Panther Tracks: The Rough Guide To Wakanda

This Is NO Rinky-Dink Panther…

“Strange! Though we’ve never met, I have a feeling about you. Why do you search my face so intently?” – T’Challa.  

“The tracks are gouged deep into the snow as if seeking permanence against an umpermanent environment. The Panther moves as the great cat, stalking impulsively…”

“Jungle Action was a collection of jungle genre comics from the 1950s, mostly detailing white men saving Africans or being threatened by them,” recalled writer Don McGregor. “I voiced a lament that I thought it was a shame that in 1973 Marvel was printing these stories, and couldn’t we have a black African hero…” 

He remembered that back in 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had introduced an African superhero called the “Black Panther” – none other than King T’Challa of the secretive state of Wakanda – in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) so planned to make the title the Panther’s own. 

Hard to believe now, but giving a black character his own ongoing series was deemed to be such a risky move back in 1973. Although Jungle Action was cancelled after only 26 ishs, with McGregor‘s amazing writing – plus art by Billy Grahamit has become a cult classic. 

Anyway, ever since this character bewitched me in an extraordinary ish of Fantastic Four – #241, Render Unto Caesar! April 1982; reviewed here: – at the very beginning of my quest for Bronze Age awesomeness eighteen months ago, knowledge of this king and his country has been duly sought.

The most crucial point to bear in mind is that in the Marvel Universe, as Earth‘s solitary source of vibranium – the most precious, but least understood, mineral of all – Wakanda has become the most scientifically and technologically advanced country in the world.

Lee and Kirby may have brought the Black Panther to life, but McGregor can be credited with not only developing T’Challa’s character but creating the cultural and geopolitical entity that is the kingdom of Wakanda. 

And what a truly marvellous country it is too!

 

Wenzori: “Watch out, Jakak! It‘s that panther-devil ! Get out of my way and I’ll sear him in half!”

Jakak: “But how can it be him, Wenzori? We were with Killmonger when we left him for dead… left him for the wolves of the mist to devour!!”

“The ruby lasers infrared scope changes the night into weird, surrealistic shapes. The sleek, pantherish figure becomes an abstract being against a spectral icescape. It is easier to kill an abstraction than a human being!”

Jungle Action Featuring: The Black Panther is a phenomenal classic title.

The story arc: Panther Rage – unravelling from #s 4-26 (1973-76) is regarded by comic historians as the very first graphic novel, and one of the masterworks in an age brimming with experimental and groundbreaking comics.

Recently – on my last few expeditions into the capital – this series his eluded even my superior tracking skills. Did manage to find a collection of back ishs in excellent condition, but they were going for extortionately-high prices…

However, only last month, a single copy of Jungle Action ish #13 (January 1975) emerged @ my local awemonger’s emporium. The God Killer is an intriguing story; much of the action takes place on an icy tundra – can this really be the heart of Africa?!

Page 14 is just sensational; here is Billy Graham’s original pre-colour draft:

“It was almost like a mythical place to us – to a lot of us, as African-Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story” – Ryan Coogler.

“There are two major religions in Wakanda. T’Challa wears th sacred attire of the Panther religion. It is torn and crusted with blood and sweat, but it is no less sacred a garment. 

“The regal, savage beings that congregate below him are the foundation of  Wakanda’s second religion. They have the stature of gods… the awe-inspiring White Gorillas!”

Undoubtedly, Wakanda is a deeply spiritual place.

In ancient times, the panther goddess Bast bestowed the power of vibranium to the very first Black Panther, granting himand all his descendants – super-strength and enhanced agility.

Fast forward to 2016, and what appeared to be a baffling appointment: National Book Award winner: Te-Nihisi Coates to write the current manifestation of Black Panther.

No worries, it has become a critically-acclaimed, unputdownable success – highly recommended. Not to be left out, your correspondent was glad to pick up #17 (October 2017) and yes, that is Storm of the X-Men sharing the cover. They were married, (until the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover forced T’Challa – as High Priest of Wakanda – to annul that union.)

Rather helpfully, Te-Nihisi included a map of Wakanda. Landlocked, and seemingly impenetrable from the outside world by the mountainous Jabari-Lands to the northwest and the sprawling Lake Nyanza to the east, any outsider would, nevertheless, recognise its big and bustling cities (known in the Wakandan tongue as ‘Birnins’) sprawling into the jungle and touching the sky with super-sleek skyscrapers.

All seven Birnins are named after the greatest Panthers in antiquity, and each actually resembles a fortress, rather than an urban area. The Panther Throne is set in Birnin Zana (th Golden City), while the spiritual centre of the country lies to the south of Birnin Bashenga. 

Mena Ngai (The Great Mound) is where the vibranium lies – hidden in plain sight…

“Move! Or you will be moved!” – Ayo.

“The sun never penetrates Serpent Valley! It is banished from the lush, primeval interior by the dense cloud forest that has been the only “sky” this land has ever had…

“Erik Killmonger maintains his brisk, tireless pace. The others sweat profusely, but Killmonger’s brow remains dry and he seems not to notice the sweltering vapour…”

Before signing on to make the 18th MCU movie, writer/director Ryan Coogler informed Head Honcho Kevin Feige that he would have to travel to Africa to be able to effectively create an amazing African adventure. 

Although Wakanda is a fictional country, it was deemed imperative that the essence of Africa – its sights, sounds, smells and tastes – be represented in all its stirring vitality on film. Ryan spent several weeks (alone) in various locations in South Africa.

Was he able to capture th essence of Africa on film? 

“We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication. Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the colour of walls. And through the ugly stuff too. Through conflict. Through weapons.

“It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. 

“You know what I’m saying?”

Judging from the ultracool clips we’ve glimpsed so far, the movie looks every bit as cool and colourful, exciting and emotional as any of the MCU’s finest entries. Besides, how can a movie set in a highly-advanced Afrio-futuristic wonderland where the Monarch of the Panther Throne is protected by a crack troop of female bodyguards: the Dora Milaje (see above!) NOT be awesome?! 

“He has not spoken for 24 hours, and the words come from blistered lips, deeply split by the glacial cold. Dried blood is on his tongue, and speaking has ripped the healing wound open. Fresh blood spills into his mouth. 

“He wonders if they have understood one word of his clever repartee…”

Blood and death? Is this all I am to hear for the rest of my days? Could you not find pleasure in the act of love… or have you become so perverted that you find excitement and entertainment only in brutality?” – The Black Panther.

 

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Here’s To Hela: The Girl With The Awesome Antlers

A Dance With The Goddess Of The Underworld 

“I thought you’d be glad to see me!” – Hela.  

In this unpredictable universe, Norse mythology first came to my attention in the most unlikeliest form… a comic book. Out of all the ishs that could have introduced me to the God of Thunder, so glad ’twas The Mighty Thor #314 (December 1981). As explained in this Post: the bonus feature: Tales Of Asgard: Judgment… And Lament just blew me away.

Who in the Hel could that tall, elegant, yet deadly, lady, clad in a green and black one-piece, be? Wielding such an elaborate headdress, she had single-handedly slain ALL NINE of Odin’s Valkyries, and recast Valhalla in the same grim and mist-beset manner as her own dread-realm of Niffleheim.

Our eyes met across a crowded comic book…

So accustomed to the dreary Western European concept of Death as a hooded skeleton wielding a scythe, Hela turned out to be quite a life-changing revelation. 

What was the significance of the green colour system? Moreover, what was it with those bizarre, yet impressive, horns?! To me, my tomes of esoteric knowledge!

“You look like a smart boy…” 

My quest to find out more concerning this dark enchantress began with the most reliable option: The Prose Edda – the renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature – written by the 13th century Icelandic chieftain: Snorri Sturluson.

Daughter of Loki (in both the original mythological tales and The Mighty Thor comic) and Angrboda [Sorrow Bringer] – an ogress who lived in Jotunheim (Giant Land) – Hel is the sister of Fenris (aka Fenrir) the giant wolf and Jormungand the Midgard serpent – NOT Thor and Loki as depicted in the latest movie!

In The Prose Edda, the passage known as Gylfaginning 34 states:

“When the gods discovered that these three siblings were being brought up in Giant Land – they learned through prophecies that misfortune and evil were to be expected from these children…

“Hel Odin threw down into Niflheim and made her ruler over nine worlds…”

“Her hall is called Eljudnir, [Sprayed With Snowstorms] her dish is Hunger, her knife is Famine, her slave is Lazy…

“The threshold over which people enter is a pitfall called Fallandaforad [Falling To Peril], her bed is named Kor [Sick Bed], and her bed curtains are named Blikjandabol [Gleaming Disaster]. She is half black and half a lighter flesh colour and is easily recognised. Mostly she is gloomy and cruel.” 

It is important to note that half her body (and half her face) is corpse-like, although this point was never accentuated in the comic books. 

Hela’s billowing green cloak somehow ensures that her metabolism is kept stable – take her cloak away and she would, theoretically, wither away into nothingness but then, she is far too strong and powerful to allow anyone near her…

Thor: “Mine enchanted hammer shall lead thee far from Earth… as only Mjolnir can. Then when I have lost her… Thor shall strike once more. But Hela shall not know the where or when…”

Hela: “Flight is useless. To Hela all of time and space are one. There is no time – there is no place – where death does not hold sway.”  

Hela made her debut in the Marvel Comics Universe in Journey Into Mystery #102 Death Comes to Thor (1964) adapted from Norse mythology by the masters themselves: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 

Hela possesses attributes common to Asgardian gods: superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility and durability – and vast mystical powers which she can use for various effects like limitless astral projection while retaining many of her powers and abilities, firing deadly bolts of energy from her hands, levitation and the creation of illusions. Her most powerful ability is her Hand of Glory, a technique that uses mystical energy to enhance the strength of her punch to kill even an Asgardian.

Intriguingly, during her very first Marvel appearance, the Goddess Of Death is instrumental in Thor gaining Mjolnir. How ironic then, that Thor: Ragnarok contains that now-iconic scene in which she shatters that very same hammer!

That’s Hela for you – as unpredictable as death isself…

Stand thee back, Asgardians! Hela must now gather all of the awesome enchanted power at her command! Gaze in unheralded wonder as she doth conjure a monumental spell which shall seal yonder pit into its own accursed dimension forevermore!”  

Only last month did the sensational #190 (July 1971) come into my disbelieving grasp. Paid twice as much as usual for this. But no matter – …And So To Die! is an EPIC – and one of THE most moving – stories of the Bronze Age. Odin is prepared to eliminate Hera once and for all, but how can Order be maintained if ’tis bereft of Death?

And so Thor agrees to forfeit his life. But his beloved Lady Sif – shocked to learn of this ploy – pleads with Hela to save the God of Thunder’s life:

Sif: “Hela! Though thou be the Queen of Death, thou art a woman, too – surely, love hath touched thine heart?”

Hela: “Why speakest thou to me of love?”

Feelings wert awakened within me… feelings of compassion… desire… and love. At long last, Hela knew what it meant to be a woman, but I be Goddess of Death, as well… and can ne’er consummate these longings… for all I touch turns to dust, a tragedy ne’er to be resolved…”

If my Top 10 Fave Comics In The Bradscribe Collection were compiled now, expect to find this ish riding high in that chart. 

Loki: “Hela, time and again have I striven to become Ruler of Asgard only to be blocked at every turn by Odin and Thor… ‘Tis my wish to cause the fall of the realm – aye, no less than Ragnarok – the Twilight of the Gods!” 

Hela“Long hath Hela waited to hear thee say those words, God of Evil! Thou hast come to one who can help thee… one who profits greatly by the deaths of gods or mortals…”  

In #278 Time of the Trolls (November 1978)Hela plotted with Loki to bring about Ragnarök by slaying the god Balder then attacking Asgard. She summoned Volla’s spirit before this to tell her and Loki about Ragnarok, after which she prepared an army of monsters to attack Asgard. However, Odin used his powers to prevent Balder dying.

Although her role in this story is too brief for my liking, the panels she does get to own are suitably formidable. 

‘Twas a time when Roy Thomas and John Buscema were at the peak of their respective powers… 

Hvað varstu guðin aftur?” 

And a portrait of Hela by the great Charles Vess – this just gets better and better! 

“Now… tell us more than thou didst tell Odin! Draw aside the veil – further than ’twas drawn before!” 

Well, it never seemed possible that a character as remarkable as Hela could ever reach the big screen. After disappointing interpretations of certain members of the X-Men – and Drax The Destroyer – there were nothing but misgivings regarding her cinematic debut in Thor: Ragnarok.

Fortunately, with some memorable badass lines and a phenomenal performance by Cate Blanchett, her onscreen presence is a triumph, even if it barely scratches the surface of this tantalising – yet tragic – character.

Recently in the comics, Hela has, apparently, begun hanging out with the death-worshipping Thanos. Can we, therefore, expect to see this formidable couple together in Avengers: Infinity War?!

The case continues… 

 

More Thorsomeness Next Thorsday!

“Cate Blanchett is just brilliant as Hela. She is one of the greatest actors… I was so excited to see what she was going to do with Hela… I was completely blindsided by the outcome. She just has this insane off-kilter attitude or look or kind of movement to her character” – Chris Hemsworth. 

 

“Asgardians… farewell.

When next I come,

not all thy tears… 

not all thy pleas… 

shall stay me…

Till then, rejoice!

Ye have each other

while Hela endures… alone…” 

 

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.

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

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: 3 Ooga-Chakas outta 5

3outof5

 

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

 

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

 

“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.

 

Origins Of An Ace Oddity: The Blogger Recognition Award!

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

korath

“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

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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…   

Doctor Strange: The Bradscribe Review

Open Your Eye…

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“It’s Strange” – Doctor Strange.

“Maybe, who am I to judge?” – Kaecilius. 

When you’re strange, faces come out of the rain.

When Bennybatch is Strange, Marvel go ALL OUT to make the fourteenth – and latest – entry in their formidable Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange, a spectacular and one-heckuva-trippy outing. 

Straight after the new, enhanced Marvel Studios logo is unveiled, we are led on a blistering ride of energy-harnessing and reality (re)shaping.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a long way from Holmes in the role of arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, whose self-centred world comes crashing down around him after losing the use of his hands in a horrific car accident. He is advised to travel to Nepal, where answers of a mystic kind can be attained… providing he foregoes his stubborn defeatist attitude that “this material universe is all there is.”

Cumberbatch has the right look, mood and elocution to create this extraordinary character – no wonder the studio upheld production until he had completed his Hamlet sting in London’s West End!

Having got over initial reservations concerning visuals designed TOO closely to the aesthetic originally concocted for Inception and The Matrix, such scenes as soaring through the multi-dimensional vortices and the confrontation with the dread Dormammu are suitably good fun.

“Have you seen THAT at a gift shop?”

Fortunately, complementing the impressive visuals is a really snappy script: bold, intellectual, coherent and invariably humorous. 

For a handy intro to this character, see here:

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“You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You’ve spent your life trying to widen it. Your work saved the lives of thousands. What if I told you that reality is one of many?” – The Ancient One. 

Much controversy centred around Tilda Swinton’s casting as The Ancient One. Changing the ethnicity to Celtic (?!) was (ahem) strange, but when you consider that the original setting for all those mystic arts was switched from Tibet to Nepal so as to appease the Chinese box office, it all becomes so painfully politically “correct.”

By the Rings of Raggadorr, the Power of Yen conquers all it seems. Business is – annoyingly, regrettably – business. 

Wong (Benedict Wong)his forever-faithful, forever-making-tea manservant from the comics – has been upgraded to Head Librarian. Amazingly, the titular role and the librarian are both played by top British thesps who share the same forename: Benedict – how strange!

Kaecilius – as noted before, is a character NOT found in the comics. Maybe he is not given as many memorable dastardly moments as we would like, but hey! The fact that it is played to sinister perfection by Mads Mikkelsen, possibly my – and your! – fave villainous character actor provides enough reason to rejoice.

And when you’re starting to wonder how this visual treat ties in with the rest of the MCU, there IS the honorary Stan Lee cameo – that is hilarious! To help bring further MCU relevance to these proceedings, Wong helpfully states:

“The Avengers protect the world from physical enemies… we safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

Too right, Wong!

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“Steve Ditko is one of the greatest Marvel artists in history… We are now able to take his trippy comic panels and have the technology to put that into big 3-Dimensional space on a movie screen… it’s amazing” – Kevin Feige. 

Okay, let’s get the most annoying problem (which applies to too many movies these days, not just Doctor Strange) out of the way first.

As is all too painfully predictable in modern cinema these days, Rachel McAdams has woefully little to do here, worryingly described as the “love interest.” As is so often, her “appearance” is reduced to insipid underdevelopment. And Stephen shows little Interest anyway. Yet again, we are left wondering what necessitated her inclusion at all…

It would have been really groovy if Martin Freeman’s American character from Cap America: Civil War had made a cameo somewhere here! Talk about opportunity missed…

Once again – as expected, Vishanti be praised! – Marvel has produced another great hit. It’s well worth checking out. Remember to stay for the post-cred scenes; BOTH are impressive – one features a cameo from one of Marvel’s well-established heroes (Hint: he does NOT like tea!)

As for me, multiple repeat viewings are assured – while you go and enjoy this one, Brad will be pleasantly coming down. Preferably with tea.

No mushrooms! Just tea. With a little honey. 

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BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

4 Eyes of Agamotto out of 5 – hey, four Eyes is nothin’ ta snigger at!