly hed heem urn ze rurpz zhaire…”

“Patience, my Lord. I can assure you that my men shall… take care of Fartlighter-“

“WHAA-?! Yo try to fool Zegreatme?! Ay hef ZEEN yer men! GAH! Vukk me zydwaz… Ze murzt YUZELEZZ burnch urv vukkweetz Ay evair did zee!! Nurt a zeengle brenzell betweeen zem!” 

“But, my Lord-!”

“Uff, zpare me yer vukkin’ covfefe, Urfmairn! Nur mattair! Ay deed nurt come ull zeez way juzt to keek zand een zee Bettleferce Commandair’s fazz…! Yer worriez aire ovair, MehjairBay Ze Pah Eenvezted Een Mee Bay Ze Empah, Ay hef dezpetched ze grettezt bounteee hurntairz een ze gelexy to deeel weev heem!

“Ze Kekchairmair vill peez uz erf… NUR MURR! Heh heh heh…”

 

CONCLUDES HERE

“Me, your Highness? On the whole, I wish I’d stayed in Tunbridge Wells…” – Mr. Dryden. 

 

Shove Piggy Shove!: 2 Cakes Too Many

A Rebellion Built On Cake…

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“The Son Of Fartlighter Must Not Become A Glutton…” – Emperor Zan Doka. 

Planet- Killer!

Zamora – one of the last Federated Planets to hold out against the Zandokan Imperial Onslaught – has incurred the wrath of Zegreatme, Dark Lord of Zan Doka.

He has set the brand new flagship: the Imperial Stodgestonker, armed with the Stellar Converter, a superweapon capable of destroying an entire planet, on a course towards Zamora…

Pledged to defend the planet at any cost is cake-scoffing bum hero: Brad Fartlighter. Him and ‘is indomitable band of outlaws: Brad Company are already back on Zamora after another daring raid across one of the Imperial provinces, but not all is well…

Poor little Carrie sat at the kitchen table of her mother’s home sobbing uncontrollably.

The Zandokans had just skedaddled, after wrecking the garden furniture, scaring off her friends and callously destroying her prezzies. 

Uff, the scaly-skinned bounders had even confiscated her birthday cake… 

“They completely RUINED her party!” wailed Tanya, her shocked mother, who sat in the kitchen watching Nacho and Harris try and clear the debris. Lexi sat beside her, trying to console her.

“Gottverdamnt…” muttered Brad Fartlighter. “If only the Calista had come outta hyperspace a tad sooner… I coulda-“

“No, Brad, even you couldn’t ‘ave done anythin’. They would have captured you, and your cake would now be in the hands of the Empire… “

She was a longtime pal, but even those words cut him to the core stronger than steel. 

“Yeah, but… As a Galactic Hero, I’m supposed ta be in the right place at the right time, an’ all… So sorry Carrie… “Me an’ the Co. are gonna do everythin’ we can to make yer birfday as snazzy as can be again…” Brad muttered, but the girl did not look up.

Tanya held her daughter ever so tightly: “Oh, those Imperial thugs! My kids…! How could they do such a- a-“ and with that, she broke down in Lexi’s arms…

“Don’t fret, lov,” Brad reassured. “Me an’ the Company are goin’ ta deal with ’em right away – an’ ya needn’t worry aboutcha bairns! Isn’t that right, fellas?”

Brad Company each offered their commiserations as they filed out. Except for Lexi; she paused at the door, looking solemn.

“You fellas run along; I’m gonna stay behind an’ look after these guys.”

“Good on yer, Lex!” Brad replied. “We’ll keep ya posted.”

“Fart! Mr. Fart! Hey, wait up!”

Carrie’s brother, Timmy, came running out to Brad.

“Are ya gonna get those Zandokans? Put one between the eyes for me, will ya?!”

“Whoa, Trooper! Strong words for such a pint-sized Rebel. You gotta-“

Only then did Brad notice the tears brimming in the boy’s eyes; he knelt and gave Timmy a big hug.

“…I can promise ya that Brad’s gonna get ’em… Wipe those tears away, kid. Ya gotta be strong fer yer Muvva an’ Carrie now, y’hear?” 

Brad handed out one of his lollipops – wishing he could give so much more – and strode, heavy-hearted, back to the Calista. 

“Is he housebroken, or is he going to leave batteries all over the floor?” – Miles Monroe.

The Calista Blockhead veered through the Hugivzatos System en route to intercept the Zandokan Imperial Fleet.

“Hey, ‘Arris, on our last raid, didn’tcha capture an Imperial Service Droid? And reprogram it?”

“Yes sir!” the Calista Engineer beamed with pride. “Got ‘im right ‘ere!”

A tall, powerful, yet long-suffering bipedal droid plodded forward.

“Ay em B2-BEN-D, Zerveez Droid, Zema Zeriez. Ya vont Zerveez – Ay giv you Zerveez-“

“Whoa, excellente, amigo!” Gaz gasped in amazement.

“Hey, BEN, ya ready ta work wonders fer us?” 

The droid looked irritable. “…Not really, Urfmairn. Thet wuz zuch en eencunveenienz tekkin’ me away from my

“Well, you’re gonna-“

“Huh… mek me, Urfmairn…”

“Uff, hoighty toighty!” Gaz whispered.

The droid stepped menacingly closer: “En’ enuthair theenk: zeez eedeeot failed to give me an oil barf…”

“Did ‘e now…? Well, Iron Nerk, we can’t afford such luxuries aboard the Calista, y’know-“

“Jeez, vot kinduva Meeky Mouze show air you lot runneenk heere?!”

“Look, I’m famished, BEN – go fry some chips-“

“Huh, go fry your head, Urfmairn…”

“Blimey, ‘Arris. “D’ya think ya reprog-job was extensive enough?”

Brad trudged onto the Bridge, bedecked in the biochemech armoured suit of a Zandokan Shokk Trooper. 

“‘Ere’s yer ‘elmet, Commander,” Nacho chipped in. “Where ya wan’ it?”

“ON ME ‘EAD, SON! Where else, Nach?! Fer goodness sake! Flamin’ Nora…”

“I dunno… I gotta bad feelin’ about th-”

“Stow it, Nach. I got this plan, an’ it’s as hot as me pants!”

Harris took one butcher’s and wrinkled his nose: “Uff, too hunky for a Shokk Trooper?”

“Aww, leave it out, ‘Arris! I’m takin’ an awful risk, amigo. This ‘ad bet’er work…”

1e1d0f95cea3c48d97799822df35cdff

Luke Skywalker: “Why didn’t you say so before?”

Han Solo: “I did say so before!”

Meanwhile, aboard the Stodgestonker: “Zir!” piped one of the console operators on tne Bridge.

“Yez? Vot now?!” yelled Zegreatme.

“Ay hef detected a deezturbenz urn Level 1138.”

“Level 1138? Zat eez ze control Centair fer ze ztellar Convertair! Put ze ZZTV urn ze main zcreen, eemmeediatly!”

“Eet eez Troopair FU421, Yer Exzellenzy.”

The shot of a blatant act of sabotage relayed on the main screen.

“Votzevukk eez he doeenk?!”

Zegreatme bolted outta his seat as if an electric charge had shot up ‘is high-an’-mighty arse. 

“BLAZEZ! Zat eez ze tallest Troopair Ay evair did zee! Ehr… FU421, vhy airen’t you at yer purzt?”

FU421 turned round to face the camera.

“Who, me? Oh, er… vitel repairz-“

Troopair… vot eez your urpairateenk numbair…?”

“Numbair 2-5… zeex… wurn, wurn-“

“HA! GOTCHAIR, ya zaboteur-zwine, you! Zat eez NUR urpairateenk numbair! 

“Oh, Blimey Charley, zat’z-!”

“WETT…!” Zegreatme’s bionic fist shot into the air. “Wett a meenit… NURBUDDY elze een ze galaxy toks laik ZAT. GUARDZ! Remurv zat troopair ent breeng heem to ME!”

lightspeed

“We’re gonna do this!” – Poe Dameron. 

FU421 was led by heavily armed escort onto the Bridge; Zegreatme strode forth to confront him:

“Troopair: you vill remurv yer helmet and tell me yer nam…”

FU421 did as he was told, and all the Zandokans on the Bridge gasped as the galactic hero revealed himself.

“Me name is ‘Arrison Ford, Battleforce Commander of the Galactic Defence Militia, Sworn Defender of the Federated Planet of Zamora. Owner of a dodgy bike an’ some mouldy pretzels. An’ I WILL HAVE MY CAKE! In this Prison Barge. Or the next.”

“Whoa, heh heh! Zwivel me zidewez! Vot a zpeech! …But pointlezz. Prepair to meet thy durm, Fertlittair… but, er, really – too hurnky fer a Shokk Troopair?”

“Aow, bloomin’ ‘eck, Zeg, don’t you start!”

“Gentlemen, Ay tell you, zeez Urfdawg hez bin a cunztent pen – laike a boil urn ze burm fer too lonk! Zo… Bred, what breengz you crawleenk out frum undair your wretched ztern zeez taim, eh?”

“Ah, put a cork in it, Zeg! Do wit’ me whatever yer foul bonce can muster, but let Zamora go! I won’t stand aroun’ an’ watch while ya-”

“HA! Do may lugholez hear raight?! Ze gret hero eez lewzeenk ee’z tempair weev Zegreatme!”

Brad lunged forward and started knocking all over the Dark Lord’s armour. A shrill clanging sound reverberated all around the Bridge; the officers present gasped even louder.

“‘Ere, ‘ow come yer suit’s thicker than mine-?”

“GERROFF, ya crazy Urfdawg-!”

“Any’ow, jus’ thought I’d let ya know that I’ve already swiped back all the supplies – an’ the cake, of course! – that you lot swiped from Zamora…”

One of the operators glared closer in disbelief at his console.

“Eet’z trueContainment Vezzel No. 237 eez know compleetly empty! All 403 conzignmentz urv kek are gone as well!”

“Er, 405 actually – I swiped a couple a’ beauties from anuvva-“

“Nur! Zat eez two kekz too many, end- ENNUV! Eet eez urv leetle conzequenz,”  Zegreatme remained unmoved.

“Shurtly, ve VEELL enairgize ze Ztellar Convertair end you ken watch your patheteec paltry planet blurn eento urbleeveeurn, heh heh heh! “You hef LOZT, Fertlittair! Urn yer dodgy baike, Urfmairn! GUARDZ! Eef you pleaze…”

“‘Old yer ‘orses, Zeg,” Brad exclaimed nonchalantly, licking some renegade cream off his upper lip. The hero brandished a a small device from his jacket’s inside pocket. The Zandokan guards’ trigger fingers twitched.

“Vot air you feedleenk wiv now, Urfmairn?”

“Ya know what this is?”

“Vot’s vot?”

“No, Who’s Who, but ya were close. In ‘ere is a record of people who ‘ave been left dischuffed an’ downtrodden by you Zandokan nerks fer too long. 

But there’s one name in particular I wanna draw your attention to, an’ – if I scroll down… dum-ti-dum-ti-d-AHA! ‘Ere she is! A little girl – she means nothin’ ta you Imperial nitwits, but your Zkorpion Troopers, Zeg, still ‘ad ta go an’ ruin her big day, anyway! I wan’ ya ta know…”

Brad seethed, fidgeving furiously with his device.

“This… is for Carrie…”

And with that, he flicked a switch, and sparks leapt out of the main console; in the confusion, he darted one hand up to a hidden earpiece:

“Okey dokey, ‘Arris, get me outta ‘ere, NOW!”

Brad Company teleported their Commander off the Stodgestonker. 

The Dark Lord waved his arms in the air. “VOT?! Ecteevate ze Tractair Bimm! Ay vont Bred back!”

“Bimm… May Lord?”

“Yayyez, BIMM! BIMM HEEM BECK KNOW!!”

“…But ve ken’t, Yer Ekzellenzy! Ze Urfmairn hez deacteevated ze Tractair Beem!”

“Aah, fer ze lurve urv… KURZEZ!”

Brad exhaled a huge sigh of relief as he reappeared back aboard the Calista. 

“No time to ‘ang aroun’, lads – we gotta get back ta Tan’s gaffe, pronto! PUNCH IT, GAZ!”

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“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don’t” – Carrie Fisher.

The doorbell rang.

Tanya came to answer it – she couldn’t believe her eyes! There stood Brad Company, holding prezzies – Gaz and Nacho carried huge cakes. And all Carrie’s birthday guests came running back in!

“An’ anuva thing…” Brad brandished a small gold-foil-wrapped prezzy. All the kids gawped; Carrie took it and shook it curiously.

“I swiped somethin’ else from Zeg…” Brad whispered to Harris.

The Engineer’s eyes lit up: “Me beauty! Ya crafty beggar, ‘Ligh’er…”

Eagerly, Birthday Girl tore it open…

She opened her mouth in a silent scream, and then let out:

“COOL! A Samsung smartphone! Me very own Samsung smartphone!!”

She ran off to show it off to her friends.

“Don’t forget to say th-!” Tanya yelled, but her daughter had already disappeared into the next room. “She is very grateful…” the exasperated Mum exclaimed apologetically.

“No worries, lov! We can see thatTold ya I would make it up to ya- oh! Hey, Timmy, come here a sec, kid.”

Timmy, feelin’ kinda left out, slouched over very slowly.

“Hey, Nach, bring over that big package…”

In curiosity, the boy gradually unwrapped it – a humongous grin flashed across his grubby face as he brought out the second cake.

“Whoa, cheers, Mr. Fart! This is swell!”

“Oh Brad,” Tanya beamed. “Do ya ever get tired of bein’ such a groovy Galactic ‘Ero?”

“Is this a trick question…?”

Outside, B2-BEN-D complained endlessly as he was ordered to tidy up the wreckage in the garden…

“Nur rewad eez worth THEEZ…”

Back indoors, a rare moment of jubilation erupted in this otherwise deprived sector of the Empire as the party went into full swing. The kids revelled in playing games: Pin The Tail On The Zandokan Ass; 1-Potato 2-Potato and – oh yes! – Shove Piggy Shove.

Tanya wiped away more tears, this time, of joy: “Bless you, Brad!” she whimpered gratefully.

“Bless you…”

_pbnir

end

 

The Zandokan Supremacy And The Rebellion Of Rajendra

The Mighty Galactic Federation Has Finally Fallen To The Rotten Zandokan Hordes – Who Will Save Our Cake Now?!

A Standalone Bradventure. Which Means That Brad Ain’t In This One…

“What the-?! If not, why not, eh?! Uff, typical… NEVER invited ta anyfink. Especially at this time a’ year… Can’t even wrangle me way into me own blog?! Jeez, the ‘ole galaxy’s gone NUTS…”

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“Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough” – Ian Curtis.  

“The cosmos is in chaos…” Ajaan Rajendra uttered in grim realization. “That much is certain. We could see, helplessly, how wracked with turmoil the Federation had become, but to learn that it has indeed crumbled under Zandokan might is… unbelievable…”

The warrior-monk-turned-Rebel Leader sat cross-legged, having meditated in twilight on a rocky promontory overlooking the Amethyst Sea. 

His most trusted officer: Commander Alda Vareldt kept an impatient watch, a few yards opposite. With him, a few other bedraggled Rebels waited anxiously.

Behind them, the towers of Dhoby Ghaut Spaceport – its bars and canteens once brimming with noise and good cheer – stood eerily silent that evening.

“We came to collect you, Ajaan,” Alda spat agitatedly. “It’s only a matter of time before the Zandokan fighters arrive. Sorry, sir, but we’ve got ta pull out, pronto.”

They piled into their Stalwart Land Ranger and it passed swiftly through the wastelands of Gundagan…

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“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” – Lao Tzu.

“BEHOLT! ZE POWAIR COZMEEC!” Zan Doka cried manicly as he cradled the stupendous intensity of galactic brilliance between his bionic hands.

Recollections of that regrettable last encounter flooded back to Ajaan as the monotony of the drive set in.

“Duzn’t eet thrill you, Ajaan? Zuch powair eez now rightfully mine! At ze vanguard of our all-out azzault, may army veell be eenveencible! Finally! Ze rotten Federation veell fall unto ME! …Durn’t tell me you’re not imprezzed, Ajaan…”

“Very well. I shall spare you that little victory. But there is something from you I need to know: all that talk of enriching the well-being of the galaxy, why suddenly blight such worth with despicable endeavours and this deplorable empire-buildingWhat makes you think you can succeed?!”

“Mark may wudz, Ajaan of Hygge! Nurbuddy praizez ze goot soul-“

“I would – I would be there to encourage you to do so much more good-“

“Nur! Crush ze Federation and squeeze all eetz corrupt gnats within may totalitarian rule! Then, all those lezzer beingz who zought to mock me would cowair end grovel! THEES eez whut Ay aim to create! Wunce may Empah eez complete, Ay veel veezeet you urn Hygge, end show you how ze grandezt zchemes KEN be accurmpleeshed!

“Mark them… end mark them well. Ay shell be zeeing you egen zooner then you theenk, heh heh…”

alien

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe” – Marcus Aurelius.

On the verge of the ancient Bodhi Temple, their transport came to an abrupt halt. Their cruiser stood in the compound at the rear. While Raj’s group squatted on its age-old steps, Kelly tried to open a comlink with the Calista Blockhead.

“We need Brad Company right here! Right now!”

A hologram materialized, but in place of the fabled cake-scoffer, his right-hand man: ‘Arris Wrench appeared in his stead.

“Blazes, ‘Arris! Where’s Brad?!”

“…Er, not ‘ere. ‘E’s ‘ad ta skedaddle back to his homeworld for a ritual that most of his planet’s population must observe this month every year for the foreseeable future.”

Wha-? I thought that idiot Brad was too cool for hokey religions…”

“Look, we’re all stretched at the mo. The Zandokans launched offensives on FIVE fronts, all at once. Me an’ th Co. barely scraped through that skirmish at Dork’s Drift!”

“Okay, we need immediate evac! Can you-“

The Calista Engineer’s deflated sigh said it all:

“Soz, Kells, but there is NO WAY we can get there in time! Ya’ll just have ta-” 

At that moment, the signal crackled out.

“They’ve cut us off!” Deke Dolmec cried in dismay.

“Blazes…” Kelly frowned. “Observe? What could he be watching?!”

“Gah! He’s the original loose cannon. NEVER there when ya need ‘im,” Alda growled disconsolately.

 “Yeah…” Kelly smiled wryly. “Bit of a rogue one, isn’e…?!” 

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“The Empires of the future are the Empires of the mind” – Winston Churchill. 

“That’s it,” huffed Alda dejectedly. “We’re gonna havta get past the Imperial Lightning Field… on our own-“

“Ah no!” Kelly cried. “We’re gonna ‘ave company anyway! Sensors detect THREE Zerpent Kruizers are closin’ in on this sector!”

“LANDO’S TEETH! That’s not all!” Deke blurted as his quadcorder flashed ominously. “It’s the ‘Ead ‘Ombre ‘imself! The Imperial Zentinel is comin’!”

“As I anticipated – ’tis Zan Doka – none of you are a match for him; I must face him… alone. You must go now, my friends; proceed to Kazjgar. Do as I command and rally our disparate rebel factions. Co-ord the counteroffensive-“

“But what about you, Master?!” Yala, one of his brightest students, was not ready to let go.  “We will not leave you at the hands of this… this merciless-!”

As he gave her a reassuring hug, the great Ajaan Rajendra addressed his Followers: 

“Fret not, Zan Doka comes to gloat… only,” Rajendra blinked his bulbous eyes. “I sense that he will not kill me… at least, not on this visit…”

They all looked dejected. 

“My friends – remember: do not let your hearts… and minds… be troubled. Be aware; be mindful through space. And time. Do not dwell for too long on the sufferings of the Federated Planets. You are… all blessed with great resilience! Now, you must leave. There can be no delay!”

They filed out, some smiling nervously at the Rebel Leader, afraid to accept that this could be the last time they saw this beloved ol’ Yanduri alive. 

Ajaan started to move into the temple; Alda lunged forward, whispering: 

“Why don’t you come with us, Ajaan… now?! I am lost without y-“

The Leader smiled sweetly, and clasped his hands on Alda’s shoulders.

“I know you, Alda… it is most unlike you to despair. For all your talk of great leaders…”

Ajaan’s grip tightened. 

“Be one!!”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu.

The infamous buzz of the Zentinel’s ion engines shattered the dusty air above the Bhoja Temple. 

Rajendra knelt beside the fountain in the courtyard… waiting.

Draped in his priestly hooded cloak, he observed the vessel’s descent and a battalion of Shokk troopers disperse. Down the ramp, borne on a wave of suffocating arrogance, the new Ruler of the Universe marched forth. A malevolent grin emerged from beneath elaborate Imperial headgear as the Zandokan Emperor recognised the Ajaan of Hygge. 

Rajendra rose to his feet and shifted back his hood; Zan Doka strode in, rubbing his bionic hands together in glee.

“Hail thee, AjRaj – Defendair of Ze Lozt Cauze! Ha ha, how ya doin’?”

“I was having a good day…” the Yanduri moaned and beckoned the Emperor to follow him back into the temple.

“Ya, uv courz! Yo really hef to sharpen yer inzults eef yo weesh ta eemprezz yer Nemezzeez!” 

Ajaan abruptly halted; Zan Doka stopped to gleer at his archenemy.

“By the Silver Shards of Callifrax, Zan, what have you done? You and your accursed empire – the galaxy is tearing itself apart,”

“Urn ze contrairy, fool, unlike uther would-be zupairveellainz who could only brag about what they would do with great power, Ay hef achieved whut Ay zet out to do!”

“Nay, the Power Cosmic has driven you mad… Why come back? You detest this planet – you said so, many times. What, getting cramp lounging on your misbegotten throne for too long?” 

Zan Doka halted, staring up at the bewitching ceiling of the Inner Sanctum. 

“Cunning old toad! Ay come beck to tell you WUN theeng: Ay tuld yo zo! Yo ken muztair a thouzand zquadronz, conzolidet dozairns uv mavereek worldz AGENZT ME – warp ze Powair Cozmeec – heh! Eef you ken…! But from the perilous heightz of the Moggadorr Mountainz to the zcintillating shores of the Crystal Zea of Izmeer, mah Empah shall ENDURE EETERNAL! Heh… I tuld yo zo….”

“Uff, spare me your insufferable monologuing, dotard,” Rajendra bowed his head in shame. 

“Ah…! Ay zenze… yer beetternezz – end… mebbe a pen that gnaws et ze vairy core uv yer being… What eez eet, Ay vonder? What ailz thee…?”

Rajendra slowly looked up, his eyes ablaze with mystic fury:

“I cannot believe we had the same mother…”

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May the Sovereign Of Our Universe save us all… 

The Hunt For The Man-Beast: The Bradscribe Expedition To Find Lost Comics!

In The Mighty Jungle, A Fearless Bunny Will Not Rest Until The Awe Of Yore Has Been Found… 

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“Permit me to sneer, Warlock! — Has one who has purity like unto a god — Yes, and innocence, too — Has he found a lasting good upon this planet? Speak truth now! Have you?” – Man-Beast. 

The galactic hero patrolled an alien world in a landspeeder. An evil, slit-eyed droid pursued him.

His hair was definitely black; his outfit? Maybe black. His adventures certainly did not appear in colour, but unmistakably graced a UK comic. Probably Marvel UK?

Who the blazes was he?!

Despite providing a thrilling read, over 35 years ago(!) his name, and – more crucially – the name of the comic in which he starred have – to my complete dismay – completely escaped me.

This Summer, reminiscing about the earliest comics to bring me inestimable pleasure so many moons ago has motivated me more than ever to track some of ’em down.

It’s now or never.

Shut out all 21st century distractions. Cast my mind back to the “Golden Age” of 1979-82 and try and work out the identity of that, and other, lost classics.

Marvel UK produced so much fantastic stuff during that period. Most notably, the bulk of their material happened to be b/w reprints of good ol’ American colour originals. Yay, ’tis through this cheap yet cheerful, and undeniably invaluable modest medium that much of my exploration of the Marvel Comics Universe gained momentum.

Perhaps the most entrancing (re)discovery from my trawl through the comics of yesteryear was Star Wars Weekly – a title reprinting the ongoing adventures of Luke Skywalker, superbly illustrated by comics legend: Carmine Infantino – enjoyed so much back in’79. However – inexplicably, and despicably! – not a single ish survived the cull that swept through the Bradhouse one fateful Winter’s day long ago. 

Now, in 2016, a dozen ishs were laid out high along one shelf of one specialist shop in London. You had to ask the ass(istant) just to TOUCH them.

One cover in particular leapt out at me – it looked SO familiar! The cover blurb stated that it also featured: Starlord, Guardians Of The Galaxy and Tales Of The Watcher. When the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie came out two Summers ago, this team didn’t ring any bells, and yet! They had been a part of my infancy… and yours truly hadn’t even realised! 

Back then, you see, those Guardians did not consist of a gun-toting raccoon, nor a talking tree. Peter Quill spacefared all by his lonesome, in his own strip, not as the leader of the Guardians. Heck, he wasn’t even associated with them neither!

As for Tales Of The Watcher, well…! Get all choked up whenever catching that title – this character had such a captivating effect on me, cos when producing my own first comic book (at the tender age of 6, no less!) it was named: “The Watcher.”

Was this the ish in my possession 37 years ago?! Was that galactic hero set to reintroduce himself to me there and then? Was it, perhaps, Starlord himself?!

Just had to open the polythene bag and find out.

Took a deep breath.

Turning over the front cover, a tingling burst of happy memories might flood my senses…

But no… 

This Starlord looked completely different. And that mysterious cosmic figure was nowhere to be seen…

Curses…!

My quest must resume… elsewhere. 

Never fear, thrill-seekers! A most unlikely target HAS been acquired!

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“The reptilian speaks more truly than you, Man-Beast! My eyes see not the humble robes of my guide, who called himself The Prophet — but the gaudy royal cloth of one who would subjugate this Second Earth!” – Adam Warlock.

Future Tense (a sci-fi Weekly launched in November 1980never – strangely enough – found its way into the Bradhouse.

…Until now.

At long last, a whole crate of original editions were located at my local comics emporium! Bought two editions: opened up the one dated: January 28 1980, and turned to the final story: And Men Shall Call Him Warlock.

The golden-skinned protagonist known as Adam Warlock is another of those numerous warmly-received, yet dimly-remembered comic characters to have danced giddily across my retinas over three decades ago.  

And what – in a gloriously dramatic splash page – is gloating imposingly on the steps of his subterranean stronghold on Counter Earth (“Like our planet, but exists on the other side of the Sun!”) with a captured Adam at his mercy?

Why, ’tis Man-Beast isself!

This humanoid creature with the head of a wolf may have been one of the more obscure oddities to emerge from the mighty Marvel Comics Universe, but – blimey Charley! – made a HUGE impression on me way back when, even though he has lain dormant in the dark recesses of the Brad mind for far too long.

If he regularly appeared in Warlock, then here – lol and behold – is where he first came to my gobsmacked attention.

Photo 31 May 2013 18-59

Garth The Hunter: “Nurse your wounds, stout one — and leave the fighting to me. Perhaps that bite’s taught you the error of your brash and vociferous ways! — Though I doubt it –”

Gorjoon: “Suck an egg, blondie!” 

Funny how something you had never even considered looking for turns up out of the blue when you are busy browsin’ for something else…

A more concentrated scope around my local comics emporium again last week brought to light some very interesting titles, including one title that almost made me jump!

Good Grud! Could not Adam-an’Eve that it was just lying there in wait for me!

As Man-Beast played a profound role in the first of my comic-collecting, so, apparently, did Man-Wolf, aka John Jameson (the son of Peter Parker’s Editor: J. Jonah Jameson).

And so ’twas: Man-Wolf #36.

The cover: a shirt-ripped lycanthrope-hero trapped in space set my arm hairs on end – a startling image not seen for 35 years! 

THIS is a major blast from my past, rediscovered: 

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“I’ll folla ya in the Sky Sled — It wuz the first thing we secured in the attack! Once we git there, though — yer on yer own” – Nick Fury.

And yes – deep joy!

This particular ish just happens to feature Nick Fury, Director and Top Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit in a minor supporting role. The writing by David Kraft is top-notch, and the art – supplied by George Perez and Frank McLaughlin – is so small and meticulous that up to ten panels per page is per usual. 

John Jameson’s curse materialised in the form of the Moonstone. 

“It affixed itself to my throat,” the soldier-turned-astronaut recalled bitterly. And, since then, whenever a full moon appears, it transforms him into “a nocturnal grotesquerie, a lurking brute unleashed by lunar radiation.”

It may not cause a colossal ripple across the the fabric of spacetime, but within the perpetually awesome and award-winning Bradmosphere, this find is positively stupendous!

Huzzah!

This stage of the expedition, my fellow thrill-seekers, has revealed not one, but two, faves once trapped on the distant shores of hazy recollection. Ah, so glad… 

But what of that dark-haired cosmic hero mentioned at the beginning of this Post?

Alas, nobody can tell… yet.

Perhaps he has resurfaced on another side of the Marvel Comics Universe – rebooted and rebranded – in a completely unidentified guise. Such is the trend in comics these days, he is now likely to be a woman…

No doubt The Watcher has noticed – to considerable bemusement – my plight. Nothing gets past him…

Nevertheless, undaunted and undeterred, this bunny ventures even further into the macrocosm that is this jumbled and overloaded mind.

To unleash other long-forgotten thrills from yesteryear.

To delight you, dear reader.

mw end

Keep It Awesome! 😉

Homecoming Scream!: Is Comic Book Movie Fatigue Setting In?!

Tell me, do you despair? You will… 

SPIDER-MAN AGAIN: Why?! How about Spider-Woman? After sex, the female spider EATS the male - who wouldn't pay good money to go watch THAT?!
SPIDER-MAN AGAIN: Why?! How about Spider-Woman? After sex, the female spider EATS the male – who wouldn’t pay good money to go watch THAT?!

“I’m not overly fond of what follows…” – Loki. 

Of all that’s sacred! Another one?! 

Still reeling with dismay from the announcement that the umpteenth Spider-Man movie is forging (or should that be spinning?) ahead, it’s even been given the title: Spider-Man: Homecoming. Now this is quite possibly the lamest tag EVER concocted; what a pun – alluding to Peter Parker’s high-school frolics as well as “coming home” to Marvel after enjoying box office success in the hands of Sony.  

Ahem, is there anyone celebrating this news?

Sure, the original Spider-Man movie with Tobey McGuire was an enjoyable outing. Good to see Sam Raimi on top of his game, but Willem Defoe as the Green Goblin stole the show and rightly so. When the inevitable Spider-Man II came out, it looked okay, but made me realise that there is more to life than sitting through sequels. By the time No. 3 came along, there was no incentive to go watch; many agreed – in fact, a universal arachnophobia had set in. And then for some ludicrous reason – which STILL  thwarts my investigative journalistic powers – with the dust barely settled on this non-starter, we were subjected to: the reboot. This time it was The Amazing Spider-Man. The obligatory Stan Lee cameo happened to be the only amazing aspect of this forgettable movie.

Sorry, Spidey, but Ant-Man was always more intriguing. Even when only seven years old – and in the prime of his comic-collecting duties – yours truly could never accept the Webslinger’s red and blue costume. Nah, Ant-Man had a cool helmet, and the ability to shrink to ant-size really appealed, especially as a viewing of Jack Arnold’s classic: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) at around that time had thrilled my infant mind beyond measure. 

But press me on the issue (hypothetically of course) of an Ant-Man franchise and yours truly would have to respectfully decline. Don’t get me wrong, last year’s Ant-Man movie was like a dream come true, but, bearing in mind the wonders that can be achieved now with modern sfx, the exploits of the tiniest Avenger really don’t suit the big screen.

PANDA-BOY BEGINS!: What?! Neither DC nor Marvel publish a book called Panda-Boy?! Honestly, if you wanna job done properly...
PANDA-BOY BEGINS!: What?! Neither DC nor Marvel publish a book called Panda-Boy?! Honestly, if you wanna job done well…

“Never rub another man’s rhubarb” – The Joker.  

Initially, the prospect of a Suicide Sguad movie did not instill too much confidence in me. So we’ve never heard of them before, but such was the case with Guardians of the Galaxy, and look what an awesome bundle of fun that turned out to be…

The astonishing success of Deadpool in February showed that cinema-goers want something different… something fresh. Hell yeah, Sguad is so fresh, it’s got the Fresh Prince playing Deadshot who, admittedly, is the only member of this mental mob of misfits one can identify from the comics. It is difficult to tell whether this will be a smash or a mere cult hit – talk so far has centred mainly, (worryingly), on the music used in the trailers, rather than the sort of action on offer.

The big news is that this pic will feature an exhilarating new version of the Dark Knight’s archnemesis: the Joker, played -with tattooes?! – by Jared Leto. Personally, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime seemed so fantastic and fearsome, that any subsequent portrayal would seem misguided.

If, however, that is Leto in the Panda-Boy disguise in the above pic, then sure – what the hell! – let’s have a butchers… 

In Squad We Trust? 

We can find out if these bad’uns do good from 5 August. 

SEARCH & DISTRAUGHT: Argo-Man scours the blogosphere in vain for any favourable reviews...
SEARCH & DISTRAUGHT: Argo-Man scours the blogosphere in vain for any favourable reviews…

“Next time they shine your light in the sky, don’t go to it. The Bat is dead, buried. Consider this mercy…” – Superman.

So, most critics and bloggers unanimously agree that DC’s initial entry of their own Cinematic Universe is just a Dawn of Just Ass. Honestly, how can a movie featuring the two most iconic superheroes EVER turn out to be SUCH a phenomenal FAIL?!

Believe me, as someone who collected both Superman and Batman comics as a kid, the thought of seeing them finally spar against each other in one epic blockbuster was overwhelming to say the least! (Given the choice who to root for, it would be very difficult for me to pick a side). Unfortunately, we read the somewhat underwhelming reactions from reviewers and bloggers alike…

One of the few warmly-received aspects of Batman v Superman (or BS for short) was Ben Affleck’s seemingly definitive portrayal of the Dark Knight. Fans are rejoicing at the prospect of another solo Batflick written/directed by Benaffleck – the very same fans who, incidentally, were cursing the casting director when news of Dawn of Justice broke…

If this is the Dawn we’ve all been waiting for, a lie-in has never seemed a sweeter option. And if this “dark and gritty” approach is what we should expect when the DC Cinematic Universe expands, then all does not bode well for a Justice League movie. As a Brit, Brad finds himself rooting instead for the imminent Captain America movie (a character he’ll never tire of watching!) – where’s the Justice in that?

Civil War (released on 6 May!) is shaping up to be another cracker, but personally, the build-up has been marred with a tad too much speculation as to whether – uh-huh, him again – Spidey would make an appearance… in the latest trailer…  

Couldn’t care less? You bet…

Ooh, but Brad! Did ya see that cool thing Spidey did with his eyes?

Yeah… so what?

My attention falls instead on Black Panther. His appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about time and would be most welcome. And a standalone Black Panther movie? Sure: a previously unseen character, and an exploration of diversity – why not? 

But PLEASE – for the love of cake – DON’T give us ANOTHER Spider-Man cameo!!

avengers1-are-we-done-here

“Are we done here?” – Steve Rogers. 

Be sure to join me next time for more cynical banter an’ japes! Same Brad time, same Brad channel. 

Star Wars Prequel Blog-a-thon: The Phantom Menace [Week 1]

Star Bores I: A Spent Force… 

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“I’m sure this one will do fine…” – George Lucas.  

Always gratifying to expunge one’s demons, so they say. So it is with the wretched Star Wars prequel trilogy. 

As part of a blog-a-thon devised by Ashley over at boxofficebuzz, these much-maligned prequels have come under scrutiny, and she gladly accepted my participation.

Back in 1999, the hype for a BRAND NEW STAR WARS MOVIE(!) was phenomenal. George Lucas was ready to come out of his directorial hiatus and tell us how Anakin Skywalker – the Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader. So, what did Brad make of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? 

Let’s just say it was a trip to the cinema he will NEVER forget…

This Post follows boxofficebuzz’s What works/What doesn’t work format, although – let’s face it – the latter is going to be a significantly longer section…

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“I was apprenticed to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become… so much more” – Darth Maul.

What works:

  • Darth Maul: by far the standout element of Episode I. 

As a fan of aliens/villains in hooded cloaks, it’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the spectacular choreography of Ray Park. The extraordinary makeup is both devilish and distinctive. And hell, he’s everyone’s fave Dathomirian Zabrak ‘cos of his supercool dual-bladed sabrestaff. Strangely enough, this Sith apprentice was the very first aspect of preview images to catch my attention. Remember thinking at the time: we’re in for one helluva good cinema trip…

Rather than inevitably load up that lightsaber duel scene itself – still amazing after 17 years – this featurette is worth a look: 

  • The Pod Race

Admittedly, this was fun the first time we watched, and the only sequence not including Darth Maul worth extra viewing. Sebulba is a particularly dastardly figure, and the ensuing carnage makes for compelling viewing. Obsessed with Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders, watching them twenty years later taking pot-shots at the pods was a joy. But please, leave out the two-headed commentator (speaking English?!)

  • John Williams triumphs with the music score. As always. 

Undoubtedly the most outstanding track here is Duel of the Fates. Could you imagine the lightsaber battle without it? 

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“How does it feel to see my designs out in the world? All you can do is sit back and watch in amazement” – Iain McCaig.

  • The conceptual designs of Iain McCaig:

One of my favourite SF/fantasy artists is Iain McCaig. It was a really exciting day when news broke that he was working on Star Wars: Episode I. He was the artist solely responsible for creating the terrifying look of Darth Maul, and designing the outlandish costumes worn by Queen Amidala. 

Although some of his concepts – such as the most reviled alien in the universe – did not make the transition to the big screen so well, his exceptional artistic contribution should be honoured as one of the prequel trilogy’s scant saving graces.

  •  The J-type 327 Nubian Royal Starship:

Super-sleek, covered in chromium, this vessel carries more class and sophistication than any of the dialogue or acting. Such a wonderful design, it does not belong in such a below-average blockbuster. 

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“Phantom Menace is, ultimately, so extraordinarily objectionable… Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much” – Peter Bradshaw. 

What doesn’t work (where do we begin?!):

At the beginning, of course…

  • The beginning: is so lame and monotonous. 

“Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” 

Really? Who gives a monkeys? Suddenly, John Williams’ oh-so-familiar perpetually-stirring theme tune feels incongruous when set to this mind-numbing scrawl. Honestly, this is the intro to a NINE-PART SAGA, and that is the best you can come up with, George?! Remember the opening scene of Episode IV? Yeah! NOW THAT is how you begin a blockbuster! 

  • The taxation of trade routes:

How was this needless attention to economics and politics supposed to engage with the infant cinema-goers?

  • The script: NONE OF THIS RUBBISH MAKES ANY SENSE.

More than the original trilogy, the inanity of the dialogue is called into question; you can’t call any of these figures “characters” because they are never fleshed out/explained. There is no reason/motivation for these figures to stick together, just as there is no reason/motivation for them to travel from one side of the set/planet to the other and – most of all – there is zero character development, so nobody comes out alive (literally).

  • The CGbloomin’I 

Those aliens aren’t real; that droid army certainly isn’t real; fx over here – fx over there – fx every-frickin’-where. And it’s all so tediously obvious. Thus, the screen is beset with absolutely no sense of wonder. And the magic – that endeared the original trilogy to millions – is depressingly absent.  Look, George, it would have been a whole lot easier melting my retinas staring at a video game for 133 minutes instead…

And while we’re on the subject:

  • That droid army: What a bunch of fragile, useless, near-sighted scrap piles!

It’s far too easy to destroy them. The old phrase: “Could knock them down with a feather” could not be more apt. Nothing to fear then, especially during:

  • The Battle of Naboo:

As a fan of SF battlefields, this should have rocked. Instead, the droids – and their battle-tanks – are assembling on the opposite hill – so what? Everybody has seen how ineffective they are – therefore there is no tension, no trepidation for the battle to come; as for the Gungans, by this point, everyone in the cinema is rooting against them, so it’s such a wasted opportunity. Again, more worthless CGI to sit – and yawn – through. Speaking of yawning…

  • Natalie Portman: seems to be a byword for lousy acting.

Cringing in my cinema seat thinking with dread: Shit! We haven’t got to put up with her in the next two episodes, have we…?

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  • Qui Gon Jinn:

Apart from sounding like he was named afer a bottle of Korean alcohol, WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?! The original trilogy was quite specific: Yoda trained Obi Wan. So to learn that this “Qui Gon” fella was not only training the young Obi Wan, but ready to train Anakin as well, annoyed me immensely – ’twas an affront to my supposed status as All-Knowing Star Wars Honcho. Without any character development whatsoever, there is absolutely no audience reaction to his death.

So long, Qui Gon – didn’t know/care much for ya anyway. 

Liam Neeson obviously signed up under the impression that he was going to be part of something special… as did: 

  • Celia Imrie: What was she doing?!

She’s one of the finest TV actors in the UK, so upon discovering she was to join the Ep I cast, it seemed perfectly logical that she would be playing Anakin’s mum, thus providing the right gravitas and emotional intensity required – but no. Bloody typical: overwhelmed to be involved with Star Wars she wrangled her way to big screen mediocrity by appearing instead as one of the fighter pilots. Honestly, her gain was everybody’s loss…

  • Ewan McGregor: He does NOT save this movie, despite so many protestations to the contrary.

He just sleepwalks and drones his way through, only “coming to life” during that confrontation with Darth Maul. And cut that lame pony-tail off! Bad, padawan, bad! And hey! He’s responsible for the oh-not-so-cool: 

  • Death of Darth Maul:

Why kill off the coolest asset of the trilogy in the first Episode?! Maul’s duel with Qui Gon on Tatooine ended with the latter jumping onto that sleek chromium ship. It would have been really clever to end the Obi-Wan/Maul saber-scrap in a similar fashion, with the Sith somersaulting onto an escape ship, leaving the Jedi to watch helplessly as it blasts high into the sky, knowing that this Sith must be hunted down in the next episode... But then again, no one listens to a word Brad says… hello? 

Last, and by all means least:

  • THAT ALIEN WE ALL ABHOR!

Don’t need to mention the lanky, goofy one by name – everyone knows who it is, and enough antipathy has been hurled in his direction since 1999. There is just one more thing to add here: was this figure deliberately intended to look, sound, move and act as derisory as he did? If so, WHY?!

Having blotted out this confusing but colourful mess of a movie from my mind, it was hoped that this would be a mere unforseen one-off misstep, and George would get his mojo back in order to deliver a darker, more dramatic, Episode II.

Besides, the signs were favourable: we were promised less of the lanky, goofy one; the legend that was Christopher Lee was rumoured to appear(!) and the return of Boba Fett looked more likely than ever. 

Really, how could it possibly go wrong?

They couldn’t fuck it up a second time!

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…Could they?