DuckTales rewatch – My Mother the Psychic

Rewatching DuckTales! We’ve got Gizmoduck. We’ve got TV parodies. We’ve got it all on episode 80, “My Mother the Psychic.”

Here’s what happens: Fenton Crackshell wants to take his mother on a picnic, but she wants to stay inside watching TV all day. When she tries to fix the TV’s reception, she gets electrocuted. This improbably gives her visions of the future. When Scrooge learns this, he offers her a job so he can profit off her predictions. It works, and Scrooge’s stocks go up. This catches Glomgold’s attention, as he tasks the Beagle Boys to use a high-tech spy camera to find out Scrooge’s secret. Fenton is jealous of his mother’s powers and her newfound success. They have an argument, in which she accuses him of being too predictable. She then has a prediction that Fenton will leave and never return.

The Beagle Boys use a fake commercial to lure Fenton’s mother out of the house, where they abduct her. Scrooge easily deduces that Glomgold is behind her disappearance. Fenton dons his Gizmoduck armor for the rescue, and Glomgold fights back with a giant magnet. Glomgold tries launching Gizmoduck into space, only for Gizmoduck spin the magnet to return to Duckburg. He chases the villains and catches them by knocking an electric tower onto Glomgold’s car. Fenton’s mom shakes Gizmoduck’s hand, gets electrocuted again, and loses her psychic powers.

Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning his newfound family is more important than his money. Upon seeing Fenton’s mother get electrocuted, Scrooge’s first thought is how to profit from it. At the end, he says he’s forced to go back to making money the old-fashioned way, by earning it. Another mixed message, I’d say.

Pro-rata: Is Fenton perhaps a little too doting on his mother? She spends all day in front of the TV, and he’s all “I just want to talk.” It comes off as somewhat strange.

Your move, creep: When Gizmoduck is launched into space attached to a magnet, he returns to Earth by spinning the magnet like a big Frisbee. Sure. Also, the armor comes equipped with its own satellite dish so mom can still watch TV while on their picnic.

Foul fowls: The Beagle Boys this time are Burger, Baggy, and Big Time. Although the Beagle Boys and Glomgold went their separate ways at the end of the “Time is Money” storyline, they’re back together in this one.

Down in Duckburg: The actress seen on the TV soap opera is Featherika von Strangeduck, who we met way back in episode 12, “Hotel Strangeduck.” Except in that episode she was wealthy duchess and not an actress. The character can be spotted on blink-and-you-miss-it TV screens throughout this latter part of the series. The Disney Wiki seems confused as to how a duchess can also be an actress, so it lists her TV appearances as “Featherika von Strangeduck lookalike.”

Reference row: The soap opera All My Ducklings is an obvious parody of All My Children, the ABC soap opera starring Susan Lucci that ran from 1970 to 2013.

Thoughts on this viewing: This is more like it. The show’s new hero goes up against one of its original villains. Glomgold knew Gizmoduck would show up at his door sooner or later, so he had his deathtraps ready to go. Their big confrontation is fun James Bond-type stuff. Fenton’s mother isn’t that interesting of a character, but this episode makes her part of Scrooge’s extended family.

Next: Love, Duck, Robots.

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Fantastic Friday: Cole’s porter

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #516, we’ve got the Fantastic Four in one corner and the new Frightful Four in the other corner. They both come out swinging.

 Recap: We met the new Frightful Four, made up of the Wizard, the Trapster a.k.a. Paste-Pot Pete, Hydro-Man, and Salamandra. Along for the ride is Cole, a beautiful young woman with gravity-defying powers, who turned out to be the Wizard and Salamandra’s long-lost daughter. The Frightful Four attacked and defeated the FF, with the whole thing televised, for the sole purpose of humiliating the heroes in public. While the Frightful Four fell apart with in-fighting, Cole ran back to Johnny and asked for his help. The FF plan retaliation.

The issue begins with an incredibly kinky scene. Salamandra is taking a bath, and the bath water is… Hydro-Man?!? An alarm goes off, and the two of them join the Wizard to find Cole sneaking back into the Wizard’s HQ. The Wizard spies on Cole talking to someone, and he deduces that the Fantastic Four are there, unseen thanks to Sue’s invisibility powers. Cole makes it inside, and the villains confront her. The Frightful Four attack, but they hit nothing. Then the Wizard learns that Cole’s ring, which he gave to her, was a high-tech signal ring that Reed hacked into his teleporter. The Fantastic Four teleport into the hideout, standing alongside Cole.

Fighting! Sue goes after Salamandra, who transforms into a dragon (!) to bust free of Sue’s force fields. Johnny and Cole make a run for it. They talk about how Cole wants Reed to remove her powers, and Johnny reminds her that he can’t do it without access to the Wizard’s data. Johnny tells Cole she’s worth the risk, and they kiss.

The Wizard and Reed seem evenly matched, until Ben picks up Hydro-Man and throws him at the Wizard. Hydro-Man recovers, chases after Cole and gets attacked by Johnny. Cole uses her powers to defend herself. The Wizard also recovers, trying to subdue Ben with one of his gravity discs, but Reed steps in and grabs the disc for himself. He uses the disc to de-gravitize Salamandra, and Sue traps Hydro-Man in a force field.

Reed checks on Johnny and Cole, only to find her weakened to a barely-alive state. He says her powers have a transference effect, and that when she increases an object’s mass, she decreases her own. Reed goes off in search of the Wizard’s data, while the Wizard confronts Johnny. The Wizard alters the gravity inside his hideout, throwing Johnny and Sue around the room and freeing Hydro-man.

The Wizard nabs Cole and takes her to his lab. He saves her life by hooking her up to a machine that replenishes her depleted mass with gravitons from a cable. It works and she is healthy again, but then he wants to experiment on her, asking to see what happens when she absorbs excess mass. Reed attacks, only to be held back by more gravity discs. The Wizard says Cole can’t trust Reed, and that Reed won’t be able to cure her.

Cole then reconfigures the Wizard’s gravity, so he attaches to one of the Trapster’s glue traps, sealing the Wizard inside fast-hardening super-strong glue. Cole then demonstrates her ability to absorb extra mass, making the whole place go haywire. The hideout, secretly located within abandoned NYC subway tunnels, breaks up through the street flies into the sky over New York. This effort transforms Cole into a blob-like monstrosity. The Wizard says he loves her, and she says that even through the Wizard has done terrible things, she can’t let him die. She says, “If I don’t care what happens to you… who will?” Turn the page, though, and this heartwarming scene turns deadly, when Cole adds, “But I can’t let this go on, either.” She drops the hideout and the two of them in the water outside the city.

Later, the FF conduct a search, but find no trace of any of the Frightful Four. Johnny wants to keep looking for Cole, but there’s no trace of her. It’s a melancholy ending, where Johnny insists that Cole is not a bad person, and her fate should not be tied in with the Frightful Four. Ben responds with, “Ya can’t pick your family, kiddo.”

Unstable molecule: Reed says he could have successfully removed Cole’s powers, because the Wizard’s genetic procedures were nineteen years old, which he says is “very simple” by present-day super-science.

Fade out: How, exactly, does Salamandra break free of Sue’s force fields? It’s hard to tell because it happens in one panel, but my guess is Sue dropped the force field out of shock upon seeing Salamandra transform into a giant dragon monster.

Clobberin’ time: When the Wizard thinks he has the upper hand, he quotes Ben’s “It’s clobbering time.” Ben, weirdly, has no comment on this.

Flame on: Johnny asks why Reed can’t use his graviton detecto-graph to find Cole like it did before. This is appropriate, since Johnny is the one who gave Reed the idea for the device in the first place. Reed says the Wizard saturated the area with free-floating gravitons, making the detecto-graph useless.

Trivia time: Cole never returned after this, with the Marvel Wiki listing this issue as her “apparent death.” Salamandra only had one other appearance after this, in the now-infamous scene in Fantastic Four: Foes, that had a bunch of FF villains in one scene. That’s too bad, as she could have been a major adversary for our heroes.

The next time we see the Trapster, it’s in the 2005 Secret War event, where he’s one of several tech-based villains getting funding from the new Latverian government. There’s no mention of how he escaped the Wizard’s time-prison, so let’s assume he was freed when Cole destroyed the hideout. The Wizard is also present at the Secret War fight, so maybe they patched things up? During the Civil War event, he and the Wizard will be back at it with yet another new Frightful Four.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s been a long time since there’s been an entire issue devoted only to the big slugfest between the heroes and villains. It’s a big, broad superhero brawl with action in the classic Marvel manner! What’s not to love?

Next: Halloween town.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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DuckTales rewatch – The Good Muddahs

Rewatching DuckTales! The ladies take center stage (sort of) in episode 79, “The Good Muddahs.”

Here’s what happens: Little Webby is starved for attention, as the boys don’t want to play childish games with her and all the adults are too busy. Scrooge is showing the Sowbuggian royal jewels at his museum, and he’s paranoid the Beagle Boys will try to steal them. The boys are in jail, but we soon learn the Beagle Babes are in town! Fresh out of women’s prison, the babes, Babydoll, Boom-Boom, and Bouffiant, try and fail to steal the jewels, abducting Webby as a spur-of-the-minute backup plan.

Two bumbling rookie cops are assigned to the case, so stupid that Scrooge throws them out of his house. The Beagle Babes have a hard time dealing with Webby, who keeps crying. Each of the babes tries to placate Webby with a bedtime story, only for them all to fall asleep. Webby is about to escape, but stays because she believes no one at the mansion wants her there anymore. Time passes, and Webby and the babes become unlikely pals.

At the mansion, Huey, Dewey, and Louie discover that Bubba the cave duck has bloodhound-like super-smell, and he’s able to track Webby’s scent. The Beagle Babes go on a crime spree to steal toys for Webby. When Webby learns the toys are stolen, she sends the Beagle Babes back to return them. The rookie cops confront the babes at the toy store, while the boys track down Webby at the babes’ hideout.

The boys and Webby concoct a plan where Webby pretends to be a bad girl, corrupted by the Babes’ influence. She goads the Babes into a plot to rip off Scrooge’s money bin, with the boys pretending to be old-timey gangsters. They lead the cops on a chase through the city back to Scrooge’s mansion. Scrooge and Mrs. Beakeley apologize to Webby. Webby wants Scrooge to give the Babes a job instead of sending them back to jail. When the job is at a daycare center, they choose jail instead.

Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning his family is more important than his money. This episode has mentions of Scrooge’s charity work, including all the money he’s donated to orphanages. Could this be the influence of his relationships from the first episode to now?

Junior woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie find Webby at the Beagles’ hideout, identifying it as such. So now there’s no reason that the entire family doesn’t already know that this is where the Beagles go when they get out of jail.

Maid and maiden: It’s quite a leap for Webby to feel unnoticed to then jump straight to a life of crime, but her idea of crime is breaking into a toy store to return what was stolen.

Everybody walk the dinosaur: Bubba’s tracking abilities and his superhuman sense of smell gives him something to do in this episode. When disguised as a gangster, Bubba hides his club inside a violin case.

Foul fowls: This is the only appearance of the Beagle Babes. They are cousins, not siblings, to the many Beagle Boys, suggesting that Ma Beagle is their aunt.

Down in Duckburg: Scrooge’s worry room makes a return appearance, and we can see the rut in the floor is not as deep as it was during the SuperDuckTales five-parter.

Reference row: Once again, characters discuss Cinderella as a work of fiction in the DuckTales universe.

Thoughts on this viewing: Another joke-heavy sitcom-y episode. Because this season was 1990-91, I wonder if the producers got a memo to make the show more like The Simpsons. Either that, or maybe kid antics are less expensive than jet-setting adventures. Either way, the episode is amusing but forgettable.

Next: Psychic hotline.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Wizards of the boast

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Last issue introduced a new Frightful Four, with them being a family of sorts this time. Now, in issue #515, we see just how dysfunctional they are.

Super-genius villain the Wizard has formed a new Frightful Four, with him, Hydro-Man, Paste-Pot Pete a.k.a. the Trapster, and Wizard’s fiery ex-wife Salamandra. To attack the FF, they’re using Salamandra’s daughter Cole as bait, setting her up on an online date with the Human Torch. When Johnny gave Cole a tour of the Baxter Building, she opened a portal letting in the Frightful Four, and the Wizard chose that moment to announce that he’s Cole’s long-lost father.

This issue begins with Cole rejecting the Wizard, causing the floor under her to break apart. There’s a discussion of whether Cole has been born with gravity powers similar to the Wizard’s. Cole runs off and sends the Trapster after her. He then reveals that he knows the FF are in the room, with Sue having turned them all invisible. Everybody fights, with the Wizard’s “vid-cams” recording everything. Sue traps Hydro-Man in a force field, the Trapster wraps up Reed in some kind of elastic trap to slow him down, and the Wizard de-gravitizes Ben so he can’t punch anything. Johnny has a tough time with Salamandra, who has fire powers of her own as well as super-strength.

Hydro-Man makes it rain, revealing Sue’s invisibility. Reed escapes the trap, only for Salamandra to hit a nerve in his neck, Vulcan-style, to temporarily paralyze his right arm. The Wizard attacks, so Sue puts a force field around her and Reed. Then the Wizard applies a “kinetic stabilizer” which solidifies the force field, trapping Sue and Reed inside it. Salamandra and the Wizard take a moment to have a lovers’ quarrel with him saying, “You’ve been dead to me since the day you became pregnant.” (What an a-hole.)

Hyrdo-Man is able to fight Ben by transforming himself into a bunch of clones of himself, while the Trapster seals Johnny up in fireproof glue. Johnny nearly suffocates from the glue, but Cole frees his face so he can breathe. They joke about how they probably won’t have a second date. The Trapster draws a gun on Cole, only for the Wizard to shut off the cameras and brutally attack the Trapster for this offense. The Wizard calls the Trapster an embarrasment and a laughing stock, while a hurt Trapster says he thought they partners, and even friends. Wizard says his team is a team of four, and that the Trapster is a fifth wheel.

The Wizard turns the cameras back on and broadcasts live to the world that he has successfully defeated the Fantastic Four. He tells the world that the FF are poor excuses for heroes, and the public cannot rely on them if the world is in danger. “No real heroes were hurt during this demonstration,” he says. Then the Frightful Four teleport away.

Later, in the Wizard’s HQ, he has Cole tied up (!) while he does experiments on her to test her powers. He tells her and Hydro-Man that he did not murder the Trapster. Instead, he trapped (heh) the Trapster in a time loop where the Traspter experiences the last few seconds of his life over and over without actually dying. The Wizard and Salamandra argue about what to do with Cole, with Salamandra revealing that Cole’s birth was a result of the Wizard genetically manipulating Salamandra. She says the Wizard abandoned Cole thinking her useless until she showed some signs of having powers. He tells Cole he can train her to control her power, saying “You are my most wonderful, most perfect… experiment.”

Cole escapes and runs off, saying she refuses to be a lab rat. The Wizard lets her go, saying he’ll always know where she will be, and that he’s never letting go of her again. Meanwhile, at the new Baxter Building, the FF do repairs. Reed says the Wizard has only ever cared about fame, wanting to prove his superiority to the FF by imitating the FF. They debate whether Cole was tricked or if she was in on the Wizard’s plan. Johnny chooses to believe Cole, and he leaves to go look for her.

Johnny and Cole meet up at a nearby rooftop they both remember from their date. She admits she had an ulterior motive, but it wasn’t Wizard’s. She known about her gravity powers for some time, and she hoped Johnny could get her to Reed so Reed can take her powers away. Then she admits she ended up liking Johnny along the way. Just as they’re about to kiss, the rest of the FF catch up to them. Sue says the others have decided to trust Cole… for now. Reed says that a cure for Cole would depend on access to the Wizard’s data. “The Wizard already visited us once,” Reed says, “it’s only right we return the favor.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Johnny asks Reed for a mobile graviton detector to find Cole Reed tells him there’s no such thing, only to then invent one on the spot.

Fade out: This is the first time someone else had seized control of Sue’s force fields. (Unless maybe the Beyonder did it?) We’ll have to see if this becomes more of a worry in the future.

Clobberin’ time: The Wizard attaches a gravity disc to Ben’s back, where Ben can’t reach it. This takes out Ben for most of the fight.

Flame on: Johnny takes Cole to a specific spot her showed her on their date. It’s a particular gargoyle high up on a skyscraper. He says it’s where he goes when he needs to think. This is where and how she found him after she left the Wizard.

Trivia time: The comic mentions all the times Johnny fought the Wizard back in his solo adventures from Strange Tales, beginning with issue #102. Those solo stories are rarely mentioned, as they are so different from the rest of Marvel continuity, except for that a lot of classic characters had their first appearances there.

Fantastic or frightful? How do you write the Wizard so he’s not just another Dr. Doom. Doom has a moral code he lives by, while this issue shows just how lacking in morals the Wizard is. He views other people, including his daughter and ex-wife, as nothing but test subjects for him to experiment on, and only so he gain more acclaim for himself. That makes this a dark and uncomfortable story, but one that’s told well.

Next: Breaking in.

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Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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DuckTales rewatch – Bubbeo and Juliet

Rewatching DuckTales! Time for a little romance (except not really) in episode 78, “Bubbeo and Juliet.”

Here’s what happens: Summer vacation is over, and Huey, Dewey and Louie are starting fifth grade (!). Bubba the caveduck is also going to school with them. Scrooge meanwhile, must deal with new neighbors, who have made the formerly well-manicured lawn into a tacky mess. It’s the bumbling Blurf family, who recently won the lottery and are spending like crazy.

At school, Bubba finds ways to super-strength his way through various ordinary problems. In gym class, he accidentally knocks a pretty girl named Julie into the mud, and he’s immediately smitten with her. The nephews and Webby take it upon themselves to give the caveduck some girl advice. Scrooge continues to be annoyed by the neighbors, while Bubba makes a mess of flirting with Julie. She corners him, thinking he’s bullying her, and he admits he likes her. He says he feels dumb, and she assures him he isn’t. When the Blurf family’s tackiness threatens to the lower the property values on Scrooge’s mansion, he confronts them. While they’re arguing, we get the big reveal. Julie is the Blurfs’ daughter! Scrooge and the Blurfs both forbid the kids from seeing each other.

The Blurfs hold a costume party for all their relatives, and sneaks in, in disguise. He and Julie reconcile, while Scrooge and the Blurfs compete over who can music the loudest, resulting the cops breaking up the party/fight. Scrooge and the neighbors play more and more destructive pranks on each other, parodying war movies. Julie suggests she and Bubba run away, and Webby overhears them. The two families unite in pursuing them through the amusement part the Blurfs had built next door. There’s a madcap chase on a roller coaster, and Bubba ends up saving the adults from danger. They call a truce. The next day, Julie tells Bubba that her family is moving on account of them spending away all the lottery money. He gives her his club as a gift, and she gives him a kiss on the cheek.

Humbug: At first I wondered how Scrooge’s mansion could have next door neighbors, since it’s so often depicted as isolated from the rest of Duckburg. But looking at the backgrounds it appears that the wall abutting the Blurf property is a far way off from the actual mansion.

Junior woodchucks: Just a few episodes back, the nephews’ school was an old-timey one-room schoolhouse. Now that they’ve aged up a year, the school is a huge complex with long hallways lined with lockers and a very modern-looking outdoor cafeteria.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley happily joins Scrooge in the “war” against the neighbors, calling herself “Sergeant Beakeley.”

Everybody walk the dinosaur: The episode ends with Julie telling Bubba that she’ll see him in school, but she never appears again. I guess she wised up to how her new boyfriend is a freakin’ cave duck.

Down in Duckburg: The animators had a lot of fun with the costume party, as you can see background characters dressed as Robocop, a Ninja Turtle, Spider-Man, and even Usagi Yojimbo.

Reference row: Do I really need to tell you the classic that this episode is based on?

Thoughts on this viewing: Rather than an action/comedy cartoon, we get another episode that’s just full-on sitcom stuff. This one’s more interested in all the practical joke fighting than it is in trying to explore Bubba’s character in any way.

Next: Tough mudder.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: We’re off to see the Wizard

In issue #514, it’s time to meet a new version of the Frightful Four. Only this time, it’s all about family. Also, penciller Paco Medina fills in for Mike Wieringo on the art, giving the comic a pseudo-manga look.

We begin with the Wizard, meeting with a group of people who speak with emojis (!). He tells them that the Fantastic Four’s recent Latveria incident (long story) and the Human Torch’s recent failure to capture Hydro-Man show a new side of the FF. He says the FF have corroded his reputation as a super-genius, but now they have hit rock bottom and it’s his turn to rise. Turn the page, and we see the Wizard is hooked up to a futuristic VR machine, talking inside a virtual chat room.

Inside the Wizard’s headquarters, we catch up Hydro-Man, who’s wearing a suit of armor that amplifies his powers, as well as Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster, who runs security at their HQ. They start to fight, but the Wizard breaks it up, saying that he controls Hydro-Man’s new armor, and if Hydro-Man disobeys him, then the Wizard will make Hydro-Man lose all molecular cohesion.  Also, if the Wizard dies, that process will be activated immediately. “You owe me everything now,” he says. “Your powers. Your loyalty. Your life.” He explains that the problem with forming a team in the past is that his teammates always try to betray him, and he says it won’t happen again. The Trapster says he needs no booby-trapped armor because the Wizard can count on his loyalty.

There’s a burst of flame, and a woman emerges from it. She introduces herself as Salamandra the Fire Maiden, the group’s fourth member. She says she has a 19-year-old daughter who’s been exchanging emails with the Human Torch, and they’ve arranged to meet. The Wizard plans to catch Johnny with his guard down. Salamandra calls herself a “dragon,” and she hates Americans. The Wizard is buying her loyalty with precious gems and jewelry. In private, the Trapster tells the Wizard that the daughter might get injured by the Human Torch. “Yes, it would be a pity…” the Wizard says.

In Manhattan, the whole FF is out shopping, still facing public scorn about the Latveria incident. After some comedy shtick, Johnny takes off for his blind date with the girl he met on the internet, whose name is Cole. The new Frightful Four watches in secret, confirming that Cole is Salamandra’s daughter. The Wizard says Cole doesn’t have powers, and his team will only be four. He says if his team outnumbers the FF, then the FF will gain public sympathy, and he won’t have that.

The rest of the FF show up at Johnny’s date, curious about the new girl. Cole starts panicking, and the building behind her falls apart. The Wizard tells his new teammates that yes, this was part of his plan, and “It simply keeps getting better and better!” The FF jump into action, protecting nearby civilians from the falling building. Sue comments that the rubble feels heavier than usual against her force field. The danger is passed, Cole runs off, and Reed says this was no coincidence. The public is again angered at the FF as they leave.

Johnny catches up with Cole. Johnny says his family is always embarrassing him, and they only ever see him as the annoying little brother. Cole says her mother is too busy being a wealthy jetsetter to have time with her. Johnny says his own mother died a long time ago and his dad spent most of his life in prison. Cole says she never accompanies her mother on any trips, but she did this time just for the chance to meet Johnny.

Johnny takes Cole back to the new Baxter Building and gives her a tour. While she uses the ladies’ room, Reed, Sue and Johnny show up in their FF uniforms demanding to know where she lives. Reed says the collapsing building was caused by irradiated gravitons, which are created by and used by only one person. Elsewhere in the building, Cole opens a door, and the Frightful Four come through it. Then there’s one final twist where the Wizard says to Cole, “No hug? I don’t think that’s any way to greet… your father!”

To be continued!  

Unstable molecule: When the FF are curious about who this new girl is, Reed says he’s the one who tapped into Johnny’s email to find out where their date is. Not cool, Reed.

Fade out: While the gravitized rubble exerts pressure on Sue’s force field, she says it’s nothing some Advil won’t cure.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is buddies with a hot dog vendor named Chico, who now refuses to serve Ben because of the Latveria incident.

Flame on: Johnny tells Cole about his father’s origin story from way back in issues #31-32, but he skips over how his father died saving the FF from a bomb. I guess that would have diluted this connection they were making

Four and a half/Our gal Val: When the building collapses, Franklin’s job is to get baby Valeria to safety and take care of her, which he does.

Trivia time: At this point, Marvel put Fantastic Four on a temporary bi-weekly schedule. So not only is Paco Medina filling in on artwork, but Karl Kesel joins the book as regular co-writer to help lighten the load. Allegedly, Mike Wieringo started working the “Marvel method” drawing based on a loose story outline rather than a full script. This gave him a greater guiding hand in the comic’s plots.

What’s the Wizard been up to lately? Outside of his semi-regular slugfests with the FF, he’s gone at it with Spider-Man and the Thunderbolts, usually trying to start up a new version of the Frightful Four – or in one case, a “Frightful Foursome.” He was a major player in the Acts of Vengeance crossover, and the epic Global Presence storyline in Avengers.

The Marvel Wiki lists “Miss Zero-G” as a character appearing in this issue, leading some readers over years to assume that this is Cole’s supervillain code name. Look closely, though, and you can see that Miss Zero-G is one of the Wizard’s admirers in his virtual chat room.

Fantastic or frightful? In the hardcover trade’s bonus features, writer Mark Waid said he wanted the Frightful Four to be like a family, just as the FF is. He also wanted the Wizard not to be a joke villain, but a real force to be reckoned with. This issue does a lot of heavy lifting to get these points across. It also makes time for Johnny to get a little serious, contrasting the comedy silliness of the previous two issues. Good stuff all around.

Next: Cole’s porter.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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DuckTales rewatch – Allowance Day

Rewatching DuckTales! What day is this? That’s the question in episode 77, “Allowance Day.”

Here’s what happens: Huey, Dewey and Louie want to be a top-of-the-line scooter on sale for the astounding cost of $30, but they don’t have enough money. Scrooge, meanwhile, needs to work out a deal with the Banana Republic to maintain the lease on his cereal factory, so he sends Fenton to deal with the Republic’s leader, General Chiquita (get it?). The lease must be signed within one day. The boys ask for an advance on their allowance, knowing that the scooter will only be on sale for one more day. He tells them patience builds character.

The three boys hatch a plan to make Scrooge think the next day is Saturday, not Friday, so they can get their allowance. This means changing all the calendars in the house and resetting all the clocks. They even hack Scrooge’s radio, pretending to be a DJ saying it’s Saturday. Scrooge is confused at first, but starts believing it. Scrooge has a conference call with his executives, insisting the whole time that it’s Saturday and not Friday, and the nervous executives all start to believe it, too. Word of the date change spreads throughout Duckburg, with the whole city and then the entire world assuming Scrooge is right and everyone else is wrong.  

In the Banana Republic, Fenton is baffled over having missed a day, while General Chiquita says his country now owns Scrooge’s factory. Scrooge talks with Fenton over the phone, and they both realize they’ve missed a day. Scrooge wants to fly to the Banana Republic and sort things out, when the boys come clean and admit they tricked him. Scrooge grounds the boys, but of course they stow away on his plane.

General Chiquita refuses to accept the right day, going so far as to arrest Scrooge and Fenton. The three boys consult the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook and find that a solar eclipse is predicted to happen that day, Friday, right over the Banana Republic. (Convenient!) Scrooge and Fenton are put before a cannon squad (bigger and better than a firing squad), but not before Fenton phones his Gizmoduck armor back home to say the codeword “Blathering blatherskite.” Gizmoduck “arrives” and saves Scrooge. The eclipse appears, proving it’s Friday and allowing Scrooge to sign the lease. Back home, the news reports to the world that it was Friday all along, and the boys almost trick Scrooge into getting another Saturday’s allowance.  

Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his family is more important than his money. In this episode, he doesn’t give his nephews an advance on their allowance because he’s a tightwad but because he hopes they will develop character.

Junior woodchucks: We’re never shown whether Huey, Dewey, and Louie get that new scooter. I’m assuming not, because the sale did end on Saturday.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad doesn’t crash his plane at first, but then it slips on a banana peel (of course) and crashes.

Your move, creep: The Gizmoduck armor can fly around the planet in search of its owner when it hears the codeword. Also Gizmoduck is strong enough to stop cannonballs, and has a built-in parachute.

Fowl fouls: General Chiquita is a super gross Central and/or South American dictator stereotype. Why would Scrooge even do business with this guy in the first place?

Down in Duckburg: This board of directors Scrooge speaks to have never been seen before or since, and they raise a lot of questions about how he runs his business. They’re terrified of disagreeing with him, even when he doesn’t know what day it is.  

Reference row: The whole eclipse thing is a throwback to Mark Twain’s often-parodied A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where the hero uses knowledge of an upcoming eclipse to get out of a jam.

Thoughts on this viewing: An amusing episode in how things spiral out of control so fast. During the finale, they intentionally have Launchpad fail just so Gizmoduck can be the hero. I guess this is where they show is going now, especially as Disney was deep in preparing the Darkwing Duck spinoff during this time, with Launchpad as a main character.

 Next: That thing you duck.

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Fantastic Friday: Salute your shorts

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Everybody loves a Human Torch/Spider-Man team up, and here’s a good one in issue #513.

After the Latveria incident (long story), the FF are facing some of the worst PR they’ve ever faced. Johnny, still acting as chief financial officer for Fantastic Four, Inc., asked Spider-Man for help in how to deal with bad press. Spidey took Johnny to a water park (why???), where villain Hydro-Man recently got an honest job. Thinking Spidey was there to attack him, Hydro-Man started a fight, resulting in all of Johnny’s clothes being blown off (!). This issue resolves the cliffhanger by having Spider-Man create webbing shorts for Johnny to wear. It’s wacky!

Hydro-Man keeps raging, and all the civilians around blame Johnny for starting this fight. There’s a bit where Ben enjoys popcorn at home while he watches the news report of the fight. Johnny blasts Hydro-Man so that part of him turns to steam. Hydro-Man then escapes down a drain. The closest access to the water lines is the nearby restroom and Johnny flies right into… the ladies’ room. It’s another comical misunderstanding, but not so funny when Hydro-Man returns and punches Johnny through a wall.

Spider-Man stops Hydro-Man from escaping, and he says he didn’t come to the park to pick a fight. Johnny recovers most of his clothes, but he is still fending off insults from the civilians, who think he’s only there to cause trouble. Hydro-Man keeps fighting, and Spidey says he likes how now he’s the likable one and Johnny is the unlikable one for once. Johnny fights Hydro-Man around the park while Spider-Man remembers that the trench coat he wore when they first arrive is one of the Thing’s incognito coats, and that gives him an idea.

Johnny chases Hydro-Man through an arcade, nearly electrifying a bunch of kids, after which Spider-Man traps Hydro-Man inside the coat. Because the coat is made of unstable molecules, it’s strong enough to contain the Thing, but can also be spot-welded from the outside. Johnny does just that, sealing and trapping Hydro-Man inside the coat. The police arrive, threatening to arrest Johnny on charges of “open flame and fireworks.” While the heroes are distracted by this, a mystery man whose face we don’t see sneaks away with the coat and Hydro-Man.

Spider-Man notices the park’s mascot, Squiddy McSquid (!) is about to fall from wreckage from the fight. Spidey claims to be out of web fluid, so Johnny flies up and rescues the man. The audience cheers, and sees Johnny as a hero again. Squiddy turns out to be a beautiful young woman in the costume, and she asks Johnny for his phone number. The crowd then turns on Spider-Man for not saving Squiddy, calling him a menace. So things are back to normal.

Johnny thanks Spider-Man, in a way, by saying, “You really understand how important it is for me not to look like a dork in front of my adoring public.” Spider-Man says, “Say no more.” We then see that, unbeknownst to Johnny, Spider-Man has webbed Johnny’s boxers to a nearby flagpole.

Then we have the backup story, also continuing from last issue. Sue felt like Reed was ignoring her, only for Reed’s old flame, super-genius Alyssa Moy, showed up at the new Baxter Building. As this second part begins, Alyssa and Sue are preparing to use the time machine for Alyssa’s next big adventure. Sue says she’s happy to help, but she’s clearly wary of Alyssa speaking so highly of Reed.

Sue and Alyssa travel back in time to Mayan ruins of Xunanguero, which were first discovered by Reed and Alyssa during their college-age adventures. Alyssa finds an artifact that she and Reed missed the first time around. A portal opens, and young Reed and young Alyssa come through it. Sue turns herself and Alyssa invisible, and they watch. Young Reed is very flirtatious with young Alyssa. Sue tries to put it in perspective, but then young Reed proposes marriage to young Alyssa! Alyssa tells Sue she shouldn’t have seen that, and for her to “step back now.”

Then a monster attacks from the other side of the portal. Young Reed reaches for the key to close the portal, but can’t reach it. Sue helps him with an invisible force field, and Alyssa realizes that a future Sue saved their lives that day. Sue and Alyssa return to the present, with Alyssa saying the mission was a success. Alyssa leaves, with Sue saying they’ll meet again sooner rather than later. Alyssa says, “I’d count on it.”

Unstable molecule: Reed tries to coin the phrase “chronalportation” for time travel, only for Alyssa say that she’s the one who originally came up with it.

Fade out: Sue has a very practical attitude toward time travel. She was warned not to change fate by tampering with the past, but she argues that saving her husband’s life is her fate.

Clobberin’ time: Ben asks why he never gets to use the time machine, and Reed says it’s because Ben wanted the Rat Pack to play at his birthday party.  

Flame on: Johnny can burn through Spider-Man’s webs in this issue, when he couldn’t in times past. I like to think  

Trivia time: Yes, Alyssa Moy does come back… eventually. It won’t be for many issues, but we will see the follow-up to Reed’s proposal in this issue.

The Marvel Wiki states that the Cthulu-like monster attacking young Reed and young Alyssa is Xuanaguero itself. This is its only appearance, so we’ll never know what it’s deal is.

This is also the only appearance of Squiddy McSquid, which is too bad. I can totally see her as a character in Squirrel Girl.

Fantastic or frightful? This is a fun superhero romp with a lot of classic Spidey/Torch banter. It also makes Hydro-Man a credible villain, powerful enough to take on two of Marvel’s marquee heroes. But what was Spider-Man trying to say by taking Johnny to the water park? Did Johnny learn anything from the experience? I don’t know. I also liked the backup. It finally fulfils the promise that the Before the Fantastic Four minis didn’t deliver by giving us more backstory about Alyssa Moy.

Next: We’re off to see the wizard.

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DuckTales rewatch – The Land of Trala La

Rewatching DuckTales! Time to revisit the question of whether Scrooge is a rich jerk or not, because episode #76, “The Land of Trala La,” we return to the subject of money.

What’s all this, then? The wiki has this as the first episode of season 3. Disney Plus, however, combines season 2 and 3 into one season, which they’re calling season 2. There’s no way to when the episodes were made, or, because it’s syndicated, when and where they aired in various markets. All we do know is that there was a six-month gap between this episode and the previous one, March 1989 to September 1989. Also, this episode debuted as a commercial-friendly hour-long block, with Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers in the second half.  

Scrooge is overwhelmed by phone calls lawyers and insurance companies, and visits from local charities and organizations, all wanting a slice of the McDuck pie. Scrooge laments that his money has brought him nothing but stress. Scrooge starts acting all unhinged, and a doctor tells him he needs a vacation. She suggests the land of Trala La, a remote locale in the Himalayas where there is no such thing as money.

It’s another Launchpad crash landing, with Scrooge losing a bottlecap overboard. Scrooge and co. are greeted by the locals in Trala La, confirming that they’ve never heard of money. Everything in Trala La is free, including the gang’s hotel. Fenton is along for the rise, and he’s wary of this place, wanting to investigate. One villager finds the bottlecap, and the other villagers get jealous, offering their personal goods in trade. Word gets back to Scrooge, as everyone starts pestering him for more bottlecaps.

Scrooge tries placating the villagers by giving them all bottlecaps, and then by getting Launchpad to fly over and dump bottlecaps over the entire village. Trala La develops an economy overnight, charging bottlecaps for all goods and services. Even more bottlecaps are dumped in the valley, and Scrooge and co. are now arrested for littering. The villagers hold Scrooge’s nephews hostage while Scrooge and Fenton leave the valley to contact Launchpad and get him to stop.

Out in the wilderness, Launchpad flies the plan close by so that Fenton is able to say the codeword “Blathering blatherskite” and turn into Gizmoduck. (He couldn’t do this earlier, because the armor was on board the plane.) Gizmoduck rescues the three boys and then cleans all the bottlecaps out of the valley. Scrooge says he can deal with the stress in Duckburg after all this, even though Fenton and Launchpad want hazard pay and the boys want hazard allowance.

Humbug: When watching all the episodes in order, you can’t help but make connections. Scrooge just spent five episodes about his money being stolen and his fight to get it back. Now this one begins with that same money making him miserable. Is this character growth?  

Junior Woodchucks: Things get pretty dire for Huey, Dewey and Louie when they get held hostage. Thinking they might die (!), they stand proud, facing death with the bravery of a Junior Woodchuck.

Fasten your seatbelts: A lot of the plot is based on Launchpad, in his mindlessly flying back and forth with more and more bottlecaps. This is the big obstacle in our heroes’ way at the story’s climax.

Pro rata: Fenton is the one blamed for introducing the villagers to the concept of money. The episode ends where he is the first person in history ever to be banned from Trala La.

Your move, creep: Gizmoduck’s only powers this time are flight and super strength. Fenton must hide the armor inside a huge crate inside Launchpad’s plane.

Foul fowls: The villagers’ obsession with bottlecaps-as-currency becomes murderous by the end, with the village elder almost murdering Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Down in Duckburg: Scrooge’s office has access to a large file room, which can also be accessed from the hallway outside. Scrooge and the charity groups each use the file room as a hiding spot, entering it through the two different doors.

Reference row: This may or may not be a reference to 1980’s The Gods Must Be Crazy, in which an indigenous person finds a Coke bottle in the wilderness and doesn’t know what to make of it. Except this episode is about wealth and The Gods Must Be Crazy is about… just what was that movie supposed to be about?

Thoughts upon this viewing: An amusing little morality tale. Plus it further shows how Fenton fits in with the cast, as Scrooge’s bumbling but well-meaning right hand man. That’s about it, though.

Next: Friday night fever.

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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Fantastic Friday: Does whatever a spider can

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. How do you follow up a year-long epic about Heaven and Hell? You bring in Spider-Man as a guest star! That’s just what they do in issue #512.

We begin with Johnny taking a stroll through NYC, seeing Spider-Man merchandise everywhere he goes. He sees people wearing Spider-Man shirts, but only homeless bums are wearing throwaway Human Torch shirts. At a newsstand he sees he has replaced Spider-Man on New York’s “least eligible bachelor” list. Later, Johnny talks to Reed, reminding him (and the readers) that Johnny is still the acting CEO of Fantastic Four Inc., and that the business is hurting after everything that happened in Latveria, thanks to the FF’s newfound poor PR. Reed says he has plenty of lucrative new patents to help the money situation, but regaining the public’s respect will be difficult.

Johnny flames on and sky-writes a message in the sky for Spider-Man asking him to meet in the usual place. That place is the Statue of Liberty, where they regularly hang out. Johnny reluctantly asks Spider-Man for advice. After Spidey jokingly gives him a hard time for a bit, Johnny says the public has hated Spider-Man for a long time. Johnny says, “Tell me how to get through the day as a complete loser!” Spider-Man thinks it’s ridiculous that this is the advice Johnny wants. A helicopter from Homeland Security chases to the two of them off the statue. Back in New York, Spider-Man tells Johnny to meet him again the next day, saying “I’ll let you bend my ear off.”

Elsewhere in the city, Ben shows up at Alicia’s studio to deliver a huge block of stone for her next sculpture. He sees the room filled with sculptures of himself. He goes nuts, smashing them. Alicia arrives, and they have a heart-to-heart. Ben says he made the right call by leaving Heaven, but the experience gave new insight into how lousy life on Earth can be. He also grouses about how he came back still as a big rocky monster and not a human. She tells him that he’s not a monster. She adds that she’s highly sensitive to cold weather, and she says Ben’s rocky hide could be considered a gift.

The next day, Johnny and Spidey meet not at the Statue of Liberty, but at a water slide park, which Johnny admits is not his favorite type of place. Spider-Man goes incognito in a hat and trench coat. Spider-Man announces to the crowd that the world-famous Human Torch is there, but one man is more interested in seeing Spidey. While the Torch fends off people criticizing him about the Latveria incident, he and Spider-Man are attacked by a blast of water.  

The attacker is Hydro-Man, who just got a job at the water park and is trying to go straight. He thinks the superheroes are there to start a fight with him. He attacks first, while a mystery man in the shadows confirms that this meeting was no coincidence. Spider-Man gets the civilians to safety while Johnny fights Hydro-Man, trying to boil him. Hydro-Man soaks Johnny’s clothes, so Johnny takes them off. He then blasts the two into a nearby pool, Johnny cries out for help. Not because he’s injured, but as he shouts when surrounded by water park patrons, “I have no pants!” as his boxers fly away.

To be contin-nude!

Wait there’s more: In a backup story called “Gone fishin’” Sue is on the phone with Alicia, saying things are better between her and Reed since they returned from Latveria, but there’s some emotional distance between them. Sue looks at a photo of Namor the Sub-mariner. Sue then plays a bunch of Namor-related pranks on Reed, such as saying she’s going shopping with Namor, getting Franklin to go swimming in Namor-style trunks, and putting a Namor statue in their living room. Reed responds later than night by stretching his ears and eyebrows into Namor shapes, and the couple shares a laugh. Reed apologies, and Sue says she never gives him grief over his ex-girlfriend Alyssa Moy. He says, “Funny you should ask,” and we see that Alyssa is back, sitting in the next room.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Among Reed’s new patents is a cure for acne (!) which he just sold the Revlon company for a huge dollar amount. I question both the business and medical ethics of this.

Fade out: Sue invoking Namor to make Reed jealous is cute, but didn’t Reed and Namor officially bury the hatchet at the end of Onslaught? I guess some things never change.

Clobberin’ time: When Alicia learned Ben had died, she admits she went overboard in making statues of him. This issue establishes that Ben and Alicia still are not a romantic couple at this time, but they still care for each other deeply.

Flame on: Johnny’s clothes flame on with him instead of burning up, suggesting they are made of unstable molecules, or are at least fireproof. But then the clothes go so wettened that they cause his flame to cut out. I guess this just shows how powerful Hydro-Man is, that he can go one-on-one with the Human Torch.

Four and a half: Franklin and Ben play a joke on Johnny by having Franklin walk around in a Spider-Man baseball cap while Johnny is dealing with Spidey’s newfound popularity.

Our gal Val: Alicia is babysitting Valeria and Franklin when Ben comes over, but she has the kids out of the room for Ben’s rampage and their subsequent heart-to-heart.

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries established that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. Could her messing with Reed in the backup story be her spycraft training at work?

Trivia time: It’s long been established in Marvel lore that the Statue of Liberty is the go-to meeting place for Johnny and Spider-Man, but tracking the history of that has been somewhat tricky. They first met there in Strange Tales annual #2, and then in Amazing Spider-Man #18, it’s already referred to as their “usual place.” In recent years, there have been additional jokes about how the Torch can just fly out to the statue, but poor Spidey must take a ferry each time.

Although Hydro-Man has beef with Spider-Man in this issue, recall that he was once a member of the Frightful Four, back in issue #326, in a plot involving fanboy villain Aron the Rogue Watcher. Hydr0-Man is a real joiner, having been a member of the Assembly of Evil, the Masters of Evil, the Sinister Six, the Sinister Syndicate, and the Sinister Twelve.

Fantastic or frightful? After all the Heaven and Hell drama of the past years’ worth of comics, this is a fun romp that still deals with the heroes’ recent events. I’m not exactly sure what point Spider-Man is making by taking Johnny to the water park, but we’re having fun so what does it matter?

Next: Salute your shorts!

  • * * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

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