Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Howl!

Sometimes you feel like a nut, but this time you feel like a Wolfman, or Werewolf...

My favorite Universal Monster is the Mummy, but, I really like the Wolfman as well.  The Mummy has had some bad movies about him, but, I like him due to my adoration of Ancient Egyptian history.   It works as comfort food to me.

But, I am well aware that the Wolfman, werewolves and all are more violent, more sexy, more connected to the human desire to abandon human civility and to become wild.  There have been books, movies, games and probably music that references the Wolfman.

This column is to show some books, a game, and movies regarding the beast.

Wiktionary's Definition
Etymology

From Middle English werwolf, from Old English werwulf, from Proto-Germanic *werawulfaz, from Proto-Germanic *weraz (“man”) + *wulfaz (“wolf”). Equivalent to wer +‎ wolf or were- +‎ wolf. Cognate with Dutch weerwolf, Low German Warwulf, German Werwolf, Danish varulv, Swedish varulv.

Compare also French garou, in loup-garou, French dialectal gairou, varou (“werewolf”), Medieval Latin gerulphus, garulphus (“werewolf”) (from Germanic).

Pronunciation

(UK) IPA(key): /ˈwɛːwʊlf/, /ˈwɪəwʊlf/
(US) IPA(key): /ˈwɛəɹwʊlf/, /ˈwɪəɹwʊlf/, /ˈwɜɹwʊlf/

Noun

werewolf (plural werewolves)

(mythology) A person who is transformed or can transform into a wolf or a wolflike human, often said to transform during a full moon.


THE GAME: RAGE THE APOCALYPSE


BOOKS



MOVIES // DVDs


Monday, March 27, 2017

The super heroic Soviet heroes


In the early 1940s the US, USSR, and the UK led the efforts to defeat Fascist countries in World War II.  Americans met Soviet counterparts at the River Elbe, in 1945.  In the next 5 years allies became enemies, during a stand off called the Cold War.  The Korean war, the Vietnam war and other conflicts became chessboards between the players of US and Nato allies, versus the Warsaw Pact and the USSR. 



The Cuban Missile crisis, between the US and USSR over the island of Cuba being nuclear armed by the Soviets, nearly led to a nuclear conflict.  Reviews of the records from the day showed how very close we came to tragedy.

There was a rivalry between the USSR and the US to reach the Moon, and explore space.  The Soviets arrived in space first, but the US landed upon the moon in 1969. 

In 1963 John F. Kennedy was killed.  Some policy makers believed it was due to Soviet KGB and proxies.  The US CIA plotted to assassinate Fidel Castro.  They failed.


When Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Warsaw Pact, many of the NATO allies were shocked that the Soviets acted with haste.  As much as anywhere else the invasion showed that there were Nato and Warsaw Pact forces that, if wrongly pushed, could lead to a greater war.

In 1979 when Afghanistan was invaded by troops of the USSR,  American President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott and for other actions to punish the country.   Along with this Iran had overthrown their Rightist leader for a Islamic revolutionary leadership.  This led to a taking of hostages at the US Embassy.

The first sign of hope for the West that the Russian bear was not as powerful as he seemed happened in Poland, when there was a Labor Union movement that resisted the Soviet form of governance.  It called itself Solidarity.  The Communists stepped back.  They didn't leave Poland, but for the first time in years some of the power and control over the people in Poland had been surrendered to a union of people.  Like the Kronstadt revolution, it wasn't an act by the Monarchists or Right wing, it was the people taking back the right to govern themselves in a true representative fashion.  They were likely still hardcore Socialist.  They weren't willing, however, to accept the Soviet Puppet Polish Communist leaders.

In 1980's Olympics the American team of amateurs defeated the Soviet Union team, of well compensated veterans of hockey.  And then the US followed that with a defeat of Finland.  America felt a small rush.  And then, when the US elected President Ronald Reagan, numerous factors caused the US to rise, and the Soviet fortunes to fall.

Eventually Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR over saw the retreat of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe, and the Berlin Wall fell, in 1991.  The Cold War seemed to be over, and the West had won.



The Soviets lost.  But who really wins when two former allies square off and arm themselves with enough weapons to repeatedly destroy the world?

Here is a list of comic books with Soviet/Russian heroes, and some with simply propaganda stories.  They are all interesting, and some better than others.

CRIMSON DYNAMO 
John Jackson Miller Story
Steve Ellis and Joe Coroney Art

Marvel Epic

Russian collegiate Gennady Gavrilov became the eighth Crimson Dynamo after he found the helmet of a "Beta unit" designed by Anton Vanko based on but improved over the original, with its very own recharging satellite in orbit. Believing the helmet to be a sophisticated gaming system, Gavrilov caused the dormant armor to awaken and make its way towards the helmet, inadvertently leaving a trail of destruction. He would eventually, if briefly, wear the entire armor in a standoff with the Russian military. He kept the armor afterward.   (Source Wiki)


THE KGBeast
Jim Starlin words
Jim Aparo and Dan Decarlo art

Anatoli Knyazev (Russian: Анато́лий Кня́зев, Anatoliy Knyazev), code-named "The Beast", and known to the C.I.A. as the "KGBeast" was trained as an assassin by "The Hammer," a top secret cell of the KGB. In addition to being the master of several martial arts, his strength was cybernetically enhanced, and he had also mastered the use of every deadly weapon known. At the time of his first appearance, he was rumored to have killed at least 200 people, including Anwar El Sadat.  (Source WIKI)

Superman Red Son
Mark Millar words
Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett art

The story mixes alternate versions of DC super-heroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy.  In Red Son, Superman's rocket ship lands on a Ukrainian collective farm rather than in Kansas, an implied reason being a small time difference (a handful of hours) from the original timeline, meaning Earth's rotation placed Ukraine in the ship's path instead of Kansas. Instead of fighting for "... truth, justice, and the American Way", Superman is described in Soviet radio broadcasts "... as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact." His "secret identity" (i.e. the name his adoptive parents gave him) is a state secret.  (Source WIKI)


Green Lantern Corps character Kilowog had come from a planet that had a history similar to the Soviet Union.  He didn't get along perfectly with the government, not being a politically centered hero.  But he helped the Soviets create the Rocket Reds.  While they were a Soviet team of heroes who fought evil, they were also led by Communist Party principles.

Black Widow of Marvel Comics was a Russian spy, who was both lovely and dangerous.  She was a Spy, and Soviet, but also a hero.  She crossed the tight wire of Super Power politics with some difficulty.

Colossus was a hero from the Soviet Union, being a mutant who could transform himself from Flesh to Steel.  Various themes of Soviet Iron workers and such could be pasted upon him.

Red Guardian was a Soviet version of Captain America.  He was an equal opposite, but was not always an enemy of the Captain.

When the Soviet Union fell various themes of the Communist state became less apt and useful.  But the stories of the characters in the present soon changed from serving the Soviet state to instead serving the Russian state, post Cold War collapse.


The Red Star is a comic book series that took inspiration from the Communist state art, and mixes with this an alternative history of the Soviet Union, without the eventual collapse experienced in the current reality.  It is a work that is very bright and shining, but sadly with too little coming out to support the overall franchise.


In the late 1940s throughout the 1950s American publishers used the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact as they had earlier Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  In order to raise awareness of the Communist threat, publishers and organizations used comics to help tell their story.  There are/were many differences between Nazism and Communism, but in the real world Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler.  And so, there was perhaps a valid comparison between the two.





Sunday, March 19, 2017

BLOODSPORT AND SPECTACLE

From Dictionary.com noun
1.  anything presented to the sight or view, especially something of a striking or impressive kind: The stars make a fine spectacle tonight.

2. a public show or display, especially on a large scale:
The coronation was a lavish spectacle.


From the depths of human history humans have watched spectacle for entertainment.  From gladiatorial battles, with death as a resolution.  Humans were fed to lions, bears, and other wild creatures.  And the audiences of such roared their approval.  Christians, Pagans, Muslims, Jews were made to die for various audiences.   Death was the end result of the episode of entertainment.




Humans captured wild animals, and would chain them to a stake.  Bear bating, Dog bating, human bating, all occurred.  To the roar of appreciation from the audience.  Compassion for the fallen was not a common trait.  Those entertained by spectacle, desired to watch violence for their own pleasure.


Bare knuckle fighting, bull fights and more existed into the modern era.  Violence entertains, blood is a bonus. 

Boxing thrived as a sport, with rules of engagement that limited damage to the participants.  But boxing has fallen in interest, in favor of the Mixed Martial Arts world.  The origins of MMA included very few rules, and many injuries.  It was the bloodsport that boxing would not, couldn't become.


And now, modern culture practices spectacle, through virtual reality, video games.  It watches violent events such as MMA or movies about violent events, without conscience.

Mostly, now, we watch other people live, and the more odd, violent, ugly, bloody, the better.  Reality television has become the provider of the drug of intimacy, where one needs no relationship or knowledge, but can enjoy the secret, private, spectacle of others.



In popular culture we can experience the spectacle, bloodsport that feeds our need for violence, or the pornographic false intimacy of porn, of reality television, and watching various news stories that show human event in the darkest most exploitative light in existence.

We also play and watch soldiers in war.  We have sent off our youth in battle continuously since 2001.  We've brought up a generation who has never known any form of peace.  Sadly, the cost of such entertainment is death.

We have poured out the vintage of youth, we have been addicted to bloodsport, and violence, and the world we live in is experiencing entropy.

God save us from ourselves.




Stories of Serious Heroes


The wave of movies based upon super heroes has been good for comic books, in many ways.  The source material for these movies, the books have for decades been more serious than the general public understood or believed.  Some of the reason that the comic books were not taken as seriously as the medium was, was that in the beginning comics were aimed at kids, both in terms of tone, and price point and target audience.  The comic book industry boomed at various points, but in particular during World War II and the Korean conflict.  The reason for the boom wasn't sales to children, it was US servicemen and women who had time, and money, when not in action.  But these were also considered throw away material.  10 cent paper magazines didn't fare well for long term collection, when in a bunker, or foxhole, or ship bay.  Along with the temporary nature of small paper magazines in war zones, the general trend was to share among friends.


While comics became more serious in the years beyond the war years, the comic book industry at various times suffered a lack of sales, loss of publishers, and contraction.  But during the 1960s the industry experienced rebirth.  However, it became less diverse in genres, and more focused upon super heroes as the genre and subject matter.  Some people do not read super hero comics, and prefer spies, romance, horror and more.  But the industry focused upon the sales they had, rather than support less saleworthy books.


As stories of super heroes are the most fantastic of genres, many people suggested that super hero comics were not serious, were not "art", and were not doing anything new. 

The arrival of serious stories in the comic book industry had roots in new artists and new writers using the previously established heroes and reimagining them.  Also, comics moved from kids comics, DC Comics and Marvel Comics and underground comix, to a wide proliferation of new publishers, and a new form of the market, called the direct market.  This led to an explosion of intelligent, different, and more adult works. 


It is certainly true that the comics published during the 1980s were either modern and intelligent, or artifacts of a previous era, childlike, amateurish, or out of step with the general market it had targeted. 

In the present there are many comics than people can pick up that are miles and miles away from the silly, quaint, childish books that existed before the 1980s.  The industry faced accusations of offering children adult content.  And there were arguments within the industry, trying to secure an area for the modern creative voice, among the industry that still wanted the sales from children. 


But children, in the 80s up to the present, have a vast number of other entertainment sources that can be more interactive, stood up to repeat viewings, or play, that occupied the niche comics formerly had.  Some critics think super heroes automatically placed comics, in general, in the ghetto of dismissive attitudes towards the medium, belief that comics remained for children, and that adult orientated stories using super heroes were wrongly aimed.

The truth, however, is that comic books are a medium, and just like television, radio, film, animation, there is no overarching judge to keep work from readers.  It follows that if a product is for sale, whoever buys it becomes the audience.  IF super heroes are childlike, foolish, unbelievable, they would appeal to children.  But the average reader is not a child, so that viewpoint becomes nullified.

What super heroes are, and can become, is stories.  They are stories using heroes in costume just as the people of the past used myth and legends as entertainment.  They are often written as allegories for modern problems, and can be seen as a means by which to explore issues. 

Whether the issue in the comic book story is the question of what is a hero, or who will defend the country or people, or how much trust do our heroes deserve, the stories can all be told in layered, intelligent work, that provides both entertainment and provocation of reflection.


The comic images shown here are to give offerings of serious super hero stories, that will be worth reading and gaining a respect for the works that treat themselves as being worthy of serious thought.

They can all be found upon Amazon, Ebay, or a local comics store.

COMIC BOOK STORE LOCATOR



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bernie Wrightson

BIO of Bernie Wrightson

The world of art, comic books, and horror mourn the loss of a talented creative force, Bernie Wrightson.   There is no reason to write more than his name, and to add many images.  He was a sought after talent, and was especially famous for his Swamp Thing creation with Len Wein, and his work regarding Mary Shelley's  Frankenstein.

Rest in peace brilliant artist.  Bernie Wrightson (October 27, 1948- March 19, 2017)

All images are copyright Bernard Wrightson estate, and copyright owners.  There is no assumption of ownership by this author.