Tag Archives: pop culture

ETHAN VAN SCIVER: THE FUTURE KING OF ALL MEDIA?

Ethan Van Sciver 2

ETHAN VAN SCIVER: HUMAN SUNBEAM

Okay, I’m being tongue in cheek with that title, but Van Sciver seems to have the same oddball sense of humor that I do so I figured why not? Ethan Van Sciver’s livestreams about pop culture are as addictive as they are entertaining.

Like so many others I found myself binge-listening to as many as I could do per day for several weeks and now I’m among the many waiting with anticipation for the next day’s installment.

Van Sciver has spent nearly three decades in the comic book industry as an artist and writer. Most of his time was spent at DC with legendary runs on Green Lantern and Flash, but in recent years “Uncle Ethan” as he’s called has become one of the leaders of the indy comic book “Outlaws” going their own way to create works free of the toxic influence of the Big Two publishers. Continue reading

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THE NEW MONKEES (1987): PETER TORK IS DEAD

Peter TorkMonkees member Peter Tork is dead. Not since the infamous Day The Music Died has the rock world suffered such a loss. I’m kidding! Still, though, here’s a Balladeer’s Blog goodbye to the one and only member of the Monkees whose name always puts me in mind of the measure of a force’s tendency to produce torsion equal to the product of the force vector and the radius vector from the axis of rotation to the point of application of the force.

I think you’ll agree.

Anyway, I considered reviewing the Monkees’ movie Head or maybe even the motorcycle flick Torque but instead I’m going with this look at the NEW Monkees show from 1987. 

New MonkeesThe New Monkees are remembered as the most pointless re-launch of a band in history AND as one of the worst television shows in history. I’ve never listened to their one and only album so I can’t say if they make it a Hat Trick with one of the worst albums in history, too. 

The premise sounds like a comedy sketch from the glory days of SCTV but unfortunately this thoroughly bizarre attempt to recapture the flukish charm of the original Monkees was 100% real.

Let’s look at the debut episode of The New Monkees‘ 13 episode run in 1987. Everything you’ve heard is true: We get Rocky Horror Picture Show lips voiced by a black lady, a weird sci-fi mansion home for the title foursome, a built-in diner and their annoying butler, Manford.

The laugh track does NOT go off during the few things that seemed funny, like a couple of apparently ad-libbed jokes by the New Monkees during their screen test footage, but instead goes off during lame, obvious jokes that not even small children would laugh at. Continue reading

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JUSTICE SOCIETY 14: NAZI FIFTH COLUMNISTS

superman golden ageWith comic books and their film adaptations dominating pop culture right now it’s time once again for the OLDEST superhero team in history: DC’s Justice Society of America. FOR PART ONE CLICK  HERE 

I will review the original issue and then detail how I would “script-doctor” the story for modern audiences.

all star 16ALL STAR COMICS #16 (April 1943)

Title: THE JUSTICE SOCIETY FIGHTS FOR A UNITED AMERICA

Heroes: WONDER WOMAN (Original), DOCTOR FATE, HAWKMAN (Original), THE SPECTRE, THE ATOM (Original), SANDMAN, DOCTOR MIDNITE, STARMAN, JOHNNY THUNDER

Villains: MR FORTUNE, AGENT Z, ASSORTED AXIS FIFTH COLUMNISTS

Synopsis: The Justice Society of America steps in to thwart Nazi agents and infiltrators who are sowing discord and plotting sabotage across the U.S. The villains are especially active in industries vital to the American war effort.

StarmanThe JSA battles the Fifth Columnists and recruits a “Junior Justice Society of America” to keep alert for signs of Axis agents. Our heroes defeat Nazis at the Bolton Steel Works, the Brackus Coal Mine and a southern Defense Plant. Continue reading

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PANTHER’S RAGE TEN: THE FOREST OF THORNS

Forest of ThornsFOR PART ONE CLICK HERE  

JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 15 (May 1975)

X. THORNS IN THE FLESH, THORNS IN THE MIND

Synopsis: As this chapter of Panther’s Rage begins, we are in the Forest of Thorns, where the Black Panther has followed Killmonger, his army and his long train of caged dinosaurs which they captured in Serpent Valley. T’Challa’s need for rest after his exhausting and trying battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex that Erik sicced on him added to the head-start which his enemy already had on him.

It is now a day or two later and our hero is deep into the Forest of Thorns. That forest is crowded to claustrophobic levels with nothing but thorned vegetation like trees, bushes, brambles, shrubs and even thorned leaves and fruits on the trees.

For literally millions of years the Forest of Thorns served as an impenetrable natural barrier which prevented Wakandans from penetrating into Serpent Valley along the gradual incline on which that forest lay.

The precipitous, Grand Canyonesque stone walls of the Chasm of Chilling Mist had always prevented foot traffic into Serpent Valley from that direction. Therefore even though the Forest of Thorns spread all the way up to the plateau on which rested Killmonger’s rebel capital of N’Jadaka, no one had ever used it as a downward route into Serpent Valley.  

Killmonger being Killmonger, he and his army were simply ramrodding their way through the Forest of Thorns with their machinery, sacrificing much of its natural beauty and leaving gaping pathways in their wake as they made the days-long ascent through this natural wonder.  

We join T’Challa as he has paused for a drink and to change the dressing on some of his wounds in the water of a stream which winds its way through the Forest of Thorns. Surreptitiously making their way toward the Black Panther with the intention of attacking him are a few of Killmonger’s soldiers plus their leader, Salamander K’Ruel.

Out of Erik’s most recent visit to Resurrection Altar back in the Land of the Chilling Mist, Salamander K’Ruel was the only one of Killmonger’s men to survive and gain superhuman powers from his exposure to the extraterrestrial rays of that Altar. The others, as usual, died agonizing deaths as their bodies were horribly mutated.

Salamander Kruel aims(Remember, as part of Killmonger’s callousness toward even his own followers he is content with those odds: gaining one super-powered minion per group of human guinea pigs, while the others in the group die painfully. Malice, King Cadaver and Sombre were the others who gained paranormal powers from Resurrection Altar while their fellow “offerings” died horribly.)

Salamander K’Ruel, as Erik christened him upon his survival of the ritual, grew raised, pimply sores all over his body and out of each of those sores his body hair continued to grow. Due to his mutation from the rays of Resurrection Altar, K’Ruel’s body hairs (except for those on his head) grew out of the sores as long, thin, needles.

Those long needles covered most of his body and not only served as a natural protection in close-quarters physical combat but could be shot from his body at will like porcupine quills. Salamander K’Ruel’s natural skin oils had mutated into toxic fluid which coated his needle-hairs/ quills and could either knock-out or kill anyone hit by his needle-hairs/ quills.

In addition, Salamander K’Ruel (easily the most whimsical Revolutionary Name that Killmonger bestowed on one of his followers) used a bow from which he fired Napalm-tipped arrows – years before Stallone in Rambo III and O’Keefe in Lone Runner.    

At any rate, K’Ruel and his handful of soldiers were left behind by Erik/ N’Jadaka to kill T’Challa just in case he survived his battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They now launch their attack on the Black Panther. Continue reading

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MANTIS 17: KLAW AND SOLARR TEAM UP

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE 

Avengers 126AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 126 (August 1974)  All the Sights and Sounds of Death

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).

ALL THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF DEATH

Synopsis: The exact amount of time between the last installment’s conclusion of the Thanos War and the beginning of this installment is another of those things that obsessive fans debate as they try to establish a timeline of Avengers stories. 

In any event this issue starts out at Avengers Mansion in New York City. Inside, Mantis is watching her romantic partner the Swordsman battle some robots in the Avengers’ Training Room. The Swordsman is trying to show off for her because he is still smarting with insecurity over the way Mantis and the Vision seem to be growing more and more attracted to each other. 

The various energy blasts from the Swordsman’s high-tech sword finish off the two remaining robots he’s fighting but Mantis still seems distracted. As they kiss it is obvious her thoughts are already turning toward the Vision.

The Vision himself is pondering his growing fears that his android brain may be malfunctioning. His panic attacks in Dormammu’s quicksand and Taurus’ pool combined with Ant-Man’s mysterious discovery in the Vision’s brain during the Kree-Skrull War all continue to hang in the air.     

Mantis miniMeanwhile, the Vision’s romantic partner the Scarlet Witch, is still torn with her own fears that the Vision may leave her for Mantis. (Two women fighting over him? The Vision really IS fully functional.) Wanda ponders her recent arguments with the Vision and how he always makes the arguments out to be HER fault. Continue reading

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MANTIS 14: THE STAR STALKER

READERS CANNOT GET ENOUGH SUPERHERO ITEMS THESE DAYS. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THE MARVEL SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Avengers 124 star stalkerTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 124 (June 1974) Beware the Star Stalker 

The Celestial Madonna Saga continues! Our previous installment ended with some of the Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Black Panther, The Vision and MANTIS) at the Temple of the Priests of Pama in the jungles of Vietnam. Meanwhile the other two Avengers (The Scarlet Witch and The Swordsman) were back in the capitol city with Wanda aiding the Swordsman, who had been tortured for information regarding the temple’s location.

The Avengers themselves had only found that temple through the aid of Libra, from the supervillain team Zodiac. Libra had been revealed as the father of the mysterious superheroine Mantis and claimed both he and his daughter had been trained by the Priests of Pama.

The Vietnamese drug and vice lord Monsieur Khruul (no relation to Mademoiselle Unkhiind) had used his super-powered minions to slaughter every single Priest of Pama. The Avengers and Libra defeated Khruul’s men (his “Khrewe” you might say) then found the dying crime boss himself slashed to ribbons in the temple’s dungeon.

The criminal chief’s dying words were “Beware the Star Stalker.” Unknown to the Avengers, the Star Stalker – a giant, red-scaled dragon-like creature – was watching them from above, seemingly poised to strike.     

BEWARE THE STAR STALKER

Synopsis: The Avengers have no idea who or what the “Star Stalker” might be. From hiding, the creature itself continues to observe our heroes as they split up and search every nook and cranny of the temple but find nothing.

Despite her continued claims that she remembers nothing about this temple, her father or the Priests of Pama, Mantis eventually intuits the location of a device to open a secret passageway. The Black Panther expresses suspicions that she might simply be lying about not remembering anything but Mantis sarcastically inquires if she is “on trial.”

Mantis star stalkerAt any rate the hidden passageway leads the Avengers right into the chamber that the Star Stalker had slunk away to. The creature now stands up on two legs and threateningly addresses the Avengers since, during its years of captivity in the temple, the Priests of Pama had taught the Star Stalker Vietnamese, English, French and presumably other languages as well.   

The Avengers attack the creature, whose very scales seem to ooze energy. After a furious battle it becomes apparent that physical attacks on the Star Stalker do little damage and energy blasts like Iron Man’s repulsor rays simply feed it and make it more powerful. That prompts the Vision to refrain from using the solar rays he shoots from his eyes and our heroes attempt to regroup.

The group also notes that the temple itself is in danger of collapsing from the damage the battle has inflicted. The Star Stalker points out that such destruction is nothing – he intends to destroy the entire planet as he destroyed countless others during his thousands of years of life. He further states that other life forms are meaningless and he is all that matters.    Continue reading

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MANTIS 13: AN ORIGIN FOR MANTIS

READERS ARE LOVING THESE LOOKS AT THE SUPERHEROINE MANTIS. FOR PART 1 CLICK HERE 

Avengers 123 An Origin For MantisTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 123 (May 1974) An Origin For Mantis

As our homegirl MANTIS here passionately defends her father Libra’s eccentric decision to wear hot-pants into battle, I’ll welcome you to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest installment of The Celestial Madonna Saga.

NOTE: This issue is titled AN Origin For Mantis, not THE Origin. For reasons that will become clear later Libra is not telling the full story this time around but he still fills in a LOT of background regarding his mysterious daughter. 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).

AN ORIGIN FOR MANTIS

Synopsis: Our previous installment ended at the skyscraper headquarters of the international supervillain team called Zodiac. In the aftermath of the Avengers’ defeat and capture of the entire group, Libra (Gustav Brandt) revealed that the only reason he betrayed Zodiac was to save Mantis, claiming she is his daughter. 

Mantis reacts furiously, accusing Libra of claiming to be her father as some cruel attempt to garner sympathy from the Avengers, possibly for a lighter prison sentence.

The argument is cut short by Iron Man, who insists that the conversation continue ONLY away from the prying ears of their deadly foes in Zodiac. The Vision concurs, all the while hiding his fear that his android brain is beginning to malfunction and that THAT is the reason for his frantic panic episodes in Taurus’ penthouse swimming pool last time around and in Dormammu’s quicksand at the end of the Avengers-Defenders War.

So, after the authorities arrive to occupy Zodiac HQ the Avengers take in their prisoners with the sole exception of Libra. After the usual post-mission press conference and such for our heroes they gather back at Avengers Mansion with Libra temporarily released in their custody.

Mantis hai ahhThe injured Swordsman is well enough to listen from his wheelchair as his teammates interrogate Libra. Mantis impatiently insists that she never knew any father and calls Libra a liar once more. Given the way the blind member of Zodiac handles himself in battle as well as the blind superhero Daredevil does, the Vietnamese woman even goes so far as to accuse him of FAKING his blindness.

She strips off the blindfold that serves as Libra’s mask and she plus the other Avengers are shocked and disgusted at the burns and scars that surround the empty eye sockets of Libra – Gustav Brandt. He re-ties the blindfold around his eyes and begins his tale. Continue reading

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