Saturday, December 08, 2007

Separated at Birth: Don't Yield, Copy S.H.I.E.L.D.*!

Nick Fury #4/100 Bullets #12/Wolverine #27/Iron Man: Director of SHIELD
Top L: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 (September 1968), art by Jim Steranko
Top R: 100 Bullets #12 (July 2000), art by Dave Johnson
Bottom L: Wolverine v .2 #27 (June 2005), art by Greg Land and Richard Isanove
Bottom R: Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. trade paperback (2007), art by Adi Granov
(Click picture to helicarri-size)
See also, kinda.

*pSychedelic Hip Images of Escher-Like Disorientation

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Super Santa in "Jingle Bell Justice"

"Jingle Bell Justice" starring Super Santa and Emma (2006), directed by Mike Bell

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Temple before their birth, solution saturated with gods that are almost insoluble...: Gong!

Sure, Spider-Man teamed up with The Not Ready for Prime Time players on Saturday Night Live in 1978...
Marvel Team-Up #74

...and the Avengers appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in 1984...
Avengers #239

...but the man who did it first, the hero who burst onto a 1977 network TV show before any of these super-heroes, was, of course, ever-lovin' blue-eyed Mister Benjamin J. Grimm: The Thing, fighting a giant robot duplicate of himself (running amok on the set of a Fantastic Four movie), a Friday Night Fight that busts right onto TV's hottest game show of the late 1970s. No, not Match Game '77 or Let's Make a Deal...but Chuck Barris's cult classic The Gong Show!

FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
FF Annual #12 panel
All panels are from Fantastic Four Annual #12 (1977), script by Marv Wolfman, penciled by Bob Hall (except for faces of Gong Show celebrities which are penciled by Marie Severin), inked by Bob Wiacek, colored by Glynis Wein, lettered by John Costanza

NBC logoIt's pretty fair game to poke fun at Marvel for jumping on board pop culture bandwagons long after their ships have sailed (to mix a metaphor), but give the House of Ideas some credit in their timely TV team-ups: this FF annual came out in the summer of 1977, only one year into the four year run of the popular Gong Show. 1981's Avengers #239 appeared in 1984, just when the popular Late Night with David Letterman was in year 2 of its 11 year run on NBC, and MTU #74 captured the fervor for Saturday Night Live in its fourth year on the air. The show's still running but I'm not 'lowed to stay up that late and watch it—don't weep for me, Bully-fans, I'm in love with Miss Tina Fey on 30 Rock and I can watch that all I want. So, for every Dazzler that premieres after disco is dead and buried or U.S. 1 that debuts long after the "Convoy" 45s have been tossed in the 49¢ bin, at least Marvel had its finger on the pulse of what the nation was watching in those colorful pre-cable days. Either that or Stan had cut a contract with GE: all three of the shows featured in these comics ran on NBC. I wonder how many free light bulbs they got in the Bullpen for that deal?

Today, of course, I'd like to see Marvel do the same. Why not Daredevil on Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Watch the sexy fun as Tony Stark moves onto Wisteria Lane and seduces all the Desperate Housewives! Doctor Don Blake guest-stars and is quickly nicknamed "McGoldilocks" on a steamy Grey's Anatomy! Nick Fury pops up from hiding to show Jack Bauer how it's done on 24! And of course, The Hulk on America's Next Top Model.

Gosh. I really wanna run Marvel Comics now. Sigh.

Unknown to most, Bahlactus is the true face of the Unknown Comic.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Wodehouse a Week #32: The Luck of the Bodkins

A Wodehouse a Week banner

Stuffed Mickey Mouse with screw-top headMuch as I'd wish otherwise, there aren't many Wodehouse books whose plots spiral around a stuffed animal. Oh sure, I can see it now: Bully at Blandings. What Ho, Bully! The Inimitable Bully. Eggs, Bully and Crumpets. But sadly, I'm not in any of 'em. But there is a Wodehouse that stars...well, if not stars, then certainly would be the poorer for the absence of...a stuffed animal: a plush Mickey Mouse that serves the vital purpose of being the essential Silver Cow Creamer (S.C.C.) in The Luck of the Bodkins (1935).

I've spoken of The Luck of the Bodkins in brief previously, so I'm chuffed as Clarabelle Cow to be picking it up this week—it's one of my favorite Wodehouses (Wodehice?), and I've mentioned it so frequently you might think I've already reviewed it. Au contraire, ma petite fromage! You might be thinking of the other Monty Bodkin novels: Heavy Weather (which precedes the events of Luck) or Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin which immediately follows it, even though it was written almost forty years later. So stop complaining at Miss Rowling because she took two or three years between volumes of her The Amazing Bespectacled Boy Wizard Does Fabulous Things with a Wand and His Two Tag-Along Mates series: Wodehouse made us wait nearly four decades for the trilogy capper.

Despite—or, if Wodehouse was going in for a touch of the old irony, because of—the title, Monty Bodkin is not having an easy time of it. When we left him in Heavy Weather, he was being forced to hold down a job for a period of one year before J. G. Butterwick, protective father of Monty's fiancée Gertrude. It's not that Monty needs money—he's simply rolling in the stuff—but that old J. G. won't allow Gertrude to slip on the wedding band to a man with no earning capability. Easy enough for Monty to solve: he's bought himself a position as a nominal employee in a detective agency, simply paying to be employed for a year to fulfill the contract. And as he steps aboard the R.M.S. Atlantic for the trans...uh...Atlantic crossing, all seems right with the world, with Gertrude Butterwick, and with a future so bright, Monty will have to wear a tinted monocle.

Of course, there's storms on the horizon. Not literally (although Wodehouse fits in a swift but rather nifty description of exactly how you feel during rough weather on the high seas), but storms in the form of titian-tressed Hollywood starlet Lotus Blossom (whadda name!), her fiancé Ambrose Tennyson (Gertrude Butterwick's cousin), Ambrose's brother Reggie Tennyson, who's in love with Mabel Spence, who is the sister-in-law of Ivor Llewellyn. Yes, that Ivor Llewellyn: Hollywood movie mogul, and frequent guest star in Wodehouse's world whenever a portly producer of pictures (moving) is called for. Circle the whole cast of characters around like wagons under siege now, because Llewellyn's startled and suspicious of "professional detective" Monty. Why? What would make a powerful man of commerce and producer like Llewellyn (who, as an aside, really needs his own Wikipedia entry, since the number one Google result in searching for his name turns up my own blog) quake in his five hundred dollar spats? Why, the shadow of his off-stage but powerfully-presenced wife Grayce, who has ordered Llewellyn to smuggle a valuable $50,000 pearl necklace into New York without paying the duty. Llewellyn's sure Monty's spying on him and will toss his posterior in the pokey the moment he sets foot on American soil. So Llewellyn will do anything, anything to have the problem of how to get the necklace into America safely...

Most of The Luck of the Bodkins except for the opening chapters and closing chapters is set on board the Atlantic, and while it may not be as brilliant a shipboard comedy as that paragon of passenger sail A Night at the Opera, Wodehouse gets a great deal of guffaws and giggles out of the conventions of transatlantic passage. Monty is unceremoniously shuffled from room to room throughout the voyage to put distance between himself and the alluring, flirty Lotus Blossom (or to do the same for Reggie), and there's much fun to be had over a shipboard concert, but the star of the Atlantic (and the Sensational New Character Find of 1935) is Albert Peasemarch, the loquacious ship's porter, who firmly wedges himself into the affairs of every character in a cheerful and meddling way, as when he advises an inattentive and daydreaming Monty on affairs of the heart:
'The fact of the matter is, sir, women haven't got the heads men have got. I believe it's something to do with the bone structure.'

'True," said Monty. He adjusted his tie and looked at it critically in the mirror. A little sigh escaped him. It was not a bad tie. He would go further, it was a jolly good tie. But it was not the tie with the pink roses on the dove-grey background.

'Take my old mother,' proceeded Albert Peasemarch, with that touch of affectionate reproach which comes to a thoughtful man when he contemplates the shortcomings of the opposite sex. 'Always losing and forgetting things, she is. She could never keep her spectacles by her for two minutes on end. Many a rare hunt I've had for them when I was a young chap. She's have lost those spectacles if she'd been alone on an iceberg.'


'My mother, sir.'

'On an iceberg?'

'Yes, sir.'

'When was your mother ever on an iceberg?'

Albert Peasemarch perceived that his remarks had not secured his overlord's undivided attention.
In fact, so boisterously bombastic is Peasemarch that the front dust jacket of one of my editions of The Luck of the Bodkins proudly declares "Introducing Albert Peasemarch—steamship steward extraordinary, who will take his rightful place beside Jeeves, Psmith, Mr. Mulliner and the other Wodehouse immortals." Well, not exactly. But he does dramatically liven up this book, and like Jeeves himself, provides the twist ending that brings a happy conclusion to the loving couples, every man and girl jack and jacqueline of them, and even necklace-relieved Ivor Llewellyn is whistling a happy tune by the final page.

Which is not to say that there aren't, like waves upon the stormy sea, many ups and downs on the voyage. There's—just off the top of my head—the flirty message written in brilliant red lipstick by Lotus Blossom on the wall of Monty's stateroom bath. The tattoo on Monty's chest proclaiming his love for "Sue" rears its inked head again after complicating matters in Heavy Weather. Monty convincing Gertrude that Reggie is a dastardly liar to help him reconcile with her after a spat, only to have that same argument blow up in his face later in the novel when Reggie tries to argue to Gertrude that Monty is on the level and not making woo-eyes at Lotus Blossom. Don't forget Lotus's charming pet, Wilfred the toothy alligator, stowed away in a basket on board (luckily escaping the fatal fate of Eustace the monkey in Uneasy Money).

And oh, that plush Mickey Mouse? Why, he gets the most attention of them all. Bought as a gift for Gertrude by Monty, this charming stuffed toy is actually hollow with a screw-off head so you can put chocolates in him. While I heartily approve of the concept and especially the practice of putting chocolates into your nearest stuffed animal, the idea of screwing off my head to do so caused me to wince and cry out when I first read it in the book. But the plush mouse is passed back and forth from Gertrude to Monty (whenever she is angry with him she furiously returns it). Lotus literally takes the Mickey, holding it for ransom to get Monty to convince Ivor Llewellyn to give Ambrose back his job, Llewellyn having backed out of a contract when he discovered Ambrose Tennyson was not the Tennyson. And hey, wouldn't a stuffed animal with a hollow compartment in it be a dandy place to hide a pearl necklace you might need to smuggle through customs? Could be! Um, only in theory, of course. Please do not use me to defraud the United States Customs authority the next time we are on a transatlantic trip together.

The Luck of the Bodkins holds a special place in my heart not merely for putting a plush brethren front and center in the action but also for being, I think, one of Wodehouse's most delightful comedies of error: complicated character connections made crystal clear by Wodehouse' precise and lyrical writing, and an plot that id an elaborate balancing-act: add a pebble to either side and the whole shebang teeters precariously, but never to the point of total knock-it-down disaster. Wodehouse is the master of tossing just the right pebble to watch the action rock back and forth, and even though by the end we've got our sea legs and are rocking right along with him, he as usual always has a few final twists to give the last chapter a breathless breakneck speed.

And of course, his writing. There are so many little Post-It™ tabs sticking out of my reading copy of The Luck of the Bodkins that I easily could have made this entire column just excerpts from the novel which made me giggle with glee. Here're a few of my favorite bits:
The steward's face suddenly cleared. He looked like a man who has been poring over a clue in a crossword puzzle, at a loss to divine what 'large Australian bird' can possibly be, and in an unexpected flash has had it come to him. Just as such a man will quiver in every limb and cry 'Emu!', just as Archimedes on a well-known occasion quivered in every limb and cried 'Eureka!'—so now did Albert Peasemarch quiver in every limb and cry 'Coo!'

'Coo, sir!' cried Albert Peasemarch.
A sudden illumination came to Gertrude.

'Why, how silly of me. You're sailing too, aren't you?'

'Well, would I be up at a ghastly hour like this, if I wasn't?'

'Of course, yes. The family are sending you off to Canada, to work in an office. I remember hearing father talking about it.'

'He,' said Reggie coldly, 'was the spearhead of the movement.'

'Well, it's about time. Work is what you want.'

'Work is not what I want. I hate the thought of it.'
Here's Ivor Llewellyn reading an alarming letter from his shrew of a wife, Grayce:
Mr Llewellyn took the bulky envelope from her and opened it. As he perused its contents by the light of the library window, his lower jaw drifted slowly from its moorings, so that by the time he had finished his second chin had become wedged into the one beneath it.
And Monty getting the last word in edgewise over Albert Peasemarch:
'I am, of course, aware,' proceeded Albert Peasemarch, with a dignified humility which became him well, 'that it is not my place to offer criticism or censure, but if I may take the liberty of saying so, I have become respectfully attached to you in the course of the voyage, sir, and I have your best interests at heart. And I say—Is this wise? If you insist upon me taking this letter to Miss Blossom, I will, of course, do so, being always willing to oblige, but I say again—Is this wise?'

'Peasemarch,' said Monty, 'you're an ass.'
And, of course:
Wodehouse with pipeNovelists of the virile school ought to be prohibited by law from having themselves photographed with pipes in their mouths. It is not fair on those of the public who suddenly catch sight of them. It makes them look so strong and stern that the observer cannot but sustain a nasty shock.
With all the lovey-doveyness and happy endings going on that reunite Monty and Gertrude, however, it's interesting to remember that in the eventual sequel, Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin, Monty eventually does find his one True Love—and it ain't Gertrude. So, to quote another brilliant bard who knew a thing or too about affairs of the heart, Monty and Gertrude's storm-tossed romance in The Luck of the Bodkins is, eventually, much ado about nothing. But what an ado!

You too can coo an ado by heading over to, zon dot com and clicking yourself up your very own copy of The Luck of the Bodkins in the link to the right. Me, I've already got several copies of this seafaring classic, including the Everyman Wodehouse hardcover reissue, two versions of a war-era US hardcover reprint by Triangle Press (with one that's delightfully dustjacketed with that blurb heralding Albert Peasemarch as the new comic superstar), and two versions of a Penguin mass market-sized paperback, both of which feature illustrations of that rodent royale, the stuffed Mickey Mouse, on their covers:
Fake Mickey Mice

...neither of which looks, really, anything at all like the real Mickster of 1935—say, in his classic cartoon "The Band Concert"...

But hey, I'm not complaining. I know how litigious Disney is, and the last thing I want them to do is to sue Mister Wodehouse, his publishers, and, because I'm cheerfully working my way through a Wodehouse a Week, me. I'd much rather stay at home and stuff the hollow spot in my tummy with chocolates.

A Wodehouse a Week Index.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow/Why, oh why, can't I?

I bet you know this feeling: sometimes your little head fulla beans just gets a stubborn question stuck in it and you can't get it out. You know, one of the important questions of life and philosophy that have puzzled man- and bullkind down the centuries. Where did Cain get his wife? Who built the pyramids? Who shot J.R.? And of course, the most brain-warping question of them all, one that has had me scratching my head until my hoof was sore: What is Magneto's favorite movie?

You know, you might think that's a pretty easy question to answer right off the bat. "Schindler's List," you might suggest, or "I bet Magneto's favorite flick is The Sorrow and the Pity." Possibly it might occur to you that ol' Buckethead pops in his DVD of Shoah when nobody else is around and has himself a good old cry. Then again, you simply can't deny the appeal of Saturday Night Fever to Mister Lensherr.

Well, we here at BullyLabs, after extensive research and investigation, can finally answer the question that has stymied the great minds of our time. "What is Magneto's favorite movie?" you ask? And I answer, with solid authority, "Why, a certain 1939 musical classic starring Miss Judy Garland, a film that has become a family favorite for almost seventy years, of course!"

Need some proof?
Magneto's favorite movie

Need some proof that doesn't consist of hastily cobbled-together Photoshop panels? Well, note how a certain iconic scene in that movie...
Surrender Dorothy adopted and homaged by slavish fanboy Magneto during his very first terrorist activity upon homo sapiens?:
Love, Magneto

Come to think of it, wouldn't an X-Men/Oz crossover adventure be the bee's knees? Magneto could ally himself with the Nome King (whom he would ruthlessly betray and threaten with magnetically-levitated eggs), safely crossing the Deadly Desert on magnetic fields to invade Oz. If he invades from the west, he'd certainly have no trouble cutting through Oz's first line of defense, Nick Chopper the Tin Woodsman:
Nick Chopper

...or mechanical man Tik-Tok:

Why, with those mutant magnetic powers, Magneto would crush Dorothy's Magic Belt and bend the Love Magnet into a pretzel! All would be at its darkest for Ozma and company until the X-Men arrive (the original line-up of five plus Professor X, please) to team up with our favorite Ozians to defeat Magneto in a cunning plan co-conceived by the two Professors: Charles Xavier and H. M. Wogglebug, T.E.

Of course, it should all be drawn by Colleen Coover, doncha think?

Ah well. A little stuffed bull can dream, can't he? Still, whatever you do, never make fun of Magneto's favorite movie:
Mags 'n' the Toad

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This cat Aunt May is one bad mutha.../Shut yo' mouth!/I'm jus' talkin' 'bout Aunt May!

The best-laid plans of rodents and regular guys gang aft agley, 'cording to Major Frank Burns, so please kindly wait for your regularly scheduled A Wodehouse a Week to appear a little later this...uh...week. (It's a longer book than I expected and I'm not quite through re-reading it yet!) Speaking of mice, here's a clue about which book I'm readin':
Mickey Mouse doll

In the meantime, and because this is Comics Oughta Be Fun!, after all...I present to you one of my favorite Marvel Comics cameo appearances of all time: a quite-unexpected guest shot by a certain Ms. M. Parker in the pages of Fantastic Four #260, smack-dab in the midst of a battle between the FF, Terrax the Tamer, and the redoubtable Doctor Doom. You'd think such a frail and sensitive elderly lady would scamper away home to Queens at the first sign of trouble, wouldn't you? Uh uh...because our Miss May is full of piss and vinegar:
FF #260 panel
FF #260 panel
FF #260 panel
Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #260 (November 1983), written and drawn by John Byrne, coloring by Glynis Wein, lettering by Jim Novak

Say what you want about John Byrne's personal politics...and I often do...but you can't deny that he writes Aunt May as a complete badass. Because that dude in the blue shirt in the second panel May badmouths Dr. Doom to? Why, that's Doom himself (just body-switched using the Ovoid mind-swapping technique he learned years ago in a Lee/Kirby issue).

What does that mean? It means that May Parker called Doctor Doom nasty to his face and lived to tell the tale.

I repeat. Aunt May: complete badass.

Monday, December 03, 2007

House ads oughta be fun!

I'm back from the frozen lands of Central New York where I attended the surprise birthday party of John's sister Lorrie (Happy Birfday, Aunt Lorrie!) and got stuck there Sunday night when our flight was cancelled. So, I've returned to Brooklyn a day later and a tote bag full of snowballs richer, which means Wodehouse tomorrow to let me catch up. Tonight? Why not feast your eyes on some wild and wacky Marvel Comics 1980s house ads? Well, why doncha?

House ad from Fantastic Four Annual #18 (1984)

House ad from Fantastic Four #291 (June 1986)

House ad from Fantastic Four #268 (July 1984)

House ad from Fantastic Four Annual #16 (1981)

House ad from Fantastic Four #290 (May 1986)

House ad from Fantastic Four Annual #20 (1987)