Tag Archives: book reviews

FOOL KILLER PART TWENTY-SIX: MORE FROM KLARENC WADE MAK

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore.

FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Banjo Player by Maynard Dixon

Banjo Player by Maynard Dixon

PART TWENTY-SIX: THE FOOL KILLER (1918) – Last time around I posted plenty of quotes from Mak’s incarnation of the Fool Killer, quotes that would upset both the political left AND the political right here in the 21st Century. FOR THOSE QUOTES CLICK HERE

This time I’ll look at the uniquely stylized America that Mak depicted his Fool Killer traveling through, delivering poetry recitations and lectures plus sharing recipes during down time between slaying fools. Mak’s America seems like a Frank Baum-influenced alternate reality filled with beautiful scenery but marred by politicized religion plus the tyranny of callous tycoons and the elected officials they have in their pockets.

The Fool Killer is followed on his meanderings around the country following the harsh winter of 1916 into 1917 and up through late 1917. Our title figure takes on quasi-chivalric airs and his escapades an urbanized Faerie Queen feel. He spouts original poetry at the drop of a hat but retains the jarring element of violent judgmentalism that afflicts every incarnation of the Fool Killer.    

The Klarenc Wade Mak version of the figure seems to regard his mission in a Darwinian way, like he’s a natural force cleansing the land of fools the way that harsh, unforgiving nature inevitably weeds out those too weak to survive. As ever, the delusions of a serial killer taint the high-minded objectives that the Fool Killer pays lip service to.

Fool Killer by Klarenc Wade MakNot that our folk figure’s targets don’t deserve to be opposed. This Fool Killer battles the abomination of Child Labor, the profit-mongers who sponsor it AND the Judges who perpetuate it through their decisions striking down attempts to eliminate the ugly practice.

He also champions women’s suffrage and fights for the working class against both the bloated rich pigs who exploit them AND the sleazy Union Leaders who sell out the workers in exchange for privileges that only management can hand out.

Here’s a fuller examination of this Fool Killer’s adventures as he wanders Mak’s Surreal States of America: Continue reading

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HAPPY BLOOM’S DAY 2019!

jamesjoyceYes, it’s the 16th of June, better known to James Joyce geeks like me as Bloom’s Day. The day is named in honor of Leopold Bloom, the Jewish advertising sales rep and Freemason who is one of the major characters in Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The novel also brings along Stephen Dedalus, the protagonist of his earlier novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

For those unfamiliar with this work, Ulysses is Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness novel in which he metaphorically features the events from the Odyssey in a single day – June 16th, 1904, in Dublin. (The day he met Nora Barnacle, the woman he would eventually marry after living together for decades)

Bloom represents Ulysses/Odysseus, Stephen represents Telemachus and Leopold’s wife, Molly Bloom, represents Penelope. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN TWO: THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE

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

Killraven Sirens of 7th AveAMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #19 (July 1973)

Title: THE SIRENS OF SEVENTH AVENUE

Synopsis: Killraven, wielder of a mysterious force called The Power, continues to lead his Freemen/ Rebel Alliance against Earth’s conquerors, led by the armored badass Abraxas, the High Overlord. (1973 means this was BEFORE Star Wars, so don’t leave comments claiming this ripped off that film series)

We pick up where we left off – Killraven, still reeling from some of the shocking information that the late Keeper Whitman just relayed to him about Earth’s alien conquerors, has just realized that his escape rout from Whitman’s underground lab has been blocked by three beautiful Sirens.

Those Sirens are Earth women scientifically modified to be irresistible to men through their physical perfection and presumably through pheromone enhancements. We learned last time around that these Sirens have been very successful at flushing out for capture many of the rebel bands scattered throughout post-apocalypse New York and New Jersey. Now they plan to bring in Killraven, leader of the most successful group of Freemen. Continue reading

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KILLRAVEN ONE: WAR OF THE WORLDS

masc graveyard newIn the realm of pop culture it continues to be Marvel Comics’ world! Over the past few years Balladeer’s Blog has been reviewing some old, old, OLD Marvel stories from decades ago. From the research I’ve done, I feel the late 1960s through mid-1970s were Marvel’s creative height, with only the Uncanny X-Men title retaining consistent art and story-telling quality beyond that time period.

I’ve covered The Celestial Madonna Saga (1973-1975), which also contained The Avengers/ Defenders War and the original Thanos War within its own storyline. I’ve examined the 13-part Black Panther story titled Panther’s Rage, the original Kree-Skrull War and, most recently, the 7-part Adam Warlock tale The Magus

Readers requested more Marvel, so, since these are fun and light time-passers, here comes Killraven, the Warrior of the Worlds.  

KillravenWAR OF THE WORLDS/ WARRIOR OF THE WORLDS/ KILLRAVEN: In the early 1970s Marvel was experimenting with hybrid titles combining the old and the new by fusing licensed properties with unique Marvel twists.

The most famous and longest-lasting example was Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu. In 1974 Marvel licensed the use of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu plus other characters from the Fu Manchu tales. Rather than just churn out a Fu Manchu comic book series “the House of Ideas” instead combined it with the Kung Fu craze of the time and created Shang Chi, the son of Fu Manchu.

Shang Chi, as a surrogate Bruce Lee, and Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, as a surrogate Braithwaite from Enter: The Dragon, were the core of the new series. Shang Chi started out as an operative of his evil father Fu Manchu, but realized the error of his ways and threw in with Sir Denis and his team to battle his father’s malevolent schemes.

The previous year – 1973 (so BEFORE Star Wars) Marvel had worked similar “synergy” by taking their license to do a comic book series based on H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and combining it with sci-fi post-apocalypse action. The main character was Jonathan Raven, aka Killraven, a charismatic rebel leading an uprising against Earth’s 21st Century Martian conquerors.

Killraven sword and gunKillraven’s use of a sword AND futuristic firearms in action set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop also brought a little John Carter of Mars appeal into the series. By 1976 the promising saga was canceled due to poor sales but gained a cult following in the decades since then.

Killraven’s influence could be seen in the original 1980s mini-series V, especially the element of humans being used as food by our alien overlords and the sentimental “heroic freedom fighters versus evil tyrants” appeal. Killraven writer Don McGregor incorporated similarly themed stories and characters into Sabre, his other post-apocalypse comic book series. 

Even Star Wars reflected some aspects of Killraven’s tales: the Rebel Alliance against the bad guys, the armored badass (Abraxas, the High Overlord in Killraven’s case) and, of course, the way Killraven wielded enigmatic, more than human abilities called simply “the Power” in K.R.’s series. (PLEASE NOTE: Killraven’s use of The Power came years before Star Wars and The Force.) The young sword-wielding hero was slowly mastering the Power as the series went along, but cancellation cut short his development of his paranormal gifts.

Killraven stampAnd yes, I know that both Killraven and Star Wars drew on the same vast inheritance of sci-fi tropes but the close proximity of K.R. (1973-1976) to Luke Skywalker (1977 onward) makes the comparisons inevitable. 

About fifteen years back, Tom Cruise was set to star as Killraven but eventually all K.R. elements were dropped from the project and Cruise starred in simply another remake of War of the Worlds instead. You have to wonder if the Marvel name would have motivated the filmmakers to keep the Killraven angle if the movie had been done AFTER Marvel became the dominant source for cinematic blockbusters that it is now.

At any rate, let’s dive into the very first appearance of Killraven in 1973: Continue reading

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FLASHMAN’S GUIANA: LOST FLASHMAN PAPERS

Flashman faceFor Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE   For Flashman on the Gold Coast click HERE  For Flashman of Arabia click HERE 

Balladeer’s Blog now moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.

Lee Horsley Flashman

IF HE WAS BRITISH, LEE HORSLEY WOULD HAVE MADE A PERFECT HARRY FLASHMAN.

Projected Title: FLASHMAN’S GUIANA

Time Period: 1876-1877

NOTE: The title Flashman’s Guiana is a play on “Booker’s Guiana,” as the colony of British Guiana (19th century spelling) was often sardonically referred to in the 1800s. That reference came about from the way the Booker business empire virtually ran the colony. From a 21st Century standpoint we might look on it in a sinister Weyland-Yutani way.

… Strictly for storytelling purposes, of course, if you’re a lawyer representing the Booker Group. Honest. Really. (Although after this latest merger I don’t know if anybody would still care.) Anyway, as you readers have requested, this time I’ll establish the action then go back to detail the setup.

crossed sabresThe Action: Sir Harry Flashman and his wife Elspeth visit British Guiana right after their American Tour ended in August, 1876. A combination of Her Majesty’s Government’s interests and Flashman’s own hunger for large amounts of filthy luchre to sustain his and Elspeth’s grand new lifestyle wind up launching the British blackguard into his latest adventure.

Sword and pistols in hand, Harry leaves Elspeth back in the capital city of Georgetown while he takes part in a covert search for gold in the jungle region disputed by Great Britain and Venezuela. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER PART TWENTY-THREE: FEBRUARY, 1920

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer 1920sPART TWENTY-THREE: Here is a look at some of the Fool Killer’s targets from James L Pearson’s February of 1920 issue.

*** People supporting Prohibition.

*** The Fool Killer crashed and slammed a Protestant conference in Boston. The Protestant Preachers were discussing the time period’s shortage of young men willing to become Preachers, a shortage the Fool Killer often took “credit” for since he claimed it was fear of meeting his (the Fool Killer’s) wrath that helped scare a lot of men away from the pulpit. (The fictional vigilante went after Elmer Gantry-like corrupt Preachers long before Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry had been published.)

              This conference was endorsing the use of phonograph records as “canned” sermons and – since J.L. Pearson’s version of the Fool Killer had an unfortunate preoccupation with religion – this use of such canned sermons found the homicidal fellow unleashing some non-fatal wrath on congregations around the country IF they lazily used the pre-recorded sermons. (Remember, in the 1800s part of the Fool Killer’s Bogey Man aspect was that he would supposedly kill fools who fell asleep during mass.)

*** Supporters of the Red Scare being pushed by Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General A Mitchell Palmer (as in the Palmer Raids).

*** Supporters of Republican General Leonard Wood.

*** “Spiritualist” con artists who took money from people for pretending to put them in contact with their dead loved ones in the Afterlife. Sometimes the Fool Killer also preyed upon the foolish victims of the con artists, depending on his ever-changing moods.  Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART TWENTY-TWO – JANUARY 1920

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer 1920sPART TWENTY-TWO: After a two-part examination of the newest Fool Killer Letter (CLICK HERE ) and the revelation of the vigilante’s activities in Texas in December of 1899 it’s back to looking at the 1919-1929 Fool-Killer presented by THE James Larkin Pearson.

The targets of the Fool Killer (I prefer no hyphen) in the January, 1920 issue:

*** Major newspapers which chided American Labor for bringing attention to the unscrupulous activities of the bloated rich pigs who ran the management side of America’s industries.

              It’s reminiscent of today’s battles with the Robber Barons of Silicon Valley, like Mark “Skippy” Zuckerberg, Jack “White Male Privilege” Dorsey and their fellow corporate fascists at Google and elsewhere. (And check out the documentary The Creepy Line which exposes Silicon Valley fascists at their worst.)

*** Ever since aircraft were proven to be workable the fictional Fool Killer seemed to have moderated his instinctive assumptions that people trumpeting scientific breakthroughs were fools and/or liars. By 1920 if an inventor or tinkerer boasted about their amazing discoveries or devices the homicidal vigilante had shifted to a policy of investigating the claimant and their scientific breakthrough.

              If the claims held up to the Fool Killer’s scrutiny he took no action. But if the claims seemed ridiculously wrong OR like a con or scam to trick people out of their money the folk figure unleashed his weaponry on the “fool” …

*** The Fool Killer investigated a recent claim from “a young feller up north in New York” (no name given) that he invented a “gas vaporizer” to replace carburetors. The young inventor claimed that his device would let your car get “ninety miles per gallon.” Since no such device ever hit the market it would seem the claimant was a con artist and was subjected to the Fool Killer’s usual brand of summary “justice.”

*** In Kansas City the roaming vigilante looked into another inventor’s claim that he had invented “an all-new type of engine” that was “sixty percent more efficient” than the engines currently in use. This, too, seems to have been a scam and the self-proclaimed inventor was dealt with.    Continue reading

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