Friday, December 2, 2016
Thursday, December 1, 2016
It's difficult to think of Roy Rogers without Dale Evans, but Roy did make a number of B-movies before Dale joined him. My favorite of his pre-Dale films is perhaps 1940's Young Bill Hickok.
The movie is towards the end of the Civil War. A villain representing a never-named foreign country wants to cause chaos and violence in hopes of destabilizing the West and eventually snatching up gold-rich California.
The villain is played by John Miljan, who was particularly good at playing oily, smooth-talking bad guys. He hits all the right notes here--you can believe he is smooth enough to fool everyone into thinking he's an honest businessman, but he still makes you want to punch him in the mouth every time he talks. He gives us a villain you love to hate--which is always a lot of fun.
Roy plays young Bill Hickok. Calamity Jane (played by pretty and personable Sally Payne) is also in the film. Neither Hickok or Calamity bear any resemblance at all to their real life counterpoints (a picture of the real Calamity next to Sally-as-Calamity is below), either in appearance or personality. Young Bill Hickok may borrow a few historical persons for characters, but this is done purely for name recognition. The story itself is complete fiction.
But that's okay, because it's a good story. And besides, if Calamity Jane wasn't anything like Sally Payne, she by golly SHOULD have been! I'll bet the real Calamity couldn't have distracted a saloon full of thugs with an entertaining song as effectively as Sally does.
In the movie, Bill is an agent for Wells Fargo. When a gang of raiders working for the villain begin to rob and burn, Bill earns his nickname "Wild Bill" by defending a stagecoach station against ten outlaws.
But Bill's girlfriend inadvertently gives the plan away to the bad guys. The gold is stolen and the
villain manages to frame Bill for the crime. Naturally, this forces Bill to go on the run until he can find the gold and prove his innocence.
It's amazing how often B-movie cowboys are framed for crimes or mistaken for criminals. Just about all of them have the worst luck in this regard.
Young Bill Hickok has a strong plot, a great villain, the typically beautiful location photography found in most B-westerns and several strong action scenes. Gabby and Calamity provide some fun comic relief and prove to be resourceful allies as well. The versions of Hickok and Calamity Jane here are so far from reality that it's amazing the real-life versions don't rise from their graves in response to this just to start drinking heavily again. But for those of us who enjoy good storytelling, the fictional Bill and Jane we find here will suit us just fine.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
|Cover dated July 1980|
After a rare weak issue with Shogun Warriors #17, the series ends with a satisfying bang.
Ilongo Savage and his robot Dangard Ace get the spotlight this time in issue #18 when the aliens attack again, sending a giant robot named Megatron to destroy him.
It's just a coincidence that the robot (even bigger than the Shoguns) shares a name with the leader of the Decipticons. The creation of the Transformers mythos is still a few years away at this point. But its a fun coincidence.
The battle is a neat one. An ocean liner is caught in the crossfire, so Savage has to worry about protecting innocents while fighting for his life. It's a situation that Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe have used repeatedly throughout the series, but it makes sense and the variety of monsters the Shoguns have fought keep it from getting stale.
I also enjoy the fact that Savage is desperately calling for help from the other Shoguns. But their communication pendants no longer exist and (at first) neither Carson or Genji happen to be the cockpits of their robots to get his message.
Carson finally does hear the call for help, though, and takes Raydeen through a near-orbit loop to get to Savage quickly. Megatron is big and powerful enough to shrug off even the combined attack of two Shoguns, though. Fortunately, he helpfully acknowledges he can't swim when asked (a contrived moment in an otherwise fun fight scene), so the good guys win by simply knocking him into the ocean.
This, by the way, is the last time we get to see Dangard Ace and Raydeen. The last two issues have all three pilots sharing Combatra's controls. This is a little disappointing, but the story is otherwise coming to a very satisfying conclusion.
I also enjoy some dialogue where Savage calls out the aliens on their motives. They claim they must strip us of advanced tech because we're too primitive to travel into space without endangering the rest of the galaxy. But its the aliens who are showing a complete indifference to innocent lives. That's actually setting up an important plot point for the next few issues.
|Cover dated August 1980|
The pilots realize they need some help and decide to start by contacting the Fantastic Four. The aliens, who are monitoring all this, are fine with it. Reed Richards, along with all the rest of Earth's super-smartypants guys, is on their hit list. So Primal One--the alien leader--figures this is simply getting all their eggs in one basket.
But there is trouble afoot for Primal One among his allies. We learn he's part of a galactic federation in which various races are sworn to help one another. He's calling on an alien named Captain Cymell to use her really, really, really big robot (named Gigantauron) to help destroy the Shoguns and the FF. She's reluctant to do so, having second thoughts about Primal One's mission. But she's sworn to help, so soon Gigantauron is threatening to literally stomp down a big section of Manhattan.
Reed volunteers the FF to help man Combatra's various components, though I'm not sure he uses his resources in the most effective way. He and Sue will act as pilots, while Ben (who is one of the world's most skilled pilots) is left in the Baxter Building to handle traffic control. Smartest man in the Marvel universe, my eye.
Still, it works out okay. Unable to hurt Gigantauron from the outside, the Torch carves a hole big enough for Genji to get inside. She finds and messes with the robots gyroscope, causing it to fall down and go boom.
|Cover dated September 1980|
That brings us to the final issue. Cymell uses a tractor beam to recover her robot, but that allows the good guys to follow in Combatra and find her big mother ship. Ironically, she had pretty much decided to quit and leave, no longer able to morally follow Primal One's genocidal lead. But now she feels she has to defend herself.
Combatra finds a way into the alien ship through a disposal chute. Kind of reminds you of the Death Star's thermal exhaust port, doesn't it? Alien ship designers really need to take a safety class on that sort of thing.
The FF fight Cymell's ground troops while Combatra whacks aside some flying robot craft. Eventually, they find Primal One, who appears to be an energy being. It's a chance for Combatra to destroy him, but Genji can't force herself to pull the trigger on a living being. This is the final straw for Cymell, convincing her she's fighting for the wrong side.
So, with his final defeat, Shogun Warriors comes to an end. It was a fun book. Doug Moench gave us several interconnected epic-level story arcs that were well-written and followed the logic of a comic book universe very neatly.
I've early mentioned that Herb Trimpe seemed to be channeling his inner eight-year-old when he designed the various monsters & robots that the Shoguns fight. A giant hand whose fingers detach into separate weaponized vehicles? How cool is that? When an artist uses his sophisticated skills as an adult to channel the imagination of his inner child, it can't help but be cool.
But what will happen to the Shoguns now that their own book is being cancelled? Doug Moench will get a chance to give them a send-off in another book a few months later. We'll take a look at that next week.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Friday, November 25, 2016
Inner Sanctum Mysteries: "Mark My Grave" 1/17/49
“A dead man who gets up out of his casket, plays an organ solo, commits a murder, then gets back into the casket. You don’t dare believe it. Because if you do, you’ll never stop screaming.”
Click HERE to listen or download.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
This is the last one. Over the past few months, I've been periodically posting about 3 specific novels and an anthology that I remembered reading when I was about 11-years old. For years, I was unable to remember or identify the titles or authors of these books. But recently, I hit the jackpot with all of them. I've written about the two PT boat novels HERE and HERE--and the anthology HERE.
All I remembered about this last one was that it was set on a destroyer fighting in the Pacific. The main character is a young sailor who takes it upon himself to start yelling "Abandon Ship!" when the destroyer is damaged during an air attack. I also remembered he got in trouble for also putting in too much information about the destroyer's location in a letter home. Later, though, he and the captain are the only two still aboard when the the destroyer has been abandoned for real and taken in tow by a Japanese ship. Since I was 11 when I read it, it's not surprising that I also remembered the gruesome detail of the captain killing a Japanese soldier with a fire axe.
The book, I've since discovered, is Silent Ship, Silent Sea (1967), by Robb White--who also wrote Torpedo Run. White has himself been a navy officer, so he knew his stuff and filled his novels with authentic detail.
At first, Kelsey seems to be a bit of a jerk. And there's no denying that he was in an immature snit for awhile after joining the Caron. But dealing with bullies and buckling down to do his job helps him mature quickly. Soon, he has a few friends and the captain has taken a slightly more positive view of him.
In the meantime, the Caron is in trouble. The damage from the plane crash is severe enough to get them sent back to Australia. But on the way there, they get hit by a torpedo. With the rest of the nearby Allied ships getting torn apart by the Japanese at the Battle of Savo Island, the Caron is on her own. There's no working radio, the engines aren't working and they have no choice but to ration food and spend over a month drifting to Australia.
The guns work well enough to take out a Japanese sub that surfaces nearby after its fooled into thinking the Caron is abandoned. But a typhoon then rips up most of the remaining weapons and leaves the ship even lower in the water than it already was. The crew now really does abandon ship, swimming to a nearby island--though the Captain stays behind. Kelsey--on his own initiative--also stays behind.
So when a Japanese destroyer shows up, puts a few sailors aboard and takes the Caron in tow, the two Americans have to do something about it. But that means somehow sinking the enemy ship, even though their only available ship-killing weapon is a torpedo without a working propeller.
Silent Ship, Silent Sea is fantastic. The chapter dealing with the typhoon--with a scene in which the damaged ship nearly capsizes--is particularly gripping, though the chapters in which the two Americans silently dispose of the Japanese boarding party and desperately try to figure out how to blow up the other destroyer is equally enthralling.
Kelsey's character arc is fascinating to follow: You really don't like him that much at first, but then you come to change your mind about him as he progresses as a person along a believable, organic path. And you come to care about the Caron herself as much as both the Captain and Kelsey do.
So that's the last of the World War II novels I've spent my adult life searching for. My quest is finally over. It's a quest I would have gladly spent my fortune and betrayed friends & family to fulfill. Now I don't have to--so everyone I know can now rest easy.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
"I Kid You Not" proves that being obese can make you an effective secret weapon while fighting the Nazis.
The story, written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Joe Kubert, appeared in Our Army at War #238 (November 1971). Sgt. Rock and his men are out on patrol when they are joined by a new guy named Horace Smith, who is nicknamed "Heavy" for rather obvious reasons. Heavy, we discover, has always felt like an outsider because of his size.
But he proves remarkably useful. Rock takes his men across a river, which proves to be deeper than it looks. So when they come under machine gun first from a farm house on the opposite shore, they seem to be sitting ducks.
Fortunately, Heavy is also very buoyant. The others are able to use him as a make-shift raft, allowing them to put down some suppressing fire as they finish crossing the river.
This, though, still leaves them pinned down, unable to peek over a ridge of earth at the river's edge without getting shot. But, hey, maybe...just maybe... Heavy might be useful in this situation as well.
Well, by now, Rock has gotten the point. After the farmhouse is captured, a working radio is found in the basement. This, Heavy's buoyancy and one of the other soldier's ability to speak German gives Rock an idea worthy of Mission Impossible.
A call is put out to the Germans, asking for some tanks to drive off an American attack. When the tanks arrived, they are told to follow Heavy (now wearing an ill-fitting German uniform) across the river. He'll guide them through the shallow area. Sure, he will.
The panel that follows is a wonderfully entertaining image. Kubert's art had a rawness and power to it that made him perfect for war comics and Tarzan stories, but its nice to get a reminder that he had a humorous side.
Heavy, by now, has earned his place in the squad. For the first time in his life, he's just one of the gang. It's a nice ending for a war story that manages to insert legitimately sweet and/or funny moments amidst all the violence.
So there you have it. If you're carrying a little too much weight, don't worry about it. You don't need Weight Watchers or Nutra-Slim or any of that nonsense. Instead, you should be out bringing fascism to its knees. Get to it.
Next week, we pay one last visit to the Shogun Warriors.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Saturday, November 19, 2016
I am gradually going back through my old posts to update the links for the old shows. This will almost always now take you to Archive.org, but I've occasionally used another link when I couldn't find a specific episode at Archive.
I'll be doing this gradually over the next few months, but eventually, you'll be able to click on the Friday's Favorite OTR link on the right side of the blog, page through this and easily download any of the shows you are interested in. So far, I've finished the 2016 posts and made progress through the 2015 posts.
Friday, November 18, 2016
Lux Radio Theater: "Destroyer" 4/3/44
Click HERE to listen or download
Click HERE to listen or download