Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kara the Jungle Princess in "Shrine of the Moon God" (Better;1945)

I'm devoting a portion of this weeks posts to one of my favorite golden age publishers, known variously as Better/Standard/Nedor/Pines. Two stories starring Kara the Jungle Princess will be featured this week, along with a spiffy Nedor Cover Gallery on Wednesday. Kara originally appeared in Exciting Comics #39 (1945) and despite most folks having never heard of her, she managed to log almost a dozen adventures before disappearing in 1946 with her last story appearance in Exciting Comics #49.

This tale is from Exciting #42 with art by Al Camy, who was a regular artist for Better Publications titles on such features as 'Jill Trent', 'Crime Crushers', 'Grim Reaper', 'Phantom Detective' and 'Spectro'. Before she became a jungle princess called Kara, she was army nurse Jane Howell who stumbled upon the lost civilization of Arohiti in the jungles of Africa. There she was elevated to ruler of the Arohitans, a people possessing a charm against physical harm, where she must always stay alert for the evil machinations of the priest Targala. Major Kit Kendall was with her to help out with the tougher problems.

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.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Commander, is this some kind of game?

The game Mass Effect, takes place in the year 2183, where as an elite human soldier named Commander Shepard, you set out to explore the galaxy on a starship, the SSV Normandy. The titular mass effect is a form of inertia-suppressing technology, allowing faster-than-light travel.

The sequel, Mass Effect 2, takes place two years after the events that transpired in the first game. Mass Effect 2 also directly uses players' completed save data from the first game to influence events and storylines within the second game, basing certain events and narrative threads on decisions and actions that the player had made in the first game.

I first got hooked on ME2 after buying it for my son last Christmas and have played through it several times. I then purchased the original game, looking forward to experiencing stuff that had been referenced in ME2, only to end up frustrated and stymied by the irritating in-game vehicle called the Mako. After failing to get a handle on that pesky ride which you are forced to operate on many missions, I basically set the whole game aside for a few months and only recently popped it back into the Xbox 360. Thankfully I got a grip on driving the Mako and ended up liking it quite a bit, plus now that I’ve beaten Saren, saved the Citadel and succeeded in accomplishing Commander Shepard’s inaugural mission, I can roll over my save file and have that character also complete ME2. This will allow me to maintain a single character thread throughout all of the Mass Effect games.

EA Games has a bevy of much-anticipated titles to display at E3 2011, including live demos of Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3. The press event is called “Gamechangers: EA 2011 Preview” will air on Spike TV at 3:30 p.m. (EST), June 6, 2011.

In addition to the third Battlefield and ME installments, EA Games will also display Star Wars: The Old Republic, Need for Speed: The Run and the latest installments of Madden NFL and FIFA Soccer as well as some previously un-announced titles.

Early indications suggest that surviving original Mass Effect squad members (pictured above; left-to-right with Cdr. Shepard are Kaidan Alenko & Liara T’soni), who only cameo’d in ME2, will return to active duty on the squad in the third and final chapter.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Memorium: Jeff Conaway

Actor Jeff Conaway, was best known for his roles in the movie Grease and the television series Taxi and Babylon 5. On B5, Conaway portrayed security officer Zack Allan, his character was eventually promoted to Security Chief, and he maintained that position through the end of the series fifth and final season. Conaway also reprised his B5 role in the telefilms Babylon 5: The River of Souls, Babylon 5: Thirdspace and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms.

Conaway struggled with various substance addictions throughout most of his career and it was this predilection that resulted in his firing from Taxi back in 1982. A serious back injury on the set of Grease plagued him for many years, and a combination of both situations landed him on two crummy reality shows, Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where his wild manifestations were truly evident.

On May 11, he fell into a coma from pneumonia with sepsis, exacerbated by his waning health and substance-induced decrepitude and passed away on May 27, 2011 after his family took him off life support when doctors decided there was nothing they could do to revive him.

The Catacombs extends its condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Gal" Friday! Estella Warren

Man, this was one of those weeks where I was really conflicted over the selection, but the "gal" that I have finally chosen endured a pretty rough week; so she more than earned her spot in the Catacombs.

Estella Warren first caught the celebrity spotlight as part of the national synchronized swimming team of Canada. She eventually scored the senior national championship at age seventeen, Warren also earned the chance to move on to the 1996 Summer Olympics. She is a three-time Canadian national champion, and the solo bronze medallist at the 1995 Junior World Championships. 

Then she became a fashion model appearing in Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and two televised commercials for Chanel No. 5 perfume. She was named Maxim Magazine's Hottest Woman in 2000 and was ranked #61 in FHM's "100 Sexiest Women in the World 2005" special supplement. Warren has also appeared in ad campaigns for UGG Australia, Andrew Marc, Perry Ellis, Nine West, Cartier, Volvo, De Beers and she has modeled for Victoria's Secret.

Acting was a natural offshoot and her film roles include Driven, Planet of the Apes (2001), Kangaroo Jack, The Cooler, and on TV That '70s Show, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Ghost Whisperer.

 On Tuesday, May 24, 2011 she "acted out" after being arrested, initially fleeing the scene where she allegedly hit three parked cars with her Toyota Prius. Police found and arrested her for DUI. During her arrest she resisted being handcuffed and actually kicked the officer doing the deed. Later at the police station, as she was being booked, she managed to slip out of her handcuffs and attempted to escape, but she was quickly recaptured. Ultimately she was charged not only with the DUI, but also resisting arrest, assault and felony escape. Her bail has been set at $100,000. 

I don't know if the product endorsements have dried up or her acting gigs aren't shaking out sufficiently, but even at thirty-two, Estella could certainly turn that swimming resume into a coaching or mentoring role for young athletes. She is nice to look at in a bathing suit (or without).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jann of the Jungle in "Voodoo Vengeance" (Atlas;1957)

As promised, Jann of the Jungle returns today in a second tale called "Voodoo Vengeance" from Jann of the Jungle #17 (June 1957); originally published by Atlas/Marvel. Same creative team of Don Rico (writer) and Al Williamson & Ralph Mayo (art); plus the spiffy front cover is by Bill Everett. Enjoy!

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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Takin' Care of Business!!

Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Takin' Care of Business (just for the hell of it).

Upcoming '50 Girls 50' page from Image Comics and Dark Phoenix commission art by John Byrne (just for the hell of it; part 2).

See you tomorrow !

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rayboy's Review: Booster Gold #44 (DC Comics)

Booster Gold #44 welcomes original writer/artist Dan Jurgens and finishing artist Norm Rapmund back to the series after a years absence with the first part of a tale called “Turbulence” that ties into DC’s summer event, Flashpoint. Supposedly, Booster Gold is the only actual ongoing DC Universe title that will be part of this major event, which will be told through a variety of standalone mini-series and specials.

After discovering that Rip Hunter’s lab appears to have been abandoned for decades, and with both Rip and Michelle Carter missing, Booster and Skeets arrive in Coast City seeking the aid of Green Lantern. They are immediately attacked by military forces who believe that Booster is at the head of an impending Atlantean assault force. Somehow the entire multi-verse has been eradicated and the timeline that Booster finds himself in has been reset by an unknown party for unknown reasons and he isn’t recognized by the authorities. If that wasn’t enough of a worry for Booster and Skeet’s, they soon come under attack by the one foe that Michael Jon Carter would never in a million years wish to battle … particularly solo. Doomsday!

Jurgens recent limited series, Time Masters, had paired Booster and Rip Hunter with guest stars Superman and Green Lantern as part of the crossover “The Search for Batman”, but that aspect was quickly sidelined for an inter-dimensional romp with old Bronze Age characters Starfire and Claw, before all-too neatly tacking on a brief  Batman moment to close out the six issue series. Batman primarily went and came in other corners of the DCU, and ultimately the whole thing felt like a real waste of time.

Thankfully, Jurgens & Rapmund are back at home in the very place they need to be to produce some fun comics. I enjoyed their previous Booster Gold work and this chapter of Flashpoint bodes well for their welcome return to this title. Recommended!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jann of the Jungle in "The Drum Beats At Midnight!" (Atlas;1957)

Jann of the Jungle stars in a neat five page tale called "The Drum Beats At Midnight!" from Jann of the Jungle #17 (June 1957); originally published by Atlas/Marvel. Don Rico is the writer and Al Williamson & Ralph Mayo teamed up on the art. Jann will appear in a second story from this silver age issue later this week.

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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

At the Movies: Thor

If you are a fan of Marvel Comics God of Thunder, then you aren't going to be disappointed in director Kenneth Branagh's "Thor" feature film. However that being said, if you're the nitpicking type, you will probably have a field day over some portions of the movie.

Let me address my own minor quibbles with this opening chapter of Thor's adventures, in fact that sums it up in a nutshell. While the film plays out as a complete story, the overall impression that I was left with at the end, was that the whole thing felt like a grand opening act or terrific first "chapter" that really whetted my appetite for the rest of the story. Not a deal breaker really, but still slightly disheartening to me as a viewer. It made me feel - somewhat - like, "That's all?"

The cast was topnotch and Chris Hemsworth was wonderful as Thor, Anthony Hopkins embodied Odin the All-Father even better than I had hoped, and that despite his screen time seeming more akin to a glorified cameo. There are several cast members that I wasn't particularly familiar with including Jaime Alexander as Sif, Josh Dallas as Fandral and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. These three standout to varying degrees in their roles, with Hiddleston's Loki truly a tour de force performance. Genre veteran Colm Feore is almost unrecognizable as Laufey, King of the Frost Giants, but he was one of my favorite characters in this film. Great work on his part. One character isn't an actor at all, and despite his limited use in the film, the Destroyer was awesome!

Comic book purists will either be pleased with the nod to Thor's original comic book secret identity "Donald Blake" or be left a bit cold, but this didn't bother me as much as the major change to Jane Foster's original career. Of course we live in the "modern" era and therefore must show a woman in a strong role, so Natalie Portman's otherwise fine performance as scientist Jane, trumped the originals comic book role as a simple nurse. Try getting actual nurses to understand why their traditional caregiver role in our society isn't respected enough by the film makers to retain this aspect, and you might find yourself on the receiving end of a dirty needle sometime. Oh well, that alteration certainly paled against the most egregious change made from comics to film. No surprise that politically correct mindsets won out in the casting department. Two significant characters were unnecessarily tweaked to widen their appeal to - who the hell knows - but Hogun and Heimdall are Norse Gods after all, and having a samurai and a soul brother on hand didn't seem especially Scandinavian to me.

Idris Elba was actually not too bad as the mighty Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost (aka the Rainbow Bridge) and he almost won me over despite the fact that a black actor has no business in this pantheon of gods. Same goes for Tadanobu Asano as Hogun, not an Aesir like most of the Asgardians, but certainly not a Japanese warrior either. I call bullshit on these two casting choices, but don't blame them for being present in the movie; the modern thing to do after all - for inclusiveness.

The special effects are quite terrific, the writing was really good and the film does leave me wanting more epic Thor tales on film. Hopefully, Marvel Studios can keep it up with all of the planned Avengers segments, since they basically blew it with X-Men and Fantastic Four. Recommended!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Editorial Diatribe From the Catacombs: The Governator Falls!

Not only has Arnold Schwarzenegger put the next phase of his film career on hold amidst revelations that he fathered a “love child” with his former housekeeper, [Didn’t they used to be called bastards?] the makers of a planned cartoon series have officially pulled the plug on the "The Governator" project.

Schwarzenegger, at sixty-three, was set to star in the animated series co-created by former Marvel Comics boss Stan Lee (the most recent of Lee's late career/shitty ideas) about a superhero who lives a double life as a devoted family man. Well, at least they intended to make the cartoon true-to-life.

After Schwarzenegger so publicly hosed his wife of 25 years, and their four children, perhaps the former Austrian bodybuilder should step away from the spotlight. He is a multi-multi-millionaire and can easily console himself with other available floozies with bad taste. Maybe he and Mel Gibson should compare notes over at Charlie Sheen’s house on how to tail gun an established career by acting like an ass.
Don't do as I do; do as "I" say!

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Gal" Friday! Bridget Moynahan

Bridget Moynahan is an American model and actress who has appeared in an eclectic range of films including The Sum of All Fears, The Recruit, I Robot, Lord of War, Prey and Battle: Los Angeles. Since I have two daughters, I was forced to sit through dozens of viewings of Coyote Ugly over the years; one of her earliest roles. She's easy on the eyes, so I didn't complain too much, and there were a few other hotties in that film as well.

Bridget is also familiar to TV viewers thanks to her roles on Sex and the City, Eli Stone and currently, Blue Bloods (opposite Tom Selleck).

Her private life may have placed her more prominently in the celebrity spotlight due to her former relationship with NFL quarterback, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. They have a young son despite no longer being a couple. Now I ask you, other than being an arrogant prick of an athlete, why would you let a lovely "gal" like this get away?

 No, I don't get it either. I'm inducting Ms. Moynahan into the Catacombs this week so that the rest us can appreciate her for posterity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In Memorium: Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Renowned artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones, whose work is best known from the late 1960s through 2000s, has passed away. Jones struggled with inner personal demons and ultimately underwent sex reassignment surgery in the late 1990’s. Her talent was never in question, and she provided hundreds of covers for different types of books, as well as venturing into fine art and sculpture. The great Frank Frazetta considered Jones "the greatest living painter”.

The portrait illustration of Jones (right) is by Michael Netzer. The Catacombs extends its condolences to her family, friends and fans.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Zago, Jungle Prince in "The Insane Maiden!" (Fox;1948)

It's hump day and I'm just beginning to snap out of the erratic biorithyms from the long weekend spent out of state attending my oldest daughters college graduation. I was finally able to take in the new Thor movie last night (it's pretty good and I will share my thoughts on it tomorrow). My loyal pug seems to be recovering from the traumatic experience of being left out of said road trip and under the care of an unfamiliar dog whisperer, and even the Catacombs seems to be somewhat on the mend (although still running a bit behind schedule). Alas!

Zago, Jungle Prince returns after a lengthy absence in the Jack Kamen illustrated "The Insane Maiden!" from Zago, Jungle Prince #2 (Nov.1948); originally published by Fox. 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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

1980's Flashback/From the Dust Bin: Kraven's Last Hunt

I like comic books.

From a very young age, I have always appreciated the way that artwork accompanied by dialog in word balloons blend together to tell a great story that is also fun in and of itself. The narrative format of the comic book art form appeals to me in a powerful way that no other medium truly does. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like movies, television, novels or other forms of entertainment. I do. What I’m saying is basically that I like comic books, and I guess that’s not really going to change.

However, I do find it very challenging to find current product that engages me in the way that titles of the past did and that fact is not tied to the retiring, fading away or death of former writers and artists. The industry itself has changed in ways that – in my opinion – detract from the level of enjoyment that has kept me in “comics”.

I will revisit some aspects of this subject in coming days, but today let me share a wonderful epiphany that rippled out from the recent Free Comic Book Day. As I was plucking stacks of back issues from the quarter boxes marked down for sale at the store event which I attended, one issue in particular grabbed my attention. Web of Spider-Man #32 (Nov.1987); originally published by Marvel Comics, was Part IV of "Kraven's Last Hunt" (also known as "Fearful Symmetry") a storyline written by J.M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Mike Zeck. This classic six-part tale featuring the final battle between Kraven the Hunter and Spider-Man ran through Web of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man during 1987 (the very year that I originally got married) and I never purchased a single issue from this run. Man, was I a dope!

I immediately knew that I would have to have every single one of these issues as soon as I flipped through Web of Spider-Man #32. I headed for eBay and bought the remaining issues for next to nothing. Damn, this a story for the ages. I doubt that many comic book super-villains have enjoyed the kind of magnificent send-off that Sergei Kravenoff did in this multi-part epic. In "Kraven's Last Hunt", the hunter's long-term festering aggravation over his inability to best Spider-Man has finally destroyed his sanity. Kraven hatches a scheme that actually defeats Spider-Man, who is seemingly shot to death and buried, allowing the villain to don a copy of Spider-Man's costume in an effort to prove himself superior at his adversary's former activities.

As “Spider-Man”, Kraven roams throughout New York City, brutally attacking criminals, including a group of thugs attempting to assault Mary Jane Watson (who had only recently wed Spider-Man/Peter Parker). The culmination of these activities is Kraven's successful capture of the super-villain, Vermin, whom Spider-Man had previously needed the help of Captain America to defeat. Two weeks later, Spider-Man revives from the effects of the tranquilizer dart that Kraven had shot him with, and he manages to dig his way out of his own grave. After Spider-Man confronts Kraven, the hunter does not even fight back, considering himself the victor having made his final point.

Kraven ultimately releases Vermin, who attacks Spider-Man, thinking him responsible for his brutal capture. Vermin defeats Spider-Man, but Kraven intervenes before the creature can kill him. Kraven allows Vermin to go free and tells Spider-man he can pursue him if he desires, but that Kraven's hunting days have ended. While Spider-Man goes after Vermin, Kraven retires to his home, reminiscing about his past and the peace that he now feels, and then he commits suicide with a shotgun in his mouth. Spider-Man finally confronts Vermin and is able to outwit him, and then he goes home to his wife and recovers.

DeMatteis and Zeck truly deserve the acclaim they received for this story line, but mention must also be made of the superlative efforts of inker Bob McLeod, letterer Rick Parker, colorist Janet Jackson and Editor Jim Salicrup on this terrific set of books which represent the kind of gold standard that the comic book business used to turn out each and every month.