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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DuckTales rewatch – Earth Quack

Rewatching DuckTales! There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on as we deal with earthquakes, mine cart chases, and weird blob monsters in episode 29, “Earth Quack.”

Here’s what happens: After a series of mysterious earthquakes around the globe, Gyro discovers a huge Faultline right under Scrooge’s money bin. Gyro’s solution is a giant underground shock absorber. Work begins on the project, but workers fear the underground tunnels are haunted. Scrooge investigates, riding a mine cart deep down into some undiscovered caves.

Lost in a massive underground world, Scrooge comes across spherical creatures called Terra-Firmians. Their rolling and bouncing around is what’s calling the earthquakes. Huey, Dewey, and Louie follow Scrooge’s path into the tunnels, befriending a young Terra-Firmian boy who wants to compete in the “great games.” Scrooge also makes his way to the great games, which threaten a massive earthquake.

Scrooge tries to stop the games, only to get locked up. The nephews rescue him. Scrooge plots to stop the games by stealing the Crack Pot trophy that the Terra-Firmians are competing for. The nephews’ new friend tries to stop them, only to accidentally roll down a hill and into the games, where he gets a perfect score. Then Scrooge uses the mine cart to steal the trophy, and the Terra-Firmians pursue in a crazy chase. Scrooge escapes, leaving his hat behind. The Terra-Firmians decide the hat will be the new trophy.

The Terra-Firmians start another earthquake with their games, opening a fissure underneath Scrooge’s money bin. Scrooge’s whole fortune falls underground. The Terra-Firmians have no need for money, so they send it all back to the surface. The Terra-Firmians then just up and leave, saying the next great games will take place beneath California.

Humbug: My thesis about DuckTales is that the series-long arc is about Scrooge learning his family is more important than his money. I don’t think that applies to this episode. The others say “We still have each other” to Scrooge when he thinks his fortune is gone, but he only responds with a weak smile.

Junior Woodchucks: The kid that befriends Huey, Dewey and Louie has no name other than “kid.”

Maid and maiden: When Scrooge and the boys return to the surface, we see Mrs. Beakley and Webby preparing a rescue mission to go find him.

Best brains: Rather than tinker away alone in his lab, Gyro has a whole team of guys working for him in this episode.

Fowl fouls: The Terra-Firmian king isn’t exactly villainous, and apparently has no idea the damage his games are having on the surface world. It’s likely he doesn’t even know there is a surface world.

Down in Duckburg: The episode begins with a dream Scrooge is having, where he’s nearly drowned in a tidal wave of his own money, and then confronted by giant Beagle Boys. That says a lot about his psyche right there.

Reference row: I just know there’s some folklore and/or an old children’s film about earthquakes being caused by creatures bowling underground, but Google is NO help on this one. Instead, I’ll just go with this:

Thoughts upon this viewing: I suspect every DuckTales episode about finding a lost civilization is written from one template, with tweaks added in here and there. There’s no ending to this one, as the underground creatures just leave on their own, without the heroes enacting any change. On the plus side, it’s terrifically animated, with the mine chase being thrilling and the creatures in the spherical forms feeling truly alien.

\Next: It’s Greek to me.

****

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: Superhero soup

Fantastic Friday! This big Negative Zone story concludes in vol. 3 #44, and in true Marvel fashion, it’s tons of characters in the comic at once.

Where were we? It all started when the evil businessmen of the Gideon Trust bought all of the FF’s old tech, only to try to steal energy from the Negative Zone. This is causing the barriers between Earth and the Negative Zone to break down. Reed, Sue, and Ben entered the NZ to investigate, befriending a tough-guy hunter named Hellscout and then bumping into the Inhumans’ enemy Maximus the Mad. Back on Earth, Johnny doesn’t know when his teammates will return, so he’s formed a super-team of his own with him, Namor, Namorita, She-Hulk, and Ant-Man.

This issue begins with Namor hanging out in the new Baxter Building while the rest of Johnny’s team are heading to Gideon Tower. Namor is to stay back as Johnny’s backup, to be called in only if things get really bad. At the tower, Johnny’s team, which the Marvel Wiki insists on calling “the Ad-Hoc Fantastic Four,” the investigation has already turned into a battle, with the team fighting the Mad Thinker’s Unstoppable Android, also in the employ of the Gideon Trust.

In the Negative Zone, the FF, Hellscout, an alien named Gornkai, Maximus, and Maximus’ army of Alpha-primitives come across the Gideon Trust’s team of N-Explorers, led by Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster. They’re fighting Annihilus, who they’ve snagged in one of the Trapster’s traps. The Trapster removes Annihilus’ powerful Cosmic Control Rod. He sends the rod through a portal to Earth.

Also on Earth, She-Hulk defeats the Android by punching it out, and then the Ad-Hoc team enters the portal chamber. Then it’s back to the NZ, where Reed has converted the FF’s old signal flare gun into a weapon able to interrupt the portal. Maximus and the Alpha-Primitives attack the N-Explorers as a distraction. Reed trusts Hellscout’s perfect aim to fire the weapon into the portal. On Earth, the portal explodes, and Johnny sees an image of the “4” flare in the blaze. He orders his new teammates to retreat while he absorbs the flames. Back to the Negative Zone, where Reed beats up the Trapster and Hellscout defeats a weakened Annhilius. Hellscout stabs Annhilius in the back with two swords, seemingly killing him.  

What happens next is confusing. The Cosmic Control Rod is in two halves and caught in the portal between Earth and the Negative Zone, where it is pouring negative energy into Earth. In space, in orbit around Earth, scientist/architect Noah Baxter is on board the space station Alexandria. He prepares his teleportation tech to absorb some of the negative energy. Reed tries to come up with a plan, but Ben goes ahead and grabs both halves of the Control Rod. He uses his awesome strength to restore both halves. The Alexandria disappears as Noah leaves a message for his wife, telling her he loves her.

The FF return to Earth, leaving Hellscout to keep the Cosmic Control Rod from falling into the wrong hands. The Trapster and the N-Explorers escaped to elsewhere in the Negative Zone, and Hellscout says maybe he’ll go after them. (Maybe?!?) The FF reappear in the Gideon facility where they compare notes with the Ad-Hoc team. Apparently Janus the Nega-Man (from way back in issue #109) was in this story too, because they find his dead body. Then we see that Johnny absorbed so much heat that his powers have gone freaky. He can no longer flame off. He says, “I’m stuck as the Human Torch!”

Cut to Lake Tahoe, home of another secret Gideon Trust facility. The Gideon board members are all laid off by the unseen leader of the trust, with a threat that they will be dealt with severely if they ever talk. The final page returns to the Negative Zone, where two Alpha-Primitives discover an egg with what looks like a tiny baby Annihilus growing inside it.

Unstable molecule: The Trapster says he was thinking of no longer going by the name “Trapster,” but then he says he decides to keep it after hearing Reed say the name aloud. Trapster says Reed gives the name “Trapster” a certain dignity.

Fade out: During the fight against the N-Explorers, Sue uses her newfound (or longtime?) martial arts skills to beat up the baddies.

Clobberin’ time: The alien Gornkai gets only one big moment in this issue, when he proclaims, “It is time for clobbering!” Ben tells him “You’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.”

Flame on: Johnny will be dealing with his out-of-control powers for the next ten issues, so buckle up for a long ride.  

Fantastic fifth wheel: It’s back to Avengers for She-Hulk after this, kicking off an long story about a war between Atlantis and the Deviants.

It’s a little tricky sorting out where Ant-Man ends up in Marvel continuity after this story. He’s in and out of Avengers and Iron Man during this time, and becomes shortly thereafter dates private eye Jessica Jones for a bit.

Commercial break: What was Nickelodeon Gas? Is that like Classical Gas?

Trivia time: No, Annihilus isn’t dead. Not only that, but when he returns in the Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries, there will be two Annihiluses (Annihili?) fighting over which one of them is the real one. Then that never gets resolved, because he comes back after that in the Annihilation crossover back in power as classic Annihilus.

Janus the Nega-Man, meanwhile, really did die, as this was his final appearance to date.

Then there’s Noah Baxter. This issue is also his final appearance, and as of this writing his fate (not to mention most of his backstory) has never been revealed.

You’d think that Hellscout and the alien Gronkai never appeared again, but they did. They both show up in the miniseries Doom: The Emperor Returns, where they confront Dr. Doom after Doom journeys into the Negative Zone.

The Marvel Wiki states that Spider-Man villain the Spot is in this issue, and… he is! Look closely, and you can see him hooked up to a machine in the Gideon Trust’s portal chamber. He survives and later shows up in Spider-Man: Tangled Webs.

Fantastic or frightful? Why are there so many characters in this one issue? (Wait, I’ve asked that question before, haven’t I?) It makes for an unnecessarily busy issue, as you can’t really follow the plot when you’re constantly trying to remember which is which and who is where. Namor is sidelined, Ant-Man does nothing, Maximus is forgotten about after the first few pages, who is this Gronkai guy again, and so on. There’s some good stuff here, but the comic really makes you work to find it.

Next: Country living.

****

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

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DuckTales rewatch – Sweet Duck of Youth

Rewatching DuckTales! We’re dealing with the unstoppable march of time in episode 28, “Sweet Duck of Youth.”

Here’s what happens: Heartbroken about failing to find a lost mine, Scrooge worries if he’s getting too old to treasure hunt. That night, he fears there are burglars in the mansion, but it’s just everyone throwing him a surprise birthday party. It’s a fun time, but there are more reminders of Scrooge getting on in years. Scrooge then gets the idea of finding the Fountain of Youth, following the trail of legendary explorer Ponce de Loon (get it?).

In the Florida swamps, Launchpad’s helicopter is shot down by an arrow. Scrooge is separated from the rest, while Launchpad and the nephews conveniently convert the helicopter into a swamp boat. Alone in the swamp, Scrooge builds a shelter and fends off alligators. He’s then chased off by what appears to be a ghostly Spanish conquistador.

The conquistador then abducts Launchpad, and reveals himself to be an old man chasing outsiders away from his swamp. Huey, Dewey, and Louie attempt a rescue by pretending to be a ghost to spook the phony ghost. Once defeated, the old man admits he’s been searching for the Fountain of Youth for years. The boys find a treasure map hidden inside the old man’s antique conquistador armor, leading them to an underground river. They find the Fountain of Youth, discovering that the water magically makes one’s reflection look young, but it’s not real. Scrooge admits, however, that he got to feel young again for a moment, and that was enough.

Humbug: Scrooge at one point says it never crossed his mind to bottle and sell water from the Fountain of Youth, but then follows that up with a sly look. My hypothesis is that DuckTales is the story of Scrooge learning that his family is more important than his wealth, but not this episode.

Junior Woodchucks: When the three nephews look at their reflections in the Fountain of Youth, they see themselves as unhatched eggs, raising more questions about life in the DuckTales universe.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad in this episode is definitely “dumb Launchpad” and not “cool Launchpad.” His only worry about getting younger in the Fountain of Youth is that his clothes won’t fit anymore.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakley is the one puts the idea of the Fountain of Youth into Scrooge’s mind. Webby’s birthday gift for Scrooge is a rocking chair, which seems kind of cruel. We also learn Webby owns a skateboard.

Best brains: Gyro is at the party scene, but has no dialogue.

Do the doo: Doofus is at the party as well, making a crack comparing Scrooge to his grandfather.

Glad to be here: Gladstone Gander makes his first appearance at the party scene, but he has no dialogue. First-time viewers not familiar with the original Uncle Scrooge comics will probably wonder, “Who’s that guy?”

Foul fowls: The old man’s name is never given. The Disney Wiki identifies him only as “swamp dweller.”

Down in Duckburg: The other guests at Scrooge’s party are perpetual tourist Vacation Van Honk, and a guy in a red sweater and green cap. I spent two and a half hours scouring the Disney Wiki trying to figure out who this is, but no luck. I’ll certainly feel foolish when he’ll no doubt show up in a future episode.

Reference row: Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521) was a real person, a Spanish Navy man, explorer, and later a politician, with a long list of accomplishments throughout his life. His famous search for the Fountain of Youth, however, is wholly fictitious, based on stories that circulated many years after his death.

Thoughts upon this viewing: The best thing about this episode is the animation, which looks great throughout. The nighttime scenes in the swamp are especially cool-looking. The plot is a little on the silly side, but it’s nonetheless the Indiana Jones treasure hunt stuff that is DuckTales at its best.

Next: A whole lotta shakin’ going on.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Don’t be so negative (zone)

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3, #42, we’re in the middle of a big, ambitious story in the Negative Zone that’s getting bigger by adding more characters and conflicts.

Recap: The sinister businessmen of the Gideon Trust purchased all the FF’s old patents and tech a while back, and how now enlisted Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster to mine the Negative Zone for energy. This is causing the borders to Earth and the Negative Zone to become unstable. Reed, Sue, and Johnny enter the Negative Zone to investigate, running into some old-timey sailors who have been trapped in there since pilgrim times. Johnny got left behind, and he is alone in New York.

This issue begins with flashback from “several months ago” of a group of astronauts in the Negative Zone come across what appears to be the ruins of the former Four Freedoms Plaza. Then we cut to the Gideon Trust’s headquarters in New York, which is under attack by Namor the Sub-Mariner. This is following his attack on the Trust’s oceanic platform in the North Atlantic. They attack with helicopters and tanks (big businesses have their own tanks?) and he responds by summons giant sea monsters. Not far away, Johnny is alone at the Baxter Building, apparently trying to run the FF’s business concerns by himself. Lenny from Damage Control contacts him and tells him Namor is attacking.

In the Negative Zone, the FF are searching for traces of positive energy. They’re joined by the pilgrims’ hunter, a man called Hellscout. He and the FF compare notes, with Hellscout saying that he too once battles Annhilius, the baddest bad guy of the Negative Zone. They investigate a planetoid where they meet a lion-like creature named Gornkai, who says “pirates” have turned his and his people’s homes have been turned to ash thanks to their energy-stealing ways. Reed finds a positive ion trail that he can use not only track where the so-called pirates are going, but deduce where their next target is.

Back in NYC, Johnny and Namor continue to fight, no doubt a homage to the old fights between Subby and the original android Human Torch. She-Hulk shows up and joins the fight, saying she received Johnny’s call for help. Namor keeps on fighting, until he’s knocked out by Ant-Man, who tried out one of the Wasp’s stingers inside Namor’s eardrum, zapping him into unconsciousness. Note that this is the Scott Lang Ant-Man former alternate member of the FF.

There’s a short scene in the Negative Zone where Reed builds his ion tracking device and Hellscout takes a somewhat uncomfortable interest in Sue. Then, at the new Baxter Building, Johnny, She-Hulk, and Scott examine the still unconscious Namor. Scott says Namor has gone nuts because his body is charged with negative ions. Then Namorita, Namor’s cousin and New Warrior, shows up, and we’re reminded that she and Johnny have been dating since issue #29 even though we’ve rarely seen this relationship on the page. Johnny tells her, Scott, and She-Hulk that three of the FF are lost in the Negative Zone, and the world needs a new Fantastic Four to fill in the gap. Then Namor wakes, having come to his senses, and offers, “Let there be five.”

In the Negative Zone once more, Reed and the others follow the ion trail to another wrecked planetoid, where Reed deduces that time portals are opening up in addition to the spatial ones. They run into some Alpha-Primitives, suggesting that the Inhumans have also accessed the Negative Zone. They’re then confronted by Maximus the Mad, who says he will offer them something that no one has ever offered him — a truce.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Upon discovering the positive ion trail, Reed exclaims, “Hi-de-ho!” We’re told this is something he always used to say back in college.

Fade out: The scene with Hellscout putting the moves on Sue seems to be here only Sue can have a line where some infrared tech might be able to see her when she’s invisible. Foreshadowing, maybe?

Clobberin’ time: Ben jokes that he and Reed should go on Survivor. Reed says he’s never heard of Survivor and Ben chides him for not knowing pop culture. So much for the “Ben only watches John Wayne movies” thing.

Flame on: During their fight, Johnny survives a punch to the face from Namor, which should kill him considering Namor’s super-strength. I guess we can chalk it up to Namor being out of sorts from the negative zone ions.

Fantastic fifth wheel: During this time, She-Hulk has been in and out various Avengers books. Just prior to this she was in the Avengers/X-Men crossover Maximum Security, in which a whole bunch of heroes battled Ronan the Accuser and the Kree Surpreme Intelligence.

After the events of Onslaught, Scott Lang joined a version of Heroes for Hire for a bit, and then rejoined the Avengers after their fight with Kang.

Commercial break: This issue has two separate full-page ads featuring Spongebob Squarepants, but they’re not for his show. It’s Spongebob promoting other people’s products.

Trivia time: According to the Marvel Wiki, Johnny’s new team is named “the Ad-Hoc Fantastic Four.” Not the catchiest title.

Fantastic or frightful? If this ongoing Negative Zone storyline was published today, Marvel would come up with some up cool-sounding name for it and hype it up as an event. But at this point, a multi-issue cosmic tale with tons of characters is just business as usual for Fantastic Four. The only question is whether they will stick the landing.

Next: Ants and androids.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Launchpad’s Civil War

Rewatching Ducktales! Let’s everybody get problematic when going over episode 27, “Launchpad’s Civil War.”

Here’s what happens: I’ll keep this short. It’s about Launchpad joining a Civil War reenactment, playing the role of his cowardly ancestor. Launchpad discovers a group of actual Civil War soldiers, found still alive like Rip Van Winkle in a cave. Launchpad and the old guys join the reenactment, only fighting for real so they can win it this time. Launchpad and the soldiers restore their honorable statuses and prove themselves as heroes.

This blog is not the appropriate place to get into the politics and societal concerns regarding the Civil War, not mention the thorny discussion of the Civil War could possibly have happened in the DuckTales Universe. The Disney Wiki states that this episode was recently removed from Disney Plus, along with Dumbo, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp. Those movies can still be accessed in some of special adults-only section, but the DuckTales episode seems to be just plain gone.   

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie tag along on the trip, often acting as the voice of reason. They’re also seen at the start helping Launchpad wash his plane.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad expresses a dislike for horseback riding, saying he prefers crashing planes to crashing horses.

Do the doo: Doofus tags along, with a running gag about his camera blinding everyone with its flash. You’d think would be of use in the final battle, but it doesn’t come up.

Fowl fouls: The villain is Colonel Beauregard, descendent of a Confederate soldier. His only plan is to humiliate Launchpad, for no other reason than pettiness.

Reference row: Washington Irving published Rip Van Winkle in 1819. It’s about an English colonial who falls asleep after a night of drinking, only to wake up 20 years later, having slept through the Revolutionary War. It’s often considered to be one of the first depictions of nostalgia in modern (well, modern-ish) literature.

Thoughts upon the viewing: I don’t know. There’s a lot of really funny gags with the bumbling old guys, and a nice emotional story about stepping up when given a second chance. But all this good stuff is portrayed with Confederate flags all over the place. But then, there’s a lot of Disney history that’s romanticizes the Old South, Gone With the Wind-style, so the problems with this episode are kinda/sorta the problems with Disney… and, I guess, society.

Next: Not the younglings, Anakin!

****

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Fantastic Friday: Pilgrims progress

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 #41, we’ve got interdimensional pilgrims, because why not?

OK, so a while back, a group called the Gideon Trust purchased the FF’s old tech and patents. They then reconstructed the Negative Zone portal and hired Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster to lead a team of “N-Explorers” into the zone. Fearing that the Gideon Trust’s efforts are making the Negative Zone unstable, Reed, Sue, and Ben entered the zone to investigate, only to find an ancient Earth sailing ship in there. Got all that? Johnny was left behind because he was prepping for his upcoming movie role. As this issue begins, he’s in Reed’s lab with no knowledge on how to reopen the Negative Zone portal and rejoin his teammates.

Inside the Negative Zone, Reed deduces that the old sailing ship is fifteenth century Spanish galleon named the Pandora. What’s more, the ship’s devoutly religious crew is still on board, led by a man named Jacob. (The comic refers to the crew as “pilgrims” throughout.) There’s a brief fight, until Reed recognizes Jacob carries a Bible. Reed quotes from it, convincing the pilgrims on their side.

Elsewhere in the Negative Zone, Trapster and the N-Explorers are fighting a bunch of aliens to steal their powerful energy generators. He contacts the Gideon Trust, who plans to profit from the generators. Back aboard the Pandora, Jacob explains that the pilgrims’ ancestors were sailing to the New World back the olden days and got caught in a storm, which transported them to the Negative Zone. Nearby, Ben is attacked by a gun-toting man calling himself the Hellscout. It’s a brief fight before Jacob breaks them up, saying Ben is a guest and not a foe.

In New York, Johnny and Spider-Man meet atop the Statue of Liberty (!) for a chat. Johnny fears that the FF will be lost in the Negative Zone forever, but Spidey reminds him that the FF have been considered lost before, referencing Secret Wars and Onslaught. But Johnny hits a nerve by asking Spider-Man if he’s ever lost a family member, and Spidey’s not having it.

Back to the Negative Zone, the Trapster sends the generators through some kind of portal. Then the pilgrims’ home is rocked with a earthquake. Jacob says he can sense a “distancing,” and Reed suspects that the N-Explorers are involved. He fears that the walls between Earth and the Negative Zone are becoming unstable. Hellscout offers his aid, saying he can track anyone, anywhere. Cut to Earth, where a Gideon Trust facility out on the ocean receives the generators, and Namor the Sub-Mariner watches from a distance.

Unstable molecule: What to make of Reed quoting the Bible? I think this is less about what spirituality he may or may not have, but rather him finding common ground between him and Pilgrims. We’re not that far away from a longer story arc about Reed going all magic/supernatural, so maybe this is planting a seed of that.

Fade out: Ben asks Sue why she didn’t turn invisible during the fight, and she tells him that her force field is around the whole team. So much for her-teammates-have-a-vague-sense-of-where-the-force-fields-are thing.

Clobberin’ time: Ben transforms to human and back a few times this issue, just to remind the reader he can do that now.

Flame on: We’re not shown how Johnny contacted Spider-Man for their meeting. In previous comics, Johnny would leave a message at the Daily Bugle for Spidey when he wanted him. This suggests that several days pass during this issue.

Commercial break: This is that time in the early 2000s when whoever owned the Charles Atlas license started using it again in these retro ads:

Trivia time: The reference to Spider-Man having lost a loved one would appear to be his Uncle Ben, but this story is concurrent with the time that Spider-Man believed his wife Mary Jane had died in plane crash. It was later revealed that she survived the crash (!) but was abducted by a deranged stalker (!!) known only as… the Stalker (!!!).

Johnny says he went to Iron Man, Hank Pym and even Captain America asking for help to get the Negative Zone, only they were unavailable. This is because all three were in Greece, in Avengers vol. 3 #40, where the Composite Hulk had transformed the population of a whole town into Hulks. (It’s a long story.)

Fantastic or frightful? Another issue spending more time setting up a big confrontation to come, hinting that this will be a longer and more ambitious story arc. So not a lot happens, except the promise of payoff. We’ll see what happens.

Next: Fire and water… again.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – The Curse of Castle McDuck

Rewatching DuckTales! Time for the fog to roll in over the moors (or something) for episode 26, “The Curse of Castle McDuck.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge, the nephews, and Webby are headed back to Scotland to visit the house Scrooge was born in. The locals react with fear upon hearing the McDuck name. Scrooge’s old house is adjacent to the ruins of old Castle McDuck, which alleged to be haunted by a ghostly hound.

Scrooge and the kids explore the castle, encountering the hound and a mysterious hooded figure. Scrooge investigates to find a group of druids living in the castle. Turns out the Scots drove the druids out of their homes, so the druids drove the McDucks off their land. He concocts a Scooby Doo style plan to trap the hound.

Webby is separated from the others via a hidden door in the castle. Scrooge and the nephews search for in the woods surrounding the castle, where they are chased by the hound. They learn the ghost hound is no ghost, but a bunch of dogs bred to act all mean and ghostly. That night, the Scooby Doo traps work, and our heroes catch both the dog and the druids.

The druids argue that the McDucks are the ones who built the castle on sacred druid land. Rather than fight over the land, Scrooge and druids work out a deal with the druids to turn the castle into a tourist attraction and share the profits. (So much for “sacred land.”)

Humbug: We get some history for Scrooge. He raised by farmers in a simple cabin. His family left Scotland to come to Duckburg when he was only 6, in search of more opportunities.

Junior Woodchucks: Back in the episode “Hotel Strangeduck,” Huey, Dewey and Louie debated whether ghosts were real, but this time all three of them are more than willing to accept the possible existence of the supernatural.

Maid and maiden: Webby’s superpower continues to be her ability to befriend animals that otherwise might be dangerous. She earns more adventuring cred by surviving a night in the woods on her own.

Foul fowls: The druids certainly look menacing in their spooky robes, but they’re more misunderstood than villainous, simply wanting the ancestral home back.

Reference row: Most definitely a takeoff of the Sherlock Holmes classic, “The Hound of Baskervilles.”

Thoughts upon this viewing: Not much in the way of story, but the animation more than makes up for it with a ton of cool visuals and sharp animation throughout.

Next: Not so civil.

****

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