Tag Archives: book reviews

MINUTE-MAN: THE EARLY STORIES

With the 4th of July Holiday rapidly approaching, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at one of the patriotic superheroes of the World War Two Era – in this case Minute-Man, whose nom de guerre came from the famed Revolutionary War militiamen. 

minute-man picMINUTE-MAN

Secret Identity: Private Jack Weston, U.S. Army

First Appearance: Master Comics #11 (February 1941) His final Golden Age appearance came in 1944.

Origin: Private Jack Weston at Camp Blaine was selected by General Milton to secretly become America’s costumed operative Minute-Man, sent on missions of vital national security on a minute’s notice like the Minutemen called to action in the Revolutionary War.

Powers: Minute-Man was in peak physical condition and possessed the agility of an acrobat. He was a master of unarmed combat in addition to being well-versed in commando techniques. 

Comment: Jack Weston was later promoted to Lieutenant in order to give his secret identity more flexibility, but General Milton remained the only one privy to Minute-Man’s real name. Jack’s father Robert was killed in action during World War One.

mmSTORY 1: The Origin of Minute-Man

MASTER COMICS #11 (February 1941)

Synopsis: General Milton gives Private Jack Weston his secret assignment to be the costumed operative called Minute-Man. The hero thwarts a ring of masked spies from an unknown country (but clearly Germany) who want to discourage America from entering World War Two.

Minute-Man saves a train-load of new soldiers from plunging over a cliff, then stops the foreign spies from blowing up an entire U.S. Army training base. Continue reading

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A.D. 2000 (1890) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

a.d. 2000A.D. 2000 (1890) – Written by Alvarado M. Fuller, this was one of the earliest imitations of Edward Bellamy’s 1888 work Looking Backward. The main character is a Cavalry Lieutenant named Junius Cobb.

Lieutenant Cobb has invented a powerful explosive that the Army has contracted for use. Cobb has also befriended a scientist named Jean Colchis and fallen in love with the man’s daughter Marie. Colchis has invented a means of “crystallizing ozone” and Cobb uses that process to induce a state of suspended animation on himself.

pic from 2000With the cooperation of friends, Lt. Cobb seals himself away in a San Francisco replica of the Statue of Liberty with an alarm set to revive him in the year 1987. Due to a mathematical error, however, our main character is not awakened from suspended animation until the year 2000 A.D.

One of the friends who helped seal Junius Cobb away back in 1887 has a grandson who is president of the United States in the year 2000, and the president has a party sent to San Francisco to revive Cobb lest his state of suspended animation continue indefinitely. Cobb recovers slowly, but within months he is ready to become acquainted with the world of 2000 A.D. Continue reading

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IRON MAN CHAPTER LINKS

With Balladeer’s Blog’s look at 1970s Iron Man classics over with, here are the chapter links.

im 55ONE – While Marianne Rodgers is plagued by psychic visions, Iron Man has his first clash with the enigmatic Black Lama. The Lama’s powerful disciple Raga the Son of Fire rampages through California. Click HERE.

TWO – Iron Man gets caught between the new menace called Thanos and his foes the Eternals of Titan. The Sub-Mariner, Moon Dragon and Drax the Destroyer guest star as Tony faces the Blood Brothers and more. Click HERE.

THREE – Iron Man’s archenemy the Mandarin returns with a new plan and a new ally – Tony’s old foe the Unicorn. Click HERE. Continue reading

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BALLADEER’S BLOG TURNS TWELVE YEARS OLD TODAY

masc graveyard smallerTHANK YOU once again to all of you readers for making Balladeer’s Blog so enjoyable to write. As I always say the unusual and controversial items I sometimes churn out here mean that readers have to be open-minded and very secure in their own beliefs not to just take offense and leave.

Here are some of my most popular blog posts from the past 12 months.

prime cutPRIME CUT (1972): Gangster movie review HERE.

TEN TELEVISION FLOPS – Ten resoundingly odd tv shows that failed. Click HERE.

EXPLAINING THE TAINTED AND CORRUPT 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FOR OVERSEAS READERS. Click HERE.

MY REVIEWS OF WILL JORDAN’S RYAN DRAKE ESPIONAGE NOVELS. Click HERE

JOKER: THE 1919 PULP HERO – Click HERE.

MONDO MIKE HAMMER – I review some of the oddest Mike Hammer movies from America and Japan. Click HERE. Continue reading

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IRON MAN 1970s CLASSICS: RETURN OF THE MANDARIN

robert downey jr iron manSorry about this being late. I’ve had a bit of a relapse. Balladeer’s Blog’s look at 1970s Iron Man classics comes to a close with this review of the Return of the Mandarin storyline leading up to the hero’s 100th issue anniversary. For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.

im 95IRON MAN Vol 1 #95 (February 1977)

Title: Ultimo Unleashed

Villains: Ultimo and the Mandarin

NOTE: We jump ahead to issue #95 from where we left off with issue #81 and the end of the Black Lama storyline. By this point in the 1970s Marvel considered it okay for Tony Stark to go back to selling “defense systems” to the government and the military. 

Synopsis: At the Long Island headquarters of Stark International, Iron Man tests his armor’s latest upgrades against an atomic piledriver. Witnessing the test are a few Stark employees, including the blonde Krissy Longfellow, Tony’s newest executive assistant and his replacement for the departed Pepper Potts-Hogan.

The atomic piledriver is destroyed and Iron Man switches back to Tony Stark and dives into his latest office work regarding his company. Soon he winds up pondering Krissy Longfellow’s enigmatic appeal and that leads him to contemplating some of the previous women in his life, like Pepper, the late Janice Cord and Roxie Gilbert, whom he has finally given up pursuing.

His reverie is interrupted by a phone call from Senator Andrew Jackson Hawk in Washington D.C. Hawk informs Tony that he and his committee have frozen all of Stark International’s new defense contracts because of evidence that Tony is selling classified information to the Communist Chinese and the Soviet Union.

NOTE: The “evidence” has all been faked by the Mandarin for reasons that will be made known below.  Continue reading

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IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 10 – MODOK, THE HULK AND THE BLACK LAMA

For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.

im 75IRON MAN Vol 1 #75 (June 1975)

Title: Slave to the Power Imperious

Villains: Modok, the Mad Thinker, the Yellow Claw and the Black Lama

Synopsis: This issue picks up right where the previous one left off. Modok, with his squat body and enlarged head resting atop the kaiju-sized mechanical body that he wore to fight the Hulk months earlier, has burst into the Mad Thinker’s subterranean headquarters in the forests of Michigan.

mad thinkerPer the Black Lama’s ongoing War of the Supervillains, Modok plans to kill his first opponent the Mad Thinker (at right) then take on the war’s frontrunner – the Yellow Claw. Modok tosses aside the defeated and unconscious Iron Man, whom the Mad Thinker had used as a pawn against Modok and A.I.M. last time around.

Before Modok can finish off the Thinker, the latter unleashes one of his kaiju-sized androids, the green, faceless kind that are powerful enough to battle the Fantastic Four (the Mad Thinker’s usual foes). While the fight between that Android Warrior and Modok goes on, Iron Man regains consciousness, then realizes that the damage to the Mad Thinker’s laboratory has destroyed the equipment with which the villain was controlling his armor. Continue reading

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CAPTAIN GARDINER OF THE INTERNATIONAL POLICE (1916) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

captain-gardinerCAPTAIN GARDINER OF THE INTERNATIONAL POLICE (1916) – Robert Allen Dodd wrote this story over one hundred years ago under the name Robert Allen. Narration informs us that the story is set 60 years after the conclusion of the then-raging World War. Since we know it ended in 1918 we can look forward to visiting the “far-off future” of 1978.

A multi-national entity called the International Federation is one of the major world powers along with the Chinese-Japanese Alliance and the Muslim Confederation. The International Police have been the Federation’s military and intelligence service but after decades of peace there is emerging pressure to disband the I.P. Amid the ongoing political and bureaucratic wrangling over that prospect our hero Captain Gardiner and his colleague Major Wilkie undertake a dangerous mission. Continue reading

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EDISON’S CONQUEST OF MARS (1898)

Edison's Conquest of Mars 2

From 1898 it’s Garrett P Serviss’ work of science fiction.

PART ONE – After the Martian invaders from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and Serviss’ own Fighters From Mars died from exposure to Earth germs, astronomers around the world realized the ordeal wasn’t over yet. All indications were that the Martians were readying another fleet of spaceships to attack the Earth. CLICK HERE   

PART TWO – Thomas Alva Edison reverse-engineered the Martian space craft. The nations of the Earth then banded together to build an entire fleet of similar vessels and take the war to the Red Planet. President McKinley, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm and other heads of state from around the world attend the global summit. CLICK HERE   

PART THREE – After a monumental effort the Earth has a space-fleet of its own, equipped with Edison’s Disintegrator Rays as weaponry. With Edison commanding the flagship and with military men and scientific geniuses from around the world as an officer corps the Earth Fleet departs the Earth. CLICK HERE    Continue reading

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IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 7 – THE MANDARIN, BLACK LAMA AND SUNFIRE

For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.

im 68IRON MAN Vol 1 #68 (June 1974)

Title: Night of the Rising Sun

Villains: The Mandarin, Sunfire and Unicorn

Synopsis: We pick up months after our previous installment. Tony Stark has been spending most of his time in the Far East managing the reorganization of the Stark Regional offices there now that his company no longer handles weapons manufacturing. All of that is just the excuse to justify frequently loaning out his “bodyguard” Iron Man to Roxie Gilbert’s combined humanitarian mission and hunt for Eddie March’s M.I.A. brother Marty.

mandarin pictureAs this issue opens, Iron Man is using his repulsor rays to blast a path through the jungle for Roxie, U.N. escorts and North Vietnamese escorts plus the joint armed forces and aid workers. The communist army officer is especially hostile, making it clear he’s not fond of having Americans like Roxie Gilbert and Iron Man on hand. He also vows to retake Saigon some day.

NOTE: This story is set after the last American troops withdrew but before Saigon had fallen and been renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Marvel’s editors must have been scrambling to keep their comic book stories in synch with real-world events. Continue reading

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DR. CUNLIFFE, INVESTIGATOR (1913) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

dr cunliffe bookDR. CUNLIFFE, INVESTIGATOR (1913) – Written by Harold Frankish. This book was a collection of short stories centered around Frankish’s fictional “scientific detective” Dr. Theodore Cunliffe.

A brilliant man, the British Cunliffe has granted himself enough strength to lift just over a ton and he is such a man of action that he wrestles with an ape in one story. A definite forerunner of later Pulp heroes, Dr. Cunliffe is a physician, scientist and criminologist who is often called in by Scotland Yard. Theodore is also a cosmopolitan world traveler and is well-versed in a variety of esoteric subjects.

The stories featuring his adventures:

THE ADVENTURE OF THE ATOMIC RAYS – The Adonis-like Dr. Cunliffe is called in by Scotland Yard when high-profile scientists begin to disappear. Cunliffe traces the disappearances to the mad scientist Dr. Burton, who has created a disintegration weapon powered by atomic rays. Our hero must prove Burton’s culpability in the evidence-free disintegration deaths of the missing scientists while making sure that he himself survives. Continue reading

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