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!” 

 

The Feast From The East: Tales From The Cosmic Casbah

Something To Read With Relish

And Tempt The Taste Buds… 

SinbadThe dream I had, Rachid, this is all part of it somehow! We’ve been brought here by some mysterious force. Is it not written that a wise man will try to realise his dream, to follow it?” 

Rachid: “Some say it is through dreams that Allah speaks to mortal man… Captain! He who walks on fire will burn his feet…” 

The being “spontaneously generated” in a cave on a remote island, many parsecs off the Arabian coast. Seafarers discovered that stranger and brought him to Baghdad where he described in intricate detail th countless worlds to be found beyond our own, before the Caliph assured him that none of these realms could surpass the beauty of his own land and the glory of Allah.

This is the synopsis for Theologus Autodidactus, written by Ibn Al-Nafis, dating from as early as the 13th century is believed (in some quarters) to be the earliest precursor of science fiction, although its curious contents lean more towards science-fantasy. 

The notion of Middle Eastern Science Fiction seems so unlikely, compounded by the view that science and the proliferation of (new) ideas conflict with the principles of Islamic ideology. And yet there is so much more to this surprisingly burgeoning scene than it looks. The recent successful SF and Fantasy Book Festival held in Abu Dhabi highlighted what this unexpected region has to offer – most notably:

Iraq+100, a groundbreaking SF anthology that poses an intriguing challenge to contemporary Iraqi writers:

What might your home city look like in the year 2103 – exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq?

And now there is the English translation of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. 

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi the junk dealer collects human body parts and stitches them together in order to make the government grant them the proper burial they deserve. However, the corpse goes missing; soon, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, leading to reports of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. 

Hmm, not my cup of (cardamom) tea, this, but interesting to see how arguably the most famous classic SF/horror theme has inspired a uniquely – not to mention unlikely – Middle Eastern variation.

“Two tablets brought forth to the light, yet a third remains from sight.

“A final place must still be found, a place that lies deep below the ground…” – The Oracle Of All Knowledge. 

Once upon a time, shortly after we moved to my childhood home, my parents let out our upstairs rooms to students attending the local university. The vast majority of them hailed from the Middle East. So, fortunately, from a very young age, yours truly grasped the opportunity to savour the music, language, art, aromas, rugs and – Allah be praised! – delicacies of distant domains. 

Thus, fuelling my imagination by gawping at various awesome adventures such as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and – ah! ‘im again – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad; and much later, stopping at nothing to acquire my own ornate antiquarian hardback edition of Tales From The Arabian Nights (translated and annotated by Richard F. Burton – the definitive rendering) (1888) – plus acquiring a degree in Near Eastern Archaeology – Brad was all set to trample all over such esteemed sites as Babylon, Nippur, Lagash and Umm Dabaghiyah (umm-what?!)… until…

Mum beseeched me not to go, fearing an escalation in tensions and violence in that region – ultimately, in sheer disbelief, yours truly witnessed/read about the vandalism and destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage (during 2003-04) from the relative quiet and safety of Bangkok instead…

To accentuate this scheherazade for the senses, there will be light sprinklings of the more exotic platters that nestle deep within the jukebox @ Brad Manor – all by the same combo who accompanied me on the streets of Manhattan, kept me occupied during those looong hours waiting at Middle Eastern airports, and inspired me to write both fiction and non-fiction during the Pre-Bradscribe Era @ a lovely seaside retreat on the Gulf of Thailand… 

“Flashing swords, leaping bandits, holy magic, bloodthirsty monsters, and sumptuous cuisine… what more do you want me to do, draw you a map? Read this thing” – Scott Lynch. 

Throne Of The Crescent Moon (first published in 2012) is a lush fantasy set in an alternate medieval Middle East. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last real ghul hunter of Dhamsawatt, King of Cities, Jewel of Abassen is aching to retire – presumably to spend lazy days relaxing with copious cups of cardamom tea –  but a new threat of ghuls: zombie-like beings reanimated by evil sorcery, more fearsome than any he has ever encountered, brings him back into this rather unusual fray.

Before setting out wholeheartedly to acquire a copy, my heart sank upon recalling my persistent – almost legendary – inability to track down any potentially groovy novel that comes to my attention.

And yet!

Before you can say: “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” the very tome of which we speak managed to reach my grubby mitts, for a hardback copy indeed lay in wait at my nearest library!

The book itself has received rave reviews and its author, Saladin Ahmed happens to be the very same Saladin Ahmed who contributed to the recent Star Wars Canto Bight anthology compendium and – my minions inform me – is now writing Spider-Man! So far, it is proving to be an engrossing read; like one reviewer remarks, it plays in your mind rather like a Ray Harryhausen fantasy – high praise inseed! 

And why does the premise sound so intoxicating? 

Because it seems exactly like the sort of Arabesque swashbuckling fantasy adventure that Brad would write. Come to think of it, not so long ago, he DID attempt such a saga, whilst living near the beach a few years back – inspired by my study of ancient seafaring.

Accounts by Arab writers of exotic eastern lands can be dated as far back as the mid-9th century CE. The earliest existing text: the Akhbar al-Sin wa’l-Hind (unfortunately anonymous) compiles stories from merchants who told of uncharted islands rife with pirates, troglodytes, headhunters and “beasts” more fantastic than anything Magizoologist Newt Scamander encountered! 

More crucially, this is where we first obtained those fantastical tales of Sinbad, that adventurous sailor who had to brave evil sorcerers, giant crabs and whatnot WITHOUT the comfort of cardamom tea…! 

“He’s awake and listening to us. Sly little rascal. But royalty has need of slyness. And if he’s really the Kwisatz Haderach… well… Sleep well, you sly little rascal. Tomorrow you’ll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar” – Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam.

Well, bless my Chicken Arabiatta!

It is difficult to discuss this material without acknowledging the HUGE impact of Frank Herbert’s Dune. 

Exuding more pertinent geopolitical resonances in the 21st century than it ever could have managed on its initial publication in 1965, Herbert drew inspiration from the Bedou way of life, to create an elaborate desert culture: the Fremen, native inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. 

For possibly the first time, numerous examples of Middle Eastern terminology filterted into Western literature. In their jihad against House Harkonnen, the Fremen launch razzia raids, wear aba and bourka robes, fear a “devil” named “Shaitan” and so on.

Please click here for an expanded study of this landmark work, winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, and praised by Arthur C. Clarke for its “depth of characterisation and the extraordinary detail of the world it creates. I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord Of The Rings.”

“Is that the end… of all the races and civilizations, and the dreams of the world, to be able to leave a few stones buried beneath the sands, to tell the Dark that we were here?” – Niun.

Another SF series profoundly influenced by Middle Eastern themes came in the eclectic form of the Faded Sun Trilogy by C.J. Cherryh.

Set in the Alliance-Union universeKesrith, Shon’Jir and Kutath each chronicle the Mri-Wars in this coming-of-age saga of Niun, the plucky protagonist.

The first volume begins with the Regul having just concluded a forty-year war with humanity. As part of the peace, they are ceding the desert world of Kesrith to humanity. However, they have neglected to inform its inhabitants, the Mri, who have served them as mercenaries for over two thousand years. These mercenaries have been nearly exterminated in these wars, and young Niun is one of the few remaining warriors. When the Regul seek to double-cross his people, he and his sister Melein, the last of the priestly Sen caste, form an uneasy alliance with the human Sten Duncan to rescue a holy relic that may hold the key to the Mri’s survival.

Despite being shortlisted for the Nebula Award in 1978 and the Hugo Award in 1979, this – and its two successors – are among the most elusive SF series to track down in print!

Time to set sail – for “every voyage has its own flavour”further east, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, across the azure Maha Thalassa towards the enchanted shores of what Persian seafarers called: “Al-Hind”…

“Mighty Kali. Mightier than thou am I. Make obeisance to me…! Dance. Dance for me!” – Khoura. 

 

“One of the five best SF novels ever written” – George R. R. Martin.

Why shouldn’t India have its own panoply of science fiction tales?

Delve into the wondrous textures of Hindu mythology and it will not take you long to discover bizarre accounts of gods striking out of glistening cities in the clouds, charging across the sky in “celestial chariots” firing bolts of lightning against inhuman enemies…

So it comes as no surprise that Roger Zelazny drew extensively upon such myths to produce one of the SF greats: Lord of Light. 

A distant world where gods walk as men, but wield vast and hidden powers. Are they truly immortal? Who are these gods? Their names include Brahma, Kali, Krishna and also he who was called Buddha, the Lord of Light, but who now prefers to be known simply as Sam. 

Although it has not ascended to Dune-like heights of literary adulation and popularity, Zelazny’s masterpiece is richly-conceived and plotted, and still widely-regarded by those who know as a richly-crafted work, its curious yet compelling non-linear narrative lauded by other top contemporary SF authors.

Your foreign correspondent here will endeavour to surge through this classic right now (for the unpteenth time) aided by a set of lamb biryani, with a bowl of naan chips, baked with cumin, coriander and kalonji seeds, (seasoned with Kashmiri spices and coconut – the way Brad likes ’em!) – and a cup of cardamom tea, of course

Love, light and peace.

 

“There is that about them which repels… The trident of Shiva cuts a path through everything. But no matter how much he destroys, we raise up more against him. So he stands like a statue, uncreating storms we will not let end” – Tree Of Green Fire. 

“You pace the deck like a caged beast; for one who enjoys the hashish you should be more at peace…” – Sinbad.

 

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”

 

Dead Cool At Dork’s Drift: A Fartlighter Story

DON’T Fire At Will! What’s ‘E Ever Done Ta YOU?!

“Gotta hand it to ya, Totem Pole – either you’re hard as nails or scared as shit: WHICH ONE IS IT?!” – Griff. 

 

Magnum Farce! 

Whilst trying to deliver vital consignments of food and supplies to the long-suffering peeps of the planet Woebegon in the Vairdafujarwi System, Brad Company barely managed to dodge some unwanted attention from a cluster of Zandokan patrol-ships.  

Will it be a classic case of out of the marzipan and into the ire as they head towards the hopeless station of Dork’s Drift? 

In amidst all this excitement, the irrepressible Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger is bound to bump into an ol’ frenemy… 

 

“Innit bloomin’ marvellous?!” Brad wondered as the Calista Blockhead descended into the planet’s atmosphere.

“No mat’er ‘ow many marksmen the Empire can muster, as long as I’m onboard, they can’t put in a precise shot on target! Aah… the gift a’ bein’ – ‘an bein’ wiva groovy galactic ‘ero – it’s GREAT ‘avin’ me arahnd, eh…?! ‘Ello… …?”

“Yo, Brad,” Helmsman Gaz suddenly drawled. “Look lively, m’man – the Purple Haze is entering this sector @ 2:10-“

“Kronsteen?! What in blue blazes is that nerk an’ ‘is combo: Oprah’s ‘Ombres doin’ follerin’ us-?!” 

“Don’t slouch, Blondie,” warned Second Officer Lexi Waldorf. “But MY sensors have also picked up the Harsh Mallow coming out of hyperspace just beyond the Rigellian Ridge-“

“The Harsh…? Uff, stone the flamin’ Porgs, that’s none other than-“

“Ya gotcha! Moab Mungoflumpz: the notorious Gundagun bounty hunter.”

“Blimey, ya’d ‘avta be notorious wiv an ‘andle loike THAT… What in Edrio Two-Tubes’ name is goin’ on ‘ere?! Is this a convention, or what?!”

“Hey! Yer not only a groovy galactic ‘ero, but quite th popular one- Whoa, ‘eads up, mate,”

Harris fiddling with the Intercom. “Yer ol’ mukka: Kronst is ‘ailin’ us!”

“Well, fer cakes’ sake, fella! Switch ta Audio – dahn’ wan’ ‘is ugly mug breakin’ our main screen! Nah, on second thots, let’s jus’ skip it – Company! We got work ta do! I can’t stop ta mess arahn’ – the original Fartligh’er’s in tahn!”

“Just don’t do anything I would do, and definitely don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. There’s a little grey area in there and that’s where you operate, alright…? That’s not a hug, I’m just grabbing the door for you. Good luck out there” – Tony Stark. 

“Okey-dokey, then, y’all know wotcha doin’?” Brad softly exclaimed to Lexi as he loaded his backpack with survival kit, supplementary respiratory apparatus and extra rations of cupcakes.

“Sure thing, Commander,” she nonchalantly replied, leaning against the doorway of the Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger‘s cluttered quarters. “Gaz, Lee, Monty and I will deliver the goodsOkizaki will beam us back when we’re done, while you check in with Supervisor Waldo aow, for goodness sake…” she stepped closer staring intensely into th hapless hero’s deep blue eyes. “You be extra CAREFUL out there, Brad – something tells me this just might be -“

“A trap? Heh, isn’ everythin’ in this “business,” lov…?”

“Well, also, watch out for the rest of ‘is goons – they’re as demented as fudge and have no hesitation to take matters into their own hands-“

“Or take their own fists inta other people’s mat’ers – yeah, I know, I’ve run inta them on numerous occasions…”

“Nevertheless, I’m still going to keep my eye on you… just in case…”

“Really appreciate that, lov. I want ya ta know that-”

“Blimey Charley, Brad!” Chief Engineer Harris Wrench interjected. “Why d’ya ‘avta get mixed up wiv Kronst- huh, talk a’ the Devil! Would ya Adam-an’-Eve it? ‘E’s tryin’ ta ‘ail ya AGAIN!”

“Well, shut ‘im orf. Again! Let’s get on wivvit, Company!” 

“But what if ‘e follas ya down there? An’ confronts ya, like?”

“Y’know me, ‘Arris! Got a few wisecracks an’ put-dahns lined oop.”

“Delivered in yer own, inimitable way, nah doubt?”

“Yo momma…” 

“I was wondering when El Kapitan would get a chance to use his popgun” – Palmer. 

“UFFF, FFFLAMIN’ FAJITAS!!” Brad growled as a laserblast slammed into his shoulder. He’d only just walked through the door and found the welcome not as hospitable as he’d hoped…

“‘Ere, what th blazes?!” he spluttered as he flopped to his knees. “Since when are the bad guys such good shots…?!” 

“When the bounty on ya is so frickin’ high!” drawled the all-too-familiar peel of Captain Kronsteen, psychotic leader of Oprah’s ‘Ombres, as he lunged over to switch on the desk lamp, illuminating his unmistakable, twisted features.  

“Flamin’ Nora, look what the Wompa dragged in… What the blazes didya do with Waldo?!”

“That moofmilker? Had a close encounter with my rifle butt left ‘im zedding away on the couch in the next room. Personally, yer only good use ta me, Fartlighter, is as target practice, but I’ve come here fer the shop – so let’s talk it, fella.”

“Okey-dokey, but I’m seriously dischuffed by this bonkers twist – I’m in an ‘urry, so bet’er make this snap’y. Spill the beans, fella – wotcha want?” 

“Oh really? Your high cheekbones an’ insuff’rable pecs are suddenly in big demand now, huh? So… here we are, dumbass, two thrill-seekers meeting in a Dyzan-forsaken hole o’ the galaxy, while the hopelessly inept Federation crumbles – you really believe you’re serving a just cause?” 

“‘Ey man, chill, know wha’ I’m sayin’? Why can’tcha be mo’ migh’y fine, Kevin Bacon an’ dandy? Like me an’ me Company? Why d’ya ‘avta be such a-“

“ENOUGH, Dipwit! Don’tcha DARE say anythin’ goldarned SMART. Why should I spare a thought for these… dregs? It’s not my problem…”

“Not yer…?! Oof, reverse thrust wiv THAT attitude, Crotchstain. I tell ya: the last thing Brad wants ta do is sit back an’ wateh while the provincial planets suffer. I see NAHbody else intervenin’ – so it’s got’a be us. Heck, if we can make a diiff’rence, we’ll certainly try-“

“Uff, spare me,” Kronsteen muttered irritably. “Reckon I shoulda’ finished you off when I ‘ad the chance – shoulda’ aimed straight fer yer heart instead, but YOUR ticker’s bleedin’ far too much already-“

“Shoulda’ thought a scrote like you wouldn’t know where the heart was anyways…”

“Ha! Cute… From what I hear, Fartlighter, you’ve become quite a sought-after dude since your little fracas with the Emperor on his flagship Hacked off just about every Imperial nerk this side a’ the Oort Cloud, AND – of course – we witnessed you recently escaping from prison-“

“Yeah, heh heh, get’in’ quite notorious in me middle age, ain’ I?”

“An’ I hear Zan Doka ‘imself has despatched his very own cut-throat praetorian division: the Kriegzlide Killzquad ta bring ya back – ya know what I can get right now fer handin’ you in…?” 

“Egg custard tarts?”

“Wrong again, Bright Eyes – yer bounty now stands @ 75,000 creds-“

“WHOA, would ya Adam-an’-Eve it! I’m now worth more than me own crate? HA!”

“DON‘T crack wise with me, fella – one wrong move an’-“

“An’ you’ll BOTH be kissin’ the dirt! So DON’T try anythin’ stoopid!”   

The door swung wide open and they turned to watch a grotesquely obese Gundagun dwarf waddle frantically towards them, brandishing a blaster.

“Blimey Charley!” Brad gasped. “It’s a talking beachball on legs!” 

The seething three-footer turned his blaster on the Cakecharmer. “An’ don’t SAY anythin’ stoopid neither!” 

“Grief, that’ll be the day with this jackass…” Kronsteen sighed.

Moab swung his blaster towards the Ombres’ Head Honcho instead. “YOU! Kronsteen? Are coming with me! Somebody levelled a sizable bounty on your despicable head!”

“WHAT?! That’s the most ridiculous- There is NO bounty on me, Shrimp-” 

“Lookee here, Longshanks!” the Gundagan chirped sternly, enthusiastically brandishing a gadget displaying the Captain’s mugshot. “See the eye-patch? The scowl? All those warts that spell out: ‘Bad Attitude’? That’s YOU, that is! You’re coming with me!”

“Woohoo! Way ta go, Migh’y Mo!” Brad bawled.

“An’ you, what’s-yer-face,” the dwarf frowned at the hero. “You seem to be taking a most unusual pleasure in all this… are we cool…?” 

“As ice, man…”

“For the umpteenth time,” Kronsteen butted in. “Point that blaster someplace else, Short Round. Why don’tcha go fer the REAL bounty, like this-“

“Yeah, man!” Brad interrupted. “Like goin’ fer this notorious Cakecharmer-chappyapparently ‘is boun’y is bigger than ‘is own crate, hyuk hyuk hyuk…” the Battleforce-Commander-turned-blogger quipped.

Kronsteen spun round, enraged: “You’re jus’ lovin’ this… aintcha?” 

‘ELL YEAH! Ev’ry minute, baby…”

He’s a looney. Just like his tunes…” – Bats. 

A laserblast rang out.

The lamp exploded, and in the abrupt darkness, Moab screamed and Kronsteen bellowed. And Brad yelped as someone grabbed his hand and tugged him out of the office.

“Shoosh, Commander. Hurry! We gotta split – another Zandokan patrol-ship is onto us!” Lexi whispered as they ran down the corridor. “Okey-dokey, Okizaki! Me and the blond bombshell are ready to beam up! NOW!”

Meanwhile, in the Transporter Room of the Purple Haze, two figures materialized.

“Who the blazes is THAT?!” Drogen the Transporter guy cried the moment he saw Moab standing alongside Kronsteen. 

“NOT BRAD, OBVIOUSLY, DIPWIT!” the Captain stormed. “What a cosmic screw-up – you were supposed to beam up the six-foot Terran, but NO! Ya had ta pick up a three-foot Gundagan instead! GAH! Captain to the Bridge! Open hailing frequencies with the Calista! I want that-!”

“But Sir, the Calista no longer appears on our scopes…” Tabasco Tuffnutz replied.

“WHAT?! How can this be…?!”

“They made the jump to lightspeed while you were too busy monologuin’…”

‘Twas true: Tabasco stared into his monitor, squinting at the trail of ionised particles sparkling against the blackest blanket of space – the only sign the Calista had left behind.

“…An’ you LET them ESCAPE…? Hey, Dumbo, flap yer ears an’ ventilate yer BRAINS!! What do I PAY you DIPWITS for, exactly?! “Gah, fer the love a’-”  The enraged Captain grabbed Moab, and growled: “Okey-dokey, Short Round! WHO set the bounty on ME?!”

“Some Terran… b-by th name of Br-Br-Brad-!”

Brad Burrito Fartlighter, I presume?!” he winced.

“Aha! That’s the bunny! What… you know him?”

“KNOW HIM?! I practically wasted this whole episode talkin’ down to him!” 

“That?! That was th C-Ca-Cakecharmer…?! But… nah, that dashin’ fella couldn’t have been him – he was badly wounded in the shoulder – galactic heroes NEVER get-” 

GAH! DON’T lecture me, halfling! Fer someone so SMALL, yer mouth is too BIG!” Kronsteen hollered, hurling the pint-sized bounty hunter into Drogen’s clutches. “We’ll drop off this insignificant lil sideshow – who has no bearing on the plot WHATsoever – on that casino-planet we passed on the way over here…”

The enraged leader of Oprah’s ‘Ombres brandished his fist against the tapestry of distant stars stretching before them on the Main Screen. 

BRAD!! NEXT TIME, I WON’T hang around makin’ idle chit-chat, you’re gonnayou’re gonna- UFF!! You CANNOT evade me forever, jackass – goldarn it… 

“If I havta scour the galaxy fer the

RESTA’

MAH

DAYS

trackin’ you an’ yer accursed, goody two-shoes Company down…

GAH! Just as well yer gettin’ another blasted sequel real soon, hero ya AIN’T heard the last a’ Captain Korsten Kronsteen!!” 

 

“We’re just like Kevin Bacon” – Gamora.