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…   

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The Zandokan Supremacy And The Rebellion Of Rajendra

The Mighty Galactic Federation Has Finally Fallen To The Rotten Zandokan Hordes – Who Will Save Our Cake Now?!

A Standalone Bradventure. Which Means That Brad Ain’t In This One…

“What the-?! If not, why not, eh?! Uff, typical… NEVER invited ta anyfink. Especially at this time a’ year… Can’t even wrangle me way into me own blog?! Jeez, the ‘ole galaxy’s gone NUTS…”

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“Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough” – Ian Curtis.  

“The cosmos is in chaos…” Ajaan Rajendra uttered in grim realization. “That much is certain. We could see, helplessly, how wracked with turmoil the Federation had become, but to learn that it has indeed crumbled under Zandokan might is… unbelievable…”

The warrior-monk-turned-Rebel Leader sat cross-legged, having meditated in twilight on a rocky promontory overlooking the Amethyst Sea. 

His most trusted officer: Commander Alda Vareldt kept an impatient watch, a few yards opposite. With him, a few other bedraggled Rebels waited anxiously.

Behind them, the towers of Dhoby Ghaut Spaceport – its bars and canteens once brimming with noise and good cheer – stood eerily silent that evening.

“We came to collect you, Ajaan,” Alda spat agitatedly. “It’s only a matter of time before the Zandokan fighters arrive. Sorry, sir, but we’ve got ta pull out, pronto.”

They piled into their Stalwart Land Ranger and it passed swiftly through the wastelands of Gundagan…

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“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” – Lao Tzu.

“BEHOLT! ZE POWAIR COZMEEC!” Zan Doka cried manicly as he cradled the stupendous intensity of galactic brilliance between his bionic hands.

Recollections of that regrettable last encounter flooded back to Ajaan as the monotony of the drive set in.

“Duzn’t eet thrill you, Ajaan? Zuch powair eez now rightfully mine! At ze vanguard of our all-out azzault, may army veell be eenveencible! Finally! Ze rotten Federation veell fall unto ME! …Durn’t tell me you’re not imprezzed, Ajaan…”

“Very well. I shall spare you that little victory. But there is something from you I need to know: all that talk of enriching the well-being of the galaxy, why suddenly blight such worth with despicable endeavours and this deplorable empire-buildingWhat makes you think you can succeed?!”

“Mark may wudz, Ajaan of Hygge! Nurbuddy praizez ze goot soul-“

“I would – I would be there to encourage you to do so much more good-“

“Nur! Crush ze Federation and squeeze all eetz corrupt gnats within may totalitarian rule! Then, all those lezzer beingz who zought to mock me would cowair end grovel! THEES eez whut Ay aim to create! Wunce may Empah eez complete, Ay veel veezeet you urn Hygge, end show you how ze grandezt zchemes KEN be accurmpleeshed!

“Mark them… end mark them well. Ay shell be zeeing you egen zooner then you theenk, heh heh…”

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“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe” – Marcus Aurelius.

On the verge of the ancient Bodhi Temple, their transport came to an abrupt halt. Their cruiser stood in the compound at the rear. While Raj’s group squatted on its age-old steps, Kelly tried to open a comlink with the Calista Blockhead.

“We need Brad Company right here! Right now!”

A hologram materialized, but in place of the fabled cake-scoffer, his right-hand man: ‘Arris Wrench appeared in his stead.

“Blazes, ‘Arris! Where’s Brad?!”

“…Er, not ‘ere. ‘E’s ‘ad ta skedaddle back to his homeworld for a ritual that most of his planet’s population must observe this month every year for the foreseeable future.”

Wha-? I thought that idiot Brad was too cool for hokey religions…”

“Look, we’re all stretched at the mo. The Zandokans launched offensives on FIVE fronts, all at once. Me an’ th Co. barely scraped through that skirmish at Dork’s Drift!”

“Okay, we need immediate evac! Can you-“

The Calista Engineer’s deflated sigh said it all:

“Soz, Kells, but there is NO WAY we can get there in time! Ya’ll just have ta-” 

At that moment, the signal crackled out.

“They’ve cut us off!” Deke Dolmec cried in dismay.

“Blazes…” Kelly frowned. “Observe? What could he be watching?!”

“Gah! He’s the original loose cannon. NEVER there when ya need ‘im,” Alda growled disconsolately.

 “Yeah…” Kelly smiled wryly. “Bit of a rogue one, isn’e…?!” 

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“The Empires of the future are the Empires of the mind” – Winston Churchill. 

“That’s it,” huffed Alda dejectedly. “We’re gonna havta get past the Imperial Lightning Field… on our own-“

“Ah no!” Kelly cried. “We’re gonna ‘ave company anyway! Sensors detect THREE Zerpent Kruizers are closin’ in on this sector!”

“LANDO’S TEETH! That’s not all!” Deke blurted as his quadcorder flashed ominously. “It’s the ‘Ead ‘Ombre ‘imself! The Imperial Zentinel is comin’!”

“As I anticipated – ’tis Zan Doka – none of you are a match for him; I must face him… alone. You must go now, my friends; proceed to Kazjgar. Do as I command and rally our disparate rebel factions. Co-ord the counteroffensive-“

“But what about you, Master?!” Yala, one of his brightest students, was not ready to let go.  “We will not leave you at the hands of this… this merciless-!”

As he gave her a reassuring hug, the great Ajaan Rajendra addressed his Followers: 

“Fret not, Zan Doka comes to gloat… only,” Rajendra blinked his bulbous eyes. “I sense that he will not kill me… at least, not on this visit…”

They all looked dejected. 

“My friends – remember: do not let your hearts… and minds… be troubled. Be aware; be mindful through space. And time. Do not dwell for too long on the sufferings of the Federated Planets. You are… all blessed with great resilience! Now, you must leave. There can be no delay!”

They filed out, some smiling nervously at the Rebel Leader, afraid to accept that this could be the last time they saw this beloved ol’ Yanduri alive. 

Ajaan started to move into the temple; Alda lunged forward, whispering: 

“Why don’t you come with us, Ajaan… now?! I am lost without y-“

The Leader smiled sweetly, and clasped his hands on Alda’s shoulders.

“I know you, Alda… it is most unlike you to despair. For all your talk of great leaders…”

Ajaan’s grip tightened. 

“Be one!!”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu.

The infamous buzz of the Zentinel’s ion engines shattered the dusty air above the Bhoja Temple. 

Rajendra knelt beside the fountain in the courtyard… waiting.

Draped in his priestly hooded cloak, he observed the vessel’s descent and a battalion of Shokk troopers disperse. Down the ramp, borne on a wave of suffocating arrogance, the new Ruler of the Universe marched forth. A malevolent grin emerged from beneath elaborate Imperial headgear as the Zandokan Emperor recognised the Ajaan of Hygge. 

Rajendra rose to his feet and shifted back his hood; Zan Doka strode in, rubbing his bionic hands together in glee.

“Hail thee, AjRaj – Defendair of Ze Lozt Cauze! Ha ha, how ya doin’?”

“I was having a good day…” the Yanduri moaned and beckoned the Emperor to follow him back into the temple.

“Ya, uv courz! Yo really hef to sharpen yer inzults eef yo weesh ta eemprezz yer Nemezzeez!” 

Ajaan abruptly halted; Zan Doka stopped to gleer at his archenemy.

“By the Silver Shards of Callifrax, Zan, what have you done? You and your accursed empire – the galaxy is tearing itself apart,”

“Urn ze contrairy, fool, unlike uther would-be zupairveellainz who could only brag about what they would do with great power, Ay hef achieved whut Ay zet out to do!”

“Nay, the Power Cosmic has driven you mad… Why come back? You detest this planet – you said so, many times. What, getting cramp lounging on your misbegotten throne for too long?” 

Zan Doka halted, staring up at the bewitching ceiling of the Inner Sanctum. 

“Cunning old toad! Ay come beck to tell you WUN theeng: Ay tuld yo zo! Yo ken muztair a thouzand zquadronz, conzolidet dozairns uv mavereek worldz AGENZT ME – warp ze Powair Cozmeec – heh! Eef you ken…! But from the perilous heightz of the Moggadorr Mountainz to the zcintillating shores of the Crystal Zea of Izmeer, mah Empah shall ENDURE EETERNAL! Heh… I tuld yo zo….”

“Uff, spare me your insufferable monologuing, dotard,” Rajendra bowed his head in shame. 

“Ah…! Ay zenze… yer beetternezz – end… mebbe a pen that gnaws et ze vairy core uv yer being… What eez eet, Ay vonder? What ailz thee…?”

Rajendra slowly looked up, his eyes ablaze with mystic fury:

“I cannot believe we had the same mother…”

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May the Sovereign Of Our Universe save us all… 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Bradscribe Review

Episode VII: Luke Skywalker has vanished… 

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“The idea of being involved in it frankly felt dangerous” – J. J. Abrams. 

“Come on, baby, don’t let me down!” growls everyone’s favourite nerfherder during one of the many exhilarating moments in this record-smashing latest installment of the galaxy’s greatest saga. This perfectly sums up the expectations – not just of my humble self – but millions of fans as the weeks, then days, till release were agonisingly counted down.

No worries; fortunately for all of us, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumph, and deservedly so. J. J. Abrams has crafted a superior space fantasy, offering so much more than just a fanboy pastiche – embellishing this blockbuster with plenty of brand new and intriguing delights, forging the franchise in a bold and promising direction. Give him a film project with ‘Star’ in the title and – yay – he will work wonders…

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“I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum” – Daniel Craig. 😉

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“People were like: ‘Oh my God, you’re Rey Solo’ – this is what people do, they just assume I’m Han Solo’s daughter, it’s not even a question any more” – Daisy Ridley.

It’s fantastic to see the new generation of Wars stars: Ridley, Isaac and Boyega – and, what the heck, BB8 as well – establish themselves firmly and convincingly in this beloved galaxy. 

As the central character, newcomer Daisy Ridley more than holds her own as the resilient Rey. Most curiously, when we first see her, she is merely a scavenger, searching for scrap from the now-legendary Battle of Jakku (and selling it to Simon Pegg! 😉 and – bizarrely – squatting in the shell of a fallen AT-AT. Pretty soon, she’s – what the-?! – not only flying the Millennium Falcon, but perfectly adept at the Ways of the Force. Blimey, Charley! She’s just too good to be true…

In Finn (John Boyega), we have a completely different type of character: a stormtrooper who – after a change of conscience – wants to defect to the Resistance. Through a compelling plot development, he helps the escape of star-pilot: Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The time is right for Star Wars to have a new cocky young flyboy, and Dameron certainly makes the grade. 

Must – at this point – express what a delight it was, at last, to meet the wonderful, yet enigmatic, Maz Kanata. She reminded me a lot of the old dears who sell jasmine garlands in downtown Bangkok. Her “castle” is the sort of blissed-out, rad dive this blogger would have loved to frequent during his college days.

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“I feel there’s a recklessness about him that’s maybe not normally associated with the Dark Side. You normally think of order, and structure… he’s just a little bit more unpolished” – Adam Driver. 

For me, by far the best, most tantalising new addition to the cast is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He not only looks right, but – by Jove! – he sounds menacing enough. Black-robed and badass: that’s how we dig it around here! Could it get any better? 

In time-honoured tradition of Star Wars – with his ragged crossbeam lightsabre and disconcerting mask – he has captivated and freaked out the entire fanbase in equal measure. 

Hey,  don’t mean to brag, but his true identity was sussed on this blog months ago. And what he does towards the end of this episode – with Rey, Finn and Chewie looking on in horror – actually came as NO surprise. At all. 

Before moving on: let it be known that Supreme Leader Snoke was superb and sufficiently sinister – another unforgettable contribution from Andy Serkis.  

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“I didn’t have the imagination to recognise the future potential for the character. I was only going to do three of them, so I wanted to use the character to supply some bass notes, some gravitas” – Harrison Ford.  

It was just amazing to see that wondrous piece of junk – not Han Solo, ha ha! – but his eternally supercool Corellian freighter which – inexplicably – just happens to be standing neglected on Jakku AND in the exact area from which Rey and Finn must make their escape?! How opportune… 

There is no dramatic build-up to the entrance of Han and Chewie together, but the lump in the throat is still inevitable. Funnily enough, after all these years, Han is STILL moody and obsessive over the Millennium Falcon, forever quick to remind anybody that it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 14 – sorry! – 12 parsecs. 

But when General Leia first steps into view after 32 years, quite frankly my tear-ducts burst. SO GOOD to see Carrie Fisher in a Star Wars movie again. 

As a HUGE fan of the X-wing Fighterit was, after all, my very first Star Wars toy – the sensational sequence featuring a whole squadron of them skimming the surface of that lake was irresistibly stupendous. The ensuing dogfight offered an enticing spectacle. This movie also honoured one of this franchise’s more stirring trademarks: TIE fighters chasing our heroes through ever-narrowing tunnels of vast installations.

Just can’t get enough of that wrecked Star Destroyer embedded in the sands of Jakku. 

Impressive. Most impressive.

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“In the street, they call out: ‘Hey, Princess!’ which makes me feel like a poodle” – Carrie Fisher. 

Yes, there are a few quibbles:

  • Having been enthralled at the prospect of Captain Phasma: a female stormtrooper, we looked forward to finding out what she would do. Bah! A couple of forgettable lines and nothing else hardly seems worth the bother…
  • Been waiting on tenterhooks to hear the new score by legendary composer John Williams. Don’t know about you, but there were no discernible epic tunes here.
  • The movie ends on Skellig Michael, a World Heritage site off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. That’s the problem: without any CG tinkering whatsoever, it looks exactly like it was filmed… off the coast of County Kerry, and NOT in a galaxy far, far away…  
  • Seeing Joseph Gordon-frickin’-Levitt all greened-up, supposedly as Yoda? (!) at the Hollywood premiere on Monday night. Jeez, what a prat… 

Let’s not deny it: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a successful re-engagement with the myth and magic that has made this the best-loved and most durable franchise.

Despite being several notches down from the glorious masterpiece that was The Empire Strikes Back, this is still a Magnificent Seventh Episode in its own right. 

And – oh yes – the Force IS strong with this one! 

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© All Rights Reserved

Any scum and villainy who dare swipe any of this stuff for their own nefarious ends shall be cut down by my crossbeam lightsabre!

Grumble, grumble, disturbing lack of faith, etc, etc. 

Return To Mars: Why The Red Planet Fascinates Us So Much

No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…

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“We can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space” – H G Wells.

Allegedly straight lines on the equator of Mars were first termed: “canali” (canals) by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli who observed and illustrated them in 1877. Even Percival Lowell – the esteemed astronomer who discovered Pluto – weighed into the controversy, claiming that the canals could only be “the work of some sort of intelligent beings.” 

For any canal to be visible from the Earth, the notion of engineering involving extremely implausible Amazonion proportions only fuelled the Martian-believers hopes even more. Such a gargantuan feat of engineering could only be the work of a highly sophisticated race.

By the time the far-fetched canals of Mars theory could be scotched, it was far too late. An enthusiastic and optimistic Victorian society had accepted the prospect of galactic neighbours, albeit with some considerable trepidation. From this age of astronomic madness emerged one of the enduring classics of science fiction. The War of the Worlds was first published in Pearson’s magazine in the Spring of 1897.

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“I had a dream aboutman. He is not from our world. He came down from the sky and spoke to me. He said we are from the third planet… We come from Earth” – Ylla.  

“They live in a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars, by the edge of an empty sea. In the evenings, when the Fossil Sea’s warm and motionless, Mr. K sits in his room, listening to his book.” 

So says the narrator over the 1980 TV adaptation of The Martian Chronicles: my introduction to the impressive work of Ray Bradbury; also, it marked the first time that Mars made an impression on me.

It was memorable for being so downright creepy. The theme music was unforgettable. Reviewing it thirty years later, the poor special effects look more dire than ever. However, the screenplay by Richard Matheson is still quite affecting even now. Perhaps the most outstanding scene ever to take place on Mars can be seen here. It is a brief, yet magical, moment – one of my all-time faves.

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“There’s what they call the ‘Mars curse’ in the movie industry. I think the last time there was a significant commercial success that took place on Mars was Total Recall” – Andy Weir.   

Ever since, though, it has been difficult to find that many films relating to Mars that are actually worth sitting through. Oddly enough, the first two Mars-related movies that spring to mind are the eerie Invaders From Mars (1953) and the hilarious Mars Attacks! (1996) but these two classics deal with the Martians on Earth. 

One of the earliest film forays onto the red planet was the distinctly baffling Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), which featured Adam (Batman) West. It is one of those obscure 60s oddballs that – let’s face ithasn’t been mentioned anywhere else in the blogosphere all this month. Here is the trailer in case you were wondering whether such a bizarro movie exists!

Total Recall (1990) was based on a 1966 short story: “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. This Paul Verhoeven-directed sci-fi action adventure pic starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who learns that his life is merely an implanted memory, and must travel to Mars to learn the truth. The movie became intriguing once it revealed subterranean engineering works constructed by a long-since-vanished alien civilization.

2000 was a diabolical year for movies set on Mars. Both Mission To Mars and Red Planet proved to be critical and commercial flops. For the purposes of this Post, the former was selected for a viewing mainly because Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins seemed like a less sufferable option than Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore. 

It all started so well: we get acquainted with the mission’s personnel at a back garden barbecue while Zydaco music plays over the opening credits. Poor Don Cheadle: while investigating an abnormal feature in Cydonia, his crew are wiped out and he has to fend for himself on the red planet for a whole year before the aforementioned pair can come and rescue him. Hmm, he did well cultivating plants and a formidable beard; he could teach Matt Damon a thing or two. Rather than create a gripping adventure, the film sinks into a botched and far-fetched denouement. Surprisingly, the score was composed by the one and only Ennio Morricone, but for once, his sweeping strings do not fit, or lift, these insipid images.

Then, of course, 2011 brought the most disastrous animated movie ever: Mars Needs Moms. There is absolutely no reason to sully this finely cultivated blog by analyzing this crap, but you can’t help wondering who pitched this disturbing premise: mother abduction as family entertainment. And how did it get accepted?!  

In view of this appalling track record, by the time John Carter of Mars (my particular favourite Mars movie) was brought to the big screen in 2012, the “of Mars” segment of the title was dropped, most likely to avert the dire repurcussions of the Mars curse. Nobody knew who John Carter was – it bombed anyway. 

So, next week we will know if Ridley Scott has redeemed his career and successfully banished the curse of those movies to be set on Mars. 

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A “map” of Mars created by Eugene Antoniadi in 1894.

Cheers!

“No Hard Feelings, Point Break” Or: How Brad Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Comics

About those works that changed my perception of what comics could be… 

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“Of course… You always have to have surprises. You always have to make the reader say: ‘Wow! I never expected this.’ It’s become… tradition” – Stan Lee. 

Rather than bang on about those Avengers for the umpteenth time, and the torrents of comicbook movies we can expect over the next few years – but still keen to write anything comics-related – permit me to break away from the Marvel/DC fold for the moment and gush about some of the best specimens in my collection which – for sentimental reasons, obviously – could not, and never will, be discarded.  

Yes, having had to sift through boxes and piles of my stuff recently, it was only a question of time before these ancient gems were uncovered again…

For the sake of time, space and convenience, just six titles have been selected. In no particular order, away we go! Oh, and you know what? Each one of this not-so-dirty half-dozen would make a great movie…

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Flash Gordon began his exploits on the four-color pages of the Sunday funnies… Not only did Raymond draw the best rayguns, rocketships, and alien creatures, he drew the sexiest women” – Richard Siegel and Jean-Claude Suares. 

What better way to begin than with the Godfather of Sci-Fi Strips? The original Flash Gordon, created in 1934 by Alex Raymond have retained their lustre as sci-fi gold. His art is stupendous; despite becoming an SF artist of some considerable dexterity myself, it was always frustrating (during my formative years) trying (and failing!) to copy some of Raymond’s more dynamic or intricate panels!

It has to be said that, admittedly, the style is unmistakably indicative of the 1930s. That is, by no means, a hindrance; on the contrary, to this eager lil seven-year old, it was more fascinating for that.

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“You may speak to me now. My purple light is on” – General Ironicus.

In 1979, my joyous – albeit short-lived – fascination with Doctor Who began. Having enjoyed each instalment on TV every Saturday teatime, you can well imagine my gob-smacked rapture upon discovering the “Fantastic First Issue” of the Dr Who Weekly, an amazing addition to the immensely impressive wing of Marvel UK. 

The very first story instantly won me over. Doctor Who and The Iron Legion offers an intriguing scenario: where the Roman Empire never fell, but instead expanded its dominion across the galaxy. Simultaneously slaking my thirst for sci-fi and history, it splendidly evokes the charm of the Tom Baker era.

Artist Dave Gibbons may be revered the most for Watchmen, but it is The Iron Legion which – to me – made the greatest impact. Moreover, there’s never been anything quite like the witty and wonderful script by Pat Mills (a personal fave writer) and John Wagner.

And that panel depicting the robot centurion bursting through the shop window is still as sharp and special as when my wide excited eyes first caught it thirty-six years ago!

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“I’m glad that hurt, Jaffar. I pray my kick made you an eunuch!” – Marada The She-Wolf.

Marada, The She-Wolf was an awesome fantasy saga about a mercenary of Rome and her travails against the Mabdhara – a triad of Demon-Lords. She starred in the February and April 1982 issues of Epic Illustrated, then “the Marvel Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction”; she reappeared in Wizard’s Masque in the February and April 1984 issues.

1988 turned out to be a fantastic year: catching up with Classic X-Men, featuring the scripts by Chris Claremont, featuring stunning artwork by John Byrne (republished stories from 1978) and John Bolton (added features of individual X-Men); then, quite unexpectedly, this came into my life.  

Had never heard of “Marada. It didn’t matter. Anything adorned with the talents of Claremont and Bolton was sure to be good. Those issues of Epic Illustrated became essential purchases. The material is so different from the more usual mutant superheroes fare. Claremont writes enthralling dialogue, but through Bolton’s stupendous art, Marada really comes across as a beautiful and feisty protagonist; she deserves mass appeal.

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“A half-Mohawk boy born in 1900… Night Raven had no powers but was a highly trained fighter and marksman… exposed to a chemical toxin which made him nearly indestructible” – Marvel Database. 

One of the more striking heroes of in my earliest comic-devouring years was undoubtedly the Night-Raven – “Britain’s very own man of mystery.” Apparently, this masked vigilante of the 1930s made his debut in Hulk Comic #1 (March 1979), of which quite a few issues made their way into my collection, but it is in Savage Action – yet another Marvel UK godsend – where my enjoyment of this “faceless, enigmatic nemesis” ensued.  

Its creator: David Lloyd would much later become best known for V for Vendetta. Although my recollections are a little hazy, Night-Raven was always depicted in fedora and trenchcoat, with revolvers in both hands.

One of the few characters created exclusively for Marvel UK, he doesn’t appear to have made much impression on the other side of the Pond, which is a pity. In 1990, Night-Raven: The Collected Stories appeared, but it has never, alas, come into my clutches. Again, last year enquiring at Forbidden Planet – London’s Temple of Geekdom – the “expert” had never heard of this character. Shocking…

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I’ll take you dead or alive. They’re going to kill you anyway – may as well try your luck” – Johnny Alpha.

Johnny Alpha – the mutant bounty hunter with the light eyes and the variable cartridge blaster and electroknux, the most recognised member of the Search/Destroy Agency, whose members are widely known as “Strontium Dogs” – made his debut in Starlord comic in 1978. When that title went defunct, he made a successful switch to the then-burgeoning 2000AD, a British weekly publishing legend throughout the 1980s.

Following the nuclear war of 2150, the society of New Britain had to contend with the spiralling number of mutants (caused by the showers of Strontium-90) in what remained of the population. Forbidden to take normal jobs, “mutoes” had to take on bounty hunting as their only means of survival. In an intriguing plot development, Johnny turned out to to be the son of Nelson Bunker Kreelman, the despised “norm” politician responsible for instigating the anti-mutant laws. 

At first, the gruff style of Carlos Ezquerra’s art did not appeal, but it gradually won me over.

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With The No-Go Job starting in Prog 580 (1988), art duties would be taken over by Simon Harrison (above), who brought a radical new look to the strip.

Johnny Alpha was killed off in 1990, one heckuva bold move considering that he had become the second most iconic character of 2000AD after Judge Dredd.

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“This was it. The night my Uncle Elias and I were going after the Beast. A creature of magic. It could only be destroyed by magic” – Luke Kirby. 

Back to the pages of 2000AD again, and with good reason. Between Progs 571-77 (April-June 1988) something well wicked my way came. Summer Magic was a delightful little seven-part serial about a boy staying with his relations in a traditional English country village during the Summer of 1962. But look beyond Mrs. Birmingham’s homemade dinners and bowls on the green, for an unutterable horror lurks in the forest yonder…  

By rights, it should not have sat alongside the more familiar sci-fi likes of the tech-war of Rogue Trooper, the chaotic chrome capers of the A.B.C. Warriors (a band of Ultrons if you will!), nor the futuristic law enforcement of Judge Dredd, but gladly it did, and made its own marvelous impression.

Just months previously, John Ridgway had come to my startled awareness through the blistering first eight issues of DC’s Hellblazer – John Constantine’s own title. Now here he was working on something equally English and unnerving!

Young Luke must learn the arts of the arcane path before confronting the Beast. And this tale of a boy wizard appeared years before Harry Potter was a glint in JK Rowling’s eye…

This Post will finish with that classic last page from the penultimate episode. At this point, there was barely a hint of the gob-smacking twist that would transpire that following week…

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Thank you, Sherise, for my Second Nomination!

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Cheers!

Cosmic Sounds!: Music To Write SF Blogs By

That Weren’t No DJ, That Was Hazy Cosmic Jive!

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“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Friedrich Nietzsche. 

When blogging, usually through the night, it is customary for the compilation of these Posts to be accompanied by music. Now, some writers prefer to work in quiet conditions: not me. At university, music on the radio, or tapes, became imperative to convey me through some particularly troublesome essays.

And so the tradition has continued, with some pumping, pounding beats to carry me to deadline, or some suitably spaced-out melodies to help me through the night. Some of your fave Posts on this site were concocted with the aid of these audio additives.

Wherever possible, appropriate spacey vids have been found to maximize your sensory pleasure! Hopefully, this fine collection will inspire you in your own blogging endeavours…

Oh my god! Youtube is full of 2001: A Space Odyssey videos! Actually, this Post could have consisted of videos with montages of scenes from this single cinematic masterpiece, but variety is indeed the spice of life, so this compendium has dared to forage for more diverse matter. 

Luke Slater, a British DJ, has been producing stellar grooves for over twenty years. His Wireless album was particularly good, and this track: Weave Your Web works well when placed over 2001’s climactic trippy viz.

Richie Hawtin is an innovative Canadian techno producer. This track: The Tunnel makes for a perfect sci-fi number, with its weird bleeping and whirring effects. And this is one of the most simple – yet striking – vids seen by these bleary eyes in a long time. 

“Sternklang is the expression of the intimate encounter with the whole, the direct connection with the stars and the vast universe…” – hookback.  

“Awesome!” is a phrase too readily bandied about these days, but this next piece unconditionally deserves that tag. Tholen’s Sternklang is an epic – seventy-one minutes to be exact! – dark and dissonant soundscape, and should only be savoured during the darkest hours (with the best quality Stereo headphones of course).

The video contains suitably majestic cosmic graphics. It can be viewed in its entirety, or in five easily-digestible segments. Part 2 is my particular fave, with the three-note drone which, commencing at 1:44, hits right to the core, while the space station which materialises at around 2:34 is particularly impressive; the moment at 9:48 is quite special too…

Wow, just as you’re recovering from that stunning experience, so it’s followed by another grand opus. Steve Roach is one of the leading ambient composers working today. Again, it is on the darkest, silent nights that his pieces are replayed over and over for inspiration.

“Darkest Before Dawn” is a deep and goose pimple-inducing masterpiece, especially in its seventy-four minute entirety, but for this Post, here is Drift, because the animation here is absolutely mesmerising. Enjoy! 

“…On my planet, we have a legend… called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people, with sticks up their butts, that dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is” – Peter Quill (Starlord). 

Yeah! Time to boogie! Karl O’Connor (aka Regis) is one of the most captivating DJs on the current scene. With Peter Sutton (aka Female) he formed Sandwell District, and reinvigorated a stagnant techno landscape.

Not only was Hunting Lodge the best techno track of 2011, but someone went to the trouble of putting it to images from 1984 (1954). Peter Cushing in a techno vid: sci-fi paradise!

This next track is a phenomenal late-night mind-blaster. The accompanying vid is equally staggering, “Gas 0095” was the debut album of electronic musician Mat Jarvis, otherwise known as Gas. Its classic track: Microscopic is overlaid to powerful effect on a short scientific film called: “The Power of Ten,” which explores both outer and inner space. These fantastic sights and sounds blew me away when first viewed five years ago.

Please be advised: take a deep breath…

“I think, therefore I ambient” – Mixmaster Morris.  

Finally, we come to Geir Jenssen, the Norwegian electronic producer, better known under the moniker: Biosphere. His music has been labelled: “arctic ambient,” supposedly because it induces a glacial atmosphere, rather than being a tad chilly. Any track from the stupendous Substrata album (2009) would have sufficed, but this track incorporates samples of Russian cosmonaut radio transmissions and skillful sprinklings of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss to blissful effect.

There is just a still image here, but this is not important. What matters is that within the next fifteen minutes, you may most likely drift into the Land of Nod, pleasantly dreaming of gliding among the stars…

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Groovy!

Battle Of The Boffins: Theory vs. Imitation

CONGRATULATIONS to EDDIE REDMAYNE: BEST ACTOR 2015

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“Both films offer main characters with enormous intelligence and originality… both are worth a watch, especially for a vivid narrative on an otherwise dense historical figure” – interviewmagazine.com

Two movies with so much in common, so might as well devote the same Post to them, especially now as the Academy Awards 2015 wrapped up just last night. Both are critically-acclaimed British movies about British scientific geniuses, played by top British actors who have each been nominated for several different awards. In that case, it will make a nice change to write about a couple of movies which were well-constructed and a pleasure to watch.

Although both movies have been out for over a month internationally already, they have only just been released here on my side of the world. With the 87th Academy Awards fast approaching, some emergency cinema-going had to be implemented, sharpish…

Whether they provide accurate portraits of their very real and learned subjects is open to ongoing debate, yet there is no doubt that both these movies are significant examples of powerful and emotionally-charged film-making; so, without further ado, let’s explore the astounding phenomenon that is: Beneddie Cumbermayne.

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“Oh my god, thank you, thank you… I don’t think I’m capable of articulating quite how I feel right now… I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man. Erm, this Oscar- WOW!” – Eddie Redmayne.

“There should be no boundaries to human endeavour. We are all different. However bad life might seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope” – Stephen Hawking. 

Let’s begin with the movie which held greater personal appeal, and got Eddie his gong. Professor Stephen Hawking is one of this age’s greatest minds and probably the most famous living scientist on Earth. For me, he is an inspirational hero whose work is never far from my study. Primarily, it was intriguing to learn that The Theory of Everything is indeed “a masterful work of heartbreaking artistry and perfection.” 

In a truly amazing performance, Eddie Redmayne portrays a young, able-bodied, zestful atheist/cosmologist at Oxford, before the early onset of motor neuron disease. Of course, this could not be possible without sterling supporting roles, especially Eddie’s “staggering partner-in-crime”: Felicity Jones, who played the scientist’s wife: Jane; and “ferocious yet incredibly kind” direction from James Marsh. 

There was the slight possibility that Redmayne’s chances of winning would be seriously scuppered by his involvement in the staggeringly awful: Jupiter Ascending, but he was clear favourite, and had been for some time. 

Yet is this movie a fair depiction of this degenerative disease and a progressive vehicle to help instigate change in general attitudes towards the disabled? Once again, the same old sentimental cliches have been detected; therefore, some would dismiss this Theory as unconvincing…

Some cynics may scoff that playing the physically-challenged almost always ensures a fistful of gongs, but no one should besmirch Redmayne’s deserved moment of accomplishment. Among the first to congratulate the young star-in-the-making was Stephen Hawking himself. “Congratulations to Eddie Redmayne for winning an Oscar for playing me…” the Professor posted on Facebook. “Well done Eddie, I’m very proud of you.” 

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“I couldn’t stop crying, just thinking, my God, he [Alan Turing] went through this. And to get near that understanding because I’d played him for a while by then… God, it was just really upsetting” – Benedict Cumberbatch.

“One day, ladies will be walking their computers in the park and saying: ‘do you know, my little computer said a very funny thing to me this morning…’” – Alan Turing.  

The Imitation Game features the events responsible for turning the tide of the Second World War, concentrating on another real-life genius. Alan Turing was the greatest mathematician of his age, and can be credited as the pioneer of our computer age. Working at the Top Secret facility of Bletchley Park during the war, he built the machine that would crack Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma Code. Due to the sensitivity of his work, Turing’s achievements were never recognised during his lifetime. Instead of becoming a war hero, he was disgraced; arrested because of his homosexuality in 1952 and ended up taking his own life two years later (receiving a Royal Pardon only in 2013).

From Benedict Cumberbatch there is what could be his career-defining (movie) performance; it is certainly Oscar-worthy. He portrays Turing as socially complex and incorrigibly difficult to work with, and yet manages to make the man watchable. There is a splendidly evocative recreation of 1940s England, and the drama is further enhanced by deft direction by Morten Tyldum and some distinctive supporting performances, especially Keira Knightley in the role of Joan Clarke who, ironically, seems to have been Turing’s longest and closest companion.

Special mention and congrats must go to Graham Moore who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, accepting it with one of the more memorable speeches of the evening. The Imitation Game works because it is very much an old-fashioned biopicIt is an extraordinary movie about an extraordinary man. 

No point in toiling here over the major issues of fact-fudging which inevitably bedevil filmed biographies – not only would it be long-winded and almost as monotonous as sitting through this year’s Oscars show, it would seriously jeopardise the number of Likes/Comments this Post could muster. Rather than fret over which one of these dramas is best, it would be much more sensible to accept both of these fantastic movies on their own superlative merits – a credit to the once floundering British film industry. 

Hang on a mo, tho… 

Interestingly, Cumberbatch actually portrayed Professor Hawking in a 2004 BBC TV movie; this was obviously pre-superstardom and ineligible for the Oscars…!   

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Yay! Off-screen they are both the best of friends really. Aah, all’s well that’s fine and dandy, then. And as you can see, even ambitious bunnies get awards these days…

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So, no hard feelings, Mr. White Tuxedo? 

Well, almost none… 

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“What a lad!” claimed UK’s Daily Mirror. Down the hatch, Cumberbatch!

Cheers!