Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Star Trek at 50: The Corbomite Maneuver


Season 1
Episode 2: The Corbomite Maneuver
Filmed: May 1966
First Air Date: November 10, 1966 (10th episode aired)

Karen: Probably best remembered now for pint-sized Commander Balok (played by Ron Howard's little brother Clint) offering Kirk and company glasses of 'tranya,' 'The Corbomite Maneuver' is surprisingly well-crafted considering it was the first episode filmed following the second pilot. It was in this episode that the  Enterprise crew we know and love would come together. DeForest Kelley was now aboard as ship's doctor Leonard McCoy, and Nichelle Nichols had been hired to play Lieutentant Uhura, the ship's Communications Officer. In the role of the Captain's Yeoman, Janice Rand, was Grace Lee Whitney. Interestingly, according to These are The Voyages by author Marc Cushman, all three were signed to limited contracts. Kelley and Whitney were guaranteed at least seven episodes each, while Nichols, who was brought in later than everyone else, received no such guarantee, but did get a rather high pay rate per episode of $1000. In comparison, Shatner received $5,000 per show, while co-star Nimoy took home $1,250 per episode, and Kelley was making  $850. As budgets became more and more strained on the show, Desilu would renegotiate with Nichols.

Karen: With the exception of Whitney, all of the supporting cast appeared in more episodes than they were originally contracted for. It became apparent quickly that the chemistry between the characters -and particularly between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy - was a key element of the show. This initial episode has a lot of nice character interactions, particularly between Kirk and McCoy. The peaceful nature of the ship's mission is borne out here, as once Balok's ship is disabled, Kirk takes McCoy and young officer Bailey over to ensure the alien is all right. The decision to have Bailey stay for a time with Balok, as a way to exchange information about their two cultures, showed hope that we could find common cause with others, and overcome our fears. That hope was one sorely needed in the 60s -and today.

Karen: Although show producer and creator Gene Roddenberry had wanted to premiere the show with this episode, the demands of post-production special effects got in the way. The first company hired to handle them, the Howard Anderson Company, found the challenge of a weekly science fiction show greater than anticipated. "The Corbomite Maneuver," with its gigantic First Federation starship and other effects, took longer than planned, and was pushed back repeatedly in the schedule, until it was finally shown as episode ten, much later than anyone had hoped. By that time, the characters and their relationships were much better established. But this episode is still a standout.

Karen: One last thing: that Balok puppet scared the crap out of me as a kid! My brother used to torment me whenever it was on screen in the end credits, and try to force me to look at it!








Late breaking Trek fun: Our pal Mike W. sent us this great snippet from the book, Star Trek 30 Years Special Collectors Edition by Lee Anne Nicholson. It seems Clint Howard was only willing to go so far for his role as Balok...Thanks again Mike!






Karen: As a special addendum to today's post, we'd like to give a shout out to our Super-Blog Team-Up team-mate, Paul O'Connor, proprietor of the Longbox Graveyard. Paul's comic story, 4 Seconds, is premiering on Mark Waid's Thrillbent.com site today. Paul won an open microphone pitch contest at San Diego Comic Con a couple of years ago, and now his comic, with art by Karl Kesel, will appear free on the site. Paul's pitch went like this:

4 Seconds is a noir thriller about a petty thief who discovers she can see four seconds into the future. That’s just enough precognition to get into trouble, but not nearly enough time to pull off the heist that will save her sister’s life.

Karen: Congratulations to Paul! Please take a look!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When It Came On, I Couldn't Sit Still




Doug: Back on January 31, I was charged with driving my sister the 50 miles or so up to Midway Airport so she could catch her flight home after a short visit. It was really early on a Sunday morning, so I needed some tunes on high just to keep me awake for the ride back home. I had the Sirius-XM set to "70s on 7" because, after all, I am a Bronze Age Baby. I really like that station, because you could get Led Zeppelin, Al Green, the Bee Gees, and the Knack all back-to-back-to-back. And then it came on -- the Spinners' Rubberband Man. At no point for the next three minutes was I in any danger of falling asleep at the wheel. I'm sure other drivers gave a sideways glance at the champagne-colored Highlander and wondered who the whackjob behind the wheel was.



Doug: Enjoy a live version of the song in question. And of course, what makes you move to the music?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where No Ape Has Gone Before: Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Prime Directive



Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Prime Directive
Written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton
Art by Rachael Stott
Colors by Charlie Kirchoff
Published by IDW

Karen: It was almost exactly a year ago that I reviewed the first two issues of this series in a post. I liked it, but being an infrequent visitor to my comic shop, I didn't pick up the remaining three issues in this series. At some point last year I did grab the TPB and over the Christmas holiday I took it from my reading stack and sat down with it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! POTA was the first science fiction franchise I fell for as a kid, with Star Trek following soon after. As a fan of both, I felt the writers and artist were able to capture  the tone of each to make this book feel like a true meld of the two.

Karen: The time is right after the events of the first Apes film, and sometime during the original series of Trek, after the first season episode "Errand of Mercy," in which the Federation and the Klingon Empire were forced into a peace treaty by the Organians, a powerful race of energy beings.  The Klingons have discovered an artificial space portal that leads to another dimension -an alternate reality? - and have been sending ships back and forth. The Enterprise uncovers this and follows them through, only to find what appears to be another Earth, although Spock's scientific instruments indicate that it is the year 3978 in this other universe. However, the sensors also indicate a primitive civilization. Intrigued by what the Klingons could be doing here, Kirk, Spock and company beam down. From a distance they spy their old friend,  the Klingon Commander Kor, talking to...apes!



Karen: The Enterprise crew soon figures out that the Klingons are supplying these gorillas with firearms. We saw this sort of behavior from the Klingons on the show before, most notably in the episode "A Private Little War." Back on board the Enterprise, Kirk and his officers go over the information they've gathered about the planet, and indications that a nuclear war in the past helped lead to the current condition of apes being dominant over humans. Kirk decides that even though this isn't their universe, the Prime Directive, the order which states that Starfleet personnel cannot interfere with the development of other civilizations, is still in effect. The Klingons, however, have no such rule; just the opposite in fact. Constrained by the Organian Treaty, they must be using the portal to seek out new planets in this universe to conquer or gather resources from. Kirk decides that they have to stop the Klingon efforts on this Earth. They prepare to beam back down and he tells Spock to have the computer put them near some landmark that they can identify. Oh boy...

Karen: The team materializes on a beach, with the classic shot of the demolished Statue of Liberty to greet them. Stunned, they take a moment to gather themselves, then notice human footprints and horse tracks in the sand. Following these, they find the still shell-shocked George Taylor and Nova. Taylor at first thinks that Kirk and company have been sent from his Earth, his time, but Kirk tries to explain, although it's obviously complicated. Taylor doesn't care where they are from though -he wants their help in taking the planet back from the apes. 

Karen: Here is where the story really starts to pick up. Kirk has to balance the need to stop the Klingons with trying to protect the ape culture, all while keeping an eye on Taylor. And that's not easy. Taylor manages to break off and get himself beamed up to the Enterprise. There is a fun fight between Kirk and Taylor -who wouldn't want to see prime of their lives Shatner and Heston go mano a mano? 



Karen: Our two favorite chimps, Cornelius and Zira, are also around, and it's a treat to see them interacting with McCoy, Scotty, and the rest. The first issue was almost all set-up.I felt that by the third book the voices were all there, and things were moving along very smoothly. The art also captured the likenesses of the actors well enough that I wasn't ever wondering who a character was supposed to be. It was always obvious.



Karen: The story may tip a little more towards the Trek side but there is plenty of POTA here. The scenes between Commander Kor and the rogue gorilla general, Marius, are excellent. The confrontation between Marius and General Ursus, from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is also a highlight, and it feels like we are getting some great backstory on Ursus, who had always seemed fairly one-dimensional. Poor Dr. Zaius only makes a brief appearance though. The ending caught me by surprise, but in a good way. I don't want to say much more than that.

Karen: This  book probably gave me more pure, unadulterated reading pleasure than any other comic I've read this year. The love and respect for both series came through. I would highly recommend it for fans of either series. If you like both of them though, you will truly enjoy this.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

BAB Classic - Continuity, Part Three: When You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling


This post was originally published on February 26, 2010.


Doug: Last chance to weigh in on continuity, O Faithful Followers. Our little triad of posts on this love/hate topic is drawing to a close. To recap -- in Part One, Karen and I just gave some general venom toward events over the course of the life of the Amazing Spider-Man. In Part Two, we examined the fall-out from DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths. Today we'll wind down with a look at a couple of things that have been bugging Doug and Karen, and then close things out with some suggestions of very good out-of-continuity stories.
Doug: What happens when you don't like continuity for a character? How do you feel when a good guy you really like just seems to get treated like dirt? Now I know in the real world we're not all alike, that some of us have advantages over others, more money, better-looking spouses -- whatever. And I'd even submit that there might be some among us who have it so rough they just feel like born losers. But when it's a fave comic do-gooder and the poor guy gets put through the wringer for, oh, almost 50 years, at some point continuity could maybe be ignored and the guy could get a fresh start. I'm talking about Dr. Henry Pym and the burden he's borne from the panels to the right.

Doug: I am not always a big fan of retcons, but if ever a guy needed one it's Hank Pym. I don't know where longtime Avengers fans rank Pym's court martial in terms of "great stories" -- while I have a complete run of the title, the DVD-ROM, numerous trades, etc., I've never read that story. I was out of comics during the years that was on the newstands and have just never gone back to read it. And you know why? I don't wan
t to. Hank had been a long-tortured soul by many writers, starting with Stan Lee and moving to Roy Thomas and then to Steve Englehart and Jim Shooter. In my Pym essay that is supposed to be a part of Van Plexico's Assembled 3, I deal with these issues. Writers after the infamous "slap" have chosen to dwell on that singular incident, unsavory as it may be, and pigeonhole Hank Pym as some neurotic case. Even in the few moments where he's been close to redemption, another telling of his adventures slides him back into the muck. Maybe someday the guy will be made a hero again.

Karen: I've warmed up to Pym the last few years. I had no particular interest in him as a kid, and when the infamous slap (looks like more of a karate chop in that image!) occurred, I drank the kool-aid like many others and thought, "What a bum!" But as I've had time to go back and read more stories with Pym I have grown to appreciate him, and really wish that Shooter hadn't decided to go that route with him.

Karen: As I understand it, Shooter wanted to have a long-standing hero become a vil
lain, and he chose Pym as his tool. Of course, we'd see this happen again with Phoenix over in X-Men. I think I've even read that Shooter liked the idea of her becoming a regular villain for the team, but this wasn't at all what Claremont wanted. But I digress.

Karen: I think writer Steve Englehart did a lot to try to redeem Pym in West Coast Avengers. When I contacted Englehart about one of the articles I was working on, he told me that he had pitched a Hank Pym series to Marvel which would take Pym from loser to a top hero. It was going to be called "A-Man", as in Ant-Man but also "the story of a man". I sure wish we'd had a chance to see that, instead of all the derogatory stuff that has been published. I think Brian Bendis has really propagated this idea that the super-hero community looks on Pym as a joke.


Doug: My biggest complaint is perhaps how Hank was treated by Mark Millar in The Ultimates. Millar had a tabula rasa and went with the old "crazy Hank" stereotypes that had come before in the 616 universe. Nothing new or redeeming; shoot, more brutal would be a more accurate description.

Karen: That depiction of Hank was one of the reasons I couldn't buy Ultimates for a long while. I really hated that; as it seemed to seep over into the regular universe, at least in the sense that everyone seemed to despise him.

Karen: You know, this is a small complaint, but another character that I wish they hadn't messed with is the Black Panther. We've got this whole back story now that he joined the Avengers so he could spy on them. This just really bothers me. The Panther was alway
s a noble hero, just as virtuous as Captain America. But recently he's been transformed into Marvel's Batman - scheming, never trusting anyone, covered in gadgets. While I appreciate the elevated status he seems to be enjoying, I don't like the fundamental changes to his character. There was a way to increase his standing in the Marvel Universe without completely making him a different person.
Doug: Agreed. The Silver Age idea that Wakanda was this technological wonder of a country that controlled an infinitely important resource had so many story possibilities. For example, one complaint I'd seen about the Panther was that if he was such a benevolent ruler, why didn't Wakanda help the rest of Africa? Many possibilities there, and some poignant stories could be written even today with all of the unrest on that continent involving Sudan, Congo, etc. All written without him being a jerk, that is.

Doug: Shifting gears, we'd like to recommend some fine out-of-continuity stories that can just be enjoyed without any fear of baggage.

  1. Justice (DC) -- Alex Ross paintings over Doug Braithwite pencils. Doesn't get too much better than that. Throw in words from Ross's buddy Jim Krueger and a bevy of Silver Age/Bronze Age good guys and bad guys, and it's a really, really fun ride. Ross provides cameos from just about everyone, including the Teen Titans and the Metal Men. While the premise of the story may not be entirely original, the pretty pictures more than make up for it.

  2. Superman: Secret Identity (DC) -- Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen made a nice story about a real guy named Clark Kent who suddenly discovers that he has the powers of the fictional Superman. It's a quaint tale that gave me a smile as I read it. A feel good story that's part superhero yarn, part slice-of-life.

  3. Kingdom Come (DC) -- As we discussed last time, this one may no longer be considered "out of continuity", and that's a shame. This apocalyptic story, from Mark Waid and Alex Ross, is very, very good. The panel where Captain Marvel shows up to combat the Man of Steel is among the finest splash pages ever crafted, in my opinion. This mini-series is one I return to often.

  4. Hulk : Future Imperfect (Marvel): I don't think this is in continuity -at least, I hope it's not! Modern Hulk vs. Future Hulk, who happens to be ruling what's left of Earth. Great Perez art, a well-written script by Peter David, and a story that makes it easy to understand why the heroes would feel the need to shoot the Hulk off into space.
  5. Superboy's Legion (DC): The Legion in their classic Silver Age costumes, the Fatal Five, and Alan Davis on the artwork -- what's not to like?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

BAB Classic - Continuity, Part Two: It Takes a Crisis... or Does It?


This post was originally published on February 10, 2010. 


Doug: Since we had such a nice conversation on part one of this old series, why not finish it up this weekend? Enjoy.



Doug: Hey, back for another installment of continuity conundrums. Today we'll focus on DC's mid-80's answer to housecleaning, Crisis on Infinite Earths and the reboots that came in its wake.

Karen: As I mentioned last time, some retroactive changes can be a good thing. Going back to the Byrne Superman, I never liked the idea that there was no Superboy. Now decades later, Superboy has been quietly inserted back into continuity. It may still leave us wondering exactly what stories have or haven't taken place, but what felt like a wrong has now been righted. And speaking of Superboy, would any discussion of continuity be complete without some comments on the original arch-enemy of continuity, Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Doug: It was an adjustment that took me many years to, well, adjust to! And I think what made it worse was the fall-out that affected my fave DC book, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Although Superboy had not been in the book for some time, the removal of him as the inspiration for the team's existence in the first place seemed to cause the book to creatively wander in the years after the Crisis. Shoot, one could argue that it's still trying to return to it's pre-Crisis heydays. While I'm not presently a reader, I did enjoy some moments here and there in the 1990's.

Karen: Although ostensibly designed to streamline the DC universe and make it more accessible, this razing of years and years of material seemed to gut the DC universe and leave readers everywhere mystified as to what now was and was not in continuity, with the Legion and many other titles.

Doug: I'll go back to a point I made last time -- I really never felt like continuity was an issue at DC. Sure, I understand the powers that be wanted to move away from all of the Kryptonite colors, they wanted to de-power Superman, the Earth-1, Earth-2, etc. stuff was confusing for newer readers. But when you look at the 25 years since the Crisis and what a mess that ended up becoming -- and to some extent is still a mess with DC moving from one event to another (just like Marvel) -- one has to question just how wise the Crisis was in the first place. DC seemed to take what was uniquely its own (the multi-Earth DC universe) and just chuck it out the window.

Karen: Doug, I think I would agree that Silver Age DC didn't worry too much about continuity, but certainly by the 80s, DC was fairly steeped in it. If you think about it, Crisis was not so much about cleaning up continuity -which is to my mind a linear progression - than taking multiple parallel paths and combining them into one. But that combination -forcing all those universes into one - did result in continuity issues. The initial problem was not one of continuity, as each universe had its own distinct continuity. To be honest, I never understood why they thought readers would be so confused by the multiple universes. I was a casual reader of DC but completely understood that the Justice Society was on a different Earth than the Justice League, that there were two Supermans, two Batmans, etc. As a matter of fact, I liked the idea a lot!


Doug: Agreed on your last point -- to me, that was a part of the DC Universe that was very charming. In those pre-Crisis days, the Earth-One and Earth-Two characters could interact and they'd be the same age. However, over at the House of Ideas in the 1970's the Invaders became a popular series, so some of the characters from that series started to pop up in the then-present; I just wasn't buying that Bob Frank (the Whizzer) could all of a sudden show up and be any sort of factor in battle at the approximate age of 70! Marvel's reality-based stories, which we discussed last time, virtually forbade any mingling amongst their Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age characters. So advantage to DC on that point. Then they changed it...

Doug: Not only did DC destroy much of their history, but at least for the immediate future they wiped out a whole bunch of characters. Now admittedly, many of them were just chaff, but I'm sure there were fans attached to them. However, besides death and taxes, the third thing in life that's guaranteed is that due to American copyright laws any comics fan can rest assured that their faves will pop up every seven years or so.

Doug: So, weird alien Supergirl, Wally West Flash? Anyone bothered by those things? I certainly didn't care whether Wally was the new Flash, but I didn't understand how removing Superboy from the new DC meant that Supergirl also had to be removed. I only read the first couple of issues of Peter David's Supergirl series; of course the character originated in the pages of John Byrne's Superman revamp. I quit due to a) economics and b) just really didn't care. I enjoyed Byrne's little homages to the recent-past: Luthor's battlesuit, the return of Supergirl, etc. But like you, Karen, the complete overhaul of the Super-mythos didn't set well with me. And shoot, I'm on record as saying I was never a Superman fan -- I was a Superboy fan!

Karen: The Supergirl revision was one of the worst "rethinkings" ever.
Doug: And what about when out-of-continuity stories become in-continuity? I think Jason Todd's fate as Robin was sealed the second Frank Miller wrote Alfred's comment to Bruce Wayne "after what happened to Jason" back in the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. Additionally, we've seen both Magog and the Kingdom Come Superman enter current JSA continuity. Good or bad? I guess it was nice as it was -- not sure the leap into the mainstream was necessary.

Karen: Yes, I have some concerns about Kingdom Come now becoming a part of the regular DCU. Is DC dooming itself now to go down a certain path? I suppose the exact outcome of KC can be avoided but I just don't know that it was wise to incorporate any of that stuff.

Doug: Good point -- as much as we've discussed writers' hands being tied by certain events, how about apocalyptic events set far in the future? It would seem to me that writers would have to be constantly thinking about getting their ducks in a row.


Doug: Which brings us to next time, when we'll discuss certain events that various writers/editors keep coming back to, as well as out-of-continuity stories that work just fine as standalones. See ya then!

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Simple Question About Old Comics


Doug: When did you become enamored with "old" comics? When was your realization that something had come before? For example, in the 25c era, I about wet my pants the first time I laid eyes on a "12-center". The Holy Grail had been published monthly ten years earlier!








Thursday, February 4, 2016

Would You Rather... Spider-Man's Webs






Doug: I have three questions today about your preferences toward the fashions of everyone's favorite Wall-Crawler. Over the years several artists have exerted their influences on Spider-Man and his sartorial splendor. Of note today are Steve Ditko, John Romita, and Todd McFarlane.

Doug: So here's what I'd like to know -- in regard to the web design on Spider-Man's costume, the underarm webbing, and the style of the webs emanating from his web shooters, what's the look you favor? And of course you don't have to stick to one artist as any sort of a package deal -- you can mix-and-match 'em if you prefer.








Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Star Trek at 50: Where No Man Has Gone Before



Season 1
Episode 1: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Filmed: July 1965
First Air Date: September 22, 1966 (3rd episode aired)

Karen: For Christmas this past year I got an excellent book, These are the Voyages TOS Season One by Marc Cushman. It chronicles the production of the first season of the original Star Trek. Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about Trek, I was proved wrong -and happily so. This book is a treasure trove of inside information culled from interviews with the people who actually made the individual episodes. Yes, they've been interviewed before, but Cushman also uses a variety of documents to support his work -first drafts of scripts, production memos, etc. The whole thing comes together as a very incisive view of the trials and triumphs of  not only the series as a whole but of each episode.

Karen: In this 50th anniversary year of Star Trek, I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit each episode, in the order in which they were produced. I'll comment on them a bit, provide some information from Cushman's marvelous book, and set up a clip as a mental prod for everyone -as if we needed it. I'm sure for many, these episodes are burned into the brain cells.

Karen: Today, we will look at the second pilot (we'll see The Cage when we discuss The Menagerie), Where No Man Has Gone Before. The Star Trek team were still finding their way with this; Captain Pike had been replaced with the more dynamic Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner. The network had demanded a less cerebral second pilot (and a second pilot was almost unheard of), so they got this story of humans turned into gods, with some rough-housing at the end. But even so, it was still probably pretty far-out for most viewers at the time. Psychic powers that let men create gardens out of deserts? You never saw that on Rocky Jones Space Ranger

Karen: Leonard Nimoy was still getting a handle on Spock. He was still grasping for the way to portray the First Officer. The rest of the Enterprise crew wasn't quite set yet - Scotty and Sulu were aboard, but there was no Uhura, and the ship's doctor was Mark Piper, played by character actor Paul Fix.

Karen: Interestingly, according to Cushman, the Gary Mitchell character wasn't even a member of the Enterprise crew in writer Samuel Peeples' earliest draft. The nature of his character evolved and changed as the story was reworked by Peeples and Gene Roddenberry. Making him a close friend of Kirk added much more emotional punch. 


Karen: Here's some nice insights from the old Sci Fi Channel's Special Edition showing of the episode:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Spinner Rack - February 1978


Doug: Welcome back to the new stuff, friends! Karen got us off to a nice start yesterday with her review of the recently-released Inhumans tpb. Today it's a well-worn drill, but one that always takes us back to the Bronze Age for some nice recollections. If you make the jump here, you'll land on Mike's Amazing World of Comics and those books that were cover-dated February 1978. A click on the date below will bump you over to the Comic Book Database where you can find some other details. Thanks for playing!






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