Tag Archives: book reviews

MALDOROR 2:5 – INDELIBLE BLOOD GLITTERING LIKE A DIAMOND

mascot sword and gun picBalladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

PLEASE NOTE:

As I’ve warned in the past, don’t let the 1868 date fool you. There are disturbing elements to this.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you if this really gets to you. 

INDELIBLE BLOOD GLITTERING LIKE A DIAMOND

Maldoror 2 5Back to the insane, taciturn and blood-thirsty Maldoror we’re used to this time around. The supernatural being has been strolling through a particular narrow Paris alley as part of the ground he covers while taking his walk. A slender ten year old girl, oblivious to the danger she’s courting, takes to following him each time until he gets to the end of the alley where she and her mother live.

Growing bolder she even takes to playfully blocking his way sometimes. On occasions when Maldoror tries to walk through at a brisker pace she speeds up her own gait to keep pace with him. On occasions when he goes slowly through the alley the little girl matches that pace, too. When she tries to start a conversation with the monstrous figure by asking him what time it is he coldly replies that he has no watch. Continue reading

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NOVELTY PRESS SUPERHERO PANTHEON

You demanded more superheroes, you got ’em! Here is Balladeer’s Blog’s look at the neglected figures from Novelty Press.

TWISTER

Secret Identity: Bob Sanders

First Appearance: Blue Bolt Comics Vol 2 #1 (June 1941)

Origin: After getting carried up into the funnel of a tornado which killed his parents, teenager Bob Sanders learned he had somehow (you know comic books) acquired tornado powers. He donned a costume and fought crime as the superhero called Twister.

Twister 2Powers: Twister could spin around so quickly that he could generate, control and become part of a tornado strong enough to send cars and trucks flying. By punching villains while spinning around he could k-o them through walls. In addition, by breathing in a lungful of air, this hero could exhale it as gale force winds.

Somehow, Twister’s powers enabled him to construct and use a Cyclone Gun which shot intensely powerful bursts of air.   

Comment: At one point a Twister story tried justifying this hero’s powers by saying he was a direct descendant of Odysseus. But all Odysseus did was temporarily control the winds in a bag as a gift from the god Aeolus. Why didn’t they say Twister was descended from Aeolus instead?

White StreakWHITE STREAK

Secret Identity: Manowar/ Dan Sanders

First Appearance: Target Comics #1 (February 1940)

Origin: Manowar, called White Streak by the media, was an android left behind by the lost civilization of Utopia thousands of years ago. The Utopians destroyed themselves with war so they left their super-powered android in suspended animation to come to the aid of the next civilization if war caused by greed again threatened destruction.

White Streak picWhen the South American dictator Don Ruizen of Bolita went to war with his neighboring countries over oil, the Utopian robot Manowar activated itself in the volcano where it was hidden. After defeating the armies of the warmongering Don Ruizen, the android moved to America, from then on battling the forces of evil as White Streak.

Powers: White Streak had superhuman strength, invulnerability, the power of flight and could shoot rays of white energy from his eyes. That last ability prompted the press to give him his nom de guerre.

Comment: This android superhero was programmed to blend in with human beings and adopt the language and customs around him. He accomplished this so well he often used the secret identity Dan Sanders, FBI Agent.      Continue reading

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NAVIS AERIA (1768): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Navis AeriaNAVIS AERIA (1768) – By Bernardo Zamagna. Written in 1768 Navis Aeria (“Ship of the Air”) was the Italian Zamagna’s attempt to take concepts we of today would associate with science fiction and present them in the old, quaint format of Epic Poetry.  

The verse story detailed a flight around the world in a flying machine which was basically a sailing ship with four huge balloons around the sails and connected to a main mast. Zamagna presciently observed that one day aircraft would constitute “other Argos to carry chosen heroes” on their adventures.

The entire First Canto (Or “Canto the First” as some of the more pompous translations put it) is a poetic glorification of science, mathematics and what we now call aeronautics. As poetry it’s as lame as poetry by the Wright Brothers might have been but as a very early work of science fiction that opening Canto is very moving and ground-breaking, especially the end which excitedly predicts vessels that will one day take human beings to the moon.
Continue reading

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES TWENTY-EIGHT THROUGH THIRTY

G-8 Skeletons of the black crossBalladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This continues a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.

G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin. The regular cast was rounded out by our hero’s archenemy Doktor Krueger, by Battle, G-8’s British manservant and by our hero’s girlfriend R-1: an American nurse/ spy whose real name, like G-8’s was never revealed.

Blood Bat Staffel28. THE BLOOD-BAT STAFFEL (January 1936) – Doktor Krueger strikes again! This time our hero’s archenemy has created menaces that seem more in line with something the Austrian villain Dr Mollfuss would come up with.

Scores of monstrous man-bats are flying through the skies over No Man’s Land, terrifying and killing Allied pilots in this latest super-scientific offensive by the Central Powers. G-8 recognizes the hand of his nemesis Doktor Krueger behind this deadly and horrific threat (though as I mentioned above I’d have laid my money on Dr Mollfuss given his love of animal-men). The man-bats are also able to shoot bolts of electricity from their fingertips for no apparent reason!  Continue reading

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MALDOROR 2:4 – THE MIDNIGHT OMNIBUS

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

THE MIDNIGHT OMNIBUS

Midnight strikes in Paris. An eerie double-decker horse-drawn omnibus bursts forth from the ground and begins making its way through the nearly empty, night-darkened streets.

A few late night wayfarers regard the unusual omnibus with a shudder as it goes by. The vehicle carries the full passenger load of twenty-four but all of the travelers on the upper deck appear to be lifeless corpses leaned against each other.

The top-hatted driver looks like another corpse, and the whip he uses to urge on his horses seems more alive than he is. That whip appears to be what animates the arm of the otherwise lifeless driver, not the other way around. Even the passengers on the inner deck remain mute and still and are likewise as pale as ghosts.   Continue reading

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LONDON: NEGLECTED SUPERHERO FROM WORLD WAR TWO

This blog post was requested by several readers of Balladeer’s Blog. They loved the concept of Jerry Robinson’s Golden Age character from Lev Gleason’s publications and wanted to know more about him, so here is a look at ALL the stories in his sadly brief run. 

London picLONDON

Origin: While covering the Blitz during World War Two, suave newscaster Marc Holmes decided that his fellow Brits needed extra inspiration to maintain their spirit of defiance against the Nazis. He adopted the costumed identity of London and battled Axis Agents.

Powers: London was in the peak of human condition and excelled at unarmed combat. He also possessed the agility of an Olympic gymnast. In addition, this hero was a crack shot with the handgun he carried.

Daredevil 2STORY ONE – Daredevil Comics #2 (August 1941)

Title: London

Synopsis: Despite this being the very first published adventure of the superhero called London, the story establishes that he is already well-known from his escapades during the actual Blitz, September 1940 to May 1941. In his secret identity of Marc Holmes, our main character plugs his alter ego’s heroics during his nightly radio broadcasts.

mascot sword and gun picMeanwhile, Dian, a fictional niece of Winston Churchill escapes a Concentration Camp in Nazi-occupied Holland with a dissident educator named Franz. When the pair arrive in the city of London their escape is covered by Marc Holmes, an old friend of the niece and of Churchill.

Under cover of a blackout during a Luftwaffe bombing raid, Churchill himself is kidnapped by the treacherous Franz and some fellow spies. Our hero London battles and captures a few of the spies but three of them get away with the Prime Minister still their captive. Continue reading

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THE INCUBATED GIRL (1896): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Incubated GirlTHE INCUBATED GIRL (1896) – Written by F.T. Jane, as in THE Jane who originated the Jane’s Guides. 

It would be overly glib to describe this novel as just a sci-fi version of Alraune because it definitely goes in some unexpected directions. Plus Alraune itself borrowed heavily from Homunculus, Mandrake and Mandragore folklore. There’s a touch of The Great God Pan as well. 

The Incubated Girl begins with British Egyptologist Blackburn Zadara discovering an ancient coffin of a Priest of Isis. There is no corpse inside but rather a manuscript and assorted chemical concoctions. Zadara returns to England with the discovery and translates the manuscript – it is a guide to creating human life by using the chemical substances that were buried with the manuscript.

Blackburn closely follows the instructions and months later he invites his friend Meredyth Wilson Sr over to witness the initial results of the experiment. Wilson watches as Zadara opens a large egg-shaped pod from which he removes a little baby girl.  

Blackburn Zadara names the child Stella and tells Meredyth that according to the Egyptian manuscript Stella will be supernaturally healthy and will never experience death as long as she never drinks human milk nor eats any meat.

Over the years as Stella grows, Zadara tries to create additional humanoids but those efforts always fail. The Egyptologist has been using specifically deaf-mute servants to attend to Stella to limit involved interaction with other humans.

By her 18th year Stella is beautiful and highly intelligent but is as selfish as a newborn and enjoys enacting revenge against anyone who gets on her bad side. Blackburn takes the incubated girl to London with him, but she abandons him there, since she finds him ugly and unpleasant. Continue reading

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MALDOROR THIRTEEN: THE GREAT TOAD ANGEL

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror.

THE GREAT TOAD-ANGEL 

Maldoror 13This stanza opens up with the supernatural being Maldoror contemplating the worms he pulls from the swollen belly of a dead dog. Slicing the worms into small bits he philosophizes on how human beings should learn a lesson about their own mortality from the state of such dead, worm-riddled bodies. 

Night is falling. In the distance he spies a horse-sized toad with white wings flying down from the sky and landing on the road he is traveling. As the two draw nearer to each other Maldoror senses something familiar about the creature and reflects that its face is “as beautiful as suicide”. He resents the being over how beautiful it looks even in its massive ugliness and the halo over the toad’s head tells him it has come from Heaven and his archrival God.  Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY HULK STORIES FROM THE 1960s

I could never do enough superhero posts to keep up with the demand! Here is another one combining my Top Twenty for 2020 theme – the first 20 Incredible Hulk stories from the 1960s.

Hulk 1THE INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #1 (May 1962)

Title: The Hulk

Villain: The Gargoyle (Yuri Topolov)

Synopsis: In the desert far outside Desert Base in the American Southwest, Dr Bruce Banner’s creation – the first Gamma Radiation Bomb – is being tested. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross keeps leaning on Bruce to hurry with his preparations while his daughter, Bruce’s girlfriend Betty Ross, tries to calm him down. 

mascot sword and gun picShortly before the bomb can be set off, Banner sees through his binoculars that a teenager (Rick Jones) has driven into the dangerous area on a dare. He tells his assistant Igor Drenkov to halt the countdown but Drenkov, a Soviet Agent, spitefully decides not to. Bruce gets Rick Jones to a bunker just in time but is caught in the Gamma Bomb’s explosion himself.

Rick gets Banner back to Desert Base where they pretend Bruce also got to the bunker in time since Bruce doesn’t trust others to study the Gamma Radiation’s effect on him. That night Dr Banner transforms into a huge, hate-filled gray (yes, gray) monster. Continue reading

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES TWENTY-FIVE THROUGH TWENTY-SEVEN

WHAT WAS ROBERT J HOGAN ON WHEN HE WROTE THE G-8 PULPS?

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This continues a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.

G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin. The regular cast was rounded out by our hero’s archenemy Doktor Krueger, by Battle, G-8’s British manservant and by our hero’s girlfriend R-1: an American nurse/ spy whose real name, like G-8’s was never revealed.

Claws of the Sky Monster25. CLAWS OF THE SKY MONSTER (October 1935) – Doktor Krueger is back! G-8’s nemesis, like all mad scientists in fiction, is a master of all disciplines and this time he’s engineered an aerial fleet of gigantic vultures. The vultures – Geieren in German – are so huge that Central Powers pilots can ride them and control them like men on horseback.

These immense vultures are mounted with machine guns and can carry bombs in their claws – bombs that can be dropped at the discretion of the “pilots” flying on the gigantic birds. As added motivation Doktor Krueger has offered a reward of one hundred thousand German marks for any Geier pilot who can kill his hated foe G-8. Continue reading

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