Fantastic Friday: Do you take this Latverian…

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue #27 is a wedding issue! But it’s a phony wedding, because Sue isn’t marrying Dr. Doom, she’s marrying Reed pretending to be Dr. Doom. It’s what was happening at this time.

Recap: After a cosmic conflict with a Celestial, Reed’s body is now permanently trapped inside Dr. Doom’s armor. For reasons not fully disclosed, Reed has decided to keep appearances by pretending to be Doom. The FF are now in on the secret, and Reed-as-Doom has agreed to marry the Invisible Woman. This issue begins with news of that spread all over the world. The first four pages of the comic are short interviews with various Marvel characters reacting to the news. Most superheroes disapprove and think Doom is up to something, while other characters take a wait-and-see-where-this-is-going approach.

As paparazzi try to get a look inside Pier 4, Reed contemplates his situation. There’s a weird bit where Reed enters a virtual reality simulation of Doom’s castle to try to find an escape, only to be rejected and forced back into the armor. Outside Pier 4, Spider-Man catches up with Johnny and tries to get answers about the Doom/Sue thing. Johnny insists it’s “family business.” Spidey offers to help Johnny stop the ceremony, but Johnny says the fate of the world rests on the wedding going forward.

At the White House, we catch up with Dr. Valerie Cooper of the Committee on Superhuman Affairs, whom we first met back in vol. 3 #11. She too is concerned about how Dr. Doom appears to have taken Reed’s place in the FF. There’s a debate about whether Doom and his future “wife” Sue has diplomatic immunity. Cooper is also concerned about Doom’s fortress-like spaceship and his four superhuman generals on board. She says the generals represent a clear and present danger not just to the US, but to the world.

At the pier, Reed and Sue have a heart-to-heart, with him upset about being outsmarted by Doom’s tech and her being stressed about being a tabloid scandal. Reed suggests cancelling the wedding, but Sue says it’s necessary to earn the loyalty of Doom’s powerful generals.

At Avengers Mansion, Ben meets with the Avengers about their worries. Like Johnny did with Spider-Man, Ben says the wedding is “family business,” and that he can handle it. When Ben tries to leave, the Avengers try to stop him and he fights back. The Avengers pull their punches, which Ben uses to advantage to escape them. Outside the mansion, Captain America confronts Ben. Ben asks Cap for a leap of faith, and Cap accepts, letting Ben go on his way.

Sue goes shopping for wedding dresses with She-Hulk and the Wasp, only to get chased by more paparazzi. She-Hulk and Wasp fight off the photographers while Sue turns invisible and gets away. Namor finds Sue in the wedding shop. He offers to rescue her from Doom, but she asks him to trust her. Instead, he offers her a wedding gift. It’s an Atlantean necklace that is able to turn invisible. He says that if she’s ever in trouble, she can call him.

On the day of the wedding, Reed tells the FF that dark times might be ahead, and that those who were once their friends may be their friends no longer. The wedding goes off without a hitch, with both Doom’s generals and the Avengers in attendance. Sue is officially named the Baroness von Doom. There’s one panel of a bunch of Marvel comics staffers watching the wedding on TV, after which Reed-as-Doom declares that he, Sue, Ben, and Johnny are the all-new Fantastic Four!

Unstable molecule: Reed says Doom’s armor changes his voice and his retina scans, and its built-in A.I. keeps foiling his every attempt to get out of it.

Fade out: Sue compares the pretending-to-be-Doom thing to the FF’s first spaceflight, about venturing into the unknown despite the danger.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is able to out-fight the combined might of the Avengers because they’re going easy on him. When he confronts Captain America, however, Ben backs down. He says that Cap, of all people, would find a way to defeat him.

Flame on: While hanging out with Spider-Man, Johnny uses a controlled flame to melt the engine of an out-of-control car just enough to stop it, saving the lives of everyone inside. He says this is his equivalent of Spidey’s webs.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk is interviewed, saying she is appalled by the Sue/Doom wedding. She later questions Sue about it, but the paparazzi show up before Sue can answer.

Namor (who got his official FF membership at the end of the first volume) is interviewed by the press, with a message telling Sue to walk away. He’s a lot less harsh and when dealing with Sue in person.

SUE-per spy: In the 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries, it’s revealed that Sue has been a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. Given that the FF aren’t telling the Avengers or Spider-Man what’s really happening, it’s likely Sue’s not telling S.H.I.E.L.D. either. Nick Fury gets an interview segment, though, and he says, “We’re looking into it.”

Commercial break: The whole galaxy!

Trivia time: During Spider-Man’s scene, a caption tells us that Mary Jane Watson is dead. This is in reference to a controversial story in which a stalker blew up a plane Mary Jane was on. It was later revealed she survived the crash.

Sue gets her wedding dress from NYC fashionista Key Cera, who Marvel experts will recall is secretly a member of super-team Clan Destine.

The Marvel staffers watching the wedding are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, along with this issue’s creators, Chris Claremont, Salvador Larroca, Art Thibert, Bobbie Chase, and Bob Harras. Of particular note is another woman in the scene, Maria Pilar. The Marvel Wiki names her as a former Marvel employee but has no other information. There’s got to be more to it than that, though, because on the cover we see Larroca has dedicated this issue to her.

Fantastic or frightful? The reasons given for Reed to keep pretending to be Dr. Doom are pretty slim, making the tension over the situation feel not genuine. I’ve done a little reading ahead, and I’ll tell you that the Reed-as-Doom storyline doesn’t go on for very long, making all this issue’s drama even more hollow. The Thing vs. Avengers fight is pretty cool, though.

Next: Generally speaking.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Robot Robbers

Rewatching DuckTales! You want giant mechs? We got giant mechs in episode 9, “Robot Robbers.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge learns he’s lost a construction contract to his rival, Flintheart Glomgold. The job, a new high-tech bank, is being constructed by four giant mechs. The job is also under the eye of Ma Beagle and the Beagle Boys. They steal the robots for themselves and cause chaos around town.

Scrooge and Launchpad investigate, while the Beagle Boys torment Glomgold. Scrooge and Glomgold work together to distract the robots, eventually wearing down the batteries. When the robots use power lines to recharge, Scrooge and company short out three of them, with Ma Beagle’s robot still on the loose.

The chase next leads back to the construction site, where the robot is buried in quick-drying cement. The mayor then outlaws the robots, and Scrooge’s company gets the job of repairing all the damage the robots did.

Humbug: Early in the episode, Scrooge sees the robots and wonders if he’s out of touch and become to unwilling to take big risks. It doesn’t appear as though this character arc has a proper resolution.

Best brains: Gyro works for Glomgold in this episode, building the robots for him and not Scrooge. In a rare continuity shout-out, Scrooge mentions Gyro building the robot Armstrong in the previous ep. Many fans have pointed out these robots and Armstrong share a similar design.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad also works for Glomgold in this one by flying a banner overhead. When Glomgold fires him, Scrooge immediately rehires him.

Foul fowls: It’s the first appearance of Ma Beagle, establishing her as the brains behind the Beagle Boys’ many schemes. She was created specifically for DuckTales and did not appear in the original Uncle Scrooge comics. It’s also the first appearance of Bankjob Beagle, a musclebound brawler. Babyface and Burger are the other two in this ep. The producers made an error, though, as Burger speaks with Bouncer Beagle’s voice. This just further confuses sorting out which Beagle Boy is which in any given episode.

Down in Duckburg: More confusion about how the Money Vault building works. This time, the Beagle Boys’ robots tear away most of the building as if it is merely a shell, built around the actual vault, which is like a big metal safe. Where were all those offices from the last episode?

This is the first appearance of the mayor of Duckburg. According to the Disney Wiki, his name has never been revealed, other than just “the mayor.” We won’t see him again until the later episodes that introduce Bubba Duck.

Reference row: While it’s not a one-to-one reference, I think it’s safe to say the Godzilla franchise is at least influence on this one:

Thoughts upon this viewing: This episode is an exercise in problem solving. Both the heroes and the villains keep getting put up against a series of obstacles and then having to think their way out of them. It’s amusing enough, but not really a standout episode.

Next: Shadow games.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The man in the iron doom mask

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue #26 pays off a lot of the Reed/Sue/Dr. Doom/Valeria foreshadowing that the series has spent a lot of time doing. But is this payoff worth it?

In the previous issue, Reed and Dr. Doom ventured into the sarcophagus of the Dreaming Celestial. After a lot of cosmic action, we’re told that only one of them survived. Then Dr. Doom, not Reed, crawled from the wreckage. He proclaims, “I am Dr. Doom!” Valeria (note this is teen Valeria who has time-traveled here from a dystopian future) runs to Doom, who in her timeline is her father. The FF accuse Doom of stabbing Reed in the back, but Doom swears he did nothing. Fellow Celestial Ashema wraps up the previous issue by saying that the chaos storm has passed and Earth is now back to normal.

Doom gets a message from his ship that someone is approaching, so he and he generals teleport back to his ship, taking the FF with them as prisoners. Remember that he has a huge spaceship he’s flying around in now, and that the Celestial had an underground complex in American Southwest. The approaching figures are the FF’s old pal Wyatt Wingfoot and his sister Wynona. Doom’s ship flies off. At Avengers mansion, the Avengers monitor the situation, announcing that Doom has returned to Earth.

Aboard his ship, Doom asks to be alone. Then we finally get the big reveal: This isn’t Dr. Doom, it’s Reed trapped in Doom’s armor! This was the final cruel act of the Dreaming Celestial before being defeated. The armor is sealed around Reed, so he cannot remove it or stretch out of it. He’s playing the part of Doom until he can figure a way out of the situation. Lancer, one of Doom’s generals, eavesdrops on him and then attacks, but Valeria stops her.

Elsewhere in the ship, the FF and Doom’s other three generals – Technarx, Dorma, Shak’ti, and Divinity. Dorma succeeds in decapitating Sue (!), only to reveal that this is all a hologram simulation for the generals’ training. The real FF are inside a cell inside the ship, wearing inhibitor collars that depowers them. Valeria and Lancer sneak in to free them, with Reed-as-Doom following them. Still impersonating Doom, Reed says he intends to send Valeria away to join Franklin, who was put on a record and sent off to safety two issues back. There’s a lengthy goodbye scene as Valeria says farewell to each of the FF. She hugs Reed, thinking he’s Doom, saying “You’ve always been, you’ll always remain… my father!”

Using the coordinates Sue has memorized, Valeria travels through a portal to join Franklin. Then Sue and Ben demand the truth from Reed/Doom. They’ve already figured out that “Doom” is Reed. Dorma and the other generals show up, and criticize Doom for freeing the FF. Doom tells Lancer and the FF to stand down, saying he will meet Dorma’s challenge alone. Using all the gadgets built into the armor, Reed manages to defeat the generals. He proclaims, “I am Doom!”

Dorma agrees to serve Doom once more, but Dorma insists that if “Doom” is to ally with the FF, then there must be a more tangible bond. Doom (Reed) agrees, and announces that Sue will become his new consort, and he proclaims her “the Baroness Von Doom!”

To be continued!

 

Unstable molecule: It’s stated over and over that Dr. Doom’s armor has so many defenses and failsafes that any attempt to get it off Reed will likely kill him. Reed’s reasons for not telling his family what’s happened are more ambiguous.

Fade out: Sue is quick to point out that Reed and Doom have switched places before. This is a reference to one of the classics, way way back in issue #10.

Clobberin’ time: The inhibitor collars don’t turn Ben back into a human. Instead they have his wrists bound to his neck, which I guess constricts his movements enough for him not to use his strength. I don’t know, they don’t really dwell on it.

Flame on: Johnny spends the issue wanting to fight, but never getting to. He references himself as the “hothead” of the team.

Our gal Val: Reed and Sue use the word “Heaven” to describe where Valeria has been sent to join Franklin. Their actual location will be revealed in the Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad miniseries.

SUE-per spy: In the 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries, it’s revealed that Sue has been a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. This issue has Sue able to tell when someone else near her is invisible, even when she has the inhibitor collar on. Could this be spy training in use?

Commercial break: This looks like some action-packed gaming:

Trivia time: Doom’s fate was later revealed in the Doom miniseries, in which he ended up back in the Heroes Reborn universe again. Note that is a different from the Heroes Reborn: Doom miniseries, which took place just before this issue.

This is the first appearance (and first mention!) of Wyatt Wingfoot’s sister Wynona. She will be back in a few issues for her second and, it turns out, final appearance.

Fantastic or frightful? The big problem with this issue is a lack of geography. We jump from Celestial’s underground place to the desert to Doom’s ship, without any of these areas feeling like a place. The interior of Doom’s ship is big, cavernous rooms, leaving us with “empty room” syndrome. Other than that, the issue only exists to set up the new Reed-pretending-to-be-Doom status quo. This is a somewhat notorious era (era) for Fantastic Four, but it won’t last that long.

Next: Do you take this Latverian…

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Armstrong

Rewatching DuckTales! Everybody dance the robot as we check out episode 9, “Armstrong.”

Here’s what happens: After Scrooge’s personal train (!) is blocked by an avalanche, inventor Gyro Gearloose saves the day with his new robot Armstrong, which can apparently to do anything asked of him.

Scrooge puts Armstrong to work around the house. Launchpad doesn’t like the robot, leading to a piloting contest between him and the robot. Armstrong wins when Launchpad fails to cross the finish line. Scrooge tells Launchpad to take a long vacation.

Scrooge starts replacing all his employees with Armstrong, who single-handedly does all their jobs. Armstrong gets out of hand, abducing Scrooge and Gyro and helping himself to the inside of Scrooge’s money bin.

Armstrong starts hacking technology all over the world, while Huey, Dewey, and Louie investigate. They recruit Launchpad to fly in on his can’t-be-hacked antique biplane and save the day. Launchpad shorts out Armstrong with good old-fashioned water, and Scrooge admits Armstrong’s efficiency wasn’t everything.

Humbug: It’s left up to the imagination as to where Scrooge was going in his private train, or why his personal quarters were filled with bags of gold nuggets.

Junior Woodchucks: While the nephews are generally considered to be one personality, this episode makes some small effort to give them individual quirks. Dewey is the brains, figuring out the tech. Huey is more of a pragmatic problem-solver and all-around leader. Louie is the hothead, ready to jump into the fight.

Fasten your seatbelts: The episode starts with Launchpad using his plane to put out a forest fire, establishing that he does this hero stuff even when not working with Scrooge. We also briefly glimpse Launchpad’s home, which looks like an attic where his bed is the only piece of furniture.

Maid and maiden: Webby appears in the background in one shot, next to an old lady we’ve never seen before. Could this be an earlier, unused character model for Mrs. Beakley?

Best brains: Gyro appears to have built Armstrong for his own amusement, but then has no problem with Scrooge wanting to mass-market Armstrong robots for the entire country.

Foul fowls: No reason is given for Armstrong to turn evil so suddenly. He just does. If anything, it’s exposure to Scrooge’s wealth is what does it.

Down in Duckburg: We see for the first time that Scrooge’s money isn’t just a big silo, but it has business offices inside it. In this case, it’s a room full of accountants working for Scrooge. Scrooge also has an upstairs office adjacent to the money bin door. Further, Armstrong is seen on the floor of the money bin when counting Scrooge’s money, further confusing the interior of the building.

Reference row: I cannot find this confirmed anywhere, but Armstrong is most likely named after famed astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Robots-run-amok stories have been around as long as there’s been science fiction, and this one doesn’t bring much new to the trope. What makes this episode stand out is all the airplane and helicopter action. This is where the animators really went for it, with lots of dynamic camera angles and a real sense of movement.

Next: The bigger they are…

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Y2K compliant

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Volume 3 issue #25 is a double-sized issue written by Chris Claremont, so let’s all settle in for a long haul. Why a double issue? Two reasons. One, it’s the 60th anniversary of Marvel Comics. Two, it’s an end-of-the-world story with a publication date of December 1999. It’s Y2K!

In previous issues, the FF were warned of an oncoming cosmic storm. Sue sent Franklin off in a spaceship to parts unknown in order to keep him safe. Then the storm arrives in the form a tidal wave with Dr. Doom’s face on it. This issue begins by further complicating the matter, when a huge spaceship bursts out of the wave. Teenage Valeria, who time-traveled here from an alternate future, recognizes the ship as Dr. Doom’s. She happy to see it, because in her timeline, her mother is Sue but Doom and not Reed is her father. Valeria’s armor has a teleporter, but it only beams her and not the rest of the FF to the ship.

The wave hits New York, but instead of destroying the place, there’s a weird bit where life goes on in the city, except underwater. Reed deduces that the wave is occurring only in space, but not in time. The FF and Doom’s ship are in the eye of the storm, meaning they’re on their own. They have to act fast before the storm and Earth merge permanently.

Aboard Doom’s ship, Valeria is reunited with one of Doom’s generals, Lancer. Valeria grew up with Lancer in her timeline, but this version of Lancer has never met Val. They’re about to fight, when they’re interrupted by Dr. Doom, pronouncing “I am Doom!” Valeria believes he’s her father, but Doom zaps her when she gets too close to him. He demands to know who she is, and she responds with her own, “I am Doom!” Doom laughs at her (!) and then the FF burst into the room. They’re ready for a fight, but Doom is in more of a negotiating mood.

Then Doom introduces the rest of his generals:

  • Technarx, a techno-organic mutant
  • Shak’ti, battle mage of the Enchanters’ Guild.
  • Divinity, a former enemy of Doom’s who has recently joined his side.
  • Dorma, queen of Atlantis.

Dorma’s existence is the clue Reed needs to figure out what’s going on. Because Dorma had recently died, Reed realizes that Doom was left behind in the Heroes Reborn universe when everyone else came back in Heroes Return. He rose to power and gathered these generals in that universe, plotting his return. Doom says he will transition his universe into the main Marvel Universe. Talking ends, and the FF fight the generals. Valeria pleads with Doom to make peace with the FF, revealing that she’s his daughter from the future.

Doom asks Valeria to choose between him and FF. She wavers, leaning toward Sue and the others. Doom has Lancer take Valeria from the scene, and then the fight continues. The FF do the classic switch-between-enemies-mid-fight move to outsmart the generals. Just as they start winning the fight, the entire ship lists to the side. Cut to outside, and the entire ship has been snatched out of the sky by a Celestial, holding the ship in his hand as if it’s a children’s toy.

The Celestial destroys Doom’s ship, and everyone is teleported to the American Southwest, where the Celestial has a giant underground headquarters (!). Sue exposits that the Celestials agreed to leave the Heroes Reborn universe in peace, under the care of Ashema, a fellow Celestial. Doom explains that this is the Dreaming Celestial, who has gone rogue from the rest of the Celestials. He’s the one hoping to merge the two universes, for no reason other than he is driven toward chaos and destruction.

The FF and Doom’s generals start to fight again, but Reed stops them, saying they have to work together to stop the Celestial. Then everyone is attacked by a black inky substance. These creatures are known only as the “shadows,” and they are the Celestial’s security system. The shadows’ gooey stuff somehow mind-controls Sue and Divinity, and then Johnny and Shak’ti are knocked into the shadows. Reed tries to help him, but now Doom rejects his help. Doom zaps Reed unconscious and runs off with Reed and Valeria. Dorma and Technarx succumb to the shadows next, leaving only Ben and Lancer, fighting side-by-side.

Elsewhere in the Celestial’s base, Doom, Reed, and Valeria encounter an unbelievably huge sarcophagus, which has been “home” of the Dreaming Celestial for millennia. Along the wall are statues of the other Celestials, slowly transforming into images of the FF and the generals. Ben and Lancer get possessed by the shadows and attack. Valeria holds them off while Reed and Doom press on ahead into the sarcophagus.

Then the Celestial returns in person, actually speaking (!) to Reed and Doom. He says his dreaming power is the power to shape entire universes. He shows Reed and Doom alternate universe versions of themselves. As tribute to Reed and Doom, the Celestial offers to give them powers equal to the Celestials themselves. Reed says the Celestial is speaking to them instead of destroying them outright, so he must believe Reed and Doom have a real chance to stop him. He and Doom then deduce twelve keys around the room, which must be activated by twelve keepers.

Doom uses force field tech in his armor to help Reed stretch through all twelve keyholes, just as the shadows break in and consume Valeria and then Doom. Then a voice calls out “Traitor!” and the Celestial screams in pain. It’s Ashema, who has arrived from the other universe thanks to Reed’s efforts. She defeats the Celestial in a blast of energy. The FF and the Generals are freed from the shadows’ influence. Everyone gathers at the sarcophagus, only to find that Reed and Doom are gone. Ashema says they gave their lives to save the universe. But then, one survivor emerges from the wreckage.

Only the survivor is not Reed, but Dr. Doom! (Or is it?)

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: When exploring the Celestial’s sarcophagus, Reed spots hieroglyphics similar to the ones used by recently-introduced villains The Ruined. Reed theorizes that the Ruined once encountered the Dreaming Celestial and failed his “twelve keys” test, and that’s how they got their name.

Fade out: Sue uses her force field as a raft during the flood in New York. This raises a lot of questions, namely how the force field is able to float.

Clobberin’ time: As this era of the series keep suggesting potential new love interests for Ben, perhaps we can add Lancer to the list, with her and Ben striking up banter while fighting side-by-side.

Flame on: This issue debuts a new FF outfit for Johnny, with Red pants and a black T-shirt with a “4” on it. We’ll have to see how long this one lasts.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Doom and the FF are allies in this issue, so count this one among those where he is technically an alternate fifth member of the team.

Our gal Val: It takes Valeria some time to remember that she is from the future, so there’s way this timeline’s Dr. Doom or his generals would know her. She still treats Doom as if he’s her loving father. Doom insists he has no sire, yet he can see potential in the girl.

Commercial break: Who’s that Pokemon?

Trivia time: The story about Doom and the Dreaming Celestial, as well as the proper introduction of Doom’s generals, all took place in Heroes Reborn: Doom #1, Heroes Reborn: Doomsday #1, and Heroes Reborn: Ashema #1.

In the regular Marvel Universe, Dorma of Atlantis died way back in Sub-Mariner #37, and as of this writing that she has not returned from the dead. I could have sworn she was a bigger player in various Atlantis stories, but I guess not.

Shortly after this issue, the Dreaming Celestial returned, and relocated to San Francisco. Once there, he began a long meditative vigil while overlooking the city. For years afterward, whenever Marvel characters would visit San Fran, there would be the obligatory shot of the motionless Celestial standing tall outside the city.

Fantastic or frightful? A big, ambitious story that brings Dr. Doom back into continuity, but does so in a big cosmic way. It’s really overstuffed in the way that all these Claremont issues have been, and it’s frustrating that everybody at Marvel during this time has to keep going back to Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return over and over. How much longer until they it drop? On the plus side, Claremont writes the Reed/Doom rivalry really well, and manages to keep that the focus of the issue among all the world-shaking stakes.

Next: Inside man.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Where No Duck Has Gone Before

Rewatching DuckTales! We’re blasting off for space and the first of the show’s many alien encounters in episode 8, “Where No Duck Has Gone Before.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge’s nephews and their friend Doofus are excited about their favorite sci-fi TV show, Courage of the Cosmos, starring Major Courage. Scrooge, meanwhile, works out a deal with some Hollywood folks for ownership of Duckburg Studios, where Courage of the Cosmos is filmed.  He, the kids, Launchpad, and Gyro take the tour. To save the studio, Scrooge insists on sprucing up the show with a realistic-as-possible spaceship.

Fearful for his job, Courage hopes to butter up to the kids, while also developing a rivalry with real-life pilot/adventurer Launchpad. Courage throws Launchpad off the set, only for him and the boys to discover the realistic ship is… a real spaceship! They take off for space, with Launchpad stowing away. The kids and Courage think they’re acting on the TV show, while Launchpad flies the ship for real.

 

The plot is further complicated when the ship encounters an alien spacecraft. The aliens, led by Commander Kronk, is plotting to destroy the Earth and use it for fertilizer (!). Courage flees with his ship, so Launchpad and the kids fight the aliens and take over their ship. They pursue Courage, get back their ship, and get back to Earth. Scrooge later converts the dilapidated studio into a space museum, with Major Courage as a tour guide.

 

Humbug: Scrooge seems to dislike working with Hollywood executives, calling them “those movie people.”

Junior Woodchucks: By the end of the episode, Huey, Dewey, and Louie no longer enjoy Major Courage’s show, dismissing it as “kids’ stuff.”

Fasten your seatbelts: This is a Launchpad-centric episode, about his real courage in the face of danger, as opposed the actor’s fake bravado. But Launchpad is still Launchpad. When the aliens upload his brain to their computer, it makes their ship go haywire and they can’t find their way to Earth.

Do the Doo: This is the first appearance of the nephews’ weirdo friend Doofus. He’s given no proper introduction. He’s just some friend of theirs, and that’s enough.

Best brains: Gyro confuses “realistic” with “real” and builds a functioning spaceship in one week. But he still manages to outfit it with cameras so the TV crew on Earth can follow the action.

Foul fowl: Major Courage isn’t so much evil as he is delusional. All his talk of manliness and heroism merely a mask for his own cowardice. The aliens, meanwhile, are the most pure evil characters we’ve seen yet on DuckTales. The Disney Wiki says they never return, which is too bad. They could have made for great recurring baddies.

Down in Duckburg: The episode opens with Scrooge and the boys working out, but they’re not in a gym. They’re using makeshift workout gear while inside Scrooge’s office in the mansion. We see the office is adjacent to the living room, where the kids watch their show on a big screen TV.

Reference row: There are sci-fi references galore, most notably Star Trek and ‘50s ship-models-on-strings movies. Listen closely, and you hear the composer sneak some of the Tron soundtrack into the episode.

Thoughts upon this viewing: in terms of worldbuilding, we’ve just had first contact with incredibly dangerous intelligent alien life, and everybody brushes that off like it’s just another one of their treasure-hunting romps. But, as a meta poking-fun-at-TV episode, it’s pretty fun, and a lot of Major Courage’s goofs are genuinely funny.

Next: Mister Roboto.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Family plot

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s a calm before the storm, except it’s not all that calm, in vol. 3 issue #24.

Throughout the FF’s previous adventure, they were warned of an “oncoming storm” that is a cataclysm of cosmic proportions. This issue begins with glimpses of a bunch of alternate realities. The FF and their current extended cast – Franklin, time-displaced teenage Valeria, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy – all witnessed this as a “squall” preceding the upcoming disaster. As the FF have breakfast, Reed explains this is a “chaos storm” and it can’t be stopped so much as weathered, like a hurricane.

Reed considers powering up Sue so that she can surround the entire Earth with a force field, but then he determines the storm is targeting the sun, not the Earth. Everyone makes preparations. Johnny and Caledonia prepare Pier 4’s extra rooms for possible refugees. Ben contacts the Avengers, who pledge their support, and the X-Men, only to learn they have disbanded.

Valeria, Franklin, and two random teenage boys play a game of soccer outside the pier. Johnny, wanting some action, flies around NYC fighting crime. Fearful about the size of the storm, Sue picks up an alien-looking communication device and makes a call. Ben wanders the streets of NYC, where he romances interdimensional adventurer Bounty.

Sue is seen packing up some of Franklin’s things. Then, the FF and their current extended family gather for an old-fashioned family dinner before the storm hits.

Later that night, an alarm goes off, and Reed deduces that that the chaos storm’s timetable has increased at a tremendous rate. Sue snatches Franklin from his bed, and Reed asks where she is taking him. In the hangar, Sue and the others have prepared a rocket ship just for Franklin, without Reed’s knowledge. They are sending Franklin away to another world to protect him from the chaos storm. Sue doesn’t say what world, but that she “called in a marker.” Caledonia and Puppy join Franklin to act as his bodyguards.

As the ship takes off, Valeria appears. She was supposed to join the ship but didn’t get there in time. The FF barely has time to say goodbye to Franklin when another alarm sounds. Everyone rushes outside to see a tidal wave headed for New York. Making matters worse, an image of Dr. Doom’s face is seen in the wave.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: We learn that Reed had outfitted rooms in Pier 4 with tesseract technology, allowing each room to be expanded to “almost the point of infinity.” (Did Reed build the house from House of Leaves?) Franklin’s escape ship is also outfitted with its own tesseract.

Fade out: Sue stands up to the others, saying that it doesn’t matter to her who Valeria’s father may or may not be. She and Val later bond while sharing stories about Sue’s aunt Mary.

Clobberin’ time: This issue represents something of a change in direction for the series, as a lot of the current subplots are dropped after this one. Case in point is Ben’s romance with Bounty, which is never mentioned again. Guess it was one of those one-night-only things.

Flame on: Johnny battles Hydro-Man and Razorback while running around playing vigilante. Hyrdo-Man was all over the place during this, with short-lived alliances with the Masters of Evil, A.I.M., and the Maggia. Razorback’s cameo is more puzzling, as he was a good guy at this point, and he was out in space having space adventures. The Marvel Wiki states he and Johnny are fighting under “undisclosed circumstances.”

Fantastic fifth wheel: Look closely, and you see H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot hanging around in Franklin’s room in one panel. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Four and a half: Franklin’s fate will later be revealed in the Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad mini-series. There’s some speculation that the chaos storm was somehow caused by his creating the Heroes Reborn universe. We’ll later learn that is partially true.

The Marvel Wiki says this is the last appearance of Franklin’s dog Puppy, but then the Wiki also states that Puppy will return in Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad. Hire an editor, Marvel Wiki!

Our gal Val: In addition to being a genius, a telekinetic, and time-traveler, and a musician/dancer, Valeria is also a pro-level soccer player. She says was trained in person by Mia Hamm herself, so I guess her dystopian future wasn’t that dystopian.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. In this issue, Sue includes an advanced copy of a then-unpublished Harry Potter sequel among Franklin’s things. Did she use her spy training to get ahold of this?

Commercial break: Because you demanded it!

Trivia time: When this issue says the X-Men have disbanded, that’s not the case. The X-Men at this time were merely pretending to disband, in order to root out shapeshifters in their midst.

Fantastic or frightful? I generally like these character-based issues, but writer Chris Claremont continues to pack so much story into each issue that there’s little breathing room, even in an issue like this. This makes all the drama of sending Franklin away feel more rushed than it has to be.

Next: Waterworld? Daughter world!

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Sphinx for the Memories

Rewatching DuckTales! In episode 7, “Sphinx for the Memories,” we’ve got mummy action in Egypt. All the old paintings in the tomb, they do the sand dance, don’t you know. If they move too quick…

Here’s what happens: Donald Duck has shore leave again, arranging to meet Scrooge and the nephews in a marketplace in Egypt. A couple of cultists mistake Donald for a mythical figure, “the Garbled One.” They abduct him and take him to their palace, with Scrooge and boys in pursuit.

In the ancient city of Garbabble the high priest rules with an iron fist, and doesn’t like Donald here to usurp his power. While Donald enjoys his chosen one status (complete with harem!) the others end up trapped in an underground maze. The high priest uses dark magic to summon a mummy to deal with Donald. Donald escapes death through various mishaps. When he remembers he has to return to his ship, the cultists won’t let him leave.

The cultists hold a ritual, in which Donald is possessed by the spirit of the original Garbled One. This gives us… evil Donald Duck?!? Donald orders Scrooge and the nephews be put to death, but Scrooge convinces him they build him his own pyramid. This buys them time for the nephews to disguise themselves as the mummy. There’s a fight (of sorts) with the real mummy, and Scrooge works to undo the spell on Donald. When the spell is undone, both the spirits of the Garbled One and the mummy are freed, and Donald makes it back to his ship on time.

Humbug: Scrooge is not involved in any business plans or treasure hunts in this issue. Instead, he’s merely on vacation with the nephews. This furthers my theory that the series is about him learning his family is more important than his wealth.

Junior Woodchucks: In order to escape the underground maze, the nephews open the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook to translate the exact hieroglyphic in front of them. I believe this confirms the Guidebook is just plain magic.

In the Navy: We get to know Donald Duck’s superior officer Admiral Grimitz for the first time. He does not like Donald, and makes Donald swab the deck – of an aircraft carrier!

Foul fowls: The evil high priest is the second villain we’ve seen in the series who has built a kingdom for himself to rule, all by playing off the superstitions of the locals. One more character like this and we can call it an ongoing theme in DuckTales.

What’s all this, then? This is currently the only episode of DuckTales not available on Disney Plus. No reason has been given as to why it’s been excluded. A lot of episodes could be considered culturally insensitive (if you want to go there), so singling out this one is all the more baffling.

Reference row: Mummy movies never go out of style. With reincarnation kinda/sorta a theme, this would bear the most similarity to 1944’s The Mummy’s Ghost.

Thoughts upon this viewing: A step down in quality from previous episodes. It’s a lot running around and slapstick, but not as much plot. A few of the laughs aren’t bad, and the mummy is pretty creepy (for this show, anyway), so it’s a mixed bag.

Next: Make it so.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: That old mecha magic

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Instead of calling this annual #28, Marvel calls it annual 1999. We’re doing a lot of magic, introducing a new character, and saying goodbye to another new character.

We begin right in the middle of the action, with New York under attack by an ominous magical figure in the sky, blasting the city with magic energy. The FF fight back, along with the entire current supporting cast – Franklin, time-displaced teenage Valeria, super-genius Alyssa Moy, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy. Alyssa is knocked out in the attack, and rushed back to Pier 4. Reed can find no signs of injury, and deduces that her unconsciousness is due to magic. Valeria says Alyssa was researching the Hellfire Club, a mutant secret society in NYC, currently led by the mysterious Selene.

 

Reed makes the rounds calling for help, but Agatha Harkness, Dr. Strange, and the Scarlet Witch are all unavailable. While Reed makes these calls, an unseen person in a barn in Texas is eavesdropping. Dr. Strange’s pal Wong suggests the FF contact sorceress Margali Szardos, who has conveniently popped up in recent Fantastic Four issues. She was last seen in France, when the Ruined tried to sacrifice her for her power. Then the French authorities took her into custody. So, it’s off to France.

Also in France, that’s where we meet Selene, as she seduces a man, steals his soul, and transfers a demon into his body. OK, what is Selene’s deal? She’s a mutant who has been around since ancient Greece, making her the oldest mutant, pre-dating Apocalypse. In addition to immortality, she also has telepathic, telekinetic, and “psychic vampire” powers. She’s also a mega-powerful sorceress, which she apparently learned in addition to her mutant abilities.

This jogger, now working for Selene, is a guard at Notre Dame, which turns out is secretly a prison for supernatural-powered individuals, including Margali. The FF arrive to negotiate Margali’s release. A fight breaks out because all the guards are now possessed by Selene’s demons. It looks like the FF are losing the fight, when an armored figure joins the fight – a person called the Mechamage.

There’s a lot more fighting, with Mechamage showing off soul-based superpowers. Margali is freed, and teleports everyone to her sanctuary, in the otherworld of Limbo. Margali says she can’t save Alyssa, as Alyssa’s soul is somewhere beyond her power. She and Mechamage agree that there is a major supernatural force loose on Earth, and it will take a lot more power to deal with it. There’s a few pages of “training montage” stuff where the FF learn to fight magic rather than science, and Mechamage is revealed to be a woman under the armor, but her face and real name are never revealed.

Cut to later, when Reed and Sue are in New York, attending the Halloween ball hosted by the Hellfire Club. Because Alyssa is a billionaire (!) she received an invitation, which Reed and Sue use to get inside. (I assume this is also why Alyssa was researching the club.) They are escorted to catacombs deep beneath Hellfire HQ, where Selene summons the demon Blackheart, the same giant monster who attacked NYC at the beginning of this issue. Blackheart is the son of Mephisto (!) who’s always plotting to overthrow his devilish dad. He transforms the party guests into his own personal demon army, with the FF, Margali and Mechamage fighting back.

Just when it seems like the heroes are losing the fight, Mechamage does some magic and summons Damien Hellstrom (another Marvel demonic-magic hero) to the scene. He combines his power with Mechamage’s tech to draw upon the natural magics of the Earth to banish Blackheart back from whence he came. Margali then teleports everyone out of there, leaving Selene alone and defeated.

Back at Pier 4, Hellstrom, Margali and Mechamage decide they work well together and decide to form a team of their own, which they call the Shadow Hunters. Alyssa has recovered from her magical injury, and then she announces she’s leaving Pier 4 to join the Shadow Hunters on their adventures. She leaves Ben the keys to her cool flying sports car, and says the car is his now. The Shadow Hunters teleport away (no mention of Clary or Jace) and the FF raise a glass of champagne in their honor.

Oh, and that 8-page Spider-Man: Fast Lane Part 1 anti-drug story is reprinted again in this issue.

Unstable molecule: During the training montage, Sue gets turned into a frog and Reed cures her by kissing her. They’re a cute couple.

Fade out: Most of the battle focuses on Sue and her force fields, putting her in a leadership role again, and making another case for her being the team’s most powerful member.

Clobberin’ time: During training, Ben is struck so hard by Margali’s magic he actually feels pain. Margali gives him some special runes to make him more resistant to magic attacks.

Flame on: Johnny says his least favorite part of any given FF adventure is sitting around waiting while Reed comes up with something in the lab.

Fantastic fifth wheel: When one of Valeria’s force fields comes in contact with one of Sue’s there’s an explosive effect that sends them both flying back. It’s unclear why or how this happens.

Four and a half: Valeria’s nickname for Franklin is “Sparky,” and now the rest of the family calls him that.

Our gal Val: Sue says she trusts Valeria completely, even though Valeria claims to be the daughter of Dr. Doom. But then Valeria admits to hacking into Alyssa’s private files. There’s also a short bit where she discovers Mechamage’s eavesdropping, and she promises “doom” in response.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. When she and Reed con their way into the Hellfire Club’s secret party, could this be her spy training at work?

Commercial break: Anybody know whether these things actually worked?

Trivia time: Unfortunately, this is the only time we ever the Shadow Hunters operate as a team. Hellstrom went on to have a bunch more solo adventures without any mention of the others. Margali and Mechamage were shown still working together in the Maximum Security miniseries, and after that Mechamage’s only other appearance was a brief mention in Civil War (on Iron Man’s side). Margali went on to be a regular character in Nightcrawler’s solo series. And Alyssa will be back in Fantastic Four sporadically.

While in Limbo, we see that Margali lives with a group of clowns (!) named Der Jahrmarkt. Remember that Margali is tied into Nightcrawler’s surprisingly convoluted origin story, and these clowns are from the traveling circus that Nightcrawler grew up in.

Fantastic or frightful? I’ve skipped a lot in my summary, because there is a lot that happens in this annual. Artist Jose Landronn draws most pages with ten to twelve little panels on each page, which makes for a lot of reading. Although maybe this is what it takes to get these dense Chris Claremont scripts on the page. Mechamage is given a big intro and a lot of personality, so it’s too bad she (he? they?) never went anywhere. There’s a lot to like here, but this could have been a seven-issue arc instead of one annual.

Next: The night before.

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Send in the Clones

Rewatching DuckTales! With the five-part pilot over, now we’re into the series proper with episode 6, “Send in the Clones,” still introducing important aspects of the series.

Here’s what happens: We meet the witch Magica Dispell in her island volcano fortress (!) as she plots to steal Scrooge’s lucky dime, which she believes is the mystical source of his wealth and power. She busts the Beagle Boys out of jail to help her – she gets the dime, they get Scrooge’s money bin. A Scrooge’s mansion, Scrooge insists the nephews be on their best behavior as a reporter is stopping by for an interview. That’s when Magica reveals her plan, to make the three Beagle Boys look just like the three nephews.

Then we’re in screwball comedy land, as the Beagle Boys and the nephews run around the mansion getting mistaken for each other, all while Scrooge desperately tries to look good in front of the reporter. Magica then complicates things further by making herself look like Mrs. Beakeley. After a lot of silliness, Magica takes off with the dime, along with Huey and Mrs. Beakeley as hostages.

Back at the volcano lair, Huey and Mrs. Beakeley use Magica’s potions to fight back, resulting everyone transforming into animals and various creatures. Scrooge offers to trade his dime in exchange for the hostages, adding that the real dime was not in display in the mansion, but always on his person. Scrooge switches his dime for an ordinary one at the last minute and everyone escapes. Magica realizes Scrooge tricked her, and she swears revenge.

 

Humbug: The number one dime is described as “the first dime Scrooge ever made. It contains the psychic vibrations of every deal, every decision, every dollar Scrooge has ever made.”

Junior Woodchucks: Although the villains tie up Huey with rope, he escapes thanks his “knot-busters” merit badge.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley is less adept at dealing with magic and sorcery than she was with treasure hunting and wilderness survival. Webby is upset that the Beagle Boys removed the head of her doll, even though episode 4 showed it has a removable head to store things inside. I guess she’s really upset about the Beagle Boys’ roughhousing.

Foul fowls: Magica isn’t given any origin or background story. She’s just a supernatural witch and we’re off and running. Her talking raven is of course named Poe. It’s established that he’s her brother, and she transformed him into a raven at some point. She is either unable to turn him back to normal, or she’s not bothering. The Disney Wiki alleges that this is the only episode that mentions Magica and Poe as being siblings.

Down in Duckberg: We see a lot of the mansion in this episode. There’s a dining room that seats ten. An outdoor pool different from the indoor pool seen in episode 2. Scrooge’s bedroom has a safe in the floor (!) and of course there’s a painting of the money bin on his wall. Scrooge’s study is right below the bedroom, and it has a painting of a duck with a Viking helmet. There’s another scene in Scrooge’s library, revealing this is where he keeps his number one dime on display.  And most strangely, the kitchen’s refrigerator is filled with meat and GIGANTIC fish heads!

Reference row: The reporter Webra Waters, is a not-subtle parody of TV journalist Barbara Walters.

The episode title is a reference to Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 song “Send in the Clowns,” a favorite of a lot of cheesy ‘70s variety shows.

Thoughts upon this viewing: This should be a nothing episode as it emphasizes the corny jokes over the action/adventure stuff, but it’s really well made. The animation shines throughout, and the final fight has a lot of fun beats.

Next: Mum’s the word.

****

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

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