Throwback Thursday – Police Squad

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

One quick note about today’s post: In the original, I credited the playlist to a certain YouTube user, but that has since been taken down. Fortunately, since the episodes are still readily available, I was able to recreate the playlist, and that is what I have embedded below.

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Too Smart For Television? – Police Squad (1982)

ps1Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.”

Supposedly that’s the reason given by then ABC Entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos in 1982 for the cancellation of the TV show Police Squad! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the show’s official name) after the network aired only six episodes of the show.

Created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the team behind the movie Airplane!, and starring Leslie Nielsen who had found a new rather surprising second life as a comedy star in that movie, the television show was a loving tribute to and parody of the great cop shows of the past.

ps2I recently took the time to rewatch all six episodes with my soon-to-be-14-year-old daughter, (well, it was a re-watch for me, and of course a first time viewing for her), and though Thomopoulos’s statement may seem a little ridiculous at first, there is quite a bit of truth behind what he says. Like its predecessor movie (and let me take just a moment right here to say that if you haven’t ever seen Airplane! you really should), it is not a show that rewards multi-tasking. So many of the jokes are sight gags or visual puns, that if you’re not giving the show your full attention, then you’re going to simply miss a lot of them.

Of course, some might say that that might be even more of a problem now, when so many people “watch” television while texting or spending time on the internet or doing so many other things, that to get people to pay attention enough to what is happening literally every second the show is on may seem impossible. However, there is also a flip side to that. Because of today’s technology, when it’s so much easier to pause or go back to catch some of the small “what did he say?” or “did I really see that?” moments, viewers who are willing to invest the time and attention into these episodes will find themselves amply rewarded in ways that viewers who originally watched these episodes on television may simply not have been able to.
ps3At the same time, I will say this: while there is a part of me that will always be sad that we didn’t get more episodes of the series, there is also a part that fears that had it gone on much longer it may very well have overstayed its welcome. Though I do think that the sixth and final episode is one of its strongest, at the same time, I can easily see some of the recurring gags becoming a bit stale had it gone for more than say thirteen or so. There is such a thing as going to the same well too often, and this may be one of those cases where it’s better that a show die a bit before its time and live as something that will be missed and considered cancelled too soon than to have gone on and on to the point that its reputation became “well, the first season was good, but…”

One other caveat I feel I should include about this show. It is definitely a product of its time, and there are a number of jokes that simply won’t make sense to younger viewers because they make reference to cultural phenomenon or include guest stars in cameos that those born after a certain period of time simply won’t be familiar with. But then, that’s another of the advantages to having things like Google and Wikipedia available. So that when Dr. Joyce Brothers shows up, there’s at least a chance for today’s viewers to figure out why it’s funny.

ps4Oh, and as for the daughter’s reaction to it? Well, lets just say that there were many times during the course of viewing these episodes where her constant refrain was “I hate this show!”. Which, as we all know is teenager-speak for “I don’t want to admit how much I’m loving this, even though it’s keeping me from Instagramming and all of the other stuff that I could be doing on my phone because I’m having to pay attention to it.”

Hmmm… perhaps Tony Thomopoulos was right after all.

(Want to judge the series for yourself? Here’s a playlist containing all six episodes that should allow you to run them back to back. Though I do recommend taking them in smaller doses – perhaps two or three at a time – simply to avoid burnout.)

(One last note – yes, I am aware that I left out any mention of the subsequent Naked Gun movies, but the truth is, I was never as big a fan of them as I was the television series. Again, I suspect it may simply be a case where the argument could be made that this is a case where “less is more”, because it always seemed to me that they were having to work very hard to stretch the format for a lull-length feature film.)

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – The Ghost Walks (1934)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

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The Ghost Walks – And Proves Once Again “The Play’s The Thing”

Hiya, kiddies! So, the “old dark house”. It’s a mystery/horror sub-genre that we’ve discussed before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorites. I suppose one of the main reasons is because it’s like ordering a favorite meal at a restaurant. Even if you’ve never been to that particular eatery before, you still pretty well know what the ingredients are going to be and how it’s going to taste before you get it. Oh, sure, one cook may include a bit more or less of this ingredient or may put them together in a way that tries to impart a bit of his or her own personal style, but nine times out of ten you’re going to get something pretty much the same as that dish that you’ve enjoyed time and again.

Then, of course, there’s also that tenth time, when the cook actually does something somewhat unique and surprising with those familiar ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m certainly not suggesting that director Frank Strayer has invented anything truly new with The Ghost Walks. No, for the most part it consists of all of the familiar elements that make up an old dark house mystery:

1) A group of disparate people are, for one reason or another gathered together in a creepy old mansion – in this particular case a fallen tree and a washed out road prove effective enough to thrust our protagonist and his traveling companions into a seemingly already quite awkward family gathering, thereby allowing this particular phase to move along quite quickly

2) There is some reason for everyone to be suspicious of everyone else – often the cause of the gathering is the reading of a will which leaves one or more parties dissatisfied with the results. In this particular case the Mcguffin is the anniversary of the murder of the husband of one of the characters.

3) There should be at least one “coincidental” connection between some of the characters – ofttimes one or more will know another character from a different setting.

4) Quite often there is also a random element thrown into the mix – for instance here we are informed of an inmate recently escaped from an insane asylum.

5) Eventually all of the lights in the house will inexplicably go out, and when they come back on, someone will have been killed leaving the survivors to try to figure out who among them could possibly be the killer.

6) Soon, even more mysterious things begin to happen – a strange hand will reach out from around a corner, the eyes of a picture will move in a way that tells us someone unknown is watching the proceedings, more people will die or disappear, secret passages will be found and more. Yep, kiddies, all of these elements are present in The Ghost Walks, just as they are in pretty much all old dark house mysteries.

What sets this particular film apart from most of its brethren of the genre, however, is the twist that occurs just after the victim of the first murder is revealed. Now, I’m not going to say that it turns this little quickie into a great movie, but it does serve not only to explain some of the “coincidences” that we’re asked to swallow during the first act, and also provides the film with a sense of humor that it would otherwise be lacking, which helps to keep the whole piece from becoming too familiar and dreary. In other words, just as with that one time in ten that that favorite meal is transformed into something above and beyond just “the usual”, The Ghost Walks manages also to take the usual ingredients and transform them into a unique taste sensation.

Ok, I couldn’t find a suitable trailer for this one, but since the whole movie is embedable in one piece from YouTube, here ya go:

And here’s the Skinny:

Title: The Ghost Walks
Release Date: 1934
Running Time: 63mins
Black and White
Stars: John Miljan, June Collier
Directed by: Frank R. Strayer
Produced by: Maury M. Cohen
Distributed by: Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation
Distributed by: First National Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – The Lost World (1925)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

One of the more popular features here on the blog is Silent Sunday, but since the conceit of that is presenting the movies without any comment or context, I thought today we’d revisit on of the Professor’s columns on one of the silent greats

Oh, and be sure to check out this week’s Silent Sunday when I’ll present the full restored version of this movie.

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Silent Movie Week – Day 2 – The Silent World (1925)

Poor Professor Challenger – though he may very well be as intelligent, his temper, I fear, made him always destined be live in the shadow of his literary step-brother Shelock Holmes. Unfortunately for the professor, this secondary creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never was able to burst into the limelight or gain the popularity of the famed detective. Even in today’s feature, the second in our look at silent films, he is truly upstaged by a pack of dinosaurs.

Of course, these were not your ordinary dinosaurs, to be sure. Instead they were the work of stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien, who would go on to also create a certain Empire-State-Building-climbing, Fay-Wray-loving giant ape. By then, the creations of O’Brien would be truly spectacular, but even in this early effort they are quite amazing. How amazing? Well according to a report published in the New York Times the day after Conan Doyle himself showed some of the test footage to the Society of American Magicians, “(Conan Doyle’s) monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces”

Actually, the Lost World is notable in a number of ways. It was made with the full cooperation of Conan Doyle, who actually appears in the introduction of the film. It was the first feature length film to employ stop-motion animation as its main source of special effects. It contains on of the first examples of what we call today “product placement” (look for the Corona typewriters being used). And it was the first film shown to passengers on an airplane. (It was shown on a London to Paris Imperial Airlines flight in April 1925).

But more than all of that, it’s simply a ripping good adventure yarn. Young reporter Edward Malone is drawn to a speech being given by Professor Challenger who claims that his friend, disappeared explorer Maple White, has discovered a plateau in South America where beasts from another time still live. Ridiculed for his claims, Challenger gathers a group to return to the plateau, see if they can rescue White, and also prove his fanciful claims. The group includes Challenger and Malone, hunter John Roxton, White’s daughter Paula, and an Indian manservant and Challenger’s butler. Yeah, seriously, his butler.

After days of exploring and traveling the Amazon, the party finally find themselves at the base of the plateau. The only problem is that it is only approachable by climbing one side of a mountain and then walking across a log crossing a deep chasm to the actual plain. They consider turning back, as they have seen no evidence that the mythical beasts for which they are searching are even up there. No evidence, that is, until a pterodactyl comes flying onto the screen and lands upon the prominence they are considering climbing. This sighting is quickly followed by the appearance of a brontosaur and then a number of other prehistoric creatures, all of whom seem to delight in fighting and killing each other. To make matters worse, once the group has made it to the plateua, one of the ornery critters tosses their log bridge down into the crevasse, seemingly trapping them there forever.

How about a trailer spotlighting some of the great effects scenes?

And the Skinny:
Title: The Lost World
Release Date: 1925
Running Time: Varies (various sequences have been lost over time, some have been restored – the original release time is 106 minutes, most available versions run between 85-100 minutes)
Black and White
Starring: Wallace Beery
Directed by: Harry Hoyt
Produced by: Jamie White, Earl Hudson
Distributed by: First National Pictures

Until next time, Happy (Silent) Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – All These Dang Avengers

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

So with the new Avengers movie taking the world by storm, I thought it might be a good time to look back at an article inspired by the last one…

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The Old Order Changeth – Avengers: Age Of Ultron And Avengers Vol 1 #16

***Spoiler Warning!!! This article deals with the very end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, So if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, I advise you to turn back now. Seriously, I’m literally dealing with the last shot in the movie (no, not the mid-credit Easter egg, but the last shot of the movie proper). Okay, you have been warned. Spoiler Warning!!!***

a165Not long after its release to theaters, I was listening to a podcast in which the two hosts were discussing Avengers: Age of Ultron, and one of the hosts, almost as an afterthought asked the question (I’m paraphrasing here): “So what now? How do you handle this new crop of Avengers and what do you do with the old ones?”

The reason for the comment, of course, is because the “official” Avengers line-up at the end of the movie is very different than the one we have at the beginning of it. In the last few scenes we see the departure of Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Hulk, and as their replacements we have a new team led by Captain America and the Black Widow, along with new recruits War Machine, The Falcon, The Vision, and The Scarlet Witch.

This immediately made me think of the original run of the Avengers comic, way back in antediluvian times when Stan Lee was still writing the book (along with almost every other book that Marvel was putting out at the time), and especially Avengers Vol 1 #16.

That particular issue, entitled “The Old Order Changeth”, is the first time in the comics that we actually see a full scale change in the make-up of the Avengers team, and at the end there is even a press conference where the new line up is announced.

a161Not that a fluidity of the line-up hadn’t been a primary feature of the comic from the start. Heck, at the end of the second issue, the Hulk, realizing how little his teammates trusted him (as a result of his being manipulated and imitated by the Space Phantom) took off in a huff, leading to an issues long subplot called “The Search for the Hulk”. Then, in issue 4, we had the “resurrection” of Captain America who had been presumed dead since the end of World War II but who had actually been frozen in a block of ice leaving him in pretty much a cryogenicly-preserved state. (Hey, it’s 60’s Marvel science where the bite of a radioactive spider can give a high-schooler spider powers and exposure to gamma radiation turns a scientist into The Hulk. Just go with it. Plus, this is the inspiration for the opening scene in the first Avengers movie where Steve Rogers’s body was found in a very similar state.)

That’s right, gang. Despite what you may have been led to believe subsequently, Cap wasn’t even one of the original founding member of the comic book version of the Avengers. Instead, we had Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man (who quickly became Giant-Man – don’t ask), The Hulk, and The Wasp.

The problem with this line-up, quickly became apparent to Stan. Because each of these characters also had their own solo titles, and he felt that any real changes made to those characters should be made there rather than in a team book that not all of the character’s readers might be following, he felt ham-strung by the very nature of the team.

a164So what was the solution? Promote some lesser characters who didn’t have their own books to the majors by making them Avengers and at the same time, give him some heroes that he could do more with.

Of course, Stan being Stan, who at the time was in a mode where he really was trying to challenge himself and his fellow creators, (and also because even if he took some of the lesser heroes and included them in the roster, most of them also had their individual titles, so he would still be stuck in the same boat) he didn’t exactly take the easy way out.

Instead he decided the way to go was to take a few villains, give them a chance to reform, and reshape them into Avengers. To this end, he selected two characters who had previously appeared in the X-Men as members of the Magneto-led Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (by the way, just an aside here – it’s always struck me as odd that Magneto decided to kind of give away the game there by naming his group that. I mean, once you’ve outed yourselves as “Evil Mutants”, it seems like you’ve pretty much got to live up – or is it rather down? – to that moniker.), Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Also, he chose one of Iron Man’s villains, the archer known as Hawkeye, who claimed that he really didn’t want to be a baddie, but he had been seduced and turned to the dark side by evil Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as The Black Widow. (Yep, at this point the Widow was a bad gal too.)

a162Of course, this left not only Cap but the public wondering just how this motley crew, subsequently nicknamed “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” could possibly live up to the legacy of the teams founders. Fortunately, Captain America, having trained and led troops into battle in the 40s didn’t have too work too long to teach these disparate characters how to be a well-oiled machine. Eventually, of course, the original Avengers began to return – the first one back full time being Giant-Man, at that point going by the name Goliath, and new cast members were continually added, and eventually even the title “The Old Order Changeth” or some variation thereon became something of a tradition whenever a new formal grouping of Avengers was being announced.

a163So the change in line-up at the end of Age of Ultron is really just a part of the Avengers tradition going back to the very first. And by the time we get to the next Avengers movie, having made it through Captain America:Civil War, Thor:Ragnarock, and whatever solo movies might impact the makeup of the team (for instance, the upcoming Black Panther movie, though the character is supposed to be introduced in Civil War) who knows who may or may not be Avengers.

I suppose in a way it just goes back to that old saying: “The more things changeth…”

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Covering Comics #2 – Tales To Astonish

I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.

Along the way in Marvel’s Ant-Man, during the scene where Darren Cross is showing off “his” new invention and talking about the legendary historical Ant Man, he suddenly just seemingly randomly shouts out “Tales to Astonish!” Though it may seem like a fairly random phrase to use, it actually is a shout out to the character’s origin in the comics of the early 1960s.

So here’s the deal: back in the late 50s and early 60s, Marvel wasn’t publishing superhero comics. Instead, a huge part of their output was sci-fi and monster mags, and one of those titles was appropriately titled Tales to Astonish.

 

tta4

TTA introduced a number of monsters, including one that may, if you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, seem just a little familiar. (Yes, he was a little more talkative back then, but as you can see from the cover, he already was working on his now famous catch phrase.)

tta11

Anyway, Tales #27 told the story of a scientist named Henry Pym who made a very interesting discovery: how to shrink himself down to the size of… well, I suspect you can guess. Though in this particular story, the little critters weren’t exactly friendly.

tta3

Of course, at that point, the story was really simply meant to be a one-off sf thriller, likely never to be thought of again, However, the story proved popular, and this was around the same time that Marvel was transitioning its focus from monsters to superheroes. Therefore, it made sense, since he was simply sitting out there waiting be used, to bring Hank Pym back with a bit of a difference.

tta5

The Ant-Man proved popular enough to continue starring in the book, and eventually he even got a female sidekick.

tta6

Things carried on this way for awhile…

tta7

…until in #49, Hank gained a new power, and the first of many new identities.

tta8

Another interesting fact about Marvel’s output at this time is that they were limited in the number of comics that they could publish in any given month, so they began to use titles such as Tales to Astonish to feature two of their ever-growing list of characters. In TTA, as of #60, the pairing was Giant-Man and The Hulk.

tta9

Unfortunately, for Hank Pym, however, this only lasted for another 10 issues before he was displaced from the book that had been his home for so long by a certain Atlantean interloper.

tta10

So there you have it. A quick history of the Ant-Man (or at least the Hank Pym version) told through the covers of Tales to Astonish.

Oh, and for those of you who may be wondering where Scott Lang, who is the focus of the current Ant-Man movie came into the picture, well, that wasn’t until many years later, and, no, it wasn’t in Tales to Astonish, but in another book that Marvel was using to try out new characters and new variations of older characters.

tta2

The Old Order Changeth – Avengers: Age Of Ultron And Avengers Vol 1 #16

***Spoiler Warning!!! This article deals with the very end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, So if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, I advise you to turn back now. Seriously, I’m literally dealing with the last shot in the movie (no, not the mid-credit Easter egg, but the last shot of the movie proper). Okay, you have been warned.  Spoiler Warning!!!***

a165Not long after its release to theaters, I was listening to a podcast in which the two hosts were discussing Avengers: Age of Ultron, and one of the hosts, almost as an afterthought asked the question (I’m paraphrasing here): “So what now? How do you handle this new crop of Avengers and what do you do with the old ones?”

The reason for the comment, of course, is because the “official” Avengers line-up at the end of the movie is very different than the one we have at the beginning of it. In the last few scenes we see the departure of Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Hulk, and as their replacements we have a new team led by Captain America and the Black Widow, along with new recruits War Machine, The Falcon, The Vision, and The Scarlet Witch.

This immediately made me think of the original run of the Avengers comic, way back in antediluvian times when Stan Lee was still writing the book (along with almost every other book that Marvel was putting out at the time), and especially Avengers Vol 1 #16.

That particular issue, entitled “The Old Order Changeth”, is the first time in the comics that we actually see a full scale change in the make-up of the Avengers team, and at the end there is even a press conference where the new line up is announced.

a161Not that a fluidity of the line-up hadn’t been a primary feature of the comic from the start. Heck, at the end of the second issue, the Hulk, realizing how little his teammates trusted him (as a result of his being manipulated and imitated by the Space Phantom) took off in a huff, leading to an issues long subplot called “The Search for the Hulk”. Then, in issue 4, we had the “resurrection” of Captain America who had been presumed dead since the end of World War II but who had actually been frozen in a block of ice leaving him in pretty much a cryogenicly-preserved state. (Hey, it’s 60’s Marvel science where the bite of a radioactive spider can give a high-schooler spider powers and exposure to gamma radiation turns a scientist into The Hulk. Just go with it. Plus, this is the inspiration for the opening scene in the first Avengers movie where Steve Rogers’s body was found in a very similar state.)

That’s right, gang. Despite what you may have been led to believe subsequently, Cap wasn’t even one of the original founding member of the comic book version of the Avengers. Instead, we had Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man (who quickly became Giant-Man – don’t ask), The Hulk, and The Wasp.

The problem with this line-up, quickly became apparent to Stan. Because each of these characters also had their own solo titles, and he felt that any real changes made to those characters should be made there rather than in a team book that not all of the character’s readers might be following, he felt ham-strung by the very nature of the team.

a164So what was the solution? Promote some lesser characters who didn’t have their own books to the majors by making them Avengers and at the same time, give him some heroes that he could do more with.

Of course, Stan being Stan, who at the time was in a mode where he really was trying to challenge himself and his fellow creators, (and also because even if he took some of the lesser heroes and included them in the roster, most of them also had their individual titles, so he would still be stuck in the same boat) he didn’t exactly take the easy way out.

Instead he decided the way to go was to take a few villains, give them a chance to reform, and reshape them into Avengers. To this end, he selected two characters who had previously appeared in the X-Men as members of the Magneto-led Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (by the way, just an aside here – it’s always struck me as odd that Magneto decided to kind of give away the game there by naming his group that. I mean, once you’ve outed yourselves as “Evil Mutants”, it seems like you’ve pretty much got to live up – or is it rather down? – to that moniker.), Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Also, he chose one of Iron Man’s villains, the archer known as Hawkeye, who claimed that he really didn’t want to be a baddie, but he had been seduced and turned to the dark side by evil Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as The Black Widow. (Yep, at this point the Widow was a bad gal too.)

a162Of course, this left not only Cap but the public wondering just how this motley crew, subsequently nicknamed “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” could possibly live up to the legacy of the teams founders. Fortunately, Captain America, having trained and led troops into battle in the 40s didn’t have too work too long to teach these disparate characters how to be a well-oiled machine. Eventually, of course, the original Avengers began to return – the first one back full time being Giant-Man, at that point going by the name Goliath, and new cast members were continually added, and eventually even the title “The Old Order Changeth” or some variation thereon became something of a tradition whenever a new formal grouping of Avengers was being announced.

a163So the change in line-up at the end of Age of Ultron is really just a part of the Avengers tradition going back to the very first. And by the time we get to the next Avengers movie, having made it through Captain America:Civil War, Thor:Ragnarock, and whatever solo movies might impact the makeup of the team (for instance, the upcoming Black Panther movie, though the character is supposed to be introduced in Civil War) who knows who may or may not be Avengers.

I suppose in a way it just goes back to that old saying: “The more things changeth…”

 

 

 

 

Covering Comics #1 – Avengers Vol. 1 #54-60, King-Size Special #2

I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.

Today’s selection of covers is a result of watching the two latest Marvel movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man. (BTW, while I did enjoy Ultron, I really liked Ant-Man, which I’m willing to argue – and probably will in an upcoming post- may turn out to be the best heist movie out this year.) Coming out of those movies it’s easy for a long-time comics reader like me to note just how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has diverged from the comic stories hat form the basis of these two movies, a topic I suppose I could rant about, as I’m sure others have, but really, in this case it doesn’t matter because a) I’m simply not that much of a purist that I’m not willing to accept the two “universes” as their own separate entities, and most importantly b) as long as the movies continue to be entertaining and well-written enough, I’m willing to just let that go.

I do suppose, however, that I should go ahead and throw up a quick ***SPOILER WARNING*** for those who might not hve ever read these comics before, or who may not have yet seen these movies, because although i don’t intend to do a lot of commentary here, preferring to let the covers speak for themselves, I will be providing quick notes about why they are relevant to these two movies, and the way the stories played out in the comics as opposed to the movies. so consider yourselves forewarned.

(BTW, all of these covers are from the first series of The Avengers, and were originally published from late 1968 to early 1969.)

First up is Avengers #54 which sees the Avengers attacked by “The New Masters of Evil”, who are led by a mysterious figure known only as The Crimson Cowl.

av54

Next, in #55, it’s revealed the The Crimson Cowl is in reality a robot who calls himself Ultron 5.

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#56 takes us on a bit of a diversion, as Captain America and his fellow Avengers use Dr. Doom’s time machine to go back in time to seek out the truth behind his WWII sidekick Bucky’s death.

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Avengers King-Size Special #2 follows up from #56, in a story that finds the Avengers diverted in time (sort of) to fight an earlier version of the team (well, maybe… I’ll leave it to those of you interested enough to seek out the issue to see what the truth really is).

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In #57 we’re finally back in the present, and Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp (who in the comics universe at this point is the girlfriend of Giant-Man – the original Ant-Man who has quit shrinking and instead now grows to gigantic proportions – Hank Pym) terrorized by a mysterious new character, The Vision. It is eventually revealed that The Vision has been sent by his creator – the returning Ultron 5 to fight the Avengers and lead them to his (Ultron’s) lair where he can destroy them.

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#58 continues this story as we learn the secrets behind the origin of the Vision.

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#59 sees the appearance of a new, extremely cocky hero (?) who calls himself Yellowjacket who, after capturing a few criminals to prove his worth, takes on the Avengers in their own mansion in order to prove that he should be allowed to join the team. The issue ends with a surprising revelation by Janet, who declares that she intends to marry Yellowjacket. (BTW, I should note that YJ also claims to have killed Hank Pym, making the Wasp’s declaration all that much more surprising.)

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Finally, issue 60 brings us the wedding of the Wasp and Yellowjacket (yes, they do go through with it) which, as was tradition in those days, could not take place without some kind of supervillain interruption. Eventually, of course, the villains are defeated, and evrything is explained, including the secret identity of the Yellowjacket, and the true story behind Hank Pym’s death. Oh, and yes, all of this does tie back into the creation of Ultron, too.

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So there you go. A series of iconic covers (the one for #57 especially has to be called out) and the stories they contain. So what do you think of their effectiveness? Do they make you want to read the story inside? And how do you think they compare to the current crop of covers seen in comics shops – especially those used by the”Big 2″ comics companies? Lemme know in the comments below.

Blame Hydra? Blame Tony? It Doesn’t Matter. The Trailer For Avengers: Age of Ultron Is Here

a2Supposedly this trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t going to premiere until next week’s Agents of Shield, but here it is, and yep, it’s official. Marvel says to blame Hydra, but personally from the looks of things, I’d say blame Tony.

Whatever the reason, I’d go ahead and take a look while the lookin’s good, ’cause there’s no promise that TPTB won’t change their minds and try to take it down.

Yeah, this looks like it’s gonna be epic.

Update: From the Credit-Where-It’s-Due Department: It appears that once word got to them that the trailer had somehow leaked online, Marvel/Disney smartly decided the genie was out of the bottle, so they went ahead and quickly put out an official version of their own, which is the one linked to above. Hey, when you’ve got Thor on your team, there’s no need to let somebody else steal your thunder, right?

Hammer Time! (Yeah, I Know…) Here’s The Latest (Extended) Trailer For Thor: The Dark World (2013)

It’s looking like today may be “trailer day” as I catch up with a few pretty interesting ones that have crossed my (virtual) desk the past couple of days. This one doesn’t really lay out much more of the plot, but it does give us even more indications that a lot more of the action in Thor: The Dark World will be taking place in Asgard rather than on Earth. I suppose that’s one good way to explain why we don’t wind up with an early Avengers reunion.