Friday, November 16, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 5

"WHEN YOU NEED AN EXTRA SOMETHING" | "IT'LL BE A COLD DAY"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

So after several story arcs which were mostly in the vein of the Filmation TV series that this comic strip ostensibly continues, we now reach... whatever this is. "When You Need an Extra Something" is, so far, the nadir of the strip. "The Time of Disasters", which we looked at last week, was bad, but it nonetheless felt like a sub-par episode of the cartoon. This subsequent arc, however, reads like a pitch that should have been firmly rejected at the earliest possible stage. It's not just awful, it's not HE-MAN. The entire plot is ludicrous and doesn't fit within the established world. (And this is a world that allows for a lot of crazy stuff!)


From the very beginning, we realize this isn't the Eternia we know, as Orko and Cringer argue over what TV show to watch. Prince Adam, meanwhile, is tasked by his father to escort a visiting princess to the theater that night -- and at the theater, the two are accosted by Eternian paparazzi; specifically a reporter and her film crew. Now, look -- I know high technology exists alongside sword and sorcery in He-Man's world. But having the characters watch television and populating the world with roving TV reporters is just absurd. These things are too mundane and "normal" for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

But that's not where the inanity of this tale ends. Before the evening's performance begins, Evil-Lyn appears on stage... to hock her new line of beauty products to the well-off ladies of Eternia. And everyond just lets her do it -- she gives a sales pitch, hands out free samples, and nobody attempts to stop or arrest her. Isn't she, like, wanted for war crimes or something? This seems the equivalent of an Al Qaeda lieutenant waltzing into the Super Bowl to hock Tupperware or something. It's offensively surreal and makes absolutely no sense.

Monday, November 12, 2018

SUPERMAN #18 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #441

“RETURN TO KRYPTON”
Story: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel | Lettering: Bill Oakley
Coloring: Petra Scotese | Assistant Editing: Renee Witterstaetter
Editing: Michael Carlin | and Special Guest Penciller: Mike Mignola

The Plot: Hawkman and Hawkwoman fly Superman to the former location of Krypton. There, Superman gets into a lead-lined spacesuit and flies outside, where he relives some of Krypton’s past and then hallucinates an alternate timeline in which Jor-El saved the people of his world and brought them all to Earth, only to watch as they enslaved the planet. Ultimately, Jor-El kills nearly all the other Kryptonians with an engineered plague, before coming face-to-face with the final living members of his race: Lara, ruler of Metropolis, and her son by Jor-El, Kal-El. Superman then awakens and the Hawks fly him home, where the Kryptonite radiation has passed.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: During his hallucination, Superman sees Jor-El find a cure for Kryptonite poisoning. Remembering the formula, he attempts to duplicate it after returning to Earth, but finds the resultant mixture inert.

This issue is drawn by Mike Mignola, who had also illustrated the Byrne-scripted WORLD OF KRYPTON mini-series in late 1987.

Friday, November 9, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 4

"REVOLUTION IN RONDALE" | "THE TIME OF DISASTERS"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

As I've noted in previous weeks, I really like that Chris Weber is injecting some elements into the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE comic strip that would never have been considered for the cartoon series since kids likely would've found them boring. A strip is just the place to do this sort of thing, though -- most action/adventure strips have some degree of soap opera thrown in, so even in a strip aimed primarily at kids, it's to be expected. And soap opera is exactly what Weber shoots for in our latest story arc, "Revolution in Rondale".

In this installment, Man-At-Arms's sweetheart, Miranda, returns to her homeland of Rondale when word reaches the Eternian palace of an uprising there, led by her one-time love, Prince Nicholai. Man-At-Arms and Prince Adam accompany Miranda as part of her diplomatic envoy, with Teela along as well for security. The group soon finds that Nicholai is being advised by an outsider named Count Roteleks. And if you just noticed that "Roteleks" is "Skeletor" spelled backwards, then you're about ten steps ahead of me! Although shortly after meeting him, Adam notes that Roteleks reminds him of someone, I somehow never noticed the reverse-spelling trick until it was revealed near the end of the story!


So we have Skeletor, in disguise, urging Nicholai into an attempt to overthrow his land's legitimate government, in the interest of gaining a new ally against the kingdoms of King Randor. Meanwhile, Prince Adam befriends young Prince Corwin, the rightful heir to Rondale's throne, and teaches him a few things about ruling compassionately. But when Skeletor shows his true colors and kidnaps both Corwin and a second-guessing Nicholai, Adam changes to He-Man and tracks his enemy down, saving the hostages. In the end, Nicholai renounces his rebellion and peace returns to Rondale.

Monday, November 5, 2018

ACTION COMICS #600

“DIFFERENT WORLDS”
Story & Breakdowns: John Byrne | Finishes: George Pérez
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko
Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman apologizes to Wonder Woman for kissing her without warning, then the two begin to chat. But their conversation is interrupted when Hermes appears and summons Diana to Olympus. Superman follows, but is separated from Wonder Woman upon arrival.

Hermes reveals to Wonder Woman that a group of New Gods invaded Olympus. Meanwhile, Darkseid and Desaad, observing the two heroes from a control room, send a fake Wonder Woman (actually Amazing Grace in disguise) to seduce Superman and a fake Superman (Kalibak in disguise) to clobber Wonder Woman. The heroes fight their enemies, who perform a switch to lure them into fighting one another, instead.

But Superman and Wonder Woman quickly discern the truth and find their way to Darkseid’s hideout. Confronted by the fact that he failed to kill them, Darkseid departs with Desaad, triggering explosives set around Olympus before leaving. But Olympus will only fall when the gods will it, and is unharmed by Darkseid’s treachery.

Superman and Wonder Woman return to Earth, where they decide that a romantic relationship is not meant to be, but they will be friends.

Friday, November 2, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 3

"EVIL UNDER THE STARS" | "ATTACK ON SNAKE MOUNTAIN"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

He-Man's next newspaper story arc, "Evil Under the Stars", adapts characters from the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE motion picture into comic strip form. Specifically, it's the three movie characters who received action figures in the original toyline, along with one unexpected (and, in my opinion, unwelcome) redesign of an established character.


The story begins with Blade, one of Skeletor's henchmen in the movie who is presented here as an unaligned pirate, making trouble in a village called Ettlain. Teela and her royal guards head out to stop him. Meanwhile, Man-At-Arms and a woman named Miranda are testing a new anti-gravity device. The pair is working in remote coordination with an invetor named Gwildor, who lives in Ettlain. He-Man soon arrives in Ettlain to challenge Blade, but finds the villain backed up by a lizard-man called Saurod. While the villains battle He-Man and Teela, Gwildor meets a woman of his species named Thalia -- but in actuality she is Evil-Lyn, disguised and using Blade and Saurod as a distraction in order to steal a McGuffin called the gravitonic oscillation grenade from Gwildor's workshop.

At this point, the strip taught me a brand-new word I had never before seen in my life: demesne (noun; land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use). It turns out Evil-Lyn has a little guest cabin outside of Snake Mountain, where she can get away from Skeletor now and then. She and the villains escape there, but Teela gives chase. She spies on them and learns that they're fed up with Skeletor and plan to leave Eternia for the planet Merrian -- a new world to conquer. Beast-Man shows up, suddenly drawn to resemble his movie counterpart (a significant and generic-looking downgrade from his distinctive Filmation design), and says he wants in on the exodus as well.

Monday, October 29, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #440

“THE HURRIEDER I GO”
Scripter/Co-Plotter : John Byrne | Penciller/Co-Plotter: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Dennis Janke | Colorist: Tony Tollin | Letterer: Albert de Guzman
Editor & Nervous Breakdowns: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman chats with Professor Hamilton, then departs for his date with Wonder Woman. On the way, he stops in Gotham City to retrieve the mystery scrapbook from Batman, then heads for Smallville, stopping a couple disasters along the way, to leave the book with his parents. Soon, Superman meets Wonder Woman in a field and plants a kiss on her.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman’s date with Wonder Woman was set up in WONDER WOMAN #16.

In the opening pages, we learn that Professor Hamilton has become Superman’s science-buddy, having built the robot that malfunctioned last issue, and perfected his force field as well. So I ranted a bit about the robot apparently appearing out of nowhere last issue, never suspecting Byrne planned to explain its origin in the very next installment. My apologies to Byrne on that matter! It’s a hard thing, trying to be critical of ongoing serialized stories. Especially when you’re as cantankerous as I am.

Jerry White chats with Jose Delgado at the hospital, and agrees to try once more to make amends with his father. The sub-plot regarding Perry taking leave from the Daily Planet to spend more time with his family, as established in one of Marv Wolfman’s final issues, seems to have been quietly swept under the rug.

Friday, October 26, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 2

"NINJOR STALKS BY NIGHT" | "TERROR TAKES TIME"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

What's that? You say you want a He-Man adventure that introduces a formidable new villain, that features a compelling plot, and that even throws in some soap opera style material, along with a better look at the Eternian governmental structure than anything ever seen on TV or in prior comics? Then friend, "Ninjor Stalks by Night" is the story for you!

Seriously, though -- I know we're only three story arcs in as of this tale, but it's easily the highlight of the newspaper strips thus far. We begin with a new villain, Ninjor, plotting to kill He-Man while, at the Royal Palace, Adam performs his usual "uninterested goof-off" routine to make sure no one realizes he and He-Man are the same person. Adam lamenting the fact that his secret forces him to keep up this front was something that popped up now and then in the Filmation series, as was his father's occasional disappointment in him -- but for the most part, it was usually case of "Oh, that Adam!" as everyone laughed things off in the end. (Which isn't to say the cartoon didn't delve into the relationship further than that once in a while; it certainly did. But mostly it was superficial.)


Ninjor's plan involves kidnapping Man-At-Arms and Extendar, to use them as bait for He-Man. Adam is about to change into He-Man and search for the missing duo when Randor finds him and assigns him "homework" for a council meeting the next day. But Adam blows off the assignment to search for his allies, instead. Interestingly, when Randor spots Adam holding his Power Sword above his head, the king tells his son to be careful handling the sword, because it's an heirloom. Now, while later MASTERS continuities would indeed establish that Adam and Randor are descendants of King Greyskull, the first warrior to wield the blade, in Filmation's storyline, it was established that the Sorceress held the weapon until the day it was time to give it to Adam. So, while the line was probably written as a throwaway, it turns out to disregard Filmation continuity and support an as-yet-uncreated continuity instead.