Norse Mode: The Rough Guide To Thor: Ragnarok

Thank Fudge It’s Thorsday!

This’ll Be SUCH FUN!

“I’m not overly fond of what follows…” – Loki.  

“In a world of portentous blockbusters getting ever darker, it’s a joy to see one throwing on the disco lights.”

And that happened to be just the first review of Thor: Ragnarok – set to be the biggest – and most entertaining – of the solo Thor movies. Here, the Mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against The Hulk, his former ally. The God of Thunder must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful HelaGoddess of Death – from destroying Asgard. 

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is translated as Twilight of the Gods. The myth tells of the eventual destruction of the universe and mankind, as well as the deaths of several key figures in Norse Mythology, such as the gods Odin, Thor, Loki, Heimdall et al. 

So…

Billed as a fun and funny, colourful and crazy cosmic caper… Thor: Ragnarok just MIGHT kill off a bunch of main characters?!

Hmm, more than any other Marvel movie, it will be interesting to see how this latest MCU instalment plays with our emotions, as well as juggling with our expectations…

“Hela is the Goddess of Death, and I’ve had incredible fun playing her” – Cate Blanchett.

“Oh, I’ve missed this!” rasps Hela, Goddess of Death, strikingly played by Cate Blanchett. 

That could be Brad gleefully uttering that line as it seems ages since we were treated to a blockbuster that turned out to be just an inoffensive, energetic and entertaining slice of escapist fantasy fare. 

As you may have already gathered, Hela is one of my All-Time Fawe Comic Book Characters. She first mesmerised me in a poetic and moving Tales Of Asgard that accompanied The Mighty Thor #314, (Hela – the Goddess of Death – has wrought havoc in Valhalla, twisting it into the icy foreboding image of her own dreaded kingdom: Niffleheim. Only the bold and sagacious intervention of Odin – Ruler of the Gods – saves Asgard).

During this past year alone, numerous classic Thor ishs (specifically featuring Hela) have come my way – the depth of her characterisation is astonishing. How far Thor: Ragnarok will delve into her character, and not rely on just malevolent quips and badass fight sequences, remains my primary concern. Visionary director: Taika Waititi (he prefers to be referred to as a visionary director, or better still: “visionist”!) assures us that, as Marvel’s first female movie villain: “Cate has destroyed the idea of your typical villain.”

In the original comics, Hela is Loki’s daughter. Now, bet you all the groats on Sakaar: the makers have twisted this – she’s become Odin’s (disowned) daughter; this, at least, would help explain how she was able, so dramatically in the first Trailer, to catch – and breakMjolnir. (But hey, Lord of Dipwits here managed to guess only 1.5 out of 14 on the Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Soundtrack so proceed with caution!)

Hela is: “not a queen, or a monster, she’s the Goddess of Death!”

And your correspondent is still so looking forward to seeing how she is brought to life on the big screen!

“Thor finds out much about his family and tries to save his planet and the universe, while overcoming the machinations of a grand funny fun figure such as myself” – Jeff Goldblum

“Hey, Sparkles! Here’s the deal. You wanna get back to As-place? Asberg?”

Yes, Jeff Goldblum – verily, for it is he! – speaks this line while portraying (quite flamboyantly, it has to be said) the Grandmaster, an immortal trickster who maintains control over the populace of Sakaar by giving them a constant fix of gladiatorial games. Sakaar looks like an irresistibly fizzy and candy-colourful addition to the MCU – it’s the sort of galactic world one always wanted to see on the big screen.

The Grandmaster is a villain who stormed into my Marvel collection last year via (reprints of) The Avengers. The storyline in which the Grandmaster transports Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to his arena to fight a team of super-villains: Contest Of Champions, provided the core element of this movie.

You’d think that playing a blue-skinned alien would pose no challenge for Jeff as he has already played one way back in Earth Girls Are Easy (1988); but his Hollywood clout has spared him the ignominy of that daily five-hour make-up job; instead, he sports a snazzy lil blue splodge on his chin.

Just seen a hilarious exclusive clip, concerning the “Lord” of Thunder(!) and it so happens to be Classic Comedy Gold(blum)! Actually, as it turns out, Jeff is quite the “Grandmaster” when it comes to improvisation. Apparently, the majority of his lines ended up being randomly improvised, to the full consent of the director. Forever the visionary.

Jeff “Must Go Faster, Must Go Faster!” Goldblum Forever! 

If the rest of his scenes are anything to go by, it sounds like the Power of ROFL will be unleashed!

Let’s hope so! 🙂

“NO TEAM, ONLY HULK!” – HULK.

And, of course, how could we get through this guide without the big, green fella. After all, this cosmic caper was billed as Thor vs. Hulk. 

Not only did this movie present Chris Hemsworth with the opportunity to refresh the character of Thor, it gave Mark Ruffalo the chance to reinvent the portrayal of the Green Goliath. As we saw in the Trailer, Hulk is allowed to speak a lot more. It seems like he will have more lines in this movie than both Avengers movies put together! Here, we get to see the premise of Planet Hulk – the Incredible one is a champion gladiator on a distant alien planet: in this case it’s Sakaar; it’ll be intriguing to learn how he got there…

Let’s not forget that cameo appearance by the Hulk’s fellow Defender: Doctor Strange. How and where Stephen (the ever-immaculate Benedict Cumberbatch, of course!) will appear in this movie is a particularly perplexing matter – actually the thought of dear Bennybatch being underused here is a slightly disorientating one… 

Last, but by oh no means least(!) is that essential Stan Lee cameo. Betcha he’s the Demon Barber of Sakaar – the one who shears the godly Goldilock’s locks! 😉 

For me, what’s so cool about each movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its boldness in reinvigorating the whole concept of what a comic book movie should look – and feel – like. Kudos to Kevin Feige et al for daring to select the most unexpected talent of visionary director Taika Waititi and allowing him to imbue this unique and harmless 130 mins bundle of fun with the “kind of energy and crazy sort of Flash Gordony-tone that it has.” 

Oh yes, get that energy. 

Chris admitted: “This was one of the best experiences I’ve had on a set. We laughed way too much.”

With unanimous positive feedback from the preliminary round of film reviews, it sounds like we will be laughing way too much too… 

“I tried to start a revolution… but I didn’t print enough pamphlets!” – Korg. 

“Basically what they were saying was like: “We’re a bit tired of, um, you know, this fish-out-of-water thing with Thor on Earth”, you know? So why not go towards the direction of the comic books from the Seventies and Eighties and have Thor on a cosmic adventure, you know?” – Taika Waititi. 

“I’d loved Iron Man, you know, with a passion. I thought that was the most fresh, cool thing, in terms of superhero movies, that I’d seen in a long time,” said Taika Waititi, the (visionary) director of Thor: Ragnarok. 

“I don’t know what they were smoking when they were writing those storylines [in the 70s],” he continued, “but they had some pretty wacky ideas in those old comic books.”

With such critically-acclaimed comedies such as What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Taika has carved his own pretty wacky niche in movies, so his brand of humour seems well suited to the MCU. And if his helmsmanship was not enough, he did his own motion-capture performance as never-before-seen-on-the-big-screen Korg the Kronan. This rock-skinned supporting character, who made his debut in the Planet Hulk comic, was described by Taika as: “hard on the outside, and gentle like a marshmallow smudged together with daffodils on the inside.” Wow, an alien with a New Zealand accent. Now this is something we need to see…  

Taika also proposed the idea of including Led Zep on the soundtrack:

“I put together a sizzle reel… because there was no storyline, or anything… I don’t really know what I’m going for, so I’ll just get shots from movies I think are cool [laughs] – the energy and the colour and sort of what might look cool for this film. And I put Immigrant Song over the top of it, and then played it for them.

“And they were like, “Oh that’s really cool. That’s a cool song. What’s that?”

“I was like, [deadpan] “It’s Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin – one of the most famous songs of all time.”

“They were like, “Oh cool, never heard it before, very cool.”

“And I was like, “Oh fuck, really worried now.” But from the start we’d always talked about using Immigrant Song in the film, because it just makes perfect sense for that character, doesn’t it?”

Aaah, AH,
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!
On we sweep with threshing oar,
Our only goal will be the western shore. Aaah, AH” 

Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song. 

Valkyrie: “This team of yours, it got a name?”

Thor: “Yeah, it’s called the… uh… Revengers!”

“It was all great stuff to do. I had a ball. I only wish that I’d been in it longer” – Sir Anthony Hopkins. 

 

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“Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures”: The Short-Lived Comic Books That Live Long In The Memory

Another Frenetic Excursion Through Bronze Age Awesomeness. 

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“Easy with that pig-sticker! You and your buddy ought to be more discreet about where you have spats…” – E. Hammond Preiss.

“Not quite a year ago, I composed a brief text feature on the letters page as an introduction and I’m writing what amounts to an epilogue.”

So wrote David Kraft, in an Editorial, snazzily titled: “Of Star-Gods And Sales Figures,” effectively announcing that this: Creatures On The Loose Featuring Man-Wolf #37 (June 1975), would be the final ish.

He explained how: “Sales, of course, are generally the deciding factor. But not totally.”

Apparently, despite “doing well on the newsstands,” it hadn’t been doing well enough. Kraft explained that granting J. Jonah Jameson’s hairy star-cursed son his own book was given “very serious consideration,” but at that time, Marvel had already laid extensive plans to launch a variety of new series.

Wonder if any of them reached the heights of Man-Wolf?

With Kraft‘s script and George Perez’s art, the final ish of Creatures On The Loose is a rip-roaring yarn.

It’s only fault?

Who knows if the savage progeny of the moon managed to land the spacecraft and save his friends on the last page…?

And now, we take a rare venture into DC territory – from Man-Wolf to Ironwolf – hey, get that symmetry!

“You’re no better than the Empress – you’re worse! At least she doesn’t hide her evil behind fine words and gracious hospitality!” – Ironwolf.

The tenth and final ish of DC’s Weird Worlds: Ironwolf #10 (November 1974), features an Editorial called: “Weird Words.” It states that despite being both a critical and commercial success, this title has to close – why?

“In a word: Ecology.

“For years, we’ve been publishing stories in the comics, warning of impending shortages of vital materials… The problem is real. One proof is that there will me no more Weird Worlds. We can’t get enough paper to publish it. Simple as that.”

Hmm… your correspondent is NOT convinced.

This “serious paper shortage” does not appear to have affected all the poor and underwhelming titles churned out – by both DC and Marvel, not to mention other indie publishing houses – during the intervening four decades (thus justifying my love and belief in Bronze Age books).

This particular ish – featuring Ironwolf: a sword-wielding adventurer in the John Carter of Mars mould – has lots to commend it, especially lively art by Howard Chaykin. The story is pleasing galactic fun, enticing enough to make me hunt down further ishs – there are only nine of them, so it shouldn’t be an extensve hunt…

“Fool! My defensive screens can easily neutralize your pathetic attack. Can you do as well against my ionic sword?” – Salia Petrie.

“She’s forcing me into a corner and if her sword punctures the copper foil skinsuit under my costume, I’ll age a thousand years in a second!” – Vance Astro.

The third selection in this eclectic mix also happens to be the final ish of a classic title unfairly terminated much too soon.

Three reasons drew me to Ms. Marvel: a woman as the central character; news of her own forthcoming movie; and perhaps the most obvious excuse: it was written by Chris Claremont – the same auteur responsible for making The Uncanny X-Men such a stupendous – and enduring – series.

After acquiring both impressive and disappointing mags in this series, this ish: #23 (April 1979) is one of the best in the series. Abducted by The Faceless One and taken to the space station known as Drydock, she finds Salia Petrie – a fellow NASA colleague whose mind is being controlled by the cosmic villain.

And there is a cameo appearance by Vance Astro, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxywho will be all the rage in cinemas again next month!

Actually, it is not that difficult to see why the fate of this particular series was sealed: apart from the constant change of artist – always not a good sign Carol Danvers’ drastic change in costume appears to have been a desperate misjudgment. Moreover, being terminated in 1979, alas, meant that female-led series still had a long way to go before achieving mainstream acceptance…

“You people kidnapped me, you seek to destroy our planet… Do you expect me to show you mercy? If so, forget it, fiends. There’s nothing I won’t do to stop you. Nothing!” – Dejah Thoris.

“I have never been one write letters to the editor. However, something has come up that I cannot let pass. Simply put, the termination of John Carter of Mars, Warlord of Mars is an injustice,” stated one disgruntled reader, printed in #26 (August 1979) – the penultimate ish.

On the strength of this exciting – and yet moving – mag, other copies have been sought this past few months. It was truly a great expedition when #7 (Decemper 1977) came into my possession, and at a reduced sale price too. A keen John Carter fan for most of my life, Marvel did a fine job on this series.

This particular ish just happens to be blessed with the pulsating pencils of Gil Kane. And its title: Dejah Thoris Lives promises a suitably feisty appearance by one of science-fantasy’s most iconic princesses. In the hands of that other exceptional Wolf: Marv Wolfman, this ish does not disappoint!

Again, it is such a shame that this brand of awesomeness was ultimately defeated by the crass excuse of “poor sales.”

1979 was one of my favourite years; and yet it seems to have been less than favourable as far as comic books are concerned…

“Awwright, ya flap-eared yahoos! Everybody git your tails inside an’ git them fishbowls off!” – Nick Fury.

Know you this: Nick Fury is one of my all-time fave Marvel characters. It has been an absolute pleasure tracking down the work of the legendary Jim Steranko, arguably the greatest artist to bring this deadly Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to bold and wise-crackin’ life. You’d think that he would have no trouble saving an experimental title like What If? from the dreaded sales figures curse, but no…

Stan Lee presents: A Stunning Saga Of An Alternate Reality, indeed!

#14 (April 1979) boasts the incredible question: What If Sgt. Fury Had Fought WWII In Outer Space? On the morning of 7 December 1941, the Pearl space station is attacked by a squadron of “crummy Betan lizards.” Such a bizarre premise proved too irresistible; plotted by Gary Friedrich, drawn by Herb Trimpe – and narrated by The Watcher of course! – this special bumper-sized edition is certainly unputdownable stuff!

All the ishs featured here hold reserved places in my ever-expanding Bronze Age collection, although it is a shame that that it is their ephemeral nature that link them together. Ironically, the discontinuation of these titles has bolstered their value – not to mention made them more difficult to come by.

At the end of the day, sales figures proved to be far more effective at crushing heroes than any nefarious plan concocted by the most devious costumed supervillains.

Thankfully, David Kraft and George Perez were allowed to produce the two concluding episodes of the Star-God Saga in a couple of ishs of Marvel Premiere four years later.

Kraft ended that editorial in 1975 by stating: “Doing this series has been a lot of fun for all of us here, especially George and myself, and we hope that you’ve gotten some entertainment out of it along the way.

“We’re only sorry it had to end so soon.”

“I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad – you’re all the same…! You’ve got to be stamped out – no matter what the cost! And if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, you will be!” – J. Jonah Jameson.

 

“Valhalla Be Mine!”: Could Hela Be The MCU’s Greatest Villain?

It’s Main Event Time…

“‘Tis Hela who is the power here – Hela whose word is Law! I be Death incarnate, Whitebeard, and Death dares all” – Hela.

“I know what you’re thinking…”

How wicked is this?!

Ever since all of us were treated to the suitably awesome Teaser Trailer for Thor: Ragnarok at the start of this week, Brad has been mesmerized by Cate Blanchett’s devilish grin.

Odin’s blood, methinks – this movie be not upon us for another seven months yet, but already anticipation for one of my all-time fave Marvel characters grows.

Foolishly, ’twas thot that a Preview of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 could be battered out this weekend – ha!

And nay! 

Not e’en the giddy delights of a Star Wars teaser trailer wert enow to dissuade me from the fiendish allure of the Queen of Niffleheim – the Goddess of Death.

This teaser sets up what appears to be a very promising outing for Odinson.

As a huge fan of The Mighty Thor comic – thus sparking a lifelong fascination with Norse mythology – and reasonably satisfied with both solo movie ventures for the God of Thunder, a main drawback however (especially in Dark World) was the preponderance of scenes on Midgard (Earth). It appears that Grandmaster Feige and his merrie MCU band realised this and upped the ante accordingly to devise the gobsmacking cosmic adventure we deserve.

Look ye here: the triumphant spectacle of the HULK in battle armour(!); Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster(!) AND Chris Hemsworth’s haircut(!) are all irresistible ingredients in their own right, but Galadriel in her elaborate headgear surely tops them all… 

So, be on your Asgard, as ’twere:

“You who now come claiming my father’s spirit as though the soul of Odin were some bauble that you had won!” – Thor.

“Asgard is dead…”

My introduction to Hela could not have come in a finer form; the main story in The Mighty Thor #314 (which takes pride of place on my desk this evening as these words are frantically typed) stands as a personal uplifting favourite, but it is the additional Tales Of Asgard bonus story: Judgement – And Lament! in which Hela has usurped radiant Valhalla, and – with her icy touch – remade it in the imge of her own cold, cruel and foreboding kingdom of Niffleheim.

And all because – deeply moved by Sif’s love for Thor – she could ne’er, as a woman, consummate longings for compassion – desire – love…

Tending to his fallen Valkyries, Odin – ruler of the gods – comes to set things a’right.

And part soothing words to the Bringer of Death, enow to quell the anger and hurt within her.

Whene’er she made a cameo in the Thor comic book, she stole every panel with her menace and vile intent. In my quest for Bronze Age comics, those back ishs of Mighty Thor featuring her have proved elusivemayhap ’tis not a surprise to learn that those ishs are among the most valuable…

“Can you believe we’re having this conversation? It’s 2017 and we’re talking about the first female villain? It’s ridiculous. There’s so much untapped potential villainy in women. It’s really exciting. I think finally it’s beginning to be acknowledged that women and men want to see a diverse array of characters, and that’s race, gender across the sexual spectrum” – Cate Blanchett.

“Hi there!”

What is it – for me – that sets the Queen of Niffleheim apart from other female characters in the Marvel canon?

Her steely looks and the devious design of her outlandish garb are startling enow, but it is her macabre headgear that strikes thee the most. Naturally, most – if not all – her appearances have been brilliantly written…

“She’s been locked away for millennia getting more and more cross,” as Blanchett explained in a recent interview, and she is bent on exacting her vengeance against Thor. And Odin.

By not only holding Mjolnir, but destroying it(!), Hela makes quite an impact; her intentions of unleashing Ragnarok – the fabled destruction of the gods – are machinations not to be taken lightly!

Verily, from what we’ve learnt this week, she is shaping up to be quite a formidable antagonist indeed. And to think that, up until this year, Loki has stood as the MCU’s most dangerous evil presence. With barely any competition. Ant-Man’s Yellowjacket was underwhelming, and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Ronan The Accuser merely spent his screen-time sulking rather than exuding adequate menace.

And – although promising to “bathe the star-ways with your blood” – we have yet to realise the full extent of Thanos’ power. But surely, without terrifying headgear, can he muster the right modicum of imposing threat…?

“Hela’s able to manifest weapons,” Blanchett added. “Her headdress can be weapons. She can manifest weapons out of different parts of her body. I won’t tell you which — I’ll leave that hanging…”

“Hope doth blossom in the presence of life… and thou art the Queen of Death. But I may grant thee enlightenment. Open thy mind… Let my wisdom flow into thee…

“And thou wilt understand the way of the world” – Odin All-Father.

 

A Zarjaz 40 Years!: A Celebration Of 2000AD

Borag Thungg, Earthlets!

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“Welcome to the galaxy’s greatest comic: a subtle blend of thrills, some old, some new, all of them zarjaz. 2000AD: thrills from the future at an old-fashioned price!” – Tharg The Mighty. 

“It’s wild! It’s sensational! It’s your future!”

In the last week of February 1977, the first zarjaz issue of 2000AD was unleashed on an unsuspecting planet. It contained three stories and a free gift – a ghafflebette Space Spinner! – attached to the front cover.

Nobody had any idea that it would not only become a sensational hit, but dramatically transform the British comics industy. Back then, you see, the average life expectancy of new comics lasted no more than “a few issues.” Up until that point, there had been no market for SF in the UK comics market, so – oddly enough – it was automatically assumed that 2000AD would fare no better…

Each issue – or Prog as it is affectionately known – came adorned with the legend: “In Orbit Every Monday.” But more intriguingly, the Editor happened to be Tharg The Mighty: a green-skinned Betelgeusian responsible for delivering these weekly doses of “thrill-power,” and regarded plastic cups as his fave delicacy; Betelgeusian phrases made regular appearances in each Prog.

Published by IPC Magazines, it was aimed at young boys who craved something other than the usual “war and football fare”. Studying it’s awesomeness down the years, what is most striking is its formidable – and consistent – array of writing and artistic talent – cheekily referred to as “the droids” – who would garner international acclaim and go on to develop projects for Marvel and DC Comics.

In the beginning, it looked rather tame: Dan Dare – the Pilot of the Future – was more commonly associated with Eagle comic, while Mach 1 was a direct copy of the Six Million Dollar Man

Ironically, another sci-fi comic released in 1978: Starlord – produced on better quality paper – enjoyed higher sales figures. However, production costs meant that 2000AD survived, and Starlord disappered after only 22 issues. Strangely enough, Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters were transferred from Starlord and became some of 2000AD’s most popular stars.

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“Dredd to Control! Some kind of ruckus going on, Hank Wangford Underblock! Better get me a Catch Wagon!” – Judge Dredd. 

Can remember reading the comic at school – 1984 was a classic year for 2000 AD. Not sure who brought the copies in, but they were widely circulated around the classroom.

Although the comic’s most popular character was Judge Dredd, who made his debut patrolling the ultra-mean streets of Mega-City Onein Prog 2 – my Vinglop Hudsock (reading enjoyment) always concentrated on the exploits of the A.B.C (Atomic*Bacterial*Chemical) Warriors such as Hammerstein, Deadlock – and perhaps the COOLEST comic book character EVER – Joe PineapplesRogue Trooperthe GI (genetic infantryman) roaming the Morokk desert of Nu-Earth, in the eternal future war between Norts and Southers with his helmet, backpack and gun containing bio-chips of his three fallen buddies, brilliantly illustrated by Cam Kennedy.

And DON’T exclude the extraordinary awesomeness in the form of Nemesis The Warlock, wonderfully created by Brother Mills and Brother O’Neill and extolled the virtues:

“Be pure, be vigilant, behave!”

At a time when sci-fi was still considered as Boy’s Own fare, it is amazing to reflect that part of its innovation lay in its impressive range of strong, female characters including: Halo Jones, Venus Bluegenes, Durham Red, Tiffany Rex and of course Judge Anderson: Head of Mega-City One’s Psi-Division. 

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“Military fuzz, dammit. Gotta move. I ain’t gonna be shot by my own side… Sorry to disappoint you, fuzzballs!” – Rogue Trooper.  

Also that year, in London, just round the corner from Grandma’s gaff, a newsagent had a half-price box. Therein lay Progs: 365 and 370 – my very first purchases of thrill-power!

Having just retrieved them from my files – the covers have inevitably yellowed and the edges are crumpled – they now sit in pride of place on the desk beside me.

Bizarrely, one of the comic’s most ensuring characters was Slaine: a Celtic barbarian – with its delirious mix of dragons and sorcery this strip looked so incongruous, but was well-received all the same. Another script-hit from Pat Mills – does it come as a surprise to learn that he is one of my all-time favourite writers (in any medium)?

Both these Progs were graced by one of my very favourite characters: Strontium Dog: the adventures of Johnny Alpha, the mutie bounty hunter and his “norm” partner: Wulf Sternhammer. Featuring the terrific artwork of Carlos Ezquerra, it was honoured in this Post: 

And – grok! Had almost forgotten D.R. & Quinch. My most immediate memory to flood back from Prog 365 was this hilarious pastiche of Hollywood written by Alan Moore – yes! That Alan Moore.

“Man, this was a problem of mind-liquefying majorness. The script had about fifty-eleven-hundred pages. Of this, eight words were completely readable. These were ‘Oranges’ in the title, and ‘Close the curtains, Geoffrey, I’m amphibious,’ which was right at the end. To be perfectly frank, man, I wasn’t even 100% sure about ‘amphibious'” – D.R. Dobbs. 

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Torquemada: “Only I stand for order! And discipline! Especially discipline!”

Nemesis: “Basically I stand for having a good time…”

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“Some day soon we’ll all be feeding the worms… so why waste time playing heroes when we could be killing for kicks and riches?” – Thrax. 

And then there was Bad Company: a weird, but wonderful, future-war tale created by Pete Milligan, Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy. Rather than focus predictably, and monotonously, on the horrors of war, this irresistible classic centered on its absurdities.

It offered a truly bizarre roster of characters, including the young wide-eyed narrator: Danny Franks; the mad, monocled mutant Frankenstein’s Monster-like Kano; and my personal fave: the ghoulish dude with the over-sized overcoat: Thrax, distinctive with his long, supercool fringe, and his amusing tendency to call everyone: “turnipheads”.

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“I want to feel alive again. That’s why I keep a heart in my chest locker” – Joe Pineapples.

My days as a Nonscrot (someone who does NOT read it regularly) were numbered. At the end of June 1988, a bolt of unavoidable thrill-power hit me in one newsagent at the end of June 1988 in the form of 2000AD Prog 581 (above). Who doesn’t dig large-taloned dudes with even cooler swords? One excited flick through: and it was immediately purchased.

There then followed a really scrotnig Summer, hunting local comics emporia for the most recent back issues. Having designed a major facelift – new format, new logo – for Prog 555, Tharg The Innovative reinvented the entire package with Prog: 650, adorned with the slogan: “New Thrills! More Colour!”   

With two stints at university, leading eventually to an overseas job, following the galaxy’s greatest comic became virtually impossible. In the last two years whilst working on this blog, re-energizing my taste for SF, my thoughts inevitably slide back to those golden years of 2000ADcan still smell that grotty classroom even now… 

But memories of that classic thrill-power lingers much longer…

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“Don’t want to hurt other Strontium Dogs unless we have to – electro-flare!” – Johnny Alpha.

Months ago, rummaging through the basement of a secondhand bookstore, looking – as is always the way – for something else, my heart leapt as a pile of 2000 AD back issues (from the classic years of 1983 and 1986) emerged at the back of the bottom shelf! 

The biggest problem is: how does one catch up with a quarter-century of Progs? So much thrill-power – so little time…

It is absolutely staggering to think that 2000AD still thrives to this day; it’s constant formula of experimental characters and witty cultural/political refs is hopefully winning new converts. The magic Prog 2000 came out last September, but all the drokks have been reserved especially for this week’s Anniversary Special. It is heartening to see the return of personal fave: Strontium Dog.

And of course, Joe Dredd just had to make a special appearance: shutting down the Prog’s birthday bash, disapproving of such a “seditious freak-out weirdo trashzine.” Hey Joe, what’s wrong with that? Don’t be a Grexnix, old man! This Squaxx Dek Thargo used to create and edit his own trashzines back in his juve-days, y’know! If anything, you should complain that today’s droids have failed to offer a Space Spinner or suchlike with this Prog…

Quaequam Blag!

As Tharg himself said: “2000AD: it’s not a comic… it’s an attitude!” 

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Splundig Vur Thrigg!

Origins Of An Ace Oddity: The Blogger Recognition Award!

Yay, Let The Word Go Forth! Bradscribe Is Officially Awesome! 

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“Omnium rerum principia parva sunt [Everything has small beginnings]” – Cicero.

Thanks to Michael J Miller @ mycomicrelief for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award!

Michael not only writes consistently brilliant reviews of comic books, but is a superhero ‘imself, having decided to take a stand on the side of Truth and Justice and SPEAK OUT about what is happening to his country. His site is well worth a visit or three! It’s ram-packed with goodies and he’ll be pleased to see you!

It’s always a thrill, and a great honour, to be recognised – and highly regarded – by your fellow bloggers; and it only seems like yesterday when I nominated him for the Mystery Blogger Award!

Personally, February is always the most trying month for me – this year’s has brought its own extraordinary events (best left unmentioned); writing usually pulls me through hard times, but considering how substandard the drafts produced during this past frenzied fortnight are, well… (best left unpublished! – most unlike me, innit?!)

Michael’s unexpected – and uplifting – congrats message this week could not have come at a better time.

Bless yer heart, amigo!

Anyway, here are the rules for the Blogger Recognition Award:

1) Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2) Write a post to show your award.
3) Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4) Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5) Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6) Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Right, how in blazes did all this madness begin?

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“A beginning is a very delicate time” – Princess Irulan. 

Know then that it is the year 2555.

Living in a predominantly Buddhist country, that was what it said on our Buddhist calendar.

You knew it better as 2012. 

Early in that year, after yet another dispiriting reply from a prospective editor – more of a “better luck next time,” rather than an outright rejection – he wanted to see “my blog.” Such a platform had frittered away @ the back of my mind for a few months, but that provided the impetus to get it started. 

Every good writer needs a portfolio of work; without anything in print/online – it was imperative to sort something out. And PRONTO.

But how?

This involved swottin’ up on specific technical gubbins from scratch. Having downloaded the necessary How To files, well…. sheesh, it might as well have been in Lithuanian – none of it made any sense. Weeks – then months – passed and the stalemate had not shifted; it wasn’t until eventually watching a YouTube vid over and over again did the rudiments of blogging finally sink into my stubborn noddle.

And then… hey! Holy Danish inter-lockin’ blocks, Bradman!

Now yer ready, whaddya gonna write about?!

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“Ready are you? What know you of ready…? This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!” – Yoda.

Brad won’t fail ya – Brad‘s not afraid. 

In the beginning, my Very First Post irresistibly concentrated on my unique background back then: living on the Gulf of Thailand. A world traveller with 5,000 Followers, producing Posts attaining 300 Likes each, Liked me straight away – instantly providing me with my own initial band of potential Followers to invite over to my site! It took only my second Post: Science Friction to collect NINE Likes – wow, methinks, this bloggin’ lark’s a doddle…

Even @ that initial stage, SF had not become my main focus, but after scant success with other Posts delving into various other beloved topics such as history, coffee and whatnot, SF became the official theme of this blog. Over 150 Posts – produced in three different countries – have carried the Brad Seal of Awe Since 2013. 

When my laptop’s screen went on strike last July, the remainder of ’16’s Posts had to be prepared @ a few Public Libraries in the local region.

One morning, while compiling one of my more ambitious Posts, one crusty, dreadlocked youngling – with skateboard in hand – leaned in, having recognised Arsene: our cute bunny forever immortalised as my Gravatar. 

“Hey, I really dig that site! It’s-” 

Upon seeing me activate my Dashboard, he gawped.

“Blimey Charley!” he chirped in amazement. “You- you’re Bradscribe?!” 

“What, didn’t think I wuz this ridiculously good-lookin’ in real life, huh?” 

After being evicted from the building (hey! you’re not allowed to natter in libraries) we skedaddled to the nearest coffee den.

“I wanna blog, man,” the rapscallion sniffed. “How can I be as successful as you?” 

“Well, two tips must ye learn to become a successful blogger… but first, m’young an’ eager padawan, help yerself to some ginger cake.”

Ah yes, the CAKE – hoo-boy, he LURVES a scrumptious slice a’ sveetness aound ‘ere, doesn’t ‘e, eh?!

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“Okay, first of all, you’re copying me from when I said I had a plan… And secondly, I don’t think you even have a plan!” – Rocket Raccoon. 

“No, really, kid – THESE are the TWO most important essential titbits I reckon ya need:

1). Be a friendly host

“Blog it and they will come!”

Nah, no matter how awesome your writing, there is no way to ensure that any readers will immediately swing by. Remember, MILLIONS of of blog posts are produced DAILY, so you have got to get out there and invite them over. 

And when other like-minded bloggers folla the courtesy of leaving a kind Comment, always reply: thanking them and generating a rapport. So they feel obliged to come back for more. The few times me Comments have appeared on newcomers’ sites, only to be ignored; not surprisingly, they vanished from the blogosphere soon after… 

ALWAYS reply, ya dig?! 

And:

2). DON’T pick yer nose while I’m explainin’ this to ya – jeez, man! 

Are ya done…? Good.

2). Be unique

A hefty proportion of those countless blog Posts are movie reviews – some are so formulaic it’s all too easy to get confused as to which blogger is which. Not only blog about what you love (and love whatchu blog), whatcha write should represent YOU as an individual: your thoughts, your interests, your personality.

In order to stand out from all those MILLIONS, it’s best ta produce something different – something distinctive. 

Be unexpected, unusual and – oh yes -unique. 

And if all else fails, it ‘elps ta offer them something irresistible. Hence, the cake…

“All the best to ya, kid. Good luck…”

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“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood. Once, I was a cop. A road warrior searching for a righteous cause. As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who had more cake… me… or everyone else…” – Max Rockatansky. 

As the rules for the Blogger Recognition Award stipulate no number of Nominees, we’ll go with my lucky number: 7.

So, all you lucky Nomineesmy (whisper it: all-female!) Magnificent Seven– time to stand and save a Mexican village from bandits and be recognised!:

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byhookorbybook

cafebookbean

livingabeautifullife

morganhazelwood

recoverytowellness

wordsforeverything

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Cheers!

Rantin’ And Killraven: What’s HOT On The Bronze Age Comics IN Pile

Madre De Dios! More Mighty Marvel Mayhem!

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“A quest… You humans love quests and epics… romantic notions… absurdities which clutter your lives and distort your base realities!” – The High Overlord.  

NIX OLYMPIA VOLCANO, MARS – DECEMBER 2019

“He had touched the blade of grass… and it turned to red Martian dust beneath his hands. The sand shifts through his fingers now, and Killraven knows for a certainty that the desert he kneels upon is located on the planet Mars. 

“He is alone with that truth – and the truth is staggering!”

But what is truly staggering is that how a comic entitled: War Of The Worlds featuring Wellsian Martians (on giant tortoiseback, by gad!), alien vistas and high adventure on the Fourth Rock From The Sun with a Terran hero bestriding the russet landscape sportin’ thigh-high boots could turn (on?!) out to be so…

disappointing. 

Killraven: ha! Now there’s a name ta die for!

Isn’t it…?

With the right creative team, this should have developed into a hit – at least a cult classic, but no… 

As a fan of all things Martian, hopes that #36 (May 1976) would be a joy to behold were running high, until the reaction was so low. No prizes for guessing that this title was cancelled after only 30+ ishs…

Anyway! Welcome back to the weird wonderful world of Bradscribe – apologies for the delay since the last Post, but things have been hectic around here.

Once more unto the back issue boxes, dear friends!

Undoubtedly the highlight of Summer ’16 involved delving into the treasures of Bronze Age comics – that exceedingly special time from c. 1970 (curiously estimated with the debut ish of Conan The Barbarian of all things) up until the mid-’80s (and the death of Jean Grey?) when some exceptional titles were produced. At the most, taking advantage of the opportunity to catch up with some truly remarkable writers and artists; pleasantly acquire previously unknown titles; and dip nostalgically into editions that used to belong in my bedroom but for whatever outlandish reason got lost in the mists of time has transmogrified into an enjoyable and worthwhile venture. 

For me, the Bronze Age happened to be the best period for comic books. Killraven – for all its faults – demonstrates how experimental and innovative Marvel Comics could be during the 1970s.

Here then are some of the special ishs that have accumulated in my specially-reserved box this past few months:

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“The brute still lives! Such ineffable strength and longevity are almost beyond my experience and bear further study at The Project!” – The Hate-Monger.  

“The first rays of the crescent moon found the blood-red pendant grafted to John Jameson’s throat and he becomes a beast: Man-Wolf!”

Yes, yes, we covered that lupine moonbeast here: but that was too long ago, and quite frankly, he deserves more blogspace – for he is an extraordinary character simply never available on the Southern English newsstands of my youth. And it is a pleasure to finally catch up with his stunning series.

From ish #30, Man-Wolf became the sole principal star of Creatures On The Loose, until being cancelled (with ish #37 back in 1975). Ish #35: Wolfquest (May 1975) is – rip-roaring sci-fi action/adventure at its 70s best.

“David Kraft wrote it; George Perez drew it; you get to read it!” says the text on the groovy front page. There is also an ace cameo from Colonel Nick Fury (one of my all-time fave comic book characters) – “Sonuvagun if it ain’t!” – and Dum Dum Dugan! 

As penultimate pages go, this – the death of the Hate-Monger is as awesome and intense as Bronze Age comic art gets – proudly loaded up here (above).

Can’t help thinking what Perez would have done with Killraven…

And there was no way that Col. Fury’s dramatic entrance could not be included here:

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Nick Fury: “Dum Dum, ya big walrus, quit flounderin’ and folla me!”

Dum Dum Dugan: “Fergit it, Nick – I ain’t goin’ nowhere without my blamed Derby!” 

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Thanos: “Would you believe I’m doing all this out of the goodness of my heart?” 

Adam Warlock: “No, for I perceive that you have no heart!”

Like the BA gem listed above, (The Power Of) Warlock was also cancelled in its prime, but Adam, the golden-hued character himself made such an indelible impression on my infant mind.

More tragically, the original series lasted no more than just 15 ishs. Ironically, Warlock – “By Orion!” – has attained hallowed cult status and is extremely difficult to come by; when my sensors did detect odd editions, the going rate seemed ridiculously high. So finding that immortal classic: Warlock #10: How Strange My Destiny (December 1975) (for a thankfully ridiculously low price!) proved to be an exceptional find.

The first part of the acclaimed Magus Saga in which Adam makes an uneasy alliance with notorious bad seed: Thanos in his showdown with the Magus. It also features Gamora (of Guardians of the Galaxy fame!) and Pip The Troll (who – judging from the letters pages – became a sensation among Marvelites far and wide!)

Thanos – and (let’s be honest) even Pip The Troll – would have swept the floor with Killraven…

As Adam realizes with horror: “My mind is a cesspool of corruption that will someday spawn the Magus” – the Magus is Adam Warlock’s future self!

Blimey Charley, what a humdinger! 

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“25,000 armed Black Knights just to kill four unarmed intruders?! The Magus must be cracking up! Wish I had 50,000 instead of a mere 25,000…” – General Egeus. 

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Captain Marvel: “There’s Titan, Drax – it won’t be long now. But why so silent? What are you thinking about?”

Drax The Destroyer: “About how difficult it may be, once our alliance is ended… to kill you!”

Hankering for more galactic thrills, it seemed inevitable that Marvel’s spaceborn “most cosmic superhero of all” – the original Kree warrior: Mar-Vell – would get snapped up.

Eager to find out more, an excellent additional feature of Warlock #10 – an insert in which Captain Marvel explains the background (and threat!) of his arch-enemy: Thanos. Usefully, it noted #s 25-33 as the classic ishs in which the two legendary characters went head-to-head.

Initially, Marvel Spotlight #2 (featuring Captain Marvel) came into my hands fairly early on during this hunting season. However, Pat Broderick’s art style failed to alight the Bradmonitor. Not to be outdone, a chance was taken with Captain Marvel #59 (November 1978). Despite retaining Broderick’s pencils, The Trouble With Titan actually offered a more satisfying look, mainly because of the special guest star appearance by Drax The Destroyer. 

“By the Lost Horns of Hala!”

The outlandish contents involve Mar-Vell and Drax having to rescue Eros and Mentor from being “menaced by what manner of monsters, only the the Great Pama knows!” And trespassing in the domain of Lord Gaea – and having to fight their way through his hordes of Earth-Demons to escape! Written by Doug Moench – always a reliable choice (so why couldn’t he have worked on Killraven…?)

Have already picked up further ishs, but so far, #s 25-33 are proving to be elusive… 

In conclusion, me lovelies, it should be pointed out that – in a sale, just to be on the safe side! – another ish of  Killraven WAS acquired. And lo, Brad The Merciful steps in to grant the underachievers a second chance, but…

Ha! Guess what?

Despite having a fascinating splash page, #35 (March 1976) is bogged down with an even more confusing plot; moreover, he grumbles, the addition of an insipid Martian character and a deranged, scantily-clad woman spouting interminable gibberish does NOT guarantee rewarding reading! 

So, it’s official then: Killraven is PANTS….

Not gonna let this absurdity distort my base realities!

But heck! Let’s not end on a bum-note.

As Confucius used to say: “If you’ve got time for one more cake, you’ve bally well got time for one more comic!”

Hey! Looks like yours truly has got just the right thing: 

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“Alas, Iron Fist, you have my sympathy. No man should be spurned by a beautiful woman and fall in battle on the same day!” – El Aguila.

Last and – well, really! Is anyone nuts enough to say: “least” to Luke Cage’s face?! – we have Marvel’s very own dynamic duo: Power Man and Iron Fist. 

This is such a nifty break from my usual cosmic cravings, and besides, back in the day, one ish did pass through me grubby infant mitts, but Brad‘ll be damned if he can recall the exact one! Never fear, random back ishs have been selected, and are turning out to be an unexpected fab treat!

#65: “An Eagle In The Aerie” (Oct 1980) is great fun. En route to the Aerie (HQ of Heroes For Hire), Luke and Danny are followed by old adversary: El Aguila and – “Santa Maria!” – half the staff of all-female guards have revolted and all three costumed heroes have to defend the Aerie from all-out assault.

El Aguila leaps and bounds suavely through battle, firing bursts of his biologically-generated electricity through his sword while exclaiming: “Believe me, senoritas, doing this hurts my heart as much as it does your lovely bodies.”

Before Luke and Danny can get a word in, the Eagle escapes in a helicopter, but not before smooching the secretary.

Ah, they don’t make masked men of mystery like that any more…

If only Killraven oozed just half the charm of El Aguila…

Been searching for ish #58 (El Aguila’s initial appearance) but – not surprisingly – it is rare and expensive.

Finally, could not resist including this intriguing lil cameo from another Marvel stalwart:

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Iron Fist: “You’re up early, Luke. How did you sleep?” 

Power Man: “Kept dreamin’ ’bout floods an’ tidal waves.”

Iron Fist: “Sorry about the waterbed.”

Originally, this Post began back in September(!), revised in November, but it has taken the last few gruelling days just to finally launch this draft – well, anything really! – into the blogosphere.

Relieved, rather than pleased, to have accomplished some writing again.

Meanwhile, quite a considerable comics collection has amassed here over the past few months – therefore CANNOT WAIT to discuss, in a flurry of forthcoming Posts, the juiciest finds with you!

So, while the world falls apart, this:

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…is where you’ll find me: the “Leisure Hive” @ Brad Manor. 

Happy hunting, True Believers!

You would NOT BELIEVE what you can get for 60 Portions these days…   

Arrival: The Bradscribe Review

What Is The Purpose Of This Movie?

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“The premise is that aliens are landing in places that make no sense, and nothing is happening. The world is freaking out… I love that” – Denis Villeneuve.

“I was in love with the exaggeration of reality or exploration of the world from a different point of view, which is science fiction” explains Denis Villeneuve.

When the French-Canadian director admits that “it’s tough to find good science fiction material,” at least he has tried – and succeeded – to rectify this matter in the intriguing form of Arrival, the sort of thought-provoking SF that rarely gets the big-screen treatment.

Based on Ted Chiang’s novella: “Story of Your Life” – a “highly scientific, not inherently cinematic” work – twelve massive, shell-shaped spacecraft appear in the most unlikeliest locations around the world. And the race is on to find out What They Want.

On a university campus, comparative linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks, (played by Amy Adams)realises that constant low-flying jets and a collision in the car park signify that this is turning out to be no ordinary day.  

After learning about the Breaking News of the Century – strangely enough on an HD TV, not via smartphone – the Prof is soon whisked away by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to Montana where the USA’s very own extraterrestrial representative has chosen to hang around. 

There is no explanation as to why a section of the craft opens up every eighteen hours, or how this arrangement was initially achieved but, nevertheless, a palpable sense of wonder ensues. 

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“…At the end of the day, it’s a story about a woman and her child, and the choices she makes. That’s really interesting to play in a sci-fi movie about communication and global war” – Amy Adams.

Why are they here, indeed.

For the central role, Adams puts in an engaging performance, one of intimacy and empathy, managing to elevate this material from the depths of absurdity to which it could so easily have sunk.

And despite its disturbing nature, the gradual unravelling of international tensions actually makes for compelling viewing.

Perhaps the most enthralling scene is the intrepid hazmat squad’s literally breath-taking ascent into the spacecraft, and their conversion to a vertical gravity. One discrepancy and all the guests would hurtle back/down to terra firma!

The visitors referred to here as  “heptapods” appear and dissolve in mist behind a transparent screen. They reminded me of the tentacled martians as depicted in The War Of The Worlds; the whale-like sounds they emit are particularly haunting. 

“Abbott and Costello” – how charming! Why do we see just two of them? …And we didn’t get to find out why they each have seven legs, either.

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I didn’t think it would look as big and expansive as it is. We’re in a black box. With a white screen and a hazmat suit… It emotionally wrecked me” – Jeremy Renner.

What a relief that Arrival spares us the eerie and stereotypical dramatic scenes of the alien armada ominously approaching Earth. Quite unlike more standard alien invasion flicks –gadzooks! They’re here already! An unsettling touch if ever there was one. And it is nothallelujah! – an invasion anyway!

Such a welcome cavalcade of subtle ideas: scientific, cultural and – oh yes! – linguistic. Part of the fascination for this movie centred on wondering how Villeneuve et al would bring it to a satisfactory denouement. Had expected a twist, but on a non-linear level? Heavy, baby.

Ultimately, its stark themes convince us that this film is not about the aliens, but about us: the complicated bipeds. In attempts at First Contact, these proceedings instead invoke that inherent inability to effectively communicate among our own species. Not only does communication (and co-operation) break down, in this hi-tech age, it gets switched off! 

As one news reporter rightly remarked at one point, whatever benevolent need our visitors require, why do they come in twelve ships, when only one would have sufficed?

It is startling to realise that in that cramped and bustling army camp in Montana, Dr. Banks is the only major female presence. Really?!

It is almost miraculous how she and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) crack the intricacies of the alien non-linear orthography in unbelievably short time and in such stressful geopolitical circumstances.

Thankfully, this film is more engaging than Interstellar, and undoubtedly light years more worthwhile than Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Perhaps Arrival’s greatest asset is that, in a world increasingly tearing itself apart through social unrest and breakdowns in diplomacy, it could not have been released at a more apt time…

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4-out-of-5