MANDY: The Bradscribe Review

Which Is More Bat-Shit Bananas: 

Nicolas Cage Or This Movie…?

“Like taking a bad LSD trip with David Lynch through Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist and ending up trapped inside an early Iron Maiden album cover, it’s an extraordinary sensory overload… After this absorbing, gory movie, you’ll emerge like you’ve crawled out of its guts” – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh. 

I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…

Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...

From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence. 

Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.

No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…

Strange…

And eternal…

“This outrageously over the top film is nothing if not uninhibited, often visually amazing… an uncompromising midnight movie” – Peter Bradshaw. 

As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful. 

Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.

If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks. 

Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…

Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter… 

Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!

Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!

In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.

And that’s not all! Whoa, no! 

Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud… 

It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”

HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight” – Joseph Campbell. 

Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…

Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this

CRAZY

EVIL. 

If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days… 

Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).

Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…

There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.

And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one… 

Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…

However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)

At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)

Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).

Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?

Aww gee, that’s a toughie.

There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room… 

Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes. 

We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please? 

And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away! 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT:

Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”

 

Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…? 

Caruthers: “So, what you huntin’?”

Red Miller: “Jesus freaks.”

Caruthers: “…I didn’t know they were in season, man.”

Red Miller: “Yeah, well…”

 

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“Illuminatio”: The Return Of Brother Brad

Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat – Fortune Favours The Brave 

“Mutato nominee de te fabula narratur” [The tale is about you, but the name is changed] – Horace. 

 

“…godlike Shapes and Forms

Excelling Human; princely Dignities,  

And Powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones, 

Though of their names in 

Heaven records now 

Be no memorial…”

 

Lo, Brother Bradthe medieval scribe-monk who vowed to thwart the onslaught of wraithkynde on Earth hath returned. An irresistible urge to resurrect that accursed entity known as MY NOVEL made a most welcome appearance. 

You may recall some time back, when faced with the option of either writing a cosmic adventure, or a medieval mystery, time – and (lack of) energy – might be saved if – yea, ’tis so! – both were combined into one intriguing entity. Initially, a two-part tale appeared on this blog during August 2015.

It became such an immersive joy to compile that the need to write even more of it compelled me to set up a separate blog-site: themedievil.wordpress.com where one could experiment with drafts and the layout of ancient language. 

Now, this project is (tentatively) entitled: The Monastikon Chronicles.

“One of my ancestors” – a scribe-monk of no fixed abbey – must carry out the solitary and ungodly task of smiting members of “wraithkynde” – evil extra-terrestrial beings who have crash-landed in 12th century southern England. This dark, archaic science-fantasie, is light years different from the bright, frothy-mirth to be found in my Fartlighter Bradventures.

Is alternating between such diametrically opposed writing styles difficult to maintain? 

Not at all! Variety is the spice of Bradscribe! 🙂

One thing is for sure: if and when the movie adaptation finally comes to fruition, the theme “tune” has already been selected: a lilting, evocative chant by Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun from the 12th century – contemporaneous with Brother Brad – whose considerable range of the most extraordinary 900+ year old musical compositions have helped set the tone, and directly influenced, a great deal of The Monastikon’s content. 

Atmospheric, sonorous choirs have always had a profound effect on me. And my writing. In addition, dark ambient producer: Metatron Omega has provided me with some truly inspirational pieces, setting the right mood to help me create my own medieval world. These album notes struck a particular chord with me:

“The hermit travels beyond enlightenment, and deep into the perception of the Unknowable.”

Straight away, the parallels can be drawn: unmistakably, thathermit” is Brother Brad, while his “Unknowable” oppoments are the wraiths: a malevolent race of shapeshifters from beyond the stars… “…and deep into the perception”? i.e. yea, they have been expecting him!

“The everlasting voices of monks lost in space and time, searching for knowledge as they echo through dimensions…”

This soaring masterpiece exceeds even my own stringent Bradtastic expectations: 

 

“Faber est suae quisque fortunae” [Everyone is the architect of their own destiny] – Appius Claudius Caecus.   

From the very beginning, it felt imperative that the narrative be related in the first person. As every good writing manual will tell you, the main advantage in selecting first person point of view, is that it provides a sense of immediacy. There is also a degree of intimacy as the reader feels like he/she has direct access to the narrator’s thoughts. And not to mention: a sense of authenticity. 

Actually, this approach is a necessary one.

Of the numerous aspects of medieval life gleaned from my extensive research, especially notable was the fact that during the age of the large monastic houses – from the early 12th century (in which my novel is set) until the early 16th century – all brethren were actively encouraged to maintain a vow of silence, at all times, thus seriously hindering any chance of Brother Brad interacting with his fellow monks!

Only the highest echelons of that particular house: the Abbot, the Infirmarer; the Receptor et al offer the inclusion of dialogue in my story.

That is, dialogue with human characters…

Already, drafts of some feisty confrontations with wraithkynde have appeared on my other blog-site. And readers will be interested to know that these otherworldly antagonists are garrulous as well as ghoulish! 

Encouragingly, the onset of this winter season presented a fresh chance to get back on track. Driven by the need to revive and rework the considerable backlog of unfinished fiction projects that clutter the draws and bureaus within Brad Manor, some encouraging sections have been developed during this past four months, compared to the last twelve months prior to that. Moreover, that blog platform is an ideal place from which to develop my novel, as each Post represents a passage from this venerable scribe-monk’s journal. 

Part of my fascination with Marvel’s The Mighty Thor, stems from the intriguing way in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby accentuated the Lord – sorry! God – of Thunder’s legendary origins by making him speak in a faux-Middle English manner. In the 12th century, if and when anything had to be uttered in monasteries, it would hake been related in either Olde English or Latin. Did have the opportunity in my second year of university to actually study the latter, but, of course, there was no way of knowing back then that such a project as this would come to fruition.

It has been fascinating working Olde English – in particular its extremely antiquated approach to spelling – into my fiction. However, one recent (successful) author of historical fiction: Robyn Young – who concentrates on the Knights Templar during the 14th century – remarked how her anxious agent advised her that readers are generally put off by an overabundance of olde grammar.

Indeed, am very grateful that – a couple of years ago – one of my few readers sent a Comment to let me know that he’d had difficulty following my olde-style composition. Admittedly, this writer went overboard (and enjoyably so) with that particular draft. Despite being prepared to offer a Glossary of Olde English and Latin terms, to ensure publication some significant reductions in olde prose will, inevitably, have to be administered!

As the motto of Augustus – the first Emperor of Rome -advised: “Festina lente!” [Make haste slowly!]

“Try and get a sense of the whole world that you are writing about if there is one location… History [is not] all dates and facts and figures. There [are] all these incredible stories about people and narratives and things that inform us of our families past or our countries past” – Robyn Young.

Of the three simplistic stages of any novel: a beginning, a middle and an end, one is fairly confident to state that at least the first has been set!

Brother Brad witnesses what would, at that point in history, be described as a “falling star.” He realises that it is an “unearthlie vessel” – it changes course in the sky and its speed decreases during its descent…

Having traced its “occupants” (there were at least three wraiths to emerge from it – frustratingly, the exact number is unknown) to the nearest abbey, the course of the novel focuses on Brother Brad’s attempts to deduce which monks are not what they appear to be…

Naturally, the denouement will be determined by what takes place at the core of the novel. Unfortunately, the original premise did not seem credible or plausible; the alternative course of actions impressed me even less. Before you could say: “Carpe diem,” my creative momentum vanished, and although some further effort was put in (by providing more back-story and developing one or two minor characters) you may have noticed that work on my novel ceased completely.   

There is another – but more telling – reason why my novel stalled during the middle of last year (and my enthusiasm to write/revise it has suddenly revived). The Monastikon is, essentially, a Winter’s tale. Very much like the infant 20th century Brad many moons ago – who lost count of the days away from school due to one winter snuffle after another – Brother Brad constantly bemoans the wretched weather blighting his sojourn at the abbey. This light relief is further accentuated by the realisation that none of the other monks are not the least bit troubled by the disagreeable climate!

As Ovid once said: “Perfer et obdura!” (Be patient and hold out!)

Know ye this, my blessed band o’ Bradficton buffs!

In addition to new instalments – posted at the end of each month – there are plenty of archived posts where a lack of energy or enthusiasm for creative writing meant that stand-ins consisting of no more than quotes and a music video had to suffice; over the next quarter, my aim is to revise these posts, and hopefully present something worth reading!

It would be very much appreciated if you could pay a visit to the latest instalment here: 

Any feedback/criticisms would be most welcome! 

 

Alas, ’tis my task to write these Chronicles.

Anew.

For you see, the original manuscript, which Brother Brad had so painstakingly laboured over – like so much of the relics and other holy paraphernalia from the Middle Ages – was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries that swept through every region of Tudor England between 1536-1540… …

 

“I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me” – Antonius Block.

 

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.

 

“I Can Do This All Day!”: The BIG Bradscribe MCU Countdown

Brad’s Marvel Movie Marathon Has Led To This Moment: 

Where Will YOUR Favourite Be?

About damn time…” – Nick Fury.

“By Odin’s Bristling Beard!” 

There was an idea…

To bring together nineteen remarkable movies. To see if they could be arranged in Bradtastic order.

Besides, seeing as other bloggers have compiled their charts, it was only a matter of time until the arrangement of This Post. If you click on the title of selected entries, it will take you to that particular Bradscribe Review.

To up the tension, trust me to show additional info, such as the order of MCU movies as determined by IMDB users. 

Plus: the order of ratings (showing each percentage score) on Rotten Tomatoes. 

So, these are what we’re up against FOR:

 

Release Date Order:

  1. Iron Man (May 2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (June 2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (May 2010)
  4. Thor (May 2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (July 2011) 
  6. The Avengers (May 2012) 
  7. Iron Man 3 (May 2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (November 2013) 
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014) 
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (April 2015) 
  12. Ant Man (July 2015)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (May 2016)
  14. Doctor Strange (November 2016) 
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 2017)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 2017)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (November 2017)
  18. Black Panther (February 2018)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War (April 2018)

“Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?” – Captain America.

 

19. The Incredible Hulk 

IMDB Ranking: 19

Rotten Tomatoes: 18 (67%)

“Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” – Bruce Banner.

Not surprisingly, the lowest MCU movie in this – and the IMDB – chart, has the lowest box office gross. No trademark mid or post-credit scenes; no Nick Fury. Its only memorable scene is when the not-so-jolly green giant hurls a tank into the distance – wait! That’s from Ang Lee’s 2003 snoozefest. Duh…

It’s ironic that the strongest being on the planet cannot hold up his own standalone movie. 

And speaking of irony…

 

18. Iron Man 3

IMDB Ranking: 14

Rotten Tomatoes: 13 (80%)

“Is that all you’ve got? A cheap trick and a cheesy one-liner?” – Brandt. 

Hard to helieve, but this threequel proved to pe just as boring as the big green fella’s outing.

Hmm – this is NOT the one with Mickey Rourke, right…?

You see, yours truly really struggles with this one – if there was ever a time and opportunity to make The Black Widow Movie it was here…

 

17. Iron Man 2

IMDB Ranking: 16

Rotten Tomatoes: 17 (73%) 

“Tony, you’re too young to understand this right now, so I thought I would put it on film for you. I built this for you… It represents my life’s work. This is the key to the future. I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is and always will be my greatest creation… is you” – Howard Stark.  

HEY, Mickey! You’re so fine you blow my mind, hey- nah, not really. Nothing worse than having an unintelligible villain. 

Notable for Black Widow’s debut, but there is not much else to commend this outing – pity, because Howard Stark (albeit in archive film) has one of the most moving scenes in the franchise.

On its own, Sam Rockwell’s hotsteppin’ is Top 5 material all week long.

WHOOO, baby! 

 

16. Ant Man

IMDB Ranking: 13

Rotten Tomatoes: 12 (82%)

“Pick on someone your own size!” – Scott Lang. 

When yours truly used to read Ant-Man in Hulk Weekly (where else?) so loooong ago, it NEVER occurred to him that Hank Pym would get his own movie one day. Sfx have reached the stage where this particular hero can be brought to the screen – pity nobody considered getting a good scriptwriter as well…

Paul Rudd turned out to be an ace choice to play Scott Lang/Ant-Man (although everybody preferred him in Civil War), but Michael Douglas as Hank Pym? Not so sure… 

Some thrilling microscopic action scenes but, for me, this entry was spoilt by what Hank dismissed as the “three wombats.” And Darren Cross/Yellowjacket was too bland for my (dis)liking.

Wish there was a way for me to embrace this more – to think that Brad is the biggest Ant-Man fan (Ant-fan?) you will ever know…

 

15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

IMDB Ranking: 8

Rotten Tomatoes: 11 (83%)

Nebula: “All any of you do is yell at each other. You’re not friends.” 

Drax: “You’re right… We’re family.” 

My first viewing was (mostly) agreeable – and heartrending, with the only original member of the Guardians: Yondu Udonta – but remember exiting the cinema somewhat underwhelmed.

The original Guardians of the Galaxy movie was always going to be a tough act to follow, but this effort has plummeted in my estimation since last May. It’s not just the plethora of lame lines, the forgettable opening scene with Ayesha – although it might as well have everything to do with David frickin’ Asslehoff… (>_<)

But the way in which James Gunn casually discarded Quill’s father: J’son simply ‘cos “I don’t like him” STILL rankles in this camp.

Having read more of Starlord’s back story, this movie crumbles even more. Poor Meredith Quill: in the comics she dies heroically trying to protect Peter from the alien mercenaries sent to eliminate his father – but what do we get instead? Call me old-fashioned, but a brain tumour should play no part in such a light and frothy adventure…

That Mixtape is NOT as awesome as it could be. And Vin Diesel’s Alvin Chipmunk impression is not enough. 

Thanks, Taserface, but no thanks…

 

14. Thor

IMDB Ranking: 15

Rotten Tomatoes: 15 (77%)

Thor: “I need a horse!”

Pet Store Clerk: “We don’t have horses. Just dogs, cats, birds.”

Thor: “Then give me one of those large enough to ride.” 

The casting of Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Sir Hop as Odin, plus Ken Branagh’s direction, signified the MCU’s concerted effort to bring some classical, almost-Shakespearean gravitas to these Asgardian proceedings. 

What we got was a less-than-engrossing exercise, mainly because it was so poorly lit! Too many of the crucial scenes are deluged in darkness; those Frost Giants might as well be formless entities, but Chris Hemsworth is always watchable in this.

(Not to be confused with Thor: The Dark World – a much lighter exercise)

 

13. Thor: The Dark World 

IMDB Ranking: 17

Rotten Tomatoes: 19 (66%) 

“Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much… so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honour, patriotism? God bless America…” – Loki (…?!

Great cosmic scenes in Asgard; groovy – but all-too-brief – cameo by the Cap, but one skips some of the scenes set in London. Especially…

The most surreal moment in the MCU: Thor, Son Of Odin, Scion Of Asgard finds himself @ Charing Cross Underground station.

“How do I get to Greenwich?!” the God of Thunder enquires mightily.

The mortal must have been mesmerised by his biceps – or his hammer – for she replies: “Take this train. Three stops.”

RIDICULOUS! Brad says thee NAY!

Listen ye here, Odinson: 

From Charing Cross, take the Southbound Northern Line (black) TWO stops to Embankment. Take the Eastbound District Line (green) or Circular Line (yellow) FIVE stops and change @ Monument. Then it is a hardy slog through that station to access the DLR (Docklands Light Railway); it takes another TWELVE stops to reach Greenwich.

Know ye this: the journey is long (approx. 1 hour, most of your Running Time in fact) but not as strenuous as having to sit through Chris Eccleston’s Malekith.

Fare thee well on thy voyage, noble outta-towner!

(Uff, “three stops,” my eye!!) 

 

12. Spider-Man: Homecoming 

IMDB Ranking: 11

Rotten Tomatoes: 5 (92%)

“You need to understand, I will do anything to protect my family. I know you know what I’m talking about. So don’t mess with me. Don’t interfere in my business again. Because I will kill you and anyone you care about” – Adrian Toomes.

Well, well, the Spider-Man movie nobody wanted turned out to be pretty cool!

Some people reckoned that Tony Stark spent too much time here – for me, the whole cynical mentor/enthusiastic hero-in-the-making ploy really works here. Appreciate the way they successfully recreated that whole ’80s John Hughes vibe with the high-school scenes. And playing A Flock Of Seagulls too?! Aah, the MCU knows how to make this old boy happy!

But – hoo boy! – DON’T make me sit in the back of Adrian Toomes’ car! Ever!!

 

11. Iron Man

IMDB Ranking: 4

Rotten Tomatoes: 2 (94%)

“My turn…” – Tony Stark.

The Movie Where It All Began still holds up remarkably well a decade on. Hard to believe that, back then, the choice of Robert Downey Jr. as the titular Shellhead posed quite a gamble for Marvel Studios. No worries, he made his wit and bravado Stark’s own. 

Nice entertainment, shame about the sequels…

Blimey, not even those dancing air stewardesses could prevent this from dropping out of my Top 10…

 

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron

IMDB Ranking: 12

Rotten Tomatoes: 16 (75%)

“Ultron can’t see the difference between saving the world and destroying it. Where do you think he gets that…?” – Wanda Maximoff.  

The moment Ultron comes online, thanks to James Spader’s sinister tones, is one of the great moments in the MCU. Ruminating on issues such as the nature of existence, power, intelligence (artificial or not) whilst fending off attacks from the Cap et al makes for such thought-provoking viewing. And then, of course, The Vision – superbly played by Paul Bethany – enters the equation.

The CGI of the opening action sequence may look decidedly dodgy compared to other MCU works, and the climactic Battle of Sokovia tends to drag in one of the MCU’s under-rated offerings, but everyone taking turns trying to lift Mjolnir at Tony’s party more than makes up for that! Surely? 

 

9. Doctor Strange

IMDB Ranking: 10

Rotten Tomatoes: 8 (89%)

Dr. Stephen Strange: “I’m gonna have to vanish now. Keep me alive, will you?”

Urban landscapes doing cartwheels! Skyscrapers folding in on themselves! Roads disappearing into nothingness! Benedict Cumberbatch running up the side of a building! The Ancient One has turned into a Caucasian woman!

Will ask this only once:

BY THE HOARY HOSTS OF HOGGOTH! WHAT THE BLAZES DID THEY PUT IN THAT POPCORN?!?!

And could Brad have some more, please…? 

 

8. Black Panther 

IMDB Ranking: 9

Rotten Tomatoes: 1 (96%)

“Praise! Another broken white boy to fix…” – Shuri.  

WAKANDA FOREVER!!

“Wassup, princess?” – Erik Killmonger.

 

7. Captain America: The First Avenger

IMDB Ranking: 18 (WHA-?! Uff, that’s just nuts…

Rotten Tomatoes: 14 (79%)

“Captain America! How exciteenk! Ay’m a great fen uf your feelms!” – Johann Schmidt. 

When watching Chris Evans’ enjoyable turn as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movie, the prospect of him playing another Marvel hero – let alone the Cap himself! – seemed highly unlikely. Glad he turned up for this – can’t imagine anyone else playing the Cap! Hayley Atwell is so impressive as Peggy Carter, she ought to get her own TV series…

It even made Tommy Lee Jones worth my while for once. But it’s Hugo Weaving as the thoroughly demented Johann Schmidt/Red Skull who lifts this into classic territory.

Thus speaketh the boy who – at one point – was fanatically devoted to Captain Britain…

“Geez! Somebody get that kid a sandwich…” – Senator Brandt.

 

6. Thor: Ragnarok

IMDB Ranking: 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 3 (92%)

Thor: “Strongest Avenger!”

Quinjet Computer: “Access denied.”

Thor:Damn you, Stark. Point Break.” 

Quinjet Computer: “Welcome, Point Break.” 

Hey Sparkles, here’s the deal:

Ditch all that heavy, brooding, end-of-days gubbins. Throw oh-so-funny goofballs and looney aliens into candy-coloured cosmic capers. Let loose the Hulk, give Loki more to do, and get that “creepy old man” to shear off Odinson’s locks! Most of all, introduce Hela as the formidable villain the MCU so desperately needs! Oh, and bring in Jeff Goldblum (can’t even type his name without a big dopey grin spreading across me chops!) as the Grandmaster, and you have – quite easily – the most enjoyable movie of 2017! 

“Darling, you have no idea what’s possible” – Hela.

 

5. Captain America: Civil War

IMDB Ranking: 6

Rotten Tomatoes: 6 (91%)

Spider-Man: “Hey guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back?

War-Machine: “Jesus, Tony, how old is this guy?”

Iron Man: “I don’t know, I didn’t carbon date him. He’s on the young side.”

“You remember that time we had to ride back from Rockaway Beach in the back of that freezer truck?” 

“Was that the time you used our train money to buy hotdogs?”

“You blew three bucks trying to win that stuffed bear for a redhead.”

“What was her name again?” 

“Dolores. You called her Dot.”

“She’s gotta be a hundred years old right now…” 

“So are we, pal.”

It’s the sweet and subtle moments like this that count here, along with Tony’s wacky first meeting with Peter. 

Plus: a rad debut by the Black Panther. 

And, of course, That Airport Scene. WOW, it’s so weird how you run into people at the airport. Don’t you think that’s weird…? 

Iron Man: “Who’s speaking?”

Ant-Man: “It’s your conscience. We don’t talk a lot these days…”

 

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

IMDB Ranking: 3

Rotten Tomatoes: 7 (91%)

Rocket Raccoon: “What did the galaxy ever do for you? Why would you want to save it?” 

Chris Pratt: “Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!” 

cosmic combo featuring – get this – a walking tree, a talking raccoon, an ex-wrestler, the star of Avatar (Okay, blue girl is green now! She’s green now!) Oh, and led by that chubby fella from Parks And Rec(?!)

Only Marvel Studios could take the most obscure comic – and these unusual suspects – and produce a supremely groovy galactic gleefest.

And where would this beloved bunch of A-holes be without that Awesome Mixtape…? YAY! Gives me an excuse to fit this in! (Okay, which track would YOU choose?)

“I may be as pretty as an angel, but I sure as hell ain’t one” – Yondu Udonta.

 

3. The Avengers 

IMDB Ranking: 2

Rotten Tomatoes: 4 (92%) 

Thor: “Do not touch me again!”

Iron Man: “Then don’t take my stuff.” 

Thor: “You have no idea what you are dealing with.”

Iron Man: “Uh, Shakespeare In The Park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”

Joss Whedon skilfully managed to assemble six heroes for this first team-up epic and what a humdinger it is too!

Despite bigger movies unleashed since this one’s box office conquest, the first Avengers blockbuster retains its high-standing due to such a cool script – selecting the quotes to use here proved more challenging than working out some of these rankings!

The comic book action is irresistible; the tremendous assault on Manhattan is worth a shawarma or three, but, for me, it’s Iron Man and Thor’s fisticuffs in the forest that provides the real knockout punch. 

Arguably Rob Downey Jr.’s finest moment in the MCU – certainly his funniest. 

My favourite MCU movie for at least two years, primarily ‘cos it marked my initial introduction to this MARVEL-ous franchise.

“Well, let me know if “real power” wants a magazine or something” – Nick Fury.

 

2. Avengers: Infinity War

IMDB Ranking: 1

Rotten Tomatoes: 10 (84%)

“Stop massaging his muscles!” – Peter Quill. 

STILL trying to catch my breath back!

STILL overawed – and relieved! – at how well the Mad Titan is depicted here!

STILL amazed at how they [SPOILER!] [SPOILER!] AND Captain America’s beard!!

STILL can’t believe the wizard seriously just said: “hitherto undreamt of”

Gamora: “Really? Tears?”

The Stonekeeper: “They are not for him…”  

 

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

IMDB Ranking: 7

Rotten Tomatoes: 9 (89%)

“Don’t look at me. I do what he does, just slower” – Sam Wilson. 

My personal favourite – possibly the finest superhero movie ever made. 

Some remarkable ingredients in this delectable concoction: the fight choreography is outstanding; the riveting spy-thriller narrative; the “GET ME. OFF. THE GRID!” street carnage; Jenny Agutter kicking ass; and Frenchmen getting beaten up. All in all: Brad’s perfect movie!  

Even the viewing experience itself was exceptional: that rare moment where the class and coolio-factor displayed onscreen matched the opulent interior décor. That whole weekend was such a wonderful time for both Mr. and Mrs. B – the shopping trip, that Japanese dinner and the hotel are all so pleasantly indented in our memories for all the years to come – we couldn’t have asked for a more spectacular movie that evening to round it all off…

The price of awesomeness is high. It always has been. And it’s a price Brad’s willing to pay.

On your left…

“Was that your first kiss since 1945?” – Natasha Romanoff. 

 

 

Unbelievable Bronze Age Bargains! But At What Cost?

SO Many Comics Purchased With So Few Pennies!

Carol Danvers: “You startled me. I didn’t hear you approach.” 

Wolverine: “No one ever does.”

For too long, True Believers, this site has been bereft of a Bronze Age Bonanza. 

Well, long for such a Post no more! Thought it would be a swell idea to get one rattled out this weekend.

But it still took this long to make it work!

New additions continue to enrich the Bradscribe Comicbook Collection each month, but keeping up with writing about them is a completely different matter – don’t know why these Posts should prove so strenuous to write up…

The Post that would have appeared here has been withdrawn to my Dashboard for the umpteenth time, while numerous ishs for this Post came and went before settling on the following frantic finalists. 

As these examples set out to prove, cheap doesn’t have to mean nasty…

 

Corsair: “Callous as it sounds, Cyclops, all of that is negligible, even expendable. You worry about a few score lives. I’m trying to save a world. This world.” 

Storm: “You are correct, Corsair. It is callous. And cruel… and inhuman. 

Corsair: “Then, I guess, so am I.” 

Let’s start at the zenith of my most startling recent acquisitions:

The Uncanny X-Men is arguably the most expensive series to bedeck the boxes of back ish basements. However, through sheer good fortune – the likes of which only ever happens to other people – one of these fine editions stumbled into my possession with a price SO unbelievable, you’d think some cheeky fella had tagged it on as a prank. 

#154 Reunion (February 1982) begins with Cyclops and Storm, innocently enough, playing handball with their powers. Hurtling Earthwards, a Shi’ar space vessel crashes into the pond on Prof Xavier’s estate! Both X-Men dive in and rescue Corsair – leader of the Starjammers – from the wreckage.

Hot on Commander Christopher Summers’ heels is a tempest of arachnid-like Sidrian hunters. Storm “generates an incredible, irresistible vortex” to banish them, but succeeds only in trashing Xavier’s Mansion! Unlike Brad, she paid a hefty price! 😉

Although this terrific trio escape in one of the Blackbird jets, the Sidri converge into a ship, “as big as a skyscraper!” according to Air Traffic Control and chases them across Manhattan’s East River!

Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum at the top of their game.

‘OW MUCH?!: 

FIFTY PENCE?!

Yeah-heh-hes!! 

How can ANY ish of a series that is regularly marked between £10-30(!) pass into my eager mitts for so few pennies?!  

The wraparound cover had fallen off this copy’s staples, but the Claremont/Cockrum goodness remains unblemished…

 

Thor: “Tell me, monster – art thou the madman or the madman‘s slave? And more – how didst thou appear so suddenly… like a ghost from out of the air?”

Ego: “Know this, godling, I am no ghost, but Ego personified! My flesh is the flesh of this planet – my body, the stone at your feet! This form exists because I created it – so that when I crush you, I may see your pathetic face!”

Ego The Living Planet! Has gone mad?!

Why else would Thor(!) join forces with the despicable Galactus(!) to try and stop him?! With the awesomeness for this classic mind-boggling saga ascending beyond measure, so, alas, the value had to rise in accordance.

When first reading this storyline last year – reprinted as Essential Thor Volume 7 – just the thought of ever owning a single instalment – in all its original colourific glory – seemed beyond even my grandest schemes. 

And yet…! By the Flames of Ragnarok!!

In the right store at the right time: “he just stood there, staring at the cover for what seewed an eternity – at its price for a whole lot longer…” 

The Mighty Thor #227 In Search Of… Ego! (September 1974) begins with Odin himself(!) at a loss to explain how his beloved son and heir could be colluding with “the most dangerous entity in all space and time?!” It is through the Allfather’s curiosity that we pick up the threads to the story so far – brilliant narrative device by Gerry Conway. Side by side with Hercules and Firelord, this most unlikely fantastic four proceed to destroy the Mind of Ego!

From the enthralling splash page to the explosive cliffhanger, this is Big John Buscema at his pulse-pounding best. 

This ish has prized possession written all over it (probably why the price was so ridiculously low, ho, ho!) 

“I’m certain you now fully comprehend the danger, Asgardian. If such energy were to be applied against the stars of this galaxy… we would all perish” – Galactus.

‘OW MUCH?!: 

Considering how some unscrupulous ‘erbs have tried to flog this very ish online for three-figure sums, yours truly managed to pick this up for only TWO POUNDS(!)

Madder than the Living Planet itself, baby…

 

“Never in my wildest imaginings could I have filled a world with so strange a mixture of folk as I’d found on the Mars of the long-dead past – but this wasn’t my imagination… and most of those “folk” would dearly love to see me dead” – Gullivar Jones.  

Creatures On The Loose is an important series in my collection for Man-Wolf features as the star attraction of its final seven ishs. 

Earlier editions are intriguing for giving a home to Gullivar Jones. 

Gullivar who…?

Some SF aficionados argue that Edgar Rice Burroughs – to put it politely – “borrowed” this character in order to produce his more popular John Carter of Mars. Nevertheless, Marvel adapted both of these Red Planet adventurers; while John Carter back ishs are easy to find, Gullivar like the original novel – is extremely rare. But new stock in one of my regular comic book emporiums (just in time for the January Half-Price Sale!) included a few Creatures back ishs featuring this character.

#19 The Long Road To Nowhere (Septemher 1972) offers artwork by Gil Kane – one of my favs! – Jim Mooney and Wayne Boring, but the writing fails to impress (finding decent dialogue to quote turned out to be an unexpected task). Also, this story is too short (it only fills half this ish); the rest of the pages are taken up by two short fillers – while the first includes art by Jack Kirby(!) it is a substandard alien-invasion-of-Earth story.

After an impressive splash page (see below!) the quality of this ish rapidly plummets with each turn of the page…

‘OW MUCH?!: 

£2.50 – but would further ishs in this series be worth my time and money…?

 

“At once, should one of those guardsmen become unnerved… a stray bullet could plunge all eternity into irreparable chaos! And by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth that must not come to pass!” – Doctor Strange.

The Defenders – that so-called non-team featuring the Hulk, Doctor Strange and Valkyrie – has been a rather hit-or-miss series. It is an absolute delight, though, to state that  #26 Savage Time! (August 1975) is a classic. Not only does it featurespecial-guest-star appearance by the (original line-up of the) Guardians of the Galaxy(!) but – thanks to an enticing script by Steve Gerber – it incorporates a staggering 1000-year history of the future, including a single-panel appearance by Killraven.

You’ll be happy to learn that the rebellion against the Techno-Barons comes to a triumphant end with the execution of the tyrant Kwaal in 2525. Well, whoopee-doo! Any excuse to order more cake 😉

All this action, adventure – and future-history – is brought to furious fruition by Our Pal Sal Buscema. 

“What you’re seeing is a genuine U.F.O., a ship presumably of extraterrestrial origin… 

“It seems the pilot of this spacecraft has survived the ship’s plummet from space and is concealing himself inside.But perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the ship is its insignia. For inscribed in English on the hull are the words: “Captain America”…

Hard to believe that not all Defenders ishs are up to this standard… or down to this price!

‘OW MUCH?!: 

FIFTY PENCE!

(The bottom half is badly crumpled, but after sitting beneath a pile of other distinguished members of the Bradscribe Collection, it no longer makes crinkling noises when you turn the pages!)

 

Sir Lyan: “Board, man of metal – and do not be brave if you value your life! My blaster is set to kill!” 

Iron Man: “You have nothing to fear from me – I’m no friend of the colonizers! (Besides, I think I’ve figured out a way to recharge my deplted power!)”

What a genuine – and totally unexpected! – pleasure to welcome Iron Man to the Bradscribe Collection! Hey, if the plot goes cosmic, then any title can make it in there!

Iron Man #111 The Man, the Metal, and the Mayhem! (June 1978) continues th unputdownable cosmic adventures of the Knights of Wundagore – those fabulous man-beasts created by the High Evolutionary – and their ongoing resistance against those diminutive would-be world-conquerors: the Rigellians. 

Having been beamed aboard a Rigellian scavenger ship “whose size beggars our poor mortal powers of description” belonging to Fleet Commander Arcturus and his crummy crew of unruly observer-munchkins, the Armoured Avenger finds himself trapped inside an inter-galactic war. Suspecting he is a Rigellian robot, tke Wundagorians shoot ol’ Shellhead down to Wundagore II. There, he gains the trust of the walking, talking beasts. 

For me, personally, this is a great ish as Tony is joined by Jack of Hearts, one of my very first favourite comic book characters and, arguably, the owner of the most elaborate costume in comic book history. Much like Spider-Man in last Summer’s Homecoming movie, Stark acts as mentor to the young Jack Hart throughout ishs: 103-113.

And, as both sides also make significant cameos in The Mighty Thor as well, this bunny can’t wait to catch all these other ishs – at an agreeable price… of course! 

Fleet Commander Arcturus: “A lovely planet! Alive with everything one could ask for! A perfect planet for settling at least some of our fleet!”

Observer YJ18: “Fleet Commander, no! What of the oath sworn to the Asgardian: Thor…?!”

‘OW MUCH?!: 

ABSOLUTELY FREE!

WHAT?!?!

Yes, priced at £3 – same as all the other Iron back ishs, my friendly neighbourhood awemonger deducted it from my bill in recognition of frequenting his establishment after all these months. 

Also: ’twas the night before Christmas! 😉

Cheers!

Good! Let The VIII Flow Through You!: First Impressions Of The Last Jedi

Breathe. Just Breathe. Now Reach Out.

What Do You See?

Green Greedo: “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Han Solo: “Yes, I bet you have...”

“When I read VIII, I told Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character’,” Mark Hamill said before embarking on filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Although Mark swiftly changed his mind and had a blast resurrecting the character with which he will always be associated with, immediately, this statement turned out to be the most worrisome aspect of this latest instalment. If it was “shocking” for Mark to read what Rian had written, then how is it going to make us feel?!

Personal reservations about new characters and contentious plot developments for established characters – not to mention unease concerning where the last two episodes will lead – have somewhat lessened the eager anticipation which so many fans have revelled in and blogged about these past few months.

Nevertheless, it is thrilling to have NEW Star Wars magic within our grasp once more and, obviously, both of you are itching to read what this first generation fanboy has to say about it, so, away we go…

“It was incredible! The perception of these films is that they’re all planned out on a secret sheet of paper in advance, but that’s just not the case. I wasn’t given an outline of where it goes or even a list of things to hit. It really was just, ‘Okay, what’s next?'” – Rian Johnson.

“Who is Luke Skywalker now?” asked Rian Johnson as he set out to fulfil a dream and write the script for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“I grew up with an idea of who Luke was, so the real question was why is Luke on that island? Luke’s no coward… so there must be some reason he’s there that makes sense to him. That was the first nut to crack. The seed for the whole story was inside that shell. I just had to get to it.”

Caught up with Looper (2012) earlier this year, to get acquainted with Johnson’s directorial style. Fortunately, it is an intelligent and fantastic time travel SF thriller, and assured us that Star Wars VIII looked to be in more-than-capable hands.  

From a certain point of view, The Force Awakens was great fun, even though, yes, we didn’t need the rehashed New Hope tropes of another Death Star and “vital information” placed in a droid-unit etc. etc. Unfortunately, the film’s main hindrance lay in JJ Abrams direction. Solo’s demise seemed inevitable, but the whole confrontation between Han and Ben sorely lacked the dramatic heft it deserved.

And although John William’s score was suitably moving as Rey clambered up Skellig Michael to find Luke, this pivotal sequence still looked too bland. This former Archaeology student realised the problem – he instantly recognised the locationAdd an extra planet in a sky that maybe should have been tinted a wildly different colour. Maintain the impression that we are indeed in a galaxy far, far away and not just off the coast of Ireland, please… 

 

Also, savour again this classic, endearing moment from The Empire Strikes Back:

“Where’s my boyfriend? I like that Wookie” – Maz Kanata.

Let’s face it, Chewie would have stampeded up those Skellig steps faster and more enthusiastically than Rey – not mope around outside the Falcon! Half-expected him to do so, as well! How long is it since he last saw Luke?! Besides, he had just lost his scruffy-lookin’ best buddy, but Abrams NEVER allowed him the screen-time to grieve! 

Would not be surprised to discover that our fave Wookie will be similarly underused in The Last Jedi. 

Come ON – let the Wookie scene-steal!

*

Thankfully – judging from early reviews, this movie seems to be a positive upgrade, but just poses so many questions: 

Will Rey turn to the Dark Side?

Will Kylo learn the difference between right and Ren? 

Will General Hux really get the most laughs?!

Will this episode answer ANY of these questions (and plenty more too innumerable to type)..?! 

Hello… …?

“Episode eightgosh… The first film didn’t even have a number…” – Anthony Daniels. 

 

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!” – Andy Serkis.  

For me, it has reached the point where speculation surrounding “Supreme Leader” Snoke supersedes everything else, including that other Starkiller-sized mystery of the galaxy: Rey’s parentage. There is an overwhelming urge to suss out who this creep is – and where he came from. 

Presumably, he is very ancient, very powerful. One thing is certain: the name is bogus. Has to be. 

In The Force Awakens, listening to characters as diverse as Leia and Nux saying “Snoke” with a straight face was something else. 

However, does the REAL villain of this Episode lurk elsewhere..?

It is telling that Rian Johnson has mentioned how Snoke is the (ahem) snokescreen for where the true drama – and shocks – lie… 

The above poster is included here to emphasise the following point. Notice here how Luke is bathed in red: traditionally associated with the Empire. With evil. Also, see how large he looms, as Vader used to do on the OT posters…

Dark Side or not, what intrigues me the most about this episode is learning additional details about the background story of Luke’s quest for the first Jedi temple, and how he lost his padawan – his nephew – to Snoke, thus compelling our hero to retreat in shame(?) to a remote sector of the galaxy.

Tell me, OLD Luke, what brings you out this far… …? 

“Oh baby, would I love to play my own evil twin…We could watch this guy undermining the good guys secretly, maybe even killing a supporting character… And then, of course, the good Luke shows up” –  Mark Hamill. 

“Are they puffin-like? Are they pug-like…? One, in particular, befriends Chewie. I won’t spoil it, but if you think the ones you’ve seen in the trailer are cute, you have not seen anything yet” – Neal Scanlan. 

Difficult to see, the plot is. 

When you consider how Star Wars is now Disney property, it’s all too easy to fear the worst. Your correspondent, regrettably, can see it now: Jedi Master Luke and his plucky porg posse break into Snoke’s Throne Room. 

Epic lightsaber duel ensues.

(Hopefully it will NOT be as inspid and seven hours too frickin’ long as that soulless saber-swingfest from Episode III).

Just when the Leader looks to be too Supreme for his own good(bad?) Luke extends his robot hand and Force-propels Snoke back; at the last minute, the villain trips over a wall of porgs, and – like Maul and Sidious – hurtles to his doom down one of those expensive, albeit superfluous, CG-chasms.

Later, as the hangar explodes and disintegrates all around them, and they must go their separate ways, Porg Chief Berni Two-Socks (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of course) looks up with those ubercute oversized black eyes, tears a-swellin’, and chirps:

“Gee, Mr. Luke, not bad fer a Longshanks! The boys are gonna miss ya, an’… aww shucks, Ah’m-a gonna miss ya too…”

Trust me, there will NOT be a dry eye in the (full) house…

Uff, typical Disney fluff! 

On second thoughts, methinks mayhap this grizzled ol’ nerfherder should DELAY his trip to the local popcorn parlour this week. And wait to be seriously disappointed in the comfort of his own Sanctum Sanctorum when XIII starts “streamin’ on Nitflex” (or whatever the younglings call that dashfangled gogglebox-contraption)…

“The Last Jedi felt more visceral. The first film felt like a dream” – Daisy Ridley. 

Before hitting Publish, it would be fitting to finish with a nice little anecdote from – oh yes – a long time ago when ONLY TWO Star Wars movies existed, but for me and my gang of mates, we were just DAYS away from the release of Return Of The Jedi. 

At the time, a British magazine called Voyager – concentrating on movies, model kits and space/astronomy news(!) – published an invaluable article discussing The Genesis Of “The Star Wars.” Reckoned it would be a great service to proclaim that instead of three movies we could – one day – enjoy all NINE episodes of The Journal Of The Whills.

They all looked at me as if Admiral Motti had just dissed The Force. 

Bumfluff growled and hissed bitterly: “Jeez, Brad, you’re so full o’ Bantha doo-doo it’s unreal!”

True story…

It would also be lovely to round off this post by stating that as we all prepare to watch The Last Jedi, it’s nice to know that Brad will be having the last laugh.

But will it – can it – really make for a joyous cinema experience? Yet again, yours truly just can’t bring himself to describe how difficult ’twill be to sit through the late, great Carrie Fisher’s last-ever screen performance.

Definitely, there are grim tidings ahead. Having lost Han Solo in VII, we must prepare for Leia’s fate in this episode, but also – although one does not like to dwell on such disconcerting matters too much – Luke will probably not see the end of IX…

 

WAIT a moisture-farmin’ minute here… 

What if Luke gets killed off in VIII?!?! 

What ELSE can account for Mark’s misgivings and the “considerable risks” rumoured to have been taken by Rian with this far, far away material?

Who else has a bad feeling about this?

We must be cautious…

Breathe. Just Breathe… …

 

“What a piece of junk!” – Luke Skywalker. 

How fitting that Episode VIII should be released in the year of Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary. 

Is it really FORTY YEARS since the world we thought we knew changed forever…?

“…A script arrived on my dressing table. When I opened it and found that it was science fiction I thought: oh crumbs, this is simply not for me…

“The dialogue was pretty ropey, but I had to go on turning the page… That is an essential in any script…” – Alec Guinness.