Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When Stalks The Landlord!


To give you an idea of where you're headed with this post, let's take you back a bit to when the Fantastic Four introduced us to their new skyscraper headquarters in the heart of Manhattan. Even so early in the career of the FF, it seemed clear that Reed had quite a fortune to draw on. Either that, or he was able to secure one heck of a loan:



Apparently, though, Reed's purchase of the Baxter Building's tower was only the beginning. Soon enough, Reed had secured ownership of the entire building--but it was not to last, due to Reed making some poor investment decisions:



And even though the FF were soon flush with funds again (thanks to the generosity of the Sub-Mariner), they remained merely tenants of the Baxter Building--but where there are tenants, there naturally must be a landlord. Of course, for the FF, only one landlord will do: the irascible man who was a thorn in the side of the FF for all these years.

Welcome, then, to a retrospective of the one and only Mr. Collins, in a tribute which could only be called:


WARNING:
THIS POST IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR READERS WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Woman To Piranha


There's a reason why you don't see too many super-heroes on the talk show circuit. It's probably the same reason they don't book many public appearances--you're just asking for one of their enemies to show up and ambush them. Look at the resulting chaos when Captain America does charity or exhibition events--anything can happen, and usually does. I suppose it doesn't ever occur to anyone to hire extra security--maybe it seems redundant, considering you have a super-hero right there on the premises.

Still, some television hosts have been willing to take the risk, since super-heroes are no doubt a guaranteed ratings bonanza. But, as we take a look at some of these appearances, we'll see that things often don't end well for the host, or their studio, or their live audience--or, needless to say, their guest!

Why don't we start with the good Captain himself, who's out promoting a film (oh, let's not get into that right now, hmm?) but whose talk show appearance falls victim to a nihilist group which sees an opportunity to get their message out to a wide audience. Unfortunately, that doesn't include the studio audience, since they're being targeted with explosives:




Next up: Spider-Man, who books a spot on a midnight show.  Spider-Man, being Spider-Man, risks not only an enemy's attack but also the appearance of the police who would probably try to take him into custody. Little does he know that J. Jonah Jameson has also gotten wind of the appearance, and has arranged a surprise guest to join Spidey on-stage:



But as worried about Spidey as we are, what we're really hoping at this point is that he'll be able to tell better jokes than his host's writers:



Finally, Spider-Man makes his entrance, in his own unique fashion:



Man, Spidey's bombing big time! But while the audience has only collective groans to attack him with, Jameson's "guest" is instead out for blood:



David Letterman, however, thought he would one-up "Marvin" by booking some less notorious but arguably more world-famous guests:






And while Hawkeye is a little hard of hearing from an encounter with Crossfire, he manages to snatch a copy of Letterman's questions in advance and tries to wing it:



As if I had to tell you, the studio appearance doesn't end smoothly. In fact, it's crashed by none other than... than... oh, I'm betting you've already guessed.

The one interview I can recall going reasonably smoothly is a taped studio interview with Sue Richards:



Everyone seems at ease here, don't they? But don't let the smiles and routine of the studio fool you. Because Sue still has something of an adversary to face, in the form of the derisive host of "Woman To Woman," Barbara Walker.



Sue, as you can see, chooses to fight fire with demure pleasantness, though knowing full well Walker's intent in this little sparring match. And while Walker continues to try to get a rise out of her, she finds no one can quite match Sue's method:



Walker, to her credit, manages to regain her composure, and also attempts to regain the stage by moving on to more probing and potentially embarrassing questions. But by now Sue has taken her measure, and is ready for her at every turn:



In short, Sue handles herself beautifully. Though Barbara can't resist a parting shot:



Sue also sets an example for her super-powered peers: Tape your shows in advance!
(You don't want to take on anyone worse than Barbara, do you?)

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Girlfriend, The Herald


With its dramatic cover paying homage to the image of the giant hand of Galactus from the 1978 The Silver Surfer graphic novel, Fantastic Four #244 gives us the sense that the ending to John Byrne's own "Galactus trilogy" will be a memorable one. Part One of the story showed Terrax, the disgruntled herald of Galactus who had tired of his servitude, coming to Earth to conscript the FF into fighting his master, while he held the entire island of Manhattan hostage in Earth orbit. In Part Two, Galactus brutally dealt with his herald, and then turned his attention to Earth, where he prepared to consume the planet's life energy as Earth's heroes joined forces and fought a desperate battle against him.

Now, the battle is over--and Galactus, already in a severely weakened state from having gone so long without feeding, lies helpless and dying. Compared to the events of the past two issues, however, the conclusion to this story might seem sedate by comparison. But it's nevertheless an interesting aspect of the story to explore: What to do with Galactus?

Yet, Byrne doesn't immediately pick things up where Part Two left off; instead, he chooses to open the story by jumping ahead to nearly a week later, when everyone is presumably picking up the pieces from the story's resolution. And, in the apartment of Julie D'Angelo--roommate to Johnny Storm's girlfriend, Frankie Raye--we're given the impression that, despite the condition in which we last saw Galactus, things might have ended disastrously for those who opposed him:



It's here that Byrne begins to pivot back to this story's wrap-up, while bringing our focus to Frankie--a character who played little to no part in the battles of the past two issues, but who now appears to be headed toward a crucial role, if we're to believe Reed:



And Frankie's "fate," as Reed puts it, begins and ends with that of Galactus in Part Three, appropriately titled:


Saturday, April 26, 2014

No Helicopter Is Safe


I have three cats.

Trust me when I tell you they're enough of a handful without also being mutants.


   

The Barbarian Who Tested The Waters!


I have a confession to make:

I've never read one page of one issue of Conan the Barbarian.

But before you start pelting me with tomatoes, in my defense I can tell you that I've read stories which featured another character who perhaps laid the foundation for Conan:



Yes, of course, Arkon the Magnificent, Conan's predecessor (in a comic book, that is) by a mere six months--created by not only the same writer who would adapt and script Conan in comic book form, but also by the same artist who who would later become Conan's definitive penciller.

And while the similarities don't stop there, there are some interesting differences between the two characters. For instance, while Conan is no stranger to witnessing sorcery, Arkon can employ it from time to time. If you want to bring him to your dimension, you just find a musty book with the proper spell:



Yes, I'm shocked as well at the Toad professing ignorance of something. Arkon doesn't care much for him, either. But, I ask you, could Conan deal with super-speed?



All right, so practically anyone can floor Pietro. I'll give you that. Why don't we focus on Arkon's origin. For one thing, he's the ruler of an entire world that revels in brutal war as a way of life:




And while Conan prefers hacking up his enemies with a sword, Arkon's weapons of choice are his very cool lightning bolts, which can either deliver destructive power or act to transport objects back to his world. Though terrified opponents like the Toad don't at first realize the difference:



Also, Arkon, like Conan, can not only ride exotic beasts, but both men have a knack for talking to and dealing with women:



And I don't know how Conan treats prisoners who have something he wants, but Arkon is as utterly ruthless as the rest of his race:



But all is not well on Arkon's world, because the one enemy he can't meet in battle is science:



With Arkon's world on the brink of doom, it suddenly gets a reprieve when it's unexpectedly flooded with light from an atomic explosion on the planet Earth. Yet Arkon's vizier (I doubt Conan had a vizier) investigates, and warns him that the light is only temporary:



The vizier states that a massive enough atomic explosion on Earth would be enough to bring light again to their world for ages--though, if you've gotten a good look at this crew, you probably didn't spot any physicists among them, nor are their artillery facilities likely to produce an atomic bomb. And so a plan is crafted to kidnap a group of top scientists from Earth and force them to build a weapon to destroy their own world. To that end, Arkon crashes a nuclear conference on Earth and quickly escapes with the men he needs:




And we've already seen Arkon use his "ultimate persuader" to extract the knowledge he needs from these men. (Jeez, these guys can build sophisticated equipment, but apparently not a lab to harness the atom. Well, constant warring doesn't leave much time for atomic research, I suppose.)

Now, doesn't Arkon appear a lot more interesting than some wandering barbarian looking for wine and wenches (and not necessarily in that order)?

No?

Then let's up the ante: how about when the Avengers arrive in force to take on Arkon and his legions?


Friday, April 25, 2014

Shall Earth Endure?


Recapping from Part One of John Byrne's "Galactus trilogy":

Terrax the Untamed has come to Earth looking for the Fantastic Four, in order to make use of their resourcefulness in destroying the being who made him what he is, but keeps him on a leash that chafes at him--the mighty Galactus, who prefers the former despot known as Tyros remain quite tamed in his service as his latest herald, locating life-rich worlds for him to sate his hunger on. Terrax has given the FF no choice but to help him--that is, if they don't want to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people on the now-orbiting island of Manhattan:




But, while the Thing is more than ready to choose his foe right now, Reed Richards decides that the team should accede to Terrax's demands. And as good a track record that Reed has in making the right decisions, it's hard to believe the leader of the FF would ever make the choice of capitulation:



Yet, there's more to Reed's choice than siding with the enemy who's currently poised to destroy millions. Because Reed is aware that Galactus' energies have been depleted--and there's also the little fact that, thanks to a bargain Reed made in order to secure the aid of Galactus against the Sphinx, Galactus is no longer bound by a promise to leave Earth involate. In short, Reed fears what Galactus may be driven to do, if left to his own devices--and, as Terrax said, Galactus is at his most vulnerable. It seems that the team will have no better chance to do what they must.

And yet, once the FF board his ship and locate Galactus, the situation is almost instantly defused by Reed himself:



Just what is it that Reed has in mind?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Auntie Dame


We've seen many a funny panel where Ben Grimm, the Thing, speaks fondly (as well as colorfully) about his Aunt Petunia:




And so, over time, we readers got a delightful mental picture of Petunia, as well as an idea of her personality and bluntness that made such an impression on her now-famous nephew.

But, what does Aunt Petunia have to do with this mysterious visitor to the Baxter Building?



In a story published in early 1982, John Byrne, who was in the process of imparting his own vision to the pages of Fantastic Four, once again broke new ground by treading upon the familiar, and gave long-time FF readers one of the most famous meetings ever.




Naturally, the other members of the FF were as surprised at this revelation as we were. But "Penny" Grimm and Ben's adopted family become fast friends.



Unfortunately, Penny was fated to become a casualty of a deadly battle, thanks to a 2009 story by Mark Millar which featured the FF going up against the Marquis of Death.



It starts with the Marquis' surprise attack, and an offhand comment from Ben which opens the door to tragedy:



The Marquis is a sadist's sadist who can indulge his every whim, and so he takes the opportunity to immediately make clear to the Thing that this encounter will be unlike any other, and that this is only the beginning of the hell that awaits the FF.



I didn't continue with reading Fantastic Four, but I imagine that the days when readers would be treated to a humorous panel where Ben would quote the words or thoughts of his Aunt Petunia were now over. Someone will have to enlighten me about how the FF book was made the better for it.

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