Thursday, April 27, 2017

Doctor Doom - Final Victory!


The first phase of our understanding of Doctor Doom comes to a close in Fantastic Four Annual #2. In this spectacular special issue, we not only get a fully developed story in which Doom plots yet again to defeat his enemies the Fantastic Four, but we are also treated to his first full origin story as well as the land of Latveria. The issue by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and inker Chic Stone is a milestone not only for the character of Doctor Doom but for Marvel as a whole.


In Fantastic Four #5, the debut of  Doctor Doom, we learn that Doom is a former student who at the same college as Reed Richards performed forbidden experiments which simultaneously damaged his face and got him expelled. Further it's hinted he disappeared into the wilds of the Himalayas to study. Little more is revealed about the mysterious man in a the iron mask who goes on to plague the Fab 4.


But now we have an origin and we learn that Victor Von Doom is a gypsy who is raised by his Dad, his mother having died when he was very young. His Dad seems a noble man who uses his skills to heal but when called to the bedside of the local Baron he cannot save his wife and in a rage the Baron demands his life. Taking Victor they attempt to escape but Daddy Von Doom dies and his son Victor is now given access to the heritage of his mother as well as his nimble-minded father. It seems his Mom was a sorceress and soon using skills both magical and technological Victor Von Doom becomes a powerful figure in the Gypsy community and uses his skills to swindle many wealthy patrons. Eventually he leaves his people to go to America to study and there he encounters Reed Richards and soon has the accident which will define his life. He leaves college and finds a cult of hermits in the high mountains who train him and soon he forges his armor and Victor Von Doom becomes for the first time "Doctor Doom". He returns to Latveria and seizes control and that's how we meet him, the "Master" of his domain, and a man looking for vengeance against the Fantastic Four.


In the story "The Final Victory of Doctor Doom" we learn how Doctor Doom survived his exile into deep space at the end of his last story. He is discovered by Rama-Tut, another former FF villain and the saved. The two compare notes and imagine for a moment that they might be related or even the same man in different times. Doom is taken to Earth and quickly sets about his latest scheme to lure the FF to the Latverian Embassy where they are given a strange berry beverage which makes their minds subject to seeing the thing they most fear. The Torch is frustrated in his lovemaking by a rancorous Thing andthe Invisible Girl sees Reed kissing another woman. This sets the team to fighting as meanwhile Doctor Doom observes. But a moment of weakness has him look at his ruined face and and his reaction alerts the FF.


A battle between the FF and Doom erupts with Doom demonstrating many inventive ways to kill the team. But eventually it comes down to Reed and Doom as they face off using a device which will allow the one of them with the greater intellect and will to send the other into limbo. It seems at first that Doctor Doom wins when Reed seems to disappear but quickly we realize that it is Doom who is deluded, Reed having used the berry beverage and his own strong mind to convince Doom of his victory. Convinced that he has won Doom leaves the rest of the FF, seeing them as no threat. Meanwhile Reed explains Doom's strange behavior. The threat is ended for now, and Doctor Doom believes that he is the one who has achieved the final victory.


This is an important story for Marvel for a number of reasons. It makes Doctor Doom a grander villain, and we see for the first time the complicated events which have resulted in his dominating attitudes. Things are not always as simple as they at first seem and now we can almost have sympathy of sorts for a man who deprived of his parents sought to bring some order to a life torn apart by those with position and wealth.


Next time we wrap up the Dojo's look at Doctor Doom by skipping ahead a few years and taking a peak at the debut of Doom's very own series.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Godzilla In Space!


Godzilla Vs. SpaceGodzilla  is almost exactly what the title suggests it is, a big old battle between the Big G and a weird counterpart from the depths of outer space. It's not my favorite of this run of Godzilla movies as I found it a bit sleepy in places, but I did like many elements of the flick.


In previous Godzilla movies, bits and pieces of Godzilla's essence have gone into outer space and there they become the mighty "SpaceGodzilla" who descends onto the Earth with a proper mad-on for his progenitor. SpaceGodzilla appears to be Godzilla fused with giant crystals which protrude from his body. It's a neat design on paper I think, but I'm not sure it works on screen all the time. Anyway while all this has been going on, the defense force of Japan has put another giant robot into the field, this one dubbed M.O.G.E.R.A. (Mobile Operation Godzilla Robot Aero-type).


Also on hand is Little Godzilla, now grown up a bit more and still with a connection to the human psychic Miki Sequesa. SpaceGodzilla captures and imprisons Little Godzilla drawing out his arch enemy and the battle is on. M.O.G.E.R.A. operated by a dedicated soldier who has long been trying to stop Godzilla helps out and the menace of SpaceGodzilla is ended, though Godzilla himself remains.


This one has plenty to like. I for one really like M.O.G.E.R.A., the design seems clearly to be meant evoke the classic giant monster robot used by The Mysterians in the movie of the same name from many decades previous named MOGUERA; There's something oddly  goofy about the design, but it still works for me. It's a good stand in for Mecha-Godzilla which might suffer overexposure if used in this movie. This movie more than anything sets the stage for the next one, the last installment of this particular run of Godzilla movies.


More on that next time.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Golden Derby - April 1967!






Fifty years ago this month there was a blockbuster event at the small Derby, Connecticut publisher known as Charlton. Steve Ditko's great recreation Blue Beetle hit the stands with a mighty number one issue. It was the final piece of the "Action Hero" line and alongside the new Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) there debuted The Question, a hero properly fit for Ditko's ever sharpening political tracts. Blue Beetle #1 is a fantastic comic, chock full of entertainment and arguably the apogee of the company's output at the time. Also on the stands was the latest issue of Captain Atom in which the good Captain battles his arch foe The Ghost again. The Blue Beetle is along for the ride in the back of this issue, the place he'd debuted some months before and at the same time a great way for editor Dick Giordano to cross-promote the new "Action Hero". In many ways, these two heroes (Captain Atom and Blue Beetle) are Charlton's legacy as both are (in mutated forms of course) still being published by DC Comics which long ago bought the rights. Judomaster #95 is also available in a new issue in which creator Frank McLaughlin has the "Scarlet Smasher" battle a foe dubbed The Acrobat. (Seems like Captain America was fighting an identically named villain at about this same time.) Dick Giordano supplies a terrific cover for Career Girl Romances which has a weird pop culture vibe, not unlike when members of the classic Rat Pack tried to evoke the zeitgeist of the era, something which they might'be had sympathy with, but not an affinity for. And the durable Jack Keller turns out another compelling cover for the adventures of Clint Curtis and the Road Knights in the latest issue of Hot Rods and Racing Cars.

More to come next month.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Godzilla's Robot Buddy!


When Godzilla's next opponent reared up in the 1993 flick Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla II there was little doubt that the battle would be ferocious, and it was. I'm a big fan of Mechagodzilla, really having enjoyed his original appearances in the canon in previous decades, and the rationale for his creation here is quite logical, to a point. I like that in this version he's actually bigger than Godzilla.


Godzilla's ongoing menace has prompted the creation of G-Force dedicated to his utter destruction. To that end they create Garuda, a gunship not unlike Super-X from the 1984 revival movie which kicked off the Heisei movies. They also use the technology from the defeated King Ghidorah (from a few movies past) to build the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon, the Godzilla-like Mechagodzilla.


Meanwhile scientists find an egg on a distant plateau which is seemingly that of the flying Rodan. But it seems that actually Rodan has been fooled and the egg hatches to reveal a baby Godzilla. There is much battling and whatnot which proceeds from all this hectic activity, but in the end Rodan ends up helping Godzilla defeat Mechagodzilla while sacrificing his own life. The psychic Miki Sagura is able to bond with Baby Godzilla and even ends up influencing Godzilla himself to take the tyke under his protection and the movie ends as the parent and child head off into the ocean.


I was very much reminded of the classic British flick Gorgo by the ending. It does much to undermine Godzilla's status as a pure deadly monster and once again the movies begin the steady process of personifying him and to no small degree undermining his monster status.


More to come.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Doctor Doom - The Master Plan!


Fantastic Four #23 pits the Fab 4 against Doctor Doom yet again. This time Doom goes to some lengths to acquire a team to help him bring the FF low. That's not how he usually works, but as we'll see he is firmly in character by the story's end. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are joined on this issue by inker George Bell (George Roussos).


The story starts in the Baxter Building as the team go about their daily lives bickering about leadership and chasing down dinosaurs brought forward in time by Doctor Doom's time machine which has been brought there for study. Meanwhile Doctor Doom by means of a robot proxy gathers together three men by bailing them out of jail. The three are strongman Bull Brogan, con man "Handsome" Harry Phillips, and mystic Yogi Dakor. These three are given enhancements by Doom which make Brogan inhumanly strong, Phillips with keener hearing and Dakor made fire proof. Then the trio are sent to lure the Thing, Invisible Girl, and Torch into battle respectively and capture them.


Doom himself captures Mr. Fantastic and encases him in a clear box. Having no further use for the trio of villains Doom sends them to another dimension to await his call. Then the FF escape from Doom's clutches and a furious battle breaks out. When Doctor Doom tries to snare the team into a "Solar Wave" which will cast them into the depths of space he his forestalled by the Invisible Girl and finds himself falling victim to the trap. As he disappears into space the Fab 4 escape and ponder if he will once again return.


As it turns out this story has a neat little sequel which appeared in the pages of Strange Tales #122 when the "Terrible Trio" return from the other dimension and battle the Human Torch. Thanks to a reprinting in Marvel Tales I read this story long before I was ever able to read the FF story which introduced the Trio.


Doctor Doom of course does return, but that will wait until the second Fantastic Four Annual which not only returns the master villain but gives us a fully-fledged origin story as well.


More on those most important stories later.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Inhumanizng Influence!


I loved this alternate cover when I first glommed my eyeballs onto it. I was totally jazzed way back in the earliest 70's when Jack "King" Kirby was given the chance to start up The Inhumans in their own title (of sorts). In the grand tradition of Marvel, it was a split-book titled Amazing Adventures and co-starred the Black Widow.


Here's a look at the sumptuous artwork by Kirby and inker Chic Stone given  modern gloss and depth suitable for its new status as a cover image.


It began life as a splash page, the first first splash page and as we see the Inhumans are racing at you with all the proper energy and intensity. Given only ten pages to work with, Kirby was unable to offer up his by then typical classic splashes on this series and so this first page had to serve. The read the story itself go here. Nice to see some vintage Kirby get a new place of prominence in the marketplace. If I see this one on the stands I might just have to grab up a copy.

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Red Eye Out!


As you might suspect from many of my previous comments I am not a particular fan of Fox News. The cable news outlet has been of even more notoriety recently because of the belated firing of the loathsome Bill O'Reilly, but it's other Fox programming changes which prompt my comment today -- the cancellation after ten years of the late-night "comedy" show Red Eye.


I've been watching Red Eye off and on since it's beginning. For one thing it's original programming at a time when I for some reason am all too often awake. As is obvious from postings here, I function mostly strongly in the early hours (losing steam steadily as the day drifts by). Mostly on TV are old movies, vintage TV series, or reruns of news shows which aired earlier in prime time. In the middle of all of that popped up an irreverent "news" show named appropriately enough Red Eye. It was hosted by Greg Gutfield originally, and other regulars included Bill Schulz the rare liberal voice on Fox and Andy Levy, a truly dedicated Libertarian. The show offered up what Fox News promoted most of the rest of the day but almost never produced, a show which was well and truly "fair and balanced". With a snarky lack of respect for authorities of all kinds and a rambunctious disrespect for decorum, the show was an uneven and occasionally even blithely absurd bag of commentary on the events of the time, both large and tiny.


Bill Schulz left after a time and his liberal perspective was never adequately replaced, and Gutfield left the show for other parts of the Fox News landscape becoming more and more a standard party hack and less the unpredictable voice he'd been in the deep night. Only Andy Levy remained and it was for Andy's "Halftime Reports" that I mostly tuned in, often just for those in recent years. Levy is a commentator with real conviction who is unafraid to critique all in the world which he finds offensive or stupid, and that is regardless of the political persuasion. As "Obamamania" swept up the Fox News company, Red Eye remained an outpost where a somewhat more fair assessment of those years sometimes broke through.


It's a shame Red Eye got cancelled, but truth told since the advent of host Tom Shillue the show had already to a great degree abandoned its unpredictable nature and had become yet another place where I could anticipate a steady if not quite unrelenting criticism of anything labeled "liberal" or "progressive". In a world in which far too many consumers of media hunt down only those outlets which confirm their inclinations, a show like Red Eye is even more necessary, at least a show like Red Eye was once upon a time.

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The Sinister Dr. Doom!


While reading about a British Doctor Doom here, I learned that DC Comics had created their own "Dr.Doom" way back in 1950, many years before Stan and Jack used the nom de crime for their Fab 4 master villain. The DC Dr.Doom was a one-shot Atomic Age character who appeared in Detective Comics a single time, and appeared to die in a final fashion at the story's end.


The story written by Edmond Hamilton, goes that while taking an inventory of their one thousand trophies in the Batcave, Batman and his youthful ward Robin get a call from Commissioner Gordon about a smuggler named Dr.Doom. They arrive to see the villain seemingly drown, but little do they know that he has hidden himself in a mummy case. That case ends up in the Batcave where the sinister Dr.Doom appears with a improvised plot to kill off the Dynamic Duo.


But his scheme falls short and Batman and Robin survive while Dr.Doom himself gets trapped inside the air-tight case and suffocates. The air fully out of his villainy he is apparently never deemed worthy of revival (even by the likes of Steve Englehart) and so remains among Batman's long list of deceased enemies.


And that's why the name "Doctor Doom" was ready and waiting when Stan and Jack needed it for their malevolent mastermind in the full bloom of the Silver Age.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

What Is Bugging Godzilla?


Maybe it's because the first Godzilla movie I ever saw was a late-night presentation of Godzilla Vs. The Thing, but I've always liked Mothra, Mothra works despite so many elements of the creation working against it. For one thing there's no expression possible with the giant insect which just flies from perch to perch using its giant wings to blow things around. The larvae form of the Mothra can shoot out silky fibers to entrap its enemies but they always move so slowly that it's difficult (not unlike the Mummy) to really feel much threatened by them. All that said, the sheer elegance of the creation of Mothra works.


So that made me actually anxious to see Godzilla Vs. Mothra - The Battle For Earth. This project apparently began as a straight up Mothra project but it was decided that Godzilla was a better antagonist for the god-moth.


The story is somewhat convoluted but echoes in many ways the original confrontation between the two monsters from decades before. Godzilla is awakened and later a giant egg is found on a distant island protected by two little girls dubbed the "Cosmos". We get an ancient yarn about there being two moth-gods, Mothra and another named Battra who fought long ago with Mothra coming out on top. Now it appears Battra seems to be on the verge of being revived. Meanwhile a devious business man tries to kidnap the Cosmos and gain control of their power. Mothra and Battra emerge at last and begin to fight when Godzilla pops out of Mount Fuji and the two team up to take on the greater threat. This ends up with Battra's destruction and Godzilla imprisoned again. But now Mothra must take up a prophesied mission for Battra and leaves Earth with the freed Cosmos to confront a deadly meteor headed for Earth in the future.


There's a hectic activity to this one and the battles between the monsters are pretty good, though as with all battles with Mothra, the fights are limited in their kinetic variety. All in all this one gets good marks for tone, but can't really be called exciting at much any point.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tarzan On The Precipice!


Following on after Will Murray's Return To Pal-Ul-Don this novel by Michael Sanford is the second of the "Wild Adventures". Tarzan On The Precipice is a new yarn commissioned by the folks at Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, and is I suppose part of the official canon now. That's unfortunate in many ways since despite some intriguing elements the novel falls well short of the classics written so long ago by ERB himself.


The story begins where the classic Tarzan of the Apes leaves off, with Tarzan in America. Having given up his inheritance and the hand of the woman he loves, Tarzan heads off into the wilds of Canada and there confronts of all things another tribe of ape-like creatures and a well and truly lost civilization. The civilization he discovers is a tribe of lost Vikings who have survived in the maw of a deep and broad territory created by a massive meteor strike eons before. Alongside them thrive a colony of Sasquatch who appear to be of a similar lineage though markedly different in key details to the Apes among which Tarzan grew up.

Tarzan finds his way into this hidden land thanks to the handiwork of to proper villains who make a living waylaying and robbing trains and who also have an enterprise with some elements inside the pit in which Tarzan finds himself. Also on hand is a naive and beautiful girl named London as well as her mother and her tutor. All of these folks get drawn into a somewhat sprawling adventure which lasts a strangely undefined but lengthy time and all are changed by the sometimes grisly events.

I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, few as they are alas, so I will keep the details of the tale under wraps. But to speak to the writing style, it's a far cry from the fast-paced classic hand of ERB with diversions into all manner of background information. Especially in regard the Vikings we get pages of cultural detail which only marginally helps to freshen our understanding of the events at hand and do remarkable harm to the pacing of the story. When Tarzan is interacting with the Sasquatch the story feels more organically paced. Weirdly the story at times reads almost like a summary of events and not a true engaging narrative.


This is a young Tarzan, still fresh from the wild and barely civilized. My favorite moments in the book speak to Tarzan's nature and seeing him trying to survive in the deciduous forests of Canadian north are really vital. I have to say that the elements of a grand story are all here, but somehow the execution simply falls short. This story reads alas like what it is, an above average bit of fan fiction by an academic who is unable to parse the difference between detail and relevant detail.

I wanted to like this more, but I only liked parts of it. Will Meugniot's artwork is not bad at all and does add value to the book. I would recommend this one to Tarzan purists. It's recognizably Tarzan but sadly not the exciting version ERB often wrote about.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Doctor Doom - Clutches Of Doom!


In what is perhaps Marvel's first continued tale, Fantastic Four #17 has the Fab 4 face off against Doctor Doom yet again. In the past Stan and Jack had allowed a few issues to pass before pitting the team against the same foe (sometimes years as in the case of the Mole Man) but Doctor Doom is different, he's the one who has become their main opponent and that's settled once and for all with this issue by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers.


The team has just returned from Micro-World and bid farewell to Ant-Man who assisted them there. After a few pages of reprise we find the FF pursuing their lives when Doctor Doom unleashes his lighter-than-air "Followers" to locate each member and cause distraction. The Followers seem to be more an annoyance than a true threat but that's only the first part of Doom's scheme. He captures Alicia Masters and taunts the team from his airship hidden in a cloud over the city. In fact Doom attempts to blackmail the United States itself and proves his mettle by disrupting electricity all across the country. The FF are conscripted to confront him and they do. Reed locates Doom and realizes that the Followers had been more than a mere annoyance, rather they had recorded the FF's atomic structures and those details made a deadly force field around Doom's aircraft deadly to the team specifically. To counter this Reed uses a formula to change the Thing to Ben Grimm who penetrates the field and allows the rest of the team to enter. They battle many traps set by Doom but in the end are able to save Alicia and defeat the villain and send him sailing out of the craft, seemingly falling to his doom. But the FF know better.


There's a really high level of inventiveness in this issue. The Followers at first seem rather silly and are played for laughs but their threat is all too deadly by the story's end. Doom is bristling with equipment and despite his defeats seems eager to confront his deadly enemies again. By this time Doom's larger motivations are becoming a question and the need is developing to learn more about him but that will not happen immediately.


More to come.

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