Tag Archives: book reviews

JIREL OF JOIRY: STORY TWO

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.

black god's shadowBLACK GOD’S SHADOW (1934) – This was Moore’s sequel to Jirel’s debut story Black God’s Kiss. We pick up an unknown amount of time after the conclusion of the previous tale. Jirel has been having recurring nightmares and visions ever since she killed Guillaume the Conqueror, the man she belatedly realized that she loved.

Of late the nightmares and visions have been intensifying to the point where our heroine is becoming convinced that Guillaume’s soul must be trapped in the hellish netherworld where she herself acquired the weapon she used to kill him. Castle Joiry was immediately evacuated by Guillaume’s troops in their panicked, superstitious reaction to the supernatural death of their leader.

jirel of joiryOrder had since been restored in the castle but Jirel’s sleep has not been the same. As she lies tossing and turning, she ponders the various lovers she had taken over the years, none of whom took the hold over her heart and thoughts that Guillaume did.

Determined, she armors up, takes a sword and knife with her and sets out to somehow free Guillaume’s soul by daring to reenter the hellish domain that lies far beneath Castle Joiry. Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS 4 – THE SERPENT SQUAD AND NIGHTSHADE

For Part One of this series click HERE.

ca f 163CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #163 (July 1973)

Title: Beware of Serpents

Villains: The Serpent Squad

Synopsis: We pick up long after the end of our previous installment. Peggy Carter’s psychological recovery has been proceeding apace as Captain America alternates between the Carter Family’s Connecticut home and New York City where he and the Avengers have had a few recent missions. Cap’s secret identity – Steve Rogers – has officially resigned from the New York City Police Department.

NOTE: The writers apparently felt they had milked as much as they could out of Cap/ Steve’s double life as a cop and decided to put that chapter of his tales behind them. 

Nightshade

Nightshade

At the Paranormal Criminal Detention Wing of Sing Sing Prison, Thor’s old foe the Cobra has paid off corrupt prison guards to sneak their costumes and weaponry into the cells of the imprisoned Eel and his brother the Viper. Donning their gear, Eel and Viper, old foes of Cap and Falc, break out, killing at least four guards as they do. Cobra picks them up in a waiting vehicle and christens their new gang of three the Serpent Squad as they drive off to Cobra’s hideout.   

A few days later, Captain America, the Falcon, Sharon Carter, her much older sister Peggy Carter and their parents arrive at the mansion estate of the Carter Family in northern Virginia. Peggy’s new psychiatrists have declared her to have made sufficient progress that she can move to that home and try reestablishing her life.

Peggy is still fairly vulnerable, however, so Cap and Sharon have still not told her about their romance, which started during the years she was gone. Not helping the situation is the way that news reporters have smoked out enough of the facts of Cap and Peggy’s reunion to make a big story about the “miracle reunion of two lovers separated for decades” angle. Continue reading

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JIREL OF JOIRY: NEGLECTED PULP HEROINE

Jirel of JoiryJIREL OF JOIRY – From 1934 to 1939, the female author C.L. Moore wrote six stories featuring Jirel of Joiry, a sword-wielding woman warrior from late Medieval France. Moore’s thirteen tales of Northwest Smith, the 1930s version of Han Solo, were reviewed in 2014 here at Balladeer’s Blog, including the 1937 crossover story with Jirel in which they faced a time-traveling sorceror from her era.

With this blog post I’m at last beginning my promised examination of the Jirel of Joiry pulp stories from the iconic publication Weird Tales. She was the forerunner of so many recent heroines from Xena to Cara Dune. 

black god's kissBLACK GOD’S KISS (1934) – This debut story opens with Castle Joiry having for once suffered the fate that Jirel had forced upon so many other strongholds: its armies defeated and their commander, Jirel herself, taken prisoner.

Still fully armored, she has been brought before Guillaume the Conqueror, the first man to have ever beaten Jirel militarily. The cocky Guillaume, having taken the castle, is seated upon Jirel’s throne as he inspects the freshly seized enemy commander being held by two of his men who can scarcely keep the warrior restrained.

Soon he has another of his soldiers remove the helmet from the commander and is shocked to see that inside the armor it is a beautiful woman who nearly defeated him that day.

jirel coverNOTE: Since so many people are still so into the Game of Thrones universe picture a fully armored Jason Momoa as Guillaume and for Jirel picture a fiery combination of Arya, Daenerys and Brienne with Sansa’s long red hair.

Back to the story, Guillaume infuriates Jirel by talking to her as the prisoner she is and she breaks free of the two men holding her and nearly escapes before Guillaume himself catches up with her and recaptures her. He forces a kiss upon Jirel, who, the minute their mouths are disengaged, bites into his exposed neck, just missing his jugular vein.

Things escalate and Guillaume smacks our heroine unconscious. She awakens that night in the dungeons far below Castle Joiry. She easily escapes from her cell and overcomes the guard Guillaume assigned to keep watch over her. Continue reading

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THE ARCTIC DEATH (1927) AND ON A FAR WORLD (1928)

frozen bodiesTHE ARCTIC DEATH (1927) – Written by Wilford Allen, On A Far World, covered below, was a prequel to this same tale. The Arctic Death is set in the 1930s, which was “the near future” when the story was first published.

A mysterious epidemic called the Arctic Death is spreading southward from the North Pole, leaving countless frozen bodies in its wake. Professor Charles Breinbar, the greatest scientific mind of the decade, uses high-tech “Q-Rays” to determine that the victims did not just die of cold but were snuffed out by malign disembodied entities of some sort.

Breinbar devises special insulation which allows him and his assistant to enter the region currently being affected by the spreading wave of fatalities. Investigating the area our heroes witness people dropping dead in the streets after being affected by energy emanating from floating balls of light.    Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS 3 – SOLARR AND DOCTOR FAUSTUS

For Part One of this series click HERE.

ca f 160CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #160 (April 1973)

Title: Enter: Solarr (The internal titles often differed from Marvel Comics’ titles on the cover.)

Villain: Solarr

Synopsis: We pick up an unknown number of nights after our previous installment. Captain America and the Falcon are still mopping up the scattered leftover criminals from the Cowled Commander’s organization called Crime Wave.

This is the final group of several masked men armed with machine guns and bazookas who were trying to pull off a robbery. The crooks remark out loud about how much stronger Cap is now, giving him and the Falcon the opportunity to explain to them (and to readers who missed the past few issues) how he now has Spider-Man level strength. It’s thanks to the way the Viper’s custom venom interacted with the super-soldier serum in his metabolism.

NOTE: This much higher level of super strength for Cap will last until Captain America & The Falcon #218 (February 1978).

After Cap and Falc defeat all but two of the masked men, that final duo try to escape by driving off in their gang’s armored vehicle. Our hero’s new strength makes him able to stop the vehicle, tear off the thick steel door and then easily knock out the final two Crime Wave operatives. Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS 2 – VIPER AND CRIME WAVE

For Part One of this series click HERE.

ca f 157CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #157 (January 1973)

Title: Veni, Vidi, Vici … Viper

Villain: The Viper

Synopsis: We pick up an unknown number of days after Captain America has returned to New York City from Miami with the Falcon and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Sharon Carter. The Police Commissioner, who is aware that uniformed cop Steve Rogers is really Cap, relayed a message to Steve to meet him in costume at the 13th Police Precinct building in Hell’s Kitchen. 

On his way there, our hero gets ambushed by a trio of armed punks who say that someone called the Cowled Commander ordered them to prevent Cap from reaching his destination. Naturally Cap defeats all three of them.

In a private room at the 13th Precinct the Commissioner informs Captain America that the Cowled Commander is leading a secret group of criminals and crooked cops in an unknown plan. The Commish wants Cap to find out which cops really have gone bad and to clear innocent ones, like Steve Rogers’ antagonistic Sgt Brian Muldoon, who has been suspended pending investigation.

No sooner have the two men worked out their plans than the Commissioner leaves and a bomb explodes, leaving the precinct building a fiery ruin with no sign of Cap. Cut to the office of social worker Sam Wilson, who is secretly the Falcon. Sam and Leila Taylor are having another of their duels of insults, as Leila tries to get a rise out of Sam by implying she finds the Falcon more attractive because he’s a fighter, unlike Sam. Continue reading

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THE AURORAPHONE (1890) – ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

auroraphoneTHE AURORAPHONE (1890) – Written by Cyrus Cole. This fun piece of vintage or “ancient” science fiction features the character Gaston Lesage, an eccentric genius who moves to the mountains of Colorado to continue his pet experiments. Lesage is obsessed with perfecting transmission and reception of radio signals, especially regarding potential contact with other planets.  

The altitude of the Rocky Mountains made Colorado the ideal location for Lesage’s experiments and, together with his assistant – a freed black man named Pete King – he perfects a device he called the Auroraphone.

mascot sword and gun pic

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One day when Gaston and Pete are entertaining a pair of men prospecting for gold the Auroraphone picks up the first of a series of transmissions from intelligent life on the planet Saturn. In the days ahead Lesage learns a great deal about Saturnian history and science courtesy of his fellow “ham radio operator” Rulph Bozar, a denizen of the ringed planet.

The Saturnians are much more advanced than Earth and already have flying machines, electric automobiles and powerful sensors which let them watch and record events on Earth and other planets. They also have been using metal robots crafted to look just like the Saturnians themselves, who resemble Terrans in general physiology. Continue reading

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CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON: 1970s CLASSICS

Superhero-hungry readers have been letting me know they want more Marvel Comics blog posts. With my look at 1970s classics for the Avengers and Spider-Man completed this post starts a look at 70s classics for Captain America & the Falcon. 

ca f 153CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #153 (September 1972)

Title: Captain America – Hero or Hoax?

Villains: The Captain America of the 1950s (William Burnside, one of the men whom the U.S. government had assume the role of Captain America while the real Cap was M.I.A. and presumed dead for decades.) and the Bucky of the 1950s (Jack Monroe, one of the young men the government assigned the “Bucky” identity during that same period.)

Synopsis: Captain America and the Falcon, in their secret identities of Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson, are with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter at the airport. Sam is seeing off Steve and Sharon as they fly to the Bahamas for a long vacation together (By this time Sharon knows that Captain America is really Steve Rogers.)

When the two lovebirds’ plane flies off, Sam Wilson returns to his life as a social worker in Harlem while also fighting crime there in his costumed identity of the Falcon. Because this is before the Falcon got his high-tech wings (that story is coming, too) back then he got around by the way his falconing glove shot a wire like Daredevil’s billy club did, too, so Falcon could swing around the city like DD and Spider-Man. Continue reading

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SPIDER-MAN: 1970s CLASSICS – THE FINALE

Here’s the sixteenth and final part of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.

sm 149SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #149 (October 1975)

Title: Even if I Live, I Die

Villain: The Jackal

NOTE: Of these two final installments of the lengthy Jackal/ Gwen Stacy saga, this first one wraps up the main storyline and the second one (below) provides a necessary epilogue to tuck away a major loose end.

Synopsis: We pick up right where we left off, on the rooftop where Spider-Man just defeated Tarantula, the Jackal’s latest cat’s paw against our hero. With the Gwen Stacy clone and the ear-plugged & blind-folded Ned Leeds nearby, Spider-Man is lapsing into unconsciousness from the slash he received on the back of his head from the drugged talons of the Jackal.

splas 149At last revealing why he has always been undetectable by Spider-Man’s spider sense, the villain removed his mask to reveal that he is really Professor Miles Warren, Peter Parker’s fatherly mentor and academic advisor for years at Empire State University. (Professor Warren had been a supporting character in Spider-Man stories since 1965.)

Peter finally succumbs to unconsciousness, and when he comes to, he is in the basement of an abandoned tenement building in lower Manhattan. He is bound to a table by specially-constructed straps and is alone with the Jackal, who is sitting on a nearby stool. Continue reading

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SPIDER-MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 15 – THE JACKAL & TARANTULA

Here’s Part Fifteen of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.

sm 147SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #147 (August 1975)

Title: The Tarantula is a Very Deadly Beast

Villains: The Jackal and the Tarantula

Synopsis: We pick up a few days after the end of our previous installment. Spider-Man swings his way to the Daily Bugle building, where he switches to Peter Parker and walks into the offices. After standard hostile byplay with J Jonah Jameson, Peter is called over to the desk of crime reporter Ned Leeds.

Ned is still investigating the Gwen Stacy clone and who might have made it. (Peter has not told anyone that he fears the Jackal made the clone since that villain has apparently figured out Spider-Man’s secret identity.)

splash page 147Leeds gives Peter copies of the long line of medical tests that the new Gwen has undergone in the past few days. Somehow the cloning process was accelerated, meaning she was created mere months ago, even though she is an adult as much as the real Gwen was when she was killed.

Meanwhile, the enigmatic villain the Jackal strikes again, busting Spider-Man’s old foe the Tarantula out of prison to use him as his latest operative against our hero as his plans approach fruition. Continue reading

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