Tag Archives: Science fiction

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.
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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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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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AMERICA: PART OF THE DUNE FRANCHISE

DuneBalladeer’s Blog remains the only site on the web that equally criticizes both Democrats and Republicans, depending on which party has been committing greater offenses at the moment.

Reader reaction to my blog post which depicted America and our corrupt political parties as part of the Alien franchise (HERE) was impressive so here is a tongue in cheek look at the U.S. as part of the Dune franchise.

First, my traditional opening to such posts:

“We’re a world of 7 billion people, 10 billion blogs and 20 billion political poses.”

Paul MuadDibTHE FREMEN – These are American VOTERS who heroically endure the harsh, ugly conditions that the hopelessly corrupt and outdated Houses have imposed on the nation.

The bizarre throwback to a feudal culture resulting from the destructive, self-serving policies of those two Houses has become more and more apparent with each passing year. The gap between the haves and have-nots was never clearer than in the past six months.

Still the Fremen soldier on, trying to eke out a living and preserve what few of their liberties remain to them while striking back at their callous and uncaring oppressors whenever they can. The only hope for the future rests with the Fremen/ Voters, certainly not the would-be aristocrats of the venal Houses.

Baron HarkonnenHOUSE HARKONNEN – Needless to say, these are the DEMOCRATS, the most vile and mercilessly totalitarian of the Houses which treat the voters like peasants and cannon fodder.

The Democrats run rings around their rival Houses with their cynical exploitation of crises and tragedies which befall the nation. The conscienceless trash of this House carry out their strategy of “Oppressing people while posing as the oppressed” in increasingly blatant and brutal fashion. Merely expressing an opinion dissenting from the Democrat Party line is considered grounds for loss of one’s livelihood and access to assorted online tools necessary for modern life. Continue reading

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FICTION HOUSE SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Another post for this superhero-crazed world. It’s a look at another forgotten pantheon of heroes.

LIGHTNING

Secret Identity: Jeff Larkin

First Appearance: Jumbo Comics #14 (April 1940)

Origin: Jeff Larkin, the son of an American Army General, secretly invented a belt which, when activated, gave its wearer super powers. He donned a costume and fought the forces of evil as the superhero called Lightning.

Powers: Lightning’s power belt enabled him to fly and to shoot lightning bolts from his hands. It also granted him a degree of super-strength.

Comment: When the U.S. entered World War Two Fred Larkin enlisted in a unit under his father’s command, but kept his identity as Lightning a secret.  

COMMANDO RANGER

Secret Identity: Never revealed but created by Jock Lawrence, which would have been a great name for him.

First Appearance: Rangers Comics #13

Origin: Prior to becoming Commando Ranger in 1943 this man had been an Olympic boxer, had climbed Mount Everest, had helped against the plague in the Congo and had served as a fighter pilot in another nation’s armed forces before the U.S. entered World War Two.

He then spent two years studying under the Lamas in Tibet, mastering their disciplines. Returning to the war, he was assigned to serve as a masked and costumed operative against the Nazis on mainland Europe. This assignment was given to him by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Powers: Commando Ranger had perfect bodily control, could endure incredible levels of pain and was honed to the peak of physical condition. He had mastered all methods of unarmed combat and was an expert with guns, explosives and especially his winged knife.

Comment: Commando Ranger’s calling cards bore the sign of the winged dagger, the same logo on his costume. This hero’s love interest was a mysterious French woman who led the French Underground unit called La Bastille.    Continue reading

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PULP HERO G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES: STORIES TWENTY-TWO THROUGH TWENTY-FOUR

WITH THE ZOMBIEMANIA OF RECENT YEARS THE HEADLESS ZOMBIES IN THIS STORY SHOULD BE A HIT

WITH THE ZOMBIEMANIA OF RECENT YEARS THE HEADLESS ZOMBIES IN THIS STORY SHOULD BE A HIT

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.

Wings of the Juggernaut22. WINGS OF THE JUGGERNAUT (July 1935) – This adventure introduced an all-new foe for G-8 and his Battle Aces, a foe seeking to use the World War as a vehicle for their own personal ambitions.

A Hindu priest named Mukja sets out to crush the Allied forces. Like G-8’s earlier foe Lakurji, Mukja wants the hated British Empire out of India and has concocted a flying version of Hindu lore’s Juggernaut as his people’s secret weapon. He’s also conjured up an army of snakes.  Continue reading

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THE KINDRED (1987) MOVIE REVIEW

Kindred largerTHE KINDRED (1987) – This monster movie was the third horror project from the writing and directing team of Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow.

The duo got started while they were film students at UCLA and released the regulation 1982 slasher movie Death Dorm aka Pranks aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Next came The Power (1984), about a cursed Aztec relic.

Neither of those works were exceptional nor were they trying to redefine the genre, but there was noticeable improvement between the 1984 project and the 1982 debut film. The Kindred continued that professional refinement and is the most watchable of “Carpbrow’s” early horror efforts.

THE Kim Hunter is in a few early scenes as Amanda Hollins, a biochemist who was engaged in some ethically questionable research before a car accident left her in a coma for years. She has just emerged from that coma and wants her son John (David Allen Brooks) to go to her old beach house and destroy all of her work, including her notes.

Rod Steiger, just one year away from his outrageous tour-de-force performance in the slasher film American Gothic (with YVONNE DE CARLO), plays Dr Phillip Lloyd, the villain of the story. The mad Dr Lloyd has been trying his own hand at the kind of research that Amanda Hollins excelled at. To that end he’s been paying an unscrupulous ambulance driver to covertly provide him with accident victims to use as human guinea pigs.   Continue reading

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THE FIRST TWENTY THOR STORIES FROM THE 1960s

The world cannot get enough superhero articles. Readers demanded another one so here is a look at the first 20 stories of the Marvel Comics version of Thor.

Thor 1JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY Vol 1 #83 (August 1962)

Title: Thor The Mighty and the Stone Men

Villains: Kronans (Stone Men)

Synopsis: Brilliant and famous doctor and surgeon, Donald Blake MD, has traveled to Norway on vacation. While he is there an alien race of Stone Men called the Kronans, using Saturn as a staging post, invade the Earth.

The lame (as in limping with a cane) Doctor Blake hides in a nearby cave where he finds a hidden chamber containing an alternate walking stick. An inscription on the cavern wall indicates that the stick can bestow the power of the Norse thunder god Thor.

When Blake fails to move rocks which have fallen across the cave entrance by using the walking stick as a lever, he lashes out in frustration, striking the bottom of the stick against the rocks. This triggers his transformation into Thor while the enchanted walking stick becomes Thor’s legendary hammer Mjolnir.

NOTE: As Thor’s adventures went along, Marvel Comics ultimately decided that Donald Blake really WAS the ancient Norse god Thor, but that his father Odin had wiped his memory and forced him to live as the lame Donald Blake to teach the cocky god humility. The lesson apparently learned, we’re told Odin made Blake take this Norway vacation so he could find the cane/ Mjolnir and return to being Thor in order to save Earth from the Stone Men. 

Back to the story, as Thor, our hero easily removed all the rocks blocking the cave entrance and watched as Earth fighter jets were driven off by the Kronan spaceships, whose force fields protected them from all the Earthlings’ missiles and bombs. Continue reading

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INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) ON THE TEXAS 27 FILM VAULT

Invaders from MarsBefore MST3K there was … The Texas 27 Film Vault! Before Joel and Mike there were Randy and Richard! Before Pearl, Devil Dogs and Deep 13 there came Laurie Savino, Cellumites and Level 31!

In the middle 1980s, way down on Level 31 Randy Clower and Richard Malmos, machine-gun toting Film Vault Technicians First Class hosted this neglected cult show.

ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Saturday June 7th, 1986 from 10:30pm to 1:00am.

Atom Man vs SupermanSERIAL: Before showing and mocking Invaders from Mars our members of the Film Vault Corps (“the few, the proud, the sarcastic”) showed and mocked an episode of the 1950 Columbia serial Atom Man vs Superman. Kirk Alyn starred as Superman with Lyle Talbot as his archenemy Lex Luthor. Lex has his own secret identity in this serial – each episode he dons a lead mask and oversees the villainy as “Atom Man”.

This was one of the liveliest and most campily watchable serials of the 50s. Especially laughable are the bits when Superman “flies” – an effect achieved by switching from live footage of Kirk Alyn to INSERTED CARTOON FOOTAGE of Superman flying. Think of the ‘Toons in Roger Rabbit interacting with the live backgrounds and you have the idea.

A behind the scenes photo of Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps.

A behind the scenes photo of Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps.

FILM VAULT LORE: This week Laurie Savino, who held the rank of Mystery Clip Technician in the Film Vault Corps once again presented Channel 27’s Movie Ticket Giveaway.

Correctly identifying the Mystery Clip this time around would win a few lucky viewers tickets to the upcoming release of the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars, starring Karen Black. 

HOST SEGMENTS/ COMEDY SKETCHES – One of the comedy bits Randy and Richard injected into the film this time involved Jimmy Hunt, who played David Maclean, the child hero of the movie.

Whenever Hunt would say something harmless like “Gee Whiz” the Film Vault Guys would bleep part of it to make it sound like the kid had said “Jesus” and was getting censored. And so it went throughout the movie. Little Jimmy – but, hilariously, NONE of the adults, would occassionally get bleeped misleadingly as if cursing like a sailor.

That is one foul-mouthed little boy!

That is one foul-mouthed little boy!

A word beginning with “sh” would be bleeped like Jimmy was saying “shit”, a word beginning with “f” would be bleeped like Jimmy was saying “fuck”, multi-syllable “m” words would be bleeped like he was saying “motherfucking”. It was like a more adult throwback to the old “Cleveland-style” of movie hosting, dating back to the legendary Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson). 

THE MOVIE: Invaders from Mars is a very fun-bad movie complete with cheap and unconvincing 1950s special effects, stiff and unbelievable characters and a groan-inducing finale.

Some elderly critics praise this movie nostalgically and try to present it as a metaphor for anti-Communist paranoia, like the more-deserving Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Anybody who didn’t see this thing as a child in 1953 tends to view it more realistically: as a kitschy relic of its era, entertaining but hardly thought-provoking.  Continue reading

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