The Knack Of Scant Prose: Studying The Formula Of First Prize Short Stories

Can Brad Really Win That Short Story Competition After All These Years?! 

“Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves” – Ray Bradbury.

“Writing science fiction,” wrote Ray Bradbury, “is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.”

Winning a short story competition – one of the goals that has always eluded me – cannot, therefore, be impossible.

Having entered various short story competitions, mainly the sci-fi and horror categories – my hopes and expectations were set at exceptionally stratospheric levels, until realizing that my name never even reached the extensive Runners-Up Lists… And so, my tender years – and even more brittle confidence – finally dissuaded me from tackling short story competitions.

However, recentlyBrad Burrito Fartlighter: a decidedly English galactic hero, has shot to blogosphere fame in his very own “Fartlighter Bradventures.” Come on! Where else could you find the awesome – and hopefully hilarious – escapades of a very English spacefaring rogue who digs Mexican grub and cake?! One forthcoming instalment has been set aside – for professional consultation – so studying the art (and history) of the short story has taken up my time this past week. 

The short story originated in the medium that furnished a market for it: magazines. Common belief holds that the first exponent of this format was Edgar Allan Poe. The majority of the short fiction he produced appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger from 1835 onwards. He is regarded as perfecting the art of striking the keynote – by grabbing attention immediately with a sharp opening paragraph, or even just a sharp opening sentence.

At the moment, it looks like my ideas are flowing more reliably than my typing. Once a really groovy story starts to rock, my dexterity begins to roll. All over the place… 

While frantically pummelling the keyboard – apart from getting the ‘e’ and ‘r,’ and ‘a’ and ‘s’ mixed up, my fingers now hit ‘v’ instead of ‘b,’ and bice bersa…

“A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again” – Colum McCann.  

How – and wheredoes the effective short story begin?

“Start as close to the end as possible,” remarked Kurt Vonnegut, when he included a list of essential tips on How To Write A Short Story in the Introduction to his 1999 collection of magazine stories: Bagombo Snuff Box. He also remarked that: “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

Within a certain (limited) word count, how much characterisation can you realistically inject into a “short” story? Fortunately, Fartlighter is gifted with his own band of lovable rogues: “Brad Company” – doing their nabbing-from-the-greedy-to-give-to-the-needy bit across the galaxy; therefore the diversity on display means that a rich and variable range of potential plotlines lie in wait. 

Besides breaking up the text with images and quotes, a standard Bradventure can amount to 2,600 words. Naturally, the more fun you have with creative writing, you will/can (easily) produce greater quantity. The Christmas Special turned out to be such a blast that at over 5,000 words and still TWO pivotal scenes yet to be typed, a major editing job had to be applied. Thus, my inner Poe was invoked: with less words, comes greater impact.

Sharper – and more economical – than a novel, the short story has to be vividly defined. 

Allow no wandering, no superfluous material – heck, prepare to hack without mercy. 

“A short story is not only smaller… not only simpler and more compact, it is single with a more intense concentration. It should work out a single idea; make a single point; close with a single ‘punch’; convey a single effect” – Geoffrey Ashe.   

Unbelievably, what vexes editors and judges the most involves receiving far too many submissions that offer just a situation, NOT a story!

To set my goals straight, these are the Five Components Of A Story that take pride of place in my notes, and what any short story writer should adhere to!

  • A story reveals something about the human condition, or makes a statement about what it means to be human; 
  • A story tests personal character, over and over, to reveal deeper character;
  • A story has subplots that are dramatic and thematic reflections of the journey of the protagonist;
  • A story ends in a different emotional space than where it began;
  • A story is driven by a strong moral component motivating the protagonist through the middle of the story, resulting in dramatically interconnected scene writing;

Perhaps some modern movie-makers should also study this list? 

Although the story may not have anything to say about the human condition, at least the reader should be able to derive some fun, be engaged, (be shocked?) and – above all – be entertained. 

To create a successful story – the One that sets judges’ pulses racing and jaws droppinga writer MUST convey their OWN ideas and style, to the point of remaking language; let the inexecutable unfold!

At least with my Bradventures, my imagination dares to be adventurous! It’s about time those judges experienced what my writing has become! 

Is it not…? 

“The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor,” Vonnegut continued. “She broke practically every one of my rules… Great writers tend to do that.”

Hmm, in order to get ahead, Brad has to break the rules? 

Ha! So what else is new…?! 

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water… 

“Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of…” –  Kurt Vonnegut.

Wish me luck! 

 

Do The Wampa Stomp!: Dancing To Another Liebster Award

Was Ist Das? Ein Weiterer Liebster?! Ausgezeichnet!

“The world is never the same once a good blog has been added to it” – Dylan Thomas.  

A BIG THANK YOU to Danica @ Living A Beautiful Life for nominating me for another Liebster Award!

This honour is particularly special to me as Danica is truly one of the blogosphere’s exceptional treasures; her collection of “Short Stories, Flights of Fancy and Everyday Anecdotes” are a delight. 

What is the Liebster Award?

The word “liebster” (originating in German) has several definitions — dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued. 

This award recognizes bloggers who offer amazing content and can connect with their readers in ways that are truly awesome. For me, it is an opportunity to show my appreciation for the finest blogs to illuminate my Reader (and let you know that my visits would be far more frequent if poss!)

Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
Give 11 random facts about yourself.
Nominate 11 blogs.
Notify those blogs of the nomination.
Give them 11 questions to answer.

 

11 QUESTIONS Answered

Coffee or tea or mocha/hot chocolate?

Tea all day every day while writing. Mocha whenever in town.

Why do you blog?

To show editors/employers what Brad can do; without anything published (yet) my blogs are the only proof that BRAD LIVES. And has created. 

How would you describe your sense of humor?

Good to flimsy!

What would you do in your ideal day?

Anything with Mrs. B!

Summer or winter?

Summer boy, definitely! English Winters always got the better of me…

Beach or mountains?

Love both! Nothing like walking along a beach. Or biking in the mountains.

Could you live without your smartphone? 

Interesting question!

A more pertinent query would be to ask most people why they feel the need to live WITH one! It has become such a monotonous, time-wasting addiction. Nobody calls/texts me; my laptop offers any data/news updates anyway – would much rather prefer a sardine sandwich than a smartphone, thanks. 

Do you like sardines?

Aha! Now you’re talkin’…

How do you like your eggs?

Preferably on me table, not in me face, cheers!

Does the weather affect the way you see the day?

The best time to write is when a storm is howling outside – gratifying to know you’re not stuck out there in it! 

Can you dance well?

Blimey Charley, CAN Brad dance! Woo-hoo!! Gets on the good foot whenever he can… 

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words” – William H. Gass.

 

11 Random Facts About Brad:

1 THERE’S BEEN NO BLOGGING this past weekend, because my artwork is taking up all my creative time/effort @ th mo! It is another therapeutic way for me to unwind.

2 NEVER EATEN in McDonalds – as an “active” member of the Friends Of The Earth group at college, we voted to boycott all branches (then suffering from a reputation of unhygienic practices) – a principle this freedom fighter has faithfully adhered to ever since…

3 CAN’T STOP playing this:

4 NEVER MET any of my current group of friends. Seeing as you are all bloggers – based predominantly Stateside, (presumably reading this right NOW!) – have wondered how great it would be to have a mocha and a chat with you!

5 MOST OF THE BEST IDEAS for my fiction come to me when out walking.  

6 THE ONLY STAR WARS ACTOR that Brad met was Dave Prowse.

The Green Cross Code was a national campaign during the 1970s to educate UK children road safety issues. Dave Prowse magically appeared in a number of TV commercials as the Green Cross Code Man to instruct kids to: Stop! Look! Listen!  before they dared to venture out into the road. Went to a local funfair to meet him; he took one look @ pint-size Brad and slapped a Green Cross Code badge on me. Will never forget it – was like being punched in the chest! Top bloke.  

7 BELIEVE that Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the GREATEST Movie Ever Made. It excels in every department: direction, cinematography, the acting, etc. It has the best entrance of any character in cinema history; that score by Maurice Jarre! And the screenplay by Robert Bolt remains truly inspirational and unmatched. There are enough fantastic quotes to fill at least THREE of my Posts! Choosing just ONE clip for this Post is gruelling enough, but Anthony Quinn’s first scene is both dynamic and amusing.

(see Question #7)

Auda Abu Tayi: “Who told you that?”

T.E. Lawrence: “I have long ears.”

Auda Abu Tayi: “And a long tongue between them…”

8 THE NAME of my record shop would have been “Al Gore Rythms.” (Would he have approved? Probably not – can’t spell rythms).

9 STILL TYPE ‘s’ instead of ‘a’, and ‘r’ instead of ‘e’!

10 HAD COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN that Bradscribe has its own Facebook page! (Doesn’t matter – NOBODY looks @ it anyway – ha!) 

11 THIS IS THE ONLY BLOG to have LOST Followers in the last six months!  

 

So, now we come to the exciting part!:

My 11 Nominees:

boxofficebuzz

byhookorbybook

cinemaparrotdisco

mycomicrelief

mysideofthelaundryroom

onthescreenreviews

recoverytowellness

sci-fijubilee

stephenliddell

thetelltalemind

wordsforeverything

 

My Questions:

1 What is the best aspect about blogging? 

2 Thor: Ragnarok or Justice League?  

3 Who is your favourite fictional character?  

4 What music have you enjoyed listening to this week?

5 What was the last line of movie dialogue that made you ROFL?

6 Should one writer be allowed to change the background story or ethnicity of another writer’s character?

7 What do YOU consider to be the GREATEST Movie Ever Made?

8 Can you dance well?

9 What should be done to improve Bradscribe?

10 Could you live without chocolate? 

11 We’ve analyzed their attack and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?

 

And finally, here – by popular demand – is the key to how the Official Bradscribe Ratings System works:

 

DJANGO MEETS SARTANA!

DJANGO FANDANGO

DJANGO BELLS

JINGO DJANGO BANJO

STOP! OR DJANGO’S MOM WILL SHOOT 

 

Of course, all my Nominees – hey! and Danica, of course! – excel in a Django Meets Sartana stylee!

Please Don’t Change A Thing…

 

“We gotta go. Come on, move with me. We got a plan, and we’re going to stick to it” – Tony Stark.

 

“Oh Globbits!”: It’s The Bradscribe Video Show!

“Where The Blazes Has That Brad Got To?!”

“He’s Stuck In An 80s Vortex!”

“What, AGAIN?!”

“Eighties – I’m living in the Eighties
Eighties – I have to push, I have to struggle
Eighties – get out of my way, I’m not for sale no murr!” – Killing Joke.

Yes, again!

Welcome to my very own neon sanctuary, which – not that surprising to all those who know an’ love Bradscribe oozes with positive 80s vibes.

A cavalcade of classic 80s pop can get me out of any daggy, uncreative mood. After a few weeks stuck in a rut – unable to make ANY of my writing dance, or fly, in my usual inimitable groovy style – various vids were activated and bingo! – it has worked! My reviews, articles – even my fiction! – are now back on track.

Instead of banging out that intense piece about dystopian SF – besides, it’s a wet and dreary Bank Holiday Monday out there – thought it best to spread this feelgood factor. In this Age of Outrage, we could certainly do with MORE FUN and nostalgia!

This is not the first time this site has delved into Neon Nostalgia and it won’t be the last!

Not only could you listen to the best pop music – on your own Sony Walkman of course! – the 80s also offered the best videos, the best movies, the best telly shows, the best candy etc. etc.

For those of you too young to remember the Golden Age of the music video (or never around then) no worries! Let this selection of some of my faves – with my blessings – be your gateway. 

No need to get your deely-bobbers in a twist! Help yourself to a Curly-Wurly!

Just pull your jacket sleeves up, stick your ghetto-blaster in the air and away we go!

“You’re too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush hush” – Kajagoogoo. 

One of the most distinctive synthpop groups of the 80s was Ultravox – always been fascinated by that snazzy sci-fi name!

They had several classic vids, but this was the best ‘cos it was the most exciting.

Great camaraderie among the group in this highly adventurous vid; plus, the director has even wrangled a way to include Midge Ure’s addiction to hang-gliding as well – huzzah!

You do realise that between 0:30-0:39 you will witness the Greatest Moment in Pop Video History:

“Say, we can act if we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
And you can act real rude and totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile” – Men Without Hats.

And they say that back in the day this fella was a heartthrob? Wild Boys? Too wild fer me, man…

Still, a darn sight better than the talentless cretins the “music industry” foist upon us nowadays, but hey! Promised there would be NO argy-bargy on this Post.

The only mildly offensive material you may encounter here is a very dodgy shoulder pad or two.

You really couldn’t get anyone less offensive than Kate Bush.

Despite being perceived as a tad uncool back in the day, this video has always affected me in a good way. Part of the charm here is a wonderful cameo from Donald Sutherland, and guess what!

Managed to accompany this vid with a gif from cult classic teen vamp shocker:The Lost Boys, which features Donald’s son Kiefer.

Ha, Brad amazes even himself sometimes!

“You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round, round, round” – Dead Or Alive.

Look at this!

With spiky blond hair and bum fluff, THIS is EXACTLY how Brad looked in 1987!

Seriously!

Even at college, the most common thing people in the street asked me happened to be: “Could I have your autograph, Kiefer?”

In 1985, the Sisters of Mercy were a standard dark Goth band, but with the breakthrough Floodland LP in 1987, they became a bigger and better phenomenon. With a steady stream of hit singles, each came with its own elaborate video.

Here, with Dominion, we see what 80s videos excelled at: amazing photography, exotic location shots and iconic moments. This is the most unlikely place to find a saxophone! But then again, anything and everything could work during the 80s.

Here, Andrew Eldritch never looked cooler.

And Patricia Morrison never looked hotter. 

“Karma Karma Karma Karma, Karma Chameleon
You come and go, you come and go
Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red gold and green, red gold and green” – Culture Club.

Dominating BBC TV schedules every Thursday night used to be Top Of The Pops.

If a pop group wanted to boost sales they could do no better than be featured on this show. Sure, all appearances were mimed, the presenters would sometimes bombard audiences with the most appalling puns, and the audience invariably consisted of morons who believed that hogging the cameras was the ONE aim in life, but it became – undeniably – a National Treasure.

Loved the exotic Eastern sounds of Blancmange’s Living On The Ceiling. Fondly remenber this as one of my all-tive fave TV moments, and feeling aggrieved that (being, at that time, without a VCR) there would never be another chance to watch this ever again…

“Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich” – Men At Work.

Now, something to enrich your viewing pleasure!

My American friends will be unaware of this lil gem – the main reason why Brad hardly did any of his school homework! Or his chores! (Whatever they were…)

“Cthulhu for kids” as one bright spark remarked. The narrator: Willie Rushton was a talented writer/satirist and his distinctive voice worked perfectly.

Who needs CGI  when you can do wonders with plasticine?!

With the revelation that Drut spelt backwards is turd, the hilarity lasted for WEEKS – aah, happy times…

“I feel peculiar…”

“Hold a chicken in the air
Stick a deckchair up your nose
Buy a jumbo jet
And then bury all your clothes
Paint your left knee green
Then extract your wisdom teeth
Form a string quartet
And pretend your name is Keith” – Spitting Image.

With film reviews, comic round-ups, fiction, and now 80s Club Nights (WAHEY!!) you can’t deny that Brad is one groovy gaff at which to hang out!

Whatever lousy mood you may find yourself in, trust me, put on this next vid by the Thompson Twins (hey, there’s three of ’em, ha!) and a big, contented grin will always be guaranteed.

“Dance, boy; dance, boy!”

“Wake me up before you go-go
Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake me up before you go-go
‘Cause I’m not plannin’ on going solo” – Wham.

 

And how could we end this Post without including Bill Murray?!

Honestly, it was either him or Molly Ringwald… 

“I ain’t afraid of no gif”

 

Well, what vids did you/do you enjoy the most from the 80s?

 

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2: The Bradscribe Review

The Difficult Second Album…? 

“It’s unlike the first movie in so many ways. It’s wild, it’s daring…” – James Gunn.

“It’s high on its own supply,” stated one discouraging early review.

But hey! That’s no bad thing, ‘cos Brad is high on believing that Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is another veritable smash hit for Marvel! Everybody enjoyed the original – this reviewer included, especially captivated by the wisecracking hamster/monkey/puppy, as you can see here.

Rather than copy all that was awesome and entertaining from the original, this sequel attempts to expand – on the largest scale possible! Plus, just about every riotous and rambunctious scene is ram-packed with a delirious spectrum of candy colours.

Kicking off not long after the end of the first movie, our beloved bunch have to deal with a typically gooey reject from the Men In Black franchise for Ayesha, Gold Leader of the Sovereign race. Due to the uncompromising wiles (and winks!) of the unscrupulous Rocket – stealing batteries?! BAD hamster! – they escape with Sovereign remotely-piloted drones (in a wacky swipe at vintage arcade gaming!) darting after the Milano. In a bizarre twist, the Guardians are saved by the intervention of an ancient and mysterious celestial entity, who ends up providing a substantial emotional heft to these chaotic proceedings.

“Now the expectations are very high, so there’s more pressure… I still think we’re going to surpass expectations, but it’s going to be monumentally different…” – Chris Pratt.

You just gotta dig the snazzy ingredients that constitute the Guardians formula: a groovy opening credits sequence; madcap action; quirky humour; and zingin’-an’-a-pingin’ cosmic thrills presented in a whopping great fun and frenetic package!

Well done to James Gunn for creating a script exploring – within such a mainstream blockbuster – the intriguing psychodynamics of family tensions and, in addition, it’s (g)rooted in how the Guardians find the belonging they crave – developing their own adoptive family unit.

Cool to see the Ravagers again, but even better to see Kraglin – one of the first film’s underrated supporting figures! – receive a more meaty role this time around. But praise for Michael Rooker! Another terrific outing for Yondu – who knew this red-finned dude would provide some of this sequel’s funniest and most powerfully moving moments?!

Oh yes, the Stan Lee cameo is hilariousone of his best! And for this Marvel fanboy: a great surprise to see the Watchers as well!

Inevitably, the biggest scene-stealer is the smallest “Guardian”: Baby Groot, in turns a tricksy twig and soppy sapling.

We all want one! Don’t we?!

“I have the biggest fin because I’m the coolest dude. You will see, in the process of the film, how that comes about – Michael Rooker.

Sure, Vol. 2 had no hope of matching its predecessor: an unexpected smash that set the bar so enjoyably high, but it certainly did pile on lots to relish, but…

Let’s get the niggles outta the way.

One of the weakest points of the first movie is now the primary problem of the second. The only viable reason for bringing Nebula back involved developing her character, but – ho-hum, once again – all she can do is bitch and broodher presence here is even more pointless than three years ago…

Again, Zoe Saldana spent more time getting her face painted than being allowed to expand Gamora’s character…

Really wanted to like Mantis, but she came across as too fizzy and fragile. Her interactions with Drax undoubtedly came cursed with the movie’s poorest lines.

Yes! Sylvester Stallone is more unintelligible than ever…

Naturally, there is still more bickering than actual guarding going on, but hey! That just adds to the charm of the whole caboodle.

But please! Spare me the David Hasselhoff-was-Peter’s-childhood-icon crap. And that frickin’ cameo! Jeez, really wanna unsee THAT…

What, you imagined… he was your Dad?!

You got issues, Quill…

“Only someone like me could pull something like this off…” – Kurt Russell.

To think that Pratt’s own suggestion led to the one and only Kurt Russell being cast as Ego The Living Pranet – a quite formidable opponent who, back in the day, certainly kept Thor – even Galactus! “occupied”!   

Not as badass as Snake Plissken; not as cool as R.J. Macready, Russell’s Egoha! love typing that – is nevertheless an unforgettable monster. Thankfully a more substantial antagonist than Ronan The Accuser! Uff, celestials make rotten Dads, but as our awestruck gaze sweeps across that sumptuous vista, you can’t help but think: that is a handsome planet…

Kurt Russell, the star of Stargate, and doughty white-vested hero of Big Trouble In Little China, is an undeniable icon of SF cinema, and thus certainly adds the necessary style and gravitas here.

The interaction between this father and son is engrossing, until a shocking revelation leads to Peter unleashing his Pac of tricks.

In conclusion then, this movie is an absolute blast!

From the dashing 1980 Russell beaming at Meredith (and listening to Brandy), to the gargantuan finale, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers just the right level of energy and escapism to ensure the quintessential cinema experience.

In actual fact: can’t remember the last time a Big Release elicited so many laughs and tears from yours truly!

Even digged that Mary Poppins gag you never knew you needed!

So, many repeat viewings are assured then.

And the tantalising hint from the post-creds indicating the appearance of one of my Top 5 All-Time Fave Marvel Cosmic Characters in Vol. 3 sounds like the next instalment could be even bigger!

“Oh… YEAH!”

 

BRADSCRIBE RATING: 4 Ooga-Chakas outta 5

 

“‘Rocket do this, Rocket do that…!'” – Rocket Raccoon.  

 

No raccoons or sentient trees were harmed in the making of this Post.

 

Pecs, Pies And Videotape: Confessions Of An ’80s Video Junkie

Slap It In The VCR And They Will Come…

WARNING: Contains strong violence, some mild language and scenes of a dodgy sexual nature

time slip

“Lay me place and bake me pie, I’m starving for me gravy” – David Bowie.  

Know you now of days long past.

A time when the world was young, when video recorders thrived;

the worldwide web but a twinkle in its inventor’s eye,

and wild adventure was fore’er in the offing…

What better way to spend this Bank Holiday Weekend than traipse through the Mall of Nostalgia?!

My life changed forever in mid-August 1984, when we acquired our very first video cassette recorder: VHS you understand (the cool one); the sole kid who often touted the “merits” of Betamax would invariably get beaten to a pulp by the bigger boys.

From that hallowed point onwards, life revolved (spooled?) around tapes: tapes of action movies, tapes of TV comedy shows, tapes of planes, trains and automobiles for Dad, and ballet for Mum, tapes of this an’ tapes of t(h)at. Back then, you see, being able to watch a TV programme a day, a week – or months(!) – after its broadcast date shouted sheer genius! 

And don’t forget the pies… 

Possibly the main reason why best school-buddies: Ed and Boz dropped by my gaff at weekends, and during holidays, involved the double fix of excellent videos and scrumptious pies! In those days, our considerable larder came ram-packed with meaty goodness: steak and kidney, minced beef and onion… but one couldn’t stomach cheese and mushroom – still can’t. All supplemented by a kitchen drawer overflowing with potato chips of every possible flavour!

Probably the coolest addition to the high street was the video rental store. Our local awemonger: Video Stop received frequent visits by yours truly. Don’t regret admitting that more time was spent in there browsing around its ram-packed shelves than in the school library…  

If you – like me – are a child of the 80s, then you will know all-too-perfectly-well what this blogger is blatherin’ on about.

“Don’t insult my intelligence! Please, don’t make me kill you… It will spoil all my fun” – Diana.

For weeks, the latest sci-fi TV sensation from the States had been advertised.

Just known as V – Earth’s first encounter with extraterrestrial visitors! Arriving in fifty motherships, they seek water and resources to save their dying planet, and in return they will bestow upon us all the fruits of their knowledge. TV cameraman Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) stows away aboard the LA mothership and discovers the shocking truth: they are reptilian invaders come to collect humans as food!

The original 2-part opener thrilled me and Ed on the Monday and Tuesday nights respectively. As it went out @ 10:30pm, Dad stuck around to check its suitability for us; he got swept along qith the engrossing drama and SF thrills, and – seeing how enraptured we younglings clearly were, he went out to purchase a VCR on the Wednesday morning.

Way ta go, Daddio!

For that night, the 3- part series: V The Final Battle began, and the whole caboodle got so much better.

Marc Singer was a revelation. Or – more precisely – his pecs motivated me to build upon my embarrassingly weedy frame and maybe – just maybe – rather than beat me up in the playground, the girls would instead start to respect and, perhaps, fancy me…

Another main reason to watch V, of course, was Jane Badler as scheming scientist: Diana – hotter than a pie that’d just come outta the oven.

‘Tis a pity she’s a lizard…

Really, we could not move on without mentioning one of the ultimate SF badasses:Ham Tyler. He holds a reserved place in Brad’s Badass Brigade. Take a butcher’s @ this classic scene and you’ll see why:

“Now that’s a waste of good luggage” – Ham Tyler.

“Just give me some meat an’ a bowl a’ noodles, and make it snappy!” – Hsiao Feng.

Back in the day, you could, inevitably, get titles so indescribably bizarre.

Take – for instance – Time Slip aka GI Samurai: a madcap Jap piece a’ crap. Caught in a sinister storm, an army division is hurled back to the Samurai Era. In the batshit-bonkers carnage that ensues, their tank fires on cavalry charges and all Sonny Chiba (yes! for it is he!) can do is watch his men wiped out by wave upon wave of arrows…

Most of the titles on offer in Video Stop seemed to be rip-offs of either Alien or Mad Max. The latter – fantastically awful titles that had more cheese than, well, a cheese pie – already received somewhat “fervent” attention in this Post.

If a rental proved too turgid to sit through, one constantly-reliable go-to could always be slapped back in the VCR.

Beach Of The War Gods – directed, and starring, that great Taiwanese action-star: “Jimmy” Wang Yu (yes! the one and only!) – is a gloriously hard and funky epic from the legendary Golden Harvest stable. During the 16th century, the Japanese laid siege to the Chinese coastline: killing, looting, burning and other frightful deeds. The petrified plebs of the Windy City dread imminent attack until-!

The Stranger moseys on in…

He persuades Iron Man (yes! Iron Man!) and Brother Li Love (a moody paleface with twenty daggers strapped onto his tunic) to aid him in leading the locals to fight off the Jap hordes.

As to be expected, the dubbing is hilarious, the foley artist is having a gas, and the surf guitar (yes! surf guitar!) soundtrack is outta sight, man!

The climactic battle – hackin’-an’-a-slashin’ through the city streets – is faster and more furious than your average Chinese flick, featuring scintillating choreography, and it just keeps on going and going!

…And going!

But the very first bout a’ blade-battering – when Hsiao Feng Two-Blades kicks off! – is particular gobsmacking. To me, this scene will ALWAYS be a frenetic fave and as-cool-as-fudge:

“Anything you say can and will be held against you…in the court of Robocop” – Jerry.

ALIEN BODIES…

One classic film that constantly eluded me was the original Alien. Although one unforgettable day did come mighty close to changing that…

The box read: “Alien: Starring Tom Skerritt” written in black felt tip. Aha, that’s the bunny! methinks, me quest is over!

Sure enough, Ed and Boz stopped what they were doing and pedalled frantically over to my gaff. Ed had the king-size steak and kidney, Boz tucked in (rather unbelievably) to the cheese and mushroom, while Brad had the beef and onion. Three chip packets rustled in unison as the video started playing. Hmm, no 20th Century Fox logo; funny, not even those iconic credits came on neither…

Strangely, the screen opened, NOT on the dark, foreboding world of LV426, but in a brightly-lt bedroom. On a huge double-bed reclined three young women, with barely one bikini between them.

We gawped in horror as they proceeded to do something unmentionable. With a light bulb…

Searing into my soul, Boz fixed me with his most intense where-the-fudge-is-Tom-Skerritt?! stare: “Jeez, Brad! Ya tryin’ ta corrupt us, fella?!” he blurted. “This must be one of dem Video Nasties that Mrs. Shufflebottom warned us about in class last week! Fer pity’s sake, mate, put Beach Of The War Gods on again, willya?!”

“BLAZES!” yelled Ed, almost spitting his pie out. “I can ‘ear yer Dad comin’ up the hallway! Eject, fella! EJECT!!”

The jittery vid-jockey lunged towards his VCR, an itchy finger quivering over the Eject button.

The bally thing!

It clicked; it whirred. The picture took FOREVER to switch off.

The tape chugged out, just as Dad marched in. To pick up a pencil…

Remember only too well THAT looong, wretched slog back to Video Stop. Too embarrassed to glance at other passers-by – felt like they were staring at me with utter disgust.

Honestly!

A boy of my age…

Carrying SUCH SMUT through a densely populated area…

Too timid to look the video store worker in the eye and hand over THAT TAPE Or have the nerve to inform him that this was definitely NOT the version “directed” by Ridley Scott…

Imagine my utter relief to find, upon arrival, the lad-in-charge had popped out for a pie! The offending article could simply be dropped in the Returns box. Huzzah, my anonymity – not to mention my dignity! – remained intact! To be on the safe side, managed to avoid the store for a WHOLE WEEK so they wouldn’t be able to trace me back to that… that ghastly horridness.

Of course, the three amigos never spoke about it…

Don’t think any of us dared go near another Tom Skerritt movie…

“Okay, who ordered the Burly Beef?” – Sarah Connor.

My dear father and the joy of video rentals granted one of the most memorable birthdays of this boy’s life. Inevitably, Ed and Boz came round for my 14th – with cards and gifts (tapes, obviously).

And lo!

It came to pass that Dad had got me a swell gift – he’d sneaked out and rented a video! (blub)

The cover alone was ultracool – a futuristic dude holding a groovy shoo’er, but sporting the MOST IMPECCABLE PECS! Suddenly, such good vibes emanated from this tape…

Two groovy fellas travel back in time to Los Angeles to hook up with the same clumsy waitress. And then the big guy gets blasted away. Uff, so what…? But then – SWEET BABY JESUS! – he only gets up and spends the rest of the movie chasing the other two across LA! Turns out that he – ha! get this: happens to be a cyborg, sent back to terminate that po’ woman presumably before she can do any more damage to that Diner.

It’s the most ridiculous thing, but pulled off with such great gusto; the action is top-notch, while the pace? Relentless! You know its title; it’s become one of THE iconic SF greats of the 80s – and deservedly so.

Dad was absolutely delighted to see me so happy, and – bless ‘im – only rented ANOTHER video!

He felt chuffed to bits, convinced that he’d got THE PRIZE. As you well know, Aliens is the sequel to the film that would, eventually, take another THREE YEARS to reach my Christmas stocking…

The awesome merits of Aliens appeared not so long ago in this Post.

But what turned out to be really mind-blowing? Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) is also a stalwart member of the the Badass Brigade – Hey! This is turning into quite a nifty reunion! Plus, Biehn had already showed off his pecs in that other Movie of the Day!

A Michael Biehn double-bill the perfect birthday present for anyone!

GOD BLESS MICHAEL BIEHN.

“You could warn them… if only you spoke Hovitos!” – Dr. Rene Belloq.

“Yo, fella, save the BEST till last.”

The BIGGEST movie of Summer ’84 had to be something called: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Knew that it was an old-fashioned action/adventure movie, but that was all. Until Ed clarified that it was actually a sequel to a blockbuster that caused a sensation back in ’81: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Not only promising the ultimate pie-eating experience, we reckon this was our VERY FIRST rental. Whoa, what a visual feast to get the ball – or, in this case, boulder – rolling!

Raiders is a MASTERPIECE; yes, yes, Brad concedes – it IS BETTER than Beach Of The War Gods…

Here is one of its undisputed highlights – one of the finest action sequences EVER produced. John Williams excelled himself here. On my all-time chart, his pieces that give me goosebumps include: The Imperial March; the Tattooine Theme, and the sequence that begins here @ 1:54

Best moment? 4:38ha ha!

Let’s go!:

“Didn’t any of you guys ever go to Sunday school?” – Indiana Jones. 

That, my fellow thrill-seekers, wraps it up for this May Day Weekend.

Since our TV set switched to a digital network, access to our video channel has become a bugger to fix; mould has damaged some of the tapes; Video Stop vanished long ago – the unit is now a softcore hardware store; those friends are long gone; Brad himself is still chooglin’.

However: “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage” – his teeth are worn and bent; his hair is thinning like no tomorrow; and he doesn’t seem to remember ever owning a droid…

But his pecs are – by Jove! – still as firm and pliant as ever!

HUZZAH!

Be Kind, Rewind

 

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

Another Frenetic Excursion Through Bronze Age Awesomeness. 

creatures-on-the-loose-37

“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.