Tag Archives: Balladeer’s Blog

ULYSSES BLOODSTONE

For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here’s a look at another Marvel Comics character that never became a hit for some reason.

bloodstone 1MARVEL PRESENTS Vol 1 #1 (October 1975)

Title: Dweller from the Depths (despite the title on the cover)

Villains: The Possessor and the Dweller from the Depths

NOTE: This story introduced the character Ulysses Bloodstone, a mysterious monster hunter who has been alive for thousands of years, sustained by the fragment of an alien Blood Gem lodged in his chest. With his custom-made weapons and the paranormal powers granted to him by the Blood Gem, he has hunted down and destroyed countless monsters for millennia.  

Synopsis: The Dweller from the Depths rises from San Francisco Bay, summoned by the otherworldly music from a blind flutist who is possessed by an alien entity. The Dweller rampages through San Francisco and suddenly a muscular man with blonde hair and wearing a Big Game Hunter outfit attacks it.

bloodstoneThat man’s thoughts tell us he is Ulysses Bloodstone and that the fragment of an alien gem in his chest unerringly leads him around the globe whenever monstrous creatures are about to strike. While television news crews and the police look on, Bloodstone battles the enormous beast.

Our hero’s superhuman strength, reflexes and a degree of invulnerability help keep him alive while he shoots the Dweller over and over again from many angles with the shotgun he carries in a holster on his back. The custom-made gun weighs over a hundred pounds and fires shells that strike with the force of cannonfire. Only Bloodstone’s extraordinary strength lets him wield the weapon so casually. Continue reading

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THE JAMES ALLISON TRILOGY: ROBERT E HOWARD’S NEGLECTED CHARACTER

base x betterJAMES ALLISON – American author Robert E. Howard is, of course, best known for his Big Three pulp heroes – Conan (debut year 1930), Kull (debut year 1929) and Solomon Kane (debut year 1928). Among his many overlooked creations was James Allison, whose trio of short stories serve as a perfect analogy for readers who long for adventures that the modern world denies them.

marchers 2MARCHERS OF VALHALLA – Ironically, this tale which introduces James Allison was never published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime, even though the two follow-up stories were. We meet James Allison, a man living in early 1930s Texas.

James feels profound disappointment over his mundane existence and the era in which he lives. Most of all, he feels inferior to his brothers, who were slain in the World War, and his father, who was wounded while charging up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt.

Even if the drab, stifling modern era DID serve up an adventure, Allison feels he is in no condition to pursue it because he has lost one of his legs in a riding accident. One day James limps his way up a hill to take in the scenery when a beautiful (of course) woman approaches him. Continue reading

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MARS REVEALED (1880) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

mars revealedMARS REVEALED (1880) – Written by Henry A. Gaston, this is another work that combines science fiction with religious and spiritual concepts.

The novel’s narrator, while walking in the hills of northern California during springtime, is approached by a Celestial Spirit. The spirit interrogates him about his lack of knowledge regarding the arcane secrets of the other planets in our solar system.

Our narrator expresses a willingness to be tutored in those secrets and the spirit offers to show him any planet of his choice. He selects Mars and the Celestial Spirit flies off with him toward the Red Planet. The voyager is awed by the sight of Earth far below and by the hills and valleys of the moon as they fly past it.

mascot sword and gun pic

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Approaching Mars, the Earthman sees that the planet has a pink atmosphere and, rather than be all red like it appears from Earth, the Martian surface is red mixed with silver and green. After circling Mars a few times, the Celestial Spirit and the Narrator land atop the highest mountain peak on the planet.

Mountaintops on Mars are covered in snows that have a pink tinge to them because of the pink atmosphere. Trees larger and taller than any on Earth grow far down from the peaks and those trees give off a perfumed scent.  Continue reading

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OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN IN TOOMORROW (1970)

Olivia Newton-John has passed away. In memoriam here is my 2020 review of her 1970 film Toomorrow, which went unreleased for several years due to legal battles. 

ToomorrowTOOMORROW (1970) – What is one part Monkees episode, one part Frankie & Annette Beach Movie, one part Help!, one part Donny & Marie in Goin’ Coconuts, one part KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park and one part Beyond the Valley of the Dolls? The answer is Toomorrow, the infamous Don Kirshner/ Val Guest cult movie with a then-unknown Olivia Newton-John in a starring role.

The aim was to launch a new pre-fab pop band like the Monkees, but this time consisting of an Aussie (Newton-John of course), a Brit (Vic Cooper), an African-American (Karl Chambers) and a white American (Benny Thomas).   

Olivia sings and also dances around the guys while they play, Benny plays the guitar, Karl is the drummer and Vic plays the keyboard AND his special invention called a Tonalizer. The band is called Toomorrow because, as Karl observes, they are “Too much! Too-Morrow!”

Toomorrow 2We’re told that Vic’s Tonalizer is what gives Toomorrow its special “sound.” How special is that sound? So special that its unique vibrations can revive the stagnant culture of an alien race that’s facing decay and collapse. It seems the aliens’ own musical output has grown stale because they have long since progressed beyond the troublesome “emotions” and “heart” that Toomorrow’s members pour into their songs. 

Buy this movie for the Sandbaggers or Dalgleish fan in your life, because Roy “Neil Burnside” Marsden co-stars as Alpha, the captain of the aliens’ spaceship. His forever-terse voice is unmistakable despite the – admittedly competent – makeup and prosthetic effects for the ET’s (above right). Continue reading

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BALLADEER’S BLOG’S PRESEASON RANKINGS FOR NAIA FOOTBALL

The 2022 College Football season kicks off on August 25th for the divisions covered here at Balladeer’s Blog. Here are my preseason rankings for the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).

Morningside Mustangs*** 1. MORNINGSIDE COLLEGE MUSTANGS (Defending National Champions)    ###     2. NORTHWESTERN (IA) COLLEGE RED RAIDERS    ###      3. GRAND VIEW UNIVERSITY VIKINGS    ###     4. MARIAN UNIVERSITY KNIGHTS    ###     

Southwestern College Moundbuilders NEW5. SOUTHWESTERN COLLEGE MOUNDBUILDERS    ###     6. LINDSEY WILSON COLLEGE BLUE RAIDERS    ###     7. CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY (MI) CARDINALS    ###    8. KEISER UNIVERSITY SEAHAWKS    ###      Continue reading

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IT, THE LIVING COLOSSUS: MARVEL KAIJU

Okay, this Saturday’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post will take a look at Marvel Comics’ neglected figure It, the Living Colossus.

it 1TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #14 (February 1961)

Title: I Created the Colossus

Villains: The Kigor, an alien

NOTE: It the Living Colossus was created by Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Synopsis: We are introduced to Boris Petrovsky in the Soviet Union. He is a dissident artist whose brother Ivan, a Party official, had Boris canceled for his pro-freedom views. Ivan also had his brother detained for “reeducation” and was forcing him to create a huge statue glorifying the Soviet Union to show that he had abandoned his insurrectionist beliefs.

Defiant to the last, Boris instead used the months-long period to craft a menacing, horrifying face on the mammoth statue to show how he REALLY perceived the communist government. Shortly before Ivan was due to arrive to inspect the finished statue a spaceship crash-landed near Moscow.

living colossusThe sole occupant of the alien vessel was a member of the Kigor race, large crab-like creatures of great intelligence who walked erect. Outnumbered on a hostile planet, the Kigor used its alien technology/ powers to transfer its mind into the enormous statue to try surviving.

Whether via technology or radiation treatments or some other method, the Kigor made the statue capable of movement as though it was a living being who had skin and muscles made of other-worldly stone. It’s a comic book, just go with it.

Ivan Petrovsky arrived to see the statue moving around on its own and called in the military. The statue, soon labeled It, the Living Colossus in languages around the world, fought back against the army, tanks and aircraft. It rampaged through Moscow like a kaiju monster stomping Tokyo. Continue reading

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BUCKSKIN FRANK: HAPPY FRONTIERADO 2022

arizona desert

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! The first Friday of every August marks this holiday devoted to the myth of the old west rather than the grinding reality. For some of us the celebration kicks off Thursday night, for others they wait until the actual day of Frontierado to hold their festivities. Enjoy your buffalo steaks, rattlesnake fried rice, corn on the cob, tumbleweed pizza, cactus salad and more today and tonight, and enjoy the leftovers on Saturday and Sunday.

buckskin frankBUCKSKIN FRANK LESLIE – Franklyn Leslie, full name Nashville Franklyn Leslie, was better known as Buckskin Frank. “Nashville” was, he claimed, his actual first name, NOT a nickname.

Buckskin Frank Leslie had no connection to the popular 1800s magazine of that name, but that’s one of the few questions that can be answered about this gunslinger. Which side of the Civil War did he serve on? He claimed both at various times.

Was he pro or anti-Clanton Faction during the gang war in Tombstone, Arizona? He claimed to be a Lone Wolf, and news accounts of the time do feature him in conflict with figures from both sides. He definitely killed Billy Claiborne and MAY have killed Johnny Ringo. Even his own death is shrouded in mystery.

Nashville Franklyn Leslie was born March 18th, 1842 in Texas. Virtually nothing is known about his early life and at different times he claimed to have served on each side of the Civil War. Why he left Texas is not known, either. By some accounts it was because of a family conflict but by others it was to flee a criminal past, possibly under the surname Korrigan or Corrigan.

buckskin frank drawingDocumentation starts to show up regarding Buckskin Frank on July 11th, 1869 when he arrived in San Francisco via the steamship Portland according to the passenger information published by the Daily Alta California.

After working as a bartender in San Francisco and possibly other California cities Leslie worked for Wells Fargo and similar outfits for a few years as a gunslinging guard before becoming an army scout under various commanders including Custer. He dabbled in law enforcement as a Deputy Sheriff and may or may not have met Wild Bill Hickok during the early 1870s, depending on which source you go by. Continue reading

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PONY BOB: PONY EXPRESS RIDER

The Frontierado holiday, on August 5th this year, is hurtling toward us. Balladeer’s Blog will squeeze in a few more seasonal posts for this year’s celebrations. Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.

pony bobPONY BOB – Robert Haslam, better known as Pony Bob, holds multiple records set in the Pony Express during its year and a half history, including the longest individual round-trip ride – 380 miles – when one of his relay riders was put out of action during the Paiute War in 1860.

Pony Bob was born in England in January, 1840 and in his teens moved to the United States. For a few years Haslam worked around Salt Lake City, Utah, doing ranch work and serving as a mounted government messenger before joining in the construction work on the Pony Express stations. When the Express launched in April of 1860, he was among the earliest Expressmen, the official title of the Pony Express riders.

Haslam’s route in Nevada was from Friday’s Station to Buckland Station near Fort Churchill. Among Pony Bob’s experiences during the Paiute War –
Continue reading

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THE RAINBOW OF ADAMANT (1897) ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

rainbow at niagara fallsTHE RAINBOW OF ADAMANT (1897) – Written by Charles Kelsey Gaines, this short story is an excellent example of how slowly word of scientific discoveries was spread in the 19th Century compared to our lightning-fast communications of today. The Rainbow of Adamant was written during the period when most of the world was still going by assumptions and theories about helium.

That element had been officially detected in 1868 and subsequently confirmed but its exact properties were unknown for decades. In 1895 a trio of scientists – Per Teodor Cleve, Nils Abraham Langlet and Sir William Ramsay – found helium emanating from “cleveite” (now known as a variety of uraninite) and documented its properties.

As word of the trio’s work was slowly disseminating among the rest of the scientific community and the general public, the April 1897 issue of The Pocket Magazine published Charles Kelsey Gaines’ short story The Rainbow of Adamant. That tale, reviewed below, presented a much more fanciful and exciting version of helium’s properties. Continue reading

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MOST LAUGHABLY WEIRD SPAGHETTI WESTERNS

mascot cowboy smallerWith Frontierado rapidly approaching on August 5th – or for those of us who kick things off the night before – August 4th – let’s take a look at some of the most obscure but laughably weird Italian westerns. And what better way to start that list than with one of the countless Spaghetti Westerns with phony Django titles?

Franco Nero starred as the original Django but sadly had just a cameo in the 2012 reboot. The original movie was a monumental success everywhere in the world except the U.S. back in 1966. There was only one other “official” Django movie (also starring Nero) but there were literally nearly a hundred false Django movies featuring different actors in the lead role (my favorite being Terence Hill) or that just plain retitled and redubbed other Italian westerns to make them seem like Django movies.

django kill1. DJANGO KILL (1967) – Originally titled If You Live, Shoot!, this was one of the many Eurowesterns to be re-released to theaters years later as a phony Django movie just so it could clean up on the guaranteed cash cow of the Django name.

In this one our pseudo-Django finds himself involved with a kidnapped teen boy, the gay outlaws who have kidnapped and raped him (seriously), and their Wild West castle (?) where they torture their victims medieval-style, including roasting them on spits. Pseudo-Django shoots gold bullets in this flick and greedy townspeople rip open the corpses of the gunmen who fall to him just to get at the precious metal.

Even worse is the scene where the gold-hungry townspeople rip open the wounds of people who were just injured by the gold bullets, adding wince-inducing screams to the tableau. For my review of the original 1966 Django movie click HERE. Continue reading

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