Monday, January 31, 2011

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 22

Planet Comics #56 (September 1948) is a pulpy entry into the Mysta of the Moon serial. Veteran pulp artist Joe Doolin is credited with the cover and it really hearkens back to the style of the 20s and 30s speculative fiction magazines. The Mysta tale is penciled by Matt Baker and his signature style is pretty clear even with the 'good girl' aspect of his art not as evident. Baker may not be as suited to science fiction as he is to drama and intrigue tales yet he puts in a good showing.

As for this chapter of Mysta itself it is full of imagery familiar to fans of pulps. Robots, BEM's and the space ship wielding a giant spinning saw blade used to destroy buildings all evoke adventure mags of decades prior. The threat is from without this time and features what might be the first actual alien life form depicted in this series. It is never specifically identified as such but the villain of this tale is a colony creature suspended in fluid and may not be a genetically modified member of the human race used for labor as speculated in the other chapters.

The Safety Council and chairman Dirk Garro makes another showing and lends credence to the theory that the old government more friendly to Mysta and her decrees has been replaced. Domestic trouble at home is also on the horizon as the increasingly absent Mysta (who remains undercover with the Safety Council) causes Bron to become more dissatisfied with his role as her assistant and possible romantic interest. Mysta's robot is not utilized at all (except for perhaps a guard keeping an electric eye on Bron) and appears modified again to be more utilitarian, vastly different from the previous model of humanoid, transparent musculature before the appearance of Bron.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lesson One

Teacher, Teacher performed by Rockpile (1980).

I don't know why but I feel that Katy Perry could do a good job covering this song. I've never heard more than a minute of anything she did but Teacher, Teacher sung by a woman would be cute and evoke enough sexual ambiguity for her to be far superior to the first shallow, calculated, PR firm-driven hit I Kissed A Girl.

Friday, January 28, 2011

En Gaard

Among the sites I visit the alleged death of the Human Torch a.k.a. Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four #587 has been met with a collective yawn. I'm not sure if that response to the issue is comic book snobbery or not. I'm a fan and I'm not not one of those bored with the issue. It gave me the entertainment I expected. I generally liked the story (with the exception of the Super-Genius Babysitter's Club) but let's face it, is there any comic book fan who thinks Johnny being eaten to death by giant alien bugs is permanent? No one probably. As example, Bully highlights the many deaths of the Fantastic Four.

Like many fans I'm burnt out on the drama of character death because it hasn't been shown to have that much impact. It seems to occurs primarily in the run-up to a movie and the dead character will return just in time for the cinema release of the film.

In the past Reed, Ben and Sue all died and after a fashion all have returned. It was Johnny Storm's turn is all. The last time any comic book character's death had any real gravity for fans was Marvel's Phoenix and Captain Marvel and DC's CoIE Flash. I was excited to read those stories. Not because of the drama but because they gave a reader such as myself that there is a greater illusion of change than really existed in the format.

When last seen Johnny Storm was overwhelmed by the Annihilation Wave, an army of giant bugs bent on swarming into new territory. Readers see him get pulled under but don't really witness him killed. Who we kidding? The most obvious way out for the Torch is that he goes nova and wins the fight or at least maintains a stand off. If he survived, in all probability he is injured and is now trapped in the Negative Zone. Being who he is, he would either go off in search of a way home or remain defending the portal if it was still a threat to Earth.

I expect him to come back but maybe not as the Johnny we are all familiar with. Story-wise it would not do to have Reed open a portal and have Johnny step through, grin and ask where the babes are. Years spent killing monsters in between cat naps would change a person. Decades ago an alternate-earth Johnny Storm performed a similar function in Fantastic Four #162 (Sept 1975). Amnesiac and supplied with esoteric armor and tools alternate-Johnny Storm was posted in an other-dimensional realm guarding a nexus to various earths as the hockey-themed soldier, Gaard. Something similar on his eventual return could happen but it may be too obvious an attempt in mining the past. Johnny Storm's journey back home could provide the basic plot for a mini-series though.

How permanent is death supposed to be in comic books? Personally, if a character dies I'd expect a period of at least 5 years before they return without feeling ripped off emotionally. That gets a fan through the requisite few months of reminiscing, back-stories, drama with the replacement member of the affected group and even a period where the deceased character is not referenced at all. Then the triumphant return and a return to the status quo. Such a time line allows a whole new group of readers to discover the character and hopefully get hooked on reading the book and by extension, the entire line published by the company.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just a mo'

Days not paying attention to this here site means flip-flopping work schedules, no time for fun and no sleep.

Be back tomorrow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 21

The July 1948 issue of Planet Comics #55 brings the return of giant, marauding insects used as weapons though the culprit behind them is not a player one has seen before. Mysta again goes undercover in her investigation of forbidden science and discovers that terrorism for monetary gain is the impetus for the evil plot. The technology that created the monsters may be an example of letting the Genie out of the bottle. Once the science has been explored it is difficult if not impossible, even with Mysta's intervention, to successfully suppress the process. It may even be that the villains of Chapter 12 were working for the terrorists. Mysta also discovers a new potential playmate or someone she can manipulate, perhaps accepting and maybe exploiting her emerging humanity.

Interestingly enough the Science Council is not mentioned. Instead the previously unknown Safety Council makes an appearance, perhaps being a new branch or department of government or a new government altogether. This would be logical if the Science Council lost to the Humanist Party in their bid to govern Earth after the political shenanigans in Chapter 14. Any new administration would undoubtedly rename the various branches of the ruling authorities even if they performed the same tasks as before. Given the general haphazard continuity of most Golden Age serials it remains to be seen if the Safety Council is ever again mentioned.

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Health and Safety

TJ Slice (2003)

Anthropomorphic mascot promotes better health through improved nutrition and sports but not, apparently, physical safety and common sense as J. Slice' shattered skull and exposed brain can attest.

From the National Watermelon Promotion Board's J. Slice saves the Planet from Professor Junkfood (2003). I remember 2003. It was all about our precious snowflakes wearing protective equipment and preventing traumatic injury. How did this get approved?

To find out, click here for the The Senses-Shattering Secret Origin of J. Slice!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beautiful Love Song

Sexy and scary, Wanda Jackson performs Hard-Headed Woman from back in 1958. This rocks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Special S

This speech balloon on the back of some boxes of crackers is supposed to be a means of affirmation for women with low self-esteem to feel better about themselves. The idea is that the customer writes on the back of the box what they expect to receive for eating allegedly low-calorie or small-volume snacks. They then become less depressed or something.


In reality it is affording the staff of some grocery stores plenty of opportunities for pranks where they write or place a sticker on the back of the box and replace it on the shelf, causing paininthebuttery to ensue.


Then of course, the company making the crackers is just foolish in encouraging people to upload their own affirmations and also allowing them to create their own commercial using the uploaded photo.

Heh. When will they learn?

Special Slee

Monday, January 17, 2011

Civil Rights Wars: A New Hope

A long time ago

It is MLK Day and an important day it is. Hopefully, everyone took a moment today to reflect what the great man stood for and did something, anything no matter how large or seemingly insignificant to make his dream enter the waking world.

A few notable links:

Progress of the Martin Luther King Memorial from the CBS Early Show.

The official website for the MLK memorial. I donated and got a couple pins. I'd really like a small replication of the "Stone of Hope" statue itself for my dad but they will probably not be made available and I have no idea if they ever will be. I'd really hate to see cheap plaster paperweights of the statue sitting on card tables next to similarly made Statue of Liberty knock offs being hawked by street vendors.

The Speech

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Once a day, everyday, all day long

Connie Smith belts one out way back in June 1965. A perfect music video with the one exception of the director inexplicably lingering on the backup singers overly long. Check it out.

A lazy, Sunday post.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gone too soon and never was

Gone too soon and never was

Almost bought this until when leafing through it at the check stand I noticed that fictional people were included.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The exception to the rule

Typically I do not care for the great amount of waste that accompanies food at the retail or restaurant level. That's because I'm frugal (not meaning cheap, I want to use what I get). I have a greater problem with the amount of square tonnage of parsley wasted every year. Some eateries however prove to be the exception to the rule. For example this awesome BBQ Teriyaki chicken.


The food as it is presented at many dining establishments, particularly those of an Asian flavor, often have the meat resting on top of a layer of shredded cabbage or lettuce. There is a purpose to this not related to taking up plate area so it appears as if the customer is getting a huge pile of food. The shredded veggies serves to lift the meat up off the plate or serving dish, allowing the oil and grease from the cooking process to drain and remain below the portion.

Without the meat being suspended it would float in a pool of rapidly congealing fat. Some people consume the oil-soaked greenery and while incredibly delicious, it is not good for you in the long run. So using shredded vegetables is frugal and sensible even though it usually ends up in the trash. An alternative which would add to overhead costs would be to use a layered plastic mesh or grate of some sort to suspend the meat. This would require cleaning and the mesh or grate would not only resist attempts to be fully sanitized but would degrade over time and bits would be consumed by the patron during the course of the meal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Here I go once again with my suitcase in my hand

Peppier, lighter, funnier and not as morose as the original LP version, Crystal Gayle and Jim Henson's Muppets perform River Road from way back in 1979.

Yeah it's country music, technically, but CRYSTAL GAYLE. And MUPPETS.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Carbon? Try reducing your stupidity footprint

Ultimately disposable paper coin banks that could be folded into the shape of the new energy-saving buses that were rolled out into service in San Diego were handed out by the hundreds, if not thousands to kids and parents a few weeks ago in a parking lot of the mall where I shop.

Environment Bus FAIL

I wonder how many of these exist anywhere but a landfill by now? Once the novelty wore off , the nickel was removed or lost out of one of the folds and the buses were damaged by play I imagine they went right into the trash. Generating thousands of pounds of waste paper to tout an environmentally friendly bus doesn't make any sense at all. Kind of similar to the paper tags hung on bottles of soap claiming the product conserves water. Guys, you can't trade one for the other as IT IS ALL CONNECTED.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 20

Planet Comics #54 (May 1948) reveals a bit more about the state of human society in the rebuilt civilization. The Science Council, which may or may not have won the election to control the government (Mysta of the Moon, Chapter 14), assigns Mysta to investigate the cause of civil and worker unrest that is spreading through out society.

Since forbidden or dangerous science is involved Mysta seeks out a powerful industrialist and discovers his company is keeping employees as slaves and forcing them to labor even after being maimed from a byproduct of their work. It isn't clear if this practice is just business as usual or something new in the destabilized collection of planets. Old ethics may have been dropped for expediency as desperate people give up their rights for a job, no matter how demeaning or dangerous.

Rebellion occurs with plenty of collateral damage caused by both the "good" and "bad" sides of the struggle. Will the new boss be the same as the old boss? Mysta, who previously displayed little compassion towards villains as they died through misadventure or by her own hand, is horrified at the display of a weaponized energy source when it is deployed against an evil industrialist. Perhaps a humanizing influence by her lab assistant Bron is enabling Mysta to reconnect with people and see them as more than in the abstract.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hat Trick

Solving ancient mysteries isn't all that hard. When trying to answer the questions posed by ancient events and artifacts there are a few things that are important to consider outside of demonstrable facts to glean their true history when all that remains is speculation.

It has become something of a cliche that a discovery will be identified as being religious in nature. That may be true nonetheless for most things pertaining to the ancient world because religion (and the fear that comes with it) is a great method of crowd control. But busy-work building temples is a big-picture kind of thing and doesn't fill every moment of the day. So how does one puzzle out the practical uses of less expansive ancient technology and artifacts of a culture?

One way to do this is think like an ancestor. Life was hard way back when. People scratched for sustenance and if they didn't gather enough goods or trade enough services for food then they starved that evening. There were a lot of things about day to day life that just were not required for making it to the next sunrise so it was a great investment in time to do anything not absolutely goal-oriented towards survival.

So the one trait I speculate that was in wide use by ancient peoples was that of
Common Sense. Our ancestors were not stupid. Far from it. They were capable of things that even the most advanced nation of today scratches their collective heads over. Often scholars can't agree how spectacular ancient engineering feats were accomplished because modern tools can not duplicate exactly the same results. Tales of machines that seem far-fetched can not be recreated using tools of the day. So how did all these wondrous inventions lost to time become reality? By using a common sense approach to any project. Many seemingly impossible things were done simply because a can-do attitude was applied.

While the assertion that "thinking outside the box" may seem simplistic that leads to the next trait to be aware of and one that is necessary for the first to work successfully. That is to understand that
People Are Bastards. Need to move heavy stones from one place to another? Throw people at them until it gets done. Want to keep the village busy between crop planting? Have them dig furrows in the earth creating pictures only the "Gods" can observe from on high. Strike fear in the populace to keep them under control? Parade a bunch of exotically-armed guards around as your retinue.

Some time ago I solved the riddle of the true use of the stone rings in an Aztec courtyard. The common misconception was that opposing teams kicked a ball through a small stone ring high on a wall. This is ridiculous. You can read why here, but suffice to say that any game played in that manner would be frustrating for both players and spectators alike. Foreign visitors reported the elaborate game of skill played by the locals though this was likely exaggerated to make the conquering army seem all the more formidable against the native population. After all, it wouldn't do to have highly-skilled and technologically advanced soldiers wearing armor defeat a bunch of kids playing volleyball.

And so it is that I approach another mystery and solve it by applying
Common Sense and never forgetting that People Are Bastards.

A few days ago one of the education-oriented cable channels was demonstrating the use of ancient weapons such as Greek Fire, spinning swords mounted on chariots as anti-personnel gear and the hand-held weapon with a terrifying reputation, the Flying Guillotine.

The Flying Guillotine is reportedly a martial arts device of which almost no records of it having actually existed other than some old descriptions. While many examples of ancient weapons of all kinds yet exist this most powerful, long-distance killer is strangely lost to the ages. Odd, considering that such a deadly device would most assuredly be coveted and protected and even mass-produced at some point if only because of its effectiveness over swords and other pointy objects of harm.

The Flying Guillotine is known most popularly through modern film and literature. Resembling a modern bee-keepers head gear, the Flying Guillotine is reportedly a hat-like device attached to a cord or chain. Thrown by an expert, the weapon settles over the head and the outer ring falls to the shoulders attached to and held in place by an upper plate, the two pieces connected by a mesh or bag. The lower ring contains blades which would close in a scissor effect when the cord was pulled, decapitating the victim and presumably, neatly holding the severed head in the net. According to legend, the Flying Guillotine was wielded to devastating effect by an elite posse of ninja guards. Popularly, it was supposed to have worked something like in the video below.

Though cool, that the weapon worked as effectively as the legend would have it is extremely unlikely. Modern replicas, even those made with materials that would enhance its effectiveness as a throwing weapon more often than not fail spectacularly. While ancient blades would assuredly been strong enough to sever limbs and decapitate a human it is also equally unlikely that the movement of a sharp knife in the space of few inches by yanking a cord or chain would have the desired effect of cleanly lopping off a head. It has also been theorized that since the usefulness of the Flying Guillotine as a throwing weapon is questionable it was used instead to ambush the unwary. The weapon would be dropped over the head of a victim who passed under a tree or arch. While this is more feasible it is yet not very plausible and attributes to ancient martial artists nigh-magical ninja skills that realistically did not exist and would be almost useless and impractical in a real-world situation. As the tool of an assassin the Flying Guillotine is ridiculously complex. It's use as described in legend flies against all common sense and is not very practical. Why go to all that effort when it was far easier and economical to just sneak up on someone and hack at the neck with a long blade?

So while the Flying Guillotine could have been used as a murder device by ninja sorcerers it was more likely to be used as a method of control and punishment. This goes to the aspect of
Common Sense. The Flying Guillotine would have been ridiculously superfluous in a culture of swords, clubs and knives. Also, factor in that People Are Bastards and the true use of the device is readily apparent.

Presumably expensive and time-consuming to create and rare enough that making one was strictly controlled by the wealthy and powerful it is more likely that the Flying Guillotine was an artifact that promoted fear among the populace. This is not to assert it was never put to use. it is rare that a weapon is created that is never used. It is the stories and tales of its deadly accuracy by an elite squad of guards that would ensure that anyone would think twice about attacking or disrespecting the Lord of the village. Instant and horrifying fear of death from afar is a great way to ensure someone with designs on the big chair doesn't gain much support from his fellow disgruntled farmers. The thought that one could be killed at the drop of a hat from twenty feet distant before getting close enough to use a knife would make anyone think twice about rushing the palace.

As to its actual practical use it isn't difficult to imagine that the Flying Guillotine was pressed into service on occasion on some poor person as an object lesson not to mess with the boss. Placed over the head, the victim could be paraded about in public, lead by a chain attached to the device he wore. It was spectacle. Anyone observing some poor fellow staggering about wearing the thing knew he was a dead man walking.

Once a good show was put on for the public the chain could be pulled causing the sharp blades on the interior collar to sink into the neck of the victim and sever the arteries, causing death by massive blood loss. Whether or not the blades would be sufficient to decapitate a person is up to debate as the force required would be more substantial than most people could muster in a single strike. Repeatedly yanking the chain while dragging a bleeding body about the village square, while horrifying, is not as effective as claiming the head was severed in one motion by a scary dangerous super ninja. Anyone disputing the official story of how the weapon worked would probably find themselves wearing one soon enough.

So it is more than likely that the actual Flying Guillotine, if it in fact existed, would have been used most effectively as a ceremonial weapon for propaganda and as a means of the occasional public execution.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What in the world

Amazing Detective Cases #12 - What in the world (May 1952)

This image doesn't appear in the story but still, good on artist Jim Mooney.

Amazing Detective Cases #12 (May 1952).

Monday, January 03, 2011

Mysta of the Moon - Chapter 19

In Planet Comics #53 (March 1948) Mysta goes full Diana Prince in disguising herself as an older, unappealing tourist as she indulges in a holiday, leaving Bron behind in her fortress on the moon. The robot tags along though Mysta only seems to use it to play long-distance tennis. I guess Bron knows where he stands now.

Typically for Mysta trouble follows, though it seems something of a coincidence that Mysta is undercover at a resort in the same general vicinity as the lab of a scientist who is experimenting with a strange material she loaned out for study.

The material responds to thought, re-arranging its structure to the whims of the shaper. While the substance could be used to create almost anything to benefit (or even ruin) mankind petty criminals attempt to steal the material to make easily transferable gold coins. While the thieves are somewhat limited by their base desires for a quick space-dollar Mysta is not so handicapped and has the brain-power and imagination to make short work of the bad guys in her own way.

I'm cynical enough to speculate that Mysta loaning out such a dangerous material may have been in part an experiment of her own. A substance with the potential to build cities from the molecules up is too much of a boon to file away. Mysta may have been testing people in general to see what they would do when given such a gift. The professor may have failed the test right out of the gate. rather than build power-stations or food-dispensers the first practical item he created was a cloak that rendered the wearer invisible, something that would have little use outside of the spy trade. The thieves may have sealed the deal as far as Mysta was concerned by murdering the professor and setting up a counterfeit coin factory. After that adventure she certainly had no intention of making the special material available to the public no matter the good it could do if put to use in positive ways.

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