High 5! The Bradscribe Celebration!

It’s Time To Come Together!

Thor: “Hey, let’s do the Bradscribe Celebration! Come on, you love it.”

Loki: “It’s humiliating.”

Thor: “Do you have a better plan?”

Loki: “No.” 

Thor: “We’re doing it.”

YAHOO!

There’s a party goin’ on right here! A celebration to last throughout the years. Come on now!

Yes, friends, it’s FIVE YEARS AGO today since Bradscribe made its first tentative steps into the blogosphere. Essentially the main platform to bring my writing to a wider readership (i.e. not just my mother) it has grown (hopefully in a healthy way) with the original SF articles and movie and book reviews now accompanied by Bronze Age (comic) Bonanzas, fiction, music compilations and – oh yes – parties. 

Such a monumental anniversary could not go unheralded. Besides, we could all do with another Bradtastic party, right? Let’s all celebrate and have a good time!

What better way to get these proceedings under feelgood way than with the Synchronised Sneakers Squad: 😉

“OH! Feels so good, doesn’t it…? I just 

can’t

help

myself!” – Doctor Stephen Strange. 

 

Freaky Facts About Bradscribe: 

 

1. Actually, my original sign-up with WordPress was made during the first months of 2012, but – thrilled at having access to my very own Dashboard from which my distinctive creativity (and waffle 😉 ) could pour forth – no matter how much the instruction manuals were read and reread, none of them made any sense; they may as well have been published in Lithuanian!

Only by constantly repeating a How To vid on YouTube did yours truly discover that the little white box in the top right corner of the Dashboard activates any  New Post…

 

2. Brad is NOT superstitious and yet over the past 60 months, not a single Post got published on the 13th day of ANY of them. At least something – even if it’s just a music Post, (the quickest and easiest to compile) – has appeared EVERY month. Strangely enough, no Posts materialised during November 2013. As soon as the technical side to blogging was mastered, so me ol’ mucker Writer’s Block came a-knockin’. HA!

 

3. Posts have been published in 3 different countries. Having watched – and thoroughly enjoyedBirdman in Singapore (in February 2015an equally enjoyable night was spent at a 24-hours Starbucks typing up this Review: 

 

4. Passing the 200 Followers milestone (in February 2017 is (Statswise) my most successful Post with 21 Likes and 36 Comments. 

My most popular Post remains my tribute to one of the greatest actors: Peter Cushing It’s the one where the majority of my Spam Comments tend to accumulate. Although some are unintelligible – or in Portuguese – these are unanimously positive and full of praise – or giving tips on how to improve my hydroponics system… 0_0

The next two clickbaits in the Bradscribe Archives honour a couple of the most iconic female characters in popular culture: Rey Of Light: Who’s That Girl? and Here’s To Hela: The Girl With The Awesome Antlers

 

5. The first video to appear here happened to be the trailer for Ex Machina in January 2015. 

Not comfortable with the way in which the text of this site looked too gargantuan on other consoles, and miffed that new readers could not access my wonderful About page, the decision to change my Theme was taken in June 2015. 

The first gif – now a (beloved?) mainstay around here – featured (of all people) Max Von Sydow (!) and appeared during this fiction Post: in August 2015. 

Dr. Hank Pym: “Hiya, champ, how was school today?”

Scott Lang: “Aw, ha ha ha! Alright, get your jokes out now, can you fix the suit?”

Hope van Dyne: “So cranky…”

Speaking of shining stars, ;-) this site would be nothing without YOU. 

Surely, the main aim of avy blogger is TO BE READ, yes? Taking this opportunity to extend gushing gratitude and virtual hugs to you all! 

The main reason to get embroiled in this blogging lark was to meet and chat with a myriad of groovy, like-minded peeps. Starting out all those moons ago, admittedly, there was some trepidation: would other bloggers be kind and sane peeps to converse with?! Moreover, would they be sociable with Brad? At all?!

No worries. 

Such intelligent, interesting and witty individuals you are! Just the sort of lovely folk one expects to find in the local village.

And another reason why you are all so amazing? 

You got soul! If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in here 😉

Peter Quill: “I like your plan. Except, it sucks. So let me do the plan and that way it might be really good.”

Drax: “Tell him about the dance-off to save the Universe.”

 

Behold! The 5 Most Gobsmacking Moments @ The Movies In The Last 5 Years: 

 

2014 

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

If I could save time in a bottle…”

“Prison break? That’s illegal, you know?” – Pietro Maximoff.

 

2015

Mad Max: Fury Road 

The Perfect Storm!

“Angharad, is that just the wind or is it some furious vexation?” – The Dag.

 

2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

You don’t know the power of the Dark Side... until his Lordship kindly gives us a demonstration…

“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director” – Darth Vader.

 

2017

Thor: Ragnarok

She’s not a queen. Or a monster. She doesn’t hold back neither! 

“…But it can’t be you. You’re just the worst” – Thor.

 

2018

Avengers: Infinity War

SNAP to it!

“You should have gone for the head…” – Thanos.

Hey!

Is it possible that something got left out here?!

Can YOU think of a scene – shown on the big screen within the last five years – that needs to feature on this list?

As always, your awesome Comments will be very much appreciated! 

“He’s not so bad… deep down he’s all fluff… He’s also a huge dork. Chicks dig that!” – Natasha Romanoff.

Okey-dokey then, enough about ME!

Hope you have enjoyed these grooves, gags and gifs – thank you ever so much for popping round.

As long as WordPress continues, there will ALWAYS be good times and laughter on the site endearingly known as Bradscribe. For the rest of this month, it’s back to the spooky stuff as we hurtle hectically towards Halloween. 

Had intended to round off this one-in-a-half-decade jamboree with a few deep and profound words, but really: can anyone still see/hear me above that joyous cacophony of loud music, merry banter and balloons popping?!

So, in eager anticipation of many many more positive and productive Posts ahead, let me just wish you ALL: 

A Very Happy Triple Choc Cheesecake Peanut Butter Caramel Cake!! 🙂

“Yes, it’s true…! We’re all here together… truly together, for our hearts are open books and this atmosphere breeds understanding and mutes the ego. Here we are all one, and in this oneness there can only be… love” – Adam Warlock. 

 

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The Vault Of Horror: Creepy Comics From The Cellar

When Darkness Falls, Beware!

For In Those Night Hours, Brad Trips Over His Comics Collection… 😉

“You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a mild autumn day” – H. P. Lovecraft.

This month – in preparation for Halloween – we will be taking a special look at horror.

The nights draw in; no matter, for we descend into the darkest domain Brad Manor – where even me minions dare not tread…

Despite not being much of a horror comics fan, several rather creepy mags still lurk in these musty – Blimey! Get a loada’ the cobwebs down ‘ere! – corners of my gaff.

One British title, in particular, comes to gleeful and nostalgic mind.

During March 1984, my weekly editions of Battle Action Force (produced by IPC Magazines, more famous for the longest-running SF comic: 2000AD) ran increasingly intriguing ads for a forthcoming horror comic. 

Couldn’t wait?

You’re telling me! ‘Twas like enticing me with cake…

Greetings, mortals! I am the once-human editor of this gruesome publication. If you horrors out there want to read something really spooky, you’ve picked the right paper…” – Ghastly McNasty. 

Will always remember reading and re-reading that first ish of Scream. Waiting for the “Second Spine-Chilling Issue” turned out to be the longest week of my life! 

Let me tell you why: 

The opening story: The Dracula File could so easily have been skipped – the Count is the most overused/recycled horror character, but this version entranced me from the get-go, especially as it is illustrated by Eric BRADbury (one of my fav artists from Battle Action Force) and a tense script by Gerry Finley-Dey (another Battle and 2000AD regular) interestingly set in the 1980s, against Cold War politics.

A “defector” flees across the East German border, surviving a hail of machine-gun bullets and manages to be transported to a military hospital in Britain. Colonel Stakis, at first sceptical, sets off in pursuit, wary of the realization that he may very well be dealing with the Prince of Darkness himself. He cannot inform the authorities in the West of his “unholy” mission, while they, in turn, are exceedingly dischuffed at having a KGB operative lurking freely around the back streets of London.

It’s a compelling thriller, gifted with some amazing surreal moments, especially Drac seeking sanctuary at… a fancy dress party! 

He drains the blood of Harry the Gorilla and seduces Cinderella – not even Christopher Lee could boast that! 

“Poor devil – I bet it’s been like a nightmare for him. But he’s defected safely – he’s got a whole new life ahead of him in Britain…” – Nurse Nightingale. 

(The Dracula File received a much-welcome reprint in a hardback collection published in October 2017) 

 

“That cough of yours is getting worse, Nathaniel! It’s time you prepared for the final journey. Pay me now in advance, and I’ll bury you at half my normal price!” – Joshuah Sleeth.  

For me, by far the outstanding story of every issue was Tales From The Grave, 2 or 3-part chillers set in the early 19th century, narrated by The Leper who described the various spine-chilling background stories laced with all the period detail you could eat.

Although Jim Watson’s “untidy” artistic style divided comic fans (especially in my school playground!) he lent the ideal, twisted gothic touch to this series; the grisly opening 4-parter: The Undertaker proved to be a clever tale of murder, deception and intrigue. At its (devilish) heart loomed Joshuah Sleeth, “an evil beggar alright,” as The Leper explained. “If yer needed a helpin’ hand into the next world, so ter speak, he was always ready to give it…”

The Cabbie And The Hanging Judge is also rather effecting, but, on this relatively mild autumn eventide, the very thought of Willard Giovanna RIP makes me shiver.

One day, whilst The Leper is digging with his old mate Finley, a gentlemen dressed in “old-fashioned clobber,” enquires to the site of one Willard Giovanna. Finley pipes up and directs him over to a rather untended grave.

“You crafty coot, Finley!” the Leper whispers, “Yer after the tuppenny tip he’ll be offerin’!”

Thereafter, a macabre plan to exhume the remains is set into action that very night. Restin’ his achin’ bones awhile, Finley happens to glance at the nametag in the gent’s fine coat: Willard Giovanna! ‘Tis the same name as on the stone – the gent’s diggin’ up his own grave!”

Sure enough, when Finley resumes this unspeakable exercise, he finds the coffin, and opens it to find it empty, except for a letter – “an’ Saints preserve us!” – addressed to him! 

Dear Finley, 

Here is your payment as agreed for digging up my coffin. A similar payment will arrive for you each month if you keep my grave in good order. Then there will be no need for me to return!

Yours,

W. Giovanna.

And with that, the startled Finley turned around to get the shock of his life: Willard Giovanna had turned into a rotting corpse. 

This tale left me not so much fearful but fascinated: how do horror writers concoct such amazing stuff?! 

In addition, a different story appeared every week in a series entitled: Library of DeathBeware The Werewolf! was a great crime-caper drawn by yet another great artist we lost far-too-soon: Steve Dillon; Spiders Can’t Scream presented the terrifying consequences reserved for evil treasure-seekers who wipe out ancient civilizations in the South American jungle; the 2-part Sea Beast offered a freaky variant on the Don’t-go-into-the-water theme; while particular moody fav Ghost Town features ill-fated present-day car-drivers pitting their wits – and rifles – against Wild West ghouls who are always far too quick on the draw! 

But the story that started it all off: Ghost House became an instant classic due to such spine-chilling art supplied by the always-reliable Cam Kennedy, then blowing me socks orf on 2000AD’s Rogue Trooper. His nameless ghoul (almost!) made even Brad’s flesh crawl – check out that grisly beckoning hand! (see below!)

“They thought they were too old to enter the house. They were wrong. No-one is too old… and no-one is too young! Age does not concern those who dwell in the Ghost House” – The Nameless One.

Apart from a handful of Holiday Specials, Scream comic never got a 16th issue…

Popular belief maintained that irate parents demanded the publication’s closure after giving their children countless nightmares.

The truth, it seems, is rather more mundane. 

A printers strike at IPC Magazines affected half a dozen titles. Unfortunately, the one title NOT resumed post-crisis happened to be the one yours truly most craved every week!

Bah!

Over the last three decades, however, Scream comic has attained a richly-deserved cult status, with reprints now becoming widely available.

 

English horror didn’t vanish with the fog and gas-lit cobblestones at the end of the Victorian era. Riveting, spine-chilling stuff” – Alan Moore. 

Hellblazer used to be one helluva haunting read.

This series – part of Vertigo: DC’s “Suggested For Mature Readers” range – kickstarted my DC – and, to a certain extent, Marvel – revival in 1988. 

Offering eloquent, yet disturbing, forays into the crass, yuppie-driven, Thatcherite terrors of ’80s London – as if the dirt, grime and lousy English weather was not enough! – the scintillating, and yet exceedingly creepy, writing by Jamie Delano helped me “escape” from the rigours of that school year (luckily, mercifully, my last). Each issue appeared unmistakably graced with glorious cover art by Dave McKean; the 1st issue’s collage (see above!) holds a reserved place in my Top 10 Best Comic Book Covers Ever. 

Co-created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bisette, and John Totleben, and based on Police frontman: Sting,  John Constantine is a heavy-smoking, obnoxious fella (from Liverpool) who just happens to know a fair bit of the occult and is continually haunted by the ghosts of friends he failed to protect.

Making his debut in Moore’s Swamp Thing, his own solo mag’s opening shocker: “Hunger,” dripping with voodoo – actually one of my least fav horror themes – remains a gobsmacking gamechanger.

The first seven ishs offer a superb introduction to the work of British co-auteurs: Jamie Delano and John Ridgway, and would now be hailed as literary classics if they featured in anything other than the comics medium.  

Delano had this unfathomable knack of weaving bloodcurdling chills on one page, and then surprising you on the very next page with the darkest rib-tickling humour! Some marvelous descriptive text, and, complete with John’s trenchcoat, it all seemed rough and hard-boiled, not unlike a Dashiel Hammett novel, except this dick had to deal with demons and diabolical dipwits… 

And this writer sure was glad that this title promised and delivered! – SHEER terror, and not that cockamamie terror – or halfassed terror – with which too many indie companies were wont to churn out back then…

Am fond of one particular, indelible moment: in one episode, Constantine has to bail out of a London black cab, unable to tolerate the driver’s incessant vile and xenophobic rants any further. As he does so, said callous cabbie bristles:

“‘Ere! Don’ I get a tip?” 

“Yeah, it’s this: your mind is narrow and full of crap. I suggest you get a new one.” 

Attaboy, John! 🙂

“…Bloody rain! Bloody England!” Ha ha HA, yeah! Too bloody right, mate!  😉

“Pure reaction slams the door on the scuttling horror. I ought to just walk away and not come back. Jesus… Lord of the Bloody Flies, eh? I feel like I’ve had my share of bad craziness for a while. But like they say, you shouldn’t join if you can’t take a joke” – John Constantine.

 

“Berni Wrightson really is the unquestioned master of the medium and that’s not just because the cover blurbs say so and because the field is about 95% saturated with superheroes… Oh, Berni knows his grave-dirt all right… and while we huddle there, backs turned, eyes averted, minds set, Berni pops up in front of us with his magic mirror and says “Boo!”” – Bruce Jones.

It is impossible to compile such a Post as this without featuring the extraordinary talent of the late, great Bernie Wrightson – arguably THE quintessential horror comic artist. 

In fact, Pacific Comics gratefully collected some of his classic works in Berni Wrightson: Master Of The Macabre (only 5 ishs published during 1983).

He produced a suitably chilling 😉 adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cool Air, as well as his own SF horror story: The Last Hunters, a far-future saga in which an android hunter exterminates the last vestiges of humanity. On a distant world… called Earth…

Who could ignore the malformed terror that is Jenifer, the sinister deception played on The Laughing Man or the heartrending beauty of Clarice?

But my thirst for awesomeness would be well and truly slaked with The Muck Monster, Berni’s moving version of Frankenstein, as told from the monster’s perspective. 

Oh, which of these seven sublime pages should Brad select?!

Ha, he cheated! And presents TWO.

Read with wonder, friends, for you will find this is not in the least bit horrific, nor is it particularly creepy; quite simply, this is a mighty fine example of this medium at its sumptuous and breathtaking best: 

“…But, Doctor, it’s the same dream. It doesn’t change!” 

“Even so, I’d like you to go over it once more.” 

“Okay, Doc… It started like before – with me losing my footing on the wall. I crash down to the ground… so hard that I break every bone in my body… Then the soldiers come and say there’s nothing they can do for me! I know the dream is going to come true! It’s a warning! I’m going to fall!” 

“Rubbish! I’ve told you before. If you want to stop this nightmare… you must stop reading these horror comics, Mr. Dumpty!” 

 

Tales Of Sprained Deltoids: Throwback Thorsday!

By Order Of Odin – FIVE Ishs Of The Mighty Thor – What Sayest Thou?! 

They are brave, Vizier… braver than any gods before them, or any who will come after, I think. Would that I could sail with them… but Asgard holds me… ‘Twas not so long ago my son and I were enemies sworn. I hope that I have not sent him to such a terror… with enmity still burning in his breast. ‘Twould be too great an irony for this elder god’s mind to bear” – Odin. 

Heimdall’s Eyes! 

Why, Brad wouldst hath flown atwixt the fiery jaws of Fafnir the Dragon isself if ‘twould ensure the completion of another blogpost!!

But nay. 

For the last three months now, trying to describe the joys of Bronze Age comics (commonly referring to those ishs published between 1970-1985) has proved to be an unnecessarily difficult chore. Amass some suitably groovy ishs and discuss their merits: how could such an innocent task be so… troublesome? 

Only the God of Thunder – one of my all-time favourite Marvel characters – could lure me out of this annoying phase of inactivity. Gladly, a copy of The Mighty Thor was snapped up back in the day, and one of the objectives of my recent Bronze Age expeditions involved searching for as many back ishs of this title, as possible!

Enjoying the God of Thunder’s scene-stealing turn in Avengers: Age Of Ultron the other week, and my copy of Thor: Ragnarok (for the umpteenth time!) this past week reminded me how, not so long ago, the idea of a study based solely on those exceptional ishs of The Mighty Thor – all dating from the ’70s (of course!) – would be fun to compile. Besides, such great ishs doth lie in easy reach, for they can be – and yea! Verily, are – read and reread, and never become tiresome.  

So, from whence do we begin?!

Rereading #218, with its bold and suitably heroic splash page (see above!) provides tne ideal point with which to commence this scintillating journey through Asgardian awesomeness.

 

Tana Nile: “Silas, beware! We’ve fallen afoul of the mutant class – the underground dwellers of Rigel, creatures deformed both in body… and mind!” 

Silas Grant: “I can see that, lass… Tell me now what I’m to do about it! They’re all around us!”

The Mighty Thor #218 (December 1973) turned out to be SO EPIC that it’s very title: “Where Pass The Black Stars There Also Passes… Death!” did not appear until a special double (explosive) spread across pages 16-17. 

By The Golden Gates Of The Eternal Realm! 

The five Black Stars are among the deadliest threats to be witnessed in the Marvel Universe. Ever.

Gerry Conway is on top form here.

‘Pon Odin’s orders, doughty vessel: Starjammer carries Odinson and his faithful companions: Balder, Sif, a Rigellian woman named  Tana Nile, and curiously, a Midgardian sea captain by the name of Silas Grant, to the planet Rigel, only to find it abandoned. The Colonizers – billions of them crammed into a gargantuan fleet, hurtling across the stars – are fleeing the threat of the  Black Stars, which ultimately consume their planet in full graphic – and irresistible – John-Buscema-detail! 

For those itchin’ to seek out Classic Thor, this ish – with that striking cover produced by Rich Buckler – provides an excellent point at which to jump in. Why, page 18 on its own is absolutely frameworthy: 

“Even as we speak, the menace of the Black Stars grows more ominous... their terror greater with each passing second… Look… and tremble at a sight few gods have lived to describe… a vision which staggers the very imagination! The Black Stars… each three times the size of Jupiter…” – The Grand Commissioner. 

 

Grombar: “I say thee, young warrior… make the best of matters here! Verily, to dwell in dark Valhalla be not as tragic as thou dost think! After a time, thou shalt come to accept things for what they are. Mayhap thou shalt come to enjoy them!” 

ThorAccept this madness, old one? Enjoy it? Thor doth say thee- – Nay! I say thee- – nay! NAY!! A thousand times do I say thee- – 

NAY!!”

You know Brad: once he starts droning on (and on) about Odinson, Hela: the Goddess of Death won’t be far behind.

#251 To Hela And Back! (September 1976) did not reach my grubby paws until shortly after publishing this Post about her:

Despite not making a dramatic entrance until page 26(!) there is still plenty of thrills to savour amid these grim proceedings. Part of the “If Asgard Should Perish” storyline, Thor confronts the Vizier concerning the missing Odin’s whereabouts. Vizier tells him that he has scanned everywhere, except the Dimension of Death, because he cannot see into it. Thor decides to ride there to look for his father.

Once there, Thor is confronted by the legions of Einherjar. The God of Thunder sees a shadowy figure that looks like Odin. He fights his way to him, only to find it is Grombar, not Odin. 

Hela lets Thor leave her realm untouched. 

The late Len Wein took over script-duty from #242 (December 1973), thus establishing one of the classic tenures of the Bronze Age. 

“Aye, Harokin… he is free to continue his quest for his missing father! When the Goddess of Death doth come at last to claim the mighty Thor, ’twill be on her terms… and in her own good time!” – Hela. 

 

“If ’tis action thou dost seek, friend Thor, methinks thou hast found all thou couldst desire! A great alien vessel hath swooped silently up behind us… discharging a heavily-armed band of angry-visaged beings!” – Hogun. 

Strangely enough, the Avengers #191 not only introduced me to the Grey Gargoyle – who swiftly, and surprisingly, trounced Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! – but briefly referred back to The Mighty Thor #258 If The Stars Be Made Of Stone! (April 1977). Most grateful for the tip, ‘cos this tale – part of the “Quest For Odin” story arc – is such a swashbucklin’ cosmic caper of the highest order!

Riding the spaceways aboard the incomparable Starjammer, our heroes are set upon by a pirate vessel, its animal-headed crew led by the Grey Gargoyle. 

Captured aind shackled, our heroes are banished to “work” in th furnace room, but there is such a delicious twist in this ere tale! Again, created by those indomitable co-auteurs of awesomeness: Len Wein and John Buscema, you can find this very ish invariably atop the nearest comics pile @ my gaff. 

When setting out to accumulate the Bradscribe Collection just over two years ago, this was exactly the sort of cosmic classic yours truly set out to find.

The continuation of this particular adventure in #259 is – no surprise -equally splendid!

Fee-Lon: “Considering the way he is decimating our forces, only your invincible touch of stone can hope to defeat him! Or… are you perhaps afraid of this Thor?”

The Grey Gargoyle: “I advise you to hold your rebellious tongue, Fee-Lon… unless, of course, you wish to feel my touch yourself!”

 

Thor“Stand ye DOWN, base villain! Stand ye down from this throne… whilst thou still canst WALK!”  

Loki: “Tsk tsk. I see thy temper hath not yet mellowed, my brother. And I had so hoped thou wouldst take my good fortune well.”

Know ye this:

by the time we reach The Mighty Thor #264, Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me! (October 1977) the sprawling quest (story arc) for the long-missing Odin All-Father at last is over!

Bone-weary but unbowed, the Thunder-God and his stalwart companions return to Asgard only to find that Loki: God of Mischief, Lord of Tricksters – and (by the Norn!) Thor’s own half-brother! – hath usurped the Golden Throne!  

Come ON! 

If we’re going to have Hela in this Post, then we’ve always got space for her malevolent Dad.

Big John Buscema had already departed this title, but the ever-reliable Walt Simonson took up the pencils. His style is very impressive; here, his rendering of Loki is devilishly distinctive. Fortunately for us, Len stayed to handle some supercool scripts; ultimately, this ish provides rollicking good fun. 

All the while Thor and his companions had endured cosmic capers aboard the Starjammer, the Enchantress and Executioner plotted wicked deeds in Asgard. This ish proves no exception – they steal the sleeping form of Odin. While a couple of unruly Storm Giants take up Thor’s thunderous time, the Warriors Three: dashing Fandral, grim Hogun and the voluminous Volstagg, must rescue the All-Father from the evil duo.

Thor bursts into the Throne Room to confront Loki, but the mischievous one vanishes: “leaving only the bitter stench of brimstone behind, as befits him!” 

In a dramatic final one-page panel, who else but The Destroyer comes crashing through the wall!

Below, it reads: Next Issue: When Falls The God Of Thunder…!

And don’t forget the small print: “Thou shalt be here, right?”

Volstagg: “…When we find them, thou shalt see why Volstagg’s mere presence makes women swoon and brave men quake with fear…! Pfah! Thine enchantments are no match for mine own fabled battle prowess!” 

Enchantress: “Away thou over-stuffed mutton-sack! Thine awesome girth doth threaten to squeeze the very breath from me!” 

 

Iron Man: “…That leaves us only… Project 13!”

The Beast: “My sweet stars and garters! The Doomsday Device?! Isn’t that a little extreme, Shellhead?”

Nick Fury: “I’m with ya, Fuzzy! The way I heard it, that gizmo can waste this whole blamed planet if anythin’ goes wrong!” 

You know when people say that Cap America: Civil War is a more superior Avengers movie than Age Of Ultron? 

Well, one thing is for sure: 

The Mighty Thor #271 Like A Diamond In The Sky (May 1978) is a whole lot better than some Avengers ishs produced around this time. What an irresistible cover, featuring The Vision, Scarlet Witch, The Beast and Thor and Iron Man fighting side-by-awesome-side.

AND special guest star: Nick Fury!

The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is another of my all-time fave characters, and to see him ponse about displaying his trademark badassery amidst the hallowed pages of Bronze Age Thor provides my own morsel of comic book heaven. 

Fantastic scenario, this:

The Thunder-God and Shellhead transport inside FAUST th super-machine but are repelled by its multiple defences. It warns our dynamic duo that it has absorbed the contents and properties of the chest that was stolen by Stilt-Man – aha! Been wondering when that particular bounder would put his treacherous, albeit extended, foot in it! – and, if they attack, it will fire a laser designed to obliterate New York. Against Thor’s protestations, Iron Man attacks anyway. The laser blast disperses harmlessly in the sky and FAUST begins to self-destruct. Easy-peasy, Shellhead explains. Thor’s lightning changed the properties of the chest, so that when FAUST absorbed it, it unwittingly altered its own structure into a fragile state. 

This ish is notable for being Len Wein’s last ish as a writer of this series. In the closing panel, as Thor soars into the sky above NY City, a billboard can clearly be seen in the background with the text:

“So long, Len – good luck!”

Thor: “Praise be to Odin! IRON MAN DOTH LIVE!” 

Iron Man: “You’d better believe it, Asgardian… if you can call this living! Hang on a second, while I discharge the excess energy your little transfusion fed into my armor… and then the two of us can start taking this place apart!!” 

Praise be to the late, great Len Wein.

These ishs offer a deliciously deft masterclass in how to craft top swashbuckling SF mixed with Norse goodness. And lo! He even cleft the chaff in twain! It has been an absolute pleasure over these last few months getting to know – at lasthis wondrous way with words. 

When Thor: Ragnarok director: Taika Waititi remarked how his main aim entailed capturing the the spirit of Thor’s “cosmic adventures from the ’70s,” these are probably among the very ishs from which he drew inspiration.

Yea, that, dear reader, wrappeth up this intriguing screed for the nonce. Verily, methinks Brad hath got thy mojo back!

And Fafnir can wait!

FOR ASGARD!!

 

“The gates of Hel are filled with the screams of his victims! 

“But not the screams of the dead, of course. No, no… wounded screams… mainly whimpering, a great deal of complaining and tales of sprained deltoids and… gout” – Thor.

 

HALA!: The New Captain Marvel Trailer Is Here!

Higher Further Faster

 “I’m not what you think I am” – Carol Danvers. 

By The Great Pama!

Only a half-human-half-Kree superwoman hurtling Earthwards and crashing into a branch of Blockbuster Video could bounce Brad back into the blogosphere!

The hotly-anticipated trailer for MARVEL STUD10S’ 21st movie: Captain Marvel – MCU’s first solo female-led movie, set in the 1990s – finally arrived yesterday morning.

Here it is:

“War is a universal language. I know a renegade soldier when I see one – never occurred to me that one might come from above” – Nick Fury.

You may not be surprised to learn that a Captain Marvel bio is already in the works on this site!

While the original (male) Captain Marvel was a Kree superhero called Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers served as a USAF pilot who trained with NASA before getting caught in a psyche-magnetron, whereby Mar-Vell’s DNA was fused with Carol’s, imbuing her with superhuman strength and a mysterious seventh sense.

As a big fan of cosmic adventures – already impressed with Guardians of the Galaxy – we are set to see Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) and Korath (Djimon Hounsouagain! -and Thor: Ragnarok, this movie looks like it could be another groovy entry in this scintillating subgenre.

Guardians of the Galaxy already introduced us to the Kree, who, in the comics, were at war with the Skrulls, a nasty race of shapeshifting aliens, set to make their big screen debut in this movie.

Nick Fury: “So, you’re not from around here?”

Carol Danvers: “It’s hard to explain. I keep having these memories, I see flashes. I think I have a life here, but I can’t tell if it’s real.”

 

First Impressions: 

In its first TEN hours online, the Captain Marvel trailer notched up 10 million views.

The general consensus among fans is that the movie looks awesome. Yes, these photonic-blasted rapid scenes look impressive, but…

There is a montage of memories from Carol’s past, both here on Earth, and on Hala, the home planet of the Kree, so the factor of determining who she is and where she really comes from looks set to dominate proceedings. By The Black Nebula! Let’s hope this origins storyline is handled well.

Part of my speculation aimed at this trailer concentrated on what “classic” rock or hip-hop platter would we be subjected to. In the end, alas, we get neither – just the standard bombastic dirge that besets nearly all trailers these days.

It really is swell to see a younger Nick Fury (sans eye patch!), so you can’t help wondering what role S.H.I.E.L.D. (or Hydra?!) will play in this movie.

No sign of Ronan or Korath, but at least we got to see Starforce, the combo of Kree superheroes as featured in the comics (see above). They are led by an enigmatic figure (played by Jude Law) who may likely be Mar-Vell himself – the original “Captain Marvel.” 

Most intriguingly, the Skrull archvillain: Talos is played by Ben Mendelsohn. If he is allowed to be even half as impressive as he was in Rogue One, the MCU will be blessed with a stronger, more compelling, villain. But he had no badass line, not even the barest glimpse here! The only shot of a Skrull we get is an autopsy. And that is a long shot. 

This trailer did not super-psyche me up in quite the way Ragnarok or Infinity War trailers managed so easily. 

Hopefully, this long-awaited Captain Marvel movie will manage to be about as great as any of the Captain America movies, and not as weak as the most recent Ant-Man And The Wasp. 

Personally, if Carol shouts “Hala!” at all the right tense and exciting moments like she did during her own Bronze Age comic book series, Brad should be a happy bunny. 

This blockbuster will be crashing into our popcorn parlours from Friday 8 March 2019International Women’s Day, of course! 

 

Are YOU impressed with this trailer? Let me know in the Comments! 

Cheers!

 

Ant-Man And The Wasp: The Bradscribe Review

A Sting In The Tale 

“My initial reaction – do not tell Marvel! – was: “I don’t want to do a stupid superhero movie.” And my manager said: “Paul Rudd will be starring.” What…? It really intrigued me. So I watched some Marvel films and and I just thought what they were doing was so unique and fun” – Evangeline Lilly. 

 

2018 will be remembered as the year of both billion-dollar buddies: Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.  

Such a shame that most people aren’t likely to recall Ant-Man And The Wasp. 

My main memory forever-entwined with this – the 20th instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – will be the bonkers decision to delay it’s release in the UK cos we Brits were supposed to be too busy watching the World Cup to consider donating to Disney. 

So was it worth the extra month’s wait?

Nah, not really. 

Ant-Man And The Wasp is an adequate action/adventure SF yarn: Little Big Man (played as amiably as usual by Paul Rudd) has been on house arrest for the past two years enacting fantasy adventures around his gaff with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). If the entire movie looked as awesome as their rad helter skelter, this would be UP there with this year’s heavy-hitters, but in the end it didn’t leave me buzzing (arf, arf, arf!) 

Who is with me as regards the current banal state of huge, often nonsensical, summer blockbusters where the only reaction it incites involves nothing more than an indifferent shrug, and the (snide) comment:

“Yeah, the visual fx were amazing, but… …”?

In this case, size DOES matter.

“I can definitely phase through things. Absolutely loved every second of it… Creating even the style of how your character fights. Everyone has their own different style” – Hannah John-Kamen. 

Ant-Man And The Wasp is, at once, one of these fascinating, yet frustrating, movies.

This is best exemplified by the main antagonist: Ghost – a stunning character with a baffling matter-distorting (dis)ability that both enhances and hurts her. Tragic backstory, cool costume (hey! gotta look good for that Funko Pop! figure), intense performance (by Hannah John-Kamen): all those boxes ticked off, but what ticked me off is how she barely registers on the wow-factor. After the impressive upgrades in badassery such as: Hela, Erik Killmonger and – whisper him – Thanos, it looks like the MCU has already settled back to presenting bland and instantly forgettable villains. 

Had expected (hoped?Evangeline Lilly’s Hope to really come to the fore and steal all of Ant-Man’s scenes – this is, after all, the first Marvel movie in TEN years to have a superheroine’s name in the title. On the contrary, with Daddy giving her directions while she’s obsessed with finding Mummy, this is hardly a resounding triumph for the #Time’sUp campaign.

Michelle Pfeiffer looks great, but then, she always did. No seriously, if Janet Pym had been granted more substantial input, with tough and touching dialogue pivotal to the plot, then yours truly would be more than happy to discuss Pfeiffer’s role rather than Pfeiffer’s looks. Is this not the same Janet Pym who was a founding member of the Avengers, even becoming their Chairman back in the ’80s?! Her character deserves so much more than the scant attention afforded her here.

Watching more substantial flashbacks of Janet would certainly be preferable to sitting through “the three wombats” (as Hank so eloquently dissed them) Honestly, why did they have to be brought back?! Exclude Michael Pena, and the other two completely unfunny (even Thanos garnered more giggles, fer cake’s sake!ethnic representatives = the movie would not be affected. In any way.

As it is, alas, Michelle Pfeiffer appears in the briefest “remember me?” cameo, and can now state how proud she is “to be part of the MCU.” Surely this is a classic case of: she IS big, it’s the pictures that got smaller…? 

“We start the movie and… I am not living a heroic life… We [Hank, Hope and Iare not on the best of terms because of what I put them through by going to Germany. Throughout the course of the film we’re starting to click and get cool with each other” – Paul Rudd. 

Despite grumpy ol’ Brad’s angst for the ants (you can’t tell by reading this, but Ant-Man is, actually, one of my all-time favourite comic characters, being among the very first to grab my attention back in the day) there are still some groovy moments to savour here:

a top secret lab complex that can shrink to resemble cabin baggage; Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) locking ant-lers 😉 with former partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne); the awe-inspiring minutiae of the Quantum Realm itself (those Tardigrades!!); the above chase scene, and – oh yes – this reviewer finally got to behold a giant ant playing a drum kit (that’s another ambition to cross off the list – yay! 🙂 )

Speaking of post-cred scenes, could anybody tell me why Scott returned to the Quantum Realm AGAIN? Yes, that’s right: my view – and concentration – became impaired by a steady stream of punters lurching towards the EXIT. The sanctity of the modern MCU post-creds teaser counts for nuthin compared to the need to get out of that multi-storey car park first!

Intriguingly, did the Quantum Realm somehow spare Scott from the “Snapture”…? 

One more thing: 

after TWO Ant-movies, where oh where is Adam And The Ants’ Antmusic on the soundtrack?! Come ON! Talk about opportunity missed! 

This is one of those movies that adequately helps pass the time, but you won’t be tempted to race back to watch it again immediately. 

As for its position in the Bradscribe MCU Countdown?

Not in my Top 10, that’s for sure. 

Should have known that working up any eager ant-icipation (again) would lead to joy as miniscule as Hank’s Dinky Toys collection. 

Only moderate insects appeal.

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“I got something kinda BIG, but I don’t know how long I can hold it…” 

 

“Don’t tread on an ant
He’s done nothing to you
There might come a day
when he’s treading on you!

“Don’t tread on an ant
You’ll end up black and blue
Cut off his head
Legs come looking for you!

(chorus)
“So unplug the jukebox
and do us all a favour
That music’s lost its taste
so try another flavour
Antmusic”

 

“Exquisite, Absolutely Exquisite”: Just What The Doctor Ordered!

Ah-haaar! Loooong Scarf. Would You Like A Jelly Baby? Come On!

Costa: “Name and date of birth.” 
The Doctor: “Well how would I know? I don’t even know who he is yet.” 
Costa: “YOUR name and date of birth!”
The Doctor: “Oh well, I’m called the Doctor. Date of birth difficult to remember. Sometime quite soon, I think.”

My life changed on 1 September 1979. 

Destiny of the Daleks just happened to be the opening story of Doctor Who Season 11. 

For the next five years, my Saturday evenings became a magical time catching the cosmic – sometimes Earthbound – shenanigans of a dual-hearted Gallifreyan renegade in his Type 40 time capsule (better known as the TARDIS).

The programme’s effervescent mix of mayhem and monsters, humour and horror – and jelly babies – proved to be an irresistible delight. To me, and twelve million other viewers.

EVERY Saturday evening. (And this Saturday teatime is the ideal time to launch this Post! 😉 )

For those of you who believe that the time is right to delve into Classic Who, who better to guide you through the best stories than someone who tried to alleviate the inexorable wait for that following weekend’s unmissable instalment by grabbing each ish of Doctor Who Weekly and, using his own wardrobe for a TARDIS, accompanied by (cuddly) companions: Jallo Bear and Teddy Edwards, enacted his own adventures in time and space (imagination permitting!) 

It seems unbelievable now, but back then, the producers simply could not select a suitable replacement for the very popular Jon Pertwee (the 3rd Doctor: 1970-1973). Until Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks (Producer and Script Editor respectively) were captivated at the cinema by the evil sorcerer in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, played by a little-known actor named Tom Baker. At a meeting, where this actor discussed the morality in children’s literature, the duo realised they had found the new Doctor. 

This regeneration’s distinctive “Bohemian and battered” look would be inspired by a portrait of Aristide Bruant by Toulouse-Lautrec. A delightful misunderstanding caused Begonia Pope to use ALL the wool she had been given, resulting in the twelve-foot technicolour scarf that has become the most iconic part of his wardrobe.

Despite a mixed reaction – “too silly,” or “too crazy” cried some of the dissenters – Baker swiftly transformed this Gallifreyan into a national institution. Once again, Doctor Who triumphed at exacting what secured its status as the longest-running SF series: its boundless capacity for change.

For me, the 4th Doctor IS the Doctor, not just because he was my first to watch, but with his large eyes, imposing height, riot of curly hair, that toothsome grin, his amusing penchant for shouting: “Ah-haaar!” and “Come on!” in almost every episode (in that rich and renowned voice of his!), his cool loping gait – and jelly babies – he actually exuded an “otherworldly” nature that no other actor in the role has managed to recreate.

From his debut story: Robot (28 December 1974 – 18 January 1975), THIS is the definite article, you might say:

The Doctor: “You’re improving, Harry!”

Harry Sullivan: “Am I really?”

The Doctor: “Yes! Your mind is beginning to work! It’s entirely due to my influence of course; you musn’t take any credit…”

The 4th Doctor’s first three seasons (12-14) were exceptionally produced by Philip Hinchcliffe – widely regarded by fans as the Golden Age of Doctor Who.

Despite Robot resembling a stock Jon Pertwee adventure, Ark In Space (25 January – 15 February 1975), The Sontaran Experiment (22 February – 1 March 1975), Genesis Of The Daleks (8 March – 12 April 1975), and Revenge of the Cybermen (19 April – 10 May 1975) remain such well-crafted SF masterworks, (all now available on Blu-ray!)

Moreover, the 4th Doctor was truly blessed to be joined by arguably his best-ever companions: UNIT Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). 

Sarah Jane (still the longest-serving companion) had first wandered into the TARDIS at the beginning of Season 11; Harry, on the other hand – regrettably – fared less well. A much older actor – harking back to the Hartnell years – had been the original intention to play the 4th Doctor, with Harry drafted in to manage the more physical, feisty moments. However, when it became all-too-apparent that Tom Baker could more than take care of himself, the Surgeon-Lieutenant was soon written out. This is a pity, as Baker and Marter shared an amazing chemistry together onscreen.  

Season Th13teen got off to a rip-roaring start with Harry’s swansong: Terror of the Zygons (30 August – 20 September 1975): a taut tale of tartan and teeth written by Robert Banks Stewart. Good to see the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (even if his appearance in a kilt looks more terrifying than your average Zygon!) Particularly impressive is the sinister performance of John Woodnutt as the Duke of Forgill – there’s much more to him than meets the eye! 😉 Okay, so the model effects for the Skarasen (better known as the Loch Ness Monster) always look cringingly bad, the quality of the script and the quickening of the pace leaves a lot of NuWho to be desired. 

Of course, cliffhangers added extra excitement to Classic Who. NuWho, in its mundane way, deals in self-contained stories, so no place for cliffhangers! Some rather clever episode-closers can be seen between 1974-81; most notably, one of the very best – cited by most Classic Who fans as the scariest – is this from Terror of the Zygons first episode: 

The Brigadier: “You get on well with the landlord, don’t you?”

RSM Benton: “Well, yes, sir. I suppose I do.”

The Brigadier: “Well, use your influence to get him to play the pipes when we’re out, will you?” 

During the mid-’70s, Doctor Who continued to try the patience of the BBC – and the dreaded National Viewers’ Association – infusing gothic horror into the sci-fi, with mechanical Egyptian mummies lumbering around English forests in Pyramids of Mars (25 October – 15 November 1975); The Brain of Morbius (3 – 24 January 1976) is such an obvious copy of Frankenstein; the ecological terror of The Seeds of Doom (31 January to 6 March 1976); the occult and sacrificial subplots in The Masque of Mandragora (4 – 25 September 1976); and is there anything not creepy about The Hand of Fear (2 – 23 October 1976)?

Unfortunately, the violence featured during The Deadly Assassin (30 October – 20 November 1976) proved too deadly, and caused Hinchcliffe to be “transferred” to another programme.

The next three seasons (15-17) would be supervised by Graham Williams; and although, in some cases, diminishing production values would show through (no thanks to a technicians’ strike crippling the BBC during the late-’70s) some great stories would still be produced.

The Doctor: “Now which box is larger?”
Leela: “That one.”
The Doctor: “But it looks smaller.” 
L
eela: “Well, that’s because it’s further away.”
The Doctor: “Exactly. If you could keep that exactly that distance away and have it here, the large one would fit inside the small one.”
L
eela: “That’s silly.” 
The Doctor: “That’s transdimensional engineering, a key Time Lord discovery.” 

The Robots of Death (29 January – 19 February 1977) is the fifth serial of the 14th season, written by Chris Boucher. 

Essentially a murder-mystery set onboard a mining vessel, it boasted the most incongruously lavish (and outlandish!) costumes ever seen on any show from that decade. But it’s those intricately designed Voc robots, with their mellifluous voices, and sporting an uncanny resemblance to the ancient Chinese terracotta army, that linger long in the memory. These robots were THAT CLOSE to appearing in my recent celebration of robots, but their place is rightfully deserved here. 

This is the story in which Leela – the feisty warrior-woman played by Louise Jameson – asks the Doctor how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside…

Season 16 (1978-79) turned out to be an ambitious story-arc for new Producer: Graham Williams to exert his influence. The six fragments to the Key To Time lay scattered across the universe; and the Doctor – accompanied by Romana, a fellow Time-Lord, played by Mary Tamm – had to find them, before the Black Guardian could get his dastardly mitts on them.

Must admit, however, that while K-9 (the Doctor’s robot dog) may have “enchanted younger viewers,” Brad was not one of them. Strangely enough, one can’t recall those stories where K-9 made a positive contribution to the plot…

“Curious the tricks time plays on one, isn’t it…?”

The Doctor: “Adric, I give you a privileged insight into the mystery of time, yes? Open your mind to adventures beyond inagination, yes…? And you criticise my logic?!” 

Adric: “No… no, I’m just saying that a lot of the time you really don’t make sense.”

The Doctor: “Aarh. Aarh! You’ve noticed that, have you? Well, I mean anyone can talk sense as long as that is understood. I think we’re going to get along splendidly! Come on!” 

 

Frisk: “Who are you? The company you said you worked for was liquidated twenty years ago!”

The Doctor: “I was wondering why I’ve never been paid…”

Frisk: “That’s not good enough!” 

The Doctor: “That’s exactly what I thought…”

Doctor Who heralded the new decade with a drastic image makeover.

Not only a brand new title sequence, but a completely (ahem) regenerated, synthesized theme tune, a new Producer (John Nathan-Turner) and new companions were introduced, but, unexpectedly, Baker continued in the role for one more season. Having served as the longest-serving Time-Lord, he felt it his duty to speak out against anything unWhovian. 

This viewer still watched avidly every Saturday evening, even if the quality used to fluctuate. Among the weaker stories from this period: The Mandrels (above) from Nightmare of Eden ‎(24 November – 15 December 1979) always looked great to me even though the costume department loathed them. Re-watching this story, nearly four decades later, the script (provided by Bob Baker) is uproariously funny! The much-derided Horns of Nimon (22 December 1979 – 12 January 1980) still appealed to me because their minotaur-like monsters latched onto Greek mythology: my other great obsession around that time. 

Baker’s penultimate story: The Keeper of Traken (31 January – 21 February 1981) has become another personal favourite. Especially liked the way in which arch-villain The Master lurked inside that creepy Melkur statue (see below!)

After kicking up a grand bally-Who with Nathan-Turner, Baker, rather inevitably, threw in the scarf. His beloved era of wit, warmth, and wool, came to its conclusion in the Season 18 closer: Logopolis21 March 1981: a date forever seared into my memory.

“It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…” 

The Doctor: “When I mentioned the black hole to Soldeed, he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.”

Romana: “Ah, well, people often don’t know what you’re talking about!” 

The Doctor: “Exactly!” 

 

In other Who’s: 

As well as time, space is an issue, but surely you can make room to discuss those other glorious masterpieces such as: The Ark in Space, The Deadly Assassin, and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, yes? These gems, all masterfully written by Robert Holmes, will appear together in a special forthcoming Post reviewing this great writer’s work.

If one had to recommend just one story that best exemplifies the Baker era, it would have to be Genesis of the Daleks (1975, written by Terry Nation). It not only restored the menace of the series’ most popular villains, but with its tense and terrific storyline – plus a wicked performance by Michael Wisher as Davros, creator of the Daleks – it redefined what SF TV could achieve. 

It contained the single greatest scene in the history of British TV drama which can be found here in this previous celebration of Doctor Who.

And which single Classic Doctor Who story counts as my personal favourite?

City of Death (29 September – 20 October 1979). Without a doubt. 

Scaroth, Last of the Jagaroth (“an infinitely superior race”) remains one of SF TV’s greatest villains; Julian Glover’s performance of megalomaniacal malevolence landed him the role of General Veers in a blockbuster the following year called: The Empire Strikes Back. 

The destruction of the Jagaroth ship caused the chemical reaction that gave birth to the human race. And the Doctor must stop Scaroth from going back in time to prevent himself from initiating the launch sequence: GENIUS. 

Doctor Who: written by Douglas Adams, and guest-starring John Cleese?

Come on! 

It’s a shame that NuWho is nowhere near as witty and clever as this: 

Scaroth of Jagaroth: “Time is running out, Doctor!”

The Doctor: “What do you mean: Time is running out?’ It’s only 1505…” 

 

The Doctor: “Good, well now he’s gone, any chance of a cup of tea?” 

General Ravon: “WHAT?!”

The Doctor: “Or coffee. My friend and I’ve had a very trying experience. Haven’t we had a trying experience, Harry?”

Harry Sullivan: “Very trying, Doctor.”

General Ravon: “STEP INTO THE SECURITY SCAN!”

The Doctor: What, no tea…?”

 

The Company Of Robots: My Devotion To Droids

Look, Sir, Droids

Lt. Charley Pizer: “V.I.N.CENT, were you programmed to bug me?” 

V.I.N.CENT: “No, sir, to educate you.” 

Lt. Charley Pizer: “When I volunteered for this mission, I never thought I’d be playing straight man to a tin can.” 

“I don’t mean to sound superior,” remarks V.I.N.CENT, cool and quote-dispensing droid of the USS Palomino, “but I hate the company of robots.”

No worries – when infant Brad first gawped at The Black Hole in 1979 there was no doubt in his tiny mind that he could easily dig the company of robots.

First, and foremost, hovered V.I.N.CENT (“Vital Information Necessary Centralized”), whose laser-precision, drills and other assorted attachments, and mellifluous voice (provided brilliantly by Roddy McDowell) granted his place as my very first favourite movie star. He was wonderfully accompanied by Old B.O.B. (“BiO-sanitation Battalion”), a battered early-model robot similar to V.I.N.CENT (voiced equally suitably by Slim Pickens, no less!).

The antagonist came in the mute, but mighty, imposing, crimson form of Maximillian; thus, a nail-biting David vs. Goliath duel looked inevitable. An army of sentry-robots guarded the USS Cygnus and more than satisfied our yearning for laser-battles as we could barely contain our excitement for the imminent Star Wars 2…

Also that year, British comics grabbed my attention – and pocket money. One of these homegrown titles featured a cosmic hero – white and fair-haired, obviously – who patrolled the spacelanes with a robot sidekick. Genius!

Unfortunately, my memory banks should have been reprogrammed a lot sooner as the names of this pair, the story-title, even the comic in which it appeared every week escaped me. And has proceeded to bug me on-and-off for the last 39 years…

Can vaguely recall one panel presenting this pair racing along in a landspeeder. All British comic interiors back then had no colour, but every so often, the first page of a story would be cyan-tinted, such was the case with this particular episode. This stylistic factor emanated from one company: D.C. Thomson – so ’twas with them that my search would concentrate. When commencing my foray into Bronze Age comic collecting two years ago, one of my objectives involved trying to rediscover the identity of this very first favourite comic character.

Whilst revising my notes (reprogramming my output?), you can sit back and enjoy this classic magic moment from the distant past when Star wars and Disney exrsted as two very separate entities – aah, get that music! get those ultracool sound effects! but mostly – WAHEY!! – somebody get those droids!: 

“Your crack unit, outwitted and outfought by some Earth robot, and that antique from Storage!” – Dr. Hans Reinhardt.

Fortunately, my copy of Starblazer #21: Robot Rebellion – a cherished pocket-book – is still in pretty good nick.

During the school year of 1984, you didn’t need to buy 2000AD – somebody else brought every weekly Prog into class! So, the wacky wonders of Robo-Hunter and ABC (Atomic, Bacterial and Chemical) Warriors could still be enjoyed without denting our meagre coffers. The title of coolest droid ever to be activated must go to the ABC Warriors’ Joe Pineapples. Leather jacket and thongs look DAFT on any male carbon-based lifeform, but Joe somehow made it work.

All these mechanised marvels inspired me to delve into robo-history.

The term: “robot” was coined by Czech novelist/playwright: Karel Capek in his play: R.U.R. (1921) – a satire in which artificial men are gradually made more competent, until they harness the will to rebel and replace mankind.

The author most synonymous with robots has to be Isaac Asimov, whose series of robo-tales extends through three collections: I, Robot (1950), The Rest of The Robots (1964), and The Bicentennial Man (1977) – all based on the premise that robots are equipped with an unbreakable code of inbuilt ethics: the three laws of robotics. Primarily, Asimov sought to combat the “Frankenstein Syndrome,” whereby people sometimes exhibit a neurotic fear that their creations will destroy them. He attempted to allay such anxieties, and in so doing, called into question the philosophical basis for our attitudes to machines.

One SF author to take this stance further was Philip K. Dick. As one of the few members of my generation to have read “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” before watching Blade Runner, the whole issue of not so much how artificial beings look human, but can/do they act human had a most profound effect on my perspectives towards human – and non-human – behaviour.   

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law” – Isaac Asimov. 

Having made the case for droids programmed to speak, so the next two awesome candidates for inclusion here, weren’t. 

Once you’ve seen “her” you can’t forget “Maria” from Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking Metropolis.

For 1926, the sleek and sophisticated style of “her look” was truly staggering.

It still is. 

Soon after its grand opening during the ’80s, my mother took me to MOMI (Museum Of the Moving Image, in London) – there, in a special case, stood the actual life-size metal suit used in that German silent movie.

Must have stood there for AGES, honoured to be gawping at such a complex design; 1926?! Incredible!

“Gort! Deglet ovrosco!” – Klaatu.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) remains one of my most beloved SF masterpieces.

The charismatic – though enigmatic – Klaatu arrives on Earth (in Washington, USA, of course) to present a dire warning to the human race, but it’s his travelling companion – “that big iron fella” – an eight foot robot named Gort who stole the show. Instead of using a frightening voice, Bernard Herrmann’s eerie score helped enhance the fear factor quite considerably.

In his closing address, when Klaatu explained that Gort acted as a policeman, “patrolling the galaxies, protecting the planets,” his place in my Hall of Fame was assured. 

Obviously, sprawled across the living room floor, watching avidly back in the day, it’s a shame Klaatu couldn’t drum into me the name of this elusive blond space hero with the same intensity he instructed all us seven-year-olds that in order to prevent Gort from destroying the Earth, we must go to Gort. We must say these words:

Klaatu.

Barada.

Nikto.

“I thought it was a bit too quiet in this place, Boots. Here come the guard-dogs and I don’t like the look of their teeth” – Rory Pricer.   

“Robots, and they look like military versions too.”

“Something sinister was afoot without doubt. It was bad enough that alien ships had trespassed in Federation space, but these looked too like the representatives of a sophisticated and alien civilization for Boots’ liking…”

At this phint, allow me to mention one of my fav droids featured in one of the very first SF books to grave my shelves (and still standing beside my desk, nestled behind the smaller – but no less significant – Science Fiction Source Book 

The Space Warriors by Stewart Cowley, telling the galactic exploits of Commander “Boots” Walker and Rory Pricer as they battle the evil Phantor Gorth and his droid army. Apart from the menacing warbots (illustrated above by the legendary Eddie Jones), there was an amazing yellow sentry-robot (who cannot be found anywhere on Google Images or Pinterest) and the delightful domaestic robot who was so ecstatic to see Boots come home again he almost blew a fuse…

Droids can also offer unlikely moments of comic relief.

Take Woody Allen’s zany (and only) SF offering: Sleeper (1973), for instance. Trying to acclimatize to 22nd century life, Miles Monroe is given a robot dog called Max: “Is he house-trained or will he be leaving batteries all around the place?” Who could forget Reagan The Gaybot (“Here’s your silly hypervac suit!”) or the Jewish Tailor Robots (“What’re we gonna do with all this velvet?!”)?

And then there is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, written by the late, great Douglas Adams (we shared the same birthday!) which featured Marvin The Paranoid Android.

He was hilarious in the TV series; one feared the worse when it received recent Hollywood treatment, but, with a HUGE sigh of relief, the Hitchhiker’s movie turned out to be pleasantly entertaining, especially with Sam Rockwell, Mos Def and Martin Freeman onboard. And of course, the late, great Alan Rickman provided the voice of Marvin: 

Chewbacca: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!”

C-3PO: “He made a fair move. Screaming about it can’t help you.”

Han Solo: “Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”

C-3PO: “But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.”

Han Solo: “That’s ’cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.”

Chewbacca: “Grrf.”

C-3PO: “I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.”

(Been waiting patiently for the most suitable Post to insert this all-time classic exchange!) 🙂

 

Inevitably, we reach Star Wars. 

There are more droids to be found in this galaxy far far away than you can shake a lightsaber at. The original trilogy helped bolster my devotion to droids even further.

Apart from the iconic duo of C3PO and R2D2, take a look at The Empire Strikes Back (1980): especially 2-1B, the medical droid that tends to Luke Skywalker in the bacta tank after that nasty Wampa attack on Hoth, and the one responsible for replacing Luke’s hand in time for this episode’s finale.

My one gripe towards arguably the saga’s greatest instalment, is that FORTY SECONDS did NO JUSTICE to that awesome assembly of badass bounty hunters. Not enough time to see IG-88 (blink and you’ll miss the moment when he actually TURNS HIS HEAD). Unlike other droid action figures, Iggy not only came with a blaster, but an extended assault rifle! Curiously enough, the insectoid 4-LOM is actually defined as a protocol droid – blimey, who knew?! 

More comic relief in Return Of The Jedi (1983)8D8 assigns R2D2 to waiter-duty aboard Jabba The Hutt’s sail-barge, but please, have mercy on the little, upended droid, screaming with a Munchkins voice, getting his soles branded while EVERYBODY in the cinema LAUGHS at him! And Wookieepedia can’t even tell me his name. Poor lil fella…

And yes, you guessed it, one of the joys of Rogue One (2016) came in the sure, yet surly, ex-Imperial form of K-2SO, who just like the best droids, instantly captured our attention – and hearts? – with a unique “personality.” In addition, “he” followed the old SF tradition of letting the droid steal the best lines… 

A unique, seldom praised, factor about that original smash hit of 1977 is how, to begin with, the events are experienced solely through the two droids. Although never a big fan of C3PO, perhaps his finest moment in the whole saga came on Tatooine, arguing with “that malfunctioning little twerp.” There followed another great joy: those pesky Jawas, roaming the Midlanowhere Plains inside their ginormous clanking Sandcrawler with its diverse collection of droids, including the Death Star Droid: 5D6-RA7 (see above) – always liked its slick design, and unnerving vocalizations; the Power Droid (nothing more than a cute box on stumpy legs, its unremarkable and weaponless action figure has since become so rare, it is now THE most valuable one out there!); and spare a thot for that R5 unit (even if it did have a bad motivator).

And to think these adventures transpire before we even get to meet that blond kid from the moisture farm… 

K-2SO: “I’m surprised you’re so concerned with my safety.”

Jyn Erso: “I’m not. I’m just worried they might miss you… and hit me.”

K-2SO: “Doesn’t sound so bad to me…”

Speaking of blond galactic heroes, it is heartening to be able to end this Post (yes, even this insufferable dirge has to be deactivated at some point! 😉 ) with some promising news.

Just a few months ago, following an extraordinary incident of Baggins-like philosophy, yours truly finally managed to find what he was looking for. By looking for something completely different instead!

Naturally, this year’s birthday triggered a tremendous nostalgia-rush. Among my recollections happened to be a short-lived “boys’ paper” produced in 1983 (by D.C. Thomson) named Spike. It covered the full gamut of boys’ stories: football, war, espionage and school gangs, but the SF entry: Starhawk Against The Powerbeast (not surprisingly, my best of the bunch) rang a few bells…

It featured a fair-haired cosmic hero. With a robot sidekick.

AHA!! 

My search is finally OVER. 

Should have known he’d be called Star-something; just consider the number of Starlords to have passed through the comics industry on both sides of The Pond – why, even the obscure precursor to 2000AD was entitled: Starlord! And, the original combo of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy boasted a member known as Starhawk! 

Yes, checking the D.C. Thomson database, the Starhawk of Spike 1983 did make a previous appearance in 1979. 

The comic? The Crunch!

Jeez, how could it be possible to forget such a groovy title?! Especially when it sported such a formidable masthead?

Scant info told me that the sidekick was merely called “Droid.”

That’s it? Just “Droid”?!

Nothing facetious like Cecil? Or Humphrey? Or anything remotely badass like Joe Pineapples? Or Marvin…? 

Still, as long as it’s NOT a meaningless stream of numbers and letters…

Anyway, a recent Bronze Age expedition into the heart of London returned with some encouraging findings. Only one awemonger (to my knowledge) stocks British comics, and much to my surprise – and sheer delight – when it came to The Crunch, substantial copies were indeed in stock. Came away with two ishs #35 (dated 15 September 1979, see below; tried to upload the first page, but, apologies, being produced on rather cheap “newsprint” paper, it does not copy satisfactorily) presenting Starhawk‘s debut; while #40 (dated 20 October 1979) featuring on its back page the aptly-titled: Gallery Of Heroes, and that week’s subject?

YES!

It IS (please pardon the pun) the droid that Brad‘s been looking for!!

Amazed to learn that Droid came equipped with such a cool array of gadgets: his “eyes” were actually highly sophisticated radar sensors; a medipak, computer, scanners and vidcams installed in his chest; an Impulse Unit was attached to his right hip; a repair kit fitted to his left thigh; a communicator built into his wrist; and – get this! – lasers AND “space blasters” loaded in EACH arm!

The text added:

“But Droid has another more important function. He can pilot the Space Raider – Starhawk’s battlecraft – by remote control… He can also aim and fire the ship’s weapons. So Droid is the perfect side-kick for Starhawk…”

Oh, so much more than a mere “side-kick” as finally getting to perusing this forgotten nugget in British comics history would reveal…

Of course, as we all know, by the 26th century, the Terran Empire is in serious decline:

“…survival once again depended on the swiftness of man’s gun. Chaos reigned in solar systems that had reverted to barbarism (hence the men wearing pleated mini-skirts…?), but one man stood for law and order. His name, Sol Rynn, known as… 

STARHAWK

Interestingly, ultimately, this Sol cuts quite a drab figure, nothing more than a typical, one-dimensional blond galactic hero. Ironically, his only merit is that his co-pilot is a robot! Droid, on the other hand, comes across as cool, clever and regularly cracks wry remarks pertaining to the human condition. Even his tendency to address his mundane “master” as “Mister Rynn” is classy in itself. 

Thus, the revelation struck me: 

‘Twas NOT this ordinary protagonist, but his extraordinary partner, who had captured my imagination all those years ago!

Perhaps the traditional low-key status of robots in SF, plus his dull, inconsequential name, had prevented him from making a more significant impact on my sensors. But now – it’s been too long – he (not it, he) is back in my life, and in my collection. And he’s here to STAY.

As Asimov professed, there is no reason why intelligent machines should not be considered good people. 

Thus, rather than the happenstance of flesh and blood, through the capacities of wit, moral behaviour and rational thought can a being rightfully claim recognition as human.

To that end, then, rather than rediscovering my very first favourite comic character, this feels more like reuniting with my oldest friend. 

Starhawk: “A successful mission, Droid. Luckily I didn’t fall for the old drugged food routine. You see, my mechanical friend, they made us too welcome, and that’s downright suspicious!”

Droid: “Trying to analyse human thought processes causes severe strain on my logic circuits, Mister Rynn. Course laid for Cygnus Alpha…”