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Comics

The Everlasting First: Quick Takes For “S,” Comics Edition

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

The Sandman

My first Sandman was the 1940s DC hero, his gas-masked face first shown to me on the cover of Justice League Of America # 47. That was also the first issue of JLA I had ever seen, spied on the spinner rack at a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri during the summer of 1966. The summer of BATMAN! As a six-year-old on vacation, I was allowed to pick one twelve-cent four-color treasure off the rack to have for my very own. I was torn between this, the latest Batman, and an issue of Marvel’s Tales To Astonish. Mom said to buy the Batman and be done with it. Thus was my introduction to The Sandman deferred.

That issue was, of course, one of the annual summer team-ups of the Justice League and their alternate Earth counterparts The Justice Society of America. I followed the JLA/JSA crossovers with religious devotion from 1967 on. The Sandman made a cameo appearance in the first part of the 1968 crossover (JLA # 64), which must have been the first time I saw the character. Even though he wasn’t used all that much, The Sandman quickly became one my favorite JSA heroes, and I immediately wished that I could see more of him.

(And, although I preferred The Sandman in his original Green Hornet-inspired wardrobe of green business suit and a gas mask [plus cape], I did very much enjoy reprints of the Joe SimonJack Kirby version, decked out in traditional skintight superhero costume, proudly presented in early ’70s issues of The Forever People.)

The Seven Soldiers Of Victory

In the late ’60s, DC Comics published a series of text pages called “Fact Files.” These pieces told the back stories of various DC characters from the ’40s, and they were my introductions to Sargon the SorcererTarantula, and The Seven Soldiers of Victory. The Fact File for The Seven Soldiers of Victory stirred an interest beyond any of the others: a super team I didn’t know! Of its members, I was familiar with Green Arrow and Speedy, of course, but the others–The VigilanteThe Shining KnightThe Star-Spangled Kid and StripesyThe Crimson Avenger, and unofficial eighth Soldier Wing–were all new to me. A gorgeous Murphy Anderson pinup page of these Law’s Legionnaires (published in the giant-sized Justice League Of America # 76 in 1969) served to further whet my appetite to read the adventures of The Seven Soldiers of Victory.

The Silver Surfer

House ads in 1960s comic books were both a treat and a tease, enticing me with tempting images of far, far more comic books than I was ever going to be able to own as a kid. I don’t remember seeing Fantastic Four # 55 in any stores in 1966, but I remember seeing its cover in a Marvel Comics house ad, and thinking a six-year-old’s equivalent of COOL! I don’t think I saw The Silver Surfer in an actual comic book until he got his own title in 1968.

The Spider

Nostalgia was big in the ’70s, and this boom in the art of looking back gave me all manner of opportunities to discover superheroes and adventurers from the ’30s and the ’40s. I fell hard for 1930s pulp heroes, especially Doc Savage and The Shadow. I believe I first read about The Spider in Steranko‘s amazing two-volume reminiscence The Steranko History Of Comics. Since Marvel and DC had respectively licensed Doc Savage and The Shadow for new comic books, I hoped one or the other would also see fit to revive The Spider. But it was not to be.

Spy Smasher

Ah, Spy Smasher was a hero to me long before I ever had a chance to see him in any sort of adventure. Like The Spider (but earlier in my timeline), my interest in Spy Smasher was ignited by the comics histories I was absorbing in the ’70s. My first glimpse (and probably first awareness) of Spy Smasher was in the book All In Color For A Dime, and its full-color reproduction of the cover of Spy Smasher # 1 from 1941.I saw the book on the shelf at World Of Books in North Syracuse some time in the early ’70s, flipped through its pages, and I was hooked on all of these heroes of the past.

My interest in Spy Smasher was subsequently reinforced when I learned that–like his comrade the original Captain Marvel–he’d starred in his own movie serial in the ’40s. More comics histories (especially the Steranko books) continued to feed this interest. Other than his part in the 1976 JLA/JSA crossover (JLA # 135-137) and the reprint of his first appearance in DC’s tabloid reproduction of Whiz Comics # 2, I didn’t get to read an actual Spy Smasher comic book until years later, nor see his serial until decades later. But I was and remain a fan. It all started with All In Color For A Dime.

Star Wars

To paraphrase both Josie & the Pussycats and TV ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes: we’ve come a long way, baby. In these days of summer movie blockbuster events, it seems a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away that such things didn’t exist. In the ’70s, my friends and I all saw lots of movies in the summer, but the idea of any individual popcorn flick becoming a pop culture flashpoint was…well, fantasy. 

Until Star Wars rewrote the rules in 1977. I can’t tell you objectively if the movie holds up now, but when I was 17, freshly graduated from high school? Star Wars was unlike anything any of us had ever seen. I knew comic books and science fiction, from the most basic space opera through attempts at more intelligent and mature storytelling, Buck Rogers to Harlan Ellison. I’d seen the first Flash Gordon movie serial, doted on TV reruns of Star Trek, ogled Valerie Perrine in the film version of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, turned my nose up at Space: 1999. I wanted more. I wanted serious science fiction and high adventure.

Star Wars was definitely not serious science-fiction, but it was the full-screen realization of every pulp, serial, and superhero fantasy up to that point. Good versus evil, confident in its cosmic skin, with none of the self-consciously campy ooze that characterized so much of ’70s genre films (lookin’ at youDoc Savage: Man Of Bronze). It was fun, it was fascinating, and everyone I knew saw it several times. The dawn of the era of the summer blockbuster was upon us.

But the film was not my introduction to Star Wars. I had picked up the first issue of Marvel’s licensed Star Wars comic book, written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Howie Chaykin. The first issue was cover dated July 1977, but it was on the stands months before that, and I believe several issues had been published before the film’s opening scroll promising CHAPTER IV: A NEW HOPE appeared on any theater screen. I don’t think I was quite blown away by the comic book, but it was interesting enough that I stuck with it for a little while. And when a bunch of us made plans at Faith Berkheimer’s graduation party to see that new sci-fi movie opening the following week, I was the only one of my pals to already know a thing or two about Luke Skywalker and company.

And still, I had no idea how big Star Wars would be. I’ve yet to see any of director George Lucas‘s prequel movies, and I’ve only seen one of the latter-day Star Wars efforts (The Force Awakens, which I did enjoy). But those first three Star Wars movies were events, the precursor to the Marvel movies of today. Pass the popcorn. May the Force be with you.

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YouTubers

Adam Savage Tested

One of our very favorite YouTubers is Adam Savage, who you probably remember from The History Channel’s Myth Busters show. He’s moved on to his own show, Tested, much of which, ends up on YouTube.

It should come as no surprise to most people familiar with Savage, that he’s a lover of many things science fiction, including the Star Wars Universe. Several episodes have dealt with recreating props from the franchise, and some of his model creations actually found their way into Star Wars: Episode II, Attack Of The Clones.

Probably our favorite episode, is this one, in which he recreates Han Solo’s trademark blaster…

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Double Take

Princess Rachel

Our Twitter friend, Rachel, bears an incredible resemblance to a certain Princess from Alderaan, don’t you think?! You can catch up with her @twitter.com/onwardintolight.

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In The Stacks

Resistance Reborn

I was really excited when I heard that there was going to be a book that talked more about the Resistance and its role in the new series of Star Wars movies. Sadly, Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse just didn’t live up to what I was expecting. It fell short, in many ways, of what could have been a really interesting book that explored the new Star Wars world. Spoilers ahead folks (especially for those that have not seen The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker films). 

First off, half this book wasn’t even about our beloved Resistance characters! The cover and the marketing for this book made it seem like it was about Poe, Finn, Rey, Rose, Leia, and Chewbacca, and how they were dealing with the First Order. In reality, half the book was taken up by a character within the First Order. Way more attention was paid to this character than almost any of the Resistance characters. Even more disappointing, is that this First Order character didn’t bring anything to the story – he was just a generic bad guy. 

Speaking of not bringing anything to the story…there wasn’t really one in this book? There didn’t seem to be much plot going on, and what story there was just wasn’t interesting. Also, a large piece of this novel relies on the reader to have read past Disney Star Wars Canon books, more specifically Bloodline by Claudia Gray. I reviewed Bloodline a while back, and it is one of the best Star Wars novels in my opinion. My problem with Resistance Reborn relying on information from Bloodline is that nowhere in the marketing does it mention that! If you haven’t read that book, the main story (Leia trying to save an old friend she thought had died) wouldn’t have the same weight to it. If you haven’t read that book, you’d probably be wondering who the heck this guy is that Leia is so concerned about.

The purpose of Resistance Reborn seems to be to fill in all the holes and complaints of Star Wars fans that were brought on by The Last Jedi and set up the new Resistance for The Rise of Skywalker (both of these things fell flat). One thing that was brought up time and time again in the book was how Poe had defied orders he was given in The Last Jedi, which led to the death of many Resistance fighters and Admiral Holdo. In Resistance Reborn he talks at length about feeling guilty about this, but instead of exploring these feelings and the reasons behind his actions, it all just falls flat. It felt surface-level, and I think there was a lot of missed potential here for exploring his character more. 

Overall, this was a disappointing read, and definitely not one of the better Star Wars novels that I have read. My advice is to skip this one.

Mari Pavelich

Categories
The Wayback Machine

R2-D2 Arrives

It must’ve been Christmas ’77 or ’78, when my brother and I awoke to find dual remote-controlled R2-D2’s underneath the tree. Initially, Kenner and the rest of the toy manufacturers had greatly under-estimated the demand for all things Star Wars, so the toys connected to the movie weren’t easy to come by. Somehow, though, there they were!

R2 looked just like the real thing, only in miniature. I remember quite clearly that this was my favorite gift that Christmas. I also remember thinking, “How in the world did Santa get this for me?” I only knew of one other kid in the neighborhood that had a Star Wars toy, so I was really thrilled. 

Amazingly, our Mom had plenty of the correct batteries on hand. I don’t know how she always managed that. Maybe Santa had some way of contacting parents, to let them know the battery requirements of what he was bringing ahead of time. However it was worked out, I was one happy kid that Christmas!

Dan Pavelich

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Video of The Day

The Joy Of Star Wars

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Quick Spins

John Williams

It’s nearly impossible to talk about the impact of the Star Wars franchise without mentioning John Williams. Over the years, I reviewed a couple of his soundtrack efforts (as if they even needed reviewing!). Here’s a quick look back…

John Williams

The Force Awakens (Disney)

http://www.starwars.com

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of John Williams conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was amazing to hear the power of a live orchestra, playing the familiar strains of “Star Wars”,”Indiana Jones”,”Jurassic Park,” and “Harry Potter,” just to name a few.

Unlike a lot of contemporary creators of film scores, Williams has the ability to write orchestral hooks, instead of merely providing disposable background music. Is there anyone who doesn’t recognize “Darth Vader’s Theme”?  For The Force Awakens, Williams has written “Rey’s Theme,” for the film’s heroine, which sits nicely among other more well-known themes and transition pieces. The entire score was a pleasant listen that I look forward to revisiting.

John Williams

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney)

http://www.johnwilliams.org

Will a lot of film scores fail to make much of an impression, those of John Williams are instantly recognizable, even if you don’t particularly care for orchestration. Is there anyone among us who couldn’t identify “Star Wars’ Main Theme”? Williams doesn’t just score films, his compositions stick in your head like a hit song.

Familiar melodies weave with new, as Williams sets you firmly in a galaxy far, far, away. The music is lushly recorded and will have your thoughts drifting to scenes in the movie, which I really enjoy. I played “The Last Jedi” through three times, and will probably have another listen tomorrow. Highly recommended.

D.P.

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Comics

Father Of The Brood

Please visit http://www.kennydurkin.com
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Comics

Just Say Uncle