Category Archives: Superheroes

THE COFFIN (2000): HALLOWEEN SUPERHERO

Balladeer’s Blog’s 31 Days of Halloween continues with this neglected horror hero.

CoffinTHE COFFIN (2000) – Written by Phil Hester and drawn by Mike Huddleston, The Coffin was originally a four-part serial before being collected into graphic novel format. I’ll provide details below but right up front let me point out that the horrific but intriguing premise is that the Coffin is a dead scientist whose soul is trapped within a polymer techno-suit of his own creation.

Dr Ashar Ahmad, the brilliant scientist in question, is employed by Heller Technologies, whose eponymous owner is a vile and amoral tycoon. Heller himself is a figure straight out of a horror film.

He’s incredibly old and his withered, wrinkled body is still functioning only because of all of the legal and illegal organ transplants he has had. His body is a battleground of scars from all that surgery. Obviously immortality is what our power-mad plutocrat longs for.

Coffin bAnd so Heller Technologies recruited Dr Ahmad to devise strong, lightweight polymers for medical purposes. To that end Ashar has developed polymers that can be used to form an artificial membrane that is perfectly impermeable and incredibly durable.

Extensions of that technology result in masses of polymers – literally thousands of layers – some of them only a few molecules thick. Dr Ahmad has managed to make it so that these polymers react to electronic pulses like the kind from a human brain to its body’s muscles, making the polymer “skin” or membrane expand or contract in response to those electronic pulses. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN ELEVEN: THE DEATH MERCHANT OF CHICAGO

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Killraven 11AMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #28 (January 1975)

Title: The Death Merchant of Chicago

Synopsis: This issue starts off with a splash page featuring narration which nicely captures the charisma and warrior majesty of Killraven, leader of a group of Freemen rebelling against Earth’s alien conquerors (Martians in the original War of the Worlds comic book but Zetans in my revisions).

We get a reference to his years as a gladiator in the arena circuit set up in a bread and circuses manner by the Martians/ Zetans and the ruling class of human quislings who help them subjugate humanity. We also get a reminder that he is the focal point of the ongoing war, a reference to Killraven’s possession of The Power (a pre-Star Wars variation of The Force) which he is still struggling to master.

The story picks up in early April of 2019 (lol) but you can just picture it as 44 years in the future, as it would have been to readers in 1975. The Freemen and their new member Volcana Ash have traveled from last issue’s Milwaukee battleground with the Death Breeders to the ruins of Meig’s Airfield outside Chicago.

Killraven and his Freemen have been using the place as an observation post to prepare for their assault on the futuristic, skyscraper-tall alien fortress called Death-Birth. Last time around we learned that it is a Martian/ Zetan stronghold built by human slave labor as a combined military post and breeding station for human beings, since the aliens feed on humans like cattle.   Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TEN: THE DEATH BREEDERS

FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE  The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.

Death BreedersAMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #27 (November 1974)

Title: The Death Breeders

Synopsis: The narrative tells us it is now March of 2019 (lol) but you can just tell yourself that it’s March of 45 years from now, as it would have been to readers in 1974.

Since their clash with the Survivalists of Battle Creek, MI Killraven and his Freemen at some point commandeered an abandoned ice-ship. This craft is basically a traditional ship complete with sails but with runners on the bottom like a sleigh. The wind in the sails lets the ship “skate” across frozen Lake Erie on its ski-like runners.

Up in the ship’s crow’s nest the Native American Freeman called Hawk warns his comrades on the deck below (Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost and Carmilla’s creation Grok) that a pair of gigantic lampreys have sensed their vessel and have burst through the ice to attack them.

The lampreys are nearly Kaiju-sized, having been mutated over the years by pollution (the 1970s go-to explanation) and presumably the widespread after-effects of the biological warfare agents unleashed during the war against the Martian invaders.

REVISIONS: As always, I would have eliminated the tenuous connection to War of the Worlds and just had Earth’s conquerors be regular aliens, preferrably from Zeta Reticuli. In addition I would still have it be Deathlok as a Freeman instead of Grok. See previous installments for my justification.

Returning to the story, the Freemen battle the attacking lampreys – Killraven with his sword, photonuclear pistol and explosive star-grenades, M’Shulla with his crossbow and indestructible bolts, Hawk with his photonuclear rifle and Old Skull with his brute strength. Continue reading

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CYBERFROG: BLOOD HONEY – CONQUERING THE COMIC BOOK WORLD

cyberfrogCyberfrog and Heather Swain are back in action! In the tradition of other great duos like Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Howard the Duck and Beverly Switzler, Rocky and Bullwinkle or Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger, everyone’s favorite frog/ full-grown woman pair have returned in their first new adventure since the 1990s.

Legendary comic book artist and writer Ethan Van Sciver regained the rights to his old characters and returned them to action in his hot new work Cyberfrog: Blood Honey. Cyberfrog, spawned by alien technology, fights huge extraterrestrial hornets and other menaces on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Human blood is a necessary ingredient for the “honey” that the hornets dine on, hence the title. The adventures of Cyberfrog and Heather Swain – plus new character Salamandroid – are sort of a blend of the best elements of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Mastermind Ethan Van Sciver has already promised Cyberfrog’s adoring fans a followup, to be be titled Cyberfrog: Wrecked Planet.  

anna that star wars girl picVan Sciver, after legendary runs at Marvel and DC, is the leader of the comic book “outlaws” pursuing their own projects free from the corporate influence of the Big Two publishers.

Popular reviewer Anna, That Star Wars Girl (pictured) offers a much more in-depth review.

For that review just click  Continue reading

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DOCTOR MENSANA: AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO

One of Balladeer’s Blog’s biggest hits was my examination of Australian-made comic book heroes like Dark Nebula, Vixen, Crimson Comet, Niteside and the super-team called the Southern Squadron. Here’s another, and for my full look at Aussie super-types click HERE

Doctor Mensana

Dr Mensana in one of his two super-powered forms.

DOCTOR MENSANA 

Debut Year: 1941 

Secret Identity: None. He openly used his real name, but the public often tagged him with nicknames like “the Samson of science” or “the man of Mind Plus.”

Origin: Sporting both an MD and a PhD the good Doctor Mensana used his unrivaled genius to create pills which could make him super-strong AND endow him with telepathic powers in addition to even greater intelligence than he already possessed. 

Powers: When our hero swallowed one of his M-Plus (M+) or Mind-Plus pills his already formidable brilliance was multiplied many times over. His cranium would grow and he would also boast telepathic and psionic powers. When Dr Mensana swallowed one of his S-Plus (S+) or Strength-Plus pills he would instantly bulk up with muscles and possess incredible super-strength. Continue reading

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BLACK PANTHER: PANTHER’S RAGE (1973-1975) REVIEW

Black PantherHere’s Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of Don McGregor’s 1973-1975 Black Panther story Panther’s Rage. I’m no comic book expert but in my opinion Panther’s Rage surpasses much of the work done by the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore.

This Marvel Comics figure first appeared in 1966 as a guest star alongside the Fantastic Four and Captain America before joining the Avengers.

Erik Killmonger

“Memes … memes, everywhere.”

Here are chapter by chapter links to my review –

ONE: PANTHER’S RAGE – Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther, returns to his isolated African kingdom of Wakanda to try to put down a violent rebellion led by a Wakandan calling himself Erik Killmonger. CLICK HERE 

TWO: DEATH REGIMENTS BENEATH WAKANDA – The Black Panther battles Venomm, the supervillain in charge of Killmonger’s operation tunneling toward Wakanda City while simultaneously mining and stealing the nation’s vibranium reserves. CLICK HERE 

THREE: MALICE BY CRIMSON MOONLIGHT – Killmonger sends a super-powered woman called Malice to help Venomm escape from the Royal Palace’s prison on the same night that T’Challa is undergoing his renewal of the Panther Herb ritual. CLICK HERE   Continue reading

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JOE MAGARAC: NEGLECTED AMERICAN FOLKTALE

Joe MagaracLabor Day weekend is the appropriate time to post this look at neglected working class folk hero Joe Magarac. This figure was the Steel Mill equivalent of Paul Bunyan and John Henry.

Though mostly associated with Polish-American steel workers in Pittsburgh, PA the general figure of a literal “man of steel” helping and protecting his coworkers can be found from the East Coast through the American Midwest. Sometimes the figure is Croation or some other ethnicity instead of Polish. 

Written versions of Joe Magarac and/or similar steel worker tall tales seem to have started around 1930 or 1931. Oral legends about such figures – but not specifically Joe Magarac – have been dated as early as the 1890s.

Vintage advertisements from tattered old newspapers indicate that such Man of Steel imagery may have been used for the steel industry prior to World War One. This “Which came first, the chicken or the egg” dilemma for Joe Magarac and other Steel Men puts one in mind of the quandary surrounding Billiken lore.        

Joe Magarac statueAs a lame play on words since this is Labor Day season I’ll present Joe Magarac’s origin and then depict his tales as “Labors” like in The Labors of Hercules.

BIRTH – Joe Magarac supposedly sprang into existence from a mound of iron ore and – depending on the version – that mound was either in Pittsburgh or the Old Country. Magarac emerged from the melting mound fully grown and spoke broken English like so many of the other Polish steel workers. He was called into being by the urgent need to catch up on production since the current shift had fallen dangerously behind.

Joe was 7 or 8 feet tall, his flesh was like solid steel, his torso was as wide as a smoke-stack and his arms were as thick as railroad ties. His surname Magarac meant “mule” in the workhorse sense, referring to his stamina. Joe’s appetite was such that he carried his lunch in a washtub instead of a standard lunch box.

Magarac’s favorite leisure time activity was polka-dancing and halushkis were his favorite food.

THE LABORS OF JOE MAGARAC:   Continue reading

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