Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1980's Flashback: All-Star Squadron

All-Star Squadron was created by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Jerry Ordway, and following a debut in Justice League of America #193, their book chronicled the adventures of a large team of superheroes, including members of several established DC Comics groups like The Justice Society of America, The Freedom Fighters, and The Seven Soldiers of Victory, as well as many other solo heroes. The original premise was that following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt gathered all available superheroes at the White House and personally asked them to combine their forces to battle enemy sabotage and maintain peace on the home front during World War II. At the time, many Justice Society members had been captured by the villainous Per Degaton, so the available heroes were asked to first guard against a potential attack on America's West Coast. Degaton himself used stolen Japanese planes to launch such an attack, so the Squadron's first major mission was to stop the attack and rescue the captured heroes, who then became part of the new group. The rationale for not using the Squadron in combat within the European or Pacific Theaters of War was that Adolf Hitler had possession of the Spear of Destiny, a mystical object that gave him total control over superheroes with magic-based powers or a vulnerability to magic (including Superman, Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, and others) who crossed into territory held by the Axis Powers. America's entry into World War II had already prompted several members of the JSA to enlist, or be drafted in their civilian identities including Starman, Hawkman, the Atom, and Johnny Thunder.

All-Star Squadron was an example of "retroactive continuity" or "retcon", as it rewrote the officially-established history of DC superheroes that had been previously published during the 1940s. The first known use of the term "retcon" was by writer/editor Roy Thomas in the letter column of All-Star Squadron #20 (April, 1983). During its 67 issue run, several storylines ironed out previous continuity errors, fleshed out characters' origins and rewrote some earlier stories to explain inconsistencies in character development, resolve lingering continuity questions or fill in missing details.

Following DC Comics 1985 crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths, the parallel universes DC had established over the decades were merged into a single fictional universe. "Golden Age" versions of DC's major mainstream heroes were largely eliminated from earlier continuity, leaving the All-Star Squadron with characters deemed unique to that time period. Superman, Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow & Speedy, Plastic Man, and a few other heroes were no longer considered to have existed at that point in history, and were thus never Squadron members.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Morass of Death (Star Publications;1953)

After studying commercial art, Jay Disbrow became a staff artist at the Iger studios in 1950, where he worked on such titles as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Kanga and Firehair. He then began freelancing at Star Publications, which included writing his own work. Disbrow worked on a variety of titles, such as Spook Suspense Mystery and Eerie Tales, while also exploiting other artistic activities.

This adventure of Taranga comes from Terrors of the Jungle #4 (Apr. 1953), and it features the introduction of Taranga's future bride, Rita Wayne. The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Mad" Comes to Asheville, NC!

The Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society hosted three legendary creators of the classic humor magazine, Mad, on Saturday, September 26, 2009 in Asheville, North Carolina. In addition to syndicated newspaper cartoonists, Dwane Powell, Cullum Rogers, Michael Jantze and comic book artist, Andy Smith; fan favorite Mad magazine artists Jack Davis, Duck Edwing and former editor Nick Meglin were in attendance at the event which was held at the Ramada Inn on a day periodically interrupted by torrential rain.

A single day comic convention was also impacted on-site by the foul weather which resulted in fewer attendees than were hoped for, but which allowed the seventy folks who lingered for Mad's "usual gang of idiots" to be suitably charmed by the exceedingly gracious Mr. Davis, Mr. Edwing and Mr. Meglin throughout the afternoon.

I've gotta tell you how funny, warm and cool these three guys were telling wonderful stories about working with industry greats like Bill Gaines, Will Elder, John Severin, Wally Wood and Harvey Kurtzman while putting together many classic humor strips that became the very model of "antidisestablishmentarianism" for multiple generations of comic book fans.

In addition to the comic book dealers who hawked golden age to present comics, trading cards and toys, a silent auction to benefit the Mimi Paige Foundation and the Milt Gross Fund was held simultaneously to the day's programming. Items of note included original Dennis the Menace and Snuffy Smith dailies, plus a light box that had once been the property of Thomas Nast. Other comic book creators present as members of the Chapter were James Lyle, Tom Lyle and Steve Haynie, plus many other freelance illustrators.

It was an eventful day, and it's always wonderful to meet these classic artists who entertained so many of us over the years, and then also discover that they are just down to earth folks that are humble about their contributions to the medium.

Mad artist Jack Davis is pictured in the photo [above;right] alongside my brother David, who had his original Davis page from EC Comics 1950's-era series, Incredible Science Fiction, autographed. David also had a nice stack of hardback EC archives and/or Mad compendiums signed by both Mr. Davis (84 years old and still knocking artwork out of the park) and Mr. Meglin. [Sorry for the smaller size, but I had inadvertently reset the resolution and screwed the thing up.]

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Julie Benz

As Rita Bennett on Dexter, Julie Benz won the 2006 Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. She is also well known for her role of Darla on Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Her other genre credits include Supernatural, Saw V, Punisher: War Zone and Rambo.

If you haven't seen her or met her in person, what you won't know is that she is an absolute living doll (and I mean that in the best possible way). Julie was one of the celebrity guests at this year's Dragoncon in Atlanta, GA, and I can only say that she knocked me out. She is easygoing and fun to talk to and the fans who also wisely took the time to have their photograph taken with her really lucked out.

I don't really follow the Dexter series, but she was lots of awesome, wicked fun as the tormented vampire, Darla in Joss Whedon's Buffy/Angel-verse and now, she scores a spot as this week's "Gal" Friday.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

DVD Quest: Spectre / The Questor Tapes

Well, since I've already been offered a line on my first request, let's give this another go. Two other Roddenberry-related 1970's-era efforts are also on my want list. I think I may have found a source for the first, but here is the info anyhow:

Spectre was a 1977 telefilm produced and co-written by Gene Roddenberry as the pilot for a proposed weekly television series, but it was rejected.

William Sebastian (played by Robert Culp) was a criminologist who had taken to studying the occult to explain the problem of human evil. He had apparently been cursed on one of his adventures, leaving him in constant need of medical attention. Sebastian's colleague, Dr. Hamilton (played by Gig Young; who sadly committed suicide shortly after filming ended) was called to his home to help him and the two were soon summoned to England to investigate strange happenings involving a mysterious Satanic cult and the demon Asmodeus.

The relationship between Sebastian and "Ham" was deliberately reminiscent of that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, although there are also aspects that recall the relationship between Roddenberry's earlier Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy (Roddenberry previously revisited this relationship in another failed pilot, The Questor Tapes). The movie also featured Roddenberry's wife Majel Barrett in a supporting role as Sebastian's housekeeper Lilith, a practicing witch (she brewed a remedy that "cured" Ham's alcoholism through aversion therapy).

Spectre was one of many unsuccessful television pilots during the 1970s that were set within the occult detective sub-genre. An extended version of Spectre was released in the United Kingdom as a theatrical film with additional footage that included explicit nudity in the black mass finale.

The Questor Tapes was a 1974 TV movie about an android (portrayed by Robert Foxworth) with incomplete memory tapes who was searching for his creator and his purpose. It is believed that this project inspired the character, Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation and from all indications it is not currently available in any format.

Any help in locating "watchable" versions of these forgotten movies would be much appreciated.

DVD Quest: Genesis II / Planet Earth / Strange New World

During the 1970's, Gene Roddenberry made three separate attempts to launch a sci-fi television series around a concept set in a post-apocalyptic world. Planet Earth was the second effort, following a previous failed pilot, Genesis II (made in 1973 and starring Alex Cord). This one aired on the ABC Network on April 23, 1974. Planet Earth starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt, a 20th century man revived from suspended animation by an organization called PAX. It was intended as another pilot for a proposed weekly television series and it featured many of the concepts, characters, sets and props from Genesis II.

A third and final movie, Strange New World, aired in 1975; also starring John Saxon (but in a new role, as Captain Anthony Vico). In this version, a trio of astronauts returns to Earth after 180 years in suspended animation to locate the underground headquarters of PAX and free the people placed there in suspended animation.

None of these three pilots was developed into an ongoing series; however, some of the characters served as prototypes for the later syndicated TV series, Andromeda (based on Roddenberry's original ideas).

I've seen all of these films, and they are occasionally aired on TV, but I wouldn't mind picking them up on DVD. Does anyone have information on whether these telefilms are available? Even bootlegged copies would be appreciated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Skin-Eaters (Web of Horror #1; Dec. 1969)

Web of Horror #1 was published by Major Publications in December 1969. They also published the humor series, Cracked and a host of men's adventure magazines. Web of Horror attempted to compete with the Warren line of black & white magazines, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, with limited success.

This tale of 'The Skin Eaters' is written by editor Terry Bisson and illustrated by Ralph Reese. The Catacombs is very grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story (and many, many more that will be coming your way in the months ahead). Yippee! Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Wisdom of Alan Moore [Updated 9/24/2009]

Trolling around the net for some interesting quotes today, I came across this one by Alan Moore, author of acclaimed comic books such as Swamp Thing, V For Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the entire ABC imprint from Wildstorm.

This comment was made by Mr. Moore when comparing big budget films to comics, “If I write a crappy comic book, it doesn't cost the budget of an emergent Third World nation. When you've got these kinds of sums involved in creating another two hours of entertainment for Western teenagers, I feel it crosses the line from being merely distasteful to being wrong.”

Now that makes sense considering his well known stance on accepting royalties from works of his that are often adapted into motion pictures.
I just read a fascinating interview with Moore that I believe that other comic book fans should read. It is both insightful and surprisingly wistful in tone, considering the types of things that Mr. Moore is credited with within the industry. Click [here] and don't forget to read the comments this discussion has started earning.
That stuff is revelatory as well!

Shuffling the Superheroes

You can't convince me that the big two publishers haven't lost their way .... yet again. With the recent media brouhaha over corporate realignments at DC Comics and Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics, its easy to miss the goings on in the four-color world.

The November solicitations revealed the upcoming lineup of James Robinson's and Mark Bagley's Justice League of America to be comprised of CONGORILLA, DONNA TROY, MON-EL, BATMAN (Dick Grayson), DR. LIGHT, GREEN ARROW (Oliver Queen), GREEN LANTERN (Hal Jordan), THE ATOM (Ray Palmer), CYBORG, STARFIRE and THE GUARDIAN. The fact that an attribution has to be made in order to identify a third of the incoming team members actually nicely demonstrates part of the problem. There are just too many versions of some of these characters running around the DCU to start with. It also doesn't bode well to see another portion comprised of former New Teen Titans members, however several were present in the Justice League: Cry for Justice mini-series that was written by Robinson, but that seems to be somewhat beside the point here.

It's almost like the writer, editor and whom-the-hell-ever-else at DC sat around one boring day and said, "Let's just see what we can toss in here for shits and giggles".

Take another look above at that Ed Benes image from the first issue of this volume of JLA. A few of these characters were present in that large assemblage of potential league members, but I doubt that too many of the readers thought that all of them were actually viable candidates for a roster that should be composed of "The Worlds Greatest Super Heroes".

Given that the Justice Society of America, which has remained a popular fan favorite for quite some time now in its own title (and which has already included a relaunched volume or two), gets split into twin titles soon; one has to admit that the era of change for changes sake is comfortably steamrolling along.

Superman gets banished from his family titles for a year, while second and third stringers take over the spotlight in those books, Batman is dead [nudge-nudge, wink-wink] and so his rampantly growing "family" of peers takes over the Gotham beat in an equally ludicrous move and apparently Wonder Woman receives new powers in her title, and well; you get the picture. Distinguished Competition = Dwindling readership, dwindling expectations, and ring around the rosy.
Marvel is no better. Pick any of the crossovers from the last few years and in all likelihood there remains a tie-in series, one-shot or special that has either just been released or is due in. What the?

Then there is the whole "Dark" thing that has gripped the MU, on that one I'm a bit vague, or gloomy and I can't really see through the murk. I do know that things are a bit shady over at the former House of Ideas.

At least Captain America is back, rather the "real" Cap (Steve Rogers). Whether he or Bucky Barnes gets to keep the name will still have to be decided, but fortunately these guys won't have to get disrespected as badly as poor Donna Troy. After three attempts to give her another code name, and after losing her own to a trendier version, she just has to make do with her no longer secret identity.
If we are all mostly aging fan boys, who among you has the mental energy to even try to keep this stuff straight enough to enjoy it?

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Tracy Scoggins

A luscious, and talented babe that I was fortunate to meet at this years Dragoncon earns a spot in the Catacombs as this weeks "Gal" Friday.

Tracy Scoggins began her acting career with guest roles on TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, T.J. Hooker, Remington Steele and The A-Team, before securing more stable work on 1980's prime time soaps, The Colby's and Dynasty.

The tall, sexy Texan (who almost qualified for the 1980 Olympic Diving team) went on to make memorable appearances on genre shows like Highlander: The Series, The Adventures of Jules Verne, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Dante's Cove and what has become her signature role, Captain Elizabeth Lochley on Babylon 5 (and two B5 spin-off projects, Crusade and Babylon 5: The Lost Tales).

I've got to tell you that Ms. Scoggins is extremely vivacious in person and she also has a great sense of humor. Add in her stunning figure and, well, she just has all of the "requirements."

Believe me!

Fringe (2nd season opener)

J.J. Abrams, Akiva Goldsman & Roberto Orci sort of yanked their audiences chain last night on an admittedly good second season opener of Fringe, that was nevertheless a screw job.

When we last left Fringe, Olivia Dunham was transported into an alternate universe where, in the season finale’s most striking image, the Twin Towers were still standing. In last night’s second-season premiere, Olivia came hurtling back into our universe with only vague memories and a feeling of urgency from her missing interaction with William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). Now folks, the Fringe creative team spent half of last season building the fans up to that pivotal moment, only to start off the new year by playing around with our expectations of seeing their interaction and deleting it. I for one don't appreciate it.

I was slow to warm to Fringe, initially writing it off as just another X-Files retread. After I gave it another chance later in the first season, I was quite taken by the chemistry between the leads, particularly Joshua Jackson and John Noble as Peter & Walter Bishop. Don't get me wrong, Anna Torv is fine as Olivia Dunham, but Abrams and company missed a great chance to break from current genre stereotypes; by casting Dunham as an employee of series macguffin Massive Dynamic, and instead wrote her role as just another gun-toting chick-in-a-suit. Given what was established in the first season, Torv could have been of better - far more effective use - in a different capacity within the shows mythological paradigm; but what the hell do I know?

Last night, we were also introduced to another gun-toting chick-in-a-suit with Agent Jessup, and if this characters sudden appearance didn't leave fans wondering what was up, then you really shouldn't be watching this type of series. Needless to say by episodes end, Kirk Acevedo's Charlie pretty much joined former castmate Mark Valley's Agent Scott, in the almost-but-not-quite-gone department; therefore setting up a convenient space for the Jessup character to occupy.

However, that begs the question: What about Astrid?

Jasika Nicole has been a compatriot character of Walter Bishop and friends from the start and she is an FBI agent as well. Why not upgrade her to this status, but again, what the hell do I know?

At least we were always somewhat in the loop about a prior history between Lance Reddick's Agent Broyles character and Blair Brown's Nina Sharp, but last nights brief kiss suggested that this may have also included a romantic connection [yawn], but why Abrams and company arbitrarily tossed in the all-too tired genre cliche of "they're shutting down the division" at this point is beyond me.

J.J. Abrams other network genre series, Lost (sadly, soon to begin it's final season) took a tumble in its second season, by focusing on "The Others" at the expense of the characters audiences had bonded with in its freshman season. I think it highly likely that Fringe may have found a way to shoot itself in the foot in its new season, in a similar manner, but at least this time around I will only allow them so much leash.

I will keep my fingers crossed, but this kind of thing gets old, even when its perpetrated in such grand fashion by creators who should know better.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How NOT to do a Superhero Movie: The Punisher (x 3)

I could really milk this character for three separate movie posts, but why bother when each film falls a bit too flat to outright enjoy.

The Punisher originally made his comic book debut in Marvel Comics, The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (Feb. 1974), which introduced Frank Castle, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, whose wife and children were murdered by the Mafia after witnessing a gangland execution. Vowing war on the mob, Castle names himself The Punisher and embarks on his new mission.

Now obviously, the motion picture industry would eventually get around to adapting such an action-oriented tale to film, but after three tries - with decidedly mixed results - it seems that the guy just can't catch an audiences attention.

1989's The Punisher starred Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle. This version changed many details of the characters origin and the Punisher does not wear his trademark "skull" emblem. Instead of wife Maria, son Frank Junior and daughter Lisa; this film called Frank's wife Julie, and the '89 celluloid couple had two daughters, Annie and Felice. In the comic book, Frank Castle was a former U.S. Marine; in this crappy movie, he was changed to a police detective. [Now that's some inspired screenwriting!]

Marvel Studios eventually rebooted the film series with 2004's The Punisher starring Thomas Jane as Frank Castle / The Punisher and John Travolta as Howard Saint, a money launderer who ordered the death of Castle's entire family. The film is NOT a sequel to the 1989 version. This time the story was based on two published comics stories; The Punisher: Year One and Welcome Back, Frank; along with scenes from other stories such as Marvel Preview: Featuring The Punisher #2, The Punisher War Zone and The Punisher War Journal. The 2004 Punisher was rated R for pervasive brutal violence, language and brief nudity, making it one of the few Marvel films to receive an "R" rating, however the success of its DVD sales prompted Marvel Comics and Lionsgate to start development on a sequel titled The Punisher 2, which fell apart after Thomas Jane and the director left the project due to creative differences over how it was being handled.

After a gap of only four years, The Punisher: War Zone was released in 2008 starring Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle. This film is yet another reboot which follows the origin of Frank Castle's war on crime and corruption rather than a sequel to the 2004 version. It is the first film to be produced under the Marvel Studios and Marvel Knights production banner, which will focus on films for mature audiences. In the film, Castle wages a one-man war against a horribly disfigured mob boss known as Jigsaw, played by Dominic West. Punisher: War Zone was paid the rare complement of being the best made crummy film of all time, by a number of critics. It was also the lowest grossing box office film featuring any Marvel Comics character.

Who knows where the guy will appear onscreen next? At least the Punisher can't help but do better than these also-ran efforts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Defunct Comic Book Publishers: Harvey Comics

Harvey Comics was founded by Alfred Harvey in 1941, after buying out a smaller publisher. Brothers Robert Harvey and Leon Harvey joined soon after and the company quickly got into licensed characters, which by the 1950s became the bulk of their output. Their most prolific artist was Warren Kremer.

Among Harvey’s best-known characters are Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey, and related characters such as Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, The Ghostly Trio, Casper's horse Nightmare, Hot Stuff the Little Devil, and Wendy the Good Little Witch. These characters originated as licensed properties, having been created by Paramount Pictures' animated division, Famous Studios, in the late-1940s. Harvey published many successful comic books based upon the original Famous characters, and they also developed original characters such as Richie Rich, Little Dot, Little Audrey, Little Lotta, Jackie Jokers and Stumbo the Giant.

Harvey also adapted popular characters from newspaper comic strips, such as Mutt and Jeff and Sad Sack. Although the company tried to diversify its publications with brief forays into superhero, suspense, horror, and westerns; kiddie comics were the bulk of their output.

Due to a slump in the comic book industry, Harvey limited its output and then finally stopped publishing between 1982-86. The original company was sold in 1990, and became Harvey Entertainment. They initially published comics in the early-1990s as Harvey Classics. In 2001, Harvey Entertainment sold its properties and rights to the Harvey name to Classic Media, which licenses characters from the Harvey library and then changed the company name to Sunland Entertainment. Sad Sack is still owned by the successors of the Harvey family, as is the golden age heroine, The Black Cat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1980's Flashback: Arak, Son of Thunder

Although Arak, Son of Thunder ran for fifty issues in its own title, the character originally appeared in a preview inserted into Warlord #48 (August 1981), the sword & sorcery series was created by Roy Thomas and Ernie Colon. Art [above;top] is by Tony DeZuniga, who had a long run on the series as penciller or inker (from Michael Rankins, Comic Art Fans Gallery).

Bright-Sky-After-Storm was very much portrayed like a Native American Conan in the early issues of the book. Later, after encountering the Moirae who explain his destiny to him he takes on a more traditional Native American appearance, including fringed leather pants and a Mohawk hairstyle. Arak typically encountered beings and creatures from real-world mythology and legends of Greek, Norse, Judeo-Christian, Muslim and Oriental lore. Arak was refreshing in how culturally sensitive it was for the times when it debuted. Unlike earlier Native American heroes, like Apache Chief, who took a cartoonish view of Native Americans similar to the old western movie Indians; Arak did not feature broken speech patterns or other stereotypical "Indian" traits.

Arak's mother, Star-of-Dawn (of the Quontauka Indian tribe) was seduced by an evil serpent god while wandering alone. She realized at the last moment what was happening, and tried to escape before their coupling could be completed. He-No, the Thunder God responded to her desperate prayers, and rescued her by taking her into his realm. Under his care she recovered from the serpent god's poisonous bite, and she willingly gave herself to him in gratitude. Although she enjoyed her time with him, she did not really love him and missed her people; so He-No returned her to her tribe. Her grandfather, the tribal shaman, recognized the touch of both deities upon her, and determined that she bore He-No's child. Star-of-Dawn named him Bright-Sky-After-Storm, for 'he will follow in his father's footsteps, who is the thunder'. Years later, a tribe that worshiped the serpent deity attacked the Quontauka tribe, even as the serpent deity itself attacked He-No; the Thunder God was winning his battle, but saw that his son about to die. He-No struck down Bright-Sky-After-Storm’s attacker, but He-No suffered severe wounds in the process. While most of his tribesmen were slaughtered, his father arranged for Bright-Sky-After-Storm to escape beyond his enemies' reach in a canoe and float out to sea.

Bright-Sky-After-Storm was discovered at sea by Vikings just before the canoe sank. He was unconscious, but awakened long enough to utter the phrase He-No (a reference to his Native American father) and swing a knife at the Viking leader. Bright-Sky-After-Storm cut off the Viking leaders necklace which had a symbol called a hammer of thunder (related to the god Thor from Norse mythology). The leader wanted to kill the boy, but another Viking stopped him and adopted the boy, renaming him Arak and raised Bright-Sky-After-Storm as a Viking, trained in warfare. Arak was particularly effective with a small axe, similar in proportion to the native American club that he was found with, but he also used a sword, shield, and bow. Arak, Son of Thunder was unusual in that its Vikings were depicted more like real Vikings and were not illustrated wearing stereotypical horned helmets and fur clothing.

Arak joined the Vikings on their raid of a monastery for treasure, including a huge gold bejeweled cross which the captain hung upside down on their mast as a good luck hammer of thunder. At the conclusion of the first issue, a sea serpent sent by the sorceress Angelica attacked both the Vikings and some of the monks. All of the Vikings, including Arak's adoptive father, were killed. Arak then seized the golden cross and threw it at the serpent. Having a sharply-pointed bottom, the cross pierced the roof of its mouth and entered its brain, killing it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Editorial Diatribe from the Catacombs: Racism

Last night at the VMA Awards show rapper Kanye West opened his mouth in an inappropriate manner. This wasn't the first time that this performer acted out in public, and it won't be the last.

Nineteen year old country music singer Taylor Swift, one of several nominees for "Best Female Video", won her first VMA statue. Literally as she began making her acceptance speech, West appeared from the wings and took the microphone away from her, announcing that Beyonce had made one of the best videos of all time. The insulted and embarrassed Swift was unable to complete her remarks.

In your mind, switch the circumstances and swap West for any white performer and Swift for any black performer and you will have some idea of what this event really equates to. Just imagine the long months of lectures that this country would have to endure for a single idiots bad attitude, and you will be able to put it in its proper perspective.

Now watch as the media and the usual apologists for Mr. West soft-pedal this nasty business under the rug, but make no mistake. Kanye West is one of the faces of racism in America.

And he chooses to be.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2001 ... Lest We Forget!

"Gal" Friday! Eliza Dushku

Say it with me and sigh. Eliza Dushku.


True Lies, Bring It On, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Wrong Turn, Tru Calling and now back working with Buffy creator Joss Whedon on Fox's Dollhouse series where she portrays Echo.

She is certainly earning some serious action-adventure genre chops. I was somewhat confused when I heard that she had posed for nude photographs after her long time stance against flashing some skin, but then this photo deflated my surging hormones.

Shades of Raquel Welch, another hottie who famously posed a time or two - without actually showing all the goodies.

Oh well, lets take what we're given and keep our fingers crossed that someday a nipple slip will occur that gives us a "true" gander at her unmentionables.

For now that picture is good enough to earn her a spot as this weeks lovely "Gal" Friday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

1980's Flashback: Jonni Thunder aka Thunderbolt

During DC Comic's mid-1980's Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover event, the company not only attempted to spin a single cohesive fictional universe out of decades worth of parallel Earth story lines; they also issued lots of mini-series and one-shots devoted to older characters that had fallen out of the limelight and new heroes utilizing familiar names.

Jonni Thunder was a female private detective who appeared in a four issue bi-monthly miniseries from February 1985 to August 1985. The series was written by Roy Thomas & Dann Thomas, and co-creator Gerry Conway. Veteran artist Dick Giordano handled full illustration duties. A small golden statue gave her the power to turn into a human thunderbolt, while leaving her body behind. Later on while appearing in issues of Infinity, Inc., the thunderbolt entity was revealed to be a hostile alien energy-being, who was defeated by being re-imprisoned in the statue, leaving Jonni without powers. Despite being created by Golden Age expert Roy Thomas and an implied suggestion of a potential connection to the Justice Society of America's Johnny Thunder, that idea was never expounded upon. Jonni Thunder existed on Earth-2 before the Crisis and was only briefly seen on the lone merged Earth resulting from the Crisis finale, attending a detectives convention.

A decade later in DC Comics Kingdom Come continuity, Jonni and Black Lightning have a child who became the anti-hero known as "Lightning", possessing the electricity-based powers of both of her parents. However, in the current DC Universe, Black Lightning's daughter Lightning, who recently joined the JSA, is identified as the daughter of Black Lightning and his ex-wife Lynn Stewart.

Jonni Thunder (aka Thunderbolt) is no longer mentioned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At the Movies: 9

Nothing is new under the sun in Hollywood, and themes tend to run cyclical. At the moment it seems that audiences are going to be treated to another round of post-apocalyptic films. There is an impending adaptation of author Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning, The Road starring Viggo Mortensen, The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington, the dark-horror comedy, Zombieland, plus a new chapter of George Romero's undead saga, Survival of the Dead, also looms on the horizon (finished, but awaiting a distributor).

Last night I watched a preview of 9, from writer/director Shane Acker and producers Tim Burton & Timur Bekmambetov. The CGI-animated film features an eclectic, yet strong voice cast including Elijah Wood (as "9"), Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover

The film takes place in a world parallel to our own, in which a sapient rag doll called 9, comes to life, and finds himself in a devastated world where all humans are gone, and it is only by chance that he discovers a small community of others like himself taking refuge from fearsome machines that roam the earth intent on their extinction. Despite being the neophyte of the group, 9 displays strong leadership qualities and convinces the others that hiding will ultimately do them no good. They must take the offensive if they are to survive, and they must discover why the machines want to destroy them in the first place. As they'll soon come to learn, they have a connection to past events and the very future of civilization may depend upon them.

I hadn't initially been interested in seeing this movie, but free passes will coax me into watching just about anything and afterwards I was very glad that I went. 9 was riveting from the start, easily pulling the audience into its narrative. I sat in a fully packed theater that ran the gamut in age, race and gender, and the movie was so good that not a single smart ass talked, snorted derisively or even commented back to the screen. That ain't bad in a packed house folks. I won't say anymore about the movie, so as not to spoil it, but please take my recommendation and go see this cool flick.

For family's with small children, let me say that the film is rated PG-13 for violence and scary images, but there were younger audience members in attendance, and I believe that the film doesn't go overboard in this respect. I believe that today's savvier kids can take this type of thing in stride, plus the story has a good message or two mixed in, and the characterizations are clever, funny and entertaining enough for a wide range of viewers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "Death Image" (Fox Comics; 1949)

Today's post marks Rulah's swan song in the Catacombs, and at the same time serves as a nice homage to the 1942 film, Tarzan's New York Adventure, directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Sheffield.

Somewhat like the premise of that classic "fish out of water" story, Rulah finds herself forced to leave her familiar jungle realm and travel to the big city to take on a thieving vixen who has stolen her identity in order to bilk the public out of donation dollars - supposedly earmarked to help needy natives back home. This time the mob didn't realize that they had a tiger by the tail until it was too late.

This tale is taken from Rulah Jungle Goddess #24 (March 1949). Thanks to everyone who has posted comments on these neat Fox Comics stories and also to the unidentified person who originally scanned them into Wikisource the Free Library. I wish that there were more available, but I've run through all that they had for the time being.

As I have now run out of material, I doubt that I will be hosting any more golden age comics stories in the Catacombs, but I encourage all of you to whet your appetite for old comics stuff by visiting some of the blogs in my links section. In particular, Karswell continuously posts topnotch tales of terror in his "The Horrors Of It All", and Pappy's Golden Age Comics blog features a wide variety of comics material that is suitable for all tastes. You are bound to find something to satisfy your need for comic book stuff over there, so check them out.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dragoncon Report (aka I Survived a Day at Dragoncon!)

And I have the aches and pains to show for it. Ouch!

The posts that I made about last years Dragoncon were built around how irked I was about the handling of certain aspects of the convention. This year was a whole different story, with over 500 guests and an army of 1800 volunteers to help shepherd the celebs and thousands upon thousands of fans through venues strung throughout four different downtown Atlanta hotels, I have to tip my hat to the Con organizers and express my gratitude to the volunteers who were nothing less than helpful and courteous.

I've seen large crowds in attendance at Dragoncon over the years, but I do believe that the Saturday crowd was the biggest assortment of humanity that I have ever been amongst at this show. It was crowded everywhere virtually all day long.

The show moved registration to the Sheraton, about a ten minute stroll from the Atlanta Hilton (where the celebrity "Walk of Fame" was located), and the processing of thousands of guests moved much smoother than ever. Even though there were portions of the programming tracks held in the Sheraton, my party of five spent the bulk of the day meandering between the Hilton, The Hyatt and the Marriott hotels. After a full day of plunging through the dense dealers rooms, the vast art contest ballroom (where the comic book artists alley was also located), waiting for photo ops with my daughter & her best friend with actor Tom "Draco Malfoy" Felton, and another ultimately being cancelled for my brother and me with the Babylon 5 hotties (Tracy Scoggins and Claudia Christian; who couldn't be located -DAMN) and enjoying lunch at the nearby Durango Steak House (yummy), we all had a great time, and then drove around downtown Atlanta for about an hour that evening, before munching out at The Varsity burger joint and finally heading back to South Carolina. An eighteen hour day that really left our tootsies dog-tired!

I have to give lots of credit to the visiting celebrities for just how much they put themselves out there for their adoring fans. Most of them were scheduled to participate in multiple photo opportunities for anyone willing to shell out varying prices to have their picture snapped with the famous. Patrick Stewart topped the list with a $200 charge, it would only set you back $160 to sit between William Shatner AND Leonard Nimoy or you could sit among the attending Battlestar: Galactica cast members (Mary McDonnell, Kate Vernon, Michael Trucco, Kandyse McClure, Luciana Carro, Michael Hogan, Alessandro Juliani, Aaron Douglas) for another $240. Despite those prices, most of the photo ops were very reasonably priced. My daughter Stacy's dream photo only set me back $30, and the one that I "almost got" would have been a mere $55.

I truly appreciate and respect the actors for taking the time to sit for these one-of-a-kind mementos, the folks who bought them were really thrilled to receive their photographs, but organizer Froggy Productions should have found a way to minimize the long wait time to get the pictures developed (four hours or longer in many cases), they had previously done this and were familiar with demand. Us single day attendees were left out in the cold with that kind of delay for their late afternoon & evening shoots.

The Walk of Fame was handled much better this year, with less gestapo tactics than the year before and having the actors themselves served by individual volunteer "handlers" for the autograph sales at point of contact was much easier and a nice throwback to how the show used to pull this off. Salute!

I picked up a Tom and Jerry sketch from Stephanie Gladden, an original page of Yanick Paquette art from the Terra Obscura mini-series from inker Karl Story, two signed Nocturnals graphic novels from creator Dan Brereton, finally got a chance to have Ken Steacy sign his old Famous Comic Book Creator card and picked up a celebrity autograph or two myself. This year I focused my attention on the casts from the late lamented Babylon 5 (Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Peter Jurasik, Tracy Scoggins and Stephen Furst) and the recently ended Battlestar: Galactica [see list above]; a cooler bunch of people, you would be hard pressed to find and that's saying something with other fun, famous folks like Karen Allen, Malcolm McDowell, James Marsters, and cast members from all Star Trek series, Star Wars, Stargate, Heroes, Buffy/Angel, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, etc. [The chauvinist in me has to mention how beautiful all of the genre ladies in attendance were, they each deserve their very own "Gal" Friday recognition in the Catacombs, so look for them throughout the coming year.]

You would not believe how long the lines were, outside the Marriott hotel, for The Venture Brothers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Joss Whedon tracks. Phenomenal! Costuming, gaming, panels, film festivals all took a backseat position for us. Dragoncon is simply too huge a show, with just to much to see and do, in a single day. We are already talking about breaking this cut-bait & run tactic and taking the multi-day plunge next year.

Hope to see you there in 2010!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Jennifer O'Dell

I'm off to Dragoncon in Atlanta, but lest I forget, here is today's "Gal" Friday!

Jennifer O'Dell starred on the syndicated television series Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as Veronica, the jungle-clad female lead. This “exposure” elevated Jennifer to a different level from her previous career doing guest spots on shows like Beverly Hills 90210, Diagnosis Murder, Pacific Blue and The Profiler; and ultimately opened doors to appearances on today's most popular television shows including Angel, Scrubs, Las Vegas, Charmed, CSI: Miami, The Closer, Nip/Tuck, Shark & Two and a Half Men.

She has also appeard in two independent films, The Man Who Came Back and Nevermore and has been cast in the upcoming feature, The Redemption of Sarah Cain.

You would be hard pressed to find a more fetching jungle girl than O’Dell as Veronica Layton. Blonde, buxom, sexy (yet believably strong) in the role, Jennifer was pretty much the only good reason to tune in the Australian produced series during its two season run.

Dragoncon starts today in Atlanta!

Dragon*Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the US. Dragon*Con 2009 kicks off today and runs through until Labor Day (September 4 - September 7, 2009) in Atlanta, GA.

I will be there bright and early tomorrow morning representing the Catacombs. Considering the dramatic costuming that is always on display at Dragoncon, my party of peeps and I have decided to dress as aging fan boys in order to get into the spirit of the show, so I doubt that you would recognize us anyway.

There are over 400 guests in attendance ranging from science fiction & fantasy authors, tons of motion picture and television actors, directors and writers, and many cool bands that will be performing into the wee hours each evening. Since I maintain a comic book blog, I thought that it would be nice to highlight the comics industry folks who will be in Atlanta. You will be able to meet and greet this large list of comic book professionals (but some others that I am unfamiliar with will also be at the convention):

Avatar Press, Dan Brereton (The Nocturnals), Mark Brooks, Bob Burden, Matt Busch, Tommy Castillo, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke , Peter David, Desperado Publishing, GW Fisher, Francesco Francavilla, Gaijin Studios, Stephanie Gladden, Michael Golden, Sanford Green, Everette Hartsoe, Bill Holbrook, Rich Larson, David Mack, Jim Mahfood, Nathan Massengill, Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Dean Motter, Ted Naifeh, Jimmy Palmiotti, George Perez (w/Hero Initiative), Brandon Peterson, Eric Powell (The Goon), Brian Pulido, Humberto Ramos, Don Rosa, Andy Runton, Ken Steacy, Studio Revolver, Wayne Vansant, Loston Wallace, Greg “Dark One” Williams and Renee Witterstaetter

Whew! That's not too shabby,even with Paul Dini's cancellation. Wish me luck as I attempt to line up a few interviews for the Catacombs, and fair warning, if you are a hot chick (or if you are bringing a hottie with you); and IF you or they are wearing something revealing or sexy - all bet's are off. Inebriated or not, I'm squeezing some flesh.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Archie #600 (Part I of VI)

In this age of endless mega-crossover-marketing events, it's nice to know that every now and then something outside of Marvel and DC occurs that also grabs a bit of the industry's attention. This week's review covers a non-superhero event that may just end up drawing comparisons to Gemstone's classic 1990's-era 'The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck'.

Archie Comics new release, Archie #600 is the first of six entertaining issues that will reveal how perennial teenager Archie Andrews came to propose to Ms. Veronica Lodge, ending the decades long love triangle between the two of them and the perpetual girl-next-door, Betty Cooper.

Written by film and TV producer Michael Uslan (the Batman films, National Treasure, Swamp Thing, Catwoman, The Spirit and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego) and illustrated by Stan Goldberg & Bob Smith, "The Proposal" begins with the Riverdale gang celebrating their impending high school graduation and then Archie goes for a long walk down Memory Lane, not only a stroll of reflection mind you, but an actual street in Riverdale. Rather than spoil this neat story, I will caution readers to pay very close attention to the artwork of the opening four page sequence for some potential clues to how this tale may play out.

Needless to say, there is some hope for those of us who may have been a bit flummoxed to see Betty get the cold shoulder in this surprising media event. The remainder of this introductory chapter follows the graduation that is depicted [hint] of young Mr. Andrews who quickly pops the question, unaware that Betty and Jughead are witness to the scene. The ripples of the impending nuptials spread throughout Riverdale and Archie finds himself pressed into working for the wealthy Mr. Lodge; he does have to provide a satisfactory income for daddy's dearest after all and the die is cast for next issues wedding (perhaps of the century).

That's all for now, kiddies. I don't want to ruin anybody's fun, but the story is worth checking out and Goldberg's always dependable artwork is perfect for something like this. Archie Comics has offered their signature characters in manga style and in a more realistically drawn style in recent years, so its comforting to see things looking the way one would expect here, even if looks turn out to be deceiving.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great Sci-fi Movie Lines: Star Wars Trilogy

Today I'm offering a lecherous twist on my superhero movie line posts, by dipping into the science-fantasy universe that is located far, far away ... and then tilting a bit towards indecent. Check out these lines of risque dialogue and see if you think the original screenwriters intended for this funny stuff to be taken somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Take your pick! They are all hilarious (my favorites are 'highlighted' in boldface):

A NEW HOPE (1977)

'She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.' 'Curse my metal body, I wasn't fast enough!' 'Look at the size of that thing!' 'Sorry about the mess...' 'You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.' 'Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?' 'You've got something jammed in here real good.' 'Put that thing away before you get us all killed.' 'Luke, at that speed do you think you'll be able to pull out in time?' 'Get in there, you big furry oaf, I don't care what you smell!' 'She's fast enough for you, old man.'


'I must've hit it pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?' 'That's okay, I'd like to keep it on manual control for a while.' 'Hurry up, golden-rod..' 'I thought that hairy beast would be the end of me.' 'There's an awful lot of moisture in here.' 'Possible, he came through the south entrance.' 'But now we must eat, Come...good food, come...' 'Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?' 'And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.' 'Control, control, you must learn control!'


'There is good in him, I've felt it.' 'Hey Luke, thanks for coming after me, now I owe you one.' 'You're a jittery little thing aren't you?' 'In time you will call me master.' 'A little higher, just a little higher.' 'I never knew I had it in me.' 'Grab it, almost..you almost got it. Gently now, alright, easy, easy...' 'Hey, point that thing someplace else!' 'What could possibly have come over Master Luke?' 'Back door, huh? Good idea!'