Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Super-Villain Team-Up #12

Two-Bit Comics
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 30, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #12
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by: Boisterous Bill Mantlo
Art by: Battlin’ Bob Hall



HURRY WITH MY OXYGEN APPARATUS, SCUM!

It was June of 1977 and everything was jumping! We continued our obsession with Star Wars, but were also offered other tasty treats like the Exorcist II, For the Love of Benji, and the classic Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Kiss had been elected the most popular band in America by a Gallup Poll, Ted Nuget released Cat Scratch Fever, The Alan Parson Project released I Robot, and the Sex Pistols chartered a boat and sailed a fateful journey down the Thames during Jubilee. Apple II computers went on sale, women were integrated into the regular Marine Corps, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the finals, and Elvis performed his last ever concert in Indianapolis. June of 1977 had everything going for it. It was also when Marvel Comics published Super-Villain Team-Up #12, fully flowered with hyphens, hyperbole, and humongous alliterations, to the point where it rubs off on the reader.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums

Interesting talk abut finding innovation in places you would least expect -- promoting learning through relevant engagement in a productive activity. "Pull not push"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Thunderstrike #13

Two-Bit Comics
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 23, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
THUNDERSTRIKE #13
Published by Marvel Comics
Pictures, Plot, and Script by: Ron Frenz and Tom DeFalco
Finished Art by: Al Milgrom



HOO-BOY!

Other than the announced cancelation of The New Mickey Mouse Club after its triumphant five year run, October 1994 had a lot going for it. This was when both Pulp Fiction and Clerks were released, and the radio had Kurt Cobain telling us “About A Girl” and REM asking us “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” This was also when Thunderstrike #13 hit the shelves.

In the spirit of full disclosure, in October 1994 I wasn’t reading Marvel Comics. To be honest, I have only heard of Thunderstrike peripherally, usually as the butt of a joke. Needless to say, jumping into this series at issue #13 with little to no prior knowledge added a layer of confusion to an already confusing comic, and this confusion certainly helped to paint my initial reading experience with a further thin coat of gray. In the interest of journalistic objectivity, though, I did some research and then gave the book a re-read. What follows is the best I could do under the circumstances.

According to The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe (DK Publishing, 2006):

Eric Masterson was an architect who was working at a building site where Thor, under a secret identity, was also employed. Thor was attacked by the Mongoose, and during the battle Eric was injured by falling girders. He was left with a permanent limp. After becoming friends with Thor, Eric was wounded again, this time mortally, and Odin merged him with the thunder god to save his life. Thereafter, Masterson would assume the form of Thor whenever the hero was needed on Earth. When Thor seemingly slew his brother Loki and was banished from this plane of reality, Eric took his place as Thor II. Eventually the real Thor returned, and Eric was given his own enchanted mace and became Thunderstrike. Thunderstrike eventually sacrificed himself to save Thor.

Got that? Confused? Yeah, I know. But it was the 90’s, I guess. You can see why I may have stopped reading Marvel Comics during this decade…..


Thunderstrike #13 opens with a splash page that, while impressive in terms of perspective and layout, is incredibly static. The Minotaur looking dude, who apparently is Bison, looks like a poseable action figure or a bull-headed contestant in the Mr. Universe contestant (or maybe like a former Republican Governor from the great state of California – with horns!). That big white swath is, I assume, supposed to give the illusion of motion, but all it does is look like part of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

So the Bison is attacking some sort of SHIELD convoy, looking for “The Package” (although from his stance on the page above, it appears he already has a sizable one), and apologizes to everyone as he tosses them about. Of course, this will not stand….


Enter, one Lucas Cage, Power Man! Cage seemingly appears from behind a nearby bush, riding what seems to be a flying motorcycle. And he’s wearing tight red pants. Can someone give me some back story on that? Why is Luke Cage wearing tight red pants? Was this a fashion in the early 90’s that I missed? I thought it was all ripped jeans and flannels. Tight red pants? I also have to point out that the flying kick that Cage is delivering looks rather uncomfortable, but it does, I think, reveal the location of the package Bison was seeking???

A fight ensues between Power Man and Bison for six panels, ending with Bison fleeing. It is followed by five panels of a rather confusing bit between Cage and SHIELD Special Agent DePaul, in which Cage threatens to use the power of the press to get out of being held in custody? Cage drives off with some sort of device attached to his shoulder.

Then BOOM, we’re in Manhattan at the “loft which is shared by Eric Masterson and Samantha Joyce.” These two apparently needed a third roommate to “share expenses” and are welcoming Leah Princess, who, according to Eric Masterson, is really “Stellaris, a super-powered warrior from out space who specializes in slaying Celestials.” Eric reveals that Stellaris and Thunderstrike have some sort of adversarial connection, so her moving in brings up the likelihood of all sorts of “Three’s Company” hijinxs. Ha! Ha! Ha!

By the way, check out the mullet on our hero.


Eric gets a call from the Black Widow to head to Avengers Mansion (did I mention he was an Avenger?), Thunderstrike up and heads on out, leaving Stellaris unattended. Quick cut to Luke Cage asking to use a phone, quick cut to Special Agent DePaul meeting with Thunderstrike and Black Widow asking them to find Luke Cage, quick cut to Widow and Thunderstrike suspecting that they are being used somehow. Then we get this:


At least Thunderstrike is a self-deprecating hero. I love the look on Black Widow’s face in this scene. Not sure about Thunderstrike’s choice of earrings, though.

Quick cut to Erik Materson’s son, Kevin, expressing dismay over the prospect of moving to Los Angeles and away from his father. Quick cut to Doctor Paretsky taking Susan out on a dinner date (I have no prior knowledge, so no idea who these people are). Quick cut to a guy on the phone talking to his “Master” about “Inferno 42” which is “the most destructive element of all time!”, which is apparently the “package” Bison was looking for.

Quick cut to a woman looking at a picture of a guy in a basketball uniform. And then there is this:


I love the smell of Bison in the rain. I assume he got the green trench coat from Ben Grimm, but where the hell did he get those shoes?

Luke Cage sees the Bison in the rain and is about to jump on him from the top of a four-story building when Thunderstrike makes the scene. Cage wants Bison and is about to make his leap when Thunderstrike throws his enchanted mace and tangles up Cage. Cage yells, “SWEET SISTER!” Then we get this:


Props to the writers for Cage’s line about black men and gutter mouths, but honestly, as Thunderstrike notices, “What the heck kind of expletive is that..?” The look on Cage’s face is priceless, though, especially with the pin-point pupils and the way the rain is depicted on his face. If it wasn’t for the tiara, this would be one seriously scary dude. A dude about to “raise” some “consciousness!” But raising consciousness, in this case, is not enough for Cage:


“Hoo-Boy” is right. This is some crazy stuff. Look at Cage’s hands! They’re almost twice the size of Thunderstrike’s head.

In the midst of battle, Cage makes fun of Thunderstrike’s expletive, “Hoo-Boy,” and knocks him off the building. Thunderstrike, while falling, gets all proud of himself for using some Captain America training and making Cage take the brunt of the impact. Smashing into the ground is all it takes to end the four-panel battle, and Cage decides that “a conversation would be nice.”

Cage explains that Bison is actually his old buddy, Billy Kitson, who lost a basketball career due to an injury, only to vanish and come back as Bison. I think that happened to Detlef Schrempf also. The boys decide to work together to find Bison. Because Cage still “eats red meat, avoids musicals, and leaves flying to the airlines”, they taxi around New York looking for Bison. That’s right, they take taxis. A huge African-American wearing tight red pants and a tiara and a long haired body builder type wearing a leather vest and carrying a mace – I’m sure finding a taxi in Manhattan was no problem. Anyway….

They end up at a deserted barber shop which used to be the main entrance to SHIELD’s New York Headquarters, sit in the barber chairs, and are whisked down to some sort of sub-basement. DePaul (remember him) is alerted to their presence, dons some sort of metal super suit, and blasts through a wall with a “KRAKA-PWOOM!” He then calls Thunderstrike a moron and threatens to arrest them for trespassing!

The three of these guys are then suddenly SHRRAAAKOOMMed with sand, which leads us to the final page:


As if DePaul wasn’t enough, now they have to fight Bison, Quicksand, and The Merciless Mongoose! How’s that for a cliff hanger? Oh, and by the way, look at the size of Cage’s hand. It’s grown even BIGGER! I wonder if Bison got gloves to go with his shoes, I think Cage could borrow them.

What can I say about Thunderstrike #13? There’s not a lot of action. On the other hand, there is a whole bunch of seemingly unnecessary sub-plots, characters who have very iffy motivations, Luke Cage in skin-tight red pants, some distracting art, lame jokes, a mullet, and Inferno 42? Hoo-Boy. I guess I can see why Thunderstrike only lasted from June of 93 to September of 95. I guess I can see why the powers that be at Marvel decided to kill this guy off eventually. I guess I can see why I was hard pressed to find anyone pining for the return of Thunderstrike.

Was Thunderstrike #13 worth the fifty cents I paid for it? I am a big fan of Luke Cage, so I guess it was nice to see him, even in red pants. I learned about Thunderstrike, although I am not sure how this will aide me in my life in any way. Reading the comic distracted me from the news from Libya and Japan for ten minutes or so, which was kinda nice. So, I don’t know – I guess that all justifies fifty cents….

Would I buy another Thunderstrike comic? Hoo-Boy.


Monday, March 21, 2011

What is really going on in classrooms....

(notes on) biology from ornana films on Vimeo.

Evgeny Morozov - The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

An interesting take on a preconceived notion:

In this new RSA Animate, author and journalist Evgeny Morozov presents an alternative take on ‘cyber-utopianism’ – the seductive idea that the internet plays a largely empancipatory role in global politics.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Warp #1

Two-Bit Comics
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 16, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
WARP #1
Published by First Comics
Written by: Frank Brunner and Peter Gillis
Art by: Frank Brunner



SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY WRONG HERE.

Michael Jackson swears that “the kid is not my son,” while Kenny Rogers and Shena Easton assure us that “We’ve Got Tonight”. That’s right, it’s March of 1983. All the girls watching “The Thorn Birds” on TV want to be Meggie (Rachel Ward) because none of them knew that Richard Chamberlain was gay. Hanging out at the movie theater, do you go see “Max Dugan Returns” or sneak in to watch the beer-guzzling fun of “Spring Break”? Yes, there’s entertainment everywhere, including your local comic shop. In March 1983, First Comics publishes Warp #1, and suddenly provocatively placed medallions try to become a fashion statement.

Having gone into the history of First Comics before when I reviewed Badger #14, I will instead talk about the history of Warp, as it is far more interesting. According to Mike Gold, the Managing Editor of First Comics, “Warp got its start back in 1971 on the stage of the Organic Theater Company” in Chicago. This was a stage play. Written and performed by the Organic Theater Company. In 1971. Now it’s a comic.

UH-OH….

Warp was originally conceived as a three-part production: Warp I: My Battlefield, My Body; Warp II: Unleashed, Unchained; and Warp III: To Die … Alive. Of the production, Gold says, “Strange lighting effects, sweaty actors producing mammoth fight scenes right there on stage … all the magic of the epic comic books was all there on stage, right before your eyes!” Warp kept being produced for around a year and after an amazing “Warpathon” where they performed all three episodes, the cast and crew left Chicago for the bright lights of Broadway.

What happened next? Gold informs us that “in spite of excellent reviews in such places as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and Playboy, and in spite of excellent attendance at the previews, the concept of Warp was just a bit too much for the more staid critics of the daily papers … Warp closed in three weeks.”

Back in Chicago, Warp rose from the dead in 1979, played a sold-out five month run, moved to a larger theater, and “racked up an impressive eight month stay.” Then, in 1980, “40 comics pros attending the Chicago Comicon saw Warp II: Unleased, Unchained.” This sparked some kind of vague bidding war or something for the rights to make Warp into a comic book. Gold writes that “for a variety of business-type reasons, we thought it might be better for us to do the comic book on our own.” Three years later, First Comics brings out Warp #1.

Just to reiterate. Warp was originally a stage play done by an experimental theater group in Chicago in 1971. Twelve years later it became a comic book. I’m only trying to prepare you for this. I am in no way liable for anything that may happen next.

Sooooooo…………


Warp opens with a pretty cool splash page of some hooded guy staring into some device that allows him to look at the universe. A text box on the left states, “For eons I, Lugulbanda, have searched the Holy Search throughout the scattered universes.”

Here we go. The guy’s name is Lugulbanda. He’s searching throughout universes – with an “s” -- plural. At least they didn’t take long to let us know what we are in for.

Lugulbanda is looking for their “deliverer” who is “the warrior, the champion, our last, best hope!” Why he is looking for this person is as yet unclear, but luckily Lugulbanda finds this person on … wait for it … EARTH!

The comic then jumps to Central City Bank, specifically on over-worked bank teller David Carson. David’s got blonde hair and glasses, so we can guess that he is the one for whom Lugulbanda has been seeking. David not only has an exciting career as a bank teller, but he also has a hot girlfriend named Mary Louise. When Mary Louise is first introduced, though, we get this scene:


She calls him “Daddy?” When I first read this, I completely misunderstood what was happening. Turns out Mary Louise is not a gold-digging whore at all; she’s the daughter of the bank manager, Mr. Bigelow. My mistake. I guess it was that whole arms akimbo in a tight dress drawn from behind thing that threw me.

David then suffers a huge headache which he downplays in front of Mary Louise and her father. He doesn’t want to tell them that the reason he has headaches like this was because of the years he “spent in the INSANE ASYLUM.” I guess it never came up during the job interview or any of the dates he’s been on with Mary Louise.

Flashback to the INSANE ASYLUM and we see David having some sort of vision with smoke trails emanating from his forehead. In this vision he sees an afro-sporting red man with hipster tribal tattoos who says, “I have won, Lord Cumulus! I have won and I am FREE!” This is obviously foreshadowing, but can you have foreshadowing in a flashback? Isn’t that unnecessarily confusing? And how did they manage this during the stage production?

Flash-forward to the “present” and David starts hearing voices in his head telling him that Fen-Ra awaits him and that he must protect THE CRYSTAL! David runs out the door and is either hit by a truck or falls in a big hole or (as it turns out) sucked into “Another Time and Space” – but the artwork doesn’t quite make this clear until you look at the next page.

David pulls himself together and notices that not only is he in some very strange environment but he’s now wearing a black boots, a cape, and a black “Borat” thong thing with a gold medallion strategically placed over his manhood.


Well said…..

David finds himself in the home of Valaria, some kind of green mothwoman who is not a big fan of covering herself modestly. She explains to David that the evil Lugulbanda is out to get him. She has her monkey servent, Symax, give David some wine and he begins to relax and lie down with Valaria. Suddenly, a shiny gold man holding a trident appears and tells David not to trust Valaria. The shiny gold man is called a “Faceless One”. Probably because he has no face. I’m just guessing, though.

David points at the Faceless One, which subsequently explodes. Valaria tries to get David to relax, does some sort of witchy thing to make him drowsy, and then pulls a knife on him. All pretense of moth-lady loving now thrown to the wind, David turns and says, “Oh no you DON’T, you little bitch!” Valaria reacts:


The DEATHSWARM is, of course, BEES! I wonder how they pulled that off during the stage production… I could make all sorts of “Wicker Man” jokes at this point, but I shall take the high road.

The rest of this article is over at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Warriors of Plasm #1

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

March 9, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
WARRIORS OF PLASM #1
Published by Defiant Comics
Written by: Jim Shooter
Art by: David Lapham


He Must Have Sensed My Nodes Tweaking!

It’s August, 1993 and the radio airwaves are filled with “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum and breaking news that Michael Jackson has been accused of child molestation. We’re at the movie theaters to see the ultimately misleadingly titled Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. At the comic shop, Defiant Comics has launched its flagship title, Warriors of Plasm to great fanfare.

Warriors of Plasm was some sort of bio-morphic sci-fi superhero alien attack social commentary sex-filled anger splatter from the mind of former Marvel Comics Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. Defiant Comics was his new baby, after having been shit-caned by Marvel and being forced out of Valiant Comics. Needless to say, Shooter had a Conan-sized battle-axe to grind with the comic book industry by 1993, and his ego was as large as his stature. Say what you will about Jim Shooter, but he is certainly not one to back away from a fight. But this is neither here nor there. Needless to say, Shooter’s Defiant Comics lasted two years before it folded. Its premiere title, Warriors of Plasm, ran for thirteen issues and issue number one is now in the two-bit bin.


The comic opens with a densely packed splash page introducing Acquisitor Lorca, who’s the main character of this book. Lorca is leading an attack on somebody and with the help of High Gore Lord Sueraceen and her Trample-Zoms (I ain’t making this up, promise) has finally secured victory. Apparently these people conquer worlds in order to incorporate its bio-mass into their own ecosystem as part of some sort of diabolical recycling program, a la Galctus. High Gore Lord Sueraceen, also known as Sue(?), relishes her job, as you can see from these panels:


Talk about job satisfaction. But I digress.

Lorca takes the harvested biomass back for processing to “The Org of Plasm” where they all seem to live. Everything at the Org is made from biomass: the ships, the buildings, the streets, even the people. The people of the Org are a gluttonous, slovenly lot who spend most of their time “lolling in the Plasbaths” and need “an occasional event to stimulate chatter and provide diversion.” Shooter and Lapham are scathing in their indictment of the people of Org whom they portray as vain and obsessed with fashion to the point where they alter their bodies to try to ride the latest fad. An armless man tells the reader that “Arms are out of fashion” while apparently the surgical implanting of a horn on your head is “in this cycle”. They also worship Lorca, as not only does he provide an “event”, he also provides the biomass necessary for their continued existence.


This is great stuff.

Unfortunately, this is about the high point of the comic. The rest of the book kind of falls apart from here on out. Lorca is not whom he seems. He is actually plotting the overthrow of the Org government to avenge the death of his love, Laygen. Using DNA from Laygen’s hair, though, the Zom-Mother is able to recreate a perfect clone of Laygen for Lorca, complete with all of her memories and personality. This is not enough for Lorca, because, as he says to this absolutely complete copy of Laygen, she “is not real … Laygen lived once and never again.” Earlier in the book, it was established that all life comes from the recycled biomass. The clone of Laygen came from the recycled biomass. Lorca is kind of splitting hairs here (see what I did there).

Anyway, Lorca’s plan to overthrow “the vile rulers” of Org is to harvest ten thousand humans from Earth and genetically reengineer them to become super warriors. Why Earth? Apparently, according to Lorca, “it’s a world of bold, willful, self-reliant people.” Like Charlie Sheen, for example. Lorca grabs ten thousand earthlings and steeps them in the “Morph-Fluid” where the “Splicers” will remake their bodies to “fulfill the potentialities of their minds and spirits”. Why ten thousand? Because it is over nine thousand, obviously.

Of course the plan goes awry and 9,995 humans die in the goo. Five humans survive. Cookie Wazenegger from Saddle River, Rick Tietz from Hoboken, grandma Louise Johnson, Reverend Martin Gilbert, and Lieutenant Elvis P. Mazerov from the U.S. Army Reserves. This issue does nothing to explain why these five survived; my guess is it was because they were the easiest clichés to characterize. The Morph-Fluid not only clothes them, but also gives them superpowers. Cookie becomes some sort of psychic or something, Rick is a one-armed super strong guy, Louise is also strong and maybe invulnerable too, Martin can control light, and Elvis gets “real fast”. These five, I assume, become the title characters, the Warriors of Plasm.

There’s a chase/battle through the Org. There’s some sort of absolutely ridiculous looking “Prototype”:


that the Reverend destroys with light. The five begin to understand their new found powers, and then escape back to Earth (maybe?).

There’s a sub-plot between Lorca and the Grand Inquisitor Ulnareah. Ulnareah is the one responsible for Laygen’s death and he really seems to have it in for Lorca. Shooter does a bit of quick characterization by giving Ulnareah a slug tail, and by having him engage in a very uncomfortable pedo-moment:


Obviously, we are not supposed to like this guy. You would think that anyone in conflict with Ulnareah would be someone we would root for (the whole enemy of my enemy bit) but Lorca isn’t likeable either, so we end up in this whole gray area. I guess we are supposed to be rooting for The Warriors of Plasm, but these five, at least in this issue, are either whiny or bossy or pathetic. All in all, it really makes for an unsatisfying read, and by the end of it I had no interest in reading the next issue.

I’ll give Shooter and Lapham some props, though. As I was reading it, I was reminded slightly of Grant Morrison’s far superior The Filth which was released nearly a decade later. So that was a nice thing, it made me go re-read that after having not looked at it for awhile. There is a moment where Ulnareah first appears and Laygen says, “Someone’s calling on the Eye-Phone.” That was a little disturbing considering this came out in 1993. Maybe Steve Jobs is really a High Gore Lord… There’s a moment when Sueraceen says, “He stroked the hair-trigger on his own lust-mate!” which made me laugh, albeit uncomfortably. And when Elvis says, “He who hesitates gets his lamps pounded shut!” I knew my son and I had a new motto for the next couple of weeks.

Still, the best part of the whole comic is at the very end. The last two pages consist of a letter from Jim Shooter to his readers and it is the most pedantic, rambling, angry screed I have come across in some time.

The purpose of the editorial piece is to thank readers for supporting his new comic book venture, Defiant Comics. What it ends up being is a conspiracy laden spew about how he got forced out of Valiant Comics by an act of "white-collar piracy" and how others "were fired because they were friends of mine whose loyalty could not be purchased."

This is followed by one and a half pages of him thanking all sorts of people for standing by him after his last company "forced him out" once it became successful, and for helping him start Defiant Comics. He ends it by saying, "This universe is the real thing, the keeper. Watch!” Remember that I found this in the two-bit bin. I think that fact speaks for itself.

Shooter has gone on to do other stuff and David Lapham has certainly redeemed himself if for no other reason he produced Stray Bullets, which I could never recommend enough. Warriors of Plasm, like much of the 90’s, is probably best forgotten or left as a little treasure in the two-bit bin.

Remember, “He who hesitates gets his lamps pounded shut!” Amen to that, brother

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- Freedom Fighters #9

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales. (This post is also available on Pop Culture Zoo)

March 2, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS #9
Published by DC Comics
Written by: Bob Rozakis (War-Torn Writer)
Art by: Dick Ayers and Jack Abel (Action-Armed Artists)


OUR BUDDIES CAN HANDLE A FOUR-ON-FOUR SITUATION!

So it’s the summer of 1977. We’ve all got “Star Wars” Fever and I wish I was cool like Greedo. Jimmy Carter is telling us about an energy crisis and gas prices soar to sixty-five cents a gallon. We are soothed by Barry Manilow telling us that it “Looks Like We Made It”, comforted by the knowledge that David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, is finally behind bars, and really not all that surprised that Elvis has died on the crapper. Into this dense miasma of culture, DC Comics publishes Freedom Fighters #9 and everything is right in the world again.

I don’t know why, really, but I absolutely LOVE this comic. It’s hokey, full of holes, and veers off into all kinds of weirdness and inappropriate moments, but it is the kind of comic that encapsulates all the things that drew me to reading comics in the first place.

But first, some back story. The Freedom Fighters consists of (in this incarnation) Uncle Sam (who embodies the “Spirit of America” – more on this later), Doll Man, Phantom Lady, The Ray, Black Condor, and The Human Bomb. These characters were originally part of the Golden Age powerhouse publisher, Quality Comics, but Quality Comics folded in 1956, and DC bought up the licenses to many of their characters. There is this whole Earth-X, “Crisis on Infinite Earth” brouhaha that DC went through to try an incorporate these characters into their main continuity, but that is a discussion best left in the hands of a better fanboy than I, and really has little to do with enjoying this book, this fabulous book.

The story of Freedom Fighters #9, “Blitzkrieg at Buffalo!”, has a lot of layers to it. There is this villain, The Americammando, who in reality is another villain named The Silver Ghost, who has, with the help of The Crusaders (Rusty, Barracuda, Fireball, and Sparky), defeated the Freedom Fighters. The Americammando has tied the unconscious bodies of the Freedom Fighters to the main power source at Niagra Falls (blacking out “much of the Eastern U.S.” apparently??) and is going to fry them by turning the power back on. While mind-numbingly ridiculous, this is a great way to start a story and I was instantly hooked.

Anyway, there is also this reporter, Martha Roberts, who seems to know that The Americammando is really The Silver Ghost and is trying to convince The Crusaders that they are being used. The Americammando tells Barracuda that Ms. Roberts is just a “Bleeding Heart Reporter” and should not be believed. And then we get this:


WHOO-HOOO – how about that! You don’t get to see a “SMAKK!” like that much anymore, do you? And while this is certainly easy character development, you really do have to hate this Americammando dude. Even Barracuda is disgusted by this and strikes the Americammando. They duke it out for four panels and then we get this:


SWEEEEET! Now that’s a “KABLANGGG!” I can really get behind. I just love this image and hats off to the art team of Ayers and Abel for drawing me in (pun intended) even more.

The story continues with The Ray absorbing the electricity, saving his fellow teammates from being “Electrifried” (his words, not mine), long enough for Uncle Sam to pull the massive plug from the outlet (seriously) while shouting his apparent catch phrase, “THUNDERATION!” I love it!

The Americammando then finds the Freedom Fighters have escaped and takes the reporter hostage. While he flies her off to Manhattan, The Crusaders and The Freedom Fighters engage. After The Ray takes them down with an initial“BZZZZZZAPPPPP!”, Doll Man finds out that The Americammando has kidnapped the reporter and wants to go after them. Then we get this:


Ummmm, I will try and be mature here and not draw attention to the obviously puerile connotations of his statement. I will be the bigger man… ummmm …. hehehehehe.

So, the “four-on-four” continues and we get to see Uncle Sam in action against The Barracuda:


This is great stuff! From the grabbing of the trident to the “I’m gonna unbend you!”, how can you not love it? I am a little confused by this emboding the “Spirit of America” business, but I suspended enough belief at this point to make it moot, really.

The fight between the Freedom Fighters and The Crusaders lasts another couple of pages, and it gets better and better. Take a look at this sequence:


KERBLAMMM” indeed. The Human Bomb’s power is that he causes explosions by touching things, and here he is punching this guy in the face. “KERBLAMMM”!

Even the Phantom Lady gets into the action:


Man, that Phantom Lady packs one hell of a …. What the hell? Really? They make her hit like a girl? Not even a sound effect? Shouldn’t we get some sort of “PHANTOM PUNCH!” or something? The creators of this comic seem to have some misogyny issues that I hope they have worked out in the ensuing thirty four years since they published this. The only two women in this comic have not been the most ideal of role-models so far.

Anyway, the Freedom Fighters defeat The Crusaders, of course, and then we get this little back story about the Crusaders origins:


That’s right, these are fanboys turned heros at a comic con by some kinda transformation ray thingy that IS NEVER EXPLAINED OR BROUGHT UP AGAIN. But come on, this is a fanboy uber-orgasam! And I love the look on the faces of the guys next to Fireball – I am laughing just typing this. On a side note, these four fanboys, Marvin, Lennie, Arch, and Roy are actually based on the real life comic creators Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Archie Goodwin, and Roy Thomas. These little inside jokes were great marketing tools that really brought fans into the “club” as it were. Nobody did it better that Stan Lee and Marvel Comics at this time, but this little moment is great.

But back to the story. Finally, The Ray and Doll Man catch up with The Americommando and his hostage. During the ensuing conflict, The Americaommando sends Doll Man plummeting to the ground to his certain death. It is at this moment that Doll Man gets to show off another power other than his all-intimidating ability to make himself very small:


Apparently Doll Man has “Mental Powers” as well. This dude is awesome! I love the art in this panel, too. I have no idea what is happening here and without the exposition my mind would bend completely.

The story ends with Doll Man choosing to stay with his reporter girlfriend rather than help The Ray go after The Americammando (who they now know is The Silver Ghost), which pisses of The Ray but seems to please Martha quite a bit.

After a full page ad for the “Amazing Air Breathing Crazy Crabs” (Guaranteed LIVE Delivery for only $2.98 plus fifty-two cents postage each), suddenly we find Doll Man at the office of N.Y.C. District Attorney, David Pearson. There’s a gunshot, Pearson yells “YARRGH!” and the cops bust in, point at Doll Man, and say “OMIGOD! He’s just MURDERED Mr. Pearson!” The fact that Doll Man is standing over Pearson’s body holding a smoking pistol doesn’t really help his case much.

And that’s it.

Like I said earlier, I love this comic. The fight scenes, the cheesy dialogue, the cliffhanger ending, the unresolved everything, the unexplained unexplainable, the fanboy shout-out – what’s not to love? This is a comic the way I remember comics back when I was a boy. This sort of story line, action, possibilities – this is what drew me in and I have enough of that boy buried deep in my scruff to still enjoy the hell out of it.

And for fifty cents? That’s less than a gallon of gas in 1977. I would guess that it is also a lot less than the cost of a four-on-four situation.

Hail the Freedom Fighters! Hail Rozakis! Hail Ayers and Abel! Hail DC comics for this!

P.S. DC is currently running a reboot of The Freedom Fighters with the same gang, but with a whole new gestalt. Comic great Jimmy Palmiotti is writing it, and it has gotten some attention. Sadly to say, the most attention it seems to be getting right now is its imminent cancellation. I guess it ain’t 1977 no more. Just go buy a gallon of gas and you’ll see how far we’ve come.