Marvel Two-In-One #4: Doomsday 3014

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Cover date: July 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Sal Buscema

Inker: F. Giaoia

Letter: C. Jetter

Colorist: P. Goldberg

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #1,#2 and #3, Fantastic Four #5 (sorta, Doom’s time machine is pivotal to the plot)

This feels a little slight, perhaps due to the double page splash that eats up the page count with little plot advancement. However, it does have the BADOON.

The Badoon are an alien race I was unduly fascinated with as a teenager as the Marvel RPG provided stats for them, but no picture. I knew all the other aliens mentioned from comics I had read at the time, but the Badoon eluded me for decades until picking up the reprints of this and the Defenders. They didn’t live up to the exoticism those FASERIP stats had given them.

More importantly to the Marvel Universe, this issue is where Gerber begins to reintroduce the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in a one shot Marvel Super-Heroes story in 1969, they had remained unused since, until Gerber revived them in this book, The Defenders and Marvel Presents.

This issue starts with Ben and Wundarr visiting the Central Park Zoo. Ben takes his eyes off Wundarr for a second and the manchild has let out all the animals. You’d think after the Lizard’s frequent escape parties at the reptile house they’d have better security at this point.

This interferes with a date Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers are taking in the park, so he suits up and becomes Captain America. And to add to the coincidences, Namorita happens to be walking through the park with her friend Annie.

After everything gets sorted, Ben invites Steve and Sharon back to the Baxter Building to explain what’s going on with Wundarr. During this Ben accidentally switches on Doom’s time machine and summons a princess from over 1000 years in the future.

She explains that she is Tarin, and that she comes from the year 3014, when the Badoon have enslaved the solar system. Captain American wants to head to the future to help out, and Ben & Sharon want to go with him. So Reed sends the three of them with Tarin back to the future. Where they are immediately ambushed by a pack of ZOMS. The Badoon, taking a page out of the Dalek playbook, have created these Zoms, men turned into living machines to serve the aliens.

The heroes do OK against them, but then the unoriginally named “MONSTER OF BADOON” shows up and lays them out. As the three heroes are dragged off, Tarin look on from a hiding place swearing vengeance as we end the issue.

NEXT ISSUE: THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! (not those ones, the original ones)

Marvel Two-In-One #3: Inside Black Spectre

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Cover date: May 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Sal Buscema

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Dave Hunt

Colorist: P. Goldberg

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #2, Daredevil #109, Shanna The She Devil #4, Ka-Zar #2.

This is a Daredevil story that is appearing in The Thing’s book, as it continues Daredevil’s battles with Black Spectre. Which in turn is actually a continuation of a Shanna The She Devil story. All of which Steve Gerber wrote or co-wrote.

I have a fondness for grand stories that just happen to be told across whatever Marvel titles a writer ends up writing at the time. Jim Starlin’s tales of Thanos are probably the most obvious of these, but I have a fondness for Joe Casey’s tales that spread from Cable in the 90s to Vengeance just a few years ago.

This comic though, it’s not really moving things forward, it’s more treading water.

Two things are advanced here for the ongoing Two-In-One storyline, it’s confirmed that Wundarr is an adult man with the education of a newborn infant and Reed creates him a suit to control his powers. Not exactly exciting stuff.

It does lead to Daredevil’s appearance in this book as during the tests on Wundarr there’s an explosion, which ol’ hornhead thinks might be another Black Spectre attack and investigates (every superhero in Manhattan is but an explosion’s earshot away from one another).

Once he realises it’s the FF that have caused the explosion he goes to the Baxter Building to give them a piece of his mind about setting off explosions in the middle of the city. There he meets Wundarr, for whom Reed has built a special suit that will prevent him exploding again. And between panels, Daredevil and Ben explain their ongoing story lines to one another.

Daredevil then goes to see Foggy Nelson and Shanna O’Hara (aka Shanna the She-Devil). She thinks Black Spectre has something to do with the Mandrill, the mutant supervillan who kidnapped, and subsequently murdered, her father.

Then changing back into street clothes, Matt Murdock goes on a date with Candace Nelson, Foggy’s half-sister. This date involves going to heavy handed parody of avant garde theatre, which ends in a hypnotised actor portraying Hitler killing an actor playing Captain America before blowing his own brains out.

Daredevil investigates, discovers a Black Spectre agent, but gets attacked by the Black Widow, the surprise having already been spoilt by the cover.

In order to pursue the Black Spectre aircraft he sees flying away with her, he goes back the Baxter Building to ask to borrow the Fantasticar. Well, steal it actually.

Ben catches him and after an explanation the pair go off to clobber Black Spectre. They board their ship and after some pummelling of henchmen, they get roundly defeated by the leader of Black Spectre and Black Widow, who drug Daredevil and hypnotise Ben.

The pair are thrown off the ship in the Fantasticar. Why they didn’t just throw them off and keep the car I don’t know. Plus, Ben would probably be OK however he fell. He’s super strong monster made of rock. Really bad planning here by the Mandrill, who the mysterious Black Spectre leader obviously is (he has a giant statue of a Mandrill on his aircraft). Nekra was in this fight too, but does so little it wasn’t worth mentioning her.

Within panels, Matt comes to, and lands the car. The abrupt and disappointing end. There aren’t even enough pages for the abject and utter failure of our heroes to rescue their friend to sink in. To be continued in Daredevil #110.

All in all a let down after the first two issues. We get some progression with Wundarr in the side story, but the main story ends up pretty much where it started. I imagine you’d have been fine just reading the Daredevil issues and skipping this.

Buscema’s art is fine, the highlight being the theatre sequence. I was never a Sal Buscema fan as a kid, but turned around on him as an adult. I guess changing artists three issues in goes to show that comic launches haven’t changed all that much in the ensuing decades.

Marvel Two-In-One #2: Manhunters From The Stars

Cover date: March 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Gil Kane

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Artie Simek

Colorist: Glynis Wein

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #1, Sub-Mariner #68 & #69, Fear #17.

Remember how last issue’s tale of the Molecule Man continued in Iron Man Annual #3? Here we get some of that title-to-title storytelling going the other way. This issue picks up story elements from other comics being written by Steve Gerber at the time, namely Sub-Mariner and Adventure Into Fear.

The big one is the introduction to the book of Wundarr, the satirical take on Superman that Gerber had introduced in Fear #17. We get a recounting of his origin here for newcomers, how his father went mad, thinking his planet was doomed, and sent his infant son in a rocket to Earth. However he was not discovered for 22 years, and so he has the body of a man and the mind of a child (and thinks Man-Thing is his mother).

As the issue opens he falls out the sky and is saved from drowning by Namorita, Sub-Mariner’s far less weird than she ought to be, cousin/clone of his actual cousin. The reason he is falling is that while Wundarr has the leap tall buildings in a single bound part of Superman’s powers down, he hasn’t got the hang of landing yet.

Namor handles the appearance of this superpowered manchild with all the subtlety and understanding he is known for and Wundarr flees in terror from the shouty Atlantean.

Meanwhile, aliens from Wundarr’s homeworld seek him out, in order to slay him. They fear he will seek revenge for the death of his parents at the hands of the Dakkam Internal Security Force and so send a robot called MORTOID down to Earth to do their dirty work.

Over in New York, Ben Grimm is in a mood, a mood not improved on when Wundarr drops out the sky into New York traffic. The inevitable hero on hero fight ensues. Then Namor and Namorita show up and try to break up the fight.

Before they get a chance, the Mortoid arrives, Wundarr gets zapped, the Mortoid gets Imperium Rex’d, the Dakkamites flee and Benjamin Grimm gets left holding the baby. A baby in the body of a 22 year old man.

The ending reads just about as rushed as I wrote that last run on sentence, with the entire palming off of Wundarr on The Thing done in 3 panels, as Namor and Namorita rush back to whatever they were up to in the pages of Sub-Mariner.

Pacing issues aside, it’s a funny issue, with the narrator at one point stopping and asking the reader if they are keeping up with everything that’s being set up in the comic. And Namor’s still wearing that funky black leather 70s costume so that’s good too. A Gil Kane Namor is no Bill Everett Namor, but it is very much identifiable as a distinctly Gil Kane Namor. It’s the nose I think.

There’s also a ship’s captain character who is drawn so differently to everyone else, that I presume people in in 1974 would recognise who he’s supposed to be. I wasn’t even born then, so if he is a reference to something it has flown right over my head.

Marvel Two-In-One #1 : Vengeance of the Molecule Man

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Cover date: January 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Gil Kane

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Letter: Jean Izzo

Colorist: G  Roussos

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Feature 11, Marvel Feature 12, Monsters Unleashed #3, Fear #13, 

Following a trial run in Marvel Feature, this is the launch of the team up book starring Aunt Petunia’s favourite nephew, Benjamin Grimm aka The Thing.

In this issue Ben is mad at Man-Thing stealing his codename and plans to go to Florida to beat him up. This is far more straightforward than the usual misunderstandings and mistaken identities that usually lead to superheroes battling one another. 

However, in a dazzling bit of coincidence, the “son” of the Molecule Man finds his way to Earth via the Nexus of Realities that Man-Thing guards. This is part of Gerber bringing back the character of the Molecule Man after a long absence, a story that is not finished here, but in the pages of Iron Man Annual #3. Here we get his apparent death in the dimension the Fantastic Four had trapped him in years prior.

After a collection of fights and reality alterations, the new Molecule Man dies due to the accelerated ageing he undergoes in Earth’s dimension. We end with Ben giving a kid the villain’s wand believing it inert, but the final panel definitely gives you the impression that more is to come. 

Just not in the pages of this book.

Gerber and Kane blast through the pages, keeping the plot moving and taking all sorts of turns. We get the old trick of Ben getting turned back into his human form for a short while, but with the added tragedy of Man-Thing getting turned back to Ted Sallis too, which puts Ben’s plight in perspective.

Log Horizon Episode 1

Kill la Kill Episode 1 and Kyousougiga Episode 00 are great, but I don’t have much to say about them other than that. A middling adaptation of a serialised e-book about MMOs though, that I can get a couple of hundred words out of.

It’s going to get compared, fairly or unfairly to Sword Art Online. Unlike that show, there was nothing in the first episode that made me go “This is so stupid I am not watching any more”. While it has that “trapped in a deadly video game with just one man” element, it owes a lot to .hack too.

Like .hack, the game in the show, Elder Tale, is long established rather than a new launch. Likewise the characters are experienced players of the game. Unlike .hack it does feel like the characters actually play the game rather than use it as a fancy chat room. In one of many nods to real life MMO game mechanics, all the characters we meet are 90th level, having already hit the game’s level cap.

That element makes it feel like it’s written for people familiar with MMOs. I’m not sure how much that would tell you if you weren’t aware of them. The character who hasn’t played for two years, but decided to come back for the new expansion pack (that seems to be the cause of the game’s entrapment), also felt true to real life MMOs.

There were some nice gags too about being stuck in a videogame. People whose avatars diverged from their own body shape had difficulty controlling their new bodies. There’s a nice gag about what videogame food would taste like (and which may also be some foreshadowing). Other gaming gags included one about how tricky navigating menus would be if you had to do them in a real fight and another about the illogical nature of in-game architecture. And there’s a legendary raid party with the sort of dumb almost-a-joke name that real world game groups would give themselves.

The reason it’s only middling, despite these touches that make it feel fairly smart, is that it plods along with a lot of exposition that it’s humour and self-awareness can’t hide. In a week that gave us one great show with a simple revenge mystery and another that foregoes talky world building for hitting things with giant hammer, the literary origins of Log Horizon stick out like a sore thumb.

Still, there’s Jouji Nakata as a Puss n Boots type swashbuckler next episode to look forward to.

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Ayacon Events

Here are the events that I am running at Ayacon this year.

Friday 16th, 6PM to 7PM in the Conference room.

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ANIME PENGUINS

An expanded version of my two posts of anime penguins from this very website. Featuring more penguins than ever. Double the penguins possibly. A lot of penguins that is for sure. In chronological order. Some sort of penguin based speed record may be broken in order to fit all these penguins in one hour.

Saturday 17th, 8PM to 10PM in the Theatre

MADstravaganza VII

The usual nonsense. Mostly parody videos, amateur and pro, with some music videos and pro-wrestling mixed in for good measure. There may be the appearance of a game from DITB at the end. In the past this has been the best venue for this event, with the most excitable audiences. The only other event starting at 8PM is the hentai panel, so if I don’t see you here, we will assume you are having a trouser forage there.

Sunday 18th, 10AM to 11:30AM in the Theatre

ANISON ARMAGEDDON

We travel back to the dawn of Ayacon to look at the anime music from 1998. Providing they can wake up on time, I will be joined by my DITB co-host Anthony Askew, Secret of the Sailor Madness’ Niall Flanagan, Ebbie aka BizarreJelly5, Leon Everett, Gary Hedges and Greg Driver. They and the audience will decide once and for all what was the greatest anime song of that year.

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1990′s TV Anime – What Anime Looked Like In 1993

Shows starting in 1993:

Miracle Girls, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Little Women II: Jo’s Boys, The Brave Express Might Gaine, Sailor Moon R, Gosaurer

Mobile Suit V Gundam, Ghost Sweeper Mikami, Legend of the Swordmaster Yaiba, Dinosaur Planet, Nintama Rantaro, Pokonyan

Hurricane! Iron Leaguer, Dragon League, Lupin III Orders To Assassinate Lupin, Tama & Friends, Muka Muka Paradise, Love! Hello Kitty

Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow, Jungle King Taa-chan, Slam Dunk, Tanoshi Willow Town, Blue Legend Shoot, Striped Tiger Shimajiro

Puppet Show Heike Monogatari

Shows Ending In 1993:

Chirorin Mura Monogatari, Super Electric Robot Iron Man 28 FX, Brave Legend Da Garn, Flower Magic-using Mary Bell, Teknoman, Sailor Moon

Energy Bomb Ganbaruger, Oi! Ryoma, Chikyu SOS Soreike Kororin, Tomato-man and the Knights of the Salad Table, Super Bikkuriman, Yadamon

Mikan’s Picture Diary, Calimero, Dog of Flanders: My Patolasshu, Hime-chan’s Ribbon, Kaze no Naka no Shoujo Kinpatsu no Jeanie, Papuwa of the South Seas

Space Oz Adventure, Super Zugan

Shows continuing through 1993:

Sazae-san, Doraemon, Anpanman, Dragonball Z, Kiteretsu Daihyakka, Cooking Papa

Crayon Shin-chan, Kobo-chan, Get a Grip, Tsuyoshi!!, Yuu Yuu Hakusho

Initial thought after I made this list was “Irresponsible Captain Tylor looks really out of place”. As a non-robot sci-fi show in prime time it looks really odd next to all the manga adaptations and brightly coloured cartoons for kids. In fact it’s so odd, that my post on 1994 that I did for the Golden Ani-Versary blog might have read differently had I realised it before.

The second thought was that we had a lot of shows continuing throughout the year, taking us to ten (eleven if you count the Sailor Moon series as a whole). Five of which are still on the air today. 1992 only had five continue from 91 to 93, and all continued through this year too.

Slam Dunk and Ghost Sweeper Mikami were the big ratings hits among the shows launched this year. However, despite doing better than Super Bikkuriman, Ghost Sweeper Mikami was cancelled after 45 episodes. According to an unsubstantiated “fact” on wikipedia, this was due to lack of merchandise sales.

In terms of longevity though, Nintama Rantaro was the winner, as it continued to air to the present day.

Looking at the Animage Grand Prix ratings, everything was still massively overshadowed by Yu Yu Hakusho and Sailor Moon (which got in there twice). Tylor, Gundam V, and Mikami were the new TV shows making the top ten.

As I go into writing about the new shows, I have seen episodes of four shows that started in 1993. And the Lupin III special.

  • Captain Tylor – I have seen random episodes of this show. I was going to buy it on VHS at one point, but managed to order volume 5 instead of volume 1 and never got the rest. I’ve seen some of the last episodes at a convention back in the 90s.
  • Ghost Sweeper Mikami – I’ve seen the first few episodes of this back when it was getting fansubbed.
  • Mobile Suit V Gundam – I’ve seen the first episode of this.
  • Slam Dunk – I’ve seen the first few episodes of this way, way back before the ill-fated attempt at releasing on DVD in the US. Entirely possible they were dodgy HK bootlegs.

One last note, the odd picture for the Hello Kitty show is the dinosaur character that was the only original animation on the show. The rest was recycled material from earlier Hello Kitty animation. Finding that information out was the trickiest part of compiling this list. Tanoshi Willow Town (a Wind in the Willows adaptation) also proved tricky to find a screenshot for.

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1990′s TV Anime – Hime-chan’s Ribbon Episode 1 (1992)

In writing my 1994 for the Golden Ani-versary blog, I noticed that Studio Gallop had a group of creative talent running through their shoujo anime similar to Sailor Moon‘s crew. This Akko-chan inspired series is the first in a run of shoujo manga adaptations.

Princess Erika from the Land of Magic arrives on Earth in search of her human lookalike to gift them a magic item. This item is a magic ribbon that allows the wearer to transform into someone else for an hour a day. If this proves useful over the course of a year, Erika will be able to become ruler of her land.

Her human twin is a 14 year old tomboy, Himeko Nonohara (both parts are non talking animal roles for Ikue Ohtani), who has a crush on an older boy at school and wishes she was more feminine like her big sister. While she sulks about kicking another boy in the head in front of her crush, Erika appears outside Himeko’s bedroom window.

She explains herself and the ribbon. As per usual there are a bunch of arbitary rules, you can’t tell anyone, and if you dont recite the reversal chant before the hour’s up you will be stuck in the form you turned into. Oh and Himeko’s plush toy lion, Pokota is brought to life by the ribbon too (voiced by Kazue Ikura, who would go on to cover for Ohtani as Tony Tony Chopper on One Piece when she was pregnant).

The first thing Himeko changes into is her big sister, and that’s where the episode ends.

This is a funny, charming show, with some great character designs from the debuting Hajime Watanabe. Watanabe provides a unifying look to these shojo adaptations, and then would go onto frequently collaborate with the director of two of them, Akitaro Daichi.

No Daichi yet though, he wouldn’t appear on the scene until 1994, the director on this series is Hatsuki Tsuji. Tsuji had been animating as far back as the second series of Lupin III, and was a mainstay at Gallop through the 80s. This was his first director credit though. More recently he’s been the man for bringing trading card games to life, directing Yu Gi OhLive On Cardliver Kakeru and Cardfight Vanguard.

The head writer was Takashi Yamada, who has been head writer on a list of shoujo shows as long as your arm. 

  • Crayon Kingdom of Dreams
  • Heartcatch Precure
  • Hime-chan’s Ribbon
  • Little Red Riding Hood ChaCha
  • Magical Doremi DOKKAN
  • Mo~tto! Ojamajo Doremi
  • Ojamajo Doremi
  • Ojamajo Doremi #
  • Onegai My Melody
  • Onegai My Melody – Kuru Kuru Shuffle!
  • Onegai My Melody Kirara
  • Onegai My Melody Sukkiri
  • Yumeiro Pâtissière
  • Yumeiro Pâtissière SP Professional

I’m sure I’ve missed some, there’s plenty of others he’s written episodes for either under his real name or his pen names Midori Kuriyama and K.Y. Green. And even more that aren’t shoujo shows. Prolific is the word, currently he’s head writer on Danchi Tomoo.

Hiroaki Sakurai (Digi CharatCromartie High School) directed 10 episodes and would be a mainstay on these 90s Gallop shows. I think he’s the only episode director who’d be on the next Gallop show with Tsuji.

Animation directors Masayuki Onchi and Yoko Konishi would join Tsuji again on the next Gallop shoujo project, as would art director Shichiro Kobayashi.

Most of the script writers would return on future Gallop productions, including:

  • Hiroshi Toda (scripts). Toda had been head writer on the first three seasons of Ranma 1/2
  • Shigeru Yanagawa (scripts). And Yanagawa had been head writer on the last three seasons of Ranma 1/2.
  • Miharu Hirami (scripts). Hirami would be head writer on the 1996 Gallop show Kodocha.
  • Ryousuke Takahashi (scripts, production co-operation). Takahashi’s work at Gallop tends to get overlooked in comparison to his famous mecha creations, but he worked on a lot of their output in the 90s.
  • Tomoko Konparu (scripts). Already a veteran in 1992 having started on Ikkyu in the 70s, Konparu has been the head writer on lots of shows in recent years, including Tomorrow’s Nadja, Chi’s Sweet Home and Nodame Cantabile. However, her first head writer position had been the year before Hime-chan’s Ribbon when she was in charge of scripts on the Dear Brother… adaptation.

On a side note, this show appears to have been part of the early push for SMAP, featuring as it does two of their songs for the themes and one of the members in the cast.

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1990′s TV Anime – Tekkaman Blade Episode 1 (1992)

tekkaman blade

Humanity is trapped on Earth by the alien Radam who have taken over the Orbital Ring System space station that surrounds it. A chance for hope arrives in the form of an amnesiac who can turn into the armoured warrior, Tekkaman Blade.

An updating of the original Tatsunoko Pro series Tekkaman (1975) it aired in an “adapted” English form from Saban as “Teknoman”.

This caught me off guard a little, particularly at the start, when they introduce the Space Knight characters. There was more attempts at goofy humour than I was expecting, such as the pilot Noal getting told off for eating snacks on the bridge, rather than for his aggressive flirting/sexual harassment of his navigator Aki.

This can all be explained when you see that Satoru Akahori & Hiroshi Negishi worked on this, along with frequent collaborator (maybe mentor, does anyone know?) Mayori Sekijima. Akahori had his fingers in a lot of pies throughout the 90s into the 00s, whether as screenwriter, or from having his manga/novels adapted. Or writing novels/manga based on anime.

Akahori & Negishi’s main work together was the 2 Letter Alphabet Series between 1990-99:

  • NG Knight Ramune & 40 (1990 – 1991)
  • KO Beast Century (1992 – 1993)
  • SM Girls Saber Marionette (1995 – 1999)
  • VS Knight Ramune & 40 Fire (1996)

Akahori & Sekijima had previously written Legendary Ninja Cats (aka Samurai Pizza Cats) together for Tatsunoko Pro. Sekijima would write the various Saber Marionette J series that were based Akahori & Negishi’s original concept. Negishi was also involved in Akahori’s Heretical Hour Love Game (yes, Akahori had a series with his own name in the title) and co-created the Master Mosquiton concept with him. 

I’m sure there are others I’ve missed, and I’ve not touched on all the work they did without the others’ direct involvement. They certainly kept themselves busy.

Anyway, the point is, if you see these names working together, you are going to expect something goofier than the you get here, and so some attempt at comedy shouldn’t be unexpected. It’s brief though, and the majority of the episode features Tekkaman Blade tearing up aliens. As you might expect and/or want from such a show.

Looking at what ratings I could find for the time, it fell short of what Scramble Saver Kids, the Monkey Punch tribute to Thunderbirds, was doing in it’s slot previously. Though to give you some perspective, if it got the same ratings today, it would be a top ten anime in Japan. 

From this episode my first thought is that the concept might have been better served with a different creative team behind it. If you’ve seen enough of their other work, you can tell it’s them working on it, but at the same time it feels a watered down version of the work they created themselves. And if you want a serious remake of the 70s show, do you really want to use guys who normally amuse themselves by naming characters after food?

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THIS MACHINE KILLS OTAKU