Sunday, August 31, 2014

Song of the Week: "Seize the Day"

Melodysheep has done a lot of great musical tributes to important figures in my life--Carl Sagan, Steve Irwin, Mister Rogers, Bob Ross, Yoda... Now here's one for Robin Williams. Made me feel nice, as Melodysheep always does.

Sunday Hottie 500

JAIME MURRAY

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #101

"The Return of Zarrko the Tomorrow Man" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos
(February 1964)

Giving Thor an extra five pages really starts paying off with this issue. Stan & Jack are starting to follow their Fantastic Four model, where the first few pages are taken up with character development that let you into the characters a little more, rather than jumping right off into this issue's villain.

Thor is fuming from Odin's decree last issue that Jane Foster will never be allowed to marry Thor (Odin thinks Jane aided Mr. Hyde in defeating Thor, which she did in order to try to save Donald Blake). He's so enraged that he's throwing the Asgardian version of a fit.

It's so bad that his fellow Avengers--Iron Man, Giant-Man and Wasp--show up to try and calm him down and offer their help (rather than barking orders, screaming threats, and beating him up, which is what they would have done had it been the Hulk, just saying).

Odin and Loki are watching this unfold from Asgard, and with Loki at his ear going all Grima Wormtongue, Odin punishes Thor by halving his power, which becomes painfully apparent when Thor approaches Heimdall and demands entrance to Asgard. Heimdall defeats Thor, where once he would have been unable to withstand a hammer blow or Thor's fury.

With Thor at his lowest, Loki decides it's time to strike. He can't move openly against Thor, but instead uses the Well of Centuries to influence events in the year 2264. Way back in Journey Into Mystery #86, Thor fought Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man, a time traveler from centuries in the future. After their fight, Zarrko lost his memories of the incident. Now Loki restores them, and Zarrko is immediately set on a quest for revenge.

Zarrko appears in New York City and starts wrecking things with what he calls an indestructible mining robot. Where once Thor could have easily made short work of the robot, he's handily defeated. Odin has halved the power of Thor's hammer as well. Thor, unable to destroy the robot, surrenders to Zarrko to save the 20th century, agreeing to return to the 23rd century and help Zarrko conquer. Hey, he beat Zarrko the first time with probably the same amount of strength--it was before he recovered his belt of strength, after all--so let's see what his plan is this time.

Odin, however, is angered beyond reason and just about ready to disown Thor and take away his hammer. Which, of course, is Loki's plan...

To be continued.

Stray observation:

:: Why, of course Odin and Heimdall have different outfits.

Thor and Loki never change their clothes. Damn kids.

"Tales of Asgard: The Invasion of Asgard" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos

Another in the "Boyhood of Thor" series, this short feature tells the story of a time when Thor helped save Asgard from invasion by the forces of evil. While Odin's forces build their defenses, Loki leads Thor to a hole in a tunnel through which the evil forces could attack--a hole made by Loki, who has informed the enemies of Asgard of its existence, hoping that they will overrun and kill Thor. So Thor stands alone against the Norn Hag, Ulfrin the Dragon, the Rime Giants, Skoll and Hati the Wolf Gods, Geirrodur the Troll, and the Last of the Ice Giants. Kirby's art here is bizarre and wonderful, and in some cases (above), unsettling.

Thor is able to hold the breach until Odin and his warriors arrive--but only barely--and the enemies are defeated. In the end, Thor has a little more strength to lift the hammer with. When he can hold it above his head, he will have the power of the God of Thunder.

As always, terrific stuff.

Next time: Johnny Storm's aquarium brawl; Baron Mordo returns!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Birds

Some interesting contextualization in character animation for a minute and a half.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jack Kirby Would Have Been 97 Today

Tumblr has been sharing a lot of stories and art of Jack Kirby today, and I don't really feel like I have a lot to say about the man. Bizarrely, I never used to consider myself a fan of his. I guess it's because I grew up in the age of "cool" comic book artists like Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld. I was in my teens when the 90s comic boom and Image Comics all happened, and like a lot of lame kids, I championed their art over the old masters because it was so new and hip and different and exciting.

Wow, I was stupid. Show me McFarlane and Liefeld and Jim Lee and any of those Image guys today and my eyes just cross. Give me Kirby, man.

It's funny, because I've been doing this Marvels series for about a year, and it was only right before I started it that I really considered myself a fan. Which is kind of hilarious, because I'd actually been rediscovering or, in a lot of cases, discovering his work for five or six years now. In that time, and ending only in the last couple of months, I've read a lot of Kirby's 70s work. I read all of the 2001: A Space Odyssey series from Marvel, but from there I went on to his DC work. I read OMAC, and then read through Kamandi, which I had never read a single issue of before. I loved it. It was thrilling stuff; a pulp adventure through a prism of psychedelic sci-fi and fascinating social commentary. That took me a little while to go through, and then I went to Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and on through The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle, which is one of the best comics I've ever read. There are single issues of Mister Miracle and The New Gods that are better than some entire runs of comics. I know I'm not really saying anything new, but I'm not going to be able to go through them in my Marvels series, obviously, so I'm gushing a bit.

One day I'll have to do a list of my favorite comics from the 1970s, because I'm really feeling like that's the era of comics I love the best.

I leave a lot of the Kirby fandom to the more serious Kirby fans; I really have nothing interesting to contribute about the man, except to keep doing the Marvels series. I just wanted to say that I dearly love his Fourth World comics, and Kamandi, and, hell, I thought OMAC was bizarre and kind of great.

I never really acknowledged how much of a fan I am. I guess I just kind of took him for granted. But god damn, was he great.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

G Is for the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband

Jim Henson was born in rural Mississippi in 1936, where he spent the first ten years of his life before mainly living his adolescence in Maryland and the Washington, DC area. People say there were parts of him that were very much the reserved, polite Southern gentleman--particularly in his manners--but you can also see his rural upbringing in some of the music he liked and often featured on The Muppet Show and in other projects.

The Gogolala Jubilee Jugband were a way to get some of the country and novelty music he'd liked as a kid onto The Muppet Show. They barely had names or distinctive personalities; they were mainly a music delivery device for fun little numbers. In fact, they were so non-distinct in character that they often had different performers. They were put together out of what the Muppet people call Whatnot Muppets, which are blank Muppets that any features can be molded on to. And their name speaks to Jim Henson's love of nonsense words.

They first appeared performing Roger Miller's song "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd" on the fourth episode. Here are some other appearances:

:: Backing up Jim Nabors for "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
:: Backing up Paul Williams for a Dixieland version of "Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song."
:: Asking the deep questions in the novelty song "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?" (with Jerry Nelson on the lead vocals).
:: Peter Friedman doing lead vocals on another old novelty song, "I'm My Own Grandpaw."
:: A breakneck version of "Mississippi Mud." Richard Hunt particularly seems to be having a great time singing the hell out of this.
:: Backing up Twiggy and a Muppet known only as Hillbilly Singer (performed by Jim) for a version of the old Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Starr duet "Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own."

The Hillbilly Singer had appeared earlier in the season, in a slightly different look, for probably my favorite segment featuring the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband, this cover of Tompall Glaser's "Put Another Log on the Fire," featuring Candice Bergen. (This song was, of course, written by Shel Silverstein.)



The final appearance by any of the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband is this little spot from late in the first season, a performance of the old Carson Jay Robison song "Life Gets Teejus, Don't It."



I'm not sure exactly why the decision was made to drop the band. They were part of a musical tradition that Jim Henson deeply enjoyed. They were actually the second Muppet country music band; the first was the Country Trio, which are really caricatures of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. They pre-date The Muppet Show, appearing first on The Perry Como Winter Show, then on The Dick Cavett Show, and intermittently on The Muppet Show.

I wonder a little bit if the decision was made partially because of the departure of the two of the band's performers, Eren Ozker (seen above with Richard Hunt) and Peter Friedman, after the first season of The Muppet Show. Or, really, Jim could have just found new designs he liked and gone with them, as sometimes happened. Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy were redesigned after that first season. The Gogolala Jubilee Jugband was replaced by Lubbock Lou and His Jughuggers, who stayed throughout the show and even appear in the "Happiness Hotel" song in The Great Muppet Caper.

The Muppet Encyclopedia says the group disbanded over an argument about whether or not to put a hole in the washtub, which is a nice wink at Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

Either way, we got some fun performances out of them while they lasted.

Have a music-filled day!

ABC Wednesday