Friday, May 24, 2013

The Clyde Beatty Project

This will be explained better in the next issue of The Trophy Case, but the project was to randomly roll a comic book character's history, taking from published stories on a monthly basis, then building a narrative to link those stories and assigning guesstimated experience points to the hero, as if a Hideouts & Hoodlums character.  I'm quite pleased with how the first effort turned out and would gladly read a comic book like this.
#1- June 1938 -- (“Clyde Beatty”feature in Crackajack Funnies #1) – Clyde Beatty, Daredevil Lion Tamer, is approached by recently orphaned Jimmy Brooder who wants to run away from the circus. Jimmy’s uncle, Bull, initially is fine with handing custody of Jimmy over to Clyde until he learns Jimmy came with money (130 xp in Fighter).
#2- July 1938 -- (“Barney Baxter in the Air” feature in Feature Book #15) –Jimmy shares his money with Clyde and makes his dream of owning a plane come true. They fix up an old 1909 BlĂ©riot XI monoplane, but Bull Brooder seeks to discredit Clyde and win Jimmy back for Jimmy’s money. Bull gets Clyde fired from the circus (and, in truth, his new passion for aviation was making him negligent), but his schemes backfire and make Jimmy more loyal to Clyde than ever (940 xp in Fighter).
#3 - August 1938 – (“Lyin’ Lou”feature in Cowboy Comics #14) – Lyin’ Lou, a conman, tricks Clyde out of their plane (960 xp in Fighter).
#4- September 1938 -- (“Hawks of the Seas” feature in Feature Funnies #12) –Clyde and Jimmy take to sailing the Caribbean in a sailboat, only to run afoul of white slavers and have to fight their way to freedom off a freighter (1,200 xp in Fighter).
#5 - October 1938 -- (“Hall of Fame of the Air” in King Comics #31) – Clyde and Jimmy return to the states long enough to see Barney Baxter’s admission into the Hall of Fame of the Air and make his acquaintance and then team-up to give Lyin’ Lou some payback (1,320 xp in Fighter).
#6 - November 1938 -- (“Crimson Avenger” feature in Detective Comics #21) –Clyde and Jimmy decide to tour the country by car, so they hire an Asian chauffeur named Tung. When Clyde decides to investigate rumors of grave robbers nearby, both Jimmy and Tung show up to aid him in fighting the robbers (1,680 xp in Fighter).
#7 - December 1938 – (“Roads of Romance”feature in Comics on Parade #9) – While touring Connecticut, Clyde meets Katharine Hepburn. Fresh off her relationship with Howard Hughes, Katharine was willing to go on a date with Clyde at Jimmy’s request and gave Clyde a kiss! (1,810 xp in Fighter)
#8 - January 1939 – (“Anchors Aweigh!”feature in Adventure Comics #34) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung visit New Orleans and learn of the pirate ship El Diablo and recognize it as the slavers they fought before. Eager for a rematch, Clyde gets them all on board a cruise ship, thinking it will make a good target, but Clyde has to commandeer the ship when the pirates turn up at an oil rig in the Gulf, intent on sabotaging it instead, by order of Fang Gow (2,170 xp in Fighter, reaches 2nd level!).
#9 - February 1939 – (“Ripley’s Believe It or Not” feature in Ace Comics #23) –Clyde and company race from Louisiana to New York with further information – a series of sabotages around the country are just a prelude to Fang Gow’s arrival in America. In New York, Clyde & Co. meet Barry O’Neil and Legrand (2,380 xp in Fighter).
#10 - March 1939 – (“Fang Gow of China” feature in Adventure Comics #36) –Clyde, Barry, et al. thwart Fang Gow and his followers from poisoning Manhattan’s water supply with a serum that will turn people into wax. Barry takes the lead against Fang, but Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung acquit themselves well against his followers (2,700 xp in Fighter).
#11 - April 1939 – (“Huck Pshaw” feature in Star Ranger Funnies #17) – Bull Brooder reads about Clyde Beatty in the newspaper and, his jealousy re-stoked, hires cowboy mercenary Huck Pryor to kill Clyde. Luckily, Pryor is all show and no skill. Bull is finally arrested for conspiracy to murder (2,740 xp in Fighter).
#12 – May 1939 – (“Hop Harrigan” feature in All-American Comics #2) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung meet Hop Harrigan on the airfield. They help an old-timer at the airfield who leaves Clyde and Jimmy his 1910 Bristol Boxkite biplane (3,790 xp).
#13 – June 1939 – (“Mexicali Rose” feature in Movie Comics #3) – Clyde is hired by a local radio station to broadcast about aviation, but meets a pretty half-Mexican woman named Luana who has come seeking media help in the U.S. against conmen selling oil stock for a nonexistent well on her orphanage’s land in New Mexico. Clyde flies to New Mexico to look in on it, with Tung driving Jimmy behind. Once there, he finds the conmen really do want to drill on the land and have kidnapped two children to try to force the orphanage’s closure. Clyde kicks their butts and wins Luana as a girlfriend (4,150 xp in Fighter, reaches 3rd level!).
#14 – July 1939 – (“Herky” feature in Popular Comics #41) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung try to settle down in Albuquerque so Clyde can court Luana. Jimmy befriends a local troublemaker named Herman Gillsy (4,500 xp in Fighter).
#15 – August 1939 – (“D-13” feature in Mystery Men Comics #1) – G-Men come and recruit Clyde and Tung to head to Panama and look for their missing agent, D-13. Clyde and Tung figure out, once there, that they have been sent as bait to lure enemy agents out, but hold their own against the agents and rescue D-13 (4,760 xp in Fighter).
#16 – September 1939 – (“Comic Zoo” feature in Popular Comics #42) – Returning home, Clyde takes Jimmy and Luana to the zoo for the day, only a crazy mother at the zoo thinks Jimmy is her son Rudy. Hijinks ensue (4,970 xp in Fighter).
#17 – October 1939 – (“Seein’ Stars” feature in Ace Comics #31) – Katharine Hepburn comes to Albuquerque looking to see Clyde again. Clyde tries to keep Luana from getting jealous (5,080 xp in Fighter).
#18 – November 1939 – (“Tarzan” feature in Tip Top Comics #43) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung go on safari to Africa and encounter Boer nomads. The Boer force the three to come along and help them find their lost settlement. When they find it, though, they find the settlement has been gone for years (5,460 xp in Fighter).
#19 – December 1939 – (“Abdullah” feature in Funny Pages #(33)) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung leave their safari to track the destroyers of the Boer settlement, only to find a lost valley of dinosaurs! They mostly just survive encounters by fleeing, but manage to return home with a pterodactyl for a trophy and Clyde finds a magic ring (6,280 xp in Fighter).
#20 – January 1940 – (“Captain Easy” feature in The Funnies #39) – Clyde, Jimmy, and Tung return to the U.S. only to learn that Luana and her father have gone missing in Mexico. The three head off in pursuit and discover Luana and her father are prisoners in a hidden Aztec city. They free the pair and escape (6,810 xp in Fighter).
#21 – February 1940 – (“Rance Keane” feature in Feature Comics #29) – Clyde, Jimmy, Tung, Luana, and her father are slowly making their way north through Mexico. In cowboy country, they stop bandits who have wrecked a train (7,250 xp in Fighter).
#22 – March 1940 – (“Hurricane Kids” feature in Popular Comics #49) – Clyde and the whole gang has to escape Mexico during an earthquake (7,720 xp in Fighter).
#23 – April 1940 – (“Tabu, Wizard of the Jungle” feature in Jungle Comics #4) –No sooner is Clyde back in the U.S. than Tabu teleports him back to Africa to help fight the Bargonan tribe, that breed spotted lions and has taken white prisoners. It is Clyde’s magic ring that allowed Tabu to summon him and Clyde offers to keep the ring (7,850 xp in Fighter).
#24 – May 1940 – (“Rio Kid” feature in Thrilling Comics #4) –Clyde returns home to find Tung has taken to dressing like a cowboy and is now known as the Rio Kid. Clyde and Tung/Rio Kid take on rustlers together (7,990 xp in Fighter).
#25 – June 1940 – (“Electro” feature in Marvel Mystery Comics #8) – Bull Brooder, free from jail, steals the controls for Electro, the Marvel of the Age, and sends it to kill Clyde. Clyde is in trouble with a truancy officer for Jimmy never attending school when Electro shows up. Clyde borrows a car and crashes it into Electro, damaging it enough to slow it down before Electro’s agents can find Bull and retrieve the controls (8,190 xp in Fighter, reaches 3rd level!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Top 10 Comic Book Acquisitions from the 2013 Free Comic Book Day

I have to say "acquisitions" this year because instead of picking up free comics at my library, I went to Keith's Komix in Schaumburg and picked up some 50-cent comics in the bargain bins in addition to the free ones.  And Keith was extra generous with the free comics, as you'll see below.

10.  Project Superpowers: Chapter Two #0
Selling for a dollar back in 2009, I picked this one up for 50 cents.  I greatly dislike the anti-government focus of the series, but the art is pretty and it's a lot of fun trying to identify all the characters, not all of whom get introductory captions.

9.  Infinity
No, it didn't make my top 10 for the prelude to the latest Thanos snoozefest or the really banal sneak peek at Warren Ellis trying to write the Avengers -- it made the cut for a rare reprint of a Drax the Destroyer adventure from Logan's Run #6 (1977)!

8.  Bongo Comics Free-For-All 2013
Lots of fun, as always, from Bongo.  The best story is "Model Citizen Simpson", but the real treat is the one page filler by Sergio Aragones.

7.  Paul Chadwick's Concrete #5
From the 50-cent bin, I picked up another solid issue of Concrete, though not one of his best.

6.  Classic X-Men #2
From the 50-cent, I got distracted looking at that Art Adams cover art.  Was I writing something?

5.  Avatar: the Last Airbender
Nickelodeon and Dark Horse are putting out some really good stories continuing the Avatar TV series. In this free issue we learn more about Mai than I ever did from the TV show, though I'm confused when and how she broke up with Zuko.  The Star Wars back-up feature is gorgeous, but slight.  The Captain Midnight flashback is pretty good, but the framing device in the present is boring and doesn't bode well for the series.

4.  The Smurfs
No, I'm not suddenly a Smurfs fan!  They still annoy the bejeebers out of me and the Annoying Orange back-up feature is terrible, but the real treat here is a wonderful short called Ariol about an animal-boy (an aardvark?) missing out on real life because he's got his face buried in a comic book.  Ah, if only kids were still like that today, but instead it's now video games!

3.  Kaboom! Summer Blast!
I hate the Adventure Time TV show so I had to force myself to read this, but the "choose your own adventure" concept was original and brilliantly done in comic book form.  I have looked at Kaboom's Peanuts series before and was disappointed, but this little back-up feature of Charlie Brown showing you how to draw Linus packs a surprising amount of character study into its 5 pages.  You learn a lot more about Charlie Brown's obsession with baseball than you learn about drawing Linus!  The return of Herobear should have been the most satisfying feature, as I loved his mini-series a few years back, but this preview is nothing but pretty pictures.  The Regular Show, Garfield, and Ice Age previews are descendingly bad.   

2.  The Tick
I haven't been following the Tick since his cartoon was cancelled, but it's good to see the character still has *ahem* legs.  My favorite part is, of course, the 3-page backup feature "Dewey Decibel System" with the Tick in a library learning about the Internet.  "...You have a phone?" was the funniest line in the whole book.

1.  Kirby Genesis #0
This comic book was selling for a dollar in 2011, but this year Keith was giving his leftover issues away for free.  It is so good, so gorgeous, and so ...awesome in scope, I can't understand how he still had copies to give away!  Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, and Jackson Herbert build a unified universe for all of Jack Kirby's diverse post-Marvel, post-DC creations.  Now I have to track down all the issues I missed!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some Thoughts on Somewhere in Time

Thirty-three years late, I finally watched Somewhere in Time last night and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.  It’s maddening, how many unanswered questions there are in the movie.  Does Robinson (Christopher Plummer) really know Collier’s (Christopher Reeve) secret, or is he only pretending to know more than he does to control McKenna (Jane Seymour)?  If Collier already checked the dates on his coins before traveling back in time, how did he miss the 1979 penny?  How do Collier and McKenna fall so completely in love in less than three days?  Why did it take McKenna so long to find Collier again?  Did McKenna, in 1980, find her lover when she handed him the watch, or did she choose a lover to send back to herself?

According to Wikipedia, the movie’s fan club, INSITE, has published over 1,800 pages on the movie.  I don’t have access to any of them, so I can’t benefit from them to research answers.  I hope others have already reached the same conclusions I do below.

I’m going to tackle the last question first because it was Megan’s biggest issue with the movie and potentially derails the entire notion of a romantic love in the movie.  It is based on perhaps too large an assumption – that the elderly McKenna in 1980 somehow knows she is in possession of a pocket watch that is caught in a paradoxical time loop.  If time is immutable, then she must find the lover who gave her the watch in the past to give it back to him so he can give it to her.  If, however, time is mutable, then whoever she gives the watch to becomes her past lover.  There is some evidence to support this second possibility, like McKenna’s on-stage speech about having imagined the perfect lover.  She wants him to be real so badly that she spends her entire life seeking about the perfect candidate and then sending him back in time to become that lover.  But, if time is mutable, then giving him the watch is no guarantee he will use it to complete the time loop.  In that case, her entire life would have been used for one huge gamble.  And, if she really is just husband-hunting in the future, that still does not explain how she comes by the knowledge that the watch will send him back to her.

I reject the notion that it was the self-hypnosis that transported Collier into the past.  That may have been how it worked in the book the movie was based on, but the addition of the pocketwatch in the movie changes everything. I also find it implausible that love broke through time to bring them together.   People have tried and failed to hypnotize themselves into the past and people have been separated by time and failed to overcome it before.  The only unknown here is the watch in a time loop, so it is much more likely that it is the time loop the watch is caught in that pulls Collier back through time with it.  Or at least aids the transition of the self-hypnosis.  I am not completely ready to discount time travel through self-hypnosis, as you'll see below.

How does it take McKenna 50 years to find Collier again?  She may have given up searching after several or more years of looking for Collier before he was born, or come to believe he was lying about who he was.  But if she had really stayed determined, it would not have been too hard to find him at any time since the 1960s.  There could only be so many Colliers in Chicago.  She could have had a portrait sketched of Collier and given it to a private detective on permanent retainer, tasked with letting her know the moment he found a Collier in Chicago who matched his picture, which he probably would have ever since his teens.  I suggest that she did just this and probably knew where Collier was for years before approaching him.  But the real question is, why then?  Why approach him in 1972?  If time is mutable, why wait so long?  Then she ran the risk of waiting too long and missing her chance to give him the watch.  But if time is immutable, why give it to him so soon?  Then she was effectively immortal until she handed over the watch to complete its time loop.  Did she really miss him so much she could simply not bear to wait any longer to see him up close again, even if it meant completing her part in the time loop early?  Or was she compelled to complete the time loop as soon as she drew too near to him?  Maybe she had actually meant to approach him and talk to him on some other pretense, but time asserted itself at the last instance.

Which begs the question, what would happen if McKenna tried to resist the time loop?  What if her feelings for Collier faded over the decades and she forgot him?  Or if she loved him so much that she wanted to spare him from a love she could not remember lasting?  Could she choose not to give him the watch?  Would the watch still wind up in his possession somehow?  Would time itself be torn to pieces by the paradox of the watch existing in her possession without it having been given to her? (Or is this a common occurence?  I find stuff in my apartment and wonder where it came from...)  But these possibilities require too much conjecture.  We must assume that McKenna truly wants Collier to travel back to her, though whether it is for true love or selfish ends has yet to be proven.

Are Collier and McKenna truly in love?  If we accept love at first sight as being possible, the question is easily answered, but there are some places to look for explanations for why they are so quickly and powerfully drawn to each other.  One is, again, the possibility that time itself is compelling them, or at least their mutual role in the time loop is forcing their attraction to each other.  A more mundane explanation, from McKenna’s point of view, is the expectation and exciting sense of danger Robinson has built up in her mind about Collier for years before meeting him.  Ironically, then, it is Robinson’s very effort to shield McKenna from Collier that makes her most vulnerable to falling for him. 

And then there is the question of Robinson.  Does he have future knowledge?  The fan club's official movie site's FAQ suggests otherwise.  It suggests that Robinson's exchange with McKenna towards the end where she seems to see through his story proves that Robinson is simply a clever conman, using a gimmick (the life-changing man) that only ironically proves to be true to control McKenna all these years.  But this is Christopher Plummer we're seeing.  He simply lends too much gravitas to the role for everything to be as simple as that. 

Drawing from the book, the FAQ explains that Robinson dies on a cruise just a year later -- something one with future knowledge would likely avoid.  But Robinson's death date is not revealed in the movie and, even if it were, it is not an insurmountable obstacle to a more fantastic explanation -- that Robinson is a fellow time traveler.

It strikes me as a somewhat cheap plot twist that the penny Collier just happens to produce from his pocket is a 1979 penny, despite his having carefully checked all his change in advance of time traveling (we even see him do it).  But, what if the penny was planted there?  Not content to simply get Collier out of the way in the barn, Robinson knows what will send Collier back to the future and plants it on his person while Collier is tied up.  But how is this possible?  How can Robinson have the 1979 penny and not be thrown forward in time?  Because the penny is also from Robinson's past.  Robinson is from an even farther future where a more advanced form of time travel through self-hypnosis is available that does not require pre-existing time loops to accomplish.  This way, Robinson can have researched both McKenna's past and Collier's past.  He really does know Collier's secret.

This turns around everything.  Robinson is now not a selfish conman, but a man trying to be a hero.  He's really trying to save both of them by stopping their doomed romance from happening.  And, as we elaborate on his backstory, we see that Robinson is just as tortured as Collier.  If Robinson traveled back in time to guide McKenna's career, then starting when she was 16 does not seem so implausible.  But if he came back to prevent her from meeting Collier, then why so early?  Perhaps because he has done this multiple times already, each time meeting her earlier, obsessed with creating some turn of events that would change her future, only to fail each time? 

Megan doubts my theory, saying that Robinson could, if can travel in time, just as easily have come to Collier's time and tried to stop him.  But the whole movie is about the immutability of time and our inability to change what happens.  Robinson has tried, perhaps multiple times, to save McKenna in her past.  When she stands up to him in her hotel room and he backs down, it is not the moment she sees through him, but the moment when Robinson gives up.  He sees the futility of it all now, that he has no free will -- at least not in this chain of events.  The outcome has been predetermined by the watch's time loop and he can do nothing to change it.  Perhaps he does die the following year on a ship, feeling that a predetermined life is not one worth living.   

By the last scenes of the movie, I was so sure I was right that I was gravely disappointed that Collier finds not so much as a note from Robinson in his hotel room, explaining his actions behind the scenes.  A visit from Robinson himself, in 1980, would have been an even nicer surprise twist.  But oh well.  Instead of a neat package, we're left with a movie full of enigmas that give us much to think about.  And I guess that's why I still liked this movie.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Avengers Alliance: 1965

Another project I don't have time to do more than outline -- I'm a fan of the computer game Marvel: Avengers Alliance, but the biggest problem with it for me is that it's based on current Marvel Comics and everything Marvel puts out these days is garbage.  What I want to do is write a fanfiction series setting Avengers Alliance right smack where it should be -- 1965, when SHIELD and Hydra were first introduced.  And it would finally give me a chance to write a "Mary Sue" story. 

Scott Casper, Agent of SHIELD
Prologue:  July 1965

Agent Casper called into the field to help Captain America stop the Black Widow.  Casper is outfitted with an experimental needle gun that has little stopping power.  The Black Widow is in Times Square, stealing confidential documents from a truck.  For backup, she has two goons with VLAW’s and a goon in a prototype powered armor suit.  The Widow gets away, but the Captain separates her from the briefcase of documents while holding off two of the goons.  Casper finds his needle gun next to useless, but disarms the goon on him, takes his VLAW, and uses it to crack the powered armor.  After that, Cap is able to shred the suit and take out the remaining goons. 
Mission 1:  August 1965

Agent Casper is sent to the Meat-Packing District to meet Hawkeye and hand him documents about the Swordsman.  Casper is assigned a Spirit-76 handgun.  There, Casper is intercepted by a Hydra soldier and a Hydra “burner” with a flame thrower.  Casper dodges them until Hawkeye shows up to help, then the two join forces against the Swordsman, who also wants to stop Hawkeye from reading his rap sheet.  In a draw, the Swordsman escapes.

Mission 2: September 1965

Agent Casper is sent to Alberia to observe the Iron Man/Titanium Man televised fight and make sure the Titanium Man doesn’t cheat.  Casper is assigned a WMI T’cha sub-machine gun.  Casper finds and overpowers a bioterrorist and a physicist threatening Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts with a VLAW.  Iron Man convinces Casper to stay out of his fight with the Titanium Man, though.

Mission 3: October 1965

When Thor has a very public first battle with the Absorbing Man, SHIELD dispatches Agent Casper to the scene, this time equipped with a “barking dog” shotgun.  Humbled by the cosmic forces being unleashed around him, Casper is only useful for crowd control until three Hydra soldiers show up, hoping to recruit the Absorbing Man.  Casper defeats all three, despite one having a flame thrower and another has a VLAW (Thor helps a little).

Mission 4:  November 1965

Agent Casper is assigned to protect Millie the Model, who Hydra is for some reason after.  Agent Casper is allowed to call in Hawkeye for help if needed, which Casper does when four Hydra soldiers show up, two with flame throwers.  Casper learns a Hydra agent hid microfilm in Millie’s purse and the Hydra soldiers have come to retrieve it and burn her house down.  Casper calls in Hawkeye only when the house catches on fire and Hawkeye arrives in time to nab two of the Hydra soldiers escaping from Casper.  Hawkeye is uncertain if positive about Agent Casper.

Mission 5:  December 1965

Right after debuting, the anti-mutant Sentinel robots go rogue and attack everywhere in New York.  The Melter captures a Sentinel robot and reprograms it to work for Hydra.  Agent Casper is assigned to back-up Captain America as they go into a Hydra base and shut the captured Sentinel down.  Captain America has a positive impression of Agent Casper by the end of the battle (during which the Melter escapes).