“The Gentlest Of Giants”: Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew Died On 30 April Aged 74.

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him” – Harrison Ford.

“He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.” Harrison Ford paid an emotional tribute to Peter Mayhew – the 7′ 3″ actor who brought Chewbacca to life in the Original Trilogy – who passed away at his Texan home on 30 April. Harrison remembered Peter as a “kind and gentle man,” and praised him for being “possessed of great dignity and noble character”.

Brad – like most, if not all, fans – loved Chewie too. So, today, on what would have been Peter Mayhew’s 75th birthday, here are a few words that just had to be shared. 

Let’s face it: where would Star Wars be without Chewie? And what would the Wookiee have looked like without Peter Mayhew‘s brilliant portrayal?  

The idea of having an alien, Sasquatch-like co-pilot seemed so instantly cool to me. Moreover, Chewbacca made me realise that in order to create great SF, you don’t have to adhere to the traditional tired-and-tested aliens-are-always-bad trope.

In 1975, Peter was working as a porter at King’s College Hospital in London, when he learnt that “an American director was at Elstree Studios making a sci-fi movie.” 

He would never forget those magical words:

“They’re looking for someone big.” 

“He was the gentlest of giants… What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness, and his gentleness was so close to what Wookiee is” – Mark Hamill.

“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile,” Mark Hamill – forever-immortalised as Luke Skywalker – wrote on Twitter. “He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years.”

Legend has it that 6 ft 6. Dave Prowse became the first actor to be considered to play Chewbacca, but he expressed a preference instead for Darth Vader (the iconic role for which he is best remembered). At Elstree, Peter Mayhew took one look at Vaderbut he expressed a preference instead for Chewbacca. “I looked at the character and said: ‘I can do something with that. That has possibilities.'”

Peter recalled waiting in George Lucas’s office: “He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing. I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said: ‘I think we’ve found him.'”

The actor would go on to wear the shaggy yak-hair suit not only throughout the Original Trilogy but also as a memorable Special Guest Star on The Muppet Show! Lucas recalled him to Kashyyyk for 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith. And, of course, a decade later, arguably the greatest duo in SF movie history were reunited for The Force Awakens. 

However…

“Look, I can’t walk,” Peter informed incoming director: JJ Abrams. Double knee replacement surgery two years previously – necessitated by both age and height – had left the actor incapacitated as a physical performer. “I can do most things, but the only thing I can’t really do is walk. But I can do the facial expressions and everything else like that for Chewie.”

During 2015, in the months leading up to Episode VII’s release, fans and critics alike raved about the much-heralded return of Luke, Leia and Han, but – much to my dismay – nobody spared a thought for the Wookiee… 

Not surprisingly, this legendary character had little to do – the greatest duo’s comeback turned into a letdown. To me, Han’s demise was inevitable, but the fact that Chewie was deprived the moment to mourn was probably that script’s most significant error.

Peter himself summed up the secret of Chewie’s appeal: “The character itself is basically teddy bear. Security! People love security. I bet everybody had a security blanket of some sort during childhood, therefore this character represents the person who looked after you. 

“Chewie just grew – on the first movie he was a minor character; second movie, he became part of the good group, and the rest is history.” 

Peter Mayhew in-between filming that “sci-fi movie” with co-star Kenny (R2-D2) Baker (above);

and with make-up artist Stuart Freeborn (below)

“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing” – George Lucas. 

“Too short for a Wookiee?”

Almost every school breaktime, Star Wars had to be reenacted in our playground. Yes! Due to my beautiful blond mane, yours truly would get to play Luke!! A rare sign of respect for an otherwise insignificant and shy comics-muncher who always sat at the back of the class.

That’s  almost every breaktime – REAL fights would break out between some boys as to who would be Han Solo – rebellion amongst the Rebellion. Sheesh! The Death Star would have cleared the planet and blown us all to smithereens well before we had to trudge back in for Maths class…

One time, seeing as it was his birthday, one kid received the privilege of playing the moping moisture-farmer. My reaction? To the sheer bewilderment of my playmates – was to immediately opt for the part of Chewie: the co-pilot with a crossbow. WICKED! 🙂

Bizarrely enough, we actually had a Mr. Peter Mayhew teaching at our junior school! He was incredibly tall, but there, alas, is where the comparisons ended. Of course, my year were staunch Star Wars fans, so those more rebellious fellas among our rabble could not resist lumbering along the hall right behind him, “making Wookiee noises” etc. Poor grouch: totally oblivious to this ultracool international pop culture phenomenon, he had absolutely no idea why all these pesky perishers were acting like that. 

Looking back, methinks: yeah, it was a fun prank to do 😉

I’d like to think that THE REAL Peter Mayhew would have been proud of us.

For he represented the best of Star Wars in its original – wondrous and inspirational – form. His boundless passion and positivity ensured him enduring popularity. That, and attending 20-30 Star Wars conventions a year. 

“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out,” he said. “There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca.”

 

“The big chance came, so I took it. Star Wars was such a unique opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. It’s an opportunity that only strikes once, so you might as well make the most of it.

“At least my costume was comfortable!” 

Peter Mayhew 19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019. 

 

Harry James And His Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time: MARVEL Music Monday

SHIELD COMPROMISED… 

Steve Rogers: “I don’t remember giving you a key.”

Nick Fury: “You really think I’d need one? My wife kicked me out.”

Steve Rogers: “Didn’t know you were married.”

Nick Fury: “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.”

 

Written by Jule Styne;

Lyrics by Sammy Cahn;

Vocals by Kitty Kallen;

Performed by Harry James & His Orchestra (1945)

Natasha Romanoff: “Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”

Steve Rogers: “That’s hilarious.”

 

“The Woman Is Breaking Free!”: The Evolution And Revolution Of Women In SF

A Look At Women’s Roles In SF On International Women’s Day 

“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?” – Ellen Ripley.  

Many many moons ago, at school, there was one quick, and somewhat sad, way to tell the difference between boys and girls:  

boys read science fiction – girls did not.

Traditionally, my fav genre had been restricted to being a “Boy’s Own” pursuit long before my arrival on this Pale Blue Dot. My constant comic-reading consisted of Starhawk, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper – all male characters, of course! – used to irk some of the girls in my class no end. Despite trying to hide my mags, or chuck them over the playground wall, they never directly expressed any curiosity, or interest, in this reading-material. Shame, ‘cos such interaction might have extricated me from my insufferable shell a lot sooner…

No worries.

Science fiction has always exuded a voracious appetite for change. And to reflect those gradual, now quickening, changes in society, most notably in attitudes towards, and rights affecting, women, the genre has dramatically achieved so much to this end and, promisingly, continues to do so. 

To accompany this analysis, there will be a selection from the feminine side of Brad’s jukebox: 

“This is what Jodie Foster said when she first looked at me: ‘You’re not nearly as big as I thought you’d be.’ I thought she was joking so I kind of giggled but she kept laying it on thicker and thicker… She wouldn’t let up. I was a little crushed…” – Dave Bautista. 

At its best, science fiction makes us THINK.

And there was one particularly awesome comicbook cover that single-handedly altered my mindset in regards to women in SF.

In one of my most beloved books from the Library Brad Manor, a compendium: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares (1978) – “Dedicated to those who haven’t landed yet” 😉 – on page 40 to be exact (that fact is proudly printed indelibly in my memory), this exquisite classic vintage cover (by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, above) of Weird Fantasy #21 made me realise the potential of incorporating strong, distinctive female characters in my own fiction. 

Note how the traditional gender roles haye been reversed: this woman – armed and sensibly-dressed (obligatory goldfish-bowl permitting) – assumes an assured, active and commanding position in the foreground while the male is reduced to just scantily-clad manflesh. Bold, and very progressive, especially when you consider this artwork was originally published – slapbang in that “Boy’s Own” era – in 1953!

2000AD – still “the longst-running comic in the galaxy” – has always been considered to be an highly-esteemed tag to have on any comic writer’s/artist’s resume, and yet it’s most notable alumni began their respective careers… working on girls’ comics!

Lately, my scope of classic comics has veered towards British publications of the ’70s. Whilst searching for the “lost Starhawk stories,” in The Crunch, imagine my astonishment, but sheer delight, upon discovering “Ebony”: a black, female MI5 agent; for 1977, this looked like an extremely impressive and empowering premise –  the spitting image of Nina Simone, she’s every bit as tough and classy as Pam Grier! And way too cool to be this obscure. (Not surprisingly, there are no clear images of her online).

While stories for boys centred on action, comics for girls concentrated on romance. 

Interestingly enough, there was indeed only one (albeit short-lived) British SF/fantasy comic for girls from that time: SpellboundHeard a lot of encouraging items about one of its contents – that quartet of enhanced femme fatales: the Super-Cats, so will endeavour to check out this “Fabulous Four.”

Back then, one would have been branded a “sissy” if seen with a girls’ comic, but now, who cares…? 

“Let me tell you something about sexism, girl. When you wear that costume, it cheapens you, but when I wear it, it cheapens them. It’s all about how you use it” – Emma Frost. 

How apt: playing this on the Eighth Day of this month 😉

No NO, Lady Go-Go! 

Let Hazel show you what a bona fide unorthodox-but-awesome songstress really looks and sounds like!:

J. Jonah Jameson: “You! Ms. Marvel!! I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad, it doesn’t matter – you’re all the same. You’ve got to be stamped out… and if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, lady, you will be!” 

Ms. Marvel: (I hear you, J. Jonah, and I’d love to argue the point, if I had the time… but I don’t. I doubt you’d listen anyway. Still, that’ll probably become one more editorial hassle Carol Danvers doesn’t need…)  

“The horrible immorality” argued Anatole France, ominously, as early as 1905, “…is to be the morality of the future.”

Whereas bygone authors of general fiction felt restricted from writing about the realities of human relationships, science fiction auteurs went ahead anyway and experimented with gender as well as genetics, and sex and sexuality in addition to science and scientific plots.

The main credit for breaking through the barriers of taboo is usually given to Philip Jose Farmer, whose The Lovers (1952) dealt with the unfortunate consequences of a love-affair between a man and an alien, although some would argue that Nice Girl With Five Husbands  (1951) by Fritz Leiber, at last deserves critical reappraisal.

The 1960s proved permissive enough to see an influx of more gender-based stories; Harlan Ellison’s anthology: Dangerous Visions (1967) confirmed that any speculative fiction concerning sexual matters could thenceforth be published, while the ground-breaking Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin offered a more sensitive approach to sexual roles and mores. The 1970s witnessed an increase in feminity – and feminism – through science fiction with the most prominent examples being: When It Changed (1972) by Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy’s Woman On The Edge Of Time (1976). 

More varied roles for female characters appeared on a relatively healthy basis up to the end of the 20th century, and beyond, culminating in the current blossoming subgenre of YA fiction.

Princess Leia: “All troop carriers will assemble at the north entrance. The heavy transport ships will leave as soon as they’re loaded. Only two fighter escorts per ship. The energy shield can only be opened for a short time, so you’ll have to stay very close to your transports.”

Hobbie Klivian: “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?”

Princess Leia: “The ion cannon will fire several shots to make sure any enemy ships will be out of your flight path. When you’ve gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point. Understood? Good luck.”

Arguably, the strongest, most positive female role in science fiction has to be Ellen Ripley, superbly played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver. 

The character had originally been written as male, but Sigourney impressed the director: Ridley Scott to such an extent that he not only changed the course of movie history, but furthered the opportunities for women’s roles in science fiction. Crucially, when she returned in the equally-impressive sequel: Aliens (1986), the addition of terrorised infant, Newt, allowed Ripley’s character to be enhanced by expressing long-suppressed calm and compassionate maternal instincts.

We inevitably turn our attention to the woman’s role that defined its time: Princess Leia, immortalised by the late great Carrie Fisher. 

Some would argue that she was upstaged by that young farm boy; he was the one who destroyed the Death Star and received the glory, cake and medal, but the cultural – and psychological –  impact that Leia had on each generation over the last forty years makes said space station look like a ping pong ball…

“Well somebody has to save our skins…”

But that was before the dark times.

Before Disney…

What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil, with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.

In this modern Star Wars era, there is, alas, not much to get excited about.

The lone redeeming item is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It offers a striking lead performance by Felicity Jones – an ingenious case of casting as Jyn Erso; her soft and slight build belies the fact that she has had to become tough, confident and resourceful – she was more of a “rebel” in every sense of the term than any other member of that Rebel Alliance. 

One of the multiple problems that beset Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the baffling observation that although the cast featured a commendable and considerable number of female figures in its cast, due to poor writing, strong, discernible characters did not manage to flourish. 

Naturally – ‘cos you know it’s Brad – we come to the MCU, the franchise that just keeps on giving. There are various instances of strong and commanding superheroines therein, to name but a few:  

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only reason to watch Iron Man 2 (which should have been the Black Widow we all deserve!) and she further excels in the Avengers movies AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hayley Atwell is exceptional as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger; whilst my personal fav (see below!): she’s not a queen, or a monster, she’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.

And we come to the latest – and possibly most game-changing – instalment: Captain Marvel. 

Where there’s good, there’s bad – cue the rise of that “horrible immorality” in the repugnant form of sexist trolls who have crawled out of the depths of their own ignorance, this time, to belittle Brie Larson: the first female lead in a Marvel movie. Rather than shut down her TwitFace™ account (or whatever you blessed younglings call the bally thing) she’s done what any honourable superhero would do: STRIKE BACK.

“Up an’ at ’em, lady!” 

“You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie when I was younger, until I found out you were all women. There’s nothing wrong with women, of course, I like women. Sometimes a little too much. Not in a creepy way, just more like a respectful appreciation. I think it’s great, an elite force of women warriors” – Thor. 

And so, considering how – over thirty decades ago – such a prospect would have seemed unthinkable (certainly in my school yard), SF enjoys a poignant and promising age in which more girls and young women than ever before actively watch science fiction movies at the cinema, read SF novels – AND comics!! –  participate in, and cosplay, at comic conventions in record numbers. More crucially, some have been inspired to create their own far-reaching fiction!

Let me say how, for me, this is a genuinely thrilling and reassuring situation to behold. Long may it continue! 

Let me finish by saying just this: 

Those girls who, back in the day, nabbed my comics, now, most likely, have daughters who wholeheartedly embrace science fiction! 

And, what’s more, if they can craft an intergalactic saga better than anything this humble ol’ nerfherder could muster, then that would be really groovy. 

“Go get ’em, girls!”

 

Sarah Connor: “Kyle, the women in your time, what are they like?”

Kyle Reese: “Good fighters.”

 

“Higher, Further, Faster”: The Curious Case Of Carol Danvers

Discover What Makes Her A Hero

Carol Danvers: “I want to go to college. I’ve been working part-time almost two years now, but I’m still way short of the tuition fees. I need a loan. You’re my last hope, Dad.”

Pa Danvers: “And my answer’s still no. We live well, Carol, but I’m no millionaire. I can afford to send one of you kids to college and it’s going to be your brother, Steve.”

Carol Danvers: “That’s not fair!” 

Pa Danvers: “Life isn’t fair, kitten. Besides, you don’t need college to find a good husband.

Carol Danvers: “Dad, who said I want to spend the rest of my life playing the happy homemaker?!” 

Pa Danvers: “Don’t take that tone of voice with me, young lady!” 

 

“Air Force?! Well, why the heck not?” the young teen Carol Danvers wonders, having stormed out of the family home after yet another rowdy bust-up with her Pa.

A poster outside the local USAF Recruitment Office satisfies her longing for adventure, so the day after her 18th birthday: “without a word to her parents or a backward glance… she enlisted.”

The rest is…

A history – one of the most complex, convoluted, and controversial, of any comic book character.

Th original superhero to go by the epithet: Captain Marvel” was Mar-Vell, created by Stan “The Man” Lee and “Genial” Gene Colan in 1968; he was introduced as a guardian of the Kree, protector of the planet Hala against the dreaded Skrulls. (More about them later).

The character of Carol Danvers appears to have been created – as that most lame women’s “role”: Captain Marvel’s love “interest” – by “Rascally” Roy Thomas and “Genial” Gene Colan. She first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968) as a non-superpowered USAF officer.

This is the very first scene to feature “Miss Danvers”: 

“Dr. Lawson, this is Miss Danvers! Man or woman, she’s the finest Head of Security a missile base could want!” – General Bridges. 

 

The Vision: “Your evasive tactics will do you no good, Ms. Marvel — against one who can dematerialize his body and short-cut through solid obje– KARRRRGH!!”

Ms. Marvel: (Plan B was to use my Kree science to jury-rig the power cables running beneath the bridge — into a field generator capable of subjecting his immaterial form to a stress beyond endurance…) “He’ll be unconscious for a while. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but in a way — it serves him right. Up an’ at ’em, lady! There’s still the super-truck to be dealt with…”  

Carol Danvers made her solo debut with Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) written by Chris (X-Men) Claremont.  

Mar-Vell still retained the title of Captain Marvel, so to differentiate from him, Carol assumed the title of Ms. Marvel” Apart from bare legs and midriff, she wore a very similar red and blue costume. At that time, the use of “Ms.” reflected bold feminist connotations – having left NASA to become Editor of the Daily Bugle’s Woman Magazine, Carol regularly “fought” Battle Of The Sexes duels with J. Jonah Jameson. 

And won. Every time. 

Despite this, it must be said that Marvel Comics originally had a rather half-hearted approach to female characters, with She-Hulk and Spiderwoman serving as just female variants if their more iconic male counterparts. Thus, regrettably, it seemed as though Ms. Marvel could do nothing but continue this trend. 

The 1st ish of Ms. Marvel is impossible to find – and, thus, ridiculously expensive.

No worries.

#5 (May 1977) one of the better ishs, featuring a supercool guest star appearance by The Vision – includes some invaluable backstory.

During an intense duel between Captain Marvel and Colonel Yon Rogg – Carol had her notorious accident with a device known as the psyche-magnetron. Essentially, it spliced Mar-Vell’s DNA with hers: “she had the strength of ten men, the knwoledge and instincts of a Kree warrior, and thanks to a sophisticated electronic webbing built into her costume… she could fly.” Most crucially, she was possessed with that uniquely Kree power: Seventh Sense in which she could anticipate danger before it occurred.

From ish #20, (October 1978) the “All-New” Ms. Marvel – the notorious black halter-neck leotard and longer boots (and, curiously-much-longer hair) – took over. It is in this garb that she first joined The Avengers. Unfortunately, the next stage of Carol’s “life” is the most controversial (and will only be mentioned briefly here).

In her essay: “The Rape Of Ms. Marvel,” comicbook historian Carol A Strickland criticized one Avengers storyline that concentrated on the “abduction and impregnation” of the Fighting Fury by Marcus (alleged son of Immortus). Why oh why did such an inappropriate and obscene plot have to sully none other than The Avengers #200?! As an Avengers fan for most of my life, it is outrageous – almost criminal! – that what should have been an epic landmark ish can never join my collection…

Moreover, where were the Comics Code Authority? How could they have “Approved” THIS?!

 Even Claremont spoke out against it, and proceeded to “undo” this inappropriate storyline when he produced Avengers Annual #10 (1981). He further redeveloped Carol’s character whilst working on The Uncanny X-Men. During one cosmic adventure: #164 (December 1982), an alien race known as The Brood imbue her with energy manipulation and absorption powers and thenceforth, she becomes known as “Binary.” Essentially she could generate the power of a star. 

When she soon reverts to her Ms. Marvel persona, Carol retains these powers.

 

“Think you’re the only hero in the world…?” – Nick Fury.  

The very first grapic novel in comics history happened to be Death Of Captain Marvel, featuring the demise of Mar-Vell (in 1982) but Carol did not assume the Captaincy right away. No, the first female hero to use this title was an African-American: Monica Rambeau (seen in her white and black garb on the cover above).

Incidentally, in the upcoming movie, Carol’s best friend is fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mum – an interesting twist to the origins story.

 

Carol knows the Skrulls have infiltrated Earth, and it kind of creates a sense of paranoia. The Skrulls are after something, and part of the mystery of the movie is Carol trying to figure out what they’re after and getting it before they do” – Anna Boden.  

Considering the Kree-Skrull War’s overwhelming importance in the comics – in fact, “The Kree-Skrull War” happened to be Marvel Comics’ first major cosmic story-arc, featured in The Avengers in 1971, written by Roy Thomas, with art provided by Neal Adams and both Buscemas (John and Sal).  

With such multiple plot-threads, it is difficult to determihe which aspects, if any, will make it into this movie. It is surprising how no mention of that major, seemingly-eternal conflict has not featured in the MCU.

Until now. 

Strangely enough, although Ms. Marvel spent the first few ishs of her solo ’70s series trying to come to terms with her Kree powers, there was never any mention of the Skrulls: sinister alien shapeshifters. 

However, in Marvel Team-Up # 62 she joins Spidey to fight the Super-Skrull: a Skrull antagonist possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four (see below):

 

It’s absolutely incredible! I got the opportunity to work on the film which was amazing… Carol is a character who has lived inside my head since about 2010, and I feel, right now, really proud of her” – Kelly Sue DeConnick.

July 2012 marked the moment when Carol Danvers officially assumed the title of Captain Marvel. 

In a dramatic reintroduction of the character, its writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, had offered an irresistible pitch: it could “pretty much be summed up with ‘Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.'” 

Carol rejoined The Avengers the following year, starring in the Captain Marvel / Avengers Assemble crossover storyline: “The Enemy Within”. She and her Avenger teammates must do battle with Yon-Rogg, the Kree officer responsible for the explosion that caused her to receive her powers, and in defeating the Kree, Danvers loses her memories... 

And in May 2014, Carol Danvers joined the Guardians Of The Galaxy.

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When asked, during one interview, that all-important-question: 

“Who is the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe?” 

the late, great Stan Lee immediately replied:

“Galactus. Without a doubt.”

Continuing the MCU’s unabashed trend of distorting the original comicbook plotlines, Kevin Feige – Marvel Studios’ Head Honcho – has stipulated that Captain Marvel IS the most powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is intriguing to discover that the Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ’90s – most tantalisingly, over twenty years before Tony Stark became Iron Man…

It will certainly be interesting to see a de-aged and patchless Nick Fury and such familiar faces as Korath and Ronan again.

Unlike Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War – both devoured (with glee) on their respective days of release – this blogger won’t be watching the 21st instalment of the MCU until next week. 

Why?! you cry. 

Saving it for a (hopefully special) birthday treat 🙂

 

Captain Marvel: Die Hard With Avengers 😉

“It’s very surreal to get suited up… And the idea of that star and these colors, it represents strong willIt makes me emotional. She is the most dynamic character that I have ever had the chance to play” – Brie Larson. 

 

Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 International Women’s Day(!)

 

The Queen Of Madeira: The Spy Who Loved Me Cake

A dot.com Rom Com About A Hip Hop Chip Shop

jupiter_ascending__kalique_by_michaelkutsche-d97uj66

“It’s all so boring here, Margo – there’s nothing but playboys and tennis pros. If only I could find a real man” – Playgirl.

 

Topsy-Turvy Lvey-Dvey

Rumours are rife around the Rebellion that 

Queen Cherisasara of Madeira, in the Whoopeedoo System, is an Imperial spy.

Having just narrowly escaped the Ruckus in Star-Field Zigma 12,

Brad Burrito Fartlighter, the Rebellion’s most fecklessfearless man-of-action, 

has opted to investigate the matter, especially as

that pleasure planet is renowned throughout the galaxy for its

delectable sweet fancies.

So whilst waiting for the ravishing ruler to show up,

your hero is entertaining the pretty Princess Gamelan at the Royal Court…

 

“Y’see, lov. it wuz like this,” Brad gesticulated. “I just manoeuvred straight down this trench and skimmed the surface to this point. The target area was only two meters wide. It was a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port… but enough of this technical gubbins! ‘Ow ya bin doin’, Gammy?”

“Awesome as always, Mr. B, but enough about me – I take it the shaft was ray-shielded, so you had to use proton torpedoes?”

“You’re tellin’ me! It- say! You’re wasted at this royal court, lov. Ya could-“

At that moment, the heavy gilded double-doors of the Throne Room flung open, and in marched an official magisterial entourage.

“BEHOLT!” cried a whining and insubordinate voice. “Mek ware fer Hair Illuztriouz Majezty: Queen Cherizazara!”

The princess bolted straight to her feet; Brad stayed sprawled across his glitzy beanbag.

An elegant and deliriously beautiful verdant-skinned young woman swayed majestically across the gleaming marble floor. A trio of Diluvian dwarf-girls carried the extensive chiffon train of her elaborate silk costume.

“Remove the harlot from my sight, immediately!” she snapped, but with such a rich and mellifluous voice. “Leave us, Chamberlain!”

“Vhot?! Year Majezty! Leaf yo ELLURN wiv ze alien?!”

The Queen of Madeira shot one disdainful glance at your hero and snarled: “This… Earthling… should not give me any… trouble… Now, Chamberlain, be GONE!”

But Year Majezty, Ay muzt protezt-!”

“I’m the QUEEN! TRY ME!”

“But yo muzt moof-!”

“I DON’T MOVE when you want me to move! And I don’t groove when you tell me to groove! ‘Cos I’m the QUEEN! And I always will be! Now… pathetic. Little… man. Get OUT, before I throw you out…!”

The Queen gnashed her teeth, observing venomously as her officials, the princess and servant-girls all scurried out; the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger watched in fascination.

“Impressive. Most impressive…” he muttered, clambering to his feet.

The emerald enchantress rotated impatiently on her formidable stilettos and marched menacingly towards your calm and collected hero; her lustrous, but intimidatng, hazel eyes seared into his cute blues. 

“SO…!” the Queen of Madeira snarled. “What’s your story? It had better be good or I’ll-I’ll… …!”

Unexpectedly, she fell silent, looking around anxiously to check if her minions had all gone.

“Oh, what the heck, they have all gone, haven’t they…? Good. Come here, baby…

In that instant, all her rage dissipated, and she hurled her lithe figure into the Earthman’s arms.

“Hiya, Hotshot! How you doing?!”

“Sound as a pound, lov.”

“Ha ha, HA, that’s my Brad!”

She stepped back, taking in a thorough butcher’s at him, then shook his hunky torso playfully.

“Whoo, lookachu!!”

“Uh-huh, look at me…”

“Gawd, yer even MORE ridiculously good-lookin’ than ever! How do ya do it, baby?!”

“‘Ow much time ya got, Yer Maj…?”

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“Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?” – Maya Angelou.

The Queen of Madeira led Brad to her Royal Lounge, a sumptuous chamber strewn with even larger glitzy beanbags; intricate mosaics decorated the floor while sumptuous murals adorned the ceiling; an open, ornate balcony overlooked the main foyer. She guided him over to a large, opulent couch-for-two; she reclined, slowly and sensuously, enticing him to repose beside her. 

“Tell me, Brad, what… …” she exclaimed softly, then tugged at his jacket to catch his attention. “Hello, handsome… are you receiving me, over… …?!” 

He could not speak (yet), otherwise entranced by the winsome smile radiating from her glistening fuchsia lips, the billowing violet, candy floss “hair” and the divine caress of her intoxicating vanilla perfume. 

“Ah, Cherry, I’ve missed you…” he eventually sighed, savouring the velvety mattress beneath him.

“As always, I am transfixed by the exquisite lustre in yer eyes, 

A glow that shines like the sunrise. 

When first we met, me heart flew high, 

On gleaming wings through a cloudless sky.  

You ta me are ev’rythin’, 

The sweetest song that I can sing…” 

“Whoo, really…? Say, Hotshot, all that cake has certainly given you a sweet mouth, hasn’t it…?!” she sniggered bashfully.

“Okay… There is a very special man, 

Who came from far, far away. 

He visits me but only once in a crimson moon, 

But not a day later can he stay. 

Our song of love is pure and fair 

All hurt the music can repair. 

How cute and extraordinary this dude from “Earth,”

All those fleeting moments when he excites my heart, I love a lifetime’s worth.”

“Nice… but then again, ya can’t beat a good slice o’ Madeira Cake. Or three…”

“Thank you! So tell me, Brad, were you and… that lil cupcakeexchanging equally heartfelt lines when I came in? You know she’s bad news in cheap make-up…”

“What, Gammy? Aww, she’s a good girl, causin’ no-“

“No trouble? Uff, she’s a constant pain – always poking her snooty lil nose in my affairs. She’s untrustworthy – she’ll betray us both one day…” 

“By Holdo’s Beard! Tha’s nah way ta talk abaht yer own sister! Look, she only requested some cake recipes, an’ I obliged, like…”

A lengthy disbelieving pause, until the Queen of Madeira slapped her mouth to stifle shrieks of laughter. 

“Oh, YOU! That’s the lamest fib I’ve ever heard. Ha! For once, your wicked way with words FAILS you, Brad. That’s the most-” 

“‘Onest statement. She fancied some’t other than Madeira Cake fer a change…” 

Cherry leant forward, placing the flexed fingers of her right, bejewelled hand to the side of his head, then darted back in astonishment. 

“By the crystal foxes of Crait…” she gasped. “You’re… telling the truth…?!” 

“I got no reason ta lie ta you, Cherry… an’ you KNOW that, too… Speaking of truth…” 

“Yes, yes, I picked it up in the mind-meld as well – it dominates your thoughts. Rajendra and your rebel-buddies all believe that I’m an Imperial spy… Those… rumours have gotten out of control… They’re sooo… ridiculous…!” She skimmed his luscious lips with one of her extended, extensively-painted fingernails. “…An’ you KNOW that!”

“Yyyyyeah, I guess so…”

“You KNOW so! Look, every time you’re here, Brad, it’s such a thrill… Just how long have you been fighting with the Rebellion? Are you closer now to defeating the Empire than you were… Dyzan knows how many years ago…?! Walk away from it all, baby…”

“Come again, lov…?!” 

“Leave the war behindStay here, in my palace, and we can enjoy the myriad delights of Madeira together…

Can you stay…?

Can you be mine…?

Can you… be… my love forever more… …?”

“Yes, I can be… but part o’ me is always gonna be itchin’ ta get aht an’ thwart the Empire as much as poss… Aww, ‘eck... I’ll STAY! Oh yes, Cherry. A thousand times, yes, I’ll be YOURS. Throughaht the galaxy there’s NAHbody:

as beautiful,

as dazzlin’,

as intelligent,

as charmin’-“

“As groovy…?!”

“Not ‘arf, lov! Yeah, there’s nahbody as groovy as you… Fer you, Yer Maj, I can be anythin’ you wan’ me to be… Anythin’, lov… … as long as it’s not an Admiral wiv pink ‘air… …” 

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“It’s my secret pleasure moon. I have a little palace there built just for two” – Princess Aura. 

“There’s something I’ve simply got to tell you, baby…” the Queen announced.

“Mmm, okey-dokey, lov – I’m all ears-“

A sensor on her bracelet bleeped manically. “Oh, fudge!” she cursed.

“Oh, I’ve ‘eard that many times before…”

“What? No, not that. Please excuse me, Brad, I’ve got to take this call… Um, I’ll see that my royal chefs prepare you the finest spicy meal – the way you like it!” 

“Ooh, goody gumdrops! Bless yer heart, Cherry…”

“Ha ha! Thought you’d dig that! Won’t be a minute, baby…” 

She swanned over to her office chamber and activated her vid-conf system; a familiar Dark Lord appeared onscreen, beaming devilishly.

“Hello, preetty! ‘Tiz done?”

“Yes, yes, Zeg, the Earthling is here with me…”

“Goot! Ay shell dizpetch may fainezt deeveejun uv Shokk Troopairz to appreehent heem! Heh heh… Yo hef done well, Yair Majezty!”

“No, not at all… Now you listen here, Lord Tosspot: I only agreed to this rotten plan to prevent you from foisting one of your blasted garrisons on my territory! But to betray this hero? Nuh-uh, I’m not going to comply any more-“

“A footile murve. HA, yo kennot deny eet: Madeira belurngz to Zan Doka! End ze Urfzcurm eez main! Main, Ay tell yo, main main MAIN!”

“NEVER… We will never see that-“

“Urv course… Ay ken mek eet eeziair fer yo – jurrrrroin weev me! End togezzair ve shell rule ze galaxy ez huzzbend end WAIFE!”

“I’ll never join you! Demented little Zandokan cu-“

“ZYLENZ! Knur yer plazz, woman!”

“Uff, I know it all too well, Crotchstain. Always – ALWAYS! – parsecs ahead of the likes of you. Doing EVERYTHING in my POWER to deny you and your despicable Imperial hordes whatever you crave! For the pride of my people. And then some…”

“Heh, yo try ta fool Zegreatme?! Yo VEEL be main, darleenk! Dyzan decreez eet! Ve vill BREEEED weev yo, end our Empeerial prurgeny-“

Ugh, hush up, NO! By the crimson moon, a thousand times no!! I’d rather kiss a skunk-“

“Hmm, zpeakeenk urv zkurnkz… vot do yo zee in zat Urfmairn?! Hee’z recklezz! Pennilezz! Hopelezz! AY em Zegreatme, Dark Lord uv Zan Doka! Ve ken leef een ENNY WUN urv may DOZAIN palazzez! VOT do yo ZEE een a BURM like ZAT?!”

“That’s something a chauvinist like you will NEVER understand…”  

“Grrr, but vhy HEEM? Vhy, vhy?! Tell me VHY!”

“Can you keep a secret?”

YEZ!”

“Good boy. Over and out.”

Princess Leia: “You make it so difficult sometimes.”

Han Solo: “I do, I really do. You could be a little nicer, though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I’m alright.”

Princess Leia: “Occasionally, maybe… when you aren’t acting like a scoundrel.”

Han Solo: “Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that…”

“Confound it,” the Queen growled as she returned to her special guest. “CONFOUND it!” 

“Whassup? Run ahtta salad?”

“What? Oh… no, it’s- Like I said, I’ve really got something to tell you, baby…”

“‘Ey, wotcha frettin’ abaht…? Y’know, Yer Maj, I’ve never seen ya lose yer cool-

“Yeah, yeah, baby, but please listen-“

Suddenly, the double-doors downstairs swung violently open.

“I got THAT awright!” 

“No! It’s- aow, HELL – it’s too late… …”

Brad peered over the balcony and yelped as a division of Shokk Troopers burst in: “‘ULK IN AN ‘OT TUB! Zandokans!! ‘Ow the blazes did THEY get in ‘ere?!” 

“THAT is what I’ve… been trying to tell you… Forgive me, Brad, I-I… granted them permission to come here… to capture you…”

“Cherry, no… Say it ain’t so…” his lip quivered as he drew his blaster.

The Queen of Madeira could not bear to gaze into his crestfallen face. “Please, Commander, try to understand – with the Empire vying to wrest my sovereignty away from me on one side, and my beleaguered council trying to retain social order on the other, I had to… play along…”

“Aow… maybe yer… playin’ along wiv me now…” Brad sulked, desperately trying to quash a wodge of mistrust swelling in his heart. “This ‘ole charade wuz a TRAP… an’ – jeez – fer once I fell fer it..?! Not me, not now! No way, no ‘ow!”

“Oh no, my sweet! I would NEVER- You must NOT think like tha- WATCH OUT!” 

The Troopers hurtled into view, and the queen grabbed your hero, and away they fled down the marble-floored corridor. They could hear these one-dimensional extras clanking right after them in hot pursuit.

Along the way, Cherry activated an emergency panel in the wall and, brandishing a phase-plasma rifle, fired warning shots at the approaching Imperial troopers, who – upon running into range – immediately ducked for cover:

“Do you think you can trust me, now, handsome…?!”

“‘Whoo, outta sight. Long Live The Queen ‘Ere, ‘ang on…” Brad protested, gawping in amazement. “Tha’s not in the script…! “I’m the ‘ero! ‘Ow come yer gun’s bigger than mine?!”

“That’s life, honeybunch…”

“Ha! Funny girl- ‘Ey, this auto-door! In ‘ere, quick!” 

“No, Brad, that’s my-!” 

He burst into a small, but refined room, where dozens of ornate, shimmering garments bedecked glittering racks along both walls.

“Dear Barbara… Gedda loada’ the fancy clobber in ‘ere…”

“-My walk-in-wardrobe, sir.”

“Groovy. We can disguise ourselves as a coupla’ Jawas an’ split while the Shokkers are still scopin’…”

“Bra-ha-had, no-ho-ho! Funny boy!” the queen cried hysterically, trying to stifle a fit of royal giggles. She frantically closed and locked the auto-door behind them, hoping that any Zandokans hadn’t heard her outburst.

They gazed at each other amorously in the half-light, listening to their biochemech pursuers lurking stealthily just outside… 

“We ought to be “in danger”…” she whispered ever so demurely. “But- but why oh why do I… feel so… absolutely safe with you…?”

“‘Cos I’m the ‘ero?” he muttered ever so charmingly. “‘Cos I’m the one ‘oo – despite gettin’ constantly shot at – nevah gets ‘it…? Stay outta sight, lov…”

He gently prised the rifle from the Queen’s clutches and reached for the auto-door, intending to charge out blasting. “Bring ’em on, I’d prefer a straight fight ta all this sn-“

Suddenly, behind him, Cherry pressed against his back, wrapping her arms around his abs, holding him against her pounding chest.

“No, hotshot…” she insisted, almost breathlessly. “I’m NOT going to let you go… a-again. So many… MANY times I’ve let you fly off and do your… “hero-thing” all over the galaxy, but not… not this time, baby. Come on, let’s escape… together, far beyond these Troopers… the Empire… And everything…”

“Aww, Cherry, where could we go? Where CAN we go…? I’m a Wanted man in 12 systems, me!”

“Uh-huh, but nobody wants you more than the Queen of Madeira…” 

She began to fondle Brad’s hand.

“Stop that,” he requested.

Stop what?” she replied.

Stop that. Me mitts are dir’y.”

My hands are dirty too. What are you afraid of… …?”

Maude Lebowski: “Lord. You can imagine where it goes from here.”

The Dude: “He fixes the cable?”

Maude Lebowski: “Don’t be fatuous, Jeffrey.”

“In ‘ere… wiv you…” Brad exclaimed softly, “There’s no uvva place in the galaxy I’d rather be right now…” 

“Nice. How long have we been locked in this hug, baby…?”

“Dunno, lov. But definitely not as long as I’d like…”

“Aww, bless your heart, Brad. I thought we could get out of here now, but I can still hear them creeping around outside.”

“Nah, tha’s me stomach…” 

“Oh no! You still haven’t had that meal I promised you! So sorry, babe-” 

“No worries, Cherry. We’ve… ‘ad a busy day… It‘s been… dramatic-” 

“It’s been… unforgettable… I think we… especially youyou dashing thing, have waited long enough…” the Queen of Madeira panted tenderly in his ear, stepping back to unfasten her dress…

“…Strippin’ yer togs orf at a time like this?! Can ya do that?!”

“Try me, baby. I can do anything – ‘cos I’m the Queen!”

“An’ always will be…”

At that very moment, Brad squinted, and flung his hand up over his face as a piercing white light engulfed him. All Cherry could do was stand there, and watch, aghast and agitated, as all Brad could do was abruptly vanish amidst a portal of pulsating particles… …

 

“B-Baby… … …?”

 

 

When his sight had readjusted, your hero found himself standing on the teleporter of his own crate: the Calista Blockhead. His Second Officer: Lexi Wahldorf stood at the console, arms folded in a highly agitated manner…

“An’ jus’ what the blazes am I doin’ back ‘ere so soon?!” the Battleforce Commander-turned-blogger growled incredulously.

“I- WE, had to get you away from the spy, pronto!” Lexi roared.

“Look, fer the umpteenth time, The Queen of Madeira AIN’T a spy!” 

“No, not the queen – the princess…” 

“Oh, come orf it! Gammy’s not in league wiv da Zandokans…”

“Course not, she’s OUR spy. General Rajendra himself requested that she report any shady shenanigans at the Madeiran Royal Court; several Imperial agents have infiltrated the queen’s staff already-“

“Blimey! Now that explains ‘er exceptionally avid interest in me adventures in Star-Field Zigma 12-“

“GAWD, you-! You make it SO difficult sometimes.”

“I do, I really- eh?! ‘Oo me? Nevah!” 

“Shoosh, Commander! YOU “great hero,” uff! – were interfering with her mission! You couldn’t stop pestering her-”

“I Wuzn’t!”

“Wuz so! You w-“

“Wuz. NOT. “Interferin’.” Lex. She only requested some cake recipes, an’ I obliged, like…” 

Lexi shook her head in appalled disbelief. “That’s the lamest fib I’ve ever heard… Ha! That’s the most-” 

“Look, Lex, ‘Er Majesty can verify that! She even put ‘er ‘and on my-“

“BRA-AD, be extra careful what you spout in front of your Second Officer, Commander!”

Hmm… an’ you be extra careful wotcha doin’ wiv yer Commander, Officer! You send me back right this instant, an’-“

“And just WHY did you pay a visit to Her Majesty, the Queen of Madeira…?”

“I’ll ‘ave ya know that I wuz… operatin’ as close advisor to ‘Er Maj-“

“Oho, TOO close, Commander. Your smug chops are splattered with HER blamed lipstick!!” 

“Ooh, Blimey Charley, are they really…?! Anyways, why did ya ‘ave ta get me aht then, jus’ as I wuz abaht ta-“

“I KNOW what you were about to do, Commander! That’s why I got you out then…”

“Yeah, but why, Lex? Why? Tell me WHY?!”

She stared intensely at him until her lips trembled:

“Do you not know… …?”

 

Prince Vultan: “That must be one hell of a planet you men come from!”

Flash Gordon: “Not too bad…”

 

“He Was A Navigator On A Spice Freighter”: My Father’s Top 10 Movie Moments

I Am Groovy, Like My Father Before Me! 

I am Auda abu Tayi! Does Auda serve?  Does Auda abu Tayi serve? I carry 23 great wounds, all got in battle. 75 men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies’ tents! I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am A RIVER TO MY PEOPLE!!” – Auda abu Tayi.

Hard to believe that my father – former globe-trotting RAF sergeant and Jedi Knight – passed away on this day 10 years ago.  

Considering how difficult it has been trying to concentrate on writing anything else this week, this Post seemed like an ideal celebration to compile. 

Having had absolutely no paternal guidance himself, he sometimes found it difficult to be Dad – “I’m just making it up as I go along, man” 🙂 Whatever problems or disagreements we had, it would only take one of us to suggest: “Let’s watch a movie” and everything would revert to being as right as rain again.

He really digged a smart script – he constantly criticised my short stories, complaining about the drab dialogue, constantly advising me to listen –always listen – to the way people talked. Thus, he picked up some iconic one-liners along the way, many of which are included here. 

He appreciated some really fine performances, most notably: Eli Wallach (as Tuco) in The Good, The Bad And the Ugly (1967); Robert Lacey (as Toht) in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981); and Robert De Niro in practically everything he did! But mainly the Godfather Part II (1974), Midnight Run (1988) and Heat (1995).

Possibly the most impressive performance he ever watched came from Anthony Quinn as Arabian tribal chief: Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). To us, that will stand forever as the Greatest Movie Ever Made – Quinn alone could easily have filled this Top 10 list (but of those few good clips, none of them stay online for long)

Today, you could have been treated to: the Top 10 Planes That Dad Loved To Fly. However, guessing that you probably wouldn’t recognise most of them anyway (for those of you taking notes, No.1 happened to be the de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito 😉 ) instead, this list will just have to suffice.

 

 

10. “Don’t sweat it!”

Southern Comfort (1981)

Paris Texas (1984) was one of those great Americana movies we enjoyed together, mainly because of that haunting soundtrack by Ry Cooder. 

My father had been THAT CLOSE to getting a job Stateside, but after that fell through, he “disappeared,” trying to travel as much overland as possible. So when we found Ry Cooder attached to the soundtrack of this thriller set in the Louisana bayou, we thot we’d give it a go.

Mostly, a mean, moody and magnificent work, but the last ten minutes was a revelation. For the next few months, my quest for Cajun LPs stretched far and wide…

Allons dancé!

Cajun Trapper: “I ain’t gonna kill y’all if I don’t gotta… you got a bayou over dere… take it… stay to the west side… you’re gonna find a road about a mile up dere.”

Hardin: “Do you mind tellin’ us what the Hell this is all about?”

Cajun Trapper: “It real simple… we live back in here… dis is our home, and nobody don’t fuck with us…  Now, if I was you all, I’d quit askin’ questions and haul ass… ’cause my buddies… dey not nice like me.”

Hardin: “Are we supposed to say thanks?”

Cajun Trapper: “You not supposed to say nuttin’… soldier.”

 

9. “War changes men’s natures…” 

Breaker Morant (1979)

An anti-war war movie set during the Boer War (1899-1902) based on a true story. 

Dad stayed up well after his bedtime, completely absorbed in this courtroom drama (and he detested courtroom dramas!) that featured one of the most notorious cases of military injustice.

And at breakfast the next morning, he couldn’t help but go on and on about it. Would have bunked off school that morning, just to listen to his enthusiasm all the way until lunchtime, if Mum hadn’t told me to skedaddle. 

We regarded this as the greatest Australian movie ever made. Yes, that’s right, we thought it’s even better than Mad Max!

Strewth!

It really ain’t the place nor time to reel off rhyming diction,

But yet we’ll write a final rhyme while awaiting crucifixion.

For we bequeath a parting tip of sound advice for such men

Who come in transport ships to polish off the Dutchmen.

If you encounter any Boers, you really must not loot ’em,

And if you wish to leave these shores, for pity’s sake, don’t shoot ’em.

Let’s toss a bumper down our throat before we pass to Heaven,

And toast a trim-set petticoat we leave behind in Devon” – Lt. Harry Morant.  

 

8. Litmus Configuration 

Midnight Run (1988)

A cool, entertaining and highly recommended buddy comedy – how many times did this grace our VCR?! It got to the stage where we could hurl whole sections of dialogue at each other, and still never get tired of watching the actual movie. 

The amazing – yet under-rated – Charles Grodin only had to walk through the door into this scene and Dad was already in stitches. 

1:24 always cracked him up even more: 

“YOU GUYS ARE THE DUMBEST BOUNTY HUNTERS I’VE EVER SEEN! YOU COULDN’T EVEN DELIVER A BOTTLE OF MILK!” – Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas. 

 

 

7. “Wake up, time to die!” 

Blade Runner (1982) 

My father loved to read Philip K Dick’s novels, so couldn’t wait to watch the TV premiere of Blade Runner. 

So much has been written about its influential visual futurism, but it was one of the replicants: not the obvious choice: Roy Batty, but Leon, played by the crazy-eyed Brion James who Dad paid particular attention to. His role as the one-armed Cajun trapper in Southern Comfort was the other reason why we watched that movie!

Always dig that mo @ 0:35 – when Dekard draws his gun and Leon immediately bats it away.

As Dad so eloquently put it: “Way too cool, man!”

Leon: “What do you mean, I’m not helping?”

Holden: “I mean: you’re not helping! Why is that, Leon?”

 

 

6. La Golondrina 

The Wild Bunch (1969) 

Yeah, this is the typical “Dad Movie” alright.

Expect nothing less than one long gore-fest cram-packed with incredibly stylised bloody action sequences in Sam Peckinpah’s infamous masterpiece: The Wild Bunch.

And yet its most peaceful moment, when the bunch are riding off to certain death, that really struck a chord with Dad. He instantly fell in love with La Golondrina (The Swallow); it’s a Mexican tune written in the 19th century.

Had to take note of its time on our tape whenever he often requested just “THAT MOMENT from The Wild Bunch.”

“Very smart. That’s very smart for you damn gringos…”

Dutch Engstrom: “They’ll be waitin’ for us.”

Pike Bishop: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

 

5. The Imperial March

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 

You may already know how this blogger was blessed to have gawped at the original Star Wars trilogy in the cinemas on their respective original releases.

Even more exuberant to have a father who – for the next three decades – never failed to admit how glad he was to have taken me (and several excitable chums from school on numerous occasions!) and share the joy to be had from that galaxy far far away. 

(For the record, his fav “character” – you’d never guess! – turned out to be Salacious B. Crumb – HA!)

So many thrilling individual moments to choose from… 

He loved that now-legendary shot of Luke gazing into the twin suns and EVERY SINGLE TIME it came on, he’d whistle along to the Tatooine Theme, but the Imperial March provoked a more striking action: EVERY SINGLE TIME we reached 1:27, Dad would start slamming his heel into the floor in time to the Imperial beat. Hannibal (our tabby cat) could sense that particular disturbance in the Force comin’ – honestly, he never fled THAT FAST in sheer terror from any other movie…

“You found something?” 😉

Darth Vader: “The Rebels are alerted to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of lightspeed too close to the system.”

General Veers: “He… he felt surprise was wiser…”

Darth Vader: “He is as clumsy as he is stupid! General… prepare your troops for a surface attack.”

General Veers: “Yes, my Lord.”

 

 

4. The Smoker

For A Few Dollars More (1965) 

Arguably, the coolest western ever made. 

Dad taped this for me during my last year at junior school; he’d enjoyed watching this in an open-air screening in Yemen back in ’68. Gian Maria Volonte as El Indio, was one of Dad’s fav villains. Which of his scenes to select?

But then memories of how Dad laughed every time Klaus Kinski appeared, especially here @ 0:10.

This scene is probably the most TENSE confrontation in movie history.

Saw a lot of my father in Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee van Cleef): true gentleman; expert marksman; absolute BADASS!

Wild, The Hunchback: “Well well, if it isn’t the smoker. Well… Remember me, amigo? ‘Course you do. El Paso.”

Col. Douglas Mortimer: “It’s a small world.”

Wild, The Hunchback: “Yes, and very, very bad. Now come on, you light another match.”

Col. Douglas Mortimer: “I generally smoke just after I eat. Why don’t you come back in about ten minutes?”

Wild, The Hunchback: “Ten minutes you’ll be smoking in hell. GET UP!”

 

3. “When you cast it in, what did you see?”

Excalibur (1981)

Not only were we entranced by this stupendous and spellbinding retelling of the legend of King Arthur, but we were gobsmacked by the music of Richard Wagner. Siegfied’s Funeral March, especially, had quite an inspirational and spiritual hold over both of us. 

With its almost ethereal imagery, and powerful performances, this was John Boorman’s masterpiece.

Studying ancient British history – and the legends/mythology stemming from these isles – became our joint mission; and Excalibur brought the two of us even closer together.

Now you know why this movie is played in Brad Manor every year on the fifth night of the second month…  

Uther: “The sword. You promised me the sword!”

Merlin: “And you shall have it; but to heal, not to hack. Tomorrow, a truce; we meet at the river.”

Uther: “Talk. Talk is for lovers, Merlin. I need the sword to be king!”

 

 

2. “Bet you were thinking: now why don’t he write?” 

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Aow, it really is getting more emotional now…

My father’s final trip to the cinema came in January 1991. Dances With Wolves satisfied his fascination for American Civil War history, and marked the directorial debut of Kevin Costner, whose The Untouchables (1987) we had enjoyed immensely.

Dad always remarked out loud at the superb training of Two Socks. Except for our last viewing together @ Christmas 2008 – it would mark the final viewing session we shared together, but by that time, he was too weak to keep awake through most of it…

Oh, THAT music: 

“There’s a wolf who seems intent on the goings-on here. It does not seem inclined to be a nuisance however, and aside from Cisco has been my only company. He’s appeared each afternoon for the past two days. He has two milky-white paws. If he comes calling tomorrow, I will name him Two Socks” – John Dunbar.  

 

 

1. Bad To The Bone 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 

His favourite movie star.

His favorite rock song.

So when these two most formidable entities in the universe collided in our living room back in ’91, it became one of those life-affirming moments. Heck, with Arnie’s shot-gun twirl, the big rig carnage on the LA freeway and many more energetic sequences, will never forget how Dad kept jumping out of his armchair.

The Original Brad To The Bone 🙂

As that other “great old man” once said: “he was the best pilot in the galaxy and a good friend.”

He always told me: NEVER GIVE UP, and yet he gave up a career in the RAF to become a full-time Dad. 

In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.

“No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say “affirmative,” or some shit like that. You say “no problemo.” And if someone comes on to you with an attitude you say “eat me.” And if you want to shine them on it’s “hasta la vista, baby” 

Gordon Bradford (4 December 1925 – 6 February 2009). 

 

Remember When: The Bradscribe Retro Party!

We’re Having The Time Of Our Lives! The Only Question Is – What Time Is It?!

“Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!” – Abraham Lincoln.

Here it is! 

You can step (click?) out of the 21st century a mo and sample some of the delights of yesteryear!

As you’d expect, the drinks are fizzy and the music is stellar in this sector of the blogosphere! There are bowls of Twiglets and Cheesy Wotsits as far as the eye can see, and a whole stash of Curly Wurlys, Banjos, Jammy Dodgers and Wagon Wheels to enjoy.

Amidst snazzy streamers and popping balloons, let’s get this groovy get-together off and flying!

The mystery. The suspense. The adventure. The call… that started it all.

Elliott: “He’s a man from outer space and we’re taking him to his spaceship.”

Greg: “Well, can’t he just beam up?”

Elliott: “This is reality, Greg.”

Remember when:

Brad said he would NOT go to watch E.T. back in ’82?

Even when yours truly was only that high, he felt too old to indulge in such mushy, sentimental falderdash! Wanted my aliens to be cool, menacing, even hostile if it guaranteed great action sequences. All the kids in my class knew that this quiet, spindly lil blond moppet sitting at the back of the classroom forever reading comics, was the one most likely to dig sci-fi movies, and yet none of them could understand why he was the only one not to go watch E.T. Quite clearly, Dyzan moves in mysterious ways… 

Yeah, watched this Spielberg classic upon receiving its belated UK TV premiere, and loved it. 

Was absolutely delighted to hear this personal fav pop song played in Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

Captures perfectly that John Hughes vibe:

All he wanted to do was dance... 😉

Ren: “You like Men at Work?”

Willard: “Which man?”

Ren: “Men at Work.”

Willard: “Well where do they work?”

Ren: “No, they don’t, they’re a music group.”

Willard: “Well what do they call themselves?”

Ren: “Oh no! What about The Police?”

Willard: “What about ’em?”

Ren: “You ever heard them?”

Willard: “No, but I seen them.”

Ren: “Where, in concert?”

Willard: “No, behind you.”

Remember when:

No matter what creative pursuits occupied this particular tiny mind, in his Command centre (i.e. his bedroom), or wherever he was on his Grifter bike, Brad just had to be in front of the telly every Thursday evening at around 7pm to catch the latest edition of Top Of The Pops, in which groups performed their latest singles.

With YouTube, it’s great to re-watch some of the best performances to appear on the show, many of which one really believed would never be seen again.

Bought a few singles myself, (mostly EPs on cassette) but not anywhere near as many as one would have liked…

If you enjoyed the 80s vibes and nostalgia of The Midnight – Explorers you’ll love this too:

SPOILER!: They’re heading for the medical frigate…

Admiral Ackbar: “All craft, prepare to retreat.”

Lando Calrissian: “We won’t get another chance at this, Admiral!”

Admiral Ackbar: “We have no choice, General Calrissian! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!”

Lando Calrissian: “Han will have that shield down. We’ve got to give him more time!”

Remember when:

there were only two Star Wars movies?

Come 1983, almost eweyone at school anxiously wondered if Revenge Of the Jedi had any chance of equalling its illustrious predecessors. Then the deflating story swept through the classrooms: George Lucas had changed the title (to the more dull Return Of The Jedi, upon realising that vengeance is not exactly a trait associated with “that old religion”). Obviously, we concurred: the production was doomed, and thus we feared the worst. 

No worries!

This Richard Marquand-directed presentation blew us all away with its spectacular story and spills. Naturally, we ended up gawping all the way through it, just as much as we’d done all the way through Star Wars 2 three years earlier. 

Can’t remember any of the Trigonometry lessons from around that time, but will never forget that acquiring the latest range of Star Wars action figures and filling up our Official Return Of The Jedi Sticker Albums became essential endeavours. 😉

Greetings, Retrowaver. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against smartphones and mainstream “music” 🙂

Alex smiles + Grig smiles = Everybody smiles!

“Am I to understand that you’re actually declining the honour of becoming a Starfighter? Extraordinary…! This is all highly irregular!” – Grig.  

Remember when:

The “experts” insisted that the revolutionary “new” computerised special visual effects technology utilised in The Last Starfighter (1984) would transform the ways in which SF movies were produced?

Unfortunately, such is the rapacious rate at which computer technology has advanced in just the last three decades, so the sfx of this little sci-fi action/adventure outing have dated rather poorly. Anyway, the film neatly tapped into the video-game-craze that was massive back then, and carries a charm, sensitivity and sense of wonder that is badly-needed in the CGI-driven dross we are lumbered with nowadays.

The central performances provide its other strong points: Lance Guest as the top video-gamer: Alex Rogan who wins a trip to a galactic war, is always entertaining, certainly more memorable than some wooden leading players we could mention, but Dan O’Herlihy made Star Navigator 1st Class Grig awesome enough to become one of my all-time fave cinematic aliens, 

Easily the most enjoyable aspect of compiling these music posts is that moment when (you think) you’ve got all the platters that matter and are set to launch, when –at the last minute! – something captures your senses. This next number is the latest instance of this astonishing trend, discovered only this past weekend!

The assortment of freaky aliens hare – designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop! – appeared in the video to Billy Ocean’s 1985 hit single: “Loverboy”(!)

These grooves are so cosmic they can’t be from this Earth! This has become my new favourite track: 

Beware of geeks bearing gifs 😉

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit” – Dr. Emmett Brown. 

Aow!

It’s one of those parties where you just don’t want the merriment to end, right? 

For those who want to enjoy more Retrowave jollities, you’re welcome to zip along to my last volume of Electric Dreams (and follow the Links back to the other instalments!)

There will be LOTS MORE parties, reviews and fiction to come on Bradscribe

IF 

we can all pull ourselves away from this dreamy gif: 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller. 

Cheers!

 

The Midnight: Explorers

To The Freedom Fighters

To The Everest Climbers 

To The Castaways

To The Midnight Riders

To The Spark Igniters…

“Mom, remember that stuff you were tellin’ me about your dreams and doin’ what you want to do? Well, if I really want to be an astronaut and go out in space – and really do that, it’d be ok, right?” – Ben Crandall.

 

Dear Friends,

Following yet another losing battle against this madhouse that is the 21st century, Brad has decided to strike back and hold an ’80s Party this week. 

Had such a groovy time this past weekend dipping into 80s pop classics and Retrowave numbers, so can’t wait to share some of my top picks with you! Therefore, this edition of Manic Music Monday offers a preview of what nostalgic delights lie in store. 🙂

Have recently discovered The Midnight: a group who have really tapped into the sounds and vibes of that decade. This vid exudes such a welcome feelgood quality, includes an amazing assortment of movie clips, and, being a joyous celebration of all-things-80s, it seemed just too cool to hold back.

After last week’s Retro Review of The Goonies this vid is a reminder that Joe Dante’s Explorers (1985) had also passed me by! Have started watching that, so perhaps another Retro Review might be in the works…

Hope you can make it to the party in mid-week. It’ll be lovely to see you! 

And – hey! – if Brad is really on the ball, you should be getting the latest Fartlighter Bradventure by the end of this week! 😉

Cheers!

 

Wolfgang Müller: “Explosions in space? It’s impossible.”

Darren Woods: “What do you mean? You can hardly see the strings.”

 

Aquamaniac!: Why Are Atlantis Movies SO Barmy?!

Fish And Quips With Jason Momomoaa!

“Arthur Curry. Also known as Protector of the Oceans. The Aquaman. I hear you can talk to fish…” – Bruce Wayne.

“My mother was a lighthouse keeper. My father was a queen…”

YAY!

At long last, the Aquaman movie has dived into our popcorn parlours!

Once more, Brad, that nautical nerd, can flex his flippers and reactivate his fervour for all things Atlantean by enjoying a CGIfest of florescent undersea vistas! Mermen speaking underwater in American accents! Scaly warriors mounted on seahorses! 

Or can he…? 

Reinventing one of the most lameass characters in DC Comics – a derisory figure traditionally clad in an orange spandex vest and green tights (>_<) – as a hulking, tattooed badass turned out to be not only a wise move, but a necessary one. Out of the abysmal Justice League movie, Aquaman turned out to be the only character to root for.

Months ago, especially when the promising trailer for this standalone movie splashed across the ‘net, it seemed like Jason (“My Man!”) Momomoaa could single-handedly revive the hapless fortunes of the DC Cinematic Universe, and – despite having never read any of the Aquaman comics (well really, has anybody?!) – even yours truly pondered: yeah, why not? Let’s give them one last chance….

But…

December has arrived all-too-quickly and my current mood towards blockbuster movies in general is – shall we say – not as effervescent as the bubbly visuals supposedly on offer in this latest addition to the ever-bulging mass of comic book movies.

Is this soggy saga seaworthy enough to make ol’ barnacle-ridden Brad part with his hard-scrounged pieces of eight…?  

Cynical wisecracks AHOY! 

Charles Aitken: “Seven cities to Atlantis? You know, the Greeks always claimed there were nine.”

Atmir: “Plato was not always right.”

Charles Aitken: “You know about our history?”

Atmir: “Far more than you realize…”

It may not stand up so well these days, but upon first viewing at the age of 6, Warlords of Atlantis (1978) instantly won me over with its action, adventure, striking visuals, and mutated leviathans and instilled in me an overwhelming urge to gather any scrap of info concerning Atlantis and other ancient mysteries of the deep. Back then, you see, anything starring Doug McClure automatically became my favourite movie. 

That creepy moment when the faceless Guardians emerge from under the sea remains one of my all-time groovy moments in SF/fantasy movie history!

Although it is difficult to deduce now, this film looks like the main contender for inspiring me to write (at the age of 6) my very first short story: “City Beneath Th Sea.”

For a long time, yours truly thought Warlords of Atlantis had the best movie title of all time; mention those three precious words – or play that theme music – and this ’70s cult classic still gives me goose pimples after all these decades!

Some of the models, particularly that prehistoric plesiosaur – “It got my pencil!” – not to mention the all-too-obviously-rubber tentacles of the giant octopus are undeniably smirkworthy, but one never tires of those startling matte paintings, sets, costume design and some atmospheric sound effects. And the one and only Doug McClure, of course!

“From our dying planet, we journeyed across space… A comet wrecked our charted course. Thrown into the gravitational field of your planet, Earth, we fell into the life-preserving waters of the ocean now above us…” -Atsil. 

 

“I am Captain Nemo. I have been asleep for 100 years aboard my submarine, Nautilus. I would probably still be left encapsulated had it not been for two intrepid agents of American Naval Intelligence…who quite by chance came upon my ship trapped by seismic underwater quakes…” – Captain Nemo.

Wow!

In the depths of my infant mind lie murky recollections of a truly bizarre TV mini-series that had me enthralled across three consecutive Friday evenings during April 1981. The Amazing Captain Nemo produced by Irwin Allen, was a shoddy attempt to replicate his TV success with Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. 

The premise: Captain Nemo emerges from a hundred-year-cryogenic-sleep to be recruited by the US government to thwart the world domination plans of evil genius: Professor Cunningham (played by Burgess Meredith!) is daft enough, but this was made in 1978, when ALL the studios clamoured for sci-fi in the wake of that phenomenal catch known as Star Wars. So, to make it even more ridiculous, add an army of blaster-wielding golden androids, laser battles between divers on the sea bed, plus a lumbering bionic henchman in a snazzy silver suit (Tor! Thought he was so cool! Wished that he had his own action figure…) 

And never forgotten that diminutive fella wearing the golden mask, responsible for firing the deadly Delta ray. 

The longshots of the ruined temples of Atlantis are just murky enough to conceal any hint of being tacky models. King Tibor of Atlantis is played by that member of The Magnificent Seven who nobody can name; and Lynda Day George shows up simply because the producers realised that the cast included no women. 

Watched it again, this week, after all these years – well aware that its poor reputation could spoil my fond childhood memories.

However, ship mates!

Having already sat through the truly abysmal likes of BS: Dawn Of Just Ass, Assassins’ Creed and Star Wars: Can’t Even Remember The Bally Name One Year On, An’ Ah Ain’t Gonna Google It At This Time O’ Night, Ma’am!, in comparison, this Captain Nemo turned out just Amazing enough to be harmlessly entertaining in its own, albeit cheap and dodgy, way!

Not sure if Jules Verne would have approved though…

 

That Nerk Wearing The Crystal Skull: “We have come back to the world that has always been ours! You have no place in it. You cannot defend yourselves!”

Mike: “One hell of a welcoming committee!” 

Mohammed: “Yeah, but what do we have to welcome them with? We only got three rounds…” 

Ahaaaar!

We arrive, inevitably, at that notorious Italian bilge-ridden oddity from 1983: Raiders of Atlantis, aka Atlantis Inferno or, as my gang knew it, when we rented it on video: The Atlantis Interceptors.

After being disturbed by modern scientific deep sea experiments, the fabled island of Atlantis rises again, and its denizens – who just happen to be a demented punk bunch of Mad Max rejects! – wreak havoc on land and kill all landlubbers who cross the path of their dune-buggies and motorcycles…

This is the sort of exercise where any type of script is not required – any vestige of sanity is wiped out halfway through in a relentless 30-minute volley of non-stop violence. Bearing in mind we were only 12 at that time, this is the sort of mindless mess for which we craved. Yeah, we thought it outrageous and completely nonsensical, but that only increased our enjoyment! 

The credits state this is “directed”(?! HA!!) by “Roger Franklin.” Uff, 80s kids like me can sniff the “work”(??) of Ruggero Deodato fathoms away.

Knowing that The Atlantis Interceptors is freely available on YouTube, a re-watch proved simply irresistible. Now, viewing it alone, and with what some would call a “mature” perspective, the whole point of it all just seems so baffling. Considering what “fun” it gave us thirty years ago, this is NOT the worse movie ever made; the most bonkers movie ever made? Oh, almost certainly! 

Could this video rental really be so atrocious when it boasts a theme song as groovy as THIS?!:

Arthur Curry: “Of course it’s not working. It’s been sitting here gathering dust since before the Sahara was a desert!”

Mera: “Before the Sahara was a desert… You do your best thinking when you’re not thinking at all. Hold still… We need water. You’re the closest source.”

Speaking of crap movies, back to Aquaman. 

Director James Wan impressed me with The Conjuring (2013), and he appears to have made a concerted effort to brighten the mood/look of Warner/DC movies, before the whole lousy DC Cinematic Universe sinks without trace… 

Plus, the always-reliable presence of Willem Defoe – and Black Manta, who looks cool in the trailer – are the strongest factors pulling me in. Sure, it offers “stunning visuals,” but considering how the state of special effects now has become so sophisticated, no sense of magic or charm can be attained; moreover, some of the poorest-received movies of recent times were weakly defended with claims of “stunning visuals”

Blimey, not even that legendary thesp: Dolph Lundgren – as the King of The Lost Continent – can get me out on a stormy night like this. Besides, Arthur Curry’s descent into Atlantis (seen in the trailer) reminds me too much of that cringe-inducing moment in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson visited that undersea kingdom… 

And, judging from the awful quote above, the script sounds ready to make me seasick. 

Ugh, permission to throw myself overboard…

Have a pretty good idea that Aquaman could never inspire the 6-year-old Brad, and my mates would definitely have slung in a few mocking jibes if they’d caught this in my VCR back in the day…

Can the Aquaman movie really be as clever as this trailer?

Methinks not: 

“A war is coming to the surface. And I am bringing my rubber ducky with me!” – Orm. 

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

 

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…”