Tuesday, February 23, 2021

2001: A Reading Odyssey

 Like many of you dear readers, I signed up for HBO Max prior to Christmas 2020 for the sole purpose of streaming Wonder Woman 1984.  And like many of you, I was colossally disappointed with the film.  In fact, I fell asleep in the middle of it!  However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I didn't abandon HBO Max to the streaming platform dung heap as if it were a fig tree in leaf with no fruit, cursed forever to wither and die.  No, instead I explored the site to see what else it had to offer and found that if you discount the latest Star Wars/Marvel Disney+ TV shows, it had some of the best content out there!

This platform has many of my favorite movies: Logan's Run*The Omega Man*Soylent Green [funded by Bill Gates], An American Werewolf in LondonBullit*Escape From New York*, etc. (*I even own the soundtracks to these.).  I'm also watching Showa era Godzilla classics, most for the first time (I highly recommend Ebirah, Horror of the Deep [jazzy soundtrack - fun ensemble] and Godzilla versus Hedorah [stylistically filmed with epic smackdowns].)   I've reenjoyed films I liked before, but hardly remember in detail (like most things these days after hitting 50 last spring) such as Time Bandits, The Maltese Falcon, and A Hard Days Night.  Plus, I finally got around to watching movies I've always wanted to check out like Capricorn OneJojo Rabbit, and the moody atmospheric Solaris (1972).  

This last one directly influenced my decision to revisit the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey! (Incidentally, it guest stars Ed Bishop soon to be cast (in 1969) as Commander Ed Straker of S.H.A.D.O in the highly entertaining Gerry Anderson classic TV series, UFO, which I just finished at the close of the never-to-be-forgotten 2020 year.)  And just like the mysterious Monolith took Dave Bowman on "the ultimate trip" to becoming the Star-Child.  The movie was the springboard for my own (as U2's Bono sang it) "voyage of discovery" to delve into the a 2001 Reading Odyssey in 2021!

Fortunately, for me this was not an expensive* endeavor (not pronounced IN-DEE-A-VOR) as I had all of the material on hand in my collection**:

*I've spend less that $20 getting the novels, 2010: Odyssey Two & 3001: The Final Odyssey from the local used bookstore and ordering the 2010 comic adaptation in Marvel Super Special #37 from eBay.  I'll probably end up springing for the 2010 Blu-ray too for $6.

**"like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" [Matthew 13:52]

A reading sequence in four parts where I ruminate my thoughts, impressions and remembrances:

#1: The Lost Worlds of 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke  (1972) [First Print!], Sidgwick & Jackson

I'm fairly certain I bought this for the beautifully painted cover.  Certainly I got it also because of my fondness of the film and comic, but I doubt I ever really expected to read it.  However, upon finishing the film, it was the first item that I sought out (and I didn't have to dig 40-feet under the Moon's surface to find it -- although it was at the bottom of a stack of books).  This is an account of Clarke's collaboration with Kubrick to develop the story (the novel and screenplay were being worked on somewhat simultaneously).  Clarke includes background to the film, but he also includes some of the original short stories that inspired it (such as The Sentinel) and backstory that was later dropped from consideration.  We get to learn more about the astronauts on Discovery and the birth of Hal.  Additionally, there are alternative endings, when he and Stanley were still figuring out where they wanted to go and how they wanted to finish.  You also get to read about the aliens behind the Monolith.  I definitely like having the Monolith be more mysterious, but this was all very enjoyable and it scratched my 2001 obsession-itch extremely well.

#2: 2001: a space odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, based on the Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke (1968) [First Printing paperback edition!], Signet Books

Speaking of mysterious, I was mystified when I couldn't find my copy of the novel.  I knew I had read it once upon a time, but it wasn't in the same place as Lost Worlds.  Finally, I remembered I have a whole shelf devoted to novelizations and there it was.  Again, a very good read with succinct chapters that made for excellent pre-bedtime reading.  It generally is the same as the movie, but they go to Saturn, instead of Jupiter.  You also get some extra exposition that helps you interpret the film better.  You're privy to the thoughts of Moon-Watcher (the bone wielding pre-Man).  I especially like the expanded parts with Dr. Heywood Floyd.  And unless I missed it, the classic, "Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal" scene is ABSENT!  The film cuts it out, but Dave spends another few months piloting Discovery to Iapetus after lobotomizing Hal.  The only draw-back is that some sequences were understandably similar to what I had read in Lost Worlds.  I'm not deterred though, I'm on a mission to complete a 1000 years of reading by getting to the three sequels.  I've already started 2010 and I've had 2061 in my possession, borrowed from a friend, since 1989!  No, he's not getting it back.  Sorry, Yong!

Last spring I was on a James Bond kick and re-read Casino Royale up to Spy Who Loved Me where I got stalled. Still it was an excellent ride of the 007 wave I was on.  I switch gears so often on my interests at any given time, it's very rare that I finish a whole series.

#3:  2001: A Space Odyssey [Marvel Treasury Special] by Jack Kirby (1976), Marvel Comics Group


I remember getting this Very Fine + copy at Another Universe in the Columbia Mall in the mid-90s. It was only $20 and they had multiple copies.  I wish I had purchased more!  I've made similar investment blunders before.  Like when I only bought one NM/warehouse copy of Amazing Spider-Man #129 for $20 from Dave's Comics in Richmond.  I should have pressed and CGC'd that book before I sold it!

I don't think I was even aware of this books existence until I saw it at the Mall. I only knew about the comic series (see below), which was ultra confusing when disconnected from the film that I hadn't seen at the time.  But this . . . this . . . is a masterpiece!  Could it be the best representation of Kirby's mid-70's/post-DC work?  I absolutely believe it can!  It's a great adaptation of 72 pages.  Considering that the film lacked a lot of dialogue, this book probably has more words than the screenplay, but that just makes it a nice blend of the film and the novel to me.  Plus, 70's exposition is a lost art these days.  You've got dynamic panels, full-page spreads, photo-collages, and some two-page spreads all at the massive Treasury Edition Size!  Kirby couldn't recreate the spectacle of the film with the music and cinematography, but he captured the mood well enough and the size gives it just the extra "oomph" it needs!  Sure all the guys have that Kirby-face, but who cares, I'm not looking for Neal Adams here.  And you call tell that Jack must have been really jazzed to do this story, he's not cutting any corners.  This is a labor of love!  And let me say that Jack's depiction of the change from elderly man to child is BETTER than Kubricks!  No lie.

Alas, not everyone agrees with me . . . 

A copy on eBay will set you back around $150 to $200 these days.  And when you consider that it may never be reprinted.  Well, it's a book that's worth having whether you're a Kirby fan, a 2001 fan, or both!  I would enjoy a 2001 Marvel Masterworks, but really it needs to be one of those Monster-sized HC editions.  I skipped out on the Eternals one recently (cash flow issues).  Also, the Eternals is probably my LEAST favorite Kirby series, despite a really strong start.  Although, the new Marvel series seems to be promising.

#4:  2001: A Space Odyssey #1 thru #10; regular comic series "Based on the Concepts From MGM/Stanley Kubrick Production" (1976 Sep 28 [1976 Dec cover date] to 1977 Jun 21 [1977 Sep cover date], Marvel Comics Group

My first issues of the series were gotten off the stands, likely at the local 7-11, back during "Matthew Year One".  Those would have been issues #9 and #10.  But I'm not convinced the copies I own are my originals. #9 feels like a Slurpee was spilt and dried on it!  Somewhere along the way I got #1 -- I think in Kansas City, maybe the same time I got Star Wars #1 and #2 as back issues (still relatively early late 70s).  I didn't fill in my collection until many, many years later.  Having reread them now, I wish my issues were in better condition, but they're readable without giving you a mold allergy.  In this rereading I also devoured any text pages/letter pages, each Bullpen Bulletin with Stan's Soapbox, and all the tasty Hostess Ads!  Marvel was really adding some great new titles during this period from mid-1976 to mid-1977: Logan's Run, Godzilla, Star Wars, Human Fly, Nova, What If, Rampaging Hulk magazine, etc.   The famous Thanos versus the Avengers annual appeared along side the second series of Marvel character Slurpee cups.  Spidey and Howard also premiered in local newspapers.  What a great time to become a fan!

About the series itself, it started out fairly formulaic, but it's such a good formula!  Primitive man gets taught by the Monolith to advance to the next stage, then seque to 2001 where an astronaut encounters the black slab and turns into a Star Child, which Jack describes as the "New Seed".  Despite some genuinely positive letters, most were critical, some severely so, and some cautiously.  No one really knew what to make of the book, since it had no recurring characters.  They wished Jack had a better scripter, etc.  I will say Archie Goodwin is listed as "Admired by" in the Editor category, so he may have given Jack a fairly freehand, but trusted him to some degree.  You see that is some of the lettercol responses, encouraging readers to have patience, Jack's putting together a broader story, etc.  Can you believe that they're complaining about 30 CENTS!?!  With comics costing $4, $5, and $6 these days.  I know, time value of money/inflation and what not.  Still, 30 cents, what a bargain!  As a nearly/newly 7-year old, 30 cents wasn't necessarily easy for me to come by, but these writers could afford stamps!  

Thoughts on each issue:

#1 -- Probably the best cover of the bunch.  Nicely captures the whole theme in a beautiful design, even if the Monolith isn't drawn at the correct 1 x 4 x 9 dimensions (the squares of 1, 2, and 3).  And the corner box art, OUTSTANDING! I loved this issue, which as I mentioned before was way over my head as a kid (what off earth was happening to the astronaut at the end?).  Cave man learns to fight with a stone knife.  Nuff said!

#2 -- If the facial proportions were less exaggerated, this cover design would work better.  It's a great story.  Following the formula but with interesting differences.  Here you have a primitive woman create the first (wo)man-made religion by dressing up in old bones and scaring the locals into doing her bidding.  Honestly, she was just hungry.  The Astronaut scene is particularly good when the Monolith creates the character's pool side environment where she rapidly ages and dies to become the material needed to germinate the new seed.

#3 & #4 -- A two-parter!  Marak the conqueror encounters an old man who learned how to make Bronze swords. And wait until you see how the wheel is discovered!  Marak sees a neighboring ruling woman in a vision and must have her. Nothing and no land will stand in his way. When she sees him coming, she doesn't resist, instead they join forces, creating the first empire/stable government.

Then in the future a direct descendant of Marak, encounters the Monolith in a sacrifice play to save his fellow astronauts.  When the Monolith creates the perfect environment for him, he refuses to go though the evolution process and instead lives out an eternity in his own paradise.  Same formula, but with different results! It's a great story.

#5 & #6 --  Another two-parter!  It's the year 2040!  What?  Yeah, that's what the letter writers asked.  Norton of New York gets to live out his fantasy as super-hero in a pay-by-the-hour simulation.  Most of life is an escape since pollution is so bad. There's even a matte paining at the beach!  Norton learns from a brief encounter with the Monolith (he thought it was part of the "show" experience) that he needs to go to space for some real adventure.  Did I mention how much of a comic geek Norton is?  Well, he ends up saving an alien princess (who looks like one of Jack's Rigellians from Thor), but he just misses the "boat" himself, dying in spectacular fashion in one of the best splash pages of the whole series.  I found an image of the original art online (see below):


#7 -- The New Seed explained!  And what a gorgeous cover, it may be second best, but it isn't second-rate!  By my counting this is the fifth Seed we've seen (including the Treasury Edition) to date.  But this time we see where it goes and what it does!  The Seed is just exploring the galaxy and comes upon a planet it its death-throes.  It's a toxic and violent environment that will never get better.  But even on this world there are dying embers of love.  Unfortunately, it's doomed to die, tragically.  But maybe not!  The Seed takes the vanquished lovers, intermingles there essence and uses it to "create" the possibility of life in the ocean of a developing world.  I love this concept as science fiction, but as a strict Biblical 6-day Creationist, it can only ever be fantasy to me.

You know 2001 would end perfectly right here, but we still have three more issues to go . . .

#8, #9 & #10 -- A three-parter (and a back-door pilot to another series). It's the debut of X-51, aka Mister Machine, and soon-to-be rebranded as Machine Man long before he took up cussing.

Jack's thrown the "formula" out the window now.  X series robots are running amuck.  They all get homicidal at a certain point so the order is given to detonate them all.  X-51 is different he's been given a human face and has been raised as a son by his father.  Aaron Stack is his name.  The powers that be don't care if he's well adjusted, they want him destroyed.  His "dad" takes out his inner mechanism bomb, sacrificing himself, so Aaron can escape.  X-51 doesn't find out about his death until issue #10. He's captured and they remove his face. Uh-oh, that might cause him to go insane too -- luckily the Monolith gives him an idea for escape. (#8 picture at the end)

I was going to see issue #9 is my least favorite, but it's not as bad as I thought (the art is more rushed though) and serves as a good bridge to the excellent issue #10.  X-51 escapes and we get to see him strut his stuff.  He can mimic another's voice. He can extend his arms and legs.  A wise scientist realizes they can't beat him, so they give him his face back and release him into the world.  The Monolith meets him again, hints at a greater destiny (Earth-X maybe), but Aaron declines; he'll pave his own way as a free man (a recurring them in many of Kirby's books).  You get the sense that this story is contemporary (1977) and may take place in the Marvel Universe (which eventually it does in a mild retcon I think), but really there is just a kid that likes super-heroes and Marvel Comics, not evidence of the 616 universe.  Also includes the Godzilla #1 House Ad!!!!

I really enjoyed the final issue despite the worst name of any villain's henchman, Mister Hotline!  Yikes!  I like Mr. Machine's interaction with the small town family and constables --  gave me a Dark Shadows feel of every-day/everyman characters meeting the strange and unusual.  Hotline is a Devil worshiper or so he thinks.  The "devil" believes Aaron holds the key to free will and if he can subvert it like a deleted/censored social media post, he can control the world and all thought.  When Mister Machine is captured they dismantle him - head, arms, legs, and torso.  They bring the head to "face the heat" of the demon.  Meanwhile the other body parts, sprout TV cameras and start to mobilize to rescue Machine Man's head.  It's a nifty turn of events.  And it turns out the demon/devil is really a disguise for a super computer!  Mister Machine saves the family and is on his way to becoming a super-hero in issue #11, which never appears . . . and Machine Man #1 won't hit the stand for another six months!

I forgot to mention that all the series issues are inked and lettered by Mike Royer, who I've always thought complimented Jack's pencils the best.

As an extra bonus to myself, I realized I had a Marvel Legend's Machine Man figure (fairly accurate with telescoping arms) that I never had opened.  Well, what better time than now!  I only wish there were more 2001 toy related merchandise!

There's one more thing I have to read regarding the 2001 series.  There was a retrospective in TwoMorrows' Back Issue #89, which was glad to see I had in my collection.  I didn't want to read it before I wrote this post, otherwise, the whole idea of it may have been moot, having been relayed somewhere else (and perhaps more thoroughly and better written).  Oh well, I was thankful for the opportunity to put something together again.  It was fun and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

So until next time, enjoy your own personal Odyssey.  Mine is still going to be swimming in space and Monoliths during my leisure.  I've got three more novels to finish!

Take care.

 




Sunday, October 25, 2020

Fantastic Four #25 (#670) -- A Review

Hello, dear reader.  It sure has been awhile hasn't it?  (And it's felt even longer.)  Although, my musings and ruminations have been absent from this blog, my thoughts and intentions often come back to the possibility of writing something for this forum from time to time.  I've actually had several posts brewing in my head recently, but alas there's no guarantee I'll ever get to them.  You really have to strike while the iron is hot.  (Does that cliche refer to blacksmithing or pressing your clothes?) 

For example:

  • I started to write a post comparing the Casino Royale novel with the film.  I wrote one paragraph.  Instead, I ended up re-reading the Ian Fleming James Bond novels for the first time in 37 years (since I was 13) and managed to get through Thunderball (the 9th one of the original 14), before getting stalled on The Spy Who Loved Me.  I also read the British comic strip versions afterwards and re-watched the associated films.
  • I'd like to discuss how cover variants have taken over the new comic market, largely surpassing the content of the books themselves.
  • I finished watching the entire series of Dark Shadows (1225 episodes) in just under two years.  I then re-read the two comic series by Dynamite, which I wanted to write about.  One took place immediately after the show finished and the other was a slight reimagining of the classic 1795 storyline.  I love Dark Shadows so much that I immediately started re-watching it from episode one (usually watching at least one a day) and just finished episode 50 yesterday.
  • After I finished Dark Shadows, I decided to pick up my pencil and start drawing again (to fill the "extra" time in my schedule more productively).  I largely gave up drawing in high school and stopped taking classes after 7th grade.  So far progress has been very slow, but my Dick Blick order just arrived, so we'll see how it goes with better supplies.  Actually, that's another reason for writing this blog post (during a sleepless time), since I've been frustrated creatively in the art endeavor, why not supplement it with some writing?

Anyway, enough background, let's get to the issue at hand:

I'm still getting a quite a number of  hardcover or trade paperback collections of classic comic reading material, but I also come home with a large stack of new comics every Wednesday (from the excellent Cosmic Comix).  Too many, truth be told.  As alluded to above, some I get mainly for the covers.  And in a rather new development, if an issue just isn't interesting enough to me, I may not even finish reading it.  So, it's a pretty special issue or series that cuts through the "noise" and stands out as memorable or blog-worthy.

Fantastic Four #25 (#670 in the legacy numbering) is such an issue! 

Writer: Dan Slott

Artist/Color Artist: R.B. Silva & Jesus Aburtov
"There Shall Come A Reckoning" (31 pages): 

Artist/Color Artist: Paco Medina & Marcio Menyz
"Sight Unseen" (8 pages): 

Artist: Will Robson
"Fantastic Forum" (1 page): 

I was super excited when the Fantastic Four came back again a couple of years ago, but I've got to admit, I stopped reading it consistently not long after the wedding of Ben and Alicia (#5).  That didn't mean I stopped buying it though. I either got behind or was just not very interested in the storyline, but I checked in here and there.  But I definitely started reading again for the Empyre tie-in issues, which makes this the fifth consecutive issue in a row. 

I'm interested in going back and reading those issues I skipped, but let me be clear, this particular issue is a great "jumping-on" point for new readers.  Beyond a little background that I'll briefly provide below, you don't need to read anything before this issue (more after the break). 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

LAST DAY


Last Day

What if this was your last day?  How would you live it?

I’ve been thinking about this, because today, 2020 May 10, marks the 50th anniversary of my Daddy’s death.  So yesterday would’ve marked his last full day on earth, 1970 May 09.  He was 31, married, and had three children: a 6-year old boy, a 4.5-year old girl, and another son in the womb soon to be born (me).  I know some details about that last day, which I recounted in my poem from Mother’s Day 10 years ago: http://comicsand.blogspot.com/2010/05/day-to-remember.html. And I asked Mama to write up a character portrait of Daddy, which is just wonderful and will be shared sometime today, if it hasn’t already. But while, thinking about Daddy’s final day of life is the inspiration of this message, it not really about him as you’ll see.



Last Day

What if this was your last day?  Would you accept it?

Just thinking about those two words automatically invokes images from one of my favorite movies, Logan’s Run from 1976.  In that film, in order to keep the population under control living in the sealed domed city, the citizens voluntarily went to Carousel on their 30th birthday.  There they would don hockey/skull masks and white-body suits decorated with red flames, stand in a circle, and raise their blinking red life clocks (crystal palm flowers) to “Identify”.  Then they would float up into the chamber until they exploded in a fiery display while their fellow citizen onlookers shouted, “Renew, Renew!”  Why would anyone do this?  Well, they were taught to believe they would be reborn and just get to live another 30 years of fun and pleasure.  Those that didn’t believe the messaged lie realized that the people were actually going to their deaths.  So in order to live longer than 30, they attempted to flee the city seals, becoming Runners.  The City could not tolerate that sort of independent thinking, which would upset their control and delicate balance, so they enlisted Sandmen to terminate the runners. Logan was a Sandman, but later became a runner.  Anyway, it’s a great movie from story to music to costumes, but again not the real subject.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

10 YEARS AFTER

Well, this is a surprise. 

You may be thinking, "Yeah, you haven't done a blog post in over a year."  Or at least, that's what you were supposed to be thinking. Instead, you're probably saying, "Umm, you posted already today.  What gives?"  You see, the first post sort of just happened. 

Oh, I wrote it, and scheduled it for some distant day, but I totally forgot about it.  I was planning on writing this post for today, which marks the 10th anniversary of my debut appearance as a blogger on Comics And...Other Imaginary Tales. 

Even though the blog has sort of morphed into a private Facebook Group these days, it's still pretty important to me and I routinely go back to the well and resurrect links to old posts I remember writing.  It was a big part of my comic (book-centric) life for a number of years and I enjoyed the creative expression.  Although, I can't imagine how I ever had time to write every week for so long, was ready to take a break, was ready to try again, and now just glad it still exists out there like an old friend. 

Anyway, I loaded up the site this morning, ready to compose something new, and the Ant-Man Marvel Masterworks review was up...brand new today! Foiled by time-travel! Past-me is awfully tricksey.

With today celebrating such a momentous occasion, I wanted to ruminate on the current state of my comic-book reading, collecting, etc.  The hope is that by self-examining my own behaviors and habits, I may arrive at some new conclusions on what to continue doing and what to do next.  After all, I'll be hitting 50 this coming May and I want to be "redeeming the time" well.  While I'm not given to New Years Resolutions, I have been slowly retooling my pull list lately, moving toward some changes. [more after the break -- sorry no photos, but plenty of links]

Marvel Masterworks Ant-Man/Giant-Man Volume 3 -- A Review


As much as I love Marvel Omnibuses, I have to admit that Marvel Masterworks (MMW) is my preferred hardcover of choice these days (a change from 4 years ago), especially now that they're delving into Bronze-Age goodness, both familiar and unfamiliar.  I seem to be getting almost every new edition and when I do skip one, I end up regretting it when it goes out of print (OOP) [Like Luke Cage vol 1 - "sob"].  I also tend to be a completest, which means I'm loathe to begin collecting something that's already started.  Although, sometimes that is unavoidable.  A recent acquisition was MMW Ant-Man/Giant-Man Vol 3, which came out just about 2 months ago.  The fact that I finished it in just about a month (including a week away from it while on vacation) is a testimony to how much I enjoyed it.

It is thought that this is the last of the three volumes in the series.  The first two focused on Hank Pym's adventures from Tales to Astonish (ToA).  I wish I had these now (both are getting pricey) and the Essentials' (phonebook) versions I do have are almost unreadable with the blurry printing and lack of color.  The biggest draw for me was the short-lived Ant-Man solo series presented in Marvel Feature circa 1972-1973.   To my recollection, I had never heard of these stories before (much less read them), thinking that they were old ToA reprints similar to the Human Torch series of the early 70s.  And I was especially ecstatic to learn that the first few stories were drawn by the late, great Herb Trimpe! [more after the break]

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 (2019) -- A Review

Sometimes, you've just got to strike while the iron's hot.  I have several posts in the works from just the idea/desire to a stack of books (already assembled) to be used for reference, but I may never get around to them.  However, I did just read Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 (2019 version) and really enjoyed it.  So, while the enthusiasm is running high, I'll see if I can cobble this together in record time.

First, a confession.  Cyclops is my favorite member of the X-Men.  From the time I acquired those Claremont/Byrne-era back issues, Uncanny X-Men #109 thru 126 (minus #111), from a trade of some sorts [Is that where my Daredevil #3 and #4 went?] with a neighbor, I always liked him best.  Maybe it was because he grew up without a father or because he was having trouble getting the girl he was interested in reciprocate; and I could certainly relate to both.  Besides his costume and powers were cool too!

Although, he was also like the Charlie Brown of the mutant-set.  Dark Phoenix is your girlfriend?!  You finally are connected to the love of your life and you have to lose her right after! Then you find new love, but that's all destroyed when she turns out to be a clone-whatever.  And the dead girl didn't really die like you thought, so you end up ditching your clone-wife! I may not have all the details straight, but things only got worse from there.  He loses his leadership with the X-Men, establishes X-Factor, his son is kidnapped (I think), etc. etc.  And all those soap-operatic events happened in the glorious Copper Age.  Flash-forward to about 6 years ago or so, and he kills Professor X?!  Later he dies himself?!  Everyone hates his guts?!  He dies again! Is it any wonder that I've had trouble consistently reading X-Men since the big relaunch, way back in 1991?

But soon after in late 2012, there was some hope.  All-New X-Men #1 premiered and the original X-Men were brought back from the past to the present to fix all the royally screwed-up stuff going on or at least that was the premise.  I followed the series for a good bit, before dropping off again for some reason.  Hmm, character retcon, perhaps?  Well, recently Marvel decided to send those kids back in time where they belonged in the really entertaining 5-part limited series, Extermination.  Being able to come relatively cold to the current X-Men story line with their way-too-many side characters and totally dig the series was no small feat.  Isn't it ironic how they always talk about how there are so few mutants, but there are actually too many to keep track of and follow? 

The first issue really blew me away. BAM!  Cable is killed...by a younger version of himself.  He actually refers to it as "retiring".  Wow, and best of all was the ending -- Cyclops is BACK -- ALIVE -- and wearing the visor again in a beautiful silver finish.  I definitely had my local comic shop, the stellar Cosmic Comix,  put this Annual in my box since it was a direct continuation... (more after the break [SPOILERS]).


Friday, January 11, 2019

Dark Shadows Beginnings -- A Review



I'm way behind in my new comic reading.  And I'm making slow progress thru some of my more recent hard cover acquisitions.  The reason?  Too much TV (as always).  How can that be when all the CW comic-related shows (including the excellent Riverdale) are on winter hiatus and the Marvel Netflix shows are all but done (sob)?  Amazon Prime.  Or rather, the free streaming shows available on that service.  It all started around Halloween when looking for something spooky to watch, I viewed the Dan Curtis Production of Frankenstein (1973).  It reminded me of Dark Shadows.  I then caught the film-quality version of Dan Curtis' Bram Stoker's Dracula (also 1973) with Jack Palance, who if you believe the internet was the inspiration for Gene Colan's depiction of the character in the Marvel Comic.

After a few more Dan Curtis classics(?) such as a werewolf in LA and a zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror (filled with plenty of jump-scares), I decided to delve back into watching Dark Shadows.  I became a fan of the show over a quarter of a century ago around the time I got married.  It was on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel (back when it contained good material) where they aired at least two episodes back-to-back, I think around 10:00 am (after the Six Million Dollar Man or Incredible Hulk).  I had seen odd episodes here and there, but this was the first time I recall making a concerted effort to watch the series regularly.  I remember seeing much of the late 1860's story line, where Barnabas' consciousness enters his entombed body during that time and meets the "real" life Quentin (I think to deal with the music-appearing spook version from 1968 [then present day]).

I even got a few books on the series back then celebrating its 25th anniversary, so I read synopses of most of the episodes.  After all, how could anyone watch them all?  Back when MPI was issuing video tape versions, each one was about $30 each and contained a week's worth of shows, meaning only five 22 minute episodes.  That's quite an expense when you understand that there were 1225 episodes!  Enter Amazon Prime.  A search will show you that they have divided the series into 26 "collections" of around 40 episodes each.  As a daily [Gothic-horror] soap-opera (did I forget to mention that?) there were no yearly seasons as we understand them, which means they just broke them up into roughly even chunks that stop whenever, not necessarily at the end of a major story arc.

Picking up roughly where I had left off in the mid-1990's (and possibly later as my older kids remember watching some of the show with me at times - maybe from the library?), I began watching Collection 17, episode 27 (#884 or sequentially #873), which originally aired on 1969 November 13.  This means I was viewing it almost exactly 49 years later!  (The episode numbers don't always add up due to interruptions and them always wanting the Friday episode with the bigger cliff-hanger to be a multiple of 5.)  It was a show that I could watch by myself, when others are watching This is Us or Call the Midwife.  But a funny thing happened.  My 10-year old son, "Manny" (Matthew Jr.) started watching it with me.  He enjoyed it enough that he got upset if I watched it without him (shades of Netflix show viewing with my beloved wife)!  So, I waited, and waited.  Our progress became too slow for my purposes.  I kept watching with him  -- we're currently thru Collection 20, episode 15 (#996 or sequentially #981), which originally aired on 1970 April 20 (nearly a month before my birth!).  We've seen the entire Leviathan story-line and have entered into 1970 Parallel Time.

I didn't like having nothing to watch when he wasn't available (or willing), so I went back to the beginning.  Specifically as it is listed on Amazon -- Dark Shadows Beginnings.  It's a six-part collection that includes the first 206 episodes (thru #209), spanning from 1966 June 27 to 1967 April 14.  All of these precede the first appearance of Barnabas Collins (at least in person).  You may question the need to view the episodes before things "got interesting".  Well, I'm here to tell you (after an extremely long-preamble/warm-up exercise), that there are plenty worth watching.  It's OUTSTANDING!!!

But where to begin...How 'bout the way each episode does:

"My name is Victoria Winters..." 
[more after the break]