Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

Dragnet: "The Big Gangster" parts 1 & 2, 5/23/50 & 5/30/50

Somebody tries to ventilate a known gangster with a machine gun. The gangster won't talk, so Sgt. Friday and his partner Ben Romero have to start the investigation from scratch. Catching the gunmen is particularly important as they hope not only to solve this particular crime, but also nip a potential gang war in the bud.

Like all Dragnet episodes, this is a straightforward police procedural that uses the investigative process and a matter-of-fact style to generate drama. The sound effects and other production values are top-notch. This is particularly highlighted in a bar fight scene during the first episode. There's just a series of yells, breaking glass and breaking furniture, with each listener providing his or her own fight choreography. A gun/chase scene that makes up the story's finale also requires the listener to use his imagination. It's what makes old time radio so great.

Listen to these episodes or download them HERE.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If I ever own my own space ship/time machine...

Okay, I realize the odds of my ever owning my own ship capable of both faster-than-light travel and time travel are rather small.

But one never knows for sure about such things and it's best to be prepared for just this eventuality.

So I've given the matter some thought and I've come up with what I think would be the perfect crew of alien beings for my very own space ship.

Presuming my ship is fairly small (let's say Millenium Falcon-sized), then I can probably get by with just a few crew members. So we'll start with a Durlan:

Durlans come from the DC Comics universe--the first Durlan we meet is Chameleon Boy, a member of the Legion of Super Heroes. They're a race of shapeshifters, able to change shape, size and mass at will. A Durlan can turn himself into anthing from an ant to a dinosaur. They're also smart and technologically savvy. A shape-shifting crewmate who can fix the hyperdrive or plot a course to Alpha Centauri? What more can you want for a space ship crew?

Well, you might want a Kzin:

The Kzinti are a carnivorous and violent race, but make friends with one and he'll be a pretty loyal companion. A part of Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe (and also co-opted into the Star Trek universe in an episode of the 1973-74 animated series), these eight-foot-tall cat-like aliens are also capable of learning advanced technology. And if you get into a fight with some space pirates, there's really nobody you'd rather have at your side than a Kzin. These guys are the ultimate warriors. They love a good fight.

You need to keep him well-fed, though. They are carnivorous, after all. And they have no cultural taboos against eating members of other intelligent species. I'll need to keep a lot of raw meat on board my ship.

And what the hey. Let's add K-9 the robot dog to the crew as well:

A member of the Doctor Who universe, K-9 is a highly advanced computer capable of swiftly performing the most complex calculations. He's also equipped with sensors that can detect pretty much anything, has a laser in his nose and can generate a powerful force field.

And he's a robot dog! How cool is that?

Of course, he can be defeated by his inability to navigate a flight of stairs, but you can't have everything.

So that's it. Two intelligent aliens and an even more intelligent robot who can together fight or think their way out of pretty much any difficult situation. All I need now is my time and space ship and I'm ready to go.

Of course, I'd have to hope my three crewmen don't start to wonder why they need me along.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1964, part 3


We meet Kang the Conqueror in this issue--but we've actually sorta seen him before. He was Pharoah Rama-Tut when the Fantastic Four fought him in issue #19 of their book. After his defeat there, Rama-Tut tried to return to his native time period (the 31th Century) but over-shot and ended up in the 41st Century instead.

But that worked out okay for him. He landed on a world torn by war, carved out an empire for himself and has now travelled back to the 20th Century to conquer us more primitive people.

Initially, things look bad when most of the Avengers are captured and taken inside Kang's huge time ship. But the Wasp, along with Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade, manage to pull off a rescue. When his armored suit and his ship are both damaged, Kang beats a hasy retreat into the time stream.

It's yet another well-done fight scene by Jack Kirby (who, unfortunately, will be dropping the Avengers after this issue). As with the last issue of the Avengers, it's a little jarring to see a band of teenagers--rather than, say, a Green Beret A-Team--going up against a supervillain.

But that's done partially because the average comic book reader was still pretty young at the time. I think it may also have been done to keep Rick Jones in the loop, as a mentor-student relationship between him and Captain America is still being built up. In a few months, though, Cap will get his own feature in Tales of Suspense, taking Rick with him. Rick will appear less often in the Avengers. Though Rick is a perfectly good character in his own right, this is just as well. He never really fit in with the Avengers. But as the student of a single superhero--well, I can buy that.

X-MEN #7

Now that the X-Men have graduated, Professor X decides that they are ready to go it on their own. He appoints Cyclops as group leader, then takes a leave of absence from his school. He also introduces Scott to Cerebro, the mutant tracking computer that will be such a big part of the X-Men mythology.

Soon, the X-less X-Men get their baptism of fire when Magneto tracks down the Blob and tries to recruit him into the Brotherhood. Most of this issue centers around the fight scene that follows, with Magneto pretty much blowing his chance to earn Blob's loyalty when he proves willing to blow up the fat mutant in order to take out the X-Men. The battle ends in a draw when the Brotherhood retreats.

The fight scenes, as usual, were very good. But there's also some interesting characterizations going on. When Scott becomes leader, we get some dialogue revealing just how concerned he always is about losing control of his optic beams. Wanda and Pietro continue to grow more and more disillusioned with Magneto. And the Blob ends up being a tragic figure that you can't help feeling sympathy for.

That's it for September. Next week, we'll take a look at the 1964 annuals--Fantastic Four Annual #2 and Spider Man Annual #1, before moving on to October.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

Suspense: "Hide and Seek" 5/13/62

Don't listen to this one if you really hate rats. The high point of this episode is when an unlucky gambler is forced to hide from a pair of hitmen in a garbage-strewn alley. Narration is provided by the great Jackson Beck (who is perhaps tied with Fred Foy from The Lone Ranger as the best narrator ever). And, boy, is that narration vivid! Especially when a big rat comes crawling out of the garbage and slowly approaches the terrified gambler. When Beck starts describing the rings on the rat's tail and the fleas crawling across its fur, your skin is guaranteed to crawl. You'll check for rats under your bed before going to bed tonight. You WILL be creeped out.

Can the luckless gambler suppress his loathing of rats as the ugly thing approaches him? Or will he give way to panic and allow the killers to find him?

Suspense was only a few weeks away from cancellation--the last of the shows left over from the Golden Age of Radio--when this episode aired. It is vivid proof that Suspense remained one of radio's finest shows right up until the end.

You can listen to this episode or download it HERE.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Okay, maybe THIS is the best battle scene ever.

Last month, I posted some comments on the novel Beat to Quarters, in which I stated that one of the reasons I like the book so much is its vivid and seat-of-your-chair exciting battle scenes. The post was titled "Best Battle Scene Ever."

And it very well may be the best ever. But I've been thinking about that (because--well--it's the sort of thing I tend to think about) and a case for several other literary battle scenes being the best can be made.

There is, for instance, The Last Dogfight (1974), by Martin Caidin. Set during World War II, it takes place in an out-of-the-way island chain in the Pacific. A Japanese air squadron occupies an island at one end of the chain. An American air squadron, flying outdated P-40 Warhawk fighters, is located at the other end of the chain. The two enemy forces pick away at each other every chance they get.

The book is written by Martin Caidin. He's perhaps best known for his science fiction novels, most notalby Cyborg, which was the basis for the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. (Cyborg, by the way, is much different and much better than the TV show.) But Caidin was also an accomplished military historian and a pilot, so he knew what he was doing when writing about aerial combat. Consequently, he was able to fill The Last Dogfight with one extraordinary and realistic battle scene after another.
The Japanese Zeros can out-perform the P-40s and one particular pilot, Shiguro Tanimoto, has over a dozen kills. But one American pilot, Mitch Ross, is doing just as well, his own skill more than making up for his inferior aircraft. Later, the Americans get more advanced P-38 Lightnings, giving them the advantage. Tanimoto, though, still seems invincible.
Late in the novel, after the bomb drops on Hiroshima, Tanimoto and Ross arrange a one-on-one duel to find out who really is the best.
And the battle scenes really are great--both the large-scale affairs and the one-on-one dogfights. Caidin takes us into a sky full of airplanes all trying to shoot each other down, expertly describing the potentially confusing action in clear, fast-moving prose. He wraps this all in some great characterizations, both with the main characters and the supporting cast. Caidin wasn't just an expert in combat planes and military history--he was also a superb storyteller.

Then again, there's The Beardless Warriors (1960), by Richard Matheson. Matheson is also best known for his science fiction and horror novels. He turned out some of the best scripts for the original Twilight Zone, had a transporter accident split Captain Kirk into good and evil counterparts on the original Star Trek and gave us the creepy and heartwrenching last-man-on-Earth novel I am Legend.
But The Beardless Warriors is an intensely realistic portrayal of infantry combat during World War II. Based on Matheson's own wartime experience, it takes us to Europe in December of 1944, as an American division moves forward to capture a German city.
The main character is Hackermeyer, an 18-year-old from a broken home who turns out to be one heck of a soldier. Along the way, he also comes to look upon his squad leader, Sgt. Cooley, as a father figure, slowly learning what it's like to care about other human beings. It sounds a bit corny when baldly stated, but Matheson does such a superb job of character development that it literally couldn't seem more real. It actually takes an effort to remember that Hackermeyer, Cooley and the other members of the squad are just fictional constructs.

But we're here to talk about battle scenes. Matheson puts us on the ground with the common grunts and makes us hear the bullets whiz through the air over us and feel the impact of the mortar shells exploding nearby.
The first advance on the city is stopped by a German counterattack and all Hackermeyer really gets to do is run for his life. The second try gets farther and Hackermeyer gets his first few kills when he guns down some Germans charging towards him, then finds himself alone in the woods dueling with a sniper. When the attack is driven back within sight of their objective, Hackermeyer is cut off behind enemy lines and must find his own way home.
The final assault reaches the city and a violent street-to-street battle ensues. The squad ends up trapped in a torn-up building, with a couple of enemy tanks rumbling towards them....
The Beardless Warriors is one of those books that refuses to be put down until you've reached the end.
So, we have naval combat from the Napoleonic Wars, aerial combat from World War II and infantry combat from that same war. Which novel contains the best battle scenes? It's hard to say.
It's really too bad it's not somehow possible to let the three books fight it out among themselves.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1964, part 2


This seems to be the month for guest stars. Daredevil popped up in Spider Man--now Dr. Strange is helping out Thor. And it is again a perfectly fair way to plug another character, dropping him into a self-contained, well-written story that doesn't obligate you to buy another comic unless you choose to do so.
Doctor Strange mentally summons Thor to help after he's left injured from a fight against Baron Mordo. Don Blake must perform surgery on Strange, using his mystical knowledge as Thor as well as his skill as a mortal doctor to save Strange's life. During the operation, though, he's forced to ignore a summons to Asgard sent by Odin. This ticks off the perpetually grumpy All-Father yet again.
In the meantime, Loki escapes from Asgard, tricks Blake into unwittingly switching walking sticks while disguised as an old man, then kidnaps Jane. Blake has to recruit the recovering Doctor Strange to help locate his real stick. Then Strange has to help again, protecting Jane while Thor goes up against Loki. By the time Loki is defeated, Odin has calmed down and complements his son on a battle well-fought. But he's still concerned that Thor is in love with a mortal.
It's a fun, fast-moving story with several fun twists and a lot of cool visuals. The Tales of Asgard back-up feature is also a visual treat; a disguised Thor allows himself to be captured by Trolls as part of a plan to free other Asgardians also held in slavery by the evil creatures. In terms of story, Thor actually has too easy a time busting out of troll prison to make the yarn as exciting as it should be. But Kirby's layouts are fantastic, making the story fun to just look at.
This issue introduces us to Hawkeye, who will soon become a regular member of the Avengers. But the archer doesn't start out on the right side of the law.
Hawkeye's performing in a Coney Island side show when he witnesses Iron Man in action. He decides to become a superhero himself, though his motivation is mostly centered around his ego and jealousy over how much attention Iron Man gets.
With his trick arrows and newly designed costume, he stops a thief, but then gets mistaken himself for a thief by the cops. He's "rescued" by the Black Widow, who vamps him into agreeing to take out Iron Man.
He uses an arrow that sprays a rust-inducing chemical to gain a brief upper hand against Iron Man, but the armored Avenger soon proves more powerful. (By the way, I think this is the first issue in which the magnetic beams Iron Man shoots out of his gloves are refered to as "repulsor beams.")
When the Black Widow is accidentally injured by one of Hawkeye's explosive arrows, the distraught archer snatches her up and makes a getaway. He'll be back before long, though, and his career as a villain will be a short one before Iron Man helps him reform.

This issue starts with a meaningless but kinda fun continuity glitch. At an Avengers meeting, Iron Man is using a "portable projector" to show newsreel footage of Spider Man fighting the Hulk. The trouble with that, of course, is that Spider Man fought the Hulk (in Spider Man #14) in a cave without witnesses. Who the heck shot that footage?
But the point, of course, is to remind us of the Hulk, since Giant Man is about to encounter the green guy. Hank wants to find him and convince him to rejoin the Avengers. He and Jan head out to New Mexico, unaware that their old enemy, the Human Top, is tailing them.
The Top manages to sic the Hulk on Giant Man. While those two tussle, the Top then convinces the military that the Hulk alone is in an evacuated town. The military then fires a nuke at the town, but the Hulk grabs the missle and throws it into some nearby hills to explode harmlessly. Well, almost harmlessly--the Human Top was hiding out there. But he'll survive--villains always do.
It's an okay story, though it's overall structure is a bit awkward and the Human Top is kinda wasted in it--his own superpower never makes a bit of difference in the tale. The story's main purpose, though, is to introduce the Hulk to the readers of Tales to Astonish. Starting next month, he'll be starring there in his own feature.
Next week, we'll finish up September 1964 with a look at the Avengers and the X-Men.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Green Hornet: "Paroled for Revenge" 5/16/44

A racketeer is paroled from prison and immediately plans to take revenge on Britt Reid, the man who put him away. He's unaware, of course, that Reid is actually the Green Hornet.

But the racketeer and a couple of henchmen still manage to snatch and imprison Reid. Fortunately for our hero, his aide Kato keeps his head and manages to trail the bad guys to their hideout. This, combined with a lack of honor amongst thieves (one of them tries to sell out the others for some reward money) allows the Hornet and Kato to get the drop on them.

As is usual for the shows produced at WXYZ in Detroit (The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon), this episode combines a strong script with great production values. It all adds up to a half-hour of fine storytelling.

This episode is available to hear or download HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If you're a cop, DON'T make friends with Charlie Chan

I mean it. Don't go within 50 feet of the man. Especially if you're an old friend from way back. Might as well paint a target on your back.

I spent part of my Christmas break getting caught up on my Charlie Chan DVDs and I noticed a pattern that stretched over three of these enormously entertaining mysteries.

We start with Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940). Chan (played at the time by Sidney Toler) is visited in Honolulu by an old friend--an inspector from Scotland Yard. The inspector has joined a world cruise because he suspects one of the other passengers to have committed a murder. Then, when Charlie steps out of his office for a moment, a pair of gloved hands reach in through his office window and wrap around the throat of the poor inspector. By the time Charlie returns, his friend is dead.

Well, that obligates Charlie to join the cruise and identify the killer. What follows is a well-constructed mystery with great black-and-white photography, a good number of likely suspects and an unusual setting. Charlie fingers the killer in the end, of course. But that poor Scotland Yard guy is still dead.

In Charlie Chan in Panama (1940), the great detective has been recruited by Military Intelligence to help catch a spy who's attempting to sabotage the Panama Canal. Charlie goes undercover as the proprietor of a hat shop. But when his contact man gets in touch with him--well, the poor guy finds out smoking really is bad for your health when he lights up a poisoned cigarette.
The movie is another lively and charming mystery (originally meant to be a Mr. Moto movie, but rewritten for Chan when the Moto series was cancelled), with a really swell climax in which Charlie forces the spy to give himself or herself away. But that poor Military Intelligence guy is still dead, isn't he?

Finally, we come to Murder Over New York (1940). Charlie is flying to New York to attend a police convention. Aboard the plane, he meets yet another old friend from Scotland Yard. The Englishman is serving with his Military Intelligence unit at the moment, trying to track down a German spy who might be responsible for sabotaging the test flight of a new American bomber.
Charlie offers his help, which is soon needed. Because that night, the Englishman is gassed to death. And his briefcase, containing the picture and fingerprints of the suspected spy, is missing.
We once again get lots of suspects, a brief appearance by future Three Stooges member Shemp Howard as a con man, and another terrific climax. Charlie once again manages to catch the killer and stop another act of sabotage. But, well, Charlie's lost yet another old police buddy.
So there you have it. If you're a cop, keep away from Charlie Chan. Run away from him as fast as you can. Because if you don't, you'll get strangled, poisoned or gassed for sure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1964, part 1


This issue introduces Diablo, the evil alchemist. He's definitely not one of the top-tier Marvel villains, either visually or in terms of personality, but he's an okay addition to Marvel's growing stable of second-string bad guys.

In his debut, he uses his alchemist skills to pretend to save humanity--growing crops in the desert, protecting cities from A-bombs with impenatrable shields, selling immortality serums. But it's all only temporary, with the effects wearing off after a short time.

He also gets Ben to work for him for a time by promising to turn him human again, changing him to a half-Thing, half-human state and withholding the rest of the "cure" until Ben's provided a year's service. This, of course, is another con.

One weakness of the story is that Diablo's plan doesn't really make sense. His cons allow him to rake in some money and fortify his Transylvanian castle, but he gets the whole world ticked off at him. I'm not entirely sure what he was planning on doing next. Count his money while he waits for a flight of B-52s to bomb his castle into rubble? This plot hole is the main reason this issue is a little weak.

Well, it's not a flight of bombers that attack his castle anyways. It's three-quarters of the Fantastic Four, determined to take him down and rescue Ben. What follows is another well-choreographed Kirby fight scene. Sue gets to shine in this one, using a really cool tactic at one point. She turns Diablo invisible--nearly getting him trambled to death by his own guards.


This issue exists mostly to plug Daredevil, still a relatively new addition to the Marvel Universe. But that's just fine, since it's a good story and it's self-contained within Spidey's own book.

The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime have what is actually a pretty good plan--Ringmaster will hypnotise the whole audience in the big top after the show has started. After everyone has their wallets and valuables taken, they'll be brought out of their collective trance. When anyone notices he's been robbed, he'll assume it must have been the work of a pickpocket.

But Matt Murdock is in the audience and his blindness protects him from the hypnotism. He has to go up against a hypnotized Spidey for a brief time until he manages to snatch the Ringmaster's hat and use the mind-control device built into it to snap Spidey out of it. Then the two heroes double-team the evil circus performers. The best sequence comes when a human cannonball is shot at Spider Man. The webslinger jumps on the guy's back as he whizzes by and uses a strand of web like a horse's reins to guide the poor guy around to smash into his own allies.


There's a nice bit on continuity at the beginning of the Human Torch story. Johnny learns that Paste Pot Pete has been parolled after helping the Avengers a few months back. (He helped come up with a solvent for Baron Zemo's Adhesive X.)

Now, Pete (with a better costume--though his name change to the Trapster hasn't happened yet) is looking for revenge. He manages to capture Ben and Johnny, but the two work together to bust free and nap the bad guy.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange stumbles across a woman kept confused and helpless by a magic spell. The Sorceror Supreme tracks the source of magic back in time a couple of thousand years and strips an evil magic-user of his powers, freeing the woman from the spell. The woman's identity? Cleopatra. This is actually the second time a superhero from the future has helped out the Egyptian queen--Iron Man did a bit of time travelling way back in Tales of Suspense #44 to help Cleo against the invading Romans. It must be nice to be the queen.

That's it for now. Next week, we'll peek in on Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and the Hulk.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet: "Rocket into Danger" 1/8/52

Tom Corbett first appeared on television in 1950, but he had a brief run on radio as well (with the same cast playing the major roles) in 1952. This make it one of the few radio shows that began on television. Usually, it was the other way around.

But Tom fit well into radio, mostly because the Theater of the Mind effectively gave the show an unlimited special effects budget. If the listeners could imagine it, then it could happen on the show.

In this episode, Tom's ship Polaris flies into the asteroid belt in search of a missing ship. When the radar is damaged by a meteor, a couple of crewmen must do an EVA to make repairs. But one of the crew is knocked loose from the ship and begins to drift away.

One aspect of the show is completely predictable. Tom and a couple of other cadets had been in a fight and--naturally--the guy in danger at the climax is the one cadet still holding a grudge against the others.

But the actors are sincere in their roles and the episode as a whole is very entertaining.

This episode is available to hear or download HERE.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Always playing fair

The Dutch Shoe Mystery, by Ellery Queen (1931)

Ellery Queen the author is really two guys--Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay. They used the Queen byline when they write about mystery writer Ellery Queen, who assists his homicide detective dad in solving crimes. The conceit of the novels is that we are reading fictionalized accounts of cases solved by the real "Ellery."

And the cases he solves are doozies. Lee and Dannay were masters at constructing complex but perfectly fair mysteries. All the clues are always there for us to see as clearly as Ellery does. But are we as smart as Ellery? Can we follow the deductive path laid out by the clues and then ourselves finger the killer? Not usually--Lee and Dannay pretty much always turn out to be smarter than we are.

But, gee whiz, we have fun trying.

When we first meet Ellery Queen in the 1929 novel The Roman Hat Mystery, he's a little bit of a pretentious jerk. We're constantly reminded of how smart he is by his tendency to lecture and pull obscure qoutes out of the air. This is fine by itself, but when you add in his annoying habit of calling his dad Pater and using exclamations like "By the Minotaur!" then there are moments when you really want to smack him one.

But Lee and Dannay gradually stripped Ellery of his more annoying habits and morphed him into a logical but still compassionate person-- a perfectly likeable human being who happens to be smarter than everyone else. His most admirable trait--and the real cornerstone of the series--is the affectionate and healthy relationship he has with his father.

The Dutch Shoe Mystery is the third novel in the series and Ellery is already getting more likeable (though he still comes up with a few two many "By the Minotaur"-like exclamations) and the mystery he has to solve is particularly subtle.

A woman is murdered in a hospital, just moments before she was wheeled into the operating room to have a ruptured gall bladder removed. Ellery happened to be at the hospital visiting a doctor friend, so he's on hand from the moment the woman is declared dead.

An investigation turns up several people with motive and opportunity. But some of the suspects are refusing to share information with the police. A set of hospital scrubs and a pair of shoes worn by the killer is found abandoned nearby and Ellery makes several important deductions drawn from the shoes, but it's not enough to identify the killer.

It's not until another murder is committed that Ellery is able to gain enough information to put it all together. And, as always in an Ellery novel, it's all perfectly fair to the reader. We're given all the clues as well. But can we follow the same complex chain of deductions that Ellery does? Probably not. Mandred Lee and Frederick Dannay are just plain too smart for us.

Next month, we'll visit with the social elite in Overture to Death, by Ngaio Marsh, featuring Inspector Roderick Alleyn.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: August 1964, part 3


The Marvel Universe as a whole continues to intertwine. Here, we have two references to events in other books. First, Iron Man is suspended from the Avengers for a week for failing to answer an emergency call; this is a follow-up of the events from this month's Tales of Suspense.

Then the story shifts to Asgard, where the Executioner and the Enchantress are both being exiled to Earth by Odin for attacking Thor in Journey into Mystery #103.

So the Avengers are understrength when the Asgardian bad guys team up with Baron Zemo to exact their mutual revenge. And this all dovetails nicely with a scene in which Captain America gets angry with Rick Jones when the teen tries on Bucky's old costume. The incident convinces Cap he can never take responsibility for another partner and leaves him particularly eager to track down Zemo.

The villains lure Cap to Zemo's South American refuge, but underestimate how skilled a fighter he is. Meanwhile, Enchantress hypnotizes Thor and convinces him the other Avengers are evil. So we get a fight scene taking place on two fronts simultaneously--with the action shifting back and forth between New York City to the Amazonian jungle. Jack Kirby seems to have particular fun with Cap, laying out an energetic, fast-paced slugfest as Cap single-handedly holds his own against Zemo's minions.


Daredevil finally gets around to adding someone to his own Rogue's Gallery. The Owl is a ruthless crime boss who had always worked behind the scenes. His name comes from both his appearance and his ability to use his specially designed cape to glide on air currents.

When the cops finally get some evidence against him, the Owl goes into hiding and continues plotting evil from there. Matt Murdock encounters him first as a lawyer--the Owl hires him as a defense attorney before he decides to simply take it on the lam.

So it's not long before Matt goes up against the crime boss as Daredevil. He and his secretary Karen Page are captured, but Daredevil makes good use of his powers to plan an escape. The Owl escapes in the end, but his minions are all captured.

It's a good issue in several ways. The Owl is a ruthless and effective opponent and Joe Orlando's art work is really nice. There are a few flaws. Quite a few panels are used introducing us to the Owl's two main henchmen (one a sharpshooter, the other a wrestler), but neither really plays all that big a role in the ensuing action.

Also, Matt and Karen are still secretly mooning over each other, with neither feeling they can tell the other their true feelings. This mirrors exactly the Thor/Jane and the Tony Stark/Pepper situtations. There's even an undercurrent of it with Reed and Sue. It's a characterization device that Stan Lee simply overused in those early years.

That's it for August. In September, the FF makes a minor addition to their Rogue's Gallery; Spider Man teams up with Daredevil; Johnny and Ben go up against an old enemy; Dr. Strange helps a damsel in distress, then gives Thor a hand; Iron Man clashes with a couple of opponents destined to one day be his friends; the Avengers take on a menace from the future; the X-Men have a re-match against the Blob; and the Hulk clashes with Giant Man as the big green guy once again gets a regular series within the pages of Tales to Astonish.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday's Favorite OTR

Favorite Story: "The Man Without a Country" 2/4/47

Edward Everett Hale's unrepentantly patriotic tale makes for an effective and emotional half-hour in this episode of Favorite Story. It's a wonderful, sad and ultimately uplifting story about a young army officer who, in 1807, was court-martialed for treason after getting involved with Aaron Burr's shenanigans. When he angrily curses his country during his trial, he is sentenced to spend the rest of his life on sea. No one may ever talk to him about the United States or give him any books, articles or information of any sort about the country. He is transfered from ship to ship so that he will never enter an American port.

The original story, by the way, is available as a free download HERE. It's well worth reading.

The young officer (Philip Nolan) is contemptuous of his sentence at first, but as time goes by, he realizes just how Draconian it is. He realizes he does indeed love the country he can no longer even talk about with anyone.

The Favorite Story adaptation is faithful to the original prose and just as heart-rending--especially in the emotional climax. As Nolan lies in his cabin dying after 56 years at sea, an old friend finally tells him the names of the new states, the president and whatever else he can think of--leaving out any mention of the Civil War. Nolan dies content that his country had continued to grow strong over the years.

John Beal is Nolan and William Conrad is the naval officer who befriends him. Both their acting and the script are top notch.

This episode is available for download HERE.
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