DuckTales rewatch – Too Much of a Gold Thing

Rewatching DuckTales! “Too Much of a Gold Thing” is the fifth and final part of the Treasure of the Golden Suns miniseries, all of which served as the show’s pilot. The animators really put their best webbed feet forward on this one.

Here’s what happens: Now that they have both halves of the treasure Scrooge and company are headed straight for the treasure of the Golden Suns, followed closely by the mysterious El Capitan. Scrooge keeps acting more and more erratic, which we learn is a sickness called gold fever.

The treasure is a bunch of giant coins, as in several stories tall each, surrounding a valley with a gold city in the center. The valley is booby-trapped, but Scrooge is too crazy for gold to notice. As the traps activate, the heroes are captured by El Capitan. He says he’s been hunting the gold for 400 years. He and Scrooge fight over the gold, when the traps go off, sinking the whole city into an underground lake of boiling molten gold.

Mrs. Beakeley talks some sense into Scrooge, and everyone flees the city. Those giant golden suns then direct the sunlight into the city, melting the entire valley floor into the molten gold. As Launchpad flies in for the rescue, Scrooge’s airplane get covered with liquid gold, giving him a little treasure to take home. El Capitan stays behind, desperately hoping to dig the gold back up from deep beneath the Earth… in another 400 years.

Humbug: Gold fever is described as becoming so obsessed with gold that you “lose sight of what’s really important.” This goes along with my hypothesis that the show’s series-long arc is about Scrooge learning his new family is more important than his wealth.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie start get their own cases of gold fever as the episode goes along, showing a connection they’ve already made with their uncle.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad gets the subplot, about him fixing up the cargo plane after crashing it in a nearby river. He’s menaced by a snake and says “I hate snakes! No, wait, that’s someone else.” He also makes a joke about Scotty from Star Trek, so let’s all lose our minds about how Trek exists in the DuckTales universe.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley again proves she is more adventurer than nanny. She has knowledge about gold fever and she’s able to translate hieroglyphics.

Foul fowls: After learning that El Capitan is 400 years old, the audience is left only to speculate on his backstory. It’s hinted that he was part of the original crew of the sunken ship from the second episode, but this is never confirmed.

Reference row: A lost city made of gold is one of those things that can be found in multiple cultures’ mythologies. I believe the idea was popularized for modern times by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the City of Gold in 1933.

Thoughts upon this viewing: There’s nothing about who built the golden city or why, which remains a question mark over the episode. Other than that, though, this is the animators firing on all cylinders. Everything is big and cinematic, and they make the gold look all shiny and alluring. This is the episode to show someone who has never seen DuckTales before.

Next: Season of the witch.

****

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

Posted in DuckTales | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: Daughter world

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The big deal with this bunch of issues is that Valeria – or at least one version of Valeria – is now part of the cast. In volume 3 #22, we get to know Valeria more, but questions about where she came from will have to wait.

The FF returned from their trip throughout the multiverse to find teenage Valeria Richards hanging around, claiming to be the daughter of Sue and Dr. Doom. This shows signs of a briefly-glimpsed future timeline in which Sue improbably married Dr. Doom with Valeria as their daughter. This issue begins in Reed’s lab, where he tells Sue that Valeria is human, and that her body contains the same cosmic radiation that gave the FF their powers. Sue refuses to believe it, calling the girl a monster. Valeria overhears this and leaves Pier 4.

Elsewhere in New York, we catch up with She-Hulk, who is hanging out in a combined law library and coffeehouse, when she is attacked by Titania and the Absorbing Man. Catching her by surprise, the two villains manage to knock She-Hulk unconscious. In the Lower East Side, Ben is having dinner with new character Bounty (an interdimensional bounty hunter), who has taken a liking to him. They stop a robbery, and then Ben gets the call the Valeria has run off.

From there, we get parallel stories of Valeria and Sue, each alone, contemplating their histories. Sue recalls Doom being the enemy, one with constant animosity toward her family. Valeria grew up with a loving mother, and Doom as a father figure who trained her to be a warrior. Sue goes into her things and finds the death certificate from the child she miscarried back in issue #237, where we learn for the first time that the child would have been named Valeria Meghan Richards.

Valeria goes to the Latverian embassy, where the security devices recognize her. A man answering the front door (Is he security? A public official? The butler?) tells her that Dr. Doom’s whereabouts are currently unknown and that a mutant named Stryfe currently occupies the throne. Valeria says if she ever returns to Latveria, it will be to free its people. Then, nearby, Valeria runs into Titania, Absorbing Man, and She-Hulk, who has now joined them in causing destruction throughout the city. Titania says to a group of reporters that they’re only doing this for fun.

Valeria transforms into her Marvel Girl uniform and fights the three of them, holding her own for a while until She-Hulk knocks her to the ground. Then Ben and Bounty join the fight, only for Absorbing Man and Titania to force-feed them a serum. This somehow turns them evil and has them fighting alongside the villains. Valeria tries to fight a new total of five enemies, but doesn’t stand a chance. She’s then rescued by Sue, arriving in the nick of time.

Sue is joined by Reed, Johnny, and Spider-Man (who was among the group of reporters as photographer Peter Parker). Instead of everybody fighting, Reed asks the others to standby and let Sue do all the work, saying never to get between a mama bear and her cub. There’s a fun bit where we don’t see the fight, just Reed, Johnny, Valeria, and Spidey reacting to it.

Sue defeats all five enemies, and instructs Reed to get She-Hulk, Ben, and Bounty back to his lab to reverse whatever the villains did to them. Spider-Man praises the new Marvel Girl’s bravery against such impossible odds. Sue says “Her name is Valeria.” Sue accepts Valeria as a member of her family, and welcomes her home.

Unstable molecule: While Sue is upset at the future that Valeria may or may not represent, Reed looks at the situation as a scientist, trying to go where the data leads him. Although Valeria says Dr. Doom is her father, Reed is quick to call her “our daughter.”

Fade out: When Spider-Man calls Sue “Mrs. Richards,” she encourages him to call her Sue. I guess Spidey forgot when they had almost this exact same conversation at the end of Marvel Team-Up #88 several years earlier. And both this issue and that one were written by Chris Claremont!

Clobberin’ time: Bounty has fallen for Ben in a big way, saying they are fated to be together, and calling him “lover.” Ben was previously flirtatious with supergenius Alyssa Moy, so we’ll see where this is going.

Flame on: Johnny is comic relief in this one, trading wisecracks with Spider-Man, though he is seen comforting Valeria with an arm around her shoulder in one panel.

Fantastic fifth wheel: I’m calling it: The “welcome to the family” scene at the end of this issue means we can now add this version of Marvel Girl as an official alternate member of the FF.

This issue finds She-Hulk during a time in which she didn’t have her own comic and wasn’t part of any team, following the cancellation of Heroes for Hire. Just prior to this, she appeared in the Contest of Champions II miniseries. We’re told she’s gone back to her law practice, but is struggling to find paying clients.

Our gal Val: The original death certificate shows that Sue originally wanted to name her baby Valeria. But, FF comics from the last few years have made the point over and over that Dr. Doom got to name her Valeria in exchange for saving her life. This stuff better get explained as we get closer and closer to issue #50.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. Not only does Sue successfully take down four of the Marvel Universe’s toughest heavy-hitters, but her flashback shows her training in a gym with a punching bag. Could this be her secret spy training at work?

Commercial break: How romantic.

Trivia time: Stryfe’s time as ruler of Latveria was short-lived, chronicled entirely in a three-issue Cable and X-Man crossover that ran during this time.

Spider-Man’s other appearances this month included an intense fight with Venom inside the Daily Bugle offices, and a somewhat less intense fight with a character named Captain Power (not the one from the old TV show).

Fantastic or frightful? I suspect that writer Chris Claremont was trying to recreate what he did with the character of Rachel Summers in X-Men. Like this version of Valeria, Rachel was also time-displaced in the present from a dystopian future who dealt with loneliness and isolation. But we spent a lot more time with Rachel than we have with Valeria. This is a nice enough issue, but everything just feels so rushed.

Next: Con men.

****

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

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

DuckTales rewatch – Cold Duck

Rewatching DuckTales! Episode four, “Cold Duck,” is a Webbigail-centric one. Had to happen eventually.

Here’s what happens: At the end of the previous episode, Scrooge took off on a raft, following an ocean current to the second half of the map of the treasure of the Golden Suns. Back in Duckberg, the three nephews plot mischief against their new nanny, Mrs. Beakley, and her granddaughter Webbigail. Webby worries that the nephews don’t like her. Launchpad McQuack arrives to get provisions for Scrooge, with the nephews, Webby and Mrs. Beakley accidentally (or not?) stowing away.

In Antarctica, Scrooge is missing. A walrus ran off with his tracking device, and Webby befriends a little penguin. The team investigates, exploring an ice cave. They find a lost civilization of intelligent penguins (!) who arrest Launchpad and the nephews. The penguins value anything of color, since they live in a world of black and white. It’s now up to Mrs. Beakley, Webby, and Webby’s penguin friend, named Skittles (!).

Beakley stages a jailbreak, while Webby and Skittles go for the treasure map.  They are pursued by penguins in snowball-throwing ice tanks (!). The escape attempt also frees a giant prehistoric walrus. The heroes escape with a copy of the map – drawn by Webby – and leave Skittles behind with crayons, a colorful scarf, and a colorful parachute. (Does this make Skittles the penguins’ new leader? This question goes unanswered.)

Humbug: Inside Scrooge’s mansion, there’s a quick shot of a photo with Scrooge and two other ducks. The Disney Wiki has missed this detail, so I’m  on my own. Could it possibly be Scrooge, Glomgold and Gladstone Gander (whom we’ll meet in future episodes) when they were younger, in happier times?

Junior Woodchucks: The nephews use a tuning fork for both their prank and their escape from jail. This tuning fork creates vibrations so powerful that it can knock down walls. Do we just accept this as cartoon logic, or is this some far-out tech developed by one of Scrooge’s businesses?

Fasten your seatbelts: There’s some real continuity problems with the one, as Launchpad is already friends with the nephews, Mrs. Beakley, and Webby. I suppose the previous episode must have had an unseen passage of time between Scrooge hiring McDuck and them leaving on their expedition, allowing Launchpad to get to know everyone.

Maid and maiden: Webby is loosely based on the original comics’ characters of April, May, and June, triplets who often squared off with Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Producers allegedly decided that two sets of triplets were too many characters, which led to Webby’s creation.

Mrs. Beakley was created specifically for DuckTales. If the Disney Wiki is to be believed, she’s given very little back story, and there is ZERO mention as to who Webby’s parents were.

Foul fowls: This week’s villain is the unnamed penguin mayor, who’s only the bad guy because he steals anything colorful from the heroes and then throws the heroes in jail. But then, Scrooge and company retaliate by trashing the mayor’s whole city, so who’s the real villain?

Down in Duckberg: The nephews have a different bedroom than they did in the first episode. Instead of their cool apartment-like attic bedroom, they’re now in a more normal-looking one, albeit with triple-decker bunk beds.

Reference row: Given that color vs. black and white is a theme of this episode, could the penguin Skittles be intentionally named after the famously colorful candy?

Thoughts upon this viewing: When watching a show with anthropomorphic animals, suspension of disbelief is required. But when the talking ducks are shocked at the existence of talking penguins, that’s a step too far. On the plus side, this episode is all about Mrs. Beakley and Webby earning their spots in the ensemble, showing they’ve got the adventuring/treasure-hunting chops.

Next: Gold! GOLD!

****

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

Posted in DuckTales | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: Little Rascals

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer Chris Claremont has been establishing new characters and subplots since he took over the series, and in Vol. 3 #21 he starts to tie those threads together. Or… does he?

Who are these new characters again? Alyssa Moy is a super-genius and an old friend (or more?) of Reed’s. Alysande Stuart is the alter ego of barbarian swordswoman Caledonia, who recently traveled to Earth from another dimension. Puppy is Franklin’s new pet, a miniature version of the Inhumans’ teleporting dog Lockjaw. And then there’s teenage Valeria Richards, going by “Marvel Girl,” who says she has “time-danced” into this timeline. At the end of last issue, Franklin and these four newbies were attacked by an interdimensional bounty hunter named Bounty (convenient) and then attacked again by all-female cyber-ninjas called the Bacchae. This issue begins inside a Manhattan nightclub, where the Bacchae have brought the new heroes before Greek gods Hippolyta and Hades. (Remember that the Marvel Universe has both Norse and Greek gods running around.)

Hippolyta, with help from the captions, explains that the Bacchae are seeking revenge from when the FF and Caledonia interrupted a fight between the Bacchae and criminals named the G0-Gang. (This occurred in a single page, seemingly out of nowhere, in vol. 3 #7.) Caledonia fights Hippolyta and the Bacchae, while Alyssa and Valeria lead Franklin, Puppy, and a stunned Bounty to make a run for it.

Hades teleports himself, Caledonia, Hippolyta, and the Bacchae away, leaving the rest inside the now-empty nightclub. Bounty comes to and agrees to help the new team in finding Caledonia. Valeria convinces Puppy to track Caledonia’s scent and teleport them to where she went. (I guess it’s some kind of psychic “scent.”) The trail leads to Hades… and the Underworld.

Cut to Paris, where the Fantastic Four are arguing with French secret agent Reno. The French government continues to hold the humans who had been possessed by the Ruined, and the FF want them to go free. Before any resolution can be reached, Reed gets a message from Alyssa about everyone traveling to the Underworld. While Sue is perplexed as who this new Marvel Girl is, Reed asks for transportation, and says he’s going to call in an expert. Cut to Tanzania, where Hercules is fighting some raiders. The FF catch up with him, and he says that he is no match for Hades. The FF just ask for a way into the Underworld.

Franklin’s group arrive in the Underworld and are immediately confronted by Hela, the Norse goddess of the dead. Valeria introduces herself as “Valeria Von Doom, daughter and heir to the monarch of the Latveria.” She requests passage through the Underworld, while Hela says the group has transgressed and must pay a price. She says she will use the group as captives, bait to lure Thor into the Underworld on a rescue mission. Then, Bounty draws a gun on Hela, saying she’s killed gods before. Hela lets the group go, and they teleport elsewhere.

Franklin’s group arrives next in Tartarus, now the Greek portion of the Underworld. They are attacked by the Bacchae and they find Caledonia unconscious. They’re then confronted by Hippolyta and Hades, along with an army of creatures, including Cerberus, who is not a three-headed hound but a cyborg minotaur thing. A fight breaks out, with the new heroes fighting back all the monsters. Valeria confronts Hades, who says he’s impressed with her but he will not let the team leave.

Then Hercules arrives with the FF, alongside Hades’ wife Persephone. She tells him to call of the attack, and they retreat farther into the Underworld, taking Hippolyta with them. Then Sue and Reed meet Valeria for the first time. Johnny reminds everyone of the alternate future the FF witnessed during their fight with Ronan a while back, in which Reed was dead and Sue had married Dr. Doom with a daughter Valeria. As he wonders if this means that future will come to pass, Valeria ends the issue with a simple, “Hi, Mom.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed tells Reno not to treat people as outcasts and enemies, or else they will start acting the part, and creating the threat he hoped to avoid. But then the Ruined are pretty much forgotten after that.

Fade out: In this issue’s letters page, a reader suggests that Sue become the sixth Spice Girl, called Invisible Spice. Editor Bobbie Chase responds, saying, “We can pretty much guarantee that this will never happen.”

Clobberin’ time: Bounty is immediately impressed with Ben upon meeting him. She says Ben Grimm is “a strong name for a strong man.”

Flame on: For some reason, Johnny is exposition guy this issue, overly explaining the events of previous issues to everyone.

Four and a half: Franklin’s group is referred to as the “rascals” in bold several times in this issue. Are we meant to think that this team’s name is in fact the Rascals? If so, this makes the fourth super-team Franklin has been a member of, following Power Pack, Fantastic Force, and the Daydreamers.

Our gal Val: Although Valeria does a lot of fighting in this issue, there’s no indication of what powers this version of her might have. The Marvel Wiki is no help, saying this Valeria potentially has psionic powers, but no real answer.

Commercial break: Anybody know where this guitar is today? At the Hard Rock Café? In the store from Pawn Stars? In a box in somebody’s garage somewhere?

Trivia time: This is the first time Hades has shown up in Fantastic Four, but he’s been causing trouble in the Marvel Universe since the ‘60s, when he was a recurring Thor villain. He later became an adversary for Hercules in Herc’s various solo series, and also made several appearances in X-Factor.

Then there’s Hippolyta. She’s queen of the Amazons, operating out of Themiscrya. You might think that sounds like Wonder Woman’s mother, and yes they are both derived from the same Greek myth. She’s had a lot fewer appearances in the Marvel Universe, usually as a companion/sidekick to Hades. When she appeared in Fearless Defenders, Marvel tipped the hat to DC by giving Hippolyta the codename Warrior Woman, which she hated.

Once again, the Bacchae exit the story as soon as they enter it. When they next appear in X-Men, it’s revealed that they were created by Hippolyta in an attempt to create a new breed of Amazons.

Fantastic or frightful? You’d think that a journey into the Underworld to confront the gods of the dead would be a bigger deal than this is. The formation of a brand new superhero team should also be a bigger deal, but there’s only fleeting glimpses of how the Rascals (if that’s what they’re called) operate as a team. It’s just a lot of running around to get us to the Sue/Valeria confrontation on the last page, and not much more.

Next: Daughter world.

****

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

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

DuckTales rewatch – Three Ducks of the Condor

Rewatching DuckTales! The third episode, “Three Ducks of the Condor” does a lot of world-building, is one of the few episodes to feature almost the entire ensemble. This is a lot of DuckTales.

Here’s what happens: Picking up from the previous episode, Scrooge is investigating the gold coin recovered from the mysterious sunken ship. A coin expert tells Scrooge it’s from the mythical Treasure of the Golden Suns. Scrooge believes that the sunken ship only carried a small fraction of the original treasure. The only other known coin is located in a fortress in the Andes.

Meanwhile, Scrooge is also hiring nannies for his nephews, who don’t want a nanny. The boys scare off all the applicants but one, Mrs. Beakley, who gets the job and moves into the mansion with her precocious granddaughter Webbigail, a.k.a. Webby.

Scrooge next meets with inventor Gyro Gearloose, who builds him a helicopter specially designed to traverse the Andes. To fly the experimental craft, Scrooge and Gyro turn to pilot Launchpad McQuack. Donald Duck, still serving in the Navy, gets a 72-pass and joins the expedition.

In the Andes, the heroes find a lost civilization who worship the second gold coin. Through a series of mishaps, Scrooge and co. start a rebellion against the civilization’s tyrannical leader, while escaping with one half a map that leads to the original treasure.

Humbug: Although Scrooge doesn’t approve of the villain’s evil ways, he’s still willing to negotiate to get the treasure map. He also smartly predicts that the villain will betray him.

Junior Woodchucks: The nephews use a toy snake and toy bow and arrow (I assume they’re toys) to scare off nanny applicants. They have to stay behind because this expedition is too dangerous, but Scrooge ends the episode saying, “Next time, we’ll bring the boys.”

Fasten your seatbelts: It’s the first appearance of Launchpad McQuack, who nails the high-adventure-plus-corny-jokes tone of DuckTales. It’s suggested that he and Scrooge already have a working relationship of sorts, but no details are given. The joke isn’t just that Launchpad always crashes airplanes, it’s that he loves crashing airplanes, and he brags about how awesome his crashes are.

Maid and maiden: It’s also the first appearance of Mrs. Beakley and Webby, who will get more to do in the next episode. Mrs. Beakley offers to take the job as nanny for no pay other than room and board, which has me wondering what kind of scam she’s pulling.

Great gadgeteer: AND it’s the first appearance of Gyro Gearloose, another character who originated from the original Carl Barks comics. This episode establishes that can build anything, but also that he can do it fast, coming with giant contraptions in less than a day.

In the Navy: Here we establish that Disney superstar Donald Duck will be a recurring character in DuckTales. In this episode, the joke is that he thinks he’s on vacation and not an expedition, taking photos of everything. There’s a running gag about Launchpad not understanding anything Donald is saying, but I like how they end up as buddies by the end.

Foul fowls: The villain is Juaquin Slowly (get it?) who plays off the local superstitions to turn the ancient civilization into his personal kingdom. He is his own undoing, losing the coins, which causes the locals to see him for the phony he really is.

Down in Duckberg: Gyro lives in a tiny house with a huge satellite dish on the roof, and a huge front yard. We also visit the Duckberg airport, where Launchpad apparently has a second gig as a test pilot.

Reference row: The episode title is a reference to Three Days of the Condor, a 1975 political thriller about corruption in the CIA, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, and directed by Sydney Pollack. Beyond the title, the movie bears no similarities to this episode.

Thoughts upon this viewing: I always thought the appeal of DuckTales was that it was like a 30-minute Indiana Jones movie every day after school. This episode has a lot of Indy-style chases and escapes, but it also has tons of jokes. About every other line is some wisecrack, and they don’t quite land. Still, it’s a lot of fun and does a good job of packing a lot of story into its 30 minutes.

Next: That’s nature’s pocket.

****

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

Posted in DuckTales | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: An American Superhero in Paris

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A bunch of new characters have recently been introduced, and now they finally get to do something in vol. 3 #20. Also, there are tentacles.

The FF have returned after their Sliders-like trip throughout the multiverse, only to find that the Eiffel Tower in Paris has been replaced by one made entirely of bones. The heroes immediately deduce that this is the work of the Ruined, magic-using aliens they met in vol. 3 issue #1. There’s a quick recap of how Deterrence Research Corporation (DRC) sponsored an archeological dig in Paris, only to awaken the Ruined from their ancient slumber. Their previous encounter ended with the Ruined working alongside DRC, but now something has changed. The FF investigate the archeological site, joined by a familiar-looking French secret service agent named Reno. Inspecting the hieroglyphics, Johnny recognizes one of them as Arlisse, a woman he briefly dated the last time the team was in Paris.

Elsewhere in Paris, we see sorceress Margali Szardos (this is after encountering an alternate timeline version of her a few issues earlier) who has Arlisse. They are trying to flee from the Ruined, but are caught, with Arlisse transforming from human into a Ruined named Katar of the Bloody Blades.

Johnny flies around Paris hoping to find Arlisse, and sees an energy blast. He follows it to the Paris catacombs, where he encounters the Ruined. They’re still led by Martyr, who was formerly the human Yvette Diamonde. Along with Katar, the other Ruined are B’arr, Stem, and Exalt. They’re about to perform a sacrifice ritual, killing Margali, but Johnny stops, them, with a few pages of fighting.

 

The Ruined defeat Johnny, knocking him out. They continue with the ritual, only to be interrupted by the rest of the FF. The Ruined use their alien magic to make the walls come alive, trapping the team in gooey tentacles. Fortunately, Johnny is able to wake up in time to save his teammates and stop the Ruined. The Eiffel Tower is returned to normal, and Reno and his team take the Ruined into custody. Johnny argues against this, saying that the Ruined are humans possessed by the aliens, and that Alysse, Yvette and the others can be freed. Reno says the FF have no jurisdiction over the matter. Reed decides not to press the matter for now, but he does add that this isn’t over.

We then go Pier 4, where Franklin is watching a movie alongside a bunch of newly-introduced characters, his teleporting alien dog Puppy, super-genius Alyssa Moy, and visitor from another dimension Alysande Stuart. It appears to be a quiet night at home, except out walks Valeria, who is now a teenager (or perhaps college age). No one knows who she is, although she acts like she lives there. Franklin recognizes her as Valeria, though, saying he’s seen her in one of his prophetic dreams. When Valeria sees how young Franklin is, she says, “This is so not possible!” and “I’m the one time-dancing.”

Before we get any further explanation, they’re attacked by a lasergun-toting woman named Bounty. (This is the mystery figure who was beating up aliens while searching for Alysande a few issues back.) Valeria dons an outfit that is half an FF uniform and half Dr. Doom armor, and introduces herself as the new Marvel Girl. She and Bounty fight, with Bounty easily defeating her.

Then Alysande transforms into her alter ego, the barbarian swordswoman Caledonia. Before they can fight, the roof caves in, knocking everyone out. This was caused the Bacchae (these are the all-female cyber-ninjas who appeared out of nowhere for one page back in vol. 3 #7). They announce they are taking everybody hostage.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed says the computer built into his uniform also keeps track of all his teammates, prompting Johnny to remove his own uniform and fly into the final battle in the buff.

Fade out: Sue does very little in this issue. She’s not able to use her force fields against the creepy tentacles, because they sneak up and attack her from behind before she gets a chance.

Clobberin’ time: Ben makes a point of destroying Martyr’s sword, as if that is somehow the source of power. How would Ben know this?

Flame on: Katar makes Johnny pass out by kissing him. Is this her superpower, or is this because of his attraction to her?

Four and a half: The comic remembers that Franklin had dream-based powers back in his Power Pack days. I suppose he just still has these powers in addition to his reality-bending power.

Our gal Val: OK, now that we’re back in the Marvel Universe, can we count THIS as the first appearance of Valeria? That remains unclear. As we’ll soon see, this version of Valeria is from yet another timeline, and yet the Marvel Wiki insists that the MU’s Valeria was created from this Valeria. Fingers crossed that this will all make sense by the time we get to issue #50.

Commercial break: I thought these two ads were related and part of the same promotion, but no. One is from Kellogg, the other from Nabisco.

Trivia time: This is pretty much it for the Ruined, although they’ll be mentioned in upcoming issues, they’re not seen again, as Reed doesn’t quite make good on his promise for a round 2. They do cameo in the Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries, in that one page where a whole bunch of villains appear at once, suggesting that at some point the Ruined escape police custody and become full-on criminals. The Marvel Universe Appendix fan site lists a sixth member of the Ruined, named T’urnaround. Who is this?

French secret agent Reno is not-subtly based on actor Jean Reno. Artist Salvador Larocca later faced some controversy for basing characters he draws on famous celebrities, and I guess this is where we get hints of that.

Can ANYONE identify the movie the playing in the background in this panel?

Fantastic or frightful? While the Ruined are treated as throwaway villains and not explored in any meaningful way (What are their powers? What are their personalities? Doesn’t matter, I guess). The most interesting bit is actually doing something with the growing supporting cast of new members, which gives me hope that the all-over-the-place nature of Claremont’s run is actually going somewhere. Plus, the action slows down just enough so we can follow the plot, an improvement over the last bunch of issues.

Next: Hungy, hungry Hippo.

****

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

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

DuckTales rewatch – Wronguay in Ronguay

Rewatching DuckTales! Episode two has a lot of what the show is famous for, “Wronguay in Ronguay.” But it doesn’t have characters from Spongebob.

Here’s what happens: Picking up mere minutes after the last episode, the mysterious El Capitan partners with Uncle Scrooge’s rival Flintheart Glomgold with another plot to steal Scrooge’s antique ship model. The nephews deduce the model contains a code to a long-lost treasure. Glomgold buys Scrooge’s candy factory, which has half the map embedded in chocolate (long story), so the race is on to find the treasure.

The search leads our heroes to the small country of Ronguay, which is about to get hit by a massive rainstorm, the “Mon Soppies.” They find a full-size shipwreck that the model was based on, and it’s filled with gold. Glomgold and El Capitan try to steal the ship, only to destroy it as they fight with each other. The ship sinks, Glomgold loses, and El Capitan promises to return…

Humbug: This episode is filled with references to Uncle Scrooge’s many adventures in the past, firmly establishing him as a globe-trotting adventurer. We learn he’s an expert deep-sea diver and… a pilot? Even though we’re one episode away from a certain infamous pilot joining the show.

Junior Woodchucks: At one point, Scrooge believes he’s lost and is on the verge of giving up. The nephews give him a pep talk to get the treasure hunt back on track. This reaffirms my hypothesis that show isn’t about Scrooge’s wealth, but about his learning family is more important than his wealth.

Foul fowls: Glomgold is another character originating from the original Uncle Scrooge comics, although he’s been extensively re-designed for DuckTales. His deal is that he’s the second-richest duck in the world, and he’s obsessed with taking the top spot from Scrooge. This includes pulling a gun (!) on Scrooge during the finale.

Down in Duckberg: Scrooge tests an experimental underwater “sand-sucker” in his mansion’s swimming pool. We also get our first look at the mansion’s huge library.

Not canonical DuckTales.

Reference row: A lot of people believe El Capitan says the name “Squidward” in this episode, leading to conspiracy theories about how the character from Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants was created by Disney years earlier. Thanks to the DVD’s subtitles, however, we now know the actual line of dialogue is, “Swim out there.”

Thoughts upon this viewing: This high-adventure treasure-hunting stuff is what DuckTales is famous for. The tone is light overall, but there are nonetheless real stakes for the characters. When Scrooge and the nephews sail to freedom on board the newly rebuilt shipwreck, it’s a beautifully animated and genuinely exciting moment, a cut above most other TV cartoons of this time.

Next: Prepare for crash landing.

****

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

Posted in DuckTales | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: It’s just Sliders

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Our heroes are speeding through a whole bunch of adventures, so I’m speeding through vol. 3 issues 17-19.

Here’s what’s happening. After their fight with Ronan the Accuser in issue #15, the FF have found themselves teleported to an alternate timeline. A deeply-buried single sentence of exposition in issue #16 states that the team’s teleporter (which they just have on them, somehow) is malfunctioning, so that every time they teleport, they have no idea which parallel universe they’ll end up in next, or how to get home. So, yes, this run of issues is just straight-up Sliders.

You’ll recall that issue #16 had our heroes running around a post-apocalypse. Now, in issue #17, we go to Shadow City, where superheroes Lockdown and Rosetta Stone are pursuing supervillains the Tetrad, made up of Grim Ben, Matchstick Johnny, Richard Reed, and Stormy Sue, alongside fellow criminals the Twisted Sisters. It’s revealed that FF’s memories have gone screwy, except for Reed. He’s the only one who remembers Earth, so he’s keeping up the façade of being a master criminal until he can figure out a way to get him and the others back home with their memories intact.

Then you turn the page, and just like that the FF are themselves again, having abruptly teleported to an abandoned high-tech facility inside the Negative Zone.  They have their memories back, and we see Sue is still mutating into a half-alien form, because the parasite-like “mannequin” alien is attached to her. The team is attacked by robots designed to incapacitate and immobilize intruders. Reed manages to hack on just before it takes him out.

Turn the page again, and now we’re back in Shadow City with the Tetrad, and Reed pretending to be the bad guy. He somehow deduces this whole Shadow City setup is one big virtual reality construct the FF have found themselves in. There’s another fight with Lockdown, but Reed throws the fight and surrenders to prevent his brainwashed teammates from committing murder.

Issue #18 starts with the Tetrad locked up in a gigantic prison, the “Bedlam Purgotorium.” Reed stretches his lungs to absurd size to exhale a specific sound frequency to break down the walls of the prison. As everyone makes their escape, the Twisted Sisters – including Sue – merge into a single being named Torque (they’re like the Crystal Gems, apparently.) But Sue rejects the transformation and gets her memories back. Lockdown arrives to stop the jailbreak. While Reed confronts him, Sue escapes from the VR machine, getting her humanity back in the process. Reed and the others then also escape from the virtual world, revealing that there’s an entire underground city of people cooked up to it. Yes, we’ve gone from Sliders to The Matrix. They teleport away, while Lockdown, now aware of the FF’s true existence, swears revenge.

Issue #19 starts with quick glimpses of other universes the FF are visiting during this Sliders phase, including a giant monster world, a world of all robots, some sort of sky-pirates world, and world of nothing but spiders. The seemingly return to the Negative Zone, and Reed says the teleporter can only be used one more time. This planet they’re on is invaded by Annihilus. The FF infiltrates Annihilus’ ship, with Reed fearing Annihilus has stolen some of Reed’s tech from ruins of Four Freedoms Plaza. The heroes fight Annihilus himself. Reed swipes Annihilus’ cosmic control rod and fuses it with his teleporter. There’s a big action scene where the FF escapes from Annihilus and flies through a dangerous portal, but it works taking them back to Earth. They crash land in Paris, France, only to discover that the Eiffel Tower is now… made of bone?!?

To be continued (but they ARE back on Earth, finally)!

Unstable molecule: There’s a short flashback scene of Reed in his younger years, where he and his childhood friend Alyssa Moy are seen in an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider style adventure, rescuing a young Tibetan prince from danger. This is setting up an upcoming Before the Fantastic Four miniseries.

Fade out: Is it weird that Sue gets a foot rub from Johnny, her brother? I think it might be weird.

Clobberin’ time: To get back to Earth, Sue creates a spaceship-shaped force field, which Ben is then able to steer thanks to his piloting skills? OK comic book, if you say so.

Flame on: Johnny is the most murderous member of the Tetrad. Reed has to extinguish Johnny’s flame to prevent him from killing. Does this suggest a rarely-seen dark side for him?

Commercial break: Remember when D’Amato pulled out the eliminator to stop the Quakes from scoring ten points on the final jam, forcing Kenneth Loge to walk out of the stadium? What do you mean, you don’t know what I’m talking about?

Trivia time: Lockdown and Rosetta Stone only appeared once after this, in 1999’s Contest of Champions II. A few pages in these issues give some backstory. By night they are Batman-like crimefighters. By day Rosetta Stone is Nefer Neith Sinue, a billionaire living an extravagant lifestyle, and Lockdown is Jojo Jimanye, her secretary/bodyguard.

Similarly, the Twisted Sisters would also return only once, in X-Men vol. 2 #105, where a mystery man hired them to kill Psylocke. The mystery man’s identity was never revealed, although Chris Claremont said in an interview that it was going to be Stryfe. The members of the Twisted Sisters are Helix, Gyre, Ringlet, Coil, and Torque.

Fantastic or frightful? I’m tired. These comics are crammed with so much content only to rush through it all, I can barely keep up. The whole setup of the Tetrad vs. Lockdown and Rosetta Stone is really interesting, and would make a great seven-issue arc for a trade, but instead we speed through it in just a few pages, skipping ahead to other storylines also wrapped up in a few pages. It’s frustrating.

Next: In ruins.

****

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

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment

DuckTales rewatch – Don’t Give Up the Ship

Rewatching DuckTales! Is it a whimsical children’s cartoon? Is it some creepy greed-is-good brainwashing? Is it something more? Let’s find out together, starting with the first episode, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”

New math: While most episodes of the show are stand-alones, the first five episodes acted as the show’s pilot, and were often packaged as a two-hour “movie.” Strangely, the first five episodes are volume 2 of the DVDs, instead of at the beginning, which makes no sense.

Here’s what happens: Donald Duck is joining the Navy because he wants to see the world. He leaves his three nephews in charge of their new legal guardian, his rich Uncle Scrooge. Scrooge and the nephews have trouble getting along, while the ruthless crooks the Beagle Boys bust out of prison thanks to the mysterious El Capitan. He wants the Beagles to steal an antique model ship from Scrooge’s trophy room. Scrooge and the nephews work together to stop the Beagles, wrecking Scrooge’s candy factory in the process.

Humbug: The episode begins with what is arguably the series’ most iconic image, Scrooge swimming in his money. Throughout the episode, he’s in real “rich jerk” mode, shooting down charities and complaining about the poor.

OK, real talk. If there is any series-long story arc to DuckTales, it’s that Scrooge starts out obsessed with his own wealth, but thanks to his relationship with his nephews, he learns that his family is more important than his fortune. That’s my hypothesis, at least. Will this rewatch prove me right or wrong? We’ll see.

Junior Woodchucks: Which nephew is which? Huey is in red, Dewey is in blue, and Louie is in green. In addition to moving in with Scrooge, the nephews also join the Junior Woodchucks in this episode, and their reading from the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook becomes their “superpower” as the show progresses.

The nephews are initially excited to move into Scrooge’s mansion, saying “We get to have our own room,” which makes me wonder what kind of living conditions they had with Donald.

 

Foul fowls: Which Beagle Boy is which? Big Time is the little one, who is the brains of the group. Bouncer is the big one with the missing tooth, who is the muscle. Burger is the Curly-from-the-Three-Stooges one, who contributes nothing to the group as far as I can tell. While they’re comedic villains, El Capitan’s presence raises the stakes, as he is more of a genuine menace.

Down in Duckburg: Scrooge’s money bin building also houses his business office and his trophy room. The nephews share a bedroom/apartment in the attic of Scrooge’s mansion. We’re told that Scrooge owns numerous businesses, including a candy factory seen in this one.

Reference row: DuckTales as a whole is a modernization as the Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics of the 1940s through the 1960s, notably the ones drawn by the great Carl Barks. Before the names of artists were published, fans knew Barks merely as “the good ducks artist,” a phrase that Barks has been known for ever since.

Carl Barks.

Thoughts on this viewing: This one is packed with information, establishing not just the “world” of the show, but also telling a whole character arc of Scrooge and his nephews learning to live with each other. But will the carry through to all 70-something episodes? That’s the question.

Next: Heart of flint.

****

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

Posted in DuckTales | Leave a comment

Fantastic Friday: The alt scene

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s another alternate timeline, more alternate versions of classic characters, and two new heroes who didn’t exactly become household names.

Recap: Ronan the Accuser attacked and teleported the FF to the moon, where he has mind-controlled Sue and is using her powers to help him steal advanced tech from the Watcher’s home in the Blue Area of the moon. Iron Man joined the fight last issue, which was then continued in Invincible Iron Man #14. In that issue, the heroes separate Sue from Ronan, but Ronan still manages to get ahold of a weapon, the Psyche-Magnitron. The heroes manage to short-circuit the weapon, which then teleports Ronan away, seemingly stopping him. The heroes leave the moon, while Ronan returns to his ship, now with the blueprints for the Psyche-Magnitron.

Fantastic Four #16 begins not on the moon, but in Limbo (described as a “place beyond space and time”) where three villains are watching the FF. They are X-Men enemies Destiny and Legion, along with a demonic-looking lady named Margali Szardos. All three characters, we’re told, have an imbalance in their souls, trapping them forever in Limbo. So, where is the Fantastic Four? We see they are still on the Blue Area of the moon, but they look out at Earth to find a artificial ring spinning around Earth, letting them know that, like Ronan, they were also teleported somewhere at the end of the fight.

Sue has come to her senses by now, but the so-called mannequin alien that caused the mind control is still transforming her into a half-alien. The FF then find a statue of the team, only it’s Reed, Ben, Johnny and Dr. Doom. Everybody concludes that this is another glimpse of the alternate timeline from last issue, in which Sue was Baroness Doom.

Iron Man flies up, only it’s not the Iron Man we know. He attacks the FF, and he’s joined by a group of Avengers – except that they’re all Kree versions of the Avengers. They unimaginatively call themselves the Kree Avengers, and their unimaginative names are Kree Iron Man, Kree Scarlet Witch, Kree Giant-Man, and an oxymoron, Kree Captain America.

The FF escape the Kree, steal a nearby spaceship, and head for Earth. Reed and Ben speculate that the timeline has changed because of the weapon Ronan stole. They reach Earth, to find the remains of a Brood invasion, and a destroyed, unpopulated city. After fighting off Kree Iron Man, the FF then run into two humans, Lucas and Redwing. They explain that in this timeline, the Kree invaded after a worldwide cataclysm, and have been battling the Brood on Earth ever since. On cue, the Brood attack for a few more pages of fighting.

Lucas and Redwing fight their way to the Brood queen, revealing that their mission is to kill the queen. The queen puts up a good fight, managing to incapacitate the FF. But this leaves an opening for Lucas and Redwing to jump in and strike the final blow. Then the FF teleport away, by the same means that brought them there. We then cut to the three characters from the beginning. Margali says that the FF were brought from the timestream to this very moment, because their actions in the fight helped change the course of this timeline. Now the heroes are on their way again, to parts unknown…

Unstable molecule: Reed continues to use the built-in computer on his FF uniform, tracking Lucas and Redbird as the pair are several stories below him.

Fade out: The Iron Man issue reveals that the mannequin alien isn’t just Ronan mind-controlling Sue, but that she follows orders given to her by anyone. Basically, she’s Ella Enchanted. This seems to have worn off by the FF issue, although she’s still transforming into a half-alien form.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is again a pilot in this issue, managing to fly a Kree ship from the moon to Earth, and just barely landing it on the surface.

Flame on: Johnny is able to go toe-to-toe in a fight against Kree Iron Man, with the two evenly matched. Johnny suspects the same is true if he ever fought the “real” Iron Man, but we can only speculate on that for now.

Commercial break: “Tobias, if you don’t morph, you’ll be a bird forever! Oh no, Tobias!”

Trivia time: This Margali character has a confusing backstory involving a lot of Marvels demon characters, and she figures heavily into Nightcrawler and Mystique’s elaborate origins. You don’t need to know any of that for this issue, though, because this is an alternate-timeline version of the character, who only appeared once. Similarly, if you want the further adventures of Lucas and Redwing, you’re out of luck. This issue is their only appearance to date.

Hey, what happened to Charlotte Jones, the NYPD cop who was the FF on the first part of this story? It’s mostly skipped over in the Iron Man issue, but she made it back to Earth. She’ll show up again a year later in a couple of X-Men books, and she has cameos in the House of M and Heroic Age crossovers.

The Iron Man issue has a subplot about James Rhodes (a.k.a. War Machine) in Casablanca, searching for a man named Parnell. This would be Parnell Jacobs, a wealthy mercenary who also wore the Iron Machine armor for a while. This plot would wrap up (more or less) in the Machinery of War storyline, and Parnell returned much later during the Dark Reign crossover.

The other subplot in Iron Man has Iron Man’s pal Happy Hogan starting a romance with a woman named Hannah Donleavy. She went on to make a few more appearances around this time, always at Happy’s side. The Marvel Wiki says they’re just friends, but it looks like a lot than that to me.

Fantastic or frightful? This era (era) of the series keeps throwing the characters around from alternate universe to so often and so chaotically, that I have alt-timeline whiplash. And because it’s another universe, that means it feels like there’s no real stakes for the characters. I keep hoping Chris Claremont is going somewhere with all this running around of the last few issues, but I don’t know anymore.

Next: Matchstick men.

****

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

Posted in Fantastic Friday | Leave a comment