Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Best of Out-of-Context Theater - pt. 1

You may have seen websites like this before -- panels of comic book art, taken out of context, where it can be shown to have a (probably unintentional) funny double meaning. The name "out-of-context theater" came from fellow RPG author Steve Miller, who started posting these on Facebook in 2014. The following year, I started posting more, exclusively from 1930s-era comic books. These are the best of those posts.

Warning: this is the most risque humor you're likely to ever see from me on this blog.

Ben Webster's Page (The Funnies #2).

From "Marty McCann, Champion of the Navy" (More Fun Comics #23).

From Funny Picture Stories v. 2 #2 (1937).

From Funny Picture Stories v. 2 #3 (1937).

From Detective Comics #10.

"Car jerkin" may mean something different than I think it does. From Famous Funnies #43 (Feb. 1938).

From Action Comics #3.

Zatara doesn't understand why this always makes the female escorts nervous.

Cheaper this way...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Seeing Paul McCartney

I don’t actually have a bucket list, but if I did, seeing Paul McCartney in concert would have been up near the top. Only now I can cross that off my non-existent bucket list – because two nights ago I saw him in Cleveland, Ohio. I did not buy a ticket for Megan, partly to cut costs on the trip, but also because I knew she would not be as excited to see him as me. But she still wanted to come on the trip, having never seen Cleveland.

Megan and I expected the drive across Indiana and Ohio to be rough; the air conditioner broke in the car awhile back. It was 84 degrees in the car in the afternoon, but not the whole afternoon because we drive through a rainstorm in Indiana that came with its old cold front. For a while, it was 67 degrees in the car. And the drive took a really long time; Megan and I left at 8 in the morning and we reached Cleveland’s west suburbs at 6 (and that’s including the hour we lost driving east).

Until the night before, Megan had been planning on driving us back home that same night after the concert, but she chickened out (fortunately – she would have been driving until 7 am!) and we made a reservation for an America’s Best Value Inn. The building itself was pretty dumpy, in a pretty slummy neighborhood, but the room itself was fine.

I had foolishly imagined us reaching Cleveland as soon as 3, having time to explore downtown Cleveland and eat dinner downtown before dropping Megan off back at the motel. I even had the downtown restaurant picked out I wanted to try (the Winking Lizard Tavern – sounded so D&D-y!). But as pressed for time as we now were (the concert started at 8!), we had to settle for a Big Boy restaurant. I had not been to a Big Boy in decades and had waxed nostalgically about them since seeing our first sign for one in Ohio, so Megan was now looking forward to it as well. Megan was fine with her meal, but I was disappointed, having remembered it being better. It reminded me a lot of Denny’s.

Having dropped off Megan back at the motel, I made my way downtown. I was used to the squalor around downtown, having driven into Chicago plenty of times off the expressway. Downtown itself was pretty spectacular, looking like a floating island. The bridges to downtown even reminded me of Fellowship of the Ring. That was a pleasant surprise. My next surprise wasn’t so pleasant. I had read that parking could be had just a few blocks from the Quicken Loans Arena for $5-6 – which might be true most of the year when there was nothing special going on at the arena or the neighboring stadium. But because Paul was there that night, every parking lot downtown had a “special event” rate of $20-40. I drove further to the $20 lots (still feeling gouged – way to make a good impression on new visitors, Cleveland!). Then I ran half the way back to the arena. I was now down to 15 minutes to 8!

There were four lines to get in, and then just a mass of people inside. I had been asked by a coworker to pick up a program book, but I saw no merchandise for sale anywhere. I did see plenty of beer and food being sold down every corridor. My seat was two levels up. I had to take an escalator and thought that was going to be my only problem with heights for the night. I was so wrong.

I stepped into the auditorium – to find it the most vertical auditorium I had ever seen! To reach my seat, I would have to step out onto a narrow ledge with just a short glass wall in front of it, with a 40’ drop underneath it, and then climb stairs that were more like ladders than stairs. I couldn’t do it – I started breathing fast and my legs got weak. I told an usher I couldn’t go out there. I was told I could go to the customer service window in the corridor and request a better seat for me. To their credit, they did switch me to a seat that was slightly less scary to get to. I still had to crawl across the aisle, and even when I was sitting down I had to keep a hand gripping the arm rest, because I was having vertigo so bad I thought I would fall forward out of my seat if I let go.

Luckily, I had brought binoculars, for seeing the stage. With my one free hand, I freed the binoculars from their bag and kept them focused on the stage. Blocking out the rest of the arena helped. And I had plenty of time to focus on the stage, because the concert actually started at 8:30 and not 8 like the ticket said.

Now, I knew Paul was going to be amazing, but I was also prepared for a short concert. The man is 74 years old. I figured if he did eight songs for us, that would be thrilling enough. Instead, he treated us to 34 songs, over an amazing two and a half hour concert. If his voice was weak and wavered, we couldn't tell because he often had two back-up singers in harmony with him to cover any such gaffs. But, my, he was spry up there on the stage, kicking his leg out and dancing. 

Luckily, I had also brought a pad of paper and pen, and could jot down song titles in the dark. I was still terrified during the first song and couldn't free up my right hand to write it down yet. By the second song, I was so into the concert I was able to let go of the arm rest for the rest of it. 

I'm pretty sure the first song was "Hard Day's Night". The rest of the songs were-
"Save Us", from the album New.
"Can't Buy Me Love", originally released as a Beatles single.
The obscure, but not unknown to me, "Temporary Secretary", from the McCartney II album.
"Let Me Roll It" -- one of my favorites from Band on the Run.
He followed that up with an extended instrumental portion of Jimi Hendrix's "Sexy Lady", before telling an anecdote about seeing Jimi in concert.
"I've Got a Feeling", from the Let It Be album.
"My Valentine", from the Kisses on the Bottom album. He dedicated this to his third wife, who he said was in the audience with us.
Back to Band on the Run (and not for the last time) for "Nineteen Hundred Eighty-Five".
Then back to the Beatles with "Here, There, and Everywhere" from Revolver.
Dedicated to his first wife, who he wrote it for -- "Maybe I'm Amazed", from the McCartney album (I clocked this in at 9:14). One of his granddaughters by Mary was apparently also in the audience, and he reminded us that Linda's parents were from Cleveland.
"We Can Work It Out", the Beatles single. I'm not sure if this is when he took the break in the concert to read signs, but it seems to be what he does before this song. This is the most improvisational part of the show, as he reads people's signs out loud and responds to them. One said "sign my butt", and he responded, "Right, let's see it then." 
At the end of that last clip I linked to there, he starts explaining the history of the next song, the very first song the Quarrymen recorded before becoming the Beatles. He did those songs in the same order this time, so that would make the next song "In Spite of All the Danger" (never released until Beatles Anthology vol. 1).
At the beginning of this next clip is the sing-along he does before a reprieve of "In Spite of All the Danger". This clip keeps the same order, of doing "You Won't See Me", from Rubber Soul, next. 
"Love Me Do", the first Beatles single.
"And I Love Her", one of his best ballads ever, from the Hard Day's Night album.
Continuing the theme of powerful, moving ballads -- "Blackbird", from The Beatles (white) album.
I'm not familiar with the Tug of War album much, but I've heard heard some of the songs from it before, and probably have heard "Here Today" before too. 
Then it was back to the near-present with "Queenie Eye" from New.
And its titular song -- "New". 
Then back to the Beatles days with "Fool on the Hill" from Magical Mystery Tour.
"Lady Madonna" from The Beatles (white) album.
And "Eleanor Rigby" from Revolver.
Before something so new that I'd never heard of it before. Apparently, Paul wrote it and it was released by other artists, but Paul performed "FourFiveSeconds". 
And then back to "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Doing his ukulele bit at the beginning, he performed "Something", from Let It Be.
Followed by "Let It Be".
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", from The Beatles (white) album.
And then the explosions and pyrotechnics of "Live and Let Die".
"Back in the USSR", from The Beatles (white) album.
And, of course, the Beatles single "Hey Jude".
After a lot of applause, Paul came back for a remarkably long encore, starting with
"Yesterday", from the Help! album.
"Hi Hi Hi", from  the Wings single.
The entire medley from the end of Abbey Road, starting with "Golden Slumbers".
And then, finally, after "The End" -- like a more upbeat version of "Her Majesty", rounding out the Abbey Road album -- "Birthday".

Now, while piecing together that concert from clips on Youtube, I discovered a couple of things. One is that there's a frightening amount of ethically questionable, if not downright illegal, material from concerts on Youtube. Before I was done compiling this, clips for every song on the playlist had turned up from the very same concert I was at. While I could have put all those clips together and recreated the exact concert, I chose not to -- partly to avoid being so ethically questionable, but also just to show off the breadth of Paul's world-spanning concert tours over just the last eight years. 

But what I also learned was how much of the concert was scripted and identical to other concerts on the tour. I mean, I knew -- intellectually -- that there was nothing improvised about that four-song encore; the stagecraft was just too perfect for that. But, emotionally, I wanted that to be just for us, because we were such a good audience.

We all filed out of the arena and spread out back towards our parking garages. Everyone seemed pretty happy. I did see two girls wearing concert T-shirts that they must have bought inside, though it was late and I didn't feel like stopping them and asking where (assuming I could even get back inside). 

I got a little lost on the way back to the hotel, and had to stop at a store to pick up bottled water for Megan (I don't blame her for not trusting the sink water in a new city). It was 12:30 when I finally got back to the motel, and was so glad that we had decided not to drive back that night!

The next morning, we both overslept until almost 11 o'clock. Megan woke me up with 10 minutes to spare to vacate our room before we'd have to pay for another day! Thankfully we had not packed much. 

The original plan had been to drive back last night. The new plan had been to drive back first thing in the morning. But Megan wanted to see downtown Cleveland still. And on the way there, she spotted the zoo. And that is how we wound up spending the next six hours at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It added a lot of expense to the trip, which was already way over budget, but it was a really good zoo. The gift shops were reasonable. The restaurant was great (the salad bar wasn't pay-per-ounce; you could just take a big bowl and fill it with as much as you wanted!). It was exhausting how spread out everything was in the zoo (we must have walked about five miles!), but I supposed it was good for the animals to have their exhibits spread out. It was also nice how much was hidden around the zoo, rewarding the all-day explorer. There was an island with a gibbon on it, and we might not have noticed had the gibbon not swung past just then. It had no cage; just a tree house on a forested island. 

Had the zoo not closed at 5 o'clock, I suspect Megan would have stayed there longer. The weather was warm, but not horrible, thanks to a storm that passed nearby. We got a summer shower that lasted a little while, and there were also fans set up behind running hoses to create cooling water sprays for us zoo-goers. Somehow we managed to get through the whole day without sunburns. 

Since we stuck around in Cleveland until 5, that meant we had to drive between Cleveland and Toledo during rush hour. I let Megan use her GPS to help us navigate back, and it told us to go north into Michigan. We did -- so this two day trip crossed through four states. We had dinner at a Bob Evans restaurant, which I thought was delicious, and then took turns driving home. It was a long way back and it was 1:30 in the morning when Megan got us back home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Watching the 20th Century, 1912

(Continuing from here)

Plodding, boring experiment with filming a 97-minute stage play, without sound. Twenty years later, a director like Cecil B. Demille will make material like this work, but in 1912 cinema wasn’t ready to tackle this yet. There is perhaps 10 minutes of good cinematography throughout the movie, and at least half of that in the meeting of Cleopatra and Marc Antony for the first time, at about 30 minutes into the movie. If you’re going to watch any part of this train wreck, just fast forward to that.

Three bad films in a row put me off this project for awhile, but D. W. Griffith delivers with this short action film. Sure, the hero is a jerk you wish would get his comeuppance instead of the girl, and the telegraph girl’s plea is laughably specific (“Help...tramps!”), but it has exciting jump cuts and close-ups to build tension, very advanced camera work (first scene filmed from the back of a speeding car?), pretty good performances by Dorothy Bernard and one of the unnamed actors playing a menacing hobo, and possibly the first exciting locomotive chase in film.

This is a dark little film from Griffith about a cute little girl who brings a couple together. From a modern perspective, it is a bit disturbing how affectionate two strangers get with a little girl, and how quickly they decide to adopt her without even considering checking to see if there’s a next of kin. Still, the girl is adorable and it’s fun seeing the rotten kids get their comeuppance by being run off by the cops.

Was this the first film I’ve watched intended as a horror film? It’s very cheesy; I find it hard to believe that even an audience in 1912 would have found this remotely scary. The film is ambiguous about whether Hyde killed the parson, or what he planned to do to the little girl he knocks down. The trick of having Jekyll drop items off his lap to show his distracted state of mind is used twice.

With this title and this plot, this would have made a good screwball comedy in the 1930s, with a surprisingly strong message about gender equality. There is the outline for such a movie here, but it isn’t well-realized in silence, and the humor is understated for so long that when it turns absurd it is quite jarring. There is one good sight gag, when one of the husbands tries to serve a meal to the other abandoned husbands.

1912 is really hurting my enthusiasm for my “Watching the 20th Century” project. The movies have not been very compelling from this year. I’d rather be watching the Mack Sennet comedies that began this year, but they’re too short by my own rules.

This movie didn’t help much. A D.W. Griffith gangster flick, “Musketeers” follows hot young Lillian Gish, who becomes the object of wonderfully menacing Elmer Booth’s infatuation. He beats her boyfriend and robs her so she’ll have no one to turn to but him, but when a rival gangster also takes an interest in her, Elmer and the other guy’s gangs have a shootout that leaves only Elmer alive. The middle of the film is padded with a lot of non-suspenseful gangsters stalking each other, and I don’t buy that the milktoast-y boyfriend spots his billfold on Elmer during the shootout and steals it back while bullets are flying around them.

Also, if you look closely, there’s a walk-on during the alley stalking scenes who seems to be the first non-stereotyped Asian American on film.

I have never read, nor seen another adaptation of this particular Dickens’ work before, so I can’t say if this 30-minute film did it justice or not. I found it largely boring, except for Mr. Squeers, a delightfully detestable villain who is an awful schoolmaster, but seems a caring family man. Too bad he’s only in about a third of the film. In Nicholas’ world, jobs are plentiful and he gets every job he applies for, even with no prior experience in that field. He works for a time in an acting company that seems to perform an abbreviated version of Romeo and Juliet that ends right after Romeo kills Tybalt (or this particular company does curtain calls in mid-play). I did appreciate that the movie treats the sexual harassment of Kate Nickelby as a serious problem.  

Melies was still at it by 1912, but refining what had been a winning formula now. There are subtle innovations here. Melies, anticipating the need for sound, comes up with clever ways to have characters carry signs that read what the characters need to say. There is more impressive use of models than ever before.

The first 13 minutes is all set-up, with badly stereotyped representatives of various countries planning their race to the North Pole, but the sets look so familiar I feel like I’ve seen them all before in “A Trip to the Moon” and “The Impossible Voyage”. The 4-minute trip to the Arctic feels longer than it is because I’m supposed to be marveling at the special effects,, seen those before too.

Things start to get trippy when the hero’s plane passes the constellation of Pisces close enough to see they’re really fish. Shooting stars and a demonic planetoid menace the ship and, when the crew panics, its captain has to tame them at gunpoint. When they land, they find the North Pole is surrounded by towering ice crystals surrounding small lakes.

The giant mechanical frost giant must have been terrifying to be on the same set with, though the effect is lost on the small screen -- at least until the giant eats one of the explorers. Defeating this fearsome foe, the explorers find the pole, but -- uh, oh! -- the physical pole is so magnetic that all the explorers get stuck to it and their combined weight breaks it! Will the explorers drown? Will they get home safely? (Yes and yes.)

Though I’d already seen her in The Musketeers of Pig Alley, this was supposedly the film debut of Lillian Gish.

It’s clear that the Gish sisters are sisters, but figuring out who everyone else is in this D. W. Griffith drama is difficult without relying on the caption cards. The young man who shows up at the grieving sisters’ door who I thought was a slick hustler turned out to be their brother. The dingy woman who I assumed was their mother was really their maid. The sisters and brother are on their own now with both their parents dead (causes unknown).

After we see how chaste and innocent the sisters are (one of them denies her boyfriend a kiss before he leaves), the girls go back inside -- and are locked into a room by their evil maid. The maid sees this as a chance to rob their father’s safe and has called in help from a hoodlum in town. But this is 1912 -- chaste and innocent girls don’t go around saving themselves, so the suspense is seeing which will come back and save them -- the brother or the boyfriend? (It’s the boyfriend, but the brother makes a valiant effort.)

Extreme close-ups were still very rare in movies, so the extreme close-up of the maid’s menacing gun is a particularly potent scene. The brother’s look of horror when he hears his sisters being shot at over the phone is very well-acted. And, of course, there’s Lillian Gish to look at.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ape-Man #5

It seemed like there was nothing those Commies wouldn’t try, except for tackling Ape-Man!  And even that was only true until the --

“Attack of the Red Chimp!”

by Scott Casper, thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Tales to Astonish #39

The delivery truck came to a screeching halt at the dock, the driver pulling up perpendicular to the gangplank. Some tough-looking men waited on the barge, expecting the delivery.  A strange, accented voice came over a crackling loudspeaker:

“Hurry and load the cages aboard the ship!”

Other men were already swinging open the back doors of the truck, pulled down a ramp, and tugged on wheeled cages to roll them down onto the street.  The cages were large, and needed to be, since they contained every ape from the ape exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, including Mattie the gibbon, Bobo and Faben the chimpanzees, Plato and Ginger the orangutans, and Johnson the gorilla.

A man working a crane on the dock hoisted the cages, one by one, into the air and onto the deck of the barge. The last crate, holding Johnson, was in the air when a Volkswagen microbus screeched around a corner, some blocks away, but made a beeline straight for the docks at dangerous speeds for city streets.

“Stop that van from reaching the ship!” commanded the voice on the crackly loudspeaker.

Three men answered by producing sub-machine guns. They lined up and opened fire on the approaching microbus, aiming for the windshield and the front tires. The windshield shattered right away, but the driver was hunched down out of sight. The left tire blew out first, and then the right, sending the microbus swerving out of control. The vehicle tipped over and rolled, clattering down the street straight towards the gunmen, who had to scatter out of its way.

When Ape-Man appeared, he was leaping over the top of the still-rolling microbus, over the heads of the gunmen, tucked and rolled right past them, and then jumped up into a sprint for the gangplank. In the minute it had taken to get this far, Johnson’s cage was on deck and the barge was starting to move. Ape-Man easily vaulted the distance to the deck, landing within reach of one of the tough guys guarding the cages and took him down with a ferocious right hook.  Three others held what appeared to be cattle prods, no doubt meant to harm the apes. Ape-Man laid into them and, a minute later, was standing over the last of them still conscious.

“Where’s the Red Chimp?” Ape-Man angrily asked in his face.  The anger was more for show, for inside, Ape-Man was secretly nervous.

Unlike W., The Price, goons from the H.E. corporation, and the smaller crooks Ape-Man had fought so far, the Red Chimp had a history stretching back 10 years. Ape-Man had done some digging at the library and found out that the Red Chimp was once an ordinary chimpanzee, its intelligence enhanced by Russian scientists, and then trained by the KGB to be a spy. The Red Chimp was suspected in assassinations and government coups all over the world, but no one would likely have known anything about him had True Blue not stopped him once in ‘57, when a lot of the details of the Chimp’s past came out.
The loudspeaker crackled again. “If you are looking for me, come to the fore end of the barge, Ape-Man.”

The barge was about 100 feet long, with a wheelhouse cannibalized from a tugboat at the fore end.

Ape-Man looked into each of the cages and saw the ape prisoners looked nervous. “Just stay calm; I’ll get you back home,” Ape-Man said into his headpiece communicator. The apes understood.

Ape-Man moved cautiously from the cages towards the fore of the barge, and not just because he suspected a trap. The barge had been used for transporting garbage in the recent past and a thin layer of it still covered the deck. It also concealed the trap, until metal bars rose up six feet high out of the deck, folded over, and began to spin.

There was an obstacle course of spinning bars, at varying heights, between Ape-Man and his destination. They were spinning fast and it would have been near impossible for anyone else to time jumps just right to land safely between them, but for Ape-Man’s agility and reaction time, it was only mildly challenging. He was even beginning to see a pattern to the rotations -- until he couldn’t. When some of the bars started swinging in the opposite direction, it caught him off-guard and he fell after having his legs painfully swept out from underneath him.    

The bars stopped spinning. Ape-Man recovered and rose to his feet. Now standing on the other side of the now-motionless obstacle course was the Red Chimp. The chimpanzee stood there, legs apart and arms loose at his sides, clad only in a red, sleeveless, button-up military jacket and short pants. He could have easily attacked, but seemed to have been patiently waiting for Ape-Man’s recovery.

“What do you want?” Ape-Man asked.

“‘Vhat any man ‘vants, so will intelligent chimpanzee,” the Red Chimp said. “More specifically, I ‘vanted to lure you out and take the measure of you. See if you are as I am.”

“Wait…” Ape-Man said. He took a cautious step forward as he mulled this over. “Are you saying you kidnapped all the apes from the zoo, lured me here, to see if we could be friends?”

“Nothing so sentimental. I have not made myself into greatest living spy over the last 10 years by being so ‘veak as to need friends. I came to see if you needed ally.”

“I don’t work with Commies.”

The Red Chimp chuckled. “Heh, heh -- treatments that keep my intelligence so high are costly; you think spying for politicians pays bills? Is industrial espionage ‘vhere real money is. I ‘vas ‘ much you know about H.E. and ‘vhat they are really after.”

This took Ape-Man aback. He knew that the H.E. corporation was after his inventions and was not above sending thieves after them, or even an assassin to kill him. Was there more, though, that he should know about…?

After a pregnant pause, Ape-Man said, “My answer’s the same.”

“Is pity. Let me know if you change your mind,” the Red Chimp said, and he pressed a button o a remote control device in his hand.

The spinning bars trap started up again, forcing Ape-Man to concentrate on dodging. It took him over a minute to extricate himself and, by then, the Red Chimp had fled to a small speedboat tied to the far side of the wheelhouse. The Ape-Man could only watch as the master spy got clean away.

Don’t worry, the Red Chimp will be back, and Ape-Man will be waiting for him! But, next time, Ape-Man faces the challenge of the fairer sex. Don’t miss it!

Ape-Man #4

The Ape-Man has always been smarter than his opponents before, but what happens when he faces a mad scientist who is his equal? Find out in —
“The Price of Defeat!”
by Scott Casper, thanks to Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby for Tales to Astonish #38
Face front, true believers! This tale is going to start right in the thick of it!
Teenagers scattered like alarmed pigeons as Ape-Man burst out of the planetarium. He leaned into his run, sometimes running on all fours as his long, loping arms swung in front of him. But where he was headed…he was not sure. Where?  Where could he be? Every clue he left has just been a red herring so far! Ape-Man inwardly fumed. While he fumed, he noticed that not everyone was running from him. He could not ask anyone why they were running, looking as ape-like as he did, but he could look around and try to trace back an origin point they were running from, and it seemed to be the nearest science lab building on the campus.
“Aha!” Ape-Man shouted and he sprinted for the front entrance to the science lab building. He went for the door handle and almost touched it — but drew his hand back when he glanced through the door’s glass panel and saw there was something affixed to the door handle on the inside. Getting a better look, he saw they were jumper cables, hooked to a car battery on the floor. Ignoring the handle, Ape-Man jumped up into the air and kicked the door hard with both feet — hard enough to break the door open. After ducking inside, he stopped and listened, only to hear men’s gruff voices coming from down a corridor, and the sound of an idling vehicle. There must have been a door open at the rear of the building, Ape-Man figured.
Ape-Man snuck down the corridor, ducking into a doorway in time before two big men emerged from the stairwell carrying something heavy between them. Glancing at their backs as they walked away from him, he saw they wore delivery uniforms.
“I hope there ain’t more of these…” one of them grumbled.
Ape-Man silently crept after them, eventually following them to a loading dock where two more men in delivery uniforms were coming from the back of an idling van. They held a big cardboard box open for the other two men to put what appeared to be a piece of computer equipment inside.
Someone in sneakers was coming up behind Ape-Man, too close for him to dodge out of sight again. Ape-Man glanced back and saw a man in a dark suit, wearing a hood over his face — and the man saw him right back. The hooded man reacted with surprise, but not too much alarm.
“It’s Ape-Man!” the hooded man shouted with a familiar voice. “Don’t just stand there! Get him!”
Ape-Man glanced back and saw that two of the movers had pistols in their hands now. He was exposed here in the corridor, but behind him was the doorway to what looked like a chemistry lab he could duck into for cover. Ape-man glanced back again at the hooded man, who had stepped away already to an elevator that was opening for him.  It only took a moment’s calculation for Ape-Man to figure that the men with guns posed the greater threat. Ape-Man reached into the room behind him, grabbed up a waste basket, and swung it over the head of the nearest goon. While the first goon struggled with aiming a gun while he could not see, Ape-Man picked him up and threw him into the goon right behind the first.
“I – do – not – like – guns!” Ape-Man roared, shaking his fists in the air. He hopped as he walked forward and that was because he was picking up a dropped gun with each foot, one at a time, and tossed them back behind him.
“It really talks!” one of the remaining men from the van said. He lost it and took off running for the exit at the back of the building. The remaining man on his feet picked up a crowbar and tried to swing it at Ape-Man, but Ape-Man grabbed it and held it fast, jumped up, kicked a goon in the face who was getting back up on his feet, and used his falling weight to jerk the crowbar out of the other man’s hands. The crowbar went flying, and hit the other goon in the face, who had also been about to get back up. The Ape-Man tumbled backwards when he hit the floor, rolled back up into a standing position, kicked the waste basket up into the air, caught it, and pitched it into the face of the only man still standing. Since this guy seemed particularly strong, Ape-Man gave him a quick jab to the solar plexus as well and watched the man fall to the floor, gasping for breath.
Ape-Man dashed over to where he had tossed the guns and emptied each of their bullets. He glanced over at the elevator and observed that it had gone up to the third floor, the top floor. The stairs were nearby, so Ape-Man bolted into the stairwell and bounded up the stairs.
On the third floor, Ape-Man emerged into a long hallway with open doors on both sides. A trail of crates, some of them quite large led from the elevator to one particular door. Ape-Man crept up to it and noticed a plaque by the door read “computer room”.  He looked inside and saw it had been cleaned out. There was an open window at the back of the room and it looked like someone had left a glove on the windowsill. Ape-Man, curious, moved closer for a look.
“I must admit I underestimated you, Ape-Man,” said that familiar voice again.
Ape-Man spun around and saw that the hooded man had been hiding behind the door and now swung it closed. He held a semi-automatic in his right hand, pointed at Ape-Man.
“I wanted you on campus, and so I left you an assortment of clues to follow, and traps at the location of each false clue to keep you busy, but only to serve as a diversion for my crime.”
“What crime?” Ape-Man said. “I thought you were up to something serious, like murdering a student or a professor — not stealing a computer, that was probably covered by insurance anyway.”
“Well — aren’t you a smart gorilla?” the hooded man shot back sarcastically. “This wasn’t just any computer, but an Atlas, on loan from England. It can operate at a speed of roughly a million instructions per second. With it, I will be able to calculate the perfect crimes, and start a crimewave of unrivaled brilliance. This is the price society will pay, and why I am called…the Price!”
“Price, like Vincent Price?  Is that why you’re trying to sound like him?”
“Sound like him? Sound like him?” the hooded man said testily. He tore off his hood with his left hand, revealing that he was actually the spitting image of Vincent Price.  “My name is Elijah Stasiuk, Dr. Elijah Stasiuk. I’m a brilliant scientist, but no one ever took me seriously because of the uncanny resemblance. They called me a mad scientist,” Dr. Stasiuk said, taking two steps forward. “Well, now I’m a seriously pissed scientist, and I’m going to take what I want from now on — starting with that headset you’re wearing. Does that only allow you to communicate with other apes, or does it control your ability to look like one too?”
“You’ve done your research,” Ape-Man said. He took off the headset slowly. “Here, why don’t you try it for yourself?” And he tossed it high into the air.
Dr. Stasiuk followed the headset with his eyes wide and knew he could not let it fall and get damaged. He reached out to grab it — only to feel his legs kicked out from underneath him as the Ape-Man dropped to the floor and sweep-kicked him.
Ape-Man was on him in a heartbeat, snatched away the gun, and tossed it out the window.
“No…I can’t have been beaten on my first outing…by an ape!” Dr. Stasiuk moaned.
The Price wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last. Be here next time for Ape-Man’s next exciting adventure!

Ape-Man #3

“The Ape-Man’s Secret!”
by Scott Casper, thanks to Lieber and Kirby for Tales to Astonish #37
Poe Park, South Bronx
November 3, 1962
Polka music wafted from the gazebo in the park. The children dancing were warm, but for everyone else it was chilly and they needed their sweaters or jackets.
Detective Martin Webster was not there for the music (he did not care for polka) and he did not have a child at the free concert (though he and his wife had tried to have one); Martin Webster was there to talk to Jacob Stern. Stern, a Jewish man of about 30 years of age, had been standing a short distance away from the festivities, smoking a cigarette, which had made it easy to approach him. Martin had in fact already identified himself and started asking some casual questions, to put Stern at ease.
“No, I don’t have any kids,” Jacob said. “But that girl over there? She’s my niece.”
“Ever take her to see the apes at the zoo, Mr. Stern?”
Jacob gave Martin a quizzical look. “What’s this about, officer?”
“Ape sightings, Mr. Stern. Four reports of them on my desk back at the office. You know what I don’t have on my desk? Any reports of apes going missing from the zoo.”
“There’s a good explanation for that.”
“Which is?”
“None of our apes have gone missing. It was just Halloween, you know. Maybe someone had rented an ape costume and was trying it out.”
“I see. An ape costume. Yes, that could explain it. Do you think that’s the explanation for the Ape-Man?  A man in a costume?”  
Jacob shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”
Martin seemed to mull that over a bit, then changed direction. “On the first, you saw the costumed vigilante people were calling the Bronze Defender, yes?  The one who had publicly proclaimed he was going to clean the protection rackets out of the Bronx last month. You called in to the police, in fact, from the zoo, when the Bronze Defender appeared there.”
“Yeah, that was me. So…?”
“So witnesses say an ape appeared out of nowhere and attacked this Bronze Defender. Then the ape ran off and, when people came to help him, they found incriminating photographs next to him that linked the Bronze Defender to the very protection racket this man had been claiming he was fighting. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?”
“I guess I do. You’re wondering where the photos came from? I would guess that the Bronze Defender was carrying them himself, and when the man in the ape costume attacked him, they just…fell out.”
“No, that’s not where I was going with that, Mr. Stern. What I wanted to ask was…you called the police before the attack. Before anyone suspected the Bronze Defender of anything. So, why did you call?”
Jacob just stared at him for about 30 seconds. Then he responded indignantly, “Officer, I have never approved of these so-called superheroes and their vigilantism!”
Bronx Zoo
Back at the zoo, in Dr. Raymond Carter’s office, Bernie Spengler hung up the phone. “That was Jacob,” Bernie said. “That Detective Webster followed him and questioned him, like we hoped. That should give you plenty of time to finally give me some straight answers.”
“I guess you deserve it,” Raymond said. He collapsed into his chair, in total surrender. “What do you want to know first?”
“Are you, are you serious? Who is the Ape-Man?  One of the apes, or–”
“It’s me.  It’s me!” Raymond said, rolling his head from side to side as if it pained him to say it. “When that burglar broke in here months ago, the only way I could stop him was to try our experiment on myself — imprint Johnson’s gorilla characteristics onto myself, so I could scare or fight the burglar off.”
“Raymond…” Bernie said, pacing around the desk and behind Raymond’s chair. “This seemed like a good idea to you at the time?”
“Yes — I don’t know. It all seemed to happen so fast.” Raymond leaned forward, pushed the glasses up on his forehead, and covered his eyes with his hands.
“But then you did it again?”
Raymond sat up straight again, having composed himself. “You were there that day. Those goons from H.E….”
“Yes. Heterodyne Electronic, the big conglomerate.” Bernie came around the side of the desk, leaned forward, and planted his knuckles on the desk. “Did they know about the Ape-Man?”
“Not yet, but they’d known about my research. B.R.A.D.–”
“Their Biological Research Advanced Division?”
“No, that branch was shut down and restructured into Biology & Radiology Augmentation Development. My research was right up their alley, but they were making no headway on their own so they wanted mine. When I wouldn’t sell it to them, they sent some men in to just take it.”
“So you turned into Ape-Man again to stop them.”
“I never planned to become Ape-Man again!” Raymond looked up into Bernie’s eyes, frustration etched in his face. “But…I had used the machine on Johnson again, this time without activating the imprinting matrix, so that information would be saved for future study. In fact, I was reviewing some readouts in the lab that day when they snuck in and overpowered me. I was strapped to the receiving table. They thought the ray could hurt me and threatened to use it on me if I didn’t cooperate. I let them, so it would turn me into Ape-Man again, so I could stop them.”
Bernie stood up and stepped back. “But you’ve become Ape-Man again since then.”
“It’s true…when someone left that sign in the zoo demanding that Ape-Man meet him, it turned out to be a hired gun calling himself W.”
“What does that stand for?”
“Oh…I don’t know,” Raymond said with a shrug. “Probably just his middle initial.  Anyway, I don’t have proof, but I believe H.E. hired him to get me.”
“And this last time, when you caught the Bronze Defender — was he working for H.E. too?”
“Oh, no. He was just a criminal.  I did find I could reactivate the matrix with saved data, transforming me back into Ape-Man, without putting Johnson at further risk. And I’ve…been, well, using it to try to make life better around here ever since, whenever Ape-Man could do it better than I could.  Now…do you think I’m crazy?”
Bernie seemed to pause and think about that for a moment. “No. I’ve never thought you were crazy. When you told me we could harness the strength of a gorilla in a human body, I didn’t tell you you were crazy. I think you’re a good man, and I’m behind you in this.  I’ll keep your secret.”
They both paused, perhaps thinking about the same thing. Finally, Raymond asked the question. “Jacob doesn’t know everything yet. Do you think he’ll still help me?”
“Yes. Maybe….Probably.”
But will Jacob? Find out in upcoming issues of Ape-Man!