Thursday, 21 March 2019

SHAZAM Is Just The Magic Word!

Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, American Gods has returned to Starz for a second season.

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Starring Ian McShane as “Mr. Wednesday," the show tells the story of the old Gods (Odin, Belquis, Czernobog, Anansi, etc…) trying to find their place in a world which worships Technology, Media, and similar new Gods. If such an array of characters wasn’t eclectic enough, Gaiman throws a zombie, a six foot tall leprechaun, and an excon named Shadow into the mix for good measure.

Stir the pot and the result is an exciting, mind bending tale filled with violence, dark humor, and profoundly thought provoking ideas about why we believe what we believe.

Due to the use of graphic violence and adult language, this is not a show for the little ones. Yet, adults, who tune into Starz on Sunday nights, will find new episodes of an intelligent entertaining series.

SHAZAM Is Just The Magic Word!
The movie Captain Marvel opened on March 8th, and has been breaking box office records. SHAZAM opens in theatres on April 5th. Bizarrely, at least to us old farts, the two movies are about two completely different characters.

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When I was growing up, Billy Batson shouted SHAZAM (Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury) in order to transform into the world’s mightiest mortal Captain Marvel. Now SHAZAM is the name of the hero Billy Batson turns into, and Captain Marvel is a female heroin in a different universe. So, WTF happened ?

Fawcett Comics, the original publishers of Captain Marvel/SHAZAM comics, cancelled the title in the 1950s. In the 1960s, Marvel Comics trademarked the name Captain Marvel for their own Kree alien superhero, which meant when DC licensed the Fawcett characters in 1972, they had the Fawcett character named Captain Marvel, but couldn’t call the comic Captain Marvel, so they used his magic word “SHAZAM!” for the title.

The rule applied to non-print media as well. When Billy Batson made his TV debut in 1974, his show was titled The SHAZAM/Isis Hour, which I looked forward to every Saturday morning. Eventually, DC grew tired of making the distinction, and renamed the character SHAZAM when they rebooted their line of comics as “The New 52.”

In my mind, SHAZAM will always be Captain Marvel, mainly out of tradition. Plus, if you think about it, it just makes more sense. If his name and magic word are the same, how can the hero tell someone his name without reverting to Billy Batson?

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Umbrella Academy Graduates To Netflix


In 1975, the Justice League of America hit ABC’s Saturday morning air waves as the Super Friends. The first, kid friendly, season saw Wendy, Marvin, and their Scooby-Doo-esc pet Wonder Dog serving as the Super Friends’ interns. The second season saw the interns suddenly replace with the shape shifting Wonder Twins; Zan, Jayna, and their pet space-monkey Gleek.

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Unless you were fortunate enough to have read Super Friends #7, you had no idea the original interns had gone to Ivy University (Ray Palmer’s fictional university) and Paradise Island to further their educations, and the Wonder Twins had been sent from their planet, Exxor, to learn how to be super heroes. You only knew that when they touched hands, to activate their powers, he could turn into any water construct and she could turn into any animal.

Since the end of the Saturday morning series, in 1984, the twins have made occasional appearances in Extreme Justice, Teen Titans, Young Justice, and Smallville Season 11. Now, written by Mark Russell, with art by Stephen Byrne, DC has finally given the siblings their own title.

The new incarnation depicts the twins as exiles, rather than exchange students. Yet, like their TV predecessors, they're again being shepherded by Superman, and interning in the Hall of Justice, as they try to adapt to their new planet.

Wonder Twins is a light hearted comic book geared toward kids and teens, with plenty of super hero cameos and high school hijinks.  Think Archie meets the Justice League.

The Umbrella Academy Graduates To Netflix:

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On October 1, 1989, 43 women around the world give birth simultaneously, despite none of them showing any sign of pregnancy until labor began. Seven of the children are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves. This is the first bit of information the audience is given as the Netflix series, based on the Dark Horse comic book series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, begins.

What follows is a majestically off beat super hero drama. Seeing a loosely knit team of super powered individuals who don't all get along invites comparisons to the X-Men. Yet, the grand mansion and non-human staff reminded me of SyFy’s Sanctuary.

Without revealing spoilers, it’s safe to say we meet our characters just as their lives change and they're thrust into a mystery. As soon as we start to get into the mystery, another, more ominous threat rears its head.

I’m only three episodes into the series, and so far I'm having a lot of fun with it. Not only is their plenty of high powered action, but the characters are written with layers of complexity, making them come across as believable despite their powers.

Although this is a superhero show, I’d recommend watching it when the little ones are in the other room. Violence and use of adult language makes this a show for adults and mature teens.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Reading Comics In The 21st Century


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As a result of Flashpoint, during which Barry came to know Bruce’s father, the two heroes formed a bond. Batman and The Flash reunited in 2017’s The Button (Batman 21 & 22 and The Flash 21 & 22), which laid the foundation for the maxi-series Doomsday Clock.

The two detectives are together again in The Price (Batman 64 & 65 and The Flash 64 & 65). Without spoiling any significant plot points, Batman 64 opens in the middle of an exciting Justice League battle with a classic foe. From there our heroes are immediately thrust into a mystery, the result of which may have as great an impact on the DC Universe as Flashpoint and The Button. We’ll see.

Reading Comics In The 21st Century:
When I was a kid, I’d pick up the odd comic book at 7-11 to kill time. I didn't start regularly reading and collecting comic books until I was 19, in 1989. Through the decades I’ve amassed a sizeable collection.

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I have jam packed boxes of comic books in my bedroom, the garage, and in a rented storage space in town.  That’s right, I’m paying to store comics which I’ll probably never read again.  It’d be one thing if I had loads of rare collector items worth loads of cash, but that’s not the case.

Back when the medium was in its infancy, most kids bought, read, and traded comics as though they were toys (which is how they were intended to be used and enjoyed).  If the occasional copy was found in mint condition, decades later, it was worth something.

Then news of a Captain America Comics #1 selling for $343,000, or an Action Comics #1 selling for $3,200,000 circulated through Nerdtopia and became folklore.  Pretty soon everyone with a copy of Batman in their attic thought they had a golden ticket to Easy Street.

Comic book companies caught wind of this mania and began labeling certain issues as “Collector Items.”  Savvy collectors began buying up, and carefully storing, these gems as investments.  Of course since the things were mass produced, they'll never be rare enough to be valuable.  Thus, I’m storing thousands of books for no reason.

I still enjoy reading new stories, but have nowhere to put them.   While I will miss the gang at my local comic book shop, I’ve decided to read my stories on from now on.  They get all issues every Wednesday, just like the brick and mortar shops.

I'm not sure what the future of comic books is.  The romantic in me hopes the physical shops don't go away completely.  However, for me, until I have a mansion with unlimited storage space, digital comics are the way to go. -

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Best Star Trek May Be Non-Canonical

Planetary Union Captain Ed Mercer commands the Starship Orville as he, and his eclectic crew, explores the galaxy.

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Show creator, and star, Seth MacFarlane brilliantly straddles the line between literary allusion and plagiarism with this hit Fox series. While the alien races, ship designs, and technical babble are different from those of Gene Roddenberry’s well established universe, The Orville throws an obvious nod toward Star Trek: The Next Generation. The color coded uniforms, pristine well-lit ship, and bridge layout all remind one of televised tales of Picard’s heroic crew.

Sure, this show focuses much more on comedy than its predecessor, but between the jokes one will find well written science fiction stories filled with excitement, intelligence, and heart.

Technically it’s not Star Trek, but Thursday nights, at 9pm, it’s a fun way for fans to get their Trekkie fix.

The Best Star Trek May Be Non-Canonical:
I've been watching Star Trek since 1977, and attending conventions since 1985. I'm a Trekkie in every sense of the word.

Subject: This image is a promotional poster for the Star Trek: New Voyages series
Star Trek fans, in general, are known for being... exuberant.  Most of us get our "Trek on" by dressing up and attending conventions once or twice a year.  However, a hand full of zealous fans, apparently, weren't satisfied with this level if fantasy, so they've taken it to the next level.   They've written and produced their own episodes.

The first of these fan-run production companies, I was aware of, was James Cawley's Star Trek: New Voyages.

With himself in the starring role of Captain James T. Kirk, Cawley & company produced 10 episodes of Star Trek, complete with authentic looking sets and costumes.

If the quality of the production wasn’t impressive enough, somehow they were able to pay Trek stars, including; George Takei, Walter Koenig, Denise Crosby, William Windom, and others; to do guest spots in episodes. Keep in mind, since they don’t hold the copyright to Star Trek, they’re not allowed to make ANY money from these episodes. These are purely products of the love of Star Trek.

Star Trek was always at its best when it used stories to talk about contemporary issues. The writers of this series didn’t forget that simple truth. One story arch, beginning with episode 4, involved Kirk’s gay nephew coming out to his womanizing uncle. Seeing Captain Kirk officiate a same sex wedding was marvelous.

Sadly, after ten episodes production ceased in 2015 and their website came down. However, the web series can still be found on YouTube.

I thought Cawley’s series was the only game in town. Not so, Number One Son. As it turns out, YouTube is peppered with such productions. The makers of the movie, Starfleet Academy, hired William Shatner, George Takei, and Christopher Plummer to star in their story. Walter Koenig stars as Admiral Chekov in Star Trek: Renegades, while the crews of the Farragut and Exeter explore space with entirely original casts of characters.

Of course the quality of the special effects, sets, acting ability, and wardrobe varies from production to production. Yet, motivated by love for the show, they've each captured the spirit of Star Trek in a way CBS’s current offering hasn’t.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Punisher Returns


I haven't posted here for a while, partly because of a busy holiday, and partly because it's been hard to care about writing about nerdcentric pop culture when our country is self-destructing.  Yet, it could be argued that diversion, via comics & scifi, may be the only thing keeping some of us sane.

I'm still polishing my piece on fan-made Star Trek productions, but I wanted to get this spotlight up ASAP.  I think I'm going to post a "Spotlight" each week, whether, or not, I have a main feature ready.


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This Friday, 01/18/2019, Netflix will be dropping season 2 of Marvel's Punisher.  Being a long time fan of the character, I devoured season 2 of Dare Devil (where Jon Bernthal debuted as The Punisher) and season 1 of Punisher.

While I liked Bernthal's portrayal of the psychotic brooding hero, Frank Castle, season 1 wasn't without its problems.  It's not a spoiler to reveal that the story involves Frank befriending a single parent family.  Seeing Frank visit a family in the burbs didn't feel like the Punisher to me.  Frank works best in either an urban downtown, or jungle combat, setting.  If he'd watched out for a poor, but honest, single parent family in Hell's Kitchen it might have been a better fit.

Nevertheless, the writing & urban combat action scenes were good enough to make me look forward to season 2 this week.  Plus, like I told my friend, Kyle, Jigsaw looks awesome in the trailer!  It looks like they're making him a hands-on criminal thug instead of a mob boss.  Can't wait!

Monday, 10 December 2018


Editor's Note:
Hey there readers, my Star Trek piece will require a bit more work.  In the meantime, find out how SHAZAM #1 became a gripe, instead of a pick.

Spotlight Pick  Gripe:
Last week DC fans were able to pick up the first issue of SHAZAM! to be published in twenty years. The title is, undoubtedly, being revived now in order to energize a fanbase for the April 5, 2019 movie release.

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I REALLY wanted to like this #1, I did.  I grew up with the character, and was anxious to read his comic book again.  Boy, did I waste $4.99.

OK, I had resigned myself to the fact that they could no longer call the character Captain Marvel, even though he was using the name long before Marvel Comics' Carol Danvers ever met the Kree.  Still, I'd begrudgingly accepted the fact going in.

The name was the least of this book's problems.  My main gripe is the fact that there was no action in the story.  Yes, there was a run-of-the-mill hold up, but with 6 Marvels/SHAZAMS to answer the call, there was no fight or tension to speak of.  If I'm going to pay $5 for a comic book, I want to see some high-powered action damn it!

Monday, 3 December 2018

A Fond Farewell to Old Man Logan

Editor's Note:

This week I only have a Spotlight Pick for my readers, but it's a must read for anyone who's a fan of the X-Men.  Coming soon though, I'll be sharing my thoughts on fan produced Star Trek movies in and episodes.  Stay tuned compatriots. ☺

Spotlight Pick:

In the fall of 2014, as the result of an alien virus, Wolverine lost his healing factor and was supposedly killed.

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Rather than leaving their X-Titles Logan-less, Marvel Comics brought Old Man Logan, from a parallel universe, into the main 616 universe to keep fans from going into Adamantium withdrawal.  While he never donned the blue and yellow tights, he delivered the same razor-sharp style of action and gruff attitude we were accustomed to.

Now that they're bringing the primary Wolverine back, Old Man Logan is getting a 12 issue send off.  I just read #1, and without giving anything away, which isn't in the promotional material, Logan knows he's dying, and he's determined to take down one last villain.

The first issue, released on November 28th, 2018, is a bit spendy at $4.99, but if you can swing it it's worth the read.  Future issues will drop to $3.99.

Keep My Heroes In The Light

- Current Pick: Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program . Now that I've ragged on dark comics, I just picked up issue No. 1 ...