Thursday, April 26, 2018

That Girl!

Apparently there's some movie or other debuting this weekend and some rumors have it that Carol Danvers, she who has become Captain Marvel over the years since the death of the good Kree Captain, will play some small role in it. That is substantiated by the publication of True Believers : Carol Danvers which does something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime, gives a high-profile reprint for a vintage Captain Mar-Vell  story from the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #13, just before the good Captain got his own self-titled gig.

Here are the pages in which Carol Danvers makes her very first comic book appearance in some handsome pages by new writer Roy Thomas, artist Gene Colan and inker Paul Reinman.

And here's the magnificent cover for MSH #13 by Gene Colan and Frank Giacoia, one of my all-time favorites and the last original Captain Marvel story I was able to add to my collection. Love the battle between Mar-Vell and Sentry #459 as they face off. Cap's little belt rockets made little sense, but I adored them.

I started on "Marvel's Space-Born Hero" with the debut of his own comic and it would be several years before I was able to find these vintage back issues. Now the story is readily available for everyone to enjoy.

Now what's this movie everyone is talking about?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

DC Super Heroes - The Filmation Adventures 1967!

Among the real treats of the Filmation Superman cartoon shows was the way in which it allowed for other DC heroes to get the animated treatment, if for only a short time. Tucked into the show when it expanded to one hour were single cartoons for Green Lantern, Flash, Atom, and Hawkman as well as cartoons for the assembled Justice League of America as well as the Teen Titans.

Each of the heroes got three cartoons, which usually pitted them against alien invaders or insects or often a combination of the two. Monsters and villains were pretty ho-hum, but it was still a thrill to see the Atom shrink and fight against full-sized thugs, the Flash to race around fighting some monster from space, or Green Lantern battling some weird alien threat. Hawkman was a challenge and often used his space ship to get things done. Green Lantern had a partner from Venus, a nifty way to avoid the racist character of Pieface from the comics. Kid Flash often helped the Flash. But both Atom and Hawkman (surprisingly) always operated solo.

The heroes bonded into the JLA to fight other threats and Superman shows up to lead the ranks. Superman was the obvious leader and inevitably gave the other heroes their marching orders. The Teen Titan cartoons were a lot of fun giving us the team of Speedy, Aqualad, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl. For whatever reason, Wonder Woman was never part of the Filmation animation world, but Wonder Girl does give us a glimpse of what it might have been like to include her.

There are all briskly paced delightful little adventures that do a surprisingly accurate job of translating the heroes to the small screen. Few liberties are taken with the core aspects of the heroes, though there is little time for supporting casts.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Adventures Of Batman 1968!

When the famous Batman television starring the late Adam West and Burt Ward show left the air, Filmation had a chance to at the Gotham superhero to their line-up in tandem with Superman and they did. The show attempted with some success to keep the lively playful Batman from the live-action series intact although new voice actors were used.

The show featured the villains from the comics such as Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman. With the exception of Mr. Freeze the others often worked together (sort of) to wind up Batman and Robin and attempt to execute some weirdo plot against Gotham City. Also on hand were the Mad Hatter and a new villain Simon the Pieman.

The adventures were structured with a cliffhanger which was a format also used in the Superman cartoons in 1968. To my mind this idea hurt the overall effectiveness of the cartoons, making them too long often. These adventures worked best when they were brisk and the attempts to break made the stories softer than was ideal.

That said, these are still pretty fun. Batgirl is on hand and plays a nice role, often teaming with Batman and Robin. It's almost as if the live-action series just went animated with a little less satire and a bit more pure  Silver Age superhero adventure.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

The Adventures Of Aquaman 1967!

Aquaman is a hero who often gets little respect. And frankly I've always wondered why that is. Likely it's the fact his first really high-profile gig was with the Justice League of America where his specific skill set was difficult to work into a story. After many years as a reliable back up (no doubt somewhat a result of the fact he was created by Mort Weisinger, a powerful editor at DC at the time) he started to get some attention which really bloomed when he was tapped to join Superman in animated form on Saturday mornings starting in 1967.

The Adventures of Aquaman cartoons are really good and stand up well to a modern eye. Filmation did a pretty good job creating a credible undersea realm for Aquaman, Aqualad and Mera to function in. With the aid of Storm and Imp, two enormous seahorses the undersea duo rode and the comedy relief of Tusky, a walrus, the heroic team faced monsters which threatened the domed city of Atlantis. We also get to see some of Aquaman's better foes as Black Manta gets at least three appearances and the Fisherman shows up a couple of times.

Aquaman comes across as a very capable hero, voiced by Marvin Miller who gives him great authority. He demonstrates a steady confidence and calm in the face of some staggering threats. Each cartoon reaches its end when Aquaman says with assurance that it's time to go home, a reassuring comment for the viewer.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The New Adventures Of Superman 1967-1968!

After the successful debut of the The New Adventures of Superman in 1966 which brought back to the small screen the Man of Steel and gave birth to Filmation, more was required. And so we got two more seasons. But as was the practice back then, shows were often not just renewed from season to season, but refreshed and reformatted to add luster to cartoons which at times might well have been re-runs.

In the case of Superman, when he came back in 1967 he brought with him the underwater hero Aquaman to make a full hour of superhero adventures. So we had a show which not only had one hero but if you count Superboy and Aqualad and Mera, five superheroes. You might throw Krypto into that mix too. I'll take a closer look at Aquaman later. The Superman cartoons in '67 were much like those in the previous year. The had the Man of Steel battling monsters and even a few of his villains, though except for Lex Luthor they were rarely recognizable from the comics.

In 1968 the Superman series was brought back again, but this time paired with Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo had just lost their famous prime-time live-action gig and were extremely high profile additions. One change they brought with them were longer cartoons with a "cliffhanger" of sorts. This format was used in the Superman cartoons as well as the Batman ones. And frankly it's not an improvement, the storytelling seemed weaker and truth told the animation which had been ideal in the first season looks even more limited in this third and final season. But still it's all quite entertaining. More on Batman and Robin later too.

So after three seasons Filmation, now established, had created a wonderful collection of Superman cartoons, cartoons that effectively for the most part captured the essence of the 60's era Silver Age comics. They hold up extremely well even today, and I recommend them to any comics fan with no hesitation.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Superman And The Mole Men!

If you forced me to pick a single Superman feature as my all-time favorite, Superman and the Mole Men would get the nod. I love this delightful introduction to the George Reeves Superman which functions very effectively as a fable of mankind's fear of the unknown.

The Mole Men are small people who rise up out of a oil well hole which has sunk too far down. They emerge and are deemed hostile as humans get injured around them through a combination of fear and the innate radiation which emanates from the creatures themselves. They explore the small town in which they emerge and are met with fear by adults and ease with a small girl who warmly welcomes them into her bedroom.

This scene of the Mole Men lurking around the window scared the bejeezus out of me when  was a youngster. It seems a pretty naive scene today, but back then I was most affected by it. I love to revisit that tiny terror memory when I watch this one over and over. Phyllis Coates is effective as Lois Lane, though she is a particularly bitchy version of the character. No other regulars from the eventual Superman series appear.

This is a very good entertainment and gets my highest recommendation.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Super-Secret Origin Of Birdman!

I've always loved Birdman, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon hero who burst onto the TV screens when superheroes were ubiquitous in the culture. He followed the success of Space Ghost, but brought the adventures down to Earth. With his eagle assistants Avenger and Birdboy, and working under the auspices of Falcon 7, a pipe-smoking, eye-patching sporting leader of a spy organization that used Birdman's powers to defeat evil in the world.

In the revised Hanna-Barbera universe currently on display in Future Quest Presents, we have somewhat more series attempt at the character. Birdboy is gone and Falcon 7 is revealed to be a ruse by the female leader of the spy group named Dev. In this more emotional renditon of the story, Birdman's enthusiastic "good guy" approach to the world is looked at with a jaundiced eye by the folks around him. He's seen as naive and they fear his approach to fighting evil will make him succumb to it. Their fears are played out to some extent in this three-part story.

Without revealing too much we meet Mentok, a villain from the original cartoon series who is revised himself here and given a back story which is ripe with an attempt to humanize even this vile user of other people. We learn more about how Birdman was born and about who he was before he became a vessel for Ra the Sun God. We learn how he came to become Birdman and maybe we learn what he yearns for even as he fills the shoes of the noble hero who protects us all. The relationship between Birdman and Avenger is even given a fresh take. All in all this trilogy is a treat for Birdman fans.

And last but not least is Steve Rude. Steve Rude is the ideal artist for the Hanna-Barbera heroes, he transmits the elegant Alex Toth designs into the comic with a modern gloss which nonetheless has a retro feel appropriate to the material. Steve Rude is arguably the finest comic book artist working today.

If you're a fan of Birdman you likely already have this one. If you are and you don't get it.

NOTE: Just found out that Future Quest Presents will end with issue twelve. It's a sad day for moi amigos. More later.

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