DuckTales rewatch – Back to the Klondike

Rewatching DuckTales! The series finally gets some lore going in episode 23, “Back to the Klondike.” What would YOU do for a Klondike bar?

Here’s what happens: It’s Valentine’s Day, and Scrooge isn’t having it. But then the kids find Scrooge with an old Valentine hidden away in a closet. He tells them the story of how he got it, from his younger years as a prospector in the “days of the great gold rush.” While in this (basically) Old West town, he met singing saloon girl Glittering Goldie.

In a game of cards, Goldie swindles Scrooge out of a precious gold nugget. The two of them then cooperate to dig for gold on Scrooge’s land. This goes on throughout winter to spring, and they fall for each other. When the gold disappears and Goldie vanishes, Scrooge believes she’s ripped him off. Scrooge went on to gain his fortune… alone.

The story inspires Scrooge to go back his claim, which he still owns, to see if it still has gold (and Goldie?). Scrooge fights a claim jumper on his land, only to discover that it’s Goldie, still living there. She believes Scrooge abandoned her as he believes she abandoned him. It was all a plot by Dangerous Dan, the local saloon owner. Dan attempts an old-timey train robbery to steal Scrooge’s gold, and he’s defeated by Scrooge and Goldie.

Scrooge invites Goldie to come back to Duckburg with him, but she says the Klondike is her home. As a Valentine’s gift, Scrooge gives her the deed to his claim.

Humbug: If Scrooge was a young man during the Gold Rush, and assuming DuckTales is set in then-contemporary 1980s, then does that mean he’s around 120 years old?

Junior woodchucks: When everyone is menaced by a bear out in the woods, the nephews know to avoid danger by climbing the nearest tree.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley and Webby are all about celebrating Valentine’s Day. Mrs. Beakeley bursts out in song, reminding us of her opera talent.

All that glitters: Although she will appear only a few times in DuckTales, Glittering Goldie was a mainstay of the original Uncle Scrooge comics by Carl Barks and others. She’s famous for loving gold as much as Scrooge, wildly shooting guns at inappropriate times, and how she rides a bear instead of a horse.

Foul fowls: It should be obvious to anyone that Dangerous Dan is the villain, but I wonder what his plan is. He wants all the gold, but has no aspirations outside his crappy little mountain town.

Down in Duckburg: A hallway leading to a closet full of Scrooge’s hidden old knickknacks is an area of the mansion we haven’t seen before.

“Klondike Kate” Rockwell

Reference row: Carl Barks based Glittering Goldie on singer and actress Katherine “Klondike Kate” Rockwell, who was a vaudeville star during the actual Gold Rush.

Thoughts on this viewing: Again, I’m impressed at how much story they can pack into a single episode. Goldie is a fun character, and a good match for Scrooge. Best of all, this is a rare world-building episode, giving a look into Scrooge’s backstory.  

Next: Horse feathers.

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: Fantastic Fourth Voyage of Sinbad

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Back in issue vol. 3 #24, Sue sent Franklin away in a rocket, baby Superman style, to keep him protected from a crisis. Where, exactly, that rocket went has been an unanswered question for almost two years in real time. Now, Chris Claremont returns to Fantastic Four to answer that question in the 50-page one-shot Fantastic Fourth Voyage of Sinbad. But, in classic Marvel fashion, the answer isn’t much of an answer.

This issue begins with an old-timey sailing ship showing up in the harbor in NYC. Then we’re at FF headquarters, when Franklin appears through a portal, along with our other new supporting characters introduced by Claremont — time-displaced teenage Valeria, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy.  Franklin was in Otherworld, the realm of Roma, whom the FF befriended at the start of vol. 3. But wait – we’re at Pier 4, not the new Baxter Building, which means this story takes place several real-world months earlier. The caption tells us that Franklin and Valeria are attending a school for superhuman children called Haven, located in Otherworld.  So I guess he, Valeria, Caledonia, and Puppy have all been living in Haven and regularly teleporting back and forth to visit the FF all this time. (I guess?)

Later that night, ghostly creatures from the old sailing ship sneak into Pier 4, and a fight breaks out.  The creatures have powers and strength to match the FF’s. They defeat the ghosts by doing the classic switch opponents move, only to discover a seven-headed hydra (!) going after Franklin, Valeria, and Caledonia. As they fight it, a wizard-like guy appears and introduces himself as Jihad. He commands the FF to bow down before him. The FF aren’t having it, and there’s more fighting.

Everyone passes out, and then they wake up on board the old ship. They’ve been apprehended and someone has given the ship to sail in unknown waters. Reed recognizes the ship as a Dromond, a vessel of classic Arabian origin. They’re the only ones on board. Valeria finds a map and deduces that this is the ship that once belonged to the mythical Sinbad the Sailor. The map states that the FF must find four mystic objects – the Eye to behold all, the Hand to grasp all, the Crystal Casque to contain all, and the Mallet of Destiny for your heart’s desire. Despite being abducted, the team embraces the spirit of adventure, and they embark on the quest.

The Dromond arrives at a flying island made of crystal, home of the Casque. Deadly lasers shoot down anyone who approaches, but Sue is able to get inside invisibly to steal the Casque. Cut to another island, where Reed is playing a game of chess in front of a crowd in an amphitheater with his teammates has the chess pieces. Reed wins the game and gains the Hand. Then it’s off to another island, where an enemy named Iblis transforms the FF into demonic monsters. Ben, who is already a monster, defeats Iblis and gets the Mallet.

Next, the Dromond is attacked by a giant bird called a Rukh, who captures Johnny. The FF chases the Rukh to the same island where the Eye is located. The find the Eye attached to a statue larger than any NYC skyscraper. The Rukh’s nest is also there, where a bunch of also-gigantic baby birds are about to eat an alien man. Johnny returns to burn up the nest. The birds fly off and the man is saved, but disappears. The FF get the Eye and return to the ship, only to discover Jihad has returned, and turned Franklin, Valeria, Caledonia, and Puppy into statues.

The FF hand the mystical objects over to Jihad to rescue the kids, but Ben leaps into action, swiping the Dromond’s figurehead, carved into the shape of an Arabian warrior. When the figurehead hits the water, we learn that it was the one and only Sinbad the Sailor himself! There’s some confusing business, where Sinbad said he convinced Jihad to transform him and abduct the FF, because it was Sinbad’s plan all along to team up with the FF to rescue his daughter Dione from Jihad. (I think. Fifty pages is a lot for one comic, and yet this is still a ton of plot for fifty pages.)

The FF have no ship, but the Rukh returns and the FF ride on its back into action. In Jihad’s home city, he announces his plan to open portals to other worlds to reign over them all. The FF and Sinbad fly into action. The battle goes on for several pages, but Ben and Reed do that move where Reed stretches into a big slingshot to sling Ben at Jihad. That takes out the bad guy, and everyone recovers the mystical objects. Sinbad says they can use the objects to undo Jihad’s magic, but only if they work together. Jihad returns at the last minute, only for Ben to use the Mallet to punch him out again. The kids are transformed back into human, Sinbad rescues Dione, and everyone celebrates.

Sinbad magically sails the Dromond back to NYC. Sinbad leaves Ben with a gold talisman as a keepsake of their adventure, and he and his daughter sail off into the unknown.

Unstable molecule: Reed is pumped to be on a high seas adventure at first, enjoying all the action and scrapes. By the end, however, he admits to Sinbad that as a scientist, he is not equipped to deal with all the magical aspects of their journey.

Fade out: While invisible on the crystal island, Sue has to wear special polarized sunglasses, so she’s not disoriented by the dazzling lasers coming from the crystals. Is now the time to revisit the “how does she see when invisible?” debate?

Clobberin’ time: We learn that when Ben was a child, he loved tales of Sinbad, which inspired him to become a pilot and adventurer. When Sinbad appears, he and Ben bond to the point where Sinbad ends by considering Ben to be like a brother to him.

Flame on: Johnny is real flirtatious with Caledonia. She doesn’t give him any response either way. There’s no real way to know where his relationship with Namorita is at by this point, so maybe Johnny can get away with this?

Four and a half: There are a few references to Franklin being “bigger” now, so perhaps the intent was to age him up a little more moving forward. Also, Franklin says Reed has been teaching him to pay chess, to the point where Franklin can now complete entire games of chess in his head, without needing a board (!).

Our gal Val: We learn Valeria is fluent in Arabic, which comes in handy. Remember that in the alternate timeline she came from, her father is Dr. Doom (or is he?) who no doubt saw to it she had a world-class education.

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. In this issue, she takes the wheel of the sailing ship, and later pulls off a heist on her own. Could this be her spy experience at work?

Commercial break: Fifty pages equal no ads!

Trivia time: This is Sinbad the Sailor’s fourth and (to date) final appearance in Marvel Comics. He was in two issues of a 1974 anthology series called Worlds Unknown, in an attempt to cash in on the success of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian comics. Then he was one in issue of 1975’s Marvel Spotlight, in a story that’s “freely adapted from” the screenplay of the 1958 film The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Whether these stories are canonical to the Marvel Universe is up for debate.

This is the only appearance of Jihad (which is for the best, because yikes to his problematic name) as well as Dione and Iblis. The Hydra, however, is something of a mainstay in the Marvel Universe, as a regular adversary for Hercules in Herc’s various solo stories. In Weapon X vol. 3 #16, however, the one and only Wolverine permanently killed the Hydra by cutting into so many tiny pieces it couldn’t regrow any of its heads.

Fantastic or frightful? Chris Claremont’s writing on Fantastic Four was marked by having tons of plot packed into each page, and that’s the case here as well. Still, it’s enjoyable to see the FF actually having fun while on an adventure, rather than the usual increasing dramatic stakes typical of big event comics.

Next: Bring me the head of Galactus.

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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DuckTales rewatch – Micro-ducks from Outer Space

Rewatching DuckTales! Let’s everybody get teeny-tiny in episode 22, “Micro-ducks from Outer Space.”

Here’s what happens: Gyro Gearloose is experimenting with a new satellite dish, which appears to grant first contact with aliens. Scrooge’s farm, meanwhile, has a surplus of wheat he’s having trouble selling. Gyro then contacts Scrooge about the aliens, saying their planet has a food shortage and they want to buy all the wheat. What no one is expecting, though, is for the aliens to be tiny, the size of ants.

The aliens have a matter manipulator, which can grow jewels for payment, and shrink the wheat for transport back to their planet. They depart, accidentally leaving the matter machine behind. Scrooge tinkers with it, shrinking him, the nephews, and Webby to teeny size. From there, it’s the usual shrunken adventure that you usually see. The heroes get swallowed up by a vacuum cleaner, befriend an ant, travel down a sidewalk drain like it’s a river, all to get to Gyro’s house.

After reaching Gyro, the heroes return to Scrooge’s mansion, unaware that the aliens have returned and taken back the manipulator. Fortunately, the aliens’ ship gets caught in some glue Launchpad was using earlier in the episode. They return everyone back to their original size.

Humbug: My thesis is that the series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his friends and family are more important than his wealth. This episode would have us believe Scrooge has learned his lesson when he chooses not to squish a bug at the end. But… has he learned a lesson? All this life-threatening peril happens because of his greediness.

Junior woodchucks: The subplot in this one has to do with the nephews’ ant farm, and the ants getting loose around Scrooge’s office. Of course this comes into play after everyone gets miniaturized.

Fasten your seatbelts: Why is Launchpad covered with glue? His shtick in this episode is to glue a big “X” onto the roof of Scrooge’s mansion so the aliens will know where to land.

Maid and maiden: When the shrunken heroes encounter the ants, they’re monstrous at first. But then Webby is able to tame them by being kind to them. Once again, we see befriending monsters is her super power.

Best brain: Gyro’s shtick this time is to deliver a pompous welcome speech for the aliens. He’s acting as if this is Earths’ first contact with aliens, even though the characters have met aliens before. Also, Gyro gets around town on some sort of flying saucer/hovercraft thing.

Down in Duckburg: Scrooge’s mansion is depicted as being a hilltop overlooking the city, when it hasn’t in previous episodes. Maybe he’s so rich that he owns two mansions.

Reference row: Stories about people being miniaturized have been around all long as they’re been stories, it seems. The two most definitive works on the subject are 1927’s A Man Among the Microbes by Maurice Renard and 1956’s The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson. Matheson later adapted his book into the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, which is likely the main inspiration for this episode.

Thoughts on this viewing: Most TV cartoons do an “everybody gets shrunk” episode, which gives the animators a lot to play with in terms of design and scale. There’s no real story in this episode, but it’s nicely animated throughout.

Next: What would you do for a Klondike bar?

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday – Country living

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s time for relationship woes and more small-town weirdness in vol. 3 #45.

Where were we? After a fight with the Grey Gargoyle, Ben has developed the ability to turn human and back whenever he wants. Also, ever since the FF returned from the Heroes Reborn universe, Ben has been receiving letters from Alicia, which he keeps refusing to open. This issue begins with human Ben driving to the town of Sunshine City, Florida, saying he must get up the nerve to do what needs to get done.

We then flash back to days earlier, with the FF dealing with the fallout of their recent adventure in the Negative Zone. Johnny absorbed too much heat, and now he can’t flame off. Reed, Sue, and Johnny’s girlfriend Namorita are in Reed’s lab working on a cure. Johnny is inside a giant fishbowl looking thing, and it appears to work at first, but then the glass shatters as Johnny can’t control the flame. Johnny insists Reed cure him, but Ben tells him, “Listen Junior, stuff happens.”

In Sunshine City, Ben transforms back into his Rocky form and knocks on a door. Alicia answers, and they give each other a hug. Then there’s a short scene in Kansas, where Sue meets with Noah Baxter’s wife, to console her after Noah disappeared after the Negative Zone story. Noah’s wife, Abigail, says she doesn’t believe he’s dead. Sue returns to the Baxter Building, where Reed has constructed a suit of armor for Johnny to help control his flame. Sue receives a package from Ben, saying Ben has quit the team. Johnny doesn’t buy it, but Reed says Ben has the freedom to go off on his own if he wants. But, Reed adds, he wants to look Ben in the eye when Ben calls it quits.

Reed and Johnny arrive in Sunshine City, with Johnny’s new armor hidden under a big trenchcoat. They find Ben driving a tractor (!). A fight breaks out, with Ben saying he wants them to leave him alone. Ben throws Johnny around, ties Reed in a knot, and deduces Sue is alongside them invisibly. Alicia tries to break up the fight, but Ben won’t have it, punching away at Sue’s force fields. Sue tells him to change back to human, to prove that he’s there of his own free will. He does, and then is disoriented, not knowing what’s going on.

Reed suspects Alicia’s stepfather the Puppet-Master has a hand in what’s going on. Just then, the townsfolk gather around, chanting “You won’t take us from here.” The FF travel across town to find the Puppet-master, who says “I’m protected.” Then two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents show up, saying that this whole town is a variation of the witness protection program, in which supervillains can volunteer to opt out of life prison terms and instead be reprogrammed for a normal life. Letting Ben and Alicia be a part of Puppet-Man’s artificial town is a concession, the agent says. “Clearly a bad one,” he adds.

Cut to later, as Ben and Alicia have a heart-to-heart on a nearby hilltop. Turns out all those unopened letters weren’t from Alicia, but from the Puppet-Master, hoping that Ben and Alicia would become a couple again. Alicia argues that Puppet-Master is not a bad man, and his town full of puppets is a place where he’s loved. Then Ben tells Alicia that he’s changed, and that he doesn’t love her anymore. She admits the same about him. But they agree to be friends, and give each other a hug. All while Johnny watches from a distance.

Unstable molecule: When Johnny makes a Leave it to Beaver reference, Reed admits he’s never heard of it. You know, because a scientist of his stature has no time to watch TV.

Fade out: Once again, we see that Sue’s teammates know her so well that they can tell when she’s invisible near them. Ben is quick to figure out just where she is.

Clobberin’ time: While this would appear to the end of Ben and Alicia, we all know it isn’t. The two will later become a couple again following the events of the 2015 Secret Wars.

Flame on: This subplot about Johnny’s powers going haywire will last for at least another 10 issues. And, again, Johnny and Namorita’s romance is occurring almost entirely off-panel.

Fantastic fifth wheel: When discussing Ben leaving the team, Johnny suggests replacing him with Namorita. Reed tells Johnny to stop joking… but is he?

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. In this issue, she threatens the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents by going over their heads when they tell her their mission is classified. After hearing this, the agents fess up.

Commercial break: Gross.

Trivia time: Tracking the history of the Puppet-Master throughout this time should not be this difficult of a task. Before this issue, while Alicia was a regular in Silver Surfer, Puppet-Master (who the Marvel wiki insists on calling “Phillip”) got hold of some clay infused with the Power Cosmic. He later created a puppet with godlike powers called the Cosmic Messiah. That somehow led to this issue. Then, after this, he’s back to being a criminal in Spider-Man: Tangled Web, when he tried robbing Macy’s Department Store in NYC at Christmastime.

Fantastic or frightful? I don’t know. I’m not sure why they felt the need to have a definitive ending to Ben and Alicia’s relationship, when they haven’t really been a couple since the early days of the Thing solo series. The Puppet-Master/creepy town stuff has the makings of a cool Twilight Zone type of story, but it’s not given much exploration. This is supposed to be a big emotional payoff story, but instead feels inconsequential.

Next: Was that Shazam or Kazam?

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday: The Sentry

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Sentry/Fantastic Four introduces to the strange story of the Sentry, and the even more strange story of how he was created.

This comic immediately follows the six-issue The Sentry miniseries. If you’re going to read this comic without knowing who the Sentry is, you’ll be lost. So let’s get into the backstory first. Bob Reynolds was given a version of Captain America’s super-soldier serum, called the golden soldier serum. This transformed him into the Sentry, one of the most powerful beings on Earth. He was also one of Marvel’s first superheroes, pre-dating the Fantastic Four. He was a friend and colleague to Reed Richards and Professor Xavier, a mentor to Spider-Man, and one of the few puny humans to earn the Hulk’s respect.

If the Sentry is so integral to the Marvel Universe, then why haven’t you heard of him? That’s because of his enemy, the Void. A cosmic being that feeds on people’s fears, the Void was revealed to be the Sentry’s own repressed dark side come to life. To stop the Void, the Sentry, Reed, and Dr. Strange came up with a way to have the Earth’s entire population forget the Sentry’s existence. It worked, except years later the Sentry’s memory returned, forcing a rematch with the Void.

If the above were the whole story, that’d be fine, except writer Paul Jenkins took things to a whole other meta level with the Sentry. First, to promote The Sentry miniseries, Jenkins, Stan Lee, and Wizard magazine staged a hoax stating that the Sentry was an unused Stan Lee creation from the early ‘60s. Later, Jenkins himself became a character in the Sentry’s, where he was the one who received the Sentry’s memories and had to write a comic to reveal them to the world.

Sentry/Fantastic Four begins at the finale of the Sentry miniseries, where the FF and various other Marvel heroes have gathered at the Statue of Liberty to see off the Sentry as he flies into battle against the Void for the second time. Reed contemplates how being a superhero used to be a fun adventure, but has since become dark and sour.

Reed then flashes back to the good old days, when the FF and Sentry teamed up to battle the Android Pirates of Dimension Nine. We’re right in the middle of action where our heroes are fighting their way through the androids’ spaceship, and a lot of sci-fi talk about shutting down tractor beams and a self-destruct countdown. The Sentry fights back the androids and survives the blast, just so the FF can escape back to their own ship.

The next flashback has the Sentry and Reed inside the Sentry’s science lab. The Sentry is holding an all-powerful Cosmic Cube as Reed tries to study it. The Sentry’s computer, named CLOC, is reprogrammed by the cube and attacks the heroes. There are several pages of everyone fighting past CLOC’s defenses, until the Sentry suggests using the E-Nullifier on the cube to get under control. Reed says that would be suicide, but the sentry says he’ll do whatever it takes. It works, and CLOC is restored to normal.

The flashback ends with the FF out of uniform, having a backyard barbecue with Bob Reynolds and his wife, joking about the adventure they just had. Cut back to the Statue of Liberty, where Reed ponders how those early days. Reed says that when he helped the world lose their memories of the Sentry, he “betrayed the age of innocence.” And with that line, the comic just ends. I guess it’s making a big statement about how comics used to be fun and colorful but they’re all dark and violent. (Kids these days, etc.)

Unstable molecule: Because the Sentry is a science genius as well as a Superman-powered hero, he and Reed get to do super-science together. Both this comic and the Sentry miniseries go out of their way to establish Reed and the Sentry as best pals. But then, this makes Reed feel even more guilty about the whole “erasing the world’s memories” thing.

Fade out: Sue and Sentry’s wife Linda are also good friends. Jokes about them reading fashion magazines and fussing over their hairstyles would seem to be attempts at recreating the tone of ‘60s Marvel comics.

Clobberin’ time: While most of the Marvel heroes seem enamored of the Sentry, Ben is not one of them. When the Sentry flies off in the middle of the fight, Ben says, “I always told you there was something wrong with that guy.”

Flame on: Johnny, meanwhile, is really, REALLY enamored of the Sentry, saying “I told you was the best!”

Commercial break: Here is the Wizard magazine promo that convinced everyone the Sentry had been around since the 60s:

Trivia time: The Sentry did manage to stick around after his big debut, pretty much as an ongoing member of the Avengers. He tends to get brought out during the finales of the big crossover events when the heroes need some big firepower. He has a habit of leaving Earth and flying alone in space for long stretches of time, and once even lived in a pocket dimension dubbed the “Sentry World.” Only a few weeks before the blog post, the Sentry returned to Earth only be killed off by Knull in King in Black #1. The Marvel wiki has the Sentry listed as officially, canonically dead – but you never know about these things.

Fantastic or frightful? With The Sentry, Paul Jenkins wanted to have a lasting impact on Marvel history, while also making a big statement about heroism and the superhero genre. I applaud his ambition, but the gloomy, morose tone of these Sentry comics just doesn’t work for me.

Next: Was that Kazam or Shazam?

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Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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Fantastic Friday – Before the Fantastic Four

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s time for the three Before the Fantastic Four prequel miniseries, showing what our heroes were up to before FF #1. And no, Reed and Ben are no longer World War 2 vets.

Before the Fantastic Four: Reed Richards finds young Reed jet-setting around the globe, freeing a deposed prince from a usurping general in the Himalayas and then studying both fine art and subspace tech in Paris. When he learns his mentor, Dr. Van Nuys, is ill with a mysterious ailment, Reed investigates. He’s pursued by sinister henchmen, and comes across an artifact with strange hieroglyphics. With the help of archeologist Frankie Fisher, Reed finds himself on the path of an ancient relic known as the Hand of Bast, which Frankie says, “makes the Holy Grail look like a Dixie cup.”

After a few more escapes from these henchmen, Alyssa joins Reed and Frankie in New York, and then to Bucharest. There’s another confrontation with the henchmen, and Frankie is abducted by… young Dr. Doom! Doom wears a cloth mask in this instead of his usual metal one, and we see him studying sorcery from a man named Radu. Alyssa wants to leave Frankie behind, but Frankie has the scroll leading to the location of the Claw of Basat. Doom is recreating the experiment that originally destroyed his face, only this time with Alyssa and Frankie as the test subjects. Reed makes it look like the experiment explodes, and he escapes with the two ladies. Then it’s off to Egypt, where the Claw of Bast is located inside the Sphinx (convenient). Doom follows them, and claims the Claw for itself, only for its magic to bring the Sphinx to life. There’s a big fight, ending when Reed gets hold of the Claw and transfers its magic back to the Sphinx, saving his mentor’s life in the process.

During Chris Claremont’s run at the start of volume 3 of Fantastic Four, he introduced Alyssa Foy, who was super-rich, a super-genius, and who had some sort of undefined past with Reed. We were promised that Reed and Alyssa’s story would be told in Before the Fantastic Four: Reed Richards, but that’s not quite the case. Alyssa joins Reed for part of the adventure, but there’s no revelation about what their relationship may or may not have been. Frankie is the much more fun character, and she’s the one I’d rather see come back for more. Note that this one has a frame sequence with Reed telling the story to Franklin, with Franklin making some meta comments about the more preposterous aspects of the plot.

Before the Fantastic Four: Ben Grimm and Logan is the one I’m guessing most Marvel fans are interested, because who doesn’t love Wolverine? Taking place “not so long ago,” the story begins in the Nevada desert, where test pilot Ben Grimm flies too close to Logan’s car as he drives out in the middle of nowhere. Logan is so ticked off that he breaks into the Air Force base and picks a fight with Ben. As punishment (I guess?) Ben and Logan are assigned a top secret mission by Col. Nick Fury himself. They’re to pilot an experimental aircraft built by Tony Stark into Russia to steal a piece of machinery known only as “Red Storm” from a Russian base. Ben’s co-pilot is young Carol Danvers.

Upon flying to Russia, Ben, Logan, and Carol are confronted by the future Black Widow, Natasha Shostakova (her married name at the time) and the evil Col. Malenky. After a lot of fights and escapes, Ben, Logan and Carol manage to swipe the Red Storm (we don’t know what it is because it’s sealed in a briefcase). There’s a big airfight between Carol in one airplane and Natasha leading a crew of Russian pilots in her own plane, with Ben and Logan impossibly jumping and falling from plane to plane. Natasha lets the heroes go, suggesting that maybe she’s not so evil after all, and Malenky takes the fall for it. This one ends setting up a sequel, by not revealing what the Red Storm is, and by Logan saying this was only phase one of their mission, but no sequel was ever made.

There is no mention of Logan’s powers in this, neither his Adamantium skeleton nor his healing factor. The Marvel Wiki states that he does have his Adamantium and his claws during this time, so I wonder why we don’t see them. The fact that Black Widow, Tony Stark, Nick Fury, and Carol Danvers are in this means this could also double as Before the Avengers. And while I’m nitpicking, there’s no way Ben or even Logan can just cling to airplane wings and hop from plane to plane during a high-speed dogfight.

The real oddity among these miniseries is Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms. What kind of adventure could young Sue and young Johnny possibly have gotten into? Oh, I don’t know, how about battling freakin’ vampires? After meeting young Sue and young Johnny, we meet Sue’s friend Cammie Brandies. Cammie’s father, Professor Brandies, recently died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny swipes a strange amulet from the scene, and later, he, Sue, Cammie, and Cammie’s uncle Max are attacked by strange beings. They escape, but are pursued by a man named Comte St. Germain. The young heroes make their way to Empire State University, where they learn the amulet is the ancient “Amulet of Z.” What’s more, Germain is after the Amulet so he can deliver it to his master… the one and only Dracula!

Germain uses Absorbing Man-like powers to pursue the young heroes. Then it’s dropped that the “Z” in Amulet of Z stands for Zarathos, the demon half of Ghost Rider. Zarathos wants to bond with Johnny to make Johnny the new Ghost Rider, but Max instead grabs the amulet and he becomes Ghost Rider instead. Ghost Rider defeats Germain, which inflicts pain on Dracula, who is trapped in coffin on the other side of the world. Sue manages to separate Max from Zarathos by appealing to Max’s humanity. The amulet is lost in a junkyard where it will eventually be found by Danny Ketch. Sue later announces she’s leaving for California for college, and we the reader know this is where her romance with Reed begins.

Skipping over there’s nothing in FF lore to suggest that Sue and Johnny were once teenage vampire slayers, this is a decent supernatural adventure tale, with the Ghost Rider/Zarathos appearance being a neat twist. The Max character is here to show that Sue sees in him what she will next find attractive in Reed. So it’s all good, I guess.

Fantastic or frightful? The big issue with these three miniseries is how they play so fast and loose with Marvel continuity, to the point where it’s like reading an out-of-canon What If comic rather than a proper prequel. But then, that’s also what works about these, in that they all have a feel of old-fashioned pulp adventure, more interested in sensationalistic thrills rather than world building. I had fun with these, but they’re not required reading.

Next: Country living.

****

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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DuckTales rewatch – Bermuda Triangle Tangle

Rewatching DuckTales! There’s more high seas adventure and a whole lotta seaweed in episode 21, “Bermuda Triangle Tangle.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge learns that his cargo ships have been disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle. He doesn’t believe in superstitions about the Triangle, so he welcomes the nephews to join him. The cowardly Captain Foghorn of Scrooge’s fleet leads everyone on the voyage. The ship enters the Triangle, gets lost in a storm, and runs aground on a giant landmass made of seaweed.

Our heroes find several shipwrecks in the seaweed, along with Scrooge’s missing cargo ship. They are then approached by strangers covered with seaweed, led by the green-skinned Captain Bounty. He explains that he and the others are stranded on the seaweed island with no hope of rescue, but they’ve managed to make a life of it. Scrooge suggests he take over as the island’s new leader so he can come up with new ideas to escape. Bounty won’t have it, and he puts Scrooge and the nephews to work.

Scrooge and some of the locals plot to overthrow Captain Bounty, only to stir up a giant monster living under the island. Captain Bounty has a harpsichord (!) which he uses to mesmerize the monster. Scrooge and the others convince Bounty to let them go ahead with the escape attempt, even though Bounty doubts it will work. Everyone manages to escape the island and return to Duckburg for a heroes’ welcome. But the monster followed them, and chases after Scrooge. Captain Bounty rescues Scrooge from the monster, and he decides to return to the Bermuda Triangle.

Humbug: We learn that Scrooge is skilled not just at the harpsichord, but several other musical instruments as well.

Junior Woodchucks: Louie says the seaweed island reminds him of a recurring nightmare he’s had, which he’s titled, “Louie in Spinach Land.”

Foul fowls: Captain Bounty comes off like a small-kingdom tyrant at first, but Scrooge later gives him credit for doing what it took to keep his people alive. When he returns to the Bermuda Triangle at the end, you’d think he’d have a new mission to prevent any more ships from being trapped there, but nobody says that.

Down in Duckburg: We’re not told how large Scrooge’s shipping fleet is, but there are so many ships and captains he can’t remember the name of them all.

Reference row: The real-life Bermuda Triangle is located between Miami, Bermuda, and San Juan. Stories of ships and aircraft being lost in there have been exhaustively debunked. Captain Bounty would appear to be a reference to Mutiny on the Bounty, even though Bounty is the ship and not the captain. Finally, Scrooge laments, “Why couldn’t this have happened to The Love Boat?” This references the campy ‘70s TV show.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Yeah… every episode of DuckTales is starting to feel the same as all the others. It’s just whatever exotic locale the writers can draw out of a hat next. Captain Bounty is an interesting character in that he’s not all that bad, but that’s about all there is to note about this one.

Next: Pym particles.

****

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

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NEW EBOOK – Mom, I’m Bulletproof

HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Mom, I’m Bulletproof, a novel by Mac McEntire Artwork Copyright ©2021 by Michael W. McVey. All rights reserved.

Amazon.com: Mom I’m Bulletproof eBook: McEntire, Mac: Kindle Store

A comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic.

Amy McBloom struggles to pay her bills, bickers on the phone with her mom, and hopes to meet a guy. She can also defy gravity with a thought, and she is strong enough to bench press a garbage truck.

As U.S. Amy, she keeps the people of Boston safe. But when Amy discovers a deadly worldwide conspiracy, she’ll need help. Fighting crime is one thing, but getting a bunch of her fellow superheroes to work together? That’s the real challenge.

Help spread the word about MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF by the sharing the link on your own social media.

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DuckTales rewatch – Home Sweet Homer

Rewatching DuckTales! It’s all Greek to me as we go back the mythic times in episode 30, “Home Sweet Homer.” I’ll let you go ahead and make your own Simpsons reference.

Here’s what happens: Donald sends his nephews a letter with some photos, and Scrooge deduces that remains of a lost city are in the background. Scrooge and the boys sail to the scene, called Ithaquack. There’s a flashback to old Ithaquack, where the witch Circe plots against young King Homer, hoping to send the boy to another time. Scrooge and the boys get caught in the spell, arriving in ancient times. Scrooge rescues Homer, and plans to confront Circe to return to the present. Homer, meanwhile, frets that he’s not as strong and manly as his predecessor Ulysses.

After another attack by Circe, Scrooge, the boys, and Homer end up shipwrecked. Then it’s a travelogue through various takes on characters from the Odyssey. There’s King Blowhard with superhuman breath, the hypnotic singing of the sirens, and a deadly whirlpool guarded by a dragon-like creature. As the heroes approach the main city of Ithaquack, we learn Homer hopes to be reunited with his love, the Princess Ariel. Circe then disguises herself as Ariel to fool everyone.

Once Circe deduces that Scrooge is not a sorcerer as she feared, Circe transforms Scrooge and Homer into pigs. Huey, Dewey and Louie later sneak into the palace and find out what happened. The boys steal Circe’s magic medallion, and she puts up a chase. The boys break the medallion, which undoes all of Circe’s spells. This also unleashes a second magic storm that sends Scrooge and the nephews back to the present. They’re then rescued by Donald’s Navy battleship.

Humbug: Scrooge says his favorite books are Treasure Island and The Odyssey.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey and Louie talk about wanting to grow up to be just like Uncle Scrooge. At the end of the episode, Scrooge encourages them not to emulate him, but to grow up and be themselves.

In the Navy: Donald’s clumsiness continues to make him an annoyance to his superior, Admiral Grimmitz. The admiral joins the family for the episode’s final wrap-up scene, though, suggesting that he’s one of the gang.

Fowl fouls: Circe is basically a variation on Magica Dispell, complete with animal sidekick. Her motivation is simple revenge, as she and Ulysses were sworn enemies.

Down in Duckburg: The episode begins with a weird gag as the mailman delivers Donald’s letter. The mailman is walking tilted to the side, and has trouble getting the mail in the slot because he’s at a perpetual 45-degree angle. I guess the idea is it’s because his mailbag weighs so much.

Reference row: Because Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey began as an oral tradition, there’s no exact date of its creation, just that it originated between 700 and 750 BC. The first written versions of the poem appeared sometime in 4th century BC. The first officially published version was in Greek in 1488, and later translated into rhyming English in 1614. That’s the one we all read in school.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Here’s another variation on the find-a-lost-civilization plot that DuckTales keeps relying on. Now that I’m in deep on this series, I’m getting every-episode-is-the-same vibes. I like how the sirens are all freaky-looking, though.

Next: Bermuda shorts.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. Coming soon: MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF.

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Fantastic Friday: Gen 13

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s inter-company crossover time as the FF teams up with the teen favorites from Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Comics. We’re talking Gen 13/Fantastic Four. (Why do the newbies get their name first?)

Who is Gen 13? They are the long-lost children of former superheroes known as Team 7. The kids are “gen-active,” meaning they inherited superpowers from their folks. As orphans, though, they knew none of this until they were abducted and experimented on by the mad scientists of I.O. (short for International Operations). They were rescued by a spy named Lynch, and then relocated to a beach house in La Jolla, California where they got into all kinds of teen-superhero hijinks.

Meet Gen 13:

  • Fairchild, the team leader, who has superhuman strength and is a budding scientist.
  • Freefall, the youngest, a bubbly teen with gravity-defying powers.
  • Grunge, the perpetually horny party animal, who can absorb the properties of anything he touches.
  • Rainmaker, an overly serious socially conscious type who can control the weather.
  • Burnout, the quiet one, a wannabe musician with fire powers. Burnout is of particular interest to Fantastic Four readers because in another alternate timeline in vol. 2 #15, he was made an official fifth member of the FF.

Also of note is Queelocke, Freefall’s alien pet. It’s a monkey-like creature from another dimension Gen 13 picked up on one of their early adventures. The comic pretty much forgets about Queelocke after the first few issues, but the creators of Gen 13/Fantastic Four remembered him.

First things first: This comic isn’t bothered one bit with continuity. It’s set in an alt-universe where the FF and Gen 13 have always co-existed. This is the same mentality as the old-school Superman/Spider-Man team up, where we get right to the action without having to bother with the characters finding portals to other universes, etc.   

This issue begins with the Gen 13 gang visiting New York, apparently just for a vacation. (They lived in Manhattan for a while in their comic, but by this time they had relocated back to La Jolla.) They dress up for a night on the town, leaving Queelocke in their hotel room. Along, Queelocke starts going crazy and trashing the room, spooking the hotel staff.

At the new Baxter Building, Reed discovers a spatial displacement out in the ocean. He and Sue take off in a Fantasticar to investigate. In the ocean, we see a Queelocke-like monster emerge from a portal deep underwater. The monster looks menacing, but the caption tells us it’s only two feet tall.

Gen 13 return to their, where they learn Queelocke has escaped the building and is running loose in NYC.  They split up to search for the little guy. Nearby, Johnny and Spider-Man are out on patrol together, bantering about whether it’s better to be a solo hero or part of a team. They encounter Queelocke, who has gone feral. There’s a brief fight, ending with Spidey wrapping up Queelocke in webs. Johnny makes Spidey carry the alien to the Baxter Building by himself to get back at him for saying solo heroes are better than team heroes.

On the way back to the Baxter Building, Johnny meets Freefall on a rooftop. She thinks he’s Burnout at first, but quickly realizes he’s the famous Human Torch. They flirt for a few seconds and then Johnny flies back to HQ. Johnny, Ben, and Spider-Man lock Queelocke up in a containment cell, but they note that Queelocke is rapidly getting bigger and bigger. Spider-Man takes off, leaving the alien in the hands of the FF.

Johnny returns to Gen 13’s hotel looking for Freefall. Fairchild spies on him, learning that Queelocke is at the Baxter Building. She gets her team together and they come up with a plan to take on the FF. Freefall confidently says, “I can get us in.” She shows up at the Baxter Building asking for Johnny, asking him out on a date. The fact that she can defy gravity outside the building is only fleetingly mentioned. When Freefall learns Queelocke is growing like crazy, she drops the act and flies through the building to rescue her pet.

A fight breaks out, with Fairchild and Grunge holding their own against Ben, and Burnout and Johnny having a fire-off. Burnout actually wins the fight with an enormous blast of heat at Johnny. Johnny absorbs the blast, but it’s so much heat that it knocks him out for a bit. Gen 13 try to open the containment unit to free Queelocke, but accidentally open the Negative Zone portal instead. The young heroes are almost sucked into the Negative Zone, but they’re rescued by Reed and Sue retuning to the Baxter Building.

Out in NYC, the monster rises from the ocean, now having grown to Godzilla-size. Similarly, Queelocke grows so large that he bursts out of the building. Reed demands answers, but Fairchild says there’s no time, insisting the two super-teams work together to protect the people of New York. Reed suspects that the monster is a rival of Queelocke’s and if it and Queelocke battle, they might destroy the city.

The FF and Gen 13 work together to stop Queelocke, who has also grown to Godzilla size. No matter what they do, they can’t stop Queelocke from marching forward. Queelocke and the monster confront each other in Central Park. Instead of battling to the death, they start, as Rainmaker puts it, “loving.” Everyone’s reactions to this are really funny, and worth the cost of the comic.

After the two aliens are done “completing the process,” as Reed puts it, the monster disappears and Queelocke is back to normal. Reed tries to hold the kids responsible for the damage to the Baxter Building, but Fairchild says the “scenario” would have taken place out in the ocean without endangering the city of the FF had never abducted Queelocke. Nearby, Johnny and Burnout shake hands, each admitting they are a “hothead.” Freefall shoots Johnny down with a simple “It’s a shame I have to leave.” As the two teams go their separate ways, Grunge wants to celebrate, saying they got out of trouble pretty easily. Rainmaker says that’s only as long as their mentor Lynch never learns of this. The final panel is Lynch seeing a news report about the incident on TV.

Unstable molecule: As both leader and scientist, Fairchild talks to Reed on his level twice in this issue, putting him in his place. Reed concedes to her rather than continue to argue.

Fade out: Sue’s prepares a nighttime snack of coffee and potato soup for her and Reed’s Fantasticar flight. Coffee and potato soup doesn’t strike me as “nighttime snack” material.

Clobberin’ time: Unlike Marvel’s Absorbing Man, Grunge can absorb more than just rock and metal. He can turn into water or go paper-thin. And in this issue, when he touches Ben, Grunge absorbs Ben’s rocky skin.

Flame on: We’ve never seen Johnny knocked out from absorbing too much heat, but then we have to remember that this whole story is an alternate universe.

Fantastic fifth wheel: As the quiet one, Burnout doesn’t have as much character development as the rest of Gen 13. During the original series’ run, most of Burnout’s drama was him learning that Lynch is his long-lost father. He dislikes this at first, but when the team is separated from Lynch for a while, Burnout is driven to find Lynch so they can be reunited. Another Burnout-centric storyline had him reuniting with and later rescuing a childhood friend, who is now a lingerie model. (Wha-hey!)

Also H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot has a cameo, helping out in the FF’s lab. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Commercial break: Marvel and Wildstorm used this drawing to promote the comic at the time. Sharp-eyed readers will recognize this as a parody of a famous Justice League cover.

Trivia time: For what its worth, this month’s issue of Gen 13 has the evil Ivana coming after Fairchild, saying Fairchild owes her a favor. Fairchild goes on a mission and captures an enemy of Ivana’s to clear the debt. Then it’s revealed that Fairchild has done a bunch of these missions for Ivana, with Ivana erasing her memory after each one. Not cool.

This is not the first time Gen 13 ran into Marvel heroes. In Spider-Man/Gen 13, Spidey and the kids worked together to take down the antihero Glider. In Gen 13/Generation X, the Gen-actives met the young mutants. They battled each other at first, and then teamed up to fight Trance and Emplate. Much later, Gen 13 would become a permanent part of the DC Universe with DC’s New 52 event. Fairchild in particular was a main character in Superboy for a while.  

Fantastic or frightful? I suspect this is a Gen 13 comic guest-starring the Fantastic Four, because Gen 13 outsmarts and outfights the FF throughout. It seems designed to sell readers on how cool and edgy Gen 13 is. The ending remains really funny, however.

Next: Country living.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. Coming soon: MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF.

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