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.

 

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The Company Of Robots: My Devotion To Droids

Look, Sir, Droids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It still is. 

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

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

“Gort! Deglet ovrosco!” – Klaatu.

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

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

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

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

Klaatu.

Barada.

Nikto.

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

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

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

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

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

Droids can also offer unlikely moments of comic relief.

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

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

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

Chewbacca: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!”

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

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

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

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

Chewbacca: “Grrf.”

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

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

 

Inevitably, we reach Star Wars. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K-2SO: “Doesn’t sound so bad to me…”

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

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

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

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

AHA!! 

My search is finally OVER. 

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

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

The comic? The Crunch!

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

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

That’s it? Just “Droid”?!

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

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

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

YES!

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

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

The text added:

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

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

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

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

STARHAWK

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

Thus, the revelation struck me: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Electric Dreams III: Revenge Of The Synth

Synthwave, Retrowave, Dreamwave And – Oh Yes – Darkwave… 

“We’ll always be together
However far it seems
(Love never ends)
We’ll always be together
Together in Electric Dreams” – Phil Oakey.

Is it too soon, you may ask, to have another music post on this site?!

Perhaps. And yet…

Considering how it feels like an age since the last Post, and my writing is a tad sluggish at the moment for my liking, this seemed like the easiest option to get me back into the swing of actually completing something!

Have not listened to any Synthwave for a while, but returned to it just this week. For me, Lazerhawk is the outstanding artist of this amazing genre – so selecting our first vid posed no problem at all: 

SAL-9000: “Will I dream?”

Dr. Chandra: “Of course you will. All intelligent beings dream. Nobody knows why. Perhaps you will dream about HAL… just as I often do.”

You may be interested to know that my ideas have not abandoned me.

Far from it – there is no shortage of them! Time is no problem – never has been for me! My problem is finding the energy! 

Purge those rumours of this site’s imminent demise!

Forthcoming attractions are on their way. In  the next few days: you can (hopefully) expect Bradscribe Reviews of BOTH Deadpool movies, various updates on my expeditions to find more awesome Bronze Age comics, and…? The rest is a surprise! 

Blimey! So was this next track now this is fukkin’ sick! (As the younglings are wont to say these days, by Jove!): 

Nancy Thomson: It’s only a dream!”

Freddy Krueger: “Come to Freddy!”

Speaking of nightmares, my fiction has suffered more than anything 😛 – it seems to have dried up (only for the time being we hope! Yeah…?) 

For the second time, my novel has stalled. What has been produced so far is bereft of plot progression  – that breath-taking twist still hasn’t “sprung to mind.” Not going to chuck the bally thing in completely – for one thing, it would be a shame to see all my research papers go to waste… 

On a much brighter note, during this past two years my enthusiasm for concocting short stories has revived. Through the blog format, Bradventures featuring a distinctly English galactic hero have come along in leaps and bounds. You may like to know/be assured that a handful of new episodes reside on my Dashboard awaiting editing, so he won’t be going away any time soon! 

The most recent instalment is still pretty fresh, if a tad neglected, so please, pay it a visit, right here: 

You’ll like it, it’s about a prison break. 😉

Moving on then, this next video would have made it into Electric Dreams I – a perfect accompaniment to a Lazerhawk track, but it got pulled offline so had to rummage around for a replacement at the last minute(!)

No worries!

This tune will suffice; this is the awesome opening sequence from that crazy sci-fi thriller: The Hidden (1987) featuring an alien parasite that uses human vessels to wreak his own warped sense of “fun” on Earth:

Bob Blair: “Now we can go into an enemy’s dream, kill him, make it look as if he died in his sleep. Do you realize what that means?”

Alex Gardner: “It means no one’s safe from you…” 

Blade Runner (1982) remains as monumental as those techno-ziggurats that dominate the LA skyline.

Not only did it create one of the most mesmerising examples of visual futurism on the big screen, but the velvety Vangelis soundtrack has had a huge influence on the Synthwave genre. 

Not surprisingly, a considerable number of Synthwave tracks turn up on YouTube illustrated by stills from this classic movie. 

So, guess what appears here next! :0

Funny how the source material, written by Philip K. Dick is called “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” and yet there is no quote featuring the word: ‘dream‘ in the movie…

But why complain?

It’s Blade Runner!

“Milk and cookies kept you awake, eh, Sebastian?” – Dr. Eldon Tyrell. 

Speaking of visual style, whenever the mood for writing failed to manifest, my creative faculties have expressed themselves instead through sketching. Noting how plenty of Followers/readers have commented that my fiction would be enhanced by converting the work into graphic novels… 

Maybe, just maybe… 

In the meantime, there are some artworks – produced several years ago as well as more recent gobsmackers – that should (scans permitting!) appear on this site very soon.  

Moving on thenoh yes – when it comes to the best Retrowave producers, there’s no ace like HOME: 

Miles Harding: “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep.”

Edgar: “Who says?”

Miles Harding: “Walt Disney. Sleeping Beauty, nineteen… fifty.”

Edgar: “No, it was Cinderella, 1949.”

To end on a high note, completing this Post has reminded me what is so compelling about the blogosphere; plus, it has restored the verve to carry on!

What better way to end this playlist, fellow Oneironauts, than with some scintillating Chillwave from the exceptional Crockett, who – as you may have gathered from Electric Dreams II  has become my second-favourite Synthwave artist!

“I’m a seeker too. But my dreams aren’t like yours. I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than Man. Has to be…” – George Taylor. 

Sweet dreams… 🙂

Avengers: Infinity War: The Bradscribe Review

MARVEL At The Mayhem 

“Colossal, cataclysmic, delirious, preposterous – and always surreally entertaining in the now well-established Marvel movie tradition… And yet somehow in its pure uproariousness, it works. It’s just a supremely watchable film, utterly confident in its self-created malleable mythology…” – The Guardian. 

“Oh God…” 

You can say that again, Cap. 

Avengers: Infinity War is an extraordinary piece of work. 

A group of superheroes must band together to thwart a maniacal extraterrestrial threat- but fortunately this is NOT Justice League! Only the Russo brothers could manage so many elements and craft them into a cohesive and highly entertaining package.

As mentioned here so many times already, Thanos seeks the six Infinity Stones – the ultimate power in the universe. At whatever cost, this Titan must be stopped. 

Mad?!

He’s positively Stark Raving Hazelnuts… 

As soon as a suitably sinister score begins to play, you instantly realise you’re in for one helluva good ride!

Movie of the Decade? Quite possibly.

A monumental cinematic achievement? Oh, most certainly!

“Infinity War manages a succession of double-page spread awe that sells the cosmic saga… Kudos also for the witty/chilling envoi: “Thanos will return” – Sight And Sound. 

Incredible!

And that’s just the Running Time. 

Those 149 minutes feel more like 90. From the faint distress call relayed over the MARVEL STUD10logo, to the very evident signs of distress among some departing cinema-goers, Infinity War crackles along, as fast as a giant green behemoth hurtling towards Earth. 

There is such a great roster of characters on show here:

Yet again, Robert Downey Jr. shows here that Tony Stark everybody’s fave action-hero/playboy/philanthropist quip-dispenser works so much better in these Avengers movies than he ever did in his solo trilogy. 

The romance between the Vision and Wanda is handled very well; Natasha and Bruce’s reunion is relegated to an exchange of awkward glances and just as well! (Black Widow always only had eyes for Hawkeye).

Eager to see how the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy fitted – or fretted – alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: no worries! The mix turns out to be supremely entertaining, especially Star-Lord’s desperate attempts to out-macho the God of Thunder. 

There is genuine friction on an antler-locking scale between Stark and Strange -both ridiculously rich and self-centred enhanced playboys. It’s as if that off-screen bickering between Robbie and Bennybatch as to which one played the best Sherlock spilled over in front of the cameras…

Thanos packs a heck of a punch… he pretty much punches everyone. It’s the emotion behind those punches that will surprise you” – Washington Post. 

What about the Man of the Match himself: Thanos – one of the most formidable villains in the Marvel canon? 

It is with great joy – and relief – to see one of my personal favourite comic book characters make such a triumphant transition to the big screen. A powerful and yet demented tyrant whose twisted logic cannot distinguish harmony from genocide, is portrayed here through a phenomenal mo-cap performance by Josh Brolin. 

Brutal, intractable and ferocious, as you would expect, what sets this particular antagonist above the usual one-dimensional, monologuing nerks is an unlikely serene and sensitive side. This is perfectly exemplified by all the dramatic scenes he shares with adopted “daughter” Gamora.

Finally! After two Guardians movies we get to see the character of the last Zen Whoberis develop. The emotional intensity of the moment Thanos finds Gamora as an infant just transcends the simple confines of the traditional “blockbuster.” Didn’t know they made ’em like that any more, but glad that the Russos could so happily oblige…

A superhero movie on such a gargantuan scale must have outstanding moments and thankfully, those fantastic fist-pumping, whoop-worthy moments are in abundance here: SPACE and the first sight of the Milano with mixtape blarin’; the Cap stepping out of the Scottish shadows; and the biggest cheer at my viewing: Thor, Rocket and Groot materialising amidst the Wakandan battlefield with the stirring Avengers theme ringing out at top volume.

You also get Iron Man, Spider-Man and Magic Man riding through the cosmos in a giant flying donut. WAHEY!!

You couldn’t make this stuff up – but it’s great to know that Christopher Markus and Stephen Freely can – and have done – again to such top-notch extent – arguably the best screenwriters in any genre. Their scripts are beyond compare. The way they can move from heavy drama to light relief, and back again, is a masterclass in deft writing. Who but they could include dialogue implying the Avengers “breaking up like the Beatles,” during a movie concentrating on the Stones – a force as old as the universe itself? 😉

Assuredly, there are plenty of great quotable lines to sustain this site for another few weeks. “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards!” should be recognised as one of the best in the franchise.

But the Greatest Hits this War has to offer come in that unforeseen and yet so-cool-as-fudge Marvel Team-Up we never knew could happen. Come on! Let’s start an online petition and get a Thor and Rocket Rabbit cosmic buddy movie in the works! If the Studio doesn’t comply, then, as the Mad Titan himself once said:

“Fine, I’ll do it myself…” 😉

“It inherits plenty of the problems endemic to crossovers: the privileging of quantity over quality, of spectacle over story, and of the shock value of major changes to the status quo over just about everything else” – TIME Magazine. 

Watched Avengers: Infinity War for a second time yesterday evening, admittedly to eke out any glaring errors or anything amiss…

Honestly, the amazing action set-pieces, affecting romantic interludes, carefully crafted comedy, breathtaking drama and Josh Brolin, of course, completely cancelled out my critical faculties and swept me headlong (always go for the head) just as giddily and intoxicating as it did last Friday. 

The direction is so taut, tense and terrific that there is never a dull moment. But there’s never been a better opportunity to make this next statement: There’s no oxygen inside that donut. 

How does Peter continue to patter faster than lightspeed just as endearingly as always, without air?! And it’s a good job the atmosphere on Titan is still sufficient enough for Spidey to carry on his dizzying friendly neighbourhood loopin’ an’ a-swingin’. What the hey – just immerse yourself in the pure comic book escapism…

As expected, the Children of Thanos aka The Black Order did succumb to that dread affliction of our era: the “Phasma Curse”: they look/sound awesome, but get little/nothing to do in the actual movie. Despite constantly gleering, wielding a rad-bladed staff, and looking like he’s just traipsed over from World of Warcraft, Corvus Glaive – even the name is too astounding for its own good! – becomes far too underused. Still, the awesome conceptual design has, nevertheless, intrigued ol’ Bronze Age Boy here to check out the current comic books (These servants of Thanos have only been around for a few years so it should not take long to track Corvus et al down)

The same applies to Mrs. Glaive: Proxima Midnight. Actually, with a tighter adroitness towards choreography and camerawork, her duel between Black Widow (okay, Natasha is blonde now! She’s blonde now!) and Okoye in Wakanda ought to be one of the Most Awsweome Fights In The Movie Ever. Opportunity missed… 

What looked to be the least interesting chatacter turned out to exact the most impact: Ebony Maw, a nasty, maleficent matter-manipulator whose street fight with Strange and Wong has become an instant classic.

Personally, greater emphasis on character interaction more brooding, less brawling – would not have gone amiss. The climactic Battle of Wakanda – the MCU’s most grandiose spectacle yet – could so easily have been avoided. Let those rampant alien beasties mince themselves on the Wakandan forcefield? No, gotta give those thousands of digital artists something to do, so His Majesty orders Plot-hole 17 to open up… 

Despite these relatively minor niggles, when it comes to Star Ratings, Brad is notoriously stingy when it come to dishing out his precious 5-star icon, but, in this case…

Considering the gasps and laughs these non-stop thrills evoked from me; its power to make me care – and cry – for a psychotic, yet placid, purple pariah; the sheer exhilaration it instilled for hours after my first viewing – a sensation not felt since Rogue One, it would be my genuine pleasure to bestow upon this treasure the highest rating possible!

What the blazes! Who knows when – or how! – another monumental sci-fi epic as big, bold, bonkers and brilliant as this will invade our popcorn parlours again…?

And as for those viewers “exhausted”, or exasperated by this movie:

What’s the matter with you kids? You’ve never seen a masterpiece before? 😉

Avengers: Infinity War is precisely the sort of entertaining – and jaw-dropping – spectacle we have come to know/expect -and love – about the MCU; against all the odds of scale and ambition, it not only met our expectations – well, mine anyway – but exceeded them. This epic, most definitely, is one to enjoy time and time again. And again! 

Truly MARVELous…

“Dread it. Run from it.”

HA! Not a frickin’ chance, Grimace!!

 

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Perfectly balanced, as all things should be…”

 

The Daze Of High Adventure: Getting Back Into The Fantasy Genre After All These Years

I Think I’m Quite Ready For Another Adventure…

‘1st Rough In Tavern’: “The hunchback will have something to say about this!” 

And to think this blog supposedly concentrates mainly on science fiction…!

Well, firstly, some classic science-fantasy (tales of far-future lands where no/minimal technology exists) novels have come my way and, somehow, my reading preferences have veered – harmlessly enough – towards full-blown fantasy.  

Notepads at the ready – here they come:  

David Farland – The Runelords 1: The Sum Of All Men 

Robert E. Howard – Conan The Indomitable

Michael Moorcock – Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress

James Silke – Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer 1: Prisoner of the Horned Helmet (below)

“They came out of the sunblasted desert. Tiny dark specks wagging a tail of billowing dust at the yellow sky. Occasionally they glittered metallically… It was a mounted detachment. Nine riders with crossbows in their saddle holsters and sheathed swords, quivers and daggers riding their belts… The Kitzakk Horde…”

It’s amazing when you consider the quite impressive number of SF authors who dabbled in fantasy themes and managed to create some distinguished masterworks in the genre. Awaiting my attention is: Roger Zelazny – The Hand Of Oberon And a classic so monumental (not disclosing the author/title ‘cos it’s going to be a surprise!) will feature here in its own Post very soon! 😉

By Crom!

Carrying out spring-cleaning (while icy blizzards still surge past outside!) this doughty adventurer has uncovered notes and scraps of rough drafts pertaining to my stab (parry? thrust?) at a fantasy epic. 

Initially concocted in 1986, at the height of my immersion in Fighting Fantasy, Scabrous Face – still reckon that sounds awesome! – tells:

The saga of Malcolan, demonic Overlord of the Coarselands. 

Having led his Doragar Horde on a merciless and unstoppable sweep through the Western Lands, he decides to acquire what he has lacked throughout his reign of terror: a queen. 

He conquers one particular kingdom just to seize the king’s daughter – the most beautiful maiden throughout all the realms. But, before being slain, the Grand Mage: Gaspar places a curse on the Overlord. His son is weak and sickly; branded “Scabrous Face” by the crestfallen demon, he banishes the child to the wastelands… 

Malcolan is gradually subdued by unknown afflictions; as his health deteriorates, so the power of his dominion crumbles. 

Eighteen years later, a mysterious hero emerges. With his bold band of bahadurs (“fighters”), he marches straight towards the Overlord’s fortress to restore peace and order to their world… 

The original names do not appear here as they have been changed countless times over the years. After three decades, reading that very first draft again, it is not only… interesting, but forsooth! It’s a tad embarrassing…

Consisting only of the Overlord’s invasion of that kingdom (then known by a completely different name), these frantic scribblings form nothing but turgid – and repetitive – gory hack-an’-slashfest! Turns out that teenage Brad happened to be a far more bloodthirsty lil dweeb than anyone had ever expected… 

My epic consisted of  endless battles because it was completely male-orientated – obviously, an attraction to girls had yet to materialise.

Concurrently, plenty of influential material (both writing and art) cowld be acquired monthly: Warlock served as the official Fighting Fantasy magazine, while White Dwarf concentrated on role-playing games. This cover (in particular (below) had a profound effect – the hero of my fantasy epic is based on that ferocious wolf-pelt-clad fella. 

The music with which to accompany this Post comes from one of my fantasy favs: CONAN! (Not that recent poor remake starring The Sub-Mariner, but the original 1982 classic with Arnie). Basil Poledouris must have been a wizard… 

Never mind the dodgy title of the second track – it is one of the most mesmerising pieces of movie music.

And as for this theme tune: Anvil Of Crom, Brad refuses to gallop into the local village without it: 

 

Treasures are not won by care and forethought but by swift slaying and reckless attack” – Michael Moorcock.

In 1979, while The Black Hole bewitched me with its laser battles, The Black Knight taught me how to wield a broadsword.

No conflict between sci-fi and fantasy. Not in my mind. Both genres played a substantial part in – how shall we say – my formative years…

During the mid-’80s, Fighting Fantasy became my obsession. Unable to find anyone willing to delve into role-playing games with me, Fighting Fantasy proved to be the perfect outlet for lone adventurers. Each book, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, contained a total of 400 numbered sections. YOU had to pick up clues; solve riddles; outwit traps; fight orcs, trolls, et al; navigate mazes and dungeons, etc. by choosing which section to Turn To.

“All you need is a dice and a pencil.”

Even devised some of my own Figjting Fantasy adventures…

Might write about them at some point, but there’s a LOT of stuff in that cabinet to sift through before they are uncovered…

Subotai: “We’re thieves! Ha! Like yourself. Come to climb the tower.

Valeria: “You don’t even have a rope! Ha! Two fools who laugh at death. Do you know what horrors lie beyond that wall?”

Conan: “No.”

Valeria: “Then you go first…” 

“I will allow you to live as long as you serve me. Betray me, and I will joyfully send you back to rot in hell” – Titus Cromwell.

At University, by far my most intriguing area of research concentrated on the art, numismatics and history of the Parthians and the Saka (the Indo-Persian name for the Scythian nomad warriors of the Eurasian steppes.) They not only directly inspired Tolkien’s Horselords of Rohan, but sparked a new and refreshing etymological and anthropological framework with which to reinvigorate my fiction.

Instantly fell in love with the mellifluous Old Persian language, and decided to rename my characters with some of these more evocative words. For instance, the name of Kulbahar (Old Persian, meaning: “like a rose in spring”) was bestowed upon the kingdom, while the ill-fated princess has come to be known as Ziba-Eszta (OP: “beautiful star”). 

But just as renewed enthusiasm filtered into my writing, that spark almost vanished. 

What could have cleft my fervour for fantasy in twain forever had to be this annoying repetition of the same old standard tropes: the indestructible (always white male) hero…

And those ever-so-noble elves… 

We have sat waiting like this many times before. Sometimes I tire… of the fighting and killing. At night, I can hear the call of my race. They wait for me. When I join them, we will be forgotten” – Crow.

During the ’80s, countless fantasy movies were rented – some were cheap and cheerful cheezy classics; a great deal more twerned out to be agonisingly atrocious…  

Hawk The Slayer (1981) is let down by an embarrassingly miniscule budget, but it holds personal importance as it provided my very first taste of a sword and sorcery film at the cinema. In particular, the elf: Crow (see above) captivated my imagination and set me on a lifelong fascination with all-things-elvish. 

Naturally, my fantasy novel just HAD TO HAVE its fair share of elfkind, but avoiding the overdone stereotypical connotations of this race proved quite a challenge. Notably, my most prominent Silver Forest archer: Delanian has evolved to become quite unlike any other elf you have ever seen… 

Itching to tell you more about this nonchalant supporting player, but, you know: spoilers! 😉

And those other tropes? The mischievous Goblins; the grumpy Dwarfs; the malevolent Orcs…

It occurred to me that a radical rethink of these other races is required by all fantasy writers to keep the genre fresh and original. In fact, from the very beginning, Orcs would play no part at all in my work. Instead, my massive unputdownable compendium of Fighting Fantasy Monsters: Out Of The Pit (1986) offered me an exciting alternative in the form of the Doragar. 

Described as a sorcerous interbreed between Orcs and Trolls, these berserkers fight tougher on the battlefield and work faster in the ore mines than their Orc cousins. Equipped with spiked armour and huge serrated weapons, the task is unto me to “bring them to life.”

“I don’t hate ALL men, Grandmaster…” – Red Sonja.  

“Over a year ago I was first introduced to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) but the more I have played it the more concerned I have become about the presentation of women with it,”  wrote a disgruntled (Miss) S.A. Carbery in a letter published in WD#70 (October 1985).

“The whole fabric of the pseudo-mediaeval games appears male-orientated. The female fantasy characters encountered (the few that show up) seem more likely to be serving wenches or prostitutes. 

I nearly brained my Dungeon Master when he told me the rules of choosing to play a female character and the restraint of not being able to attain the maximum strength of 18 – unless I was a Half-Orc. Not exactly a fair rule…

“Illustrations within WD involving over the top females verge upon soft porn. I will NOT  be fobbed off with excuses of historic nostalgia that women have been portrayed like this in pulp fantasy since 1920. RPGs could be very educational and highly entertaining. I think it is a great shame considering… that so few women seem to be involved and playing them. 

“Surely now it is time for change?”

From that moment on, such changes were implemented in my fiction – female characters would play more decisive roles. More specifically, the seemingly-endless Game Of Thongs trend of subservient female representation in the fantasy genre (alluded to by Miss Carbery) seemed at odds with the intelligent, headstrong and assertive young women who were rejecting me on an almost-weekly basis…

So when this fantasy novel received a belated revision during the Summer of 1990, the first – and most significant – alterations came in the addition of a number of female characters.

Over a decade ago, to try and quell the sheer monotony of my job in Southeast Asia, during one of my regular Yuletide return trips to the UKthe dust was wiped off my fantasy fiction file and various vital notes taken back with me to the tropics…

After finishing my job, greater concentration could be afforded to my writing and – oh yes –  this project in particular. TWO dramatic changes were made: the addition of an extra female character who – you’ll be pleased to learn – has been promoted to main protagonist; while the other major revision proved equally pivotal: a new and improved title. 

The enchanting Old Persian term: Vindahfarnah translates as “Righteous Ruler” – this encapsulates perfectly the core theme of the story!  

Alas, Malcolan’s fate came to another abrupt halt in 2013 due to – strangely enough! – the instigation of this blog. 

On this site, you may yet be treated/subjected to an excerpt from this sprawling epic 🙂

But now…

Once more, Brad must ride with his bahadurs to defend what was, and the dream of what could be…

Evil Witch: “Where is Deathstalker?!” 

Deathstalker: “Somebody lookin’ fer me?” 

Princess: “You came back?!”

Deathstalker: “By popular demand!”

Princess:Dayethstalker…? Is that your first name or your last name…?” 

Deathstalker:Grrr…

 

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!

“Mad As The Snow”: Brad’s Winter Wonderland

Out Of The Bewilderness – In From The Cold

Phil Connors: “Come on, all the long distance lines are down? What about the satellite? Is it snowing in space? Don’t you have some kind of a line that you keep open for emergencies or for celebrities? I’m both. I’m a celebrity in an emergency.”

“Flights cancelled as snow expected to hit most of UK in coming days.”

So, you think Brad has been away? 

Haven’t had the opportunity to go anywhere, but now comes confirmation from the Beebitsy Nooz that he won’t be able to get out of his own gaff anyways – gah! 

Here he is, stuck indoors, wrapped in his big, fluffy dressing gown, huddled over his laptop, trying to bang out something legible.

With the Winter Olympics under way on the other side of our crazy planet, now is the time to chill out (hyuk hyuk!) in style!

Not really…

As long as one can remember, snow, ice and all-things-wintry have filled me with dread.

To counteract this, my SF attention has always naturally gravitated towards the more humid climes of Arrakis, Tatooine or anywhere else just as cosy. But with temperatures plummeting, let’s sift through my wintry reads – see what can take my mind off the despicably low temperature… 

This cool classic – from criminally underrated ’90s band Kitchens of Distinction – helps me to focus:

“Oh, really, you’re cold?” Han Solo.    

The icy wind is positively galeforce owtside tonight, seething and whistling up and down the chimney beside me as these words are typed.

Thc SF genre is (ahem) snowed under with numerous icy reads. The following titles are the frosty tomes lined up from the darkest recesses of the Bradcave to accompany my copious mugs of hot chocolate over the next few nights:

Always been enchanted by the cover (Ian Miller at his striking best!) of The Anvil of Ice (the first volume in The Winter of the World trilogy by Michael Scott Rohan. The story of a struggling civilization threatened by a deadly ice age and a young boy who discovers a power that could determine the fate of the world has taken AGES to find. (Goodness knows how long it will take to track down the other two volumes!)

ICE by Anna Kavan is a fifty year old masterpiece that, unbelievably, hardly anybody knows about. Set in yet another apocalyptic wasteland – except this one is frozen – “a nameless narrator searches for a silver-haired girl seeking to free her from captivity before the ice closes in.” 

Covering now-topical themes such as climate change, totalitarianism and feminism, it may “remain as resonant as it ever was,” but its low profile prolonged its obscurity. This year, however, a 50th Anniversary Edition has been published, and my Library reservation should be due any day now.  

Mother of Winter is an acclaimed instalment in Barbara Hambly’s Darwath series. As the world grows increasingly colder, and a strange fungus that causes madness spreads, Ingold the wizard and Gil the swordswoman travel to the mountain known as the Mother of Winter to confront the mages who may be responsible.

Inevitably, any winter-themed round-up would not be complete without A Song of Ice And Fire. My copy of Book One: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin has been started two or three times – perhaps this month will be freezing enough to influence its completion…? 

Yagya will always be my most dependable producer for top ambient dub-techno – Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson can do no wrong. 

With his Rhythm of Snow album, it really was difficult to decide which Snowflake to select, so plumped instead for this track – it comes with a still image more wintry than anything accompanying that aforementioned work!:

“It wants to freeze now. It knows it’s got no way out of here. It just wants to go to sleep in the cold until the rescue team finds it” – RJ MacReady.

The closest literary equivalent to John Carpenter’s The Thing, (in my possession) happens to be H P Lovecraft’s cosmic horror classic: At The Mountains of Madness. In the wastes of Antarctica, explorers discover a mountain range higher than the Himalayas which border a city built by the Elder Things – and they’re not alone…

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge tells how the planet of Tiamat, has only two seasons: a long Summer followed by a long Winter. This change of seasons marks a change in regime, but the Winter Queen plots to keep her power by creating clones of herself, but one of them has plans of her own… 

And in the month when we lost one of the grandmasters of the genre: Ursula K. Le Guin, we cannot forget possibly her most famous novel: The Left Hand of Darkness. This masterwork is set on the planet Gethen (Winter), in the midst of an aeons-long Ice Age and covered in glaciers. Its inhabitants can choose – and change – their gender. A lone human emissary comes to facilitate their inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization, but “he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.”

And, although it is not SF-related, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is suitably snowbound enough to guarantee a ritual browse-thro during this season every year. Not only a narrative of a murder investigation (not normally my mug of hot choccie!) it remains an astonishing – and always-inspirational chronicle – of the Middle Ages. 

Will leave you now with one of the most awesome ambient techno tracks.

The fantastic Substrata album (1997) by Biosphere evokes such a chilly Arctic feel that when it came to compiling this Post, this happened to be heading the provisional Tracklist. Those incredible drones you can hear are Nordic fjordhorns. 

It’s best to wrap up warm with a steaming mug of hot choccie.

And a good book. Or three. 

Cheers!

Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”  

 

🙂