The Monday Morning Quarter-Bin: The Phantom Eagle

In my life I offer up a lot of sarcasm, snark, and maybe even my own brand of snarkasm, but I’d like to think I’m not too jaded. I hold out hope things will be good, even though, with comic book related content, there’s often a creeping suspicion in the back of my mind that it won’t be. Case in point, last year I hoped I’d finally be able get in to Superman, with the release of Man of Steel, but alas, I was again disappointed.

It was with this same sort of hope that I purchased Marvel Super-Heroes #16, the first appearance (and one of only a handful) of the Phantom Eagle, a World War I flying ace. I’ve recently completed a four year epic reading a WWI history book, The First World War by Martin Gilbert, on and off, reading a little bit at night and taking a sabbatical to read the entire Harry Potter series. I’ve always been fascinated by World War I: the last throes of the Old World, the poetry, and of course, flying aces. It was this last bit that inspired the Phantom Eagle, Karl Kaufman, a World War I flying ace. I can keenly remember seeing him in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (I think the “dead and inactive” section) as a youngster and being slightly intrigued and amused by his ridiculous outfit. Look at him:

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Still, a WWI-era hero, based on the bad-assery of flying aces? The Phantom Eagle held strong odds in being a cool niche hero, an example of what could have been. World War II had teams of superheroes, with the Justice Society, the All Star Squadron, All-Star Winners Squad, the Invaders (retcon), the retconned Justice Society, the Freedom Fighters, the Crusaders, the Crusaders, and a swarm of other America heroes ranging from Captain Flag to both Yank and Doodle. World War I, however, was largely forgotten. I found some more flying ace tales in a reprint of Two Fisted Tales, and there are few other examples, but much like the titles in the history section at a bookstore, World War II outnumbered World War I by at least 4 to 1. Was The Phantom Eagle a forgotten classic, swept under the rug by the grandiose Americana of “the greatest generation”? No. His tale has him defending US soil from a potential German air attack, including a zeppelin by the third page. Karl Kaufman’s extra German name is no red herring, as he fears enlisting for World War I in the US government lest his family, living in Germany, face reprisal, which is an interesting twist on a war hero. Like any good flying ace story, the “good guys” are outgunned and outmanned in the air and have to rely on savvy and gumption to take out the Kaiser’s air force. They triumph, though Phantom Eagle loses his best friend in the closing panels of the story, no doubt propelling Phantom Eagle to take flight for future tales (that never come). Along the way, the art was decent, including a couple of large scale panels of exploding aircraft. Ultimately, Phantom Eagle had little impact because, honestly, I’m not sure there would be a place for him in a lineup of monthly series. Marvel already had a past-era crop of heroes from World War II they ultimately revived in The Invaders series, and Phantom Eagle managed to make an appearance in that series as a member of Freedom’s Five, a ragtag group of heroes that existed as a brief allusion in Invaders #7. I’m not sure there would have been room for another series set in a past war, and as a result Phantom Eagle is ultimately forgettable. His ridiculous outfit was just silly, and he only appeared a handful more times. In 2009 he was revived for War is Hell by Garth Ennis, and I suppose I need to check that out before all’s said and done since I am an amateur World War I/comic book crossnerd. And probably buy Invaders #7.

The Phantom Eagle is mentioned in the upcoming “America Heroes” edition of the What If Podcast (here’s a YouTube early release!)

UPDATE

Hey all you wonderful readers out there beyond the internet.  I wanted to thank you all for making this site so successful.  We’ve had over 100 posts now, and hope to keep going strong in the future.

Having said that, I am going to be moving from one country to another, so my internet capabilities will not be a given.  Sadly, that means for the next couple weeks, there may be fewer updates than usual.  This doesn’t affect every column, but you will probably not see any Rewinding the Week, Cartoons and Cereal, or Free Comics Now! reviews.  I know, you’re broken-hearted.  I know, that you want to scream in pure horror.  But don’t you worry, don’t you cry.  I will be back and those columns will continue.  Not only that, but once I am back stateside, I’ll be starting a few new ones as well.

So there’s a lot to look forward to.  Keep on stopping by as there will be more What If? Podcasts, dives in the Quarter Bin, and other random articles popping up.  I look forward to writing for you again soon.  Stay strong.

Thanks.

Friday Top 5 – Top 5 Signs it’s Summer

The summer solstice was last Saturday, and living in Maine, I thought it would never get here. We seemed to start winter early, in late November, and hold on until early March, with cold spring temperatures hanging around until May. But lo and behold, global warming lives and I can walk the dog again without having a near seizure from shivering so much. With that in mind, here are the top 5 signs it’s summer:

  1. Nothing on TV! Oh man, I’m so excited to watch two hours of fat people and manufactured drama on Extreme Weight Loss, and reruns of The Middle. On the plus side, I didn’t watch much of The Goldbergs during the season and it’s been a nice discovery in the TV wasteland of June to September.
  2. Flip flops! I love not wearing shoes on the weekend (damn you, real job!). I drive barefoot too, rather than risk my flip flop flipping or flopping as I move my foot.
  3. Iced Coffee! I’m a bit of a coffee traditionalist (cream and a little sugar, I don’t care about hazelnuts or coconuts, and the darker roast the better), but even I can’t stand just sweating as I down a hot cup of coffee on an 80 degree afternoon. My favorite? Iced Mocha from Dunkin Donuts, no cream or sugar.
  4. Sunburns! As a man whose skin appears to be the color of paper (tissue made of…tissues?), I try to soak in as much sun as I can when I have a chance to be shirtless (damn you, real job!). Still, I try to be cognizant of my neck and apply sunscreen generously, since a burn on the t-shirt neckline is the worst thing the sun can do to you since…cancer. Ahem.
  5. Trying not to stare at women in bikinis! Both the good (daaamn) and the bad (damn!), teenage to middle age, summer can be a minefield of not knowing where to look, exacerbated if it’s a family function. Two choices: dark or reflective sunglasses to hide your eyes or just stare off into the distance, slightly above the horizon. I’d probably go for the latter, since you look totally rugged and pensive.

Worth #1

It’s Tuesday, so that means Free Comics Now! is back in action.  We’ve done well over the last couple weeks, so I’m going to take a chance and open up a comic I’ve never heard of before.  Comixology, don’t lead me astray.

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Worth.  Not sure what that really means, but I see that Eugene Roddenberry is attached, and I think that’s a big name.  Or is it just Gene Roddenberry that I am thinking of.  I don’t know.  I’m horrible with names.

It’s 1967 and there’s a right in Detroit.  The National Guard looks about to open fire on the looters, when out comes Worth, which is apparently the guy’s name, riding the hood of a car.  It looks like he has some x-ray powers we can see the engine through where he is standing, as well as the bones in his hands.  We get treated to a quick montage of a year in his life, where we see him being an all around hero.  It’s during a conversation with a conspiracy theorist a year later that we learn he can “talk” to machines, even simple ones like guns.  That theorist wants to study him, and being drunk, Worth agrees.

Suddenly it’s 2013.  Worth is old, pudgy, and seems to be living alone with his machines, some of which don’t seem to be working that well.  We learn that he doesn’t work with any machine with a computer in it, which seems a little odd, as he had a digital alarm clock, which seems as though it would have some sort of computer.  But I’m no scientist, so what do I know?

We also meet another character, El, a teen who loves his phone screen (check out that rhyme), and his buddy Damon who is trying to convince him to rob Worth.

The two parties do end up meeting, and share a moment that hides a couple secrets.

So, hmmm.  I feel like this ended pretty quickly.  There really wasn’t too much going on.  I think the initial idea is cool.  The man who can talk to machines has been played out a little, but the interaction he has with an ATM, and it’s computer, is very interesting.  I think there is something big that will come along, but I don’t know if I have the patience to see it through.  The art work is decent, nothing spectacular, but realistic enough to add to the story instead of distract from it.  I would look into reading more of this if it were free, but am not going to go looking to buy it.

Rewinding the Week (6.22.2014)

Welcome to the 100th post on the blog!  I can’t believe that we’ve already made it that far.  Thanks to everyone who comes by and checks us out.  I plan on expanding what we have been doing greatly around the start of August.  So stay tuned.

Now let’s get this started, as I have shows to watch.

Game of Thrones:  Well, the season is over.  I found the last episode to be satisfying, as we got to see a coupel die who, in my opinion, deserved to die.  I was a bit upset though.  In the book, Tyrion learned a valuable piece of information from his brother, but they cut that reveal from the show, which is disappointing.  That piece of info helped to make Tywin seem more villainous, and Tyrion more tragic.  You want to know what it was?  Read the book.  Quick recap of the rest.  Dragons are out on control: cool, and realistic (for dragons, anyway).  Jojen dies: well at least he got Bran where he needed to be) and I had no idea Children of the Forest could shoot fireballs).  The Hound and Brienne fought: interesting, and a good fight to watch.  And now, we have to suffer through summer, fall and winter until we see them again.  I recently read an article (sorry can’t remember where) that was discussing the problems with the show.  Not how it differs from the book, but the fact that the whole story isn’t done being written, and that having it play out over so many years really ages the child actors.  Bran is supposed to be under 10!  Oh well, I’ll still watch.  Maybe I’ll watch the whole series again before next year rolls around.

Orange is the New Black: Well, we finished season 2.  As I mentioned, it was neat to see the back story of all the different characters.  I wonder if Piper got those stories from them while they were in jail together, when she got out, or if they are completely fabricated.  I am anxious to see what happens next year, and think this is one story that I will avoid reading, but instead only watch.  Never thought I’d say that.

Firefly:  I’ve been pushing through this.  I like it, although, to be honest, I don’t understand why it was such a huge deal.  Maybe I will by the time I finish the show and watch the movie.  Again, I like it, but I don’t think it is something that I would obsess over.  Still, it makes me want to learn more about the backstory.

Workaholics:  I am somewhat proud to say that I finished watching all four seasons of this show.  This is primarily because there is absolutely nothing to be done at my work for the next couple weeks, and they don’t block some websites that stream shows.  I found this to be a very funny show.  It’s dumb humor, yes, but it works.  Sometimes it’s nice to let yourself take a break and just laugh at the absurdity of people that are really thick-headed.

Next week, I will hopefully have watched some Da Vinci’s Demons, and will have finished up with Firefly.  Keep on watching.

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow

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So, this is a bit of a departure from the usual Cartoons and Cereal post.   Today, instead of looking at just a 20-30 minute TV show, I want to talk about a feature length movie.  It’s still a cartoon, of course.  My daughter and I love the Avengers, and so when Andrew the Giant told me about this movie, I thought it would be perfect for us.  So we watched it.  And now, my daughter just wants to watch it again and again.  She enjoyed it that much.  I enjoyed it as well, but probably not as much as she did.  Let’s look at what we had going on in it.

So it’s some time in the future, as you might have been able to guess by the title.  Ultron had attacked the planet years ago, and was successful in defeating the Avengers and taking over the world.  The children of some of the heroes were saved and hidden away in a bubble in the Artic Circle by Tony Stark, who survived and acted as a father figure.  Jocasta is there too, acting like a robot mother.  The children are familiar counterparts to those who know Avengers lore. Torin, the daughter of Thor, has a sword. Henry, the son of Giant-Man and the Wasp, is the youngest of the group, but very smart.  Azari is the son of Storm and the Black Panther, and has a tiny waist, like worse than Black Widow in that Captain America poster people complained about.  Which leads me to James, the son of Captain America and Black Widow, who wields a holo-shield.

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Look at that tiny waist! I guess they all have it, but it looks the worst on Azari.

I may be wrong, as I don’t have my comics with me to check, but I think that this team of Avengers kids appears in the Avengers vol. 4 during a battle with Ultron, which also has an old Iron Man.  I could be wrong, but they looked familiar.  If I remember, I’ll look that up in a month when I get back to the collection.

Anyways, one day the Vision comes a calling, badly beaten and seeking Tony to repair him.  This leads to the kids sneaking around, as kids do, and finding the Iron Avengers, something the Slim James had mentioned in one of his podcasts before. Maybe this one, or this one. They accidently launch them, which draws the attention of Ultron, who turns the robots to his side and attacks.  The kids and Vision’s head escape, while Tony is taken prisoner.   Of course they try to save him but end up ambushed by robots in the capital city.  But, they are saved by an archer, the son of Hawkeye, and someone?  I was thinking maybe the Scarlet Witch as the kid has white hair like Pietro, but I don’t think it actually mentions who it was.

Anyways, I’m not going to spell out the rest of the story, as there might be those of you who want to watch it and be surprised by what happens.  I will say that it full of nice little Easter eggs for serious fans.  I enjoyed seeing a certain green goliath as a Maestro.  There were also two scenes ripped straight from Avengers vol. 3, including “Ultron, we would have words with thee!” and a Hulk ripping a artificial intelligence in half over their head.  Those were cool.

The actual animation of the show is rather cheap.  It’s not nearly as good as that of Avengers Assemble or Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.  It is more like that from an earlier Avengers cartoon.  The voices are okay, I suppose.  Nothing great, but nothing that takes away from the story either.  If you have small kids, they’ll like it.  If you’re just an older fan, I think it’s safe to say you could skip it.

I do want to see some of the other straight-to-video Marvel movies, and will try to review some of them in the future.  Until next time, keep your inner child alive with a healthy dose of Cartoons and Cereal!

Friday Top 5 – Guitar Hero (really?!)

Last week, helping my co-host and cohort Andrew The Giant move to a new house he gave me a relic from our early 20’s past, Guitar Hero: World Tour. I’ve always had a bizarre relationship with videogames; I had a Genesis, a PS1 and PS2, but I was never at any point a serious gamer, and I’d tend to latch on to a series and stick with it rather than explore different games. Because of that I’ve played myriad WWF games, Twisted Metal, GTA, and not much else, but after being destroyed by a girl at GH2 in college, I made a solemn vow to be awesome at the game, and awesome I became. I went back to GH1 (terrible), played GH3 at Andrew’s Mom’s house and made Guitar Hero my latest (and last) videogame obsession. Expert? I got that. I’m not the supershredder who can do Dragonforce on expert or anything, but I did well enough to not-really impress people at parties. Without further adieu, I present my Top 5 favorite Guitar Hero songs:

1) Go Your Own Way – Guitar Hero World Tour. Fleetwood Mac’s seminal tune isn’t the hardest song, nor does it have the “coolest” GH track, but getting World Tour from Andrew and being able to play this song again inspired this article. I think it’s just the right amount of strumming and shredding, attainability and difficulty.

2) Cult of Personality – Guitar Hero 3. GH3 is probably the best of the series, with a wide variety of songs and slightly tweaked game engine that hit the sweet spot. Honestly, I think GH3 is the reason Cult of Personality, with it’s snazzy riff and relentless shredding, has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, including being wrestler CM Punk’s theme.

3) You Really Got Me – Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero Van Halen. A cover of a Kinks song, You Really Got Me has the killer riff that feels so good to (fake) play on a (plastic) guitar. Leave me never.

4) Bathroom Wall – Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s. GH’s 80s game was maligned, and rightly so, for not adding much to the game beyond a (relatively) small selection of new songs. That being said, picking it up for a few bucks a few years after the fact I had no such qualms. There are some decent songs on the game, as if it were DLC for GH2 before that was a thing. Faster Pussycat’s latest (and likely last) contribution to pop culture is having a song that wasn’t even their most famous (House of Pain) covered in a video game. This actually inspired me to go out and pick up Faster’s Best Of CD, and I can honestly say of all the forgotten hair bands, they’re not the worst.

5) Avalancha – GH3 returns to the list. One of the great things about GH2 and 3 was the inclusion of some indy or offbeat songs that were instantly launched to a much larger audience. Whether it’s Bang Camaro in GH2, or Heroes Del Silencio in GH3, those two games had some songs that made you feel like you weren’t only a rock god for wailing on a plastic guitar controller, but also a music nerd for having heard of Count Zero. I chose this one because, much like Fleetwood Mac, it’s the right combination of rhythm and shred.

Dishonorable Mention:

Guitar Hero: Metallica – not for any of the songs (heck, “Trapped Under Ice” and “One” were favorites of mine on the other discs), but for being a hold out at $40 as the PS2 game library sunsetted out of retail. I remember walking through Wal-Mart, seeing virtually every other PS2 game at like $20, and there was GH Metallica, holding steady at full price. I wouldn’t be surprised if Metallica had some ridiculous thing put in their contract that their game could never be sold at a discount. Oy vey.

Pax Romana #1

Comics are wonderful things.  Free stuff is also wonderful.  Free comics… That is just bliss.  Welcome to another installment of Free Comics Now! reviews.  This week, I’m happy to say I’ll be reading an issue written, and illustrated, by Jonathan Hickman, one of my all-time favorite comic writers.  I think I may have mentioned that once or twice.

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We are looking today at Pax Romana, a four issue series put out by Image and available at Comixology.  If you don’t have their free app, just go get it now.  It’s well worth the $0 you’d pay for it.

It just dives right into it.  The first couple pages introduce us to a new world, seemingly futuristic, in which there is an almighty pope and a king of the world that appears to be a small boy.  Like a lot of Hickman’s work, this is wordy.  But the added narrations help to flesh out some of the details about this world that the pictures might not tell us.  There are blurbs put in from “The Secret Vatican Archives” that explain where the Gene Pope came from and tell us more about this boy-king.  Apparently there is also a “King of Africa,” but I don’t see him yet.

The Gene Pope tells the boy, who only recently came into his throne, a story, that takes us back to 2053, where time travel has been discovered.  In this story, we are given a look inside a meeting of Church leaders, who discuss the possibilities and the ramifications that time travel could present.  It is here that the adjective “wordy” really applies.  There are a couple pages of texts, which read as a recording of that meeting.  It’s obvious that Hickman has a story he wants to tell, and is more comfortable using words than pictures.  I’m not sure how I really feel about that, but it isn’t the first time I’ve seen it in his work, as he did so in an issue or 2 of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well.

It is finally agreed upon that they will use the technology to try and bring the Church into the power they feel it should be.  They handpick people from around the globe to do this.  There is a man named Nicholas, who has one eye.  He is a military genius, and believes that he is a man who can change the world.  Sounds familiar?  It should.  He is the leader of those who travel back to the times of Constantine.  They carry with them technology and gold, and orders to reinforce and support Rome and the Church so that they will survive the battles they know are coming.  What will that team do?  It’s hard to say, as the ending of this issue seems to be the beginning of the larger story.  Captivating read.

Now, as far as the art goes… I love it.  It’s very different from other comics.  The figures are all well thought out and realistic looking people portrayed with black lines.  They stand out against backgrounds that are not scenes.  Rather, the backgrounds are a myriad of colors and designs, that give the comic an otherworldly or sci-fi feel.  Most of the backdrops appear to be night skies, filled with stars.  Again, I just love it.

All in all, I’d give this comic a very high rating.  Yes, it is a of heavy reading, but it’s worth the time.  It’s a fun concept, great artwork, and grabbed ahold of me tightly.  I want to read more of this, and will look at picking up the trade paperback over the summer.  Read this book!

Rewinding the Week (6.15.2014)

Well, again, I’m sad to start off by telling you that I didn’t really watch much this past week.  I don’t think this one is going to be as long as last week’s, which is probably ok, as I was reaching then.  Let’s see…

Game of Thrones: Okay, so, was anyone else a bit upset about this episode?  I know the answer is yes, as I am currently on the internet, where people get upset over anything and everything.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see the giants (although, only 2?) and the mammoth.  But why spend the whole episode on the wall?  Have we ever spent an entire episode in one setting?  I don’t think we have.  I’m too used to jumping around, and checking in on at least half of the cast each week.  Also, why did Pyp and Grenn have to die?  At the risk of sounding like a geek, (which has probably happened a few times before) that isn’t how it went in the book, and now I’m concerned how further things at the wall might play out.  I can’t wait for tonight’s episode though, as I know what will happen, but still am excited to see it happen on screen.  Of course, I know I’ll have to wait to see it all, as they won’t fit it all in one hour.  Damn you producers, make the show 20 episodes a season!  There is enough source material to do that!

Orange is the New Black: Well, I didn’t quite finish this season.  I still have 2 episodes to go, so don’t spoil it for me please.  It’s been a great season, although definitely a lot sadder than the first one.  It’s still funny, and still have some suspenseful/nail-biting moments, but this season has really focused on the supporting cast, and what happened in their lives to land them in prison.  I was surprised and excited to see Pornstache come back into the picture, but was saddened when only, an episode or 2 later, saw him leave.  I really like this show, as it makes sure that all its characters can change and grow.  They aren’t just 2 dimensional figures, but have a depth to them that is lacking in so many shows.

Sadly, that’s all I watched this week.  Well actually, wait, I did watch a bit more.

Robot Chicken:  I was so far behind on this great stop-animation sketch show.  Luckily, I had a few free hours at work and got myself caught up, including watching the DC Comics Special 2, which was wonderful.  I’m more of a Marvel guy myself, but still enjoyed it.  Just a bunch of laughs.

Workaholics: Speaking of laughs, I started season 1 of this show as well.  It’s good.  Some of the jokes fall flat, and sometimes the whole show seems to be a bit much, but overall, it’s just funny.  I like it.

Well next week will see the end of Game of Thrones, and I will probably be finished Orange is the New Black as well, but that means that I’ll get back to finishing Firefly, and hopefully watch some/most of Da Vinci’s Demons.  Have a good week, and let me know what shows you’re watching these days.

DuckTales (woooo-oooooo)

It’s Saturday already, so it’s time to look at comics that move, aka cartoons.  Grab a bowl of sugary cereal and open up youtube to watch a classic.  That’s right, I’m talking about DuckTales.  If you don’t remember that glorious theme song (second only to the Fantastic Four in my opinion) here is a slow jam version.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at an episode.  I was shocked that it was so hard to find good ones, and I couldn’t get an episode 1 link, unless I wanted to watch it in Hindi or Portuguese (which I didn’t).  But I found an episode titled Duck to the Future, which I just couldn’t ignore.  Watch it below, don’t mind the huge blue frame.

This was a tried and true storyline for Scrooge McDuck.  Magika DeSpell (I think I’m spelling that right) wanted to steal his lucky dime, the first bit of money that he ever earned and the supposed source of his luck and fortune.  Like most schemes of the cartoon variety, it does involve some costumes that are inexplicably convincing.  Magika, disguised as a fortune teller, sends Scrooge into the future to see how things might change.  There he finds that Magika has taken over Duckburg, and that Hewey, Dewey, and Louie all work for her, having taken advice from Scrooge long ago and stuck to it.

With Scrooge out of the way, Magika had been able to steal the dime, which obviously is more powerful than whatever magic she has.  Sure, why not?  So we see the future of Duckburg, including an aged Launchpad teaching a “crash course” in flying, and Webby married to Doofus.  Did you remember Doofus?  I know I didn’t, and I don’t understand what he’s still called Doofus by his wife when they are grown up and married.  Is that really his name?  I assumed it was just a horrible nickname.  No?  The other ducks weren’t just being jerks?  His mom named him Doofus?  *sigh*  Okay, let’s finish this up.

Does Scrooge get his dime back?  Will he be able to return to his own time?  Only those who watch the episode (or who have ever seen a kids’ cartoon before) will know the answers.  In general, I was a little disappointed.  This show, or maybe just this episode, had not aged as well as I would have like.  I’ll try a couple more, I’m sure, and maybe one of the “digitally re-mastered” ones, but I think I should just stick to the written DuckTales, by a Mister Carl B., that were perfect years ago and continue to be awesome.

And just in case you need some more DuckTales theme music, here’s a metal(ish) cover for you.

And here’s another, proving it’s a great song all around the world.