Fantastic Friday: The alernate timeline not taken

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. You want alternate what-if timelines? Issue #303 has alternate what-if timelines.

thundra8

We begin with Ben, moping around Four Freedoms Plaza, still dreary and bummed out about Johnny and Alicia’s recent wedding. He goes for a walk in the rain, where Thundra teleports right in front of him. Thundra, a former alternate member of the FF, reminds us that she’s from an alternate future where the women are literally at war with the men. Ben reminds us that she’s 7 feet tall and has superhuman strength. Thundra says a group of rebels named the Warriors of Machus have taken over a prison, holding the guards hostage. Thundra needs Ben’s help because the rebels also have an android which sends out “alpha waves,” incapacitating women but not men.

thundra1

With the help of a high-tech “D-belt,” Ben and Thundra travel to her timeline. They teleport right into the middle of the prison and immediately fight the rebels, including a big bearded six-armed guy who puts up quite a fight for a few pages. (This guy is the android, it turns out.) After the fight, Ben discovers that Thundra has been named empress of her people. She then asks Ben to marry her, saying her respect for him has turned into something resembling love. Ben considers her offer, but finally says no, that his home is on Earth, not her world.

thundra4

Ben then says that he wishes he could have lived his life differently, and Thundra says it is possible. She says her world’s scientists are able to send him back to just before the Secret War, where he can stay on Earth this time. After a bunch of sci-fi techno jargon, they do this, and Ben finds himself back in time. He jumps out of the Beyonder’s machine just before it teleports Reed and Johnny to Battleworld. With all of Earth’s greatest superheroes in space for the Secret War, Ben goes running back to Alicia.

thundra2

Remembering that Ben and Alicia broke up just before the Secret War, Ben tells Alicia “scratch that,” and he asks her to marry him, right then and there. She says yes. (There is, obviously, no reference to Alicia being secretly replaced by Lyja the Skrull during this time.) From there, the timeline flashes forward to Reed and Johnny returning from the Secret War to get the big news, and no reaction from Johnny. This has Ben thinking, “I won!”

thundra5

We flash forward again, this time to the wedding from issue #300, only this time Ben is marrying Alicia. He sees a look of sadness on Alicia’s face, and it dawns on him that this timeline is not the way history was meant to go. Ben bails on the wedding. Thundra reappears with a more tech jargon about how she can only return Ben back to the original timeline, and not hers. She does this, and Ben is back where the issue began.

thundra3

Ben watches over Franklin while Franklin sleeps. Ben muses to himself that this is where he belongs. He says it’s up to him to solve his own problems and not run from them, even if part of him will always be in love with Alicia.

thundra6

Unstable molecule/Fade out: Reed begins to say “About that invitation…” to Sue, and we never learn what the invitation is. Perhaps this is setting up the big shakeup next issue.

Clobberin’ time: Just before going back in time, Ben thinks to himself that yes, he does love Thundra as well. This is an emotionally confused time for ol’ Benjy.

Flame on: After Ben leaves the wedding, Johnny consoles Alicia with a big hug, suggesting that their romance might have still occurred in this timeline.

Fantastic fifth wheel: After her short membership in the FF, Thundra made a bunch of appearances in Marvel Two-in-One, where she and Hyperion (leader of the Squadron Supreme) had a partnership of sorts. She also had a brief involvement in the all-female super-powered wrestling group, the Grapplers. She returned to her home timeline in Marvel Two-in-One #67. She’ll next appear in Captain America #392 as part of a mass gathering of superhuman women, and then in West Coast Avengers #75, for a battle against Arkon.

She-Hulk appears as a guest at Ben’s wedding, with Ben commenting that even in the alternate timeline, she and Wyatt Wingfoot became a couple.

Four and a half: Franklin is shown sleeping with one teddy bear at the start of the issue, but a completely different teddy bear at the end. Oh no, Ben really did change the timeline!

The Alicia problem: Are we to assume that, in the alternate timeline, Lyja succeeded with her plot to replace Alicia and infiltrate the FF through Ben? If so, does that mean she never had her change of heart, which could also explain her look of sadness at the wedding?

Commercial break: Young Josh Brolin! Young Pamela Gidley! On videocassette!

thundra7

Trivia time: Ben begins the issue hanging out in the trophy room in Four Freedoms Plaza. In the old Baxter Building, the trophy room was where the FF kept various oddities they collected on their travels. In this issue, the trophy room contains a glowing red rock, a model of the Fantasticar, puppets of the FF, and a newspaper headline reading “The FF go bad.” There’s much debate online as to what previous stories these items are referencing, with no definitive answers.

Fantastic or frightful? An interesting issue, even though we’ve been doing the Ben-is-heartbroken-about-Johnny-and-Alicia thing for several issues now, so it’s starting to feel awfully repetitive. It’s also nice to see Thundra again, even though she’s not given much to do. So, it’s a decent read, but inconsequential.

Next week: Quickly, now.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

Fantatsic Friday: The Honeymoon’s Over

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Now that Johnny and Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) are married, issue #302 spins them off into their own adventure.

honey8

While on their honeymoon in upstate New York, Johnny and Alicia are headed to the town of Athenvillie, where they are stopped by Army soldiers. The soldiers won’t let them pass until they realize Johnny is the Human Torch. They then claim this was only a training exercise, which Johnny doesn’t believe. In town, Johnny and Alicia learn there have been a bunch of disappearances, which some people blame on the increased military presence. They meet with Alicia’s friend Myrna and the local Marshal. (Upstate New York is a lot more like the Old West than I thought.) Turns out many of those who’ve disappeared were local artists, only for them to return days later, wandering the streets with no memory.

honey1

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, Reed continues to experiment with (on?) Franklin, determining just how Franklin’s dream-based astral projection works. Franklin’s dream-self spies on Johnny and Alicia for a moment, where Johnny says he’s going off by himself to investigate the disappearances. At HQ, Ben gripes at Reed to not let Franklin become a peeping tom. The point gets across, as Reed, Sue and Franklin sit down for a talk.

honey2

Johnny visits the army camp and talks to a cigar-chompin’ captain. The captain doesn’t want Johnny there, but then Johnny overhears another soldier talking about missing nukes. Before he can investigate further, he sees an FF signal flare in the sky, recognizing it as the one he gave Alicia in case of emergency. Johnny flies back to where he left Alicia, but she’s already gone. Her friend Myrna catches him by surprise, gassing him unconscious.

honey3

Johnny and Alicia wake up in a town-sized underground facility called Project Survival. Johnny can’t use his powers because he’s covered with a special anti-fire solution. Myrna is there, and she introduces them to the project’s inner council. Project Survival is basically a giant bomb shelter/spaceship hidden inside a nearby mountain, collecting humanity’s best and brightest, with a plan to escape the Earth when or if World War III starts.

honey6

Johnny asks the council about the stolen nukes, saying they could use the nukes’ firepower to blast off and escape the earth. The council members say they would never do this, fearing that would start the nuclear war they fear. One man, known only as “Tech,” admits to the theft, saying it’s time for Project Survival to leave the Earth. Tech summons the guards and locks up Johnny and Alicia. Johnny concentrates, managing to get his power back. He flies through the place, dismantling the engine mechanics without harming or setting off the nukes.

honey5

Later, the cops arrive and haul off Tech and the inner council, while Myrna and the rest of Project Survival wonder what to do now. Alicia (secretly a Skrull, let’s not forget) gives a big speech about how nuclear war can be prevented, but only if all humans can work together and whatnot.

Unstable molecule: Excellent science-y dialogue from Reed about Franklin’s powers: “As long as he remains in a state of somnambulance, Franklin apparently has full control of his mental manifestation!”

Fade out: Sue is in the room while Reed experiments on Franklin, but she doesn’t say or do anything.

Clobberin’ time: Look closely: Ben is reading a book titled “How to Pick Up Girls.” Make of that what you will.

Flame on: The air grows colder around Johnny as he does he concentrates on bringing back his powers, suggesting that he’s gaining strength by drawing heat from the air around him. I don’t recall him doing this before.

Four and a half: This issue raises the question of how far Franklin can travel when in astral form. Here he travels across state, while in Power Pack he mostly just traveled around NYC.

The Alicia problem: What to make of Lyja being the one who gives the big “humans can save the Earth” speech. Does this show how much she’s come to care about the Earth since she’s been here, or is she merely maintaining her cover?

Commercial break: Whatever happened to Captain Clueless?

honey7

Trivia time: A note on the first page says, “Thanks to the folks at Omacon 6 for all the story ideas.” What happened here is that co-writers Tom DeFalco and Roger Stern allegedly gave a “how to write comics” presentation at a convention in Omaha, Nebraska, where they plotted this whole issue live on stage, complete with suggestions from the audience.

Fantastic or frightful? A zero substance issue, the usual mysterious small town/underground sci-fi facility story we’ve seen before. Tacking on a heavy-handed anti-nukes message makes it more groan worthy than deep and meaningful. Not a bad issue, just a forgettable one.

Next week: Bring the thunder!

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: Dream a little dream

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Now that Johnny and Alicia are married, it’s time to further establish the series’ new status quo. First up is Franklin revealing his new powers to his parents.

astral7

We begin with Reed, Sue, and Ben leading an all-out assault on the Mad Thinker’s secret headquarters. This means they did learn he was messing around with other villains during the wedding last week. What’s more, young Franklin is at home, asleep, seeing all this in a dream. The FF team up the local SWAT team to fight their way through the Thinker’s hideout, smashing up all the Thinker’s androids real good. Franklin watches the fight in his astral-projected dream self, staying out of site. But when an android tries to sneak up Reed, Franklin cries “Look out!” Reed wonders if his mind is playing tricks on him.

astral1

We see the Mad Thinker coordinating all this from inside his jail cell. The idea here is that he can mentally control his entire network of machines from anywhere, so as long as his body is just sitting there in his cell, there’s nothing the cops can do. We then cut to the Wizard’s hideout (we’re not told where this is, exactly) where the Wizard and one of the Thinker’s androids discuss their next move. The Wizard was watching the battle and saw Franklin’s dream-self there. He wants to use Franklin’s powers to destroy Reed. The Thinker says his grudge is with the FF and not a little kid, and he refuses to have any part of this.

astral2

Later, Franklin uses his dream powers to spy on Johnny and Alicia on their honeymoon. (No, he doesn’t spy on that, you perv.) While out hiking, Johnny saves Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) from a rockslide. Franklin wonders why it’s okay for Johnny to use his powers, but for Franklin to keep his a secret. Franklin then pays a visit to Ben, who is considering wearing the mask from his issue #3 costume some more, to hide his face in public. Franklin says people aren’t afraid of Ben’s face, but of his attitude, and the way he keeps fighting with Reed.

astral3

In Reed’s lab, Reed hooks Franklin up to a machine. Reed fears the psychic dampers on Franklin’s mutant abilites are breaking down, and this might mean a return of his potential world-ending power we saw back around issue #150 or so. Ben interrupts, saying he won’t let Reed turn Franklin into a monster, like he did with Ben. Ben agrees to take Franklin to the hospital to visit Jarvis the butler, who was injured in Avengers #277. In a NYC taxi cab (with Franklin still in his pajamas, somewhat strangely) Ben and Franklin are knocked out with sleeping gas — it was a trap set by the Wizard.

In the Wizard’s hideout (which I guess is right there in New York), he gives unconscious Franklin some sort of truth serum to determine how Franklin’s powers work, but all Franklin says is “special dreams.” The Wizard knows he’s got a good thing going by also capturing Ben. He uses the brainwashing helmet on Ben, the same helmet he used way back in issue #41. Franklin’s dream self leaves his body and finds its way to Four Freedoms Plaza. Reed is happy to see Franklin, and goes to hug him. When Reed’s hands pass through the kid, the jig is up. Franklin warns Reed and Sue that Ben’s in trouble and leads them to the Wizard’s hideout.

astral4

Ben overcomes the brainwashing helmet, explaining it won’t work because he’s a lot meaner and angrier than he used to be. (Is he, really?) Reed and Sue show up, and all three heroes fight the Wizard. Sue knocks him out by cutting off his with a force field around his head. They rescue Franklin and he pleads with them no to hate him because he has powers. Back home, Reed and Sue apologize to Franklin for letting their own fears get in the way of their parenting. They promise not just to accept but to explore Franklin’s powers further, this time as a family.

astral5

Unstable molecule: Reed thinks he hears his son’s voice, so his response is to hook his son up to machines in his lab? I guess this is his fears getting the better of him.

Fade out: Sue continues to be one of the team’s most powerful members, not only defeating the wizard, but also by taking out several of the androids in the opening fight.

Clobberin’ time: What to make of all this talk about Ben being meaner and nastier than he used to be? Part of it simply because of all the changes the team has gone through (notably Johnny’s wedding) but it’s also foreshadowing yet another big change coming up in a few issues.

Flame on: There’s some forced exposition-speak between Johnny and Alicia/Lyja on their honeymoon. Does he really have to remind her that he’s also known as the Human Torch?

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk only appears on the left-hand cover corner illustration. It appears that they are slowly (or not-so-slowly) phasing her out of the series.

Four and a half: While Franklin reveals to his parents that he has powers, he doesn’t mention that he’s been out superheroing as a member of Power Pack. In that series, Reed and Sue actually have met the Power family by now, but know them only as Franklin’s friends.

The Alicia problem: Lyja hears a rockslide coming for her and Johnny before he sees it. Does being a shape-shifter make her more in tune to the environment around her, or has she gotten so used to her simulated blindness (she wears special contacts that block her vision) so that her other senses have gotten sharper?

Commercial break: Because girls dig guys who are into model kits:

astral6

Trivia time: The Mad Thinker’s androids seen fighting the FF in this issue are the same model the FF fought in issues #70-71, that could only be defeated by flinging it into the Negative Zone. (I guess these copies are not as good as the original.) Spider-Man ran into the same model in Amazing Spider-Man #242 and Spider-Man Team-Up #2.

Fantastic or frightful? This issue has the family dynamic that the Fantastic Four is famous for, so that’s good. I also liked the superheroes fighting alongside the cops, something I’m surprised we don’t see more often. The problem is the dreadful artwork, though. It’s doubly upsetting seeing it come from Marvel legends John and Sal Buscema. I promise there’s some interesting stuff coming up in future issues.

Next week: The honeymoon’s over.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: Goin’ to the chapel

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Can you believe I’ve been doing this blog series long enough to reach issue #300? It’s the big wedding.

wedding9

We begin in the office of the Daily Bugle, where Johnny is furious that the newspaper has found out he and Alicia (who is secretly Lyja the Skrull in disguise) are getting married. Publisher Robbie Robertson says that Johnny and Alicia are public figures, which makes their marriage news. Johnny flies off, grousing about how complicated life has become. Speaking of grousing, we cut to Ben, who is wandering his old neighborhood, and getting pranked with more practical jokes by the Yancy Street Gang.

wedding1

Elsewhere in Manhattan, Alicia tries on her wedding dress while Sue and She-Hulk use their powers to chase away the paparazzi. In Latveria, even Dr. Doom has heard about the wedding, and he ominously states that he will make his presence known at the ceremony. At Four Freedoms Plaza (the FF’s new headquarters) Reed and Johnny have a heart-to-heart about marriage, and about how Johnny is a responsible adult now, and no longer the young “hot-headed” kid he was when the team was formed.

wedding2

With all that drama out of the way, the writers remember this is a Marvel comic book, so we get some supervillain action. The Puppet Master, whom you’ll remember is also Alicia’s stepfather, is furious about the wedding and wants to stop it. His lair (which appears to be an ordinary NYC apartment) is invaded by the Mad Thinker and the Wizard, who also want revenge against the FF. We get a couple of pages of flashbacks to these characters’ histories, to get new readers up to speed. They agree to kill the FF, but only if Alicia is not harmed and that she inherits the FF’s fortune after they’re dead.

Back at HQ, Alicia introduces Johnny to Gurdon Brewster, the priest who will be officiating the ceremony, and there’s an entire page of them (and the reader) getting to know this guy. Puppet Master creates a puppet of Franklin, which takes over Franklin’s mind and has him eavesdrop on the conversation. Thanks to this, Puppet Master knows the secret location where the wedding will take place. (It’s a small chapel out on Long Island.)

wedding3

The big day arrives, and we get to the best part of the issue: The wedding guests! This is the weirdest, goofiest-looking bunch of extras I’ve ever seen in comics. Needless to say, we’ve never seen any of these characters in the comic before. I think we’re meant to believe that these are folks from the art community who are friends to Alicia. One woman compliments She-Hulk on her “body paint,” suggesting that whoever this folks are, they’re not familiar with the FF as celebrities.

wedding4

Anyway, Puppet Master has snuck into the building with a puppet of the Thing, hoping to take over the Thing’s mind seconds after the ceremony and kill everyone. Puppet Master overhears Alicia thanking Ben for his bravery and integrity in agreeing to be Johnny’s best man. This causes Puppet Master to have second thoughts. The wedding ceremony goes smoothly, and Puppet Master decides he can’t go through with the plan. He puts the puppet away, and it’s a happy ending.

wedding5

Except it’s not happy for the Wizard and the Mad Thinker. Puppet Master uses a puppet of Dragon Man to find the real Dragon Man, take over his mind, and send him after the two villains. There’s a big fight between Dragon Man, the Wizard, the Mad Thinker, and the Mad Thinker’s androids. The androids are destroyed, the Mad Thinker is revealed to be a robot duplicate operated by remote control, and the Wizard barely escapes with his life. Puppet Master destroys the rest of his puppets and Dragon Man carries him away.

wedding6

Unaware that any of this has happened, the FF enjoy an outdoor reception. Then a package arrives… from Dr. Doom! It’s merely a bouquet of flowers, with a note saying that, in honor of the wedding, there will be a truce between him and the FF for as long as the flowers are bloom. It seems like a nice gesture, until Reed reminds us that cut flowers don’t stay in bloom for very long.

wedding7

Unstable molecule: In his heart-to-heart with Johnny, Reed says that even someone as smart as him still has a lot to learn about being a good husband.

Fade out: Sue is Alicia’s maid of honor. There don’t appear to be any bridesmaids. Also, Sue instantly recognizes Dr. Doom’s handwriting on Doom’s card. I guess this was from her only-mentioned-once-before private detective skills.

Clobberin’ time: Ben’s prankster nemeses the Yancy Street Gang haven’t shown up in this series since issue #190. Instead of just off-panel voices, this time we actually see them, but not their faces. They appear to be a group in their late teens or early ‘20s.

Flame on: Johnny is referred to as either “Johnathan” or “John” several times in this issue, no doubt to emphasize that he’s become a mature adult now.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk says to a paparazzi that she doesn’t like men with cameras, a reference to the notorious “Naked Truth” issue from the John Byrne run.

Four and a half: Franklin’s new dream-based powers aren’t mentioned or used when Puppet Master takes over his mind. I guess Puppet Master caught him unawares.

The Alicia problem: Based on issues to come, many readers over the years have suspected that Puppet Master knew all along that Alicia was really Lyja in disguise, but I’m not seeing any of that in this one. Also, we learn Alicia’s middle name is Reiss.

Commercial break: Look closely: This is not an ad for bicycles. It’s for candy!

wedding8

Trivia time: Robbie Robertson is publisher of the Daily Bugle instead of J. Jonah Jameson during this time, because Jolly Jonah had stepped down after it was publicly revealed that he funded the mad science that created the villainous Scorpion. If you’re wondering why Robbie’s door reads “Joseph Robertson,” it’s because that’s his name. “Robbie” is just a nickname.

I’ve been having a heck of a time trying to track Dragon Man’s continuity during this era of Marvel. It looks to me like he’s just wandering the world aimlessly, only for various villains to capture him and mind-control him. In Captain America, he was controlled by the Machinesmith, in Incredible Hulk, he was controlled by the Ringmaster, and in Power Pack, he was controlled by some random gangsters. The Power Pack issues ended with Dragon Man reunited with his creator, Professor Gilbert. Too bad that Puppet Master in this issue undoes that happy reunion.

Fantastic or frightful? From this point forward, Fantastic Four will be in a constant tug-of-war between creators who want the characters to grow and change, and creators who want the iconic status quo. This issue is all about showing how the characters have grown up and matured, and yet we know that it’ll all be undone in the future. I don’t know what the answer is. At least the all-villain rumble was fun.

Next week: Dream a little dream for me.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: Best man brawl

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Johnny has proposed to Alicia, and Ben has rejoined the team. Issue #299 deals with all the soap opera awkwardness that comes with this.

brawl8

We begin with an old-school throwback to the Lee/Kirby days, where Ben and Johnny are running and fighting inside the FF’s new headquarters, as the excuse-for-the-characters-to-show-off-their-powers-for-a-few-pages thing. In a bad mood, Ben goes outside, where he’s pursued by reporters asking whether he’s officially rejoined the team, and what will become of She-Hulk if he does. Among the reporters is photographer Peter Parker.

brawl1

The rest of the FF regroup, and Johnny reveals that he asked Ben to best man at Johnny’s upcoming wedding to Alicia. Also, today is the dedication ceremony for the FF’s new HQ, which I guess explains the reporters outside. She-Hulk follows Ben to a local bar, and Ben retells the story of how he and Alicia met. When Ben starts losing his temper and threatens to trash the place, She-Hulk offers to take him to a better, less sleazy bar elsewhere in town.

brawl4

At the ceremony, Reed announces that the new Headquarters is to be named Four Freedoms Plaza. Peter Parker sees Johnny abruptly leave the ceremony, and follows him by changing into… the amazing Spider-Man! Spidey and Johnny have a heart to heart on a nearby rooftop, where Johnny tells him about the wedding. Johnny says he wants to find Ben and apologize about the whole “best man” thing. A lady hears this conversation through a window and calls the Daily Bugle’s tip line.

brawl5

She-Hulk takes Ben to Al’s Bar, which is filled with construction workers at the end of their shifts. There are a lot of flashbacks as Ben reminisces about the Secret War, his break up with Alicia, his solo adventures with the super-powered wrestlers in Unlimited Class Wrestling, and his time spent with the Mole Man. (Ben’s ladyfriend from UCW, Sharon Ventura, who briefly went by the name Ms. Marvel, gets a mention during this. We’ll be seeing a lot of her in the near future.)

brawl6

Ben starts losing his cool again, so She-Hulk suggests they take it outside. They start fighting in the construction site next door, with her egging him on. The construction workers all place bets on who they think will win. Ben sees the workers cheering for him on, and this perks him up, saying that a good workout was just what he needed, and this was She-Hulk’s plan all along. Johnny and Spider-Man show up, and Ben says he’ll be Johnny’s best man.

brawl7

Unstable molecule: Reed is the one who names the new building Four Freedoms Plaza, saying the name represents “principles older and more cherished than the republic itself.” (I personally have never liked the name. It’s too hokey and lacks the realistic-sounding simplicity of “Baxter Building.”)

Fade out: Sue barely appears in this issue, catching a piece of falling equipment with an invisible force field cushion during the opening scene.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is still wearing the full FF uniform from issue #3, rather than his usual “just shorts” look.

Flame on: Johnny and Spider-Man had developed a strong friendship by this point, thanks to guest appearances in Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up. This issue was written by longtime Spidey writer Roger Stern, so it’s a given that their friendship would feature in Fantastic Four.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk is able to read Ben well enough to know that a good ol’ fashioned slugfest is what he needs to get him out of his depressed funk. She-Hulk also agrees to pay personally for the damages Ben does to the two bars.

Commercial break: Laser tag! I actually had some friends with this setup, and those things never worked unless you held the gun right up to the other person’s chest.

brawl2

Trivia time: Spider-Man is wearing his classic red and blue costume on the cover, but his black costume inside the comic. At this time, he was running around wearing both versions of the costume, alternating between the two, in a trying-to-please-everybody move. Note that this was an ordinary cloth replica of the black costume, and not the alien symbiote.

Fantastic or frightful? A fun issue, even if it only serves to set up the wedding in the next one. Still, the low-stakes fight is amusing, and it’s always great to have some Human Torch/Spider-Man interaction.

Next week: It’s a nice day for a white wedding. It’s a nice day to… start again!!!

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

Dracula the Series 1990 – My Dinner With Lucard

Did you know Dracula had his own TV show in 1990? This is the Halloween season, so let’s watch it!

drac1

The previous episode of Dracula the Series ended with Gustav pursuing Dracula into the land of the dead, to continue their eternal struggle. It felt the big finale, except then we get episode 21, “My Dinner With Lucard,” which is… the clip show. Freakin’ clip shows.

Cemetery plot: Lucard (a.k.a. Dracula) has invited Max, Chris, Sophie, and Uncle Gustav over for dinner, a friendly, one-night truce. Throughout the course of the evening, everybody reminisces about their past adventures. It’s all a plot, though, by Lucard to convince the three kids to become vampires and betray Gustav. Just when it looks like Lucard has won, Gustav wakes up. Yes, it was all a dream, and the series ends on a “I shouldn’t have eaten so much schnitzel before bedtime” joke.

Is Meat Loaf's body under there?

Is Meat Loaf’s body under there?

King of the vampires: There’s a joke in which Lucard gathers up everyone’s plates after dinner and, rather than take them away or hand them off to a servant or something, he throws them out the window. What’s going on there?

Blood brothers: The episode calls back to Max and Lucard developing a friendship of sorts, despite being enemies. But then it was a dream.

Hesitant.

Hesitant.

The new Mina: Sophie in this episode remembers what it was like when she turned into a vampire, when previous episodes suggested she has no memory of it. But then it was all a dream.

Stake master: After seeing everything Gustav went through with his son Klaus throughout the series, this dream shows us a bit of Gustav’s psychology, and his fears of these three new kids in his life facing the same fate as Klaus. So, there’s that at least.

It's suppertime.

It’s suppertime.

Slayer’s handbook: There’s much question over whether this episode was meant to air before or after the finale. Being in syndication, the episode order got jumbled around in various local markets. We could argue that this takes place before the finale, or at some undetermined point afterwards. It might be more interesting, however, to interpret this as if this is what Gustav is experiencing while inside the otherworldly portal.

Quadruple fang shot.

Quadruple fang shot.

Killer quotes: Lucard: “I thought it might be nice to take a break from the hostilities and partake in a sumptuous feast, which, I might add, I have been preparing all day.”

Behind the screams: Allegedly, Dracula the Series did well enough in the ratings for another year, and all signs were go for season two. Contracts were signed, and everyone was back in Germany ready to start filming again, when the French co-producers abruptly pulled their funding, pulling the plug on the whole thing. You can find a bunch of unfilmed Dracula the Series scripts online, but I have no way of verifying whether any of them are genuine.

Formal attire.

Formal attire.

Bite me: And that’s a wrap on Dracula the Series. This show is goofy and campy, but I love how goofy and campy it is! I had a ton of fun revisiting it this October, and hope you’ve all enjoyed it along with me.

Happy Halloween!

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Dracula the Series 1990 | Leave a comment

Dracula the Series 1990 – Klaus Encounters of the Interred Kind

Did you know Dracula had his own TV show in 1990? This is the Halloween season, so let’s watch it!

drac1

Dracula the Series wraps up (mostly) in the second-to-last episode, “Klaus Encounters of the Interred Kind.”

Cemetery plot: Chris and Max’s mom returns, announcing that she’s got a new job that will let them leave and go back home to Philadelphia. Gustav, meanwhile, believes he’s figured out why vampires never age or leave reflections — they are displaced from time, living partially in this dimension and partially in another. Hoping to learn more about this other dimension, Gustav breaks into Lucard’s (a.k.a. Dracula’s) castle and discovers that Lucard’s fireplace is secretly the portal the other dimension. Klaus, Gustav’s son-turned-vampire, returns hoping to use the portal to destroy both Gustav and Lucard. Klaus enters the portal and returns as a human, finally cured of his vampirism. Lucard won’t have that, so he grabs Klaus and takes him into the portal. Gustav enters the portal after them, and… the end?

There are portals now?

There are portals now?

King of the vampires: Lucard calls the portal his “refuge” and he enters it once in a while to be refreshed.

Blood brothers: Chris and Max are both heartbroken to learn they’re leaving Romania to go back to Philly, as they’ve come to love living with Gustav. Max loves the vampire hunting action, while for Chris, it’s all about his kinda/sorta romance with Sophie.

Mother knows best.

Mother knows best.

Stake master: Before leaving, Gustav makes “arrangements” for Sophie to live in Philadelphia with Max and Chris. A whole season of this show, and there’s still zero backstory for Sophie.

Slayer’s handbook: This episode is filled with references to previous episodes. The Cross of the Magus once again proves itself to be a super-weapon against vamps. The countess from episode 8 gets a mention, as the writers remember she gave Sophie a piece of clothing, which in this episode is shown to have supernatural qualities. The big deal, though, is this portal to the land of the dead, which I’m sure the writers had big plans for the never-made season 2.

Quick, someone paint this scene on the side of a van.

Quick, someone paint this scene on the side of a van.

Killer quotes: Klaus: “Killed? When will you accept it, old man? I am already dead. Your son is dead. Get it?” Gustav: “But this is an opportunity. A breakthrough to understand what you are and how to bring you back.” Klaus: “I don’t want to be brought back. I am a vampire, and I will be the greatest of them all.”

Behind the screams: There is much confusion over whether this episode or the next is the finale. This is the order that the DVDs put them in, but IMDb reports the opposite. Remember that was a syndicated show, and shows in syndication often jumbled episode orders as the shows themselves bounced around late night and early morning weekend time slots in various local markets. Most fans agree that the story ends here, and the next episode is a “one-off.”

Human again.

Human again.

Bite me: I suppose this is as good of an ending and/or cliffhanger that we could ask for from this show. It’s more fitting that the Dracula/Helsing conflict go on in eternity rather than have a final confrontation.

Next: An empty meal.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Dracula the Series 1990 | Leave a comment

Dracula the Series 1990 – Bats in the Attic

Did you know Dracula had his own TV show in 1990? This is the Halloween season, so let’s watch it!

drac1

In Dracula the Series episode 19, “Bats in the Attic,” we’ve got… I’m not sure what we’ve got.

Cemetery plot: A rouge vampire is in town, creating one too many zombies and letting them loose among the populace. Lucard (a.k.a. Dracula) wants to put a stop to this. Young Max befriends Lawrence, a local bookshop owner, who is a fellow vampire expert. Lawrence works for Alfred, the rogue vamp Lucard is hunting. During the final confrontation, it’s revealed that Lawrence and Alfred are the same person. He developed a split personality because he couldn’t handle becoming a vampire. Max escapes, and Lucard seals Lawrence up inside his coffin for an eternity rather than kill him.

Uh-oh.

Uh-oh.

King of the vampires: Lucard isn’t happy about a rogue vamp randomly creating zombies, arguing that too many vampires are a bad thing.

Blood brothers: The B-plot has Chris and Sophie collaborating on a song. He wants to rock out, but she argues that European audiences are more sophisticated, and want music that’s more poetic and artsy.

Romania's Got Talent.

Romania’s Got Talent.

The new Mina: Although Sophie said she was going to give Chris some space a few episodes back, Sophie is really flirty with him in this episode. So, I guess the romance is back on.

Stake master: A C-plot in this episode has Uncle Gustav sitting down to write his memoir, about a lifetime of vampire hunting. He doesn’t get very far, with a running joke about him not being able to come up with a good first sentence.

Slayer’s handbook: We’re told that a vampire can be permanently trapped inside a coffin if it is sealed with a silver hammer and nail. This is exactly how Lucard traps Lawrence at the end. Also, the Cross of the Magus, which magically protects Gustav’s house from vampires, also works on the zombies, frying a zombie delivery boy (it’s wacky!) who shows up at the door.

Zap ka-pow! Yet again.

Zap ka-pow! Yet again.

Killer quotes: Sophie’s lyrics for Chris’s song: “Blossoms bloom below the sky. The scents [sense?] fills my nostrils with delight. Oh, come, love. Come and join us. Let’s fill the night with poems so dark and yet so bright. Yes, so bright.”

Behind the screams: The stunt coordinator for Dracula the Series was a fellow named Minor Mustain. He’s performed and coordinated stunts on a long list of TV shows and movies, including the thriller Gothika, the cheesy action flick Steal, and John McTiernan’s remake of Rollerball. He also took a shot a directing, with episodes of Sirens and Viper.

Dead lift.

Dead lift.

Bite me: A weird episode that doesn’t quite work, but is interesting enough because you’re never sure where the story is going. There’s a plotlessness to it, but that somehow works in its favor.

Next: The big finale.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Dracula the Series 1990 | Leave a comment

Dracula the Series 1990 – I Love Lucard

Did you know Dracula had his own TV show in 1990? This is the Halloween season, so let’s watch it!

drac1

Lots of TV shows do an episode based on Casablanca, and Dracula the Series got its version out of the way in episode 18, “I Love Lucard.”

Cemetery plot: Uncle Gustav is visiting with one of his former students, Lance. Lance has written a tell-all vampire book that he hopes will expose the identities of vampires worldwide, including Lucard (a.k.a. Dracula). Lucard wants to put a stop to the book, but there’s a complication — Lance’s wife Margo once had a whirlwind romance with Lucard. In an ending right out of Casablanca, a heartbroken Lucard lets Margo leave with Lance rather than slaughter them both.

Watch those teeth.

Watch those teeth.

King of the vampires: Margo and Lucard had their romance years ago, when Lucard lived in New York. He says he was much more of a free spirit back then.

Blood brothers: The B-story is young Max thinking that Lance’s publishers want his amateur novel, only later to learn his kid manuscript got mixed up with Lance’s professional one. (We don’t actually see this meeting with the publisher. They must have just been humoring the poor kid, right?)

The new Mina: In keeping with the theme, the episode’s opening scene has Sophie and Chris acting out the end of Casablanca, in black and white.

Something something hill of beans something.

Something something hill of beans something.

Stake master: Back when he was a teacher, Gustav used to lecture at length about the existence of vampires. He’s since stopped doing so, for the safety of his students.

Killer quotes: Lucard: “Well, Maximillian, could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?” Max: “You’ve got to be kidding.”

The big goodbye.

The big goodbye.

Behind the screams: This episode was directed by prolific TV director Allan Kroeker, who has the distinction of directing three Star Trek final episodes, for Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. I could have sworn that the character Kif Kroker from Futurama was named after him, but after much Googling last night I could find no evidence of this.

Play it again, Bram.

Play it again, Bram.

Bite me: What’s interesting about this one is that Lucard is actually the main character, instead of the villain. Like the previous episode, the writers are making an effort to show us just what’s going on inside his head. This makes the title character feel like more than just a big scary monster.

Next: No flowers up there.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Dracula the Series 1990 | Leave a comment

Dracula the Series 1990 – Decline of the Romanian Vampire

Did you know Dracula had his own TV show in 1990? This is the Halloween season, so let’s watch it!

drac1

Fans of Dracula the Series argue that it got more series near the end, and we see some of that in episode 17, “Decline of the Romanian Vampire.”

Cemetery plot: Young Max accidentally revives Uncle Gustav’s son-turned-vampire Klaus from the dead. Klaus then traps Gustav and Lucard (a.k.a. Dracula) in a room with a bomb, forcing the two enemies to confront one another as the clock ticks down. Max, Chris and Sophie save them, showing that the power of family is stronger than Lucard’s empire.

Look who's back.

Look who’s back.

King of the vampires: Lucard comments on all the Dracula movies that have been made, and how, because of them, no one takes the name “Dracula” seriously anymore. He then says he’s used that to his advantage.

Blood brothers: To be safe from Klaus, the kids are sent off to stay the night with their mentioned-but-not-seen Uncle Wilhelm, previously mentioned in episode five.

The new Mina: Sophie and Chris start the episode by going to the movies, to see The Nutty Professor, only to find it’s sold out.

Meeting of the minds.

Meeting of the minds.

Stake master: Near the end, Lucard and Gustav trap Klaus inside with them, and Gustav has the opportunity to let the bomb go off and kill both Lucard and Klaus. He doesn’t, though, in the hopes that someday he can find a cure for Klaus.

Killer quotes: Klaus: “Dracula!” Lucard: “You bellowed?”

Unimpressed.

Unimpressed.

Slayer’s handbook: The bomb is wired to special emerald cross that doesn’t hurt vampires, but instead takes away all their super powers. Klaus’ cape is coated with a special substance that makes him immune to the cross’s effects. Gustav and the kids take the cross with them at the end, saying it’ll come in handy.

Loot box.

Loot box.

Behind the screams: Visual effects for Dracula the Series were done by Jacques Fortier. There’s very little information about him online. He also did effects and makeup for Friday the 13th: The Series and the film Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, and he was a model maker on the comedy The Ladies Man.

Bite me: Forcing two characters to open up to one another by locking them in a room is a well-worn trope, but it works in this case, as the episode does a great job of getting to the heart of who this version of Dracula is.

Next: All about the love.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

cine-high_v3

Posted in Dracula the Series 1990 | Leave a comment