Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Star Trek at 50: A Taste of Armageddon



Season 1
Episode 24: A Taste of Armageddon
Filmed: December 1966/ January 1967
First Air Date: February 23, 1967

Karen: "A Taste of Armageddon" is a solid episode, with a strong anti-war theme that requires little explanation.War has become the norm for the two planets of Eminiar and Vendikar. They've rendered it neat and clean, and come to accept the inevitable loss of life. The pattern is so thoroughly bred into them, after hundreds of years, that they don't even think about stopping it. Until Kirk forces them to.


Karen: This is another strong message episode, filled with just enough action to keep the kids and the network happy. Coming during the Vietnam War, it clearly had much to say about the dehumanizing effects of war. The writer, Robert Hamner, is quoted in Marc Cushman's These are the Voyages as saying, "At the time, the military was developing the neutron bomb. These were designed to kill people without harming the buildings. It was like big business going to war. 'Don't destroy the factories, just kill the workers!' I thought it would be terrible if a neutron bomb were developed. It would take all the devastation out of war and just leave death...That was the whole idea of the script when I walked into Gene Coon's office."  Coon worked with Hamner to tighten the script and add more action, work on Kirk's motivation and eliminate or revise some of the scenes that would be too costly to shoot. He also wrote the "we're not going to kill today" speech that Kirk gives at the end. All together, the episode is fairly emblematic of what Trek would come to be recognized for, philosophically speaking.


Karen: However, by this episode, we start to see certain patterns appearing in Trek: a civilization that is out of order and Kirk and company decide they must intercede; the landing party cut off from the Enterprise; the Enterprise under attack and unable to assist the landing party; Kirk destroying a machine to put an end to the problem. We got most of this with "Return of the Archons" and we're seeing it again here. This formula can be forgiven when the episode is a good one, but is quite noticeable when it's a lesser effort ("The Apple" for example).

Karen: Besides Kirk getting to be the man of action in this, Spock gets his moments too. When the landing party is captured, we see the Vulcan utilize his mind meld ability in a new way, reaching through the wall of the room they are being held prisoner in to contact the mind of their guard and control it, getting him to open the door. I think Trek could have run the risk of making Spock into their deus ex machina if they had abused his mental abilities, and a lesser show would have done this. But thankfully it was used sparingly, and at the right times. We also got to hear Nimoy deliver the line, "Sir, there is a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder" before applying the Spock nerve pinch. Just beautiful.









Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Buried Treasures: Dynamite's Superhero Confidential (the conclusion)

Doug: We've had a blast over the past five or six weeks reminding ourselves how awesome those monthly book orders from Scholastic, Inc. could be when we were elementary school-aged. Today I'm going to show off the last three features that I saved from Dynamite magazine. The Captain Marvel (Shazam to Bronze Age Babies) feature was my introduction to the Captain's four-color adventures, as I am positive at that point in my life I knew him only from the Saturday morning live action show. As you have, drop us a comment on the artwork, the selection choices editorial made, and the Q&A/FAQ sections that followed the comic excerpts.

I think the Daredevil feature is from Daredevil #117, which I reviewed some years ago. However, as my art samples don't match and since that comic has left my possession I cannot be certain. Any help would be welcome.

I've enjoyed finding and sharing these gems from the middle of the Bronze Age. Who knows what else lurks down deep in the recesses of the comic room's closet?







Monday, July 25, 2016

BAB Book Review: Jack Kirby's Thor Artist Edition


Jack Kirby's Thor Artist Edition 
IDW Publishing, July 2016

Doug: On July 16th I returned home from my annual work at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. While it was great to be back home after what had been 11 days away, it was also wonderful to finally lay eyes on this book. I'd ordered it many months ago, and as seems to be true with projects of this ilk I sat through a few publication delays. It arrived just a couple of days before I did, but trust me -- the wait was worth it!

For those of you who were with me a few weeks ago when I offered my thoughts on Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns Gallery Edition, I will again be using photographs of this text as opposed to scans. Similar in size to John Romita's Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (and larger than the Dark Knight book), this is a cumbersome tome.

To get things rolling, how about this two-page spread to greet the reader/viewer?


To you stats geeks, here's the "tale of the tape" -- from the good folks at Comic Book Daily.com:

Jack Kirby’s The Mighty Thor Artist’s Edition
Includes Journey Into Mystery #s 111, 117-118, Thor #s 134-135, Thor Annual #2, plus a gallery of covers, splashes and pages.
  • Publication Date: July 06, 2016 (solicited for May 2016)
  • Publisher Series Number: 42
  • ISBN: 978-1-63140-603-4
  • Diamond Item Code: JAN160388 (In Stock)
  • 15″ x 22″
  • 160 pages
  • $125 USD
  • Initial Reported Sales: No data available yet
  • Variants: none
Right after the frontispiece pictured above you'll find the Table of Contents, which is really nice, and I display it for those of you who might consider at some point purchasing this volume. I especially like that it shows the inkers involved in these artifacts. Toward the end of the post I'll show you some of the samples from the "gallery section", which really, really enhance the already wonderful offerings contained between these covers. Think about it -- six complete Jack Kirby Thor stories!


Once you're into the nitty gritty of the book, this is what greets the reader:


Oh, you said you wanted words? Well that splash sure had 'em! I love the way the page is marked up at the top, and it's amazing the lines that get lost in the printing process. I also enjoyed seeing the trim size of the final product (here at 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"). That brings me to something many of you are already wondering... what of Kirby's margin notes? Karen and I discussed offline how great this book should be, especially in light of the ongoing conversation of who did what creatively between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Personally, I've always felt that Kirby was the storyteller and Stan was the wordsmith. Does that give one man more credit than the other? To me, no. The symbiosis of their collaboration, the gestalt of the work, is what matters. All the rest seems minutiae in the face of the greater work. My opinion. However, I'm sorry to report that some of those margin notes are not fully viewable in this book. I do not know if that's due to trimming at the printer five decades ago, or trimming in the photo process by IDW Publishing (I assume the former). However, there are abundant pages where Kirby's notes are complete, as in the examples below:



I included the image of Balder below (in civvies, no less) because there's some crazy white-out on his jaw/mouth. I hope my photographic reproduction shows it, as it really leapt off the page at me while looking through.


Here's another shot of the Destroyer, in a great splash from Thor Annual #2; he's a great looking character, one of my favorite Thor villains. And dig the Kirby Krackle!!



A favorite panel in the book. One can see how Kirby might have been an influence on the likes of John Buscema (which he was -- many of you know that Stan handed stacks of Kirby-drawn books to artists new to Marvel, regardless of their pedigree).


Splash pages. What would a Lee/Kirby Thor book be without the Odinsleep? And how about the Big G? Wowza!


Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch made a cameo in Thor #134. Kirby didn't handle them during the Kooky Quartet era, so it's interesting to see his take on the twins. As I said above, note Kirby's extensive margin notes on this page, lost forever to the trimming of the page at some point in the reproduction process.


The High Evolutionary and Kirby machines. That wolf ain't gonna be pretty once the High Ev. gets done with him!


Yes, you in the back of the room. You say you're in need of some more Kirby Krackle? Why... by all means...


As noted above, the end of the book contains a gallery section of awesome covers. I really got a kick out of these, with all their paste-up/white-out/stat glories! I also own the Marvel Covers Artist Edition, and the use of paste-ups was predominant on Marvel's covers. Obviously the logos, corner box art, etc. would have been stats. But you might (or might not) be surprised at how often art was glued onto the cover's bristol board.



Lastly, this Artist Edition contained several of the very earliest Thor pages, from Journey Into Mystery #s 83 and 85. It was a nice idea, and really showed the evolution of the character not only in Kirby's mind, but also from the introductory inks of Joe Sinnott all the way through much of the pages shown in this volume, inked by Vince Colletta. Specifically in regard to Vinnie, and I'm sure many of you want to ask, is it possible to see where Vinnie erased Jack's pencils? I've only been through the book twice, and haven't actually read from it. I also didn't take any sort of care as to "proper lighting". But my first impression is that "no", you can't really see any erasure marks. I will scrutinize further, but can report that I did initially feel disappointed that I could not find any evidence of Kirby's original intentions.

Why not close with a bang? One of the best ongoing tussles in all of Marveldom...




Doug: EPILOGUE!! On July 21st IDW Publishing announced at the San Diego Comicon that 2017 will see the publication of the first volume (read that again, effendi) of the Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four Artist Edition. The book will contain Fantastic Four issues #s 82-84 and Annual #6, all inked by Joe Sinnott. You know this guy cannot wait for that. In fact, I've recently fired up the sell-off machine again, so some books and action figures are going to get converted to cash for this baby. Of course I'll let you know if and when I have it in hand.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Discuss: Star Trek Beyond




A nice homage to the original Star Trek the Motion Picture poster

Karen: All right, the film is out, and since I doubt there are too many of you who are planning to see this, we're going to make this a "Fully Spoiled" post  -so when it comes to comments, say whatever you like.

So in other words -if you don't want the movie SPOILED for you, don't read any further, including the comments. 


Let me say I am not one of those old time Trek fans who hates the new films. Are they 'my' Trek? No...but I find them entertaining, once I got past the issues I had, such as  technical ones ( ex. the Enterprise being built on the surface of Earth), and the need for constant action.  I think they did a fine job casting them and I was hopeful going into this on Friday night that the cast would help carry me past any science inanities and the inevitable over-the-top action sequences. For the most part, Star Trek Beyond succeeded. I found it to be enjoyable. It's definitely an action movie first and science fiction second, but by making sure the characters are recognizable to us fans, it feels like Star Trek -just a Trek with a lot more explosions and running around than we're used to.

Karen: Both Kirk and Spock are going through turning points: Kirk is unsure why he joined Star Fleet and the mission has become too routine. Spock feels that he should be serving his people on New Vulcan. I thought it was telling that both men only reveal these feelings to Dr. McCoy, who is finally allowed to be played with a bit of subtlety by Karl Urban. By the end of the film, the trials they've faced  help both of them re-affirm their commitments not only to Star Fleet but to each other and their crew, which is central to the film. The sub-plot here is about connections, in this case how the Enterprise crew fits together and works together, despite all of their differences. This also extends to how the Federation fits together, but this aspect, while touched upon, is never fully examined and that's unfortunate.

Karen: The villain, Krall, was something of a disappointment. He has a muddled storyline whose reveal at the end still doesn't completely make sense (what caused his metamorphosis?). He despises the Federation and feels that the supposed unity of the government is false, and that it makes them weak. "Joining with the enemy" he sneers -but  Kirk points out that we change -we must change, to grow, to survive. It was one of the most Trek-like moments, and it came in the middle of a zero-G fist fight. But better then than during the dirt bike scene. Yeah, there is a dirt bike scene. So some of it is a little hard to take. And for the love of God, no more Beastie Boys, please.




Karen: But despite some complaints, it was entertaining. Spock and Bones together was fun. Urban gets to stretch more as Bones, not merely emulating DeForest Kelley at his most emotive moments but taking a cue from his quieter ones too. For the first time in these films we get a real taste of the Spock-McCoy relationship. Quinto's Spock has less to do in this film than previous ones. Honestly, he's a little too emotional I think. His Spock is coming off as just a really smart, nerdy guy and not a half-Human, half-Vulcan  struggling to control his emotions.  Scotty gets a lot to do, although nearly all of it is comedic.  Anton Yelchin gave us an exuberant and likable  Pavel Chekov, and he will be missed. Chris Pine seems to be comfortable now as Kirk, although it would be nice to see him in a film that had him acting more as the captain of a ship on an exploratory mission -the Enterprise gets destroyed fairly quickly here. I was expecting the new character, Jaylah, to be annoying, but instead she was quite a sympathetic figure and her self-sufficiency was admirable. If anything, Uhura and Sulu got pushed to the back this time. But maybe they'll do more in the fourth film. 

Karen: The Enterprise gets destroyed -again. I guess each crew has to do it at some point. But I could live without it. I can't deny the sequence was exciting though. And we did get saucer separation -sort of. Of course, next time they'll come back with NCC-1701-A.

Karen: I was surprised by the inclusion of the Star Trek: Enterprise -era ship. That series was almost universally despised by fans, I wouldn't think they'd touch it, but they went for it in a big way. 

Karen: I had assumed that Spock-Prime might pass on, so I wasn't shocked by his demise, but I still teared up when Spock looked at the display that showed Spock-Prime's (Leonard Nimoy's) image with his birth and death dates. I heard other people in the theater let out sighs. It was very moving. And again, towards the end, when Spock is going through Spock-Prime's personal effects, and sees the photo of the Enterprise crew, a shot I believe from Star Trek 5, well, my heart was in my throat.  It was very well done and a nice tribute to not only Nimoy but the original series in its entirety. Of course, when the credits rolled, there were acknowledgements to both Nimoy and Yelchin. Very nice.

Karen: One last thing: how about the mention of a "a big, green hand" grabbing the Franklin by Scotty, and that same hand in the credits? Nice call-out to us original Trek fans.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

K-Tel Records Presents... Compilation LP's (AS SEEN ON TV!)




Redartz:  Greetings, everyone!  Way  back when, in the days before YouTube, Ipod shuffle, or even cd's, many fans of popular music longed for a way to amass a collection of tunes. Preferably, that is,without having to buy hundreds of 45's. And sure enough, those TV commercial mainstays K-Tel (as in the "pocket fisherman") and Ronco (as in "kitchen magician") gave us a way to do just that: the compilation lp.  From the late 1960's through the early 1980's, anyone watching television would be very familiar with these lp's, due to the heavy airplay their commercials got (" Original Hits, Original Stars!"). Usually featuring about 20 songs, sampling widely through the popular music of the times, these albums gave us the chance to pick up many of the most recent hits at a pretty cheap price (actually, they also offered some collections of older hits as well). 

These albums could be found at record stores, of course, but were also available at department stores and even pharmacies, often prominently displayed in stands with that little red box ("As Seen On TV!").  I recall convincing my mother to buy my first one at a JC Penney's ( the Ronco "Get it On" shown here ).  Chances were you would find several favorite songs among the track list (in this case, I wanted it for Jim Stafford' "Spiders and Snakes"; the store was sold out of the 45 but the song was included on this record, along with sooo many others!). Sure, there would likely be a few cuts that made you grit your teeth, but overall you got a pretty good mix- rock, pop, soul, disco, even an occasional country crossover or novelty hit. 


Get It On!, 1974
Check out that track list...


























 Of course, there was a down side- sometimes the songs would be edited versions, trimmed down to about 2 minutes or so. This was frustrating to a music fanatic like myself, but in those pre-internet days, it beat wading through a dozen radio stations trying to tape your own variety mix (believe me, I tried). And the track mix was varied enough to provide exposure to some unfamiliar music- not every song was a top ten hit. My favorite tune off "Get it On!" turned out to be "Painted Ladies" by Ian Thomas, a song I'd never heard before getting that lp. 

At any rate, that lp started a love affair with compilation albums that, for me, continues today. Now my cd shelf is filled with "Billboard's Greatest Hits" discs, Time/Life discs, and countless others. Yet those old K-Tel albums from the 5-and-dime still hold a lot of charm. In fact, I have them recreated as playlists, complete with scans of the album covers. Below are a few more from my archives. Do you have any fond memories of these albums; favorite discs, songs you first discovered within the paper sleeve of a Ronco record?







Friday, July 22, 2016

Guest Post: Convention Stories





Doug: A few weeks ago William was relating a story about an encounter he had with Will Eisner. As it seemed like he'd picqued the curiosity of many a BABer, I emailed him and asked if he'd be interested in sharing more. We're really excited today to be able to present "the rest of the story", as they say. Thanks, William!









William: Back in 1993 I had the very good fortune to attend a "Comics and Sequential Arts Workshop" taught by the great Will Eisner. It was an eight week night class that was offered at a local community college in my home town of Davie, Florida (located just west of Fort Lauderdale). The class even got a write up in the local paper. 

 

My old friend from art school, Tony Diterlizzi, attended the class with me. He went on to become a pretty well known artist in the industry, writing and illustrating many children's books and co-creating "The Spider Wick Chronicles". But I digress.

In each class Will would give a demonstration of a certain art and/or storytelling technique and then give us a homework assignment based on that weeks lesson. Then the next week Will would critique the work of each student and then he'd give us another demo and another assignment and so on. It was a lot of fun, and I thought Will was a really great teacher, and a really nice and guy.




He usually did just rough pencil sketches for his demonstrations (sometimes no more than stick figure drawings), and afterward he'd give the pages to whoever wanted them. Well, one night he did an inking demonstration that included much more detailed drawings of figures and such (all fully inked). After he was done I half-jokingly blurted out "I'd like to have that one." Everyone laughed, and then Will said "Sure, no problem." Then he signed it "Will Eisner, Done By Hand" and gave it to me. I almost fell over, and the rest of my classmates were fairly green with envy (to say the least). The next day I showed the piece to my friend who owned a comic-book store, (and was an avid comic art collector as well). He was pretty blown away and said, "Wow man, you just paid for that class and then some." Because Will Eisner did not sell his original art, so it was very hard to come by.


During this same time there was a comic convention in Fort Lauderdale that featured John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. as guests that year. So, my friend Tony Diterlizzi, my wife, and myself decided to go check it out. Shortly after we arrived who should walk through the front door but Will Eisner himself. We see him, and he sees us, and he comes over and we all start talking. Well, it isn't long before we are surrounded by other convention goers who recognize Will and stop by to pay their respects. My wife looks at me like "what is going on?" Even though I'd told her that Will Eisner was like the godfather of comic art she did not realize what a legend he was to most comic-book geeks (like myself).

Unfortunately the big crowd around us soon attracted the attention of the convention organizers and they swooped in and, even though he wasn't a scheduled guest, they begged Will to join the other creators up at the tables. He agreed (sort of reluctantly) and before he left us he said "You know, I would have much rather just stayed down here and hung out with you guys all day." (My wife thought that was very sweet and still mentions it to this day).

Later on we got in line to meet the Romitas -- Sr. and Jr.. and I had them sign a couple of comics I'd brought along (including my copies of Amazing Spider-Man #s 39 and 40 for Sr. to sign). John Sr. was also doing free sketches of either a masked Spider-Man head or the half Peter Parker/half Spidey face. I chose the fully masked Spidey. (I think my friend Tony got the other). I remember John Jr. turning to his dad and telling him he was nuts for doing all that work for nothing, and John Sr. was like "Ahh, I don't mind." John Jr. was also flirting with my wife big time. He was saying things like "You don't see many women who look like you at these things." and "What are you doing with these guys?" and so on. And she was eating it up because he's not a bad looking guy at all. It was all in good fun, and instead of being put out I was like "Cool, John Romita Jr.'s hitting on my wife." LOL


I think that probably remains the best (or at least most memorable) comic book convention I ever attended. Although shortly after that I went to another one where I got to meet Stan Lee. But that's a story for another day.

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