DuckTales rewatch – Pearl of Wisdom

Rewatching DuckTales! Don’t lose your marbles as you watch episode 25, “Pearls of Wisdom.”

Here’s what happens: Modern-day pirate Sharky sets his sights on a giant pearl located on a small island peopled with primitive islanders, successfully stealing it. In Duckburg, Scrooge’s nephews and Webby are excited about a marbles tournament, while Sharky shows up in disguise to sell the pearl to Scrooge. Sharkey takes the money and runs, only to learn that the pearl is the magical Pearl of Wisdom, which grants great intelligence to its owner.

Webby wants to learn to play marbles with the nephews so of course she mistakes the Pearl of Wisdom for a marble. Scrooge learns that the Pearl must be returned to the island in order for the owner to receive infinite wisdom. He then discovers Webby switched the pearl for a marble, and she joins the nephews at the competition. There’s a lot of comedy shtick as Sharky swipes the pearl and leads Scrooge on a chase through Duckburg before escaping.

Now we’re out on the ocean as Scrooge pursues Sharky’s submarine in his shipping fleet’s flagship. Everybody reunites at the island, where Scrooge and Sharkey are fighting over the pe as the sun rises and they are both zapped by the pearl’s magic. Sharky realizes that stealing is wrong, and Scrooge realizes that pearl belongs on the island with the native islanders.  

Humbug: My hypothesis of DuckTales is that the series long arc is about Scrooge learning his family and friends are more important than his money. This episode, sadly, goes against that. After achieving perfect wisdom and returning the treasure to the indigenous people, Scrooge then turns around and makes a business deal with them.

Junior Woodchucks: This is a real standout episode for Huey. He’s the one with the world championship-level marble skills, which he uses to deflect a torpedo away from Scrooge’s ship.

Maid and maiden: Webby is all about emulating the others. She mimics Scrooge after seeing him on a business call, and then she wants to learn to play marbles so she can hang out with the boys.

Foul fowls: Sharky is based on Disney go-to villain Pete, so much that the Disney Wiki alleges that this is Pete playing the role of Sharky. Sharky’s sidekick is Yardarm, who acts as a voice of reason to Sharky’s schemes.

Down in Duckburg: The Duckburg Explorers’ Club is back! Scrooge consults with Lord Battmountain, last seen in the episode “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan,” about the treasure. If the club and its members are recurring characters, then why do they not have an entry in the Disney Wiki?!?

Reference row: There are a lot of conflicting stories on the internet about what is or isn’t the most valuable pearl in the world. The most likely candidate is Palawan Pearl of the Philippines, which is 26 inches long, 12 inches wide, weighing 75 pounds, and is valued at approximately $10 million.

Thoughts upon this viewing: A real substance-free episode, more interested in corny slapstick than any of the more interesting ideas present. Just because it’s a kids’ show, that doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down.

Next: Curses!

****

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Fantastic Friday: Heart of not so stone

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer-artist Carlos Pacheco continues to take things back to basics, while also introducing new changes to one character in vol. 3 #39.

To recap, a brand-new Baxter Building is being constructed in an orbiting space station, courtesy of scientist/industrialist Noah Baxter. Ben, meanwhile, fought the Grey Gargoyle and an unnamed mystery woman, only for the Gargoyle to turn him into stone. (Well, fully into stone.) Reed, Sue, and Johnny teleport from the space station to the scene. Note that they’re wearing new uniforms, which are the original FF uniforms, only without the prominent “4” logo.

There are several pages of fighting, with Reed using his long arms to swing wide punches at Grey Gargoyle, knocking him all over the place. Sue traps him in a force field and slams him against a nearby wall. Grey Gargoyle admits that this attack was an initiation test, and the mystery woman is named Senso. She has vanished, while the FF secure the scene and put their attention toward helping Ben.

Then we cut to the headquarters of the Gideon Trust, the big business who purchased all the FF’s tech and patents. They’re experimenting on Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster, so he can join their new elite group, known as the “N-Explorers.” A man identified only as “the Colonel” exposits that the Gideon Trust is rebuilding the FF’s Negative Zone portal. When the Colonel threatens to leave the project, the others threaten him, and make vague threats about Noah Baxter and the FF as well.

Back the scene of the fight, three Avengers – Thor, Giant Man, and new hero Triathlon – are on the scene. The Gargoyle’s stone touch has worn off the other victims, but Ben is still fully turned to stone. The FF teleport back to the space station, where Reed runs a diagnostic on Ben. The computer tells him “Diagnosis: fatality” over and over while Reed works frantically to save Ben. Then, he emerges from the Lab to reveal that Ben has become human again. “What’s all the hubbub?” Ben asks.

Ben reunites with Noah Baxter, and it’s revealed they are old friends. Noah gives each of the team a bio-disc with their “4” logo (this is why their uniforms didn’t have the logo until now). The four of them activate the new building’s “bio-technic transfer rod,” which brings all its systems online. Ben reveals that he can now transform from human into the Thing and back again, so he can add his Thing handprint to the device.

Cut to NYC, at the former site of Four Freedoms Plaza (which you’ll remember was left derelict by the Thunderbolts in Thunderbolts #10 and then teleported to the moon in Fantastic Four vol. 3 #3). Two construction workers are goofing around, only to have the new teleport (drop?) onto the space. The voice balloons let us “hear” the FF doing their old-fashioned family bickering while inside.

Unstable molecule: This issue is all about Reed caring for Ben and trying to save him. He beats the crap out of the Grey Gargoyle and then frantically tries to save Ben’s life in the lab.

Fade out: Sue uses her force fields to keep the Grey Gargoyle from touching anyone, effectively keeping him from using his powers on Reed.

Clobberin’ time: Reed offers Ben the choice to leave the team now that he’s human again, but says he’s never felt better and that, “We ain’t called the Fantastic Three.”

Flame on: I guess we’re meant to think that Johnny was also facing a choice whether to stay, because one panel has him saying, “I’m in. Like you could stop me.”

Commercial break: I’ve actually never had a Go-Gurt, but I suspect it’s not as exciting as this ad makes it look:

Trivia time: Who is Triathlon? Formerly the villain 3-D Man, he rebranded when he became a good guy, but had trouble getting along with the other Avengers. After a battle against Kang, he left the Avengers and became 3-D Man again. He ended playing a key role during the Secret Invasion event.

A poster in NYC features “Councilman Thorne.” I’m not sure who this is (turns out “Thorne” is a fairly common last name in the Marvel Universe) but my guess is that it’s Sam Thorne, Reed and Ben’s old college buddy Sam Thorne, who we met a few times in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Fantastic or frightful? This issue jumps through a lot of hoops to establish a new (well, new-ish) status quo for Fantastic Four. The highlight, though is the big fight, where Reed and Sue really cut loose with their powers in a big way.

Next: Zone defense.

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Top Duck

Rewatching DuckTales! We get a look at where Launchpad came from in episode twenty-four, “Top Duck.”  

Here’s what happens: Launchpad is preparing his old-timey biplane for an airplane stunt show. The pressure is on, because Launchpad’s family is coming for the show. We get Launchpad’s backstory: He comes from a family of stunt pilots, but he left home after failing a complex stunt and crashing. Scrooge, meanwhile, is rolling out a new high-tech airplane, the MC-X. Then we catch up to the Beagle Boys, who plan to steal the MC-X for themselves.

At the airshow, Scrooge meets Launchpad’s dad, mom, and little sister. He and Launchpad debut the MC-X , Launchpad feels he doesn’t have his family’s approval, while the Beagle Boys pose as mechanics to steal the MC-X.

The Beagle Boys fly to Scrooge’s money bin and use the MC-X’s gadgets to bust into it, Launchpad pursues in his biplane, and his family joins him in their planes. Launchpad saves the day by successfully pulling off the stunt he failed years earlier. Launchpad’s family tells him they were always proud of him, just that he never gave them a chance to say so.

Humbug: Scrooge says the reason the MC-X comes with a powerful drill is so it can “revolutionize the entire mining industry.” It then gets used to tear through his money vault.

Junior Woodchucks: There’s an extended fight scene between the nephews and the Beagle Boys, and Huey, Dewey and Louie do a pretty good job against the crooks, until the bad guys lock them up. They engineer their escape thanks to a pizza-loving Italian pilot. (This subplot takes up most of the second act.)

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad’s father is Ripcord McQuack, his mom is Birdie McQuack, and the sister is Loopey McQuack. I’m told that there’s quite a cult following for Loopey on some certain websites.

Foul fowls: It’s the first appearance of Bomber Beagle, an airplane-themed Beagle Boy. The other Beagles in this one are Bouncer and Burger, with a short appearance by Big Time in the opening scene.

Down in Duckburg: We see that the nephews now have a huge treehouse next to Scrooge’s mansion.

Reference row: The episode title is quite obviously a reference to Top Gun. Launchpad’s dad’s voice is quite obviously an impersonation of John Wayne.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Somebody working on DuckTales must really love airplanes. This one is all about airplanes flying around, with a nephews/Beagle Boys fight thrown in as well. An action-heavy episode, but it finds a nice balance between clumsy comic relief Launchpad and cool adventurer Launchpad.

Next: Hey, Pearl!

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Back to Baxter

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A few issues back, we saw the end of Pier 4. Now we set up a new status quo for our heroes in vol. 3 issue 38.

Over the last few issues, there’s been a subplot about a man named Noah living on a farm in Kansas, and some big project he’s working on. This issue begins with Reed, Sue and Johnny visiting that same farm. There’s some hanging out with Noah’s wife Abigail and friend Jedediah, the group heads into space aboard the Alexandria Space Station, in orbit around the moon. Then we get the big reveal, that Noah’s last name is Baxter (do you get it, yet?).

Cut to Ben, who’s at a bar on Yancy Street, drinking his sorrows away. Alicia has written him another letter, the contents of which we don’t yet see. A mysterious woman asks to join him. Then it’s back to the space station, where everyone boards a rocket and flies over the surface of the moon to reveal… an all-new Baxter Building!

Noah explains that the Baxter family and the Fantastic Four had a great partnership over the years, and Noah says it’s time to start new. Reed reminds everyone that the Gideon Trust maneuvered to purchase all the FF’s property and patents, and now Reed asks whether there’s a deeper reason why.

At Yancy Street, the mystery woman leads Ben down a dark alley, where he’s attacked by the Grey Gargoyle.  You’ll recall he’s a chemist-turned-mercenary with the power to turn anything he touches into stone. He and Ben fight for a bit, until Ben discovers the Gargoyle has already been turning pedestrians to stone. Ben chases the Gargoyle to the Brooklyn Bridge, where Gargoyle goes mad transforming even more people.

Cut to the moon, where Reed, Sue, and Johnny tour their new building. Reed explains that it’s a “living building” whose technology is tied into the FF’s specific bio-signatures. Noah explains that the building cannot come online unless all four of them calibrate at the same time, raising the question of where Ben is.

At the bridge, Ben and the Gargoyle continue to fight. The mystery woman from earlier distracts Ben, allowing the Gargoyle to turn him into stone. Well, fully into stone. In space, Noah and his people are working on finding Ben, only to discover his vital signs have dropped. Noah teleports the FF the Ben’s location, where the Gargoyle asks the mystery women whether he passed her “initiation test.” The FF appear and Reed tells the Gargoyle, “Step away from the Thing. Now!”

Cut to the headquarters of the Gideon Trust, described only as “somewhere in New York.” Members of the trust are conducting paintful-looking experiments on two men, and a third man signs up. The man reveals himself to the be the Trapster, formerly known as Paste-Pot Pete. He suits up in a cool new outfit and says “Third time has got to be the charm.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed states that the new Baxter Building is built based on the original one’s specifications, while also taking on the “spatial differentials” of Four Freedoms Plaza. This is likely a reference to how Four Freedoms Plaza was built with the lower floors existing in another dimension (something never really followed up on). But it could also refer to the Plaza’s confused interior geography, how there were always secret doors and hidden areas known only to Reed.

Fade out: Sue says that without the Baxters, there would be no Fantastic Four. This is never followed up on, creating an unknowable piece of Marvel history. Given that Noah is a spacefaring genius, I suspect he was involved in the FF’s original spaceflight, but we may never know.

Clobberin’ time: I was going to make a crack about how Yancy Street could be within walking distance of the Brooklyn Bridge. I believe this is meant to be the Williamsburg Bridge, which the Marvel Wiki says in indeed adjacent to Yancy.

Flame on: There’s a mention of Johnny preparing to go to Hollywood to star in a movie, so that subplot’s continuing.

Commercial break: What even is this?

Trivia time: The Grey Gargoyle has had a few brief appearances in Fantastic Four, most notably as one of many villains who attacked during Reed and Sue’s wedding. He has, however, shown up in a lot of FF-adjacent stories. He’s often worked alongside Dr. Doom when Doom went up against the Avengers or Iron Man, and he was a main baddie in the Fantastic Force spinoff.

What’s that red device Reed puts on his wrist before he teleports? That’s there to let you know that this is the same teleporter the Enclave used way back in issue #66. I’m not clear why this is such an important detail, but there it is.

Fantastic or frightful? The big deal here is the new Baxter Building, even though it’s not up and running yet. I’ve read ahead a little, so I know that the Grey Gargoyle plot is setting up something big, even though it doesn’t feel like it at this point. So it’s mostly an issue setting up big things (heh) for later. Really digging the art.

Next: Heart of (not so) stone.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Much Ado About Scrooge

Rewatching DuckTales! I get my Shakespearian freak on during episode twenty-three, “Much Ado About Scrooge.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge gets a visit from Filler Brushbill, a famous (!) door-to-door salesman, who can sell anything to anyone. After various mishaps, Brushbill convinces Scrooge and co. to buy a room full of old junk. This includes a first edition of the complete works of William Drakespeare. Scrooge finds a letter in one of the books, hinting at a lost play in his castle on an island in England. Brushbill also catches wind of the letter and pursues them.

Our heroes arrive at the castle, hearing rumors that it might be haunted. Louie is separated from the rest. He encounters three witches, and he is rescued by Brushbill. Scrooge and the other nephews are attacked by Roman soldiers, only for Brushbill to rescue them as well. Scrooge and Brushbill agree to work together to find the lost play. The group meets a fawn named Pluck, and everyone realizes that everyone on the island are characters from Drakespeare’s plays come to life.

The gang finds Drakespeare’s castle, with built-in theater. They find the lost play behind a hidden door. Then the island residents reveal themselves to be actors, and agree to share the play’s profits. Then the lost play is revealed to be… MacDuck! It’s possibly about Scrooge’s ancestors.

The actors put on a quick performance. The play is terrible, and also sullies the Scrooge name. Scrooge and the actors agree to keep the play hidden forever, but Brushbill tries to steal it and cash in. Before Brushbill can escape, Louie says Brushbill will be cheating people by selling them a crappy play, so Brushbill gives it back. Scrooge makes a deal with the actors to bring audiences to the island, and Brushbill goes back to honest salesmanship.

Humbug: We don’t get to see much of the play MacDuck. It appears to be about Scrooge’s ancestor, who cares more about money than his loved ones, and at the end he gets dragged away in chains.

Junior woodchucks: Louie (the one in green) is the hero nephew this episode. He’s the one who appeals to Brushbill’s better nature, and he expresses desire to become an expert salesmen himself. And he’s the one running the computer in the mansion.

Foul fowls: Brushbill is interesting in how he’s able to get under Scrooge’s skin and convince him to waste money on a bunch of junk he doesn’t need. Brushbill’s other power is how he can pull anything he needs out of his valise, like Mary Poppins and her magic purse. You’d think they could do a lot more with this character, but he never appears again.

Down in Duckburg: Scrooge’s mansion has a high-tech anti-salesman system, which includes metal barricades on all the bars and windows. How this is different from an anti-burglary system is unknown.

The earliest known reference to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Won, from Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia, 1598.

Reference row: Stories about a lost William Shakespeare play have been around for centuries. More than 40 titles have been suggested as a possible lost play, with three most well-known being Love’s Labour’s Won, Cardenio, and Ur-Hamlet. Studying this stuff is nearly impossible, more mist-shrouded rumors than historical fact.

Thoughts upon this viewing: The episode is loaded with Shakespeare references, which makes it right up my alley. Beyond that, Brushbill is interesting character and the ancient castle/treasure hunt stuff is all great fun.

Next: I feel the need for duck speed.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Mickey’s Christmas Carol 1983

Rewatching DuckTales! It’s the holiday season, so let’s go back to Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which many consider to be a proto-DuckTales.

It’s generally believed that 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol eventually led to 1987’s DuckTales. But then we remember that the Scrooge McDuck character has been in Disney comics since the ‘40s. The question, then, is how is it that Scrooge McDuck has been around that long, but not used as Charles Dickens’ Scrooge since 1983? Let’s do the deep dive and see that’s not quite the case:

1947: Scrooge McDuck’s first appearance in the Donald Duck comic book story “Christmas on Bear Mountain,” which is not a Dickens adaptation, but a slapstick story about Donald Duck being menaced by a bear.

1951: Scrooge gets his own comic series, Uncle Scrooge. This establishes his backstory as a treasure hunter, and it contains many elements later used in DuckTales. Also in 1951, the story “A Christmas for Shacktown” runs in Uncle Scrooge. The basic arc is that Scrooge dislikes Christmas at first, but later comes around and gives to the poor.  

1955: Scrooge appears in animation for the first time as a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in the opening credits of The Mickey Mouse Club.

1960: Little Golden Books publishes Donald Duck and the Christmas Carol, in which Donald and his nephews prank Uncle Scrooge by disguising themselves as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Future, and Present. More a parody of the Dickens story than an adaptation.

1967: Scrooge has his official animation debut in the short cartoon Scrooge McDuck and Money. It’s an educational film about Scrooge teaching Huey, Dewey, and Louie about basic economics. It does, however, establish a relationship between Scrooge and the nephews with Donald being around.

1974: Disneyland Records produces an album, An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, with Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, and Goofy as Jacob Marley. This, more than anything else, is believed to be the inspiration for Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  

1983: Mickey’s Christmas Carol debuts as a theatrical short attached to The Rescuers. It’s the first new Mickey Mouse animation in almost 30 years. The short then later runs as a holiday TV special throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s on ABC and the Disney Channel.

1985: The half-hour TV special A Magic Kingdom Yuletide Special airs. This live action (!) special has Scrooge hating Christmas at first, but Santa Claus (who is actually Goofy disguised as Santa) changes his mind.

1987: DuckTales debuts in syndication. The premise is a modernized take on the Uncle Scrooge comics, with the Indiana Jones films as additional inspiration. The original series had no Christmas episodes, while the 2017 Disney XD revival series has done two Christmas specials.

You all know the story of A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge is grumpy rich miser who’s a jerk to everyone. He’s visited by ghosts throughout the night on Christmas Eve who show him his past, present and future. Scrooge’s heart melts, and he becomes a loving, charitable altruist. The question for us is how does Disney interpret it, and how (if at all) does it relate to DuckTales?

The big deal for DuckTales fans is that this is the first time that Alan Young voiced Scrooge. Young would go on to be Scrooge in DuckTales and various other animations until his death in 2016. Mickey Mouse plays Scrooge’s put-upon employee Bob Cratchit and Donald Duck as Scrooge’s optimistic nephew Fred.

Goofy plays the ghost of Jacob Marley, doing some comedy shtick so that younger viewers don’t get too scared. Jiminy Cricket is the ghost of Christmas Past, showing Scrooge as a romantic youth turned greedy miser. The ghost of Christmas Present is Willie the Giant from Mickey and the Beanstick, lightening up the story by doing some more comedy. We meet Crachit’s family, including the heartbreaking Tiny Tim.

We skip Fred and go straight to the ghost of Christmas Future, and this is where Disney makes the most liberties to the original. Tiny Tim is freakin’ dead, as is Scrooge himself. Scrooge’s lonely, abandoned grave opens up the doorway to Hell (!) and the ghost is revealed to be go-to Disney villain Pete. Christmas Future speaks in this version, another huge divergence from Dickens’ story. It’s a lot of death and sadness, but of course we get the big happy ending. Scrooge donates to the poor, agrees to have Christmas dinner with Fred, and gives Cratchit a promotion along with toys for Cratchit’s kids.

DuckTales is often criticized for making a hero out of rich jerk Scrooge McDuck, but my hypothesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his family and friends are more important than his money. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is obviously the purest expression of this, and that is its biggest connection to DuckTales.

Next: Cry no more, duck ladies.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Damage Control

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In volume 3 issue 37, we’ve got shape-changing aliens, Hollywood producers, and Damage Control is on the scene!

We begin at the wreckage of Pier 4, which was recently destroyed in the battle against Diablo. Ben is cleaning up the site, along with the crew from Damage Control. Who is Damage Control? This is a group comedic, often fourth-wall-breaking characters who have the job of repairing all the damage caused by superhero battles. We have a couple of pages of Ben horsing around the guys while meeting the new DC vice president Kathleen O’Meara. Nearby, in NYC’s Flatiron Building, the Damage Control HQ, Reed and Sue are working on the details with Damage Control, and Johnny announces he’s signed a deal to star in a Hollywood movie.

Johnny then travels to Hawk Plaza (which is where?) and meet with Roberta “Rob” Hunt, the PR person for Hawk Productions, maker of Johnny’s movie. There are beautiful women all around hoping for a glimpse of Johnny. One woman, though, makes a call saying all is going according to plan. She then flames on, just like Johnny, and flies off.

Johnny next meets the film’s producer, known only as “Mr. Hawk.” And then director Bob Diamond, formerly of martial arts heroes Sons of the Tiger, and special effects master Lon Zelig. Johnny expresses concern over not having seen the script, and Hawk says the movie is a western. Then Reed, Sue, and Ben show up, announcing that it’s a trap and that one of these men is a Skrull in disguise. Bob Diamond fights Ben, putting up a good fight going up against Ben’s superhuman strength. Johnny and Reed chase Hawk and Zelig through the building. They come across the Super-Skrull. They fight, with Super-Skrull reminding us that he was given the FF’s combined powers and was bred to be a warrior.

Cut to outer space, aboard a high-tech satellite, where a man named Noah (apparently the same man from the farm last issue) is at work building a “time-jumping platform.” He and an assistant discuss how the machine needs some other unknown component besides technology. Noah then asks about the status of the Fantastic Four. Before we get any more info on what that’s about, it’s back to the fight. The Super-Skrull beats the crap out of Sue, only to reveal that she and Reed are also a Skrulls in disguise. The Super-Skrull turns invisible and runs off. The Reed-Skrull explains that the Super-Skrull is one of the last remnants of the old Skrull empire before the homeworld was destroyed by Galactus. Now, a brand-new government of surviving Skrulls are regrouping out in space and must deal with Super-Skrull sticking to the old ways.

Johnny says he doesn’t care about Skrull political in-fighting. He takes the Reed-Skrull up to the roof as his alibi. Ben was also a Skrull, and he turns into a bird and flies off. Johnny deduces that FX whiz Lon Zelig has been the Super-Skrull all along. He’s right, but then Zelig/Super-Skrull uses his super-hypnotism (that he’s always had) to make everyone forget he’s a Skrull.

Johnny signs the deal to make the movie, titled “Blaze of Glory.” The issue ends back at Damage Control headquarters, where the FF have been given guest rooms to stay in. Reed gets a call from the scientist Noah, who asks for his help. On the last page, Ben is shown with another unopened letter from Alicia. He leaves and goes for walk through the sidewalks of NYC, and that’s our…

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed mentions that Damage Control benefits from some his tech. This was established in the first Damage Control miniseries, in which Reed, Tony Stark and even the Kingpin (!) donated high-tech gear to DC.

Fade out: Sue mentions two other Fantastic Four movies. In fiction, this refers to the phony movie used to trick the FF in issue #9, and a low-budget flick that embarrassed them in annual #15.

Clobberin’ time: Ben announces that he’s quitting cigars, because Sue wants the FF to have a cleaner image and hopefully get some commercial endorsement deals. This was during Marvel’s much discussed “no more smoking in comics” policy. (Lenny from Damage Control, however, continues to enjoy his cigar.)

Flame on: One of Johnny’s fans says, “He’s more gorgeous than Leo!”

Commercial break: This issue has not one, not two, but three separate full-page ads for various Pokemon products.

Trivia time: The Damage Control members seen in this issue are financial manager Albert Cleary, construction foreman Lenny Ballinger, traffic manager Robin Chapel (no relation to the X-Man), and bulldog mascot Fizzie. (Note that this is Damage Control’s second dog mascot. The original was named Fluppy.)

Fantastic or frightful? It’s always fun to see a Human Torch solo story, especially one where he’s not just fighting but solving problems and outsmarting the baddies. And it’s always a good time when Damage Control shows up to some shtick, although this appearance isn’t as nutty as they sometimes get.

Next: Whose building are you building?

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Down and Out in Duckburg

Rewatching DuckTales! We’ve got ‘80s excess with the rich versus the poor in episode 22, “Down and Out in Duckburg.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge is going to be profiled on his favorite TV show, Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich. But then, a jerk named Fritter Away bursts through the door, announcing that he’s the rightful owner of Scrooge’s fortune, because of a deal his ancestor made with Scrooge’s ancestor Seafoam McDuck.

Fritter takes ownership of Scrooge’s entire fortune. He allows Scrooge and the others to continue living in the mansion as long as they work for him. He sets out extravagantly redecorating the mansion. When Scrooge objects, Fritter throws him out, along the nephews, Mrs. Beakeley, and Webby.

There’s a lot of “Scrooge is penniless” gags now, with everyone ending up living under a bridge just in time for the Lifestyles of the Filthy Rich show to do the story. Humiliated, Scrooge and the nephews hatch a plan. If they find Fritter’s ancestor’s long-lost treasure and properly deliver it, he’ll fulfill the terms of the contract and get his fortune back.

Then the episode becomes a deep-sea diving treasure hunt, as Scrooge explores a shipwreck graveyard on the ocean floor while being menaced by sharks. Mrs. Beakeley (of all people) rescues Scrooge, and they recover the treasure. Fritter tries to stop Scrooge from returning, but falls into the ocean. Scrooge saves his life, but only after Fritter signs the papers that complete the contract and returns Scrooge’s money.

Humbug: The episode establishes that Scrooge first got rich thanks to finding gold in the Klondike. He used Seafoam McDuck’s fortune to pay for that Klondike expedition.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie announce, “We quit!” when walking out on Fritter. What is their job, exactly?  

Maid and maiden: In addition to her many other skills, Mrs. Beakeley is also a former swim champion. This somehow gives her the physical strength to dive to the bottom of the ocean without a diving suit or any breathing equipment.

Fowl fouls: Fritter Away is really obnoxious, his evil plan is just to use Scrooge’s money to paint everything orange for some reason. I guess because this episode is about Scrooge learning not to be a jerk, then Fritter has to be an even bigger jerk.

Down in Duckburg: We meet a clothing store owner named Mr. O’Flannel, who pays rent to Scrooge. Also there’s Captain Jack (not Sparrow) who owns a fishing boat. He does business with Scrooge. Scrooge initially won’t pay for the boat’s repairs, but he does by the end.

Reference row: The show-within-the-show is obviously a parody of the famously trashy ‘80s series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, hosted by Robin Leach.

The episode title and some of its themes are based on the bizarre 1986 comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which itself was a remake of the classic Jean Renoir 1932 film Boudu Saved from Drowning.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Again let me reiterate that my hypothesis about how the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning his family and friends are more important than his money. This episode digs deep on that by having Scrooge being a rich a-hole at the start of the episode, and then being (somewhat) altruistic at the end. Also, he fights sharks.

Next: Cry no more, duck ladies.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Alchemical process

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Volume 3, issue 36 gives the old “science versus magic” debate, and we say goodbye to the pier.

In the last issue, evil alchemist Diablo escaped from an evil mirror and unleashed Hell on the FF, kidnapping Ben and Johnny, and then blowing up pier 4. This one begins with three pages of Spider-Man and Daredevil jumping into the action, helping firefighters at the scene.

Inside, Diablo has Ben and Johnny trapped, when he confronts Reed and Sue, who are here for the rescue. Also with them is a young woman named Blanca, a member of a secret order of Deacons who have fought Diablo over the years.  Diablo summons elementals and bunch of tiny demons to fight Reed and Sue. The stone elemental wins the fight, knocking out Sue and stretching Reed to his limit. Blanca tries to stop Diablo with a magic scroll, but Diablo burns it away. Diablo says his master who taught him alchemy also gave him immortality thanks to vampiric blood in his veins. He shows her a vision of a golden flower, and asks her to renounce her holy mission and join him instead. Teary-eyed, she says yes.

Diablo leads Blanca, the elementals, and the hostage FF back through the magic mirror as pier 4 continues to fall apart. Cut to Kansas, where Diablo’s attack has caused a worldwide eclipse. On a remote farm, a man named Noah receives a message that the Gideon Trust has purchased Pier 4 (this also happened last issue). Noah kisses his wife goodbye and rides off.

In Diablo’s sanctum sanctorum (I guess every wizard type has one) he explains that the FF will be catalysts of a new era, with them being receptacles for living alchemical symbols. Reed is “the king,” Sue is “the queen,” Ben is “the dragon,” and Johnny is “the burning star.” He force-feeds them a potion called “aurum potabile,” The caption conveniently tells us this means “drinking gold.” Diablo then fulfils his promise to Blanca to make her as beautiful as the golden flower, by transmuting Blanca into gold.

Ben breaks free of the spell and fights Diablo, but he’s in a weakened state. Still, his attack is enough to free his teammates. Diablo is stunned that the ancient gods did not possess the FF. Reed tells Diablo that the time of superstition is past, and that this is the time of science and reason. Reed whispers just a few words into Diablo’s ears, and Diablo freaks out. All his gold gets transmutated back into lead.

The elementals attack Diablo, saying that he promised them the ancient gods would return. The FF flee back through the magic mirror, leaving Diablo there. Reed and Sue speculate that Blanca might still be alive but is lost in the middle of the madness. The FF return to wreckage of Pier 4, and the worldwide eclipse ends. Sue explains that she created tiny force fields in her and Reed’s mouths to prevent them from swallowing the potion. Reed reveals what he whispered to Diablo – the law of gravity. This caused Diablo to stop floating in midair and touch the ground, which tethered him to scientific reality. (Or something. It’s confusing.)

A lawyer from the Gideon Trust shows up, furious that they just purchased Pier Four and all of Reed’s tech, only for it to be destroyed in the same day. Reed says Pier Four and all the technology within still belongs to the Gideon Trust, and that insurance companies will reimburse them. The FF then leave the lawyer there, saying they’re off to find a new home. Alone among the wreckage, Lt. Stone of NYPD’s special Code Blue division finds a piece of the magic mirror and sees an image of a flower in it.

Unstable molecule: After outsmarting Diablo, Reed refers to the villain by his real name, Esteban, to show they’ve made some kind of personal connection.

Fade out: In Diablo’s spell, Sue role as the queen is described as the one who brings life together as one single soul. Make of that what you will.

Clobberin’ time: Ben at one point says his parents named him after Benjamin Franklin. This has led some fans over the years to theorize that Ben’s middle name is Franklin. But no, canonically his middle name is Jacob.

Flame on: Johnny does very little this time, after having swallowed Diablo’s potion in the previous issue. There will be permanent effects, though, because his flame destroyed the potion after Diablo lost his power.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue’s letters page takes a shot at the Tom DeFalco years, by joking that Lyja, Kristoff, Nathaniel Richards, and even Ant-Man will return in a miniseries called Uninteresting Fantastic Four Characters get Launched Directly Into the Sun.

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent this whole time. Could Sue’s force-field-inside-the-mouth trick be part of her spy training, so that she never gets poisoned during a mission?  

Commercial break: I have no idea what’s going on here.

Trivia time: Although not named in this issue, the vampire that gave Diablo his immortality is the one and only Dracula. Dracula was a major player in the Marvel Universe in the ‘70s with the classic Tomb of Dracula series. They then brought him back in the ‘90s and he’s been vamping around in Marvel on and off ever since then. Dracula’s involvement in Diablo’s origin would seem to be a continuity error, since Diablo’s first appearance states that he got his power from Mephisto, but Diablo has been around for hundreds of years, so who’s to say that he learned from both Mephisto and Dracula?

These elemental creatures are the same elementals who tend to show up whenever there’s crazy magic going in the Marvel Universe. Diablo’s tiny demons have no entry in the Marvel wiki. The wiki summary for this issue calls them “the tiny demons,” but Diablo himself gives them the proper name of “the Homunculi.”

This is the final appearance of the deacon Blanca. If she survived, her fate is unknown to this day. It’s not the end of Diablo, however, as a year after this he reappeared in Avengers where he tried to turn an entire village of people into Hulks.

And it’s the final appearance of Pier 4. The next headquarters after this will be the one that (to my knowledge) will last the rest of the series. We had good times at Pier 4, though. The writers and artists of the last 36 issues did a great job of making Pier 4 feel like a fun and exciting locale.

Fantastic or frightful? A fun action issue, where writer/artist Carlos Pacheco gives himself lots of pages just for fighting and fighting. He’s clearly come to the series with big ideas for its future, and it’s exciting to see where he goes with it.

Next: Road trip!

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Maid of the Myth

Rewatching DuckTales! In episode 21, “Maid of the Myth,” we go back to Viking times. Or, do Viking times come to us? Also, lots of opera singing.

Here’s what happens: Mrs. Beakeley stars in a Viking-themed opera (!) no the same night real sword-swinging Vikings to lay siege to Duckburg. They abduct Mrs. Beakeley Scrooge, the nephews, and Launchpad follow the trail to Greenland.

In the Vikings home, an island kept warm with hot springs, King Auric hopes Mrs. Beakeley will become part of the village. This infuriates his wife, Queen Griselde. Launchpad disguises himself as a Viking, befriending a local woman named Swanwhite. The disguises don’t last, and the heroes are captured. Scrooge offers a “man against man” chariot race to decide their fate. Launchpad will ride the chariot against the mightiest Viking, Thor (Thor?!?).

Swanwhite helps Launchpad train for the race, while Thor and the Vikings prepare to cheat. Griselda attempts to steal Mrs. Beakeley’s voice with a potion, but Launchpad drinks it instead, ruining his ability to command the rams running his chariot. Mrs. Beakeley then disguises herself as Launchpad for the race.

The Vikings knock out a bridge to cheat, but Mrs. Beakeley sings a high note to cause an avalanche making an ice bridge to replace it. She then wins the race, earning everyone’s freedom. Launchpad learns Swanwhite has a boyfriend, and Scrooge opens up peaceful trade with the Vikings so they won’t pillage Duckburg again.

Humbug: There’s an interesting bit where Scrooge tries peaceful negotiations with the Vikings only to get shot down. Then he gets where they’re coming from and goes full-on “angry Scottish man” on them to talk to them on their level.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie tag along on the trip to Greenland, as does Webby, but they don’t do much this time.

Fasten your seatbelts: The heroes travel to Greenland not by plane, but in Launchpad’s speedboat, which we’ve never seen before. I guess it’s really, really fast but it crosses the entire ocean in no time.

Maid and maiden: While it was previously established that Mrs. Beakeley has what it takes when it comes to adventuring, this is the first we’ve seen of her musical talent. It does show that these characters have lives outside of their work with Scrooge.

Best brain: Look closely, and you can see that Gyro is one of the extras on stage at the opera.

Down in Duckburg: This episode establishes that Duckburg is on the ocean, and that the opera house is only a few blocks from the ocean. Must be the tourist-trap part of town.

Reference row: Mrs. Beakeley’s opera is Wagner’s the four-part Ring of the Nibelung. Specifically, her solo is the famous The Ride of Valkyries, which begins act 3 of the second part, Die Walkure.  

Thoughts upon this viewing: This would appear to be a finding-a-lost-civilization adventure story, but the Vikings aren’t a lost civilization. Old-timey Vikings just exist in this world, and everyone accepts it. Beyond that, this is another that focuses more on hacky jokes than balance of adventuring and humor like the better episodes.

Next: McDuck saved from drowning.

****

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

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