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.

****

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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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Fantastic Friday: Zone defense

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Some things in life are constants, and one of them is that the FF will journey to the Fantastic Four every so often. That’s the case with vol. 3 #40.

We begin with journalist Trish Tilby reporting on a brand-new Baxter Building appearing in the middle of NYC. Reporters are allowed inside the building, where the FF proudly announce, “It’s great to be back!” Later, scientist/industrialist Noah Baxter announces the new building is ready, including the Negative Zone portal. He warns the FF about the Gideon Trust, who purchased all the FF’s previous patents and tech, fearing they are not finished. In another part of the building, Ben is still getting used to being able to turn back into a human anytime he wants, with the immediate concern that none of his clothes fit anymore. Johnny points out that Alicia keeps sending Ben letters and he hasn’t opened them. Ben tells Johnny to butt out.

Cut to the Negative Zone, where Paste-Pot-Pete, um, I mean the Trapster is leading his team N-Explorers on an unexplored planetoid. They’re attacked by both Annhilus and Blastaar the Living Bomb-Burst for several pages of fighting. Trapster and his team win the fight, only for everything to fade away. Turns out they were inside the Gideon Trust’s version of a holodeck, merely preparing for a journey to the Negative Zone. After some debate, the Gideon Trust’s leaders decide that the Trapster’s team is ready. They open their own version of the Negative Zone portal (which they bought from the FF) and Trapster and his team enter it.

At the new Baxter Building, an alarm goes off. Reed consults with Noah, who tells him that the Gideon Trust opened a door to the Negative Zone. Reed says this is dangerous because the very nature of the Negative Zone is unstable. It’s never stated exactly why, but the team has to go into the Negative Zone themselves to solve the problem. Johnny is away training with a stunt man for his upcoming movie role, which leaves Reed, Sue and Ben on this one.

Recreating the Negative Zone shaft from vol. 1 #251, the heroes enter their Negative Zone module and drop down the shaft, only a small part of which exists on Earth and the rest in the Negative Zone. They enter the zone’s distortion area, where the Trapster has laid a (what else?) trap for them. The module breaks up, flinging the FF into some sort of vortex. The Trapster declares the job done, and he and the N-Explorers take off.

Inside the vortex, the FF come across a dragon-like creature. Reed stretches his arm into a lasso and rides the creature, rodeo-style. Sue and Ben join him, with Sue helping control the creature. The dragon flies the team through what Reed calls a dimensional wormhole and drops them off at another planetoid. There, they discover the remains of an old sailing ship. Back in NYC, Johnny finally gets the FF’s message and flies off to join them.  

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed assures the press that the new Baxter Building is 100 percent secure, and perfectly safe from superhero battles. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Fade out: Sue seems to make a connection of sorts with the dragon, calling it a majestic creature and insisting the others refer to the creature as “she.”

Clobberin’ time: Ben gets a message Kathleen O’Meara of Damage Control, who says it would be “okay” if Ben called her. So that subplot is still going on.  

Flame on: Fantastic Four officially enters the cell phone age. It’s pointed out that there’s no more need for the FF’s signal flare, because Johnny’s suit has its own built-in communications device.

Commercial break: Seems like Universal Studios’ Marvel land came and went without a lot of fanfare. No way it looked like this ad, but I wonder what it was really like.

Trivia time: Reporter Trish Tilby was a regular supporting character in X-Factor, known for her on-again off-again romance with the Beast. Look closely and you can see that two photographers on the scene are Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) and DC’s Jimmy Olsen.

Fantastic or frightful? I really liked the shout-out to previous Negative Zone stories, but beyond that this is another issue setting up bigger things in issues to come.

Next: Scout’s honor.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Pearl of Wisdom

Rewatching DuckTales! Don’t lose your marbles as you watch episode 25, “Pearls of Wisdom.”

Here’s what happens: Modern-day pirate Sharky sets his sights on a giant pearl located on a small island peopled with primitive islanders, successfully stealing it. In Duckburg, Scrooge’s nephews and Webby are excited about a marbles tournament, while Sharky shows up in disguise to sell the pearl to Scrooge. Sharkey takes the money and runs, only to learn that the pearl is the magical Pearl of Wisdom, which grants great intelligence to its owner.

Webby wants to learn to play marbles with the nephews so of course she mistakes the Pearl of Wisdom for a marble. Scrooge learns that the Pearl must be returned to the island in order for the owner to receive infinite wisdom. He then discovers Webby switched the pearl for a marble, and she joins the nephews at the competition. There’s a lot of comedy shtick as Sharky swipes the pearl and leads Scrooge on a chase through Duckburg before escaping.

Now we’re out on the ocean as Scrooge pursues Sharky’s submarine in his shipping fleet’s flagship. Everybody reunites at the island, where Scrooge and Sharkey are fighting over the pe as the sun rises and they are both zapped by the pearl’s magic. Sharky realizes that stealing is wrong, and Scrooge realizes that pearl belongs on the island with the native islanders.  

Humbug: My hypothesis of DuckTales is that the series long arc is about Scrooge learning his family and friends are more important than his money. This episode, sadly, goes against that. After achieving perfect wisdom and returning the treasure to the indigenous people, Scrooge then turns around and makes a business deal with them.

Junior Woodchucks: This is a real standout episode for Huey. He’s the one with the world championship-level marble skills, which he uses to deflect a torpedo away from Scrooge’s ship.

Maid and maiden: Webby is all about emulating the others. She mimics Scrooge after seeing him on a business call, and then she wants to learn to play marbles so she can hang out with the boys.

Foul fowls: Sharky is based on Disney go-to villain Pete, so much that the Disney Wiki alleges that this is Pete playing the role of Sharky. Sharky’s sidekick is Yardarm, who acts as a voice of reason to Sharky’s schemes.

Down in Duckburg: The Duckburg Explorers’ Club is back! Scrooge consults with Lord Battmountain, last seen in the episode “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan,” about the treasure. If the club and its members are recurring characters, then why do they not have an entry in the Disney Wiki?!?

Reference row: There are a lot of conflicting stories on the internet about what is or isn’t the most valuable pearl in the world. The most likely candidate is Palawan Pearl of the Philippines, which is 26 inches long, 12 inches wide, weighing 75 pounds, and is valued at approximately $10 million.

Thoughts upon this viewing: A real substance-free episode, more interested in corny slapstick than any of the more interesting ideas present. Just because it’s a kids’ show, that doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down.

Next: Curses!

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Heart of not so stone

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer-artist Carlos Pacheco continues to take things back to basics, while also introducing new changes to one character in vol. 3 #39.

To recap, a brand-new Baxter Building is being constructed in an orbiting space station, courtesy of scientist/industrialist Noah Baxter. Ben, meanwhile, fought the Grey Gargoyle and an unnamed mystery woman, only for the Gargoyle to turn him into stone. (Well, fully into stone.) Reed, Sue, and Johnny teleport from the space station to the scene. Note that they’re wearing new uniforms, which are the original FF uniforms, only without the prominent “4” logo.

There are several pages of fighting, with Reed using his long arms to swing wide punches at Grey Gargoyle, knocking him all over the place. Sue traps him in a force field and slams him against a nearby wall. Grey Gargoyle admits that this attack was an initiation test, and the mystery woman is named Senso. She has vanished, while the FF secure the scene and put their attention toward helping Ben.

Then we cut to the headquarters of the Gideon Trust, the big business who purchased all the FF’s tech and patents. They’re experimenting on Paste-Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster, so he can join their new elite group, known as the “N-Explorers.” A man identified only as “the Colonel” exposits that the Gideon Trust is rebuilding the FF’s Negative Zone portal. When the Colonel threatens to leave the project, the others threaten him, and make vague threats about Noah Baxter and the FF as well.

Back the scene of the fight, three Avengers – Thor, Giant Man, and new hero Triathlon – are on the scene. The Gargoyle’s stone touch has worn off the other victims, but Ben is still fully turned to stone. The FF teleport back to the space station, where Reed runs a diagnostic on Ben. The computer tells him “Diagnosis: fatality” over and over while Reed works frantically to save Ben. Then, he emerges from the Lab to reveal that Ben has become human again. “What’s all the hubbub?” Ben asks.

Ben reunites with Noah Baxter, and it’s revealed they are old friends. Noah gives each of the team a bio-disc with their “4” logo (this is why their uniforms didn’t have the logo until now). The four of them activate the new building’s “bio-technic transfer rod,” which brings all its systems online. Ben reveals that he can now transform from human into the Thing and back again, so he can add his Thing handprint to the device.

Cut to NYC, at the former site of Four Freedoms Plaza (which you’ll remember was left derelict by the Thunderbolts in Thunderbolts #10 and then teleported to the moon in Fantastic Four vol. 3 #3). Two construction workers are goofing around, only to have the new teleport (drop?) onto the space. The voice balloons let us “hear” the FF doing their old-fashioned family bickering while inside.

Unstable molecule: This issue is all about Reed caring for Ben and trying to save him. He beats the crap out of the Grey Gargoyle and then frantically tries to save Ben’s life in the lab.

Fade out: Sue uses her force fields to keep the Grey Gargoyle from touching anyone, effectively keeping him from using his powers on Reed.

Clobberin’ time: Reed offers Ben the choice to leave the team now that he’s human again, but says he’s never felt better and that, “We ain’t called the Fantastic Three.”

Flame on: I guess we’re meant to think that Johnny was also facing a choice whether to stay, because one panel has him saying, “I’m in. Like you could stop me.”

Commercial break: I’ve actually never had a Go-Gurt, but I suspect it’s not as exciting as this ad makes it look:

Trivia time: Who is Triathlon? Formerly the villain 3-D Man, he rebranded when he became a good guy, but had trouble getting along with the other Avengers. After a battle against Kang, he left the Avengers and became 3-D Man again. He ended playing a key role during the Secret Invasion event.

A poster in NYC features “Councilman Thorne.” I’m not sure who this is (turns out “Thorne” is a fairly common last name in the Marvel Universe) but my guess is that it’s Sam Thorne, Reed and Ben’s old college buddy Sam Thorne, who we met a few times in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Fantastic or frightful? This issue jumps through a lot of hoops to establish a new (well, new-ish) status quo for Fantastic Four. The highlight, though is the big fight, where Reed and Sue really cut loose with their powers in a big way.

Next: Zone defense.

****

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

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