Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Consumer Demands

STILL BETTER THAN THE DMV
Spent half the day getting my car smog certified (failed the first time due to a gas cap that wouldn't seal). Then two hours at AAA getting my tag. The unusual wait time was because a printer was inoperative. The folks at AAA suggested anyone waiting could drop off their paperwork and their tags would be mailed that night and received by Monday. Good think I opted to wait because the payment I made to the DMV a week ago by debit card still had not cleared. The way the universe works if I went with the plan to wait for the mail it tuns out the AAA could have not processed my paperwork and I would have been pulled over by the cops and had the car impounded. So I waited, paid my registration fee for the second time and now have to contact the DMV to get my first payment refunded. You can apply to get a refund online but the DMV doesn't have an option for "You paid twice because we suck." In spite of 5 hours of waiting to get smogged and getting my tag and the frustration it was still better than going to the DMV. I'll take a migraine over an embolism any day.

THANK YOU, OBTUSE SHIFT LEADER AT DEL TACO #949
While I'm not a fan of fast food anymore my wife needs something on occasion first thing in the morning after she gets off work so she can take medicine. So she or I will visit a drive-thru when I pick her up in the morning. Here is content of a letter I faxed to Del Taco concerning a recent visit.

This letter concerns a visit to Del Taco #949 in San Diego, CA on 8-29-2010, at about 7:30 am. My wife and I are frequent customers to your establishment in the morning. It is a place that is conveniently located and serves fresh, quality food. However our experience on our last visit was far from what I found to be typical for your restaurant.

On the visit of August 29th we ordered two breakfast meals. The employee at the window, Shift Leader [Name Redacted] handed me two orange juice cartons along with our meals. They were frozen solid. I discovered they were frozen when I tried to push the straw into the carton and the straw would enter only about a 1/4th of an inch before hitting solid ice. I handed them back and asked for some replacements. [Name Redacted] told me there were none available as they were all frozen. I then asked for some replacement drinks, like coffee. [Name Redacted] at first refused, then offered coffee as a swap for the frozen drinks. She then stated she would only trade out one drink because the other was opened. For the record, the carton was "open" only at the straw aperture.

She continued to refuse to trade out the one drink. My position was that one carton was opened and found to be unusable because it was frozen. We did not eat 95% of a meal then demand a refund because we were not "satisfied". I work retail and am well aware such a situation can occur with some customers. [Name Redacted] stated she would not accept the carton because she would get in trouble. I know this is not factual as distressed or damaged items can typically be returned if there are quality issues. A frozen carton is definitely a quality issue. I ordered the food and intended it to be eaten at that time, not a few hours later when it thawed. [Name Redacted] stated there was no problem with the juice and it was only a little frozen. I had to demonstrate the extent to which the carton was undrinkable by squeezing the carton very hard, after a few moments producing a small slushy stream of chunks of orange ice.

At that time I handed back all the food I ordered and requested a full refund. [Name Redacted] refused, then agreed in part as she still refused to refund the "open" orange juice. The discussion continued a few more minutes. [Name redacted] also declined to let me speak to a supervisor or tell me the name of the manager.

Eventually I asked if a refund would be refused if I found egg shells in a egg and cheese burrito, which I could only detect after I had opened it and bit into it. [Name Redacted] allowed that I would get a refund or replacement. I had to point out there is no quality difference in the quality in the burrito and the juice. After that she refunded the order in total. The entire visit was about ten minutes.

I was very disappointed in the entire experience and no longer feel comfortable as a patron to that location, though I have happily since visited other Del Taco locations since then.

THE PEOPLE'S CLERK
While it is true that a company survives or fails in part on how they treat their customers there are also a number of terrible, terrible customers out there that can make some work a miserable experience. I usually enjoy my job in retail as it is high pay, there are fun people around and it is the least amount of work I have done in 25 years. Yet the small percentage of the crazy, the thieves, the greedy and the grifters discourage me.

Typically what I receive is rage way out of proportion to what is happening.

Some people lose their minds when they can't return purchases made with food stamps (it is illegal to do so). A tantrum, like being sweetly and sickly nice, is one of several methods of getting a refund as the clerk wants the person to go away with no fuss.

Over a certain dollar amount a receipt is usually required as this stops wholesale receipt fraud.

Yet a lot of these rules stores follow are not arbitrary. They come from the City, State and Federal Government and Health and Safety agencies, not to mention the company. Like not accepting returns of baby food or perishable items. There is no guarantee of how the items were stored once they leave the store. Who would want to go to a store that accepts meat that sat on a counter overnight or baby food forgotten in a trunk for a week then brought back and placed on the shelf because the customer said they didn't want it? I once refused a refund on someone who bought a large brick of cheese "just now" and lost the receipt in the last few seconds and decided they didn't want it. The cheese looked okay until you turned it over and could read the word DUNLOP imprinted in the underside of the food. Apparently, the cheese was left in the trunk of a car on top of the spare tire. The customer put in the fridge so it would feel cold before attempting to return it.

The thing is, if he didn't try to grift me (and if successful, possibly make the next person who purchased it sick if they didn't notice the cheese was stored improperly) I'd swap it out for a fresh one. We can usually distress damaged items, that is, return them to the vendor for credit.

One customer became unhinged when a register opened up and he wasn't first in line. He ran from several check stands over only to be told by the customers who got there before him (from the adjacent register) he would have to get in line behind them. He claimed he was sick (the customers didn't care) and he abandoned his spot in a check stand (reserved for the disabled, by the way) in order to run down and try to force his way in front of the other customers. Somehow I was at fault for it and he ranted to the manager the next day (the video shows me motioning him in to the line right away anyway). I speculate because he was not first he was angry about being second or third.

Another customer complained to corporate that I did not smile enough. Of course, I got tag-teamed by the managers about it for a good twenty minutes. They were paralyzed speechless when I asked why I didn't get any support from them for what was a ridiculous complaint. I was absolutely going to get a memo in my file until that point.

So a few spurious complaints over the last couple of months made me decide to put a few people on notice. What is unfortunate about the retail business is that often the first resort of a scoundrel is to say an employee is rude. This is the one thing that is sure to make someone in an office sit up and take notice. Not to say rude, terrible. hostile and incompetent employees don't exist. I run into them regularly. Companies rarely, in my experience, drop the hammer on the customer, though I have seen it happen if rarely. Also, it has been my experience that companies will sometimes take administrative action against an employee based on speculation and hearsay. Sometimes these things happen but there are ways to resolve them for the most part.

Truthfully jobs can be lost due to some vengeful, angry customer who didn't get what they wanted. One store manager I knew received numerous complaints, demands for action, demands for punishment and censure in an ever-escalating litany of revenge-minded complaints going up the corporate rungs. Of course, the customer never once said anything factual. What the opening statement from the customer, were they honest, should have been was "I was attempting to return items for cash I purchased on food stamps over the last several months. I knowingly attempted to defraud the State of California but the store manager said I could not return the items." Oddly, if the customer was truthful and then her complaints took the exit to crazy town she probably would have gotten what she requested and been able to keep the food.

Sadly the results of whatever (if any) investigation into the truth is typically the result of someone's opinion and not fact. This affects livelihoods. If Management doesn't actually take action then at the least a number of spurious complaints will negatively associate that employee's name in someone's mind.

This is where I'm considering small claims litigation against anyone who damages my job and reputation over merit-less complaints. I wonder if somewhere other employees have successfully fought back against such complaints and I'm actually surprised I don't hear about it happening more often. I have a family to support, the job market is tough and I will aggressively protect my way of life. Maybe if enough people fight back the stupid stuff will become minimized.

One thing about complaints though, and rightly so, is that they may as well be anonymous. To get a customer identity would require a subpoena, if their identity is even recorded (and they rarely are for minor complaints). It wouldn't do to have some wacky employee hunt down and punish a customer for a real or perceived slight. On the other hand that perceived anonymity makes people brave, mean and sometimes evil, just like the internet does for trolls. We know how well that works out.

Honestly, if most of the things people said we did at a check stand actually happened they would be all over the video hosting sites. Just about everyone has a phone with digital recording capabilities and no compunction about using it even if it was just for the lulz and pwnage.

NOT EVEN GOD GETS A REFUND WITHOUT A RECEIPT
One of the main complaints by consumers is that they perceive they are treated like criminals. Rather, retail fraud is a billions of dollars a year industry and stores and companies take it in the shorts. Someone is stealing and it isn't always the employees.

A good part of my day is dealing with people who are trying to work the system. The cheap, the frugal, the thief and the grifter all make the innocent person trying to return a box of damaged plastic spoons feel like they are trying to scam a store of a bunch of cash in order to buy crack.

Ask any customer service clerk how many scams they deal with everyday and the backlash from angry grifters. Most of the baddies get away with it because the fight isn't worth the potential damage to an employees job from a vengeful scammer and the usual lack of support from the company they work for.

Many people complain that industry-wide they are checked for receipts when leaving at the door. In particular one electronics chain and a discount store received the largest share of complaints. I don't mind, some people do. Fact is if stores didn't have a greeter at the door acting as a deterrent to crime they would get wiped out and have nothing in the registers for it. The majority of retail crime is accomplished by simply filling a cart to the brim and walking out the door. Not a day goes by that I don't catch at least one person who abandons a cart with a felonious amount of unpaid goods in it, deterred only because the cart wheels lock up if you don't pay for your stuff.

The most common response I get when I ask for a receipt? "My wife has it. But I don't want this s**t anyways." Then they calmly walk away leaving the cart behind. I hope one day to be so wealthy I can just abandon $400 worth of un-bagged meat and beer at the door of a store because I can't be bothered to have my wife hang around 30 seconds after the purchase to provide her receipt.

AN EXAGGERATION, BUT NOT BY MUCH
"Hello, is this the complaint line? I'd like to make a complaint."
"Yes, Ma'am. How can we help you?"
"I want to report one of your employees. He was very rude and unprofessional."
"Yes, Ma'am. Go ahead."
"Well, last night SATAN, THE ALL-POWERFUL LORD shattered the dimensional wall into your store and Bob was very rude to him. Satan asked what aisle the human babies were on and Bob wouldn't help him."
"I see."
"Satan needed a baby to sacrifice to bring about the End of Days and Bob told him to leave the store. He wouldn't help him at all! This is unacceptable and he was unprofessional and very rude. I won't be shopping at your store anymore after this! I'm also telling all my friends not to shop there."
"I'm sorry your experience with us was not to your liking. We at Great Big Grocery value you as a customer. We will report Bob's behavior to the district manager. We are interested in keeping you as a customer, too. Would a $100 gift card to Great Big Grocery let us keep your business?"
"Yes. Yes it would!"

Two days later, Bob was fired.
THE UNIVERSE IS A BASTARD
I dress okay. My wife does, too. She's hot. I'm average-ish. Certainly not the elephant man. We stay clean and don't over-do the perfume and cologne. We behave in public. Don't act snotty, don't act street. Not all rude and coming off like people from Maryland do. Yet I always feel like I get screwed over wherever I go. Anyone else feel like this?

If I leave my name I get missed or they don't write it down or my order is wrong. I keep asking for a spoon and I don't get it. We don't see a server until long after people that came in after us do and we won't get our food in the same manner. Yet you still have to tip them well because next time you visit you are "That ahole-oid" and they maybe do something to your food or make it more casually and sloppy. Same reason I can't go back to Del Taco #949.

I can sit in my car in the driveway for 20 minutes and never see one vehicle yet the second I begin to back out there appears a never-ending stream of cars and it takes me another 5 minutes and risk of death to get out of the driveway onto the street. I check 30 DVD packages to make sure no one cut the plastic and slipped out the disc, pick one only to get home and find that the disc is seriously warped and flawed and won't play. And then the store acts like I deliberately took a torch to it and gives me grief about a refund or swap for a working copy.

Whatever electronics I buy only allow proprietary peripherals, even though everything looks the same, fits together the same, has the same specs, the device I bought is hardwired to only accept their expensive accessories.

I recently had confirmed that a 40 waist and 2XL shirt mean something different between brands and stores. My wife throws away receipts and cuts tags and labels out of clothes usually by the time she reaches the car. So when something doesn't fit it is difficult to return. Also, there are a lot of good-looking clothing on the racks if you are under six feet tall. All the large sizes that fit my height are weird off-colors, patterns and styles that would get me beat up by socially awkward math nerds half my size.

I can imagine some guys in a factory realizing they have 2000 yards of unused kitchen mat fabric and deciding to make a bunch of 2XL and 3XL shirts out of it because we have no choice other than to buy whatever we can find in that size. Oh, and for an average two dollars more per shirt.

If I didn't know the universe was just a collection of matter with no intelligence behind it, I'd think I was getting picked on and singled out for getting crapped all over.

AND YET THEY SAY I WAS THE JERK
Me: Hey, there.
Couple at table: Uh, Hi. Can I help you?
Me: Can you do my wife and I a favor and take our picture?
Couple at table: Oh, sure.
Me: Here, I set it all up so just push this button. CHEESE!
Couple at table: There you go.
Me: Hey, thanks. I really appreciate it.
Couple at table: No problem. Glad to.
Me: Oh, hey.
Couple at table: Yes?
Me: One more thing. Can I get your email address?
Couple at table: Uh, why? No, why?
Me: Well, you and your companion were staring at us for so long, I thought maybe you would like to get a picture because it lasts longer.
Couple at table: F**k you!
Me: Okay. So that's a "no", then.
People seem fascinated to the point of intrusiveness when my wife and I communicate using Sign Language. People get so wide-eyed, still and open-mouthed as their minds try to process what they are observing that you'd think they were staring into the abyss and the abyss stole their sanity and soul. I used to see something similar in Maryland when a huge crowd would gather to stare agog and whisper at a family that would be speaking Spanish.

Maryland sucks, though

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 6

Planet Comics #40 (January 1946) features Mysta having her science fortress infiltrated by an evil scientist and his trained ants, which he can shrink or enlarge.

This tale also depicts a bit of continuity with other Planet Comics serials as the "Dis-Factor" is referenced, though it may be accidental and due to the creators not bothering to make up new rules of entire universes along with their plots. With the exception of the Paragon Press stories of the 1980s and some of the Golden Age Star Rangers appearances (again, perhaps Star Rangers in name only) none of the Planet Comics stories overlapped.

This chapter of Mysta is short, coming in at only 5 pages. This is odd considering she is beginning to get some cover mention and is even featured on many exteriors, though there is a great disconnect between the exterior art and the interior stories. This is not unusual as it was the action and space-bikini girls that was being advertised and not the individual tales.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Note to writers and artists

I don't know the provenance but this memo was supposedly sent out to the creative staff of the nascent DC Comics by editor Sheldon Mayer as a list of what is and is not permitted concerning content in comic books. It is undated but would have been issued sometime from the late 1930s to late 1940s.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Swooshy Peplum

I'm loving every word as read through a pop-culture bobby-sox filter in this March 1949 ad copy from Miss America Magazine. Whooper-doo!

Sunday drive

Kids of the day didn't know it, but they were being secretly indoctrinated in science fiction through this ad. Now look at what those children have done to everything since they became adults.

Hi-Adventure Heroes #2 (August 1969).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hold It

"Hold The Green." That's the slogan for a new campaign against wasting food.

Take a look at this tasty seafood platter from a local restaurant. Notice anything missing?

That's right. The garnish isn't there. The reason the parsley is missing is because I requested the server not put any on the plate. Why? Because it is wasted. Hardly anyone eats the sprig of parsley, not even the curly Italian kind. It usually ends up in the trash or in the case of really cheap restaurant managers, re-used for another guest if it can pass a visual test for freshness.

According to the U.S. Parsley Council some 59,000 pounds of parsley is used yearly as garnish and in cooking. As a garnish parsley offers little except to take up platter space that could be filled with precious bacon and to add a hint of color on a plate consisting primarily of brown and gray hues. This is ridiculous and wasteful. Studies have proven that of the parsley-as-garnish that is eaten, 95% is consumed only by misbehaved children in restaurants who jump up and down on the chairs, scream, throw their fun-menu crayons in the iced tea of the people in the next booth. Parents, obliviously allow their children to eat the parsley even though there are health risks associated with extreme consumption of the herb. The remaining 5% who clean their plates are just cheap bastards who squeeze a nickle until it screams for mercy. Outside of the restaurant venue parsley is consumed in bunches by the stupid and those who believe in magic. They tout the homeopathic benefits of parsley but science says a diet high in parsley is pretty darn silly and is useless if not actually detrimental to a person's health.

PARSLEY MAKES IT CLASSY!
It is guesstimated that annually some 50,000 pounds of garnish-related parsley is wasted by being uneaten. That amount of green vegetable matter could feed 7,000 dairy cows for a year or a Maryland family of three for two months as a supplement to their food stamps. If there existed sin then such waste would be indeed sinful.

So be an Earth Warrior and do your part with very little effort at all. When dining out tell your server to "Hold The Green" and if they do not let them know you will be "Holding The Green" yourself, in the form of their tip, which they will not receive. If enough people decline parsley as a garnish then eventually restaurants all over America will stop ordering it and all that wasted food will be diverted to where it really should go, as the main ingredient in limited edition bobble-head statues based on the San Diego Padres or converted to cheap bio-fuel to run our cars. At the very least the parsley market will collapse and Italy will starve and then die before falling into the ocean.

As a side note savvy consumers also fight against the wasteful parsley scourge by frequenting those establishments that serve not the useless Petroselinum plant as a garnish but instead a crisp leaf of lettuce with a single cherry tomato placed onto it. Some people treat this lettuce and tomato combination similar to parsley and it goes uneaten. However the wise diner views this type of garnish not as future trash but as a potential bonus mini-salad. Most restaurants will freely and without question supply a customer with dressing of their choice on the side if they request some. Frugality for the win in this instance because making a tiny Caesar salad out of the spare and space-hogging veggies the customer gets more for their dollar by eating the typically unwanted garnish.

For more information click the Hold the Green search label.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cover me

Bibliomania book cover pattern (1954)

Bibliomania (1954) book cover pattern.


L'Amour book cover pattern (1957)

L'Amour (1957) book cover pattern with art, as far as I can determine, by Ruth McCrea. I could be mistaken but I think this illustration has appeared on lots of different things since it was initially created.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 5

The fifth chapter of Mysta of the Moon is from Planet Comics #39 (November 1945). Once again this is a feature with a one-off villain. While the art is more finely detailed it is conversely a bit more stiff. There is also much more in the way of "good girl art" evident is this installment. Like many of the early serials it took a little while to find a style that seemed to fit the character.

The villain is suitably horrific as befits the mad scientist with access to high technology and Mysta deals with him in typical fashion for a Planet Comics heroine. That is, he doesn't exactly expire in a trap of his own devising. A Planet Comics heroine doesn't usually give the villain a chance to surrender only to have him fall into his own death trap. Often, they outright terminate the villain because the universe would be better with them missing from it.

This chapter is also a page or two shorter than the previous tales and it shows in the story telling. This installment of Mysta seems a bit rushed.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Laugh-In

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Viewmaster envelope (B497 1968)

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Viewmaster envelope and reels (#B497, 1968). Envelope is notable for the comedic catch phrases from the show being printed on the reverse. Goldie Hawn is notable for being ridiculously hot.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Better Dead Than Rooibos

TP Menace

Clicking goes to The General.

CSI Sneak Peek

In a fashion similar to how other television shows do "cross-overs" from one franchise to another (example: Eureka and Warehouse 13, House and NCIS, etc) to spike ratings, police procedural drama CSI and popular cable cooking show Cake Teamsters have also joined forces in an effort to bring more viewers to the television. The cross-over event will be featured in the new season of CSI in place of the usual teaser that primes the viewer before the opening credits.

As described on the official CSI fan forum:

With Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) in critical condition from the cliffhanger events of last season the CSI squad reaches out to former boss Gil Grissom (William Petersen) to assist during a baffling mystery. To welcome him back to the team nerdy and annoying lab tech David Hodges (Wallace Langham) commissions a very special cake from none other than the chef and star of his own reality-based show "Big" Joey Vandolin of Cake Teamsters. As loyal viewers are aware "Big" Joey is given an "impossible task" each episode to create and deliver a custom-designed cake all while under the pressure of a ticking countdown and the sometimes zany and questionably helpful assistance of his well-meaning family, friends and bakery team.

In a montage of frantic cake baking and the carving of sheets of sugary fondant Carmine gets the
CSI-themed cake done and delivered before the clock runs out. Grissom, however, is less than enthused as these exclusive sneak peek screen shots from the CSI website reveals.


CSI is all about the epithelials. Those chefs never wear gloves. Ever consider how much hair and skin is in those cakes they create?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 4

Planet Comics #38 (Sept 1945) still has the character of Mysta being fleshed out and finding a direction. In this tale Mysta intervenes in a hostile takeover of the known planets by evil shape-shifters and the end is expectantly genocidal in nature. Mysta also displays a new power that being the repository of all knowledge has bestowed upon her. It is kind of a "utility-belt" of a trick but most comic book stories fall back on pulling a gadget or new power out of nowhere to further the story and escape a death trap or two.

The cover to this issue is notable because while it features a female in peril she is not being being rescued by a male but rather another female. While Fiction House and Planet Comics was the leader in female protagonists and antagonists they still could not for the most part break away from the "good girl" imagery. Still, baby steps. Unfortunately, that baby still hasn't learned to toddle by 2010 and perhaps never will.

As usual per Flickr making what was once fun a chore for everyone, click the image, go to another site, click around until you can find the section to view all sizes and then click on the bigger size to read the story better. Sigh.

Bonus: DJ Mix Masterbot

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Frazetta after Brando as Frankie the Biker

As part of SallyP's Beefcake Week here is the late Frank Frazetta as Frankie the Biker, a Wild One Marlon Brando parody for the L'il Abner comic strip for which he did ghost-art duties for several years. Frazetta drew himself into the strip for one storyline.

Unlike some artists that put themselves into their creations Frazetta did not exaggerate his looks and physique. From the photos I've seen of him from the period he was quite the good-looking man.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Game over, Man!

Mission Mars (1968) was a low-budget tale of the first manned expedition to Mars. Is that a great poster or what? Bikini babes, a scene evoking From Here to Eternity and the contrast of realistic human figures to the abstract aliens reminiscent of the puzzling, eerie work of Jack Gaughan.

One of the recurring themes of science fiction was the rejection of manifest destiny. Typically, the mysterious native residents of wherever the plucky astronauts (read, Americans) planted their flag would generally kill, torture and screw with the crew before sending them off with a final warning not to come back or at least not return until they learn to behave themselves. The 2010 series of novels by Arthur C. Clarke explored this theme most famously and successfully.

Mission Mars was a bit cheesy and cheap. The idea of suspension of disbelief may have been created just for this film. In particular the astronaut helmets exposed to atmosphere and the notion that an historic inter-planetary expedition could be managed by a mission control staff of two people at the teacher's desk of an unused high-school science classroom. Yet for all the economical short-cuts of the film it still managed to produce a few minutes of really terrifying classic Sci-Fi horror that has been tragically forgotten for years. Until now, that is. I saw this for the first time on local Saturday morning television back in the 1970s and a few scenes stayed with me for decades.

Take a few minutes to check out this meeting between men and aliens. Caution, it just may scar you for life.



Yeah, that's effed up, man.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 3

At this point the third chapter of the Mysta of the Moon serial from Planet Comics, Mysta has not yet joined the ranks of the secret identity set. Like many of the heroes of the era she remains detached from the rest of humanity choosing to watch over and protect people from afar.

Planet Comics #37 (July 1945) is another one-off entry in deformed villains with a beautiful slave assistant to be vanquished by Mysta. There is not much to differentiate this Mysta tale from any other entry among similar comic books of the era except for the progressive character of Mysta herself.

Like much of her series as a whole this chapter is a good example of early female empowerment in comic books. After Fiction House ceased publication it was rare to see
a woman character being able to fend for themselves successfully. Even the most accomplished popular female character was often defined by the mystery man she appeared with. Rarely did a man show up to save the day in a Mysta tale and if they did they were more often than not following her plan and the male in question was usually in the form of her unnamed, transparent, brainless, nigh-indestructible robot servant.

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