Anne Francis Stars In…Our Look At Forbidden Planet

Pop quiz time, Rotten Inkers! Can you name the ten films that are referred to in Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Science Fiction Double Feature”? It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to sing through it in your head. Done? Alright. Even if you didn’t get all of them, I can bet that one you did catch was in the chorus. Sing it with me, “Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet.” This musical exercise is my less than clever way to introduce today’s update, all about seminal science fiction film Forbidden Planet. I’m Juliet, occasional co-pilot here on Rotten Ink. As you may guessed by now, having read my prior contributions to Rotten Ink, although I have massive love and respect for the horror genre, my earliest and continuing love is for science fiction. If Matt’s the Monster Kid of our house, I’m the spaceships and robots kid for sure. So it’s perfect that we’re about to dive into a film, and the comic books adaptations of it, that not only feature spaceships and robots but really influenced all of the spaceship and robot things to follow it. We’ll start with some history.

Forbidden Planet was released in 1956 by MGM and was shot in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope. It was written by Irving Block and Allen Adler (who was blacklisted from Hollywood during the second part of the Red Scare), directed by Fred M. Wilcox and stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen. It was the first science fiction film to take place entirely on an interstellar planet that was far from Earth, and the first to show humans traveling faster than the speed of light in a ship of their own creation. These are two of the many reasons Gene Rodenberry names Forbidden Planet as one of his main inspirations for Star Trek. You can also see its visual and design influence on the Star Wars franchise. And remember, this film was released 13 years before the moon landing and five years before cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel to space.

Another first for Forbidden Planet is its score. It was the film to have an entirely electronic music score, though at the time, it was referred to as “electronic tonalities” to avoid music guild fees. The composers, Bebe and Louis Barron were discovered accidentally when an MGM producer was visiting New York and saw them perform at a beatnik club and then hired them on the spot to create music for Forbidden Planet. Many people think that the pre-Moog synthesizer electronic drones were created with a theremin, similar to part of the score for Hitchcock’s Spellbound, but the effect was actually created by electronic circuits and modulators that Louis Barron built himself. For this and their work, Heavenly Menagerie, which is considered the first piece of electronic music committed to magnetic tape, the Barrons are considered pioneers of electronic music.

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Robby the Robot is notable for both his design and characterization. Robby’s design was developed from initial ideas and sketches by MGM production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. The concepts were refined by production illustrator Mentor Huebner and perfected by MGM staff mechanical designer Robert Kinoshita, and Robby was built by the prop department. For his time, Robby sported one of the most complex robot designs moviegoers had ever seen, comparable in design only to Maria, the Menschmaschine in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (another of my favorite robot films). MGM spent a reported $125,000 on Robbie, which with inflation is about $1.1 million today, and compared to the overall budget of Forbidden Planet, he remains of the one most of expensive single props compared to the overall budget of the film he’s in. The suit itself is unique; made of three pieces that completely surrounded the actor and contained all of Robby’s electronics, it could be filmed from any angle without a reset unlike Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still, whose suit had to be reset for different angles to cover special fastenings that allowed for movement.

As a character, Robby was one of the first science fiction robots to have a distinct personality and to be considered an integral supporting character in his film. Again, Maria from Metropolis and Gort are good precursor comparisons. Contrary to Forbidden Planet’s poster and much of the advertising leading up to the film, Robby isn’t the villain, and in fact, follows a version of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics throughout the film including (and most important to the climax of the story), the fact that he cannot kill a human being. He is portrayed as physically strong, benevolent, extremely loyal to Alta and Dr. Morbius, and, at times, he’s a bit sassy.

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It’s unknown whether Robby takes his name from Fantastic Island’s Robbie – a mechanical decoy used by Doc Savage or from the Asimov story of the same name, which was published in 1940. However, after Forbidden Planet was released, Robby became a pop culture icon. He had another starring film role in MGM’s 1957 movie The Invisible Boy and makes a cameo in Gremlins. He appeared in many TV shows, including the The Addams Family, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mork and Mindy. He and and several props from Forbidden Planet were used in the “Uncle Sam” episode of The Twilight Zone (the original Rod Serling version), but Robby donned an alternate head for that appearance, based on one of the original, rejected models created for Forbidden Planet. Robby also appeared in several episodes of Lost in Space, in which he battled Robot B-9 (aka Robot), who he’s sometimes confused for. In 2004, Robby was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.

If you haven’t seen Forbidden Planet, by now you’re probably wondering what the heck it’s about. Based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the story follows the crew of the starship C-57D, lead by Commander Adams, as they travel to Altair IV with the goal of discovering what happened to an Earth expedition sent to the planet twenty years prior. When they arrive on the planet, they find its only inhabitants are Dr. Morbius, his beautiful daughter Altaira, and Robby, their robot servant. But something sinister lurks on the planet, and Dr. Morbius is keen to keep it a secret. I’ll leave the story at that for now as we’ll dive further into it when we review Innovation’s comic book adaptation of the film.

As I mentioned above, I am a lifelong scifi fan, and I’m particularly fond of space stories and robot stories so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with Forbidden Planet. I first saw it when I was around thirteen years old. In 1996, MGM re-released the film on VHS and laserdisc with a special widescreen presentation for its 40th anniversary. My dad got the VHS as a gift, and one day I decided to check it out. At the time, I didn’t know about Forbidden Planet’s place in science fiction history, how really important it was the genre and how it influenced the creators of many of the things I already loved. What I knew back then was that it was a great movie. It’s lush, beautiful and puts you completely into its world. All of the characters are smart, including Altaira who is naive about certain things, having never lived with other humans, but can handle her own with the ship’s crew. Robby has such personality, and his look, as well as that of the other props, is yet another argument for practical effects and design over CGI. The story gets at all of the great science fiction questions of forbidden knowledge and its power, the ethics of being an outsider in someone else’s world and how far artificial intelligence should be allowed to go without human intervention. Forbidden Planet instantly took a space in my top five all time movies where it’s remained ever since.

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After Forbidden Planet was released, Robby the Robot became a pop culture icon and a favorite for collectors of science fiction merchandise. He’s been a toy, a Funko pop figure, a talking bank, and a bobble head, among other things (I own all of those, by the way). There are also model kits for both Robby and the ship. The iconic Forbidden Planet poster (a reproduction of which hangs above my bed) has made its way onto lunch boxes, t-shirts, and variety of print formats. The film itself has been released on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and BluRay, and the soundtrack is available on CD and both vintage and new edition vinyl.

In 1992, Innovation Comics, in association with Turner Entertainment, released a four part comic book adaptation of Forbidden Planet.  These comics are the subject of today’s update, and Robby reminds us that here are at Rotten Ink, comics are graded on a scale of 1 to 4 stars and that we are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s prep to board our spacecraft and journey to the Forbidden Planet.

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Forbidden Planet  # 1   ****
Released in 1992      Cover Price $2.50      Innovation     # 1 of 4

Commander J.J. Adams and his crew have been traveling the vast unknown of space for over a year on a mission to find out what happened to the crew of the spaceship Bellerophon, sent to Altair 4 twenty years prior.  Upon approaching the planet’s orbit, Adams’ ship receives a message not to land, but they do so anyway.  At first the planet appears to have no trace of any survivors of the Bellerophon, but the crew is eventually greeted by Robby the Robot, who takes Adams and his command crew, which includes Doc Ostrow, to meet his master Dr. Morbius.  Morbius is cautious, if not downright suspicious of the newcomers, informing them that, while he is the only survivor from the Bellerophon, he is not in need of rescue.  The issue ends as Adams and his companions meet Altaira, Morbius’ nineteen year old daughter who was born on the planet.

This first issue, titled Relief Ship, is a really nice start to our adaptation of Forbidden Planet.  David Campiti’s script follows the beginning of the film faithfully and closely, so you don’t miss anything that’s been shortened or adapted to work in comics.  Daerick Gröss’ painted artwork really captures the distinct look and feel of the film, and the way the panels are structured loosely on larger, more atmospheric backgrounds is really interesting.  I’ve not seen that done in other books.  My only hesitation is that occasionally Innovation’s adaptation books get too artsy and lose the story completely, and/or worse, the art slows down the pacing of the storytelling and the title is cancelled before we get a complete adaptations (I’m looking at you, Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour).  So I’m proceeding cautiously because I don’t want that to happen with Forbidden Planet.  Hopefully the association with Turner for the publishing helped move things along a bit, and we’ll get the full story in these four issues.  So I guess it’s a good time to move on to Issue 2 and see if that’s the case.

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Forbidden Planet # 2 ***
Released in 1992      Cover Price $2.50      Innovation     # 2 of 4

Commander Adams and crew learn more about Altaira, Dr. Morbius’ daughter who we (and they) met at the end of issue #1.  Altaira is nineteen and was born on the planet.  Until this point, she had never met a human other than her father, and that combined with mysterious properties of the planet have somehow given her the ability to communicate with the animals residing on Altair 4.  This begins to change, however, as Altaira becomes intrigued by the crew of young men currently stationed on her planet, in particular Commander Adams, who at first spurns her rather naive advances but is ultimately unable to resist her charms.  Dr. Morbius is concerned for his daughter and for what her newly awakened passions might mean for all of their fate.

This is another great adaptation issue that, although it moves a few things around from the movie for a better page flow, once again stays faithful to the film’s story.  This issue, called The Innocence of Altaira, focuses on Morbius’ daughter.  This particular storyline is really interesting in both the film and the comic, and takes a scifi approach to the age-old story arc about the loss of innocence through the gaining of knowledge, either literal (which we’ll see more of soon) or sexual…or both.  Although she isn’t drawn to look like Ann Francis, the comic book version of Altaira is faithful to the film version, both highly intelligent and a bit naive and with a sassy relationship with Robby.  Once again the painted artwork is fantastic and full of the vibrant colors we expect from this portion of the film.  We’re at the halfway mark for this comic book series, and I think, if done correctly, based on our current pacing we could get the full film by the end of issue 4.  So onward, to Issue 3.

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Forbidden Planet # 3 ***
Released in 1992      Cover Price $2.50      Innovation     # 3 of 4

It’s time for Dr. Morbius to finally explain the truth to Commander Adams and Doc Ostrow, that Altair 4 does, as they’ve been suspecting, hold a dark secret.  Taking them through a passageway in his office, Dr. Morbius leads the spacemen into an old laboratory belonging to the Krell, a long dead race of super beings who inhabited Altair 4 in the planet’s ancient past.  The Krell were highly advanced and had managed to harness the power of their own minds to build a great civilization and in turn use the machines they created to further enhance their minds. But in doing so, they unlocked the Id, a powerful monster born from their own thoughts that was eventually responsible for the downfall of the Krell and the deaths of the crew of the Bellerophon.  Morbius is concerned that through his own actions and the arrival of Adams and his crew, the monster has once again awakened and will destroy them all.

In this issue we get the Krell mythology and the origin of the Id monster, and again, although a few things were slightly rearranged for the comic, by and large this reveal worked in the comic just like it did in the film.  The one minor place where I felt like the comic felt a little short, however, is that I don’t feel like the artwork has the same impact as the graphics in the film when it came to depicting just how vast, advanced and intricate the Krell technology was.  Don’t get me wrong, it beautiful artwork, but in the film, you could really feel the size and scope based on the both the design and the camera set up.  But don’t let my complaints fool you into thinking this isn’t a great comic with great artwork, it really is – and, unless something goes completely haywire next issue, it looks like we are poised to get the whole film adaptation in the scheduled four issues.  So let’s get to it!

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Forbidden Planet # 4 ****
Released in 1993      Cover Price $2.50      Innovation     # 4 of 4

With the secrets of the Krell revealed, the Monster of the Id is growing stronger and threatens to destroy all of Altair 4.  Commander Adams and his crew are left with a choice: to flee the planet or to stay and fight.  Morbius, knowing that his own dabbling in Krell technology is in part to blame for the monster, encourages them to leave and to take Altaira with them.  As they try to make their escape, the monster attacks and Robby is unable to defend them because of a protocol that prevents him from harming Morbius or his family — you see, the Morbius has become part of the collective Id from which the monster is formed. So all hope is lost for the doctor.  Altaira and the recovered Robby agree to flee with Adams and his crew, and the ship blasts off into space as the planet implodes.

And there we have the epic conclusion to the comic book adaptation of Forbidden Planet, and yes, Innovation made it happen in the scheduled four issues.  This final issue holds the bulk of the action as our heroes must escape Altair 4 as the Id Monster grows stronger threatening to destroy them and the entire planet.  In this issue we see Altaira making the difficult choice to leave her father and Morbius having to reckon with the consequences of the damage he’s caused.  We also see Robby put to the test in a great example of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics when he cannot kill the monster because it and Dr. Morbius have become one in the same.  The was a great conclusion to a great comic book adaptation of the film.  From the script to the artwork, everything was done with care and respect for the source material which makes it a great read for fans and newcomers alike.  Take a look below at some of Daerick Gröss’ artwork.

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Often comic book adaptations of films are really hit or miss, but Innovation’s Forbidden Planet is definitely a hit for the casual or diehard fan.  Be sure to track this one down and check it out.  For our next update, we’re leaving outer space and landing back in the U.S.A. for Rotten Ink’s annual Fourth of July update wherein Matt will return to once again look at a title with a patriotic theme.  This time around he’s going with a classic, and I do mean classic – a reprint of the very first issue of Captain America.  So get your grill out and your sparklers ready (though keep them away from comic books for safety’s sake!) and get ready for our next update here on Rotten Ink.Captain America Logo 00

Do You Hear What I Hear Through The Grapevine

Happy Holidays Rotten Inkers! Tis the season for chestnuts roasting on an open fire and visions of raisins dancing in your head. That’s right, raisins..from California. Yes, I, Juliet will be your guide as we explore the 1980s sensations, The California Raisins and their journey from commercial mascots to masters of media and merchandise. I’m sure you’re wondering, other than figgy pudding, what’s the connection between raisins and the holidays? One of the best-loved appearances of the California Raisins just happens to be in William Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Special, which we’ll talk about more in depth in just a bit. Growing up, I was a huge fan of the special and of the California Raisins Show, the Saturday morning cartoon based on America’s favorite dried grapes, and I continue to have a formidable collection of California Raisins figures. So come along with me as we travel to Raisinville and learn all about the California Raisins, including the Blackthorne 3-D comics based on them.

As legend has it, in 1986, the California Raisin Advisory Board was trying to come up with an idea for a commercial when one of the writers, Seth Werner, said, “We have tried everything but dancing raisins singing ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine'” and thus the Raisins were born. Well, they were born through the claymation work of William Vinton and his Vinton Studios. The four main Raisins commercials were: Lunchbox, which featured the Raisins dancing out of a construction worker’s lunchbox on a high rise. The Late Show featured the Raisins dancing past other, less healthy snacks on a side table while a late night talk show played. Raisin Ray featured the Raisins alongside a claymation Ray Charles, and Michael Raisin featured them with, yes, a claymation Michael Jackson.

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In 1987, the Raisins appeared in something very near and dear to my heart growing up, William Vinton’s Claymation Christmas special. It hosted by Rex and Herb, two dinosaurs resembling Siskel and Ebert, who actually give some great historic context for the well known holiday carols featured in the program. The songs were done as super elaborate (and time-consuming to create) claymation-style skits, some of which were created in such a way to appear fluid, almost paint-like instead of looking like stop-motion. The songs featured were: We Three Kings, which starts fairly traditionally but get groovy thanks to singing camels, a comedic Carol of the Bells, O Christmas Tree which takes us into ornaments, Angels We Have Heard On High, which features two walruses ice skating in what feels like a subtle nod to the Fantastia Hippo Ballerinas. Joy To the World is a stunning collage of constant motion that celebrates African American culture. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is performed by the California Raisins, putting a little magic into the air after a Christmas eve gig (ala, as the Raisins often were, the Temptations). The hosts get their own story about wassailing, which is mistaken for waffling, waddling, wallowing, etc. This one, upon rewatch, puzzled me a bit. Are the actual wassailers at the end elves or leprechauns? When I was young I thought they were elves, but have they been leprechauns, or perhaps drunken locals the whole time? Weigh in, dear readers. The half hour Claymation Christmas Special debuted on CBS alongside the Garfield Christmas Special and the pair often ran together during the holiday season. I had one night’s CBS holiday lineup (that included Micky’s Christmas Carol, the Claymation-Garfield pairing and A Charlie Brown Christmas) taped on TV on VHS that was yearly, mandatory holiday viewing even after many of these were dropped from regular rotation.

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In 1988, the Raisins became fully fleshed out characters in their CBS special Meet the Raisins. This rockumentary mockumentary (think Spinal Tap, but with vegetables and suitable for small children) was produced by Vinton Studios and won an Emmy nomination. It actually wasn’t until this point that the Raisins got their names: A.C., Red, Stretch, and Beebop. The special also featured supporting characters such as Rudy Bagaman, the Raisins’ manager, who would go on to be one of the leading characters in the 1989 California Raisins cartoon, The California Raisins Show. That cartoon had a 13 episode run between September and December – kind of a shocker as my younger self seemed convinced that it lasted much longer. Instead of claymation, this show featured traditional cel animation from Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, but William Vinton served as creative director and executive producer so it definitely kept with his vision of the Raisins’ story. Many of the fruit and vegetable characters that were introduced in Meet the Raisins were prominent supporting characters in the cartoon, and many characters that were created for the cartoon (including my absolute favorite Lick Broccoli) then made appearances in the 1990 claymation special The Raisins: Sold Out!: The California Raisins II, which, furthering the Spinal Tap metaphor, saw had the Raisins attempting to mount a comeback with a new manager. This would be the last TV show/special for the Raisins, and they wouldn’t have much of a TV presence for many years to follow.

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During their short run, the California Raisins got a lot of merchandise created in their wrinkly image, and many of it has ended up in the Smithsonian permanent collection. Perhaps the most ubiquitous were the Raisins figurines that came out in assorted series from Hardee’s between 1987 and 1991, and were also stellar garage sale finds. I’ve been able to piece together a sizable collection of little guys, some of which I’ve had since the late 80s. In addition to the figure, there were Raisins t-shirts, Halloween costumes, lunch boxes, posters, coloring books, music albums, and a Capcom video game that was created but never officially released – though luckily it has made its way into the world via the homebrew game market. You can also check out a good representation of the California Raisins commercials, Meet the Raisins, The Raisins: Sold Out, and the entire run of the California Raisins Show on a two-DVD set called appropriately enough, The California Raisins Collection.

In 1987, as part of their series of 3D comics based on licensed properties, Blackthorne began a five issue run of comics based on the California Raisins, and these books are the subject of today’s comic reviews.  I heard it through the grapevine that here on Rotten Ink, we grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story.  So let’s take the boat to Raisinville and get to know our new favorite band, the California Raisins!

The California Raisins 3-D # 1   *** 1/2
Released in 1987    Cover Price $2.50    Blackthorne Publishing    # 1 of 5

Under the cover of night, the Raisinville Chamber Orchestra is kidnapped and loaded onto a boat by masked bandits. The next morning, two young Raisins happen upon a flyer looking for musicians to play the mayoral election. As they head into town, they pick up another Raisin as a hitchiker and find their fourth and fifth potential bandmates playing a whistle on the street. As suspicious advertisements for Snax pop up around town, the new bandmates visit the music store to pick up some instruments, but find that the beloved owner has mysteriously retired, all the instruments are gone, and the store is now home to a surly French Fry Man selling Snax. The Raisins move on to the Chamber Orchestra’s headquarters where they and other raisins queue up for auditions, but something’s fishy as raisins are going in, but no one is coming out. The Raisins catch site of a group of Sugar Cubes up to no good and rush to city hall to warn the mayor. The mayor, however, is nonplussed. He’s worried that his opponent in the election, Big Burger, is trying to run him out of town, but he stops mid-thought upon chomping down on some Snax. This is when the Raisins realize that there’s something amiss; the Snax are turning their fellow raisins into zombies and the only cure is music. So they commandeer Big Burger’s campaign vehicle, which is equipped with a loudspeaker and do their thing. Mayor Van Raisin is re-elected and Big Burger and his Snax are run out of town.

This was such a fun read! It threw me at first because the Raisins (the main ones that is) don’t use their names at all in this book, but that’s because this came out before they had names. That said, all of the hallmarks of the developing California Raisins world were present: the power of music, junk food more often than not being portrayed as the villains of the story, and the delightful little details like the picture on the wall of a bottle of wine labeled Uncle Vino. The artwork was really well done by an unnamed artist, especially considering that the majority of the characters were raisins and you could still distinguish who was who. I liked the 3D effect, though quite honestly, I would enjoy this comic entirely on its own merit so it wasn’t necessarily a selling point for me (in fact, I had a harder time reading it, not because the 3D was poorly done, but just because my eyes have trouble focusing with old school red and blue 3D glasses). This five issue run is off to a strong start, so let’s see how the rest go.

The California Raisins 3-D # 2  ***
Released in 1988    Cover Price $2.50    Blackthorne Publishing    # 2 of 5

In a prologue, Big Burger looks at Raisinville from afar and vows that the town will be his as his junk food henchmen bring a display of the Raisins, Big Burger’s new sworn enemies. But never fear, our villain has a plan….we cut to the Raisins receiving an invitation to receive their complementary mansion earned by virtue of being the official Raisinville band. The Raisins are, of course, excited to reap the benefits of their newfound and begin exploring the mansion and discovering its various perks and quirks including some trap doors. Three Raisins are captured by the ever bickering Cookie and Candy, and the other two narrowly escape multiple traps looking for their friends. The fourth Raisin gets captured, but the last is able to discover the evil plot against them and devises a plan. Using the house’s recording gear and sound system, he minimicks Big Burger’s radio and lures Cookie and Candy away so he can free his bandmates. Together, they roll Cookie, Candy and some Sugar Cubes into a carpet and dump them into the water. When they float back to Big Burger, acknowledges that the Raisins may be more formidable foes than he anticipated, but the next round is his.

This is another solid comic that capture everything charming about the California Raisins. Interestingly, the Raisins’ mansion in this one does remind me of their house in the California Raisins Show (the cartoon), and an episode where Lick Broccoli’s manager bugs the Raisins’ home to steal the Sweet Currants’ new song. But this remains firmly in the pre-Meet the Raisins realm of issue #1: no names for the Raisins. It does, however, establish Big Burger as our main villain and brings back his henchman for more hijinks. I like the continuity, but I do hope that we get to see food characters in the next issue for the sheer fact that I like to check out the different character designs. The art is once again solid, and it’s easy to figure out who’s who among the Raisins. Onward to Issue 3!

The California Raisins 3-D # 3  **1/2
Released in 1988    Cover Price $2.50    Blackthorne Publishing    # 3 of 5

This issue feature two stories. In the first, Waisin Wipeout, the Raisins are lounging at their mansion when they get a call to come down to the beach to film a surfing music video. It’s there that they’re introduced to famous fim director Steven Spielbug, his frog assistant, surfing expert Gnarly Cobb and beach babe Cher Pear, who turns out to be a Valley Pear. While the Raisins surf for the camera, Big Burger and his henchmen (decked out, of course, in pirate hats!) lurk below the water in their submarine base. They use their device to create a tidal wave, knocking the Raisins off their boards and ruining the shot. But Raisins don’t let a little water defeat them. They get back on their boards and surf so well they create a whirlpool that knocks out Big Burger’s submarine…and looks super cool in the music video.

Story number two is X Marks the Spot. While out on a picnic, the Raisins find a map, which they assume will lead them to the treasure of Blueberry the Pirate. Of course x marks the spot right under where they were picniccing so the Raisins start digging, and find nothing. They then realize that they were digging in the wrong spot, and after several repeated instances of this, begin fighting amongst themselves. This results in tears until one Raisins realizes that the seemingly shifting x on the map was shifting because it was actually a spider.

While I didn’t hate this issue by any means, this is definitely the weakest of the first three issues. First of all, why two stories? Especially when the second story, for me, was pretty weak. The first story was good, but messed with a few of the things that I love about the Raisins in general and that the first two issues honored: why are the filmmakers bugs and not food characters? Also while I get that Cher Pear is supposed to the typical valley girl/beach bimbo, it took me entirely too long to realize that she was a pear because she was drawn entirely too human. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things as the art is still great, but for me, the fun comes from the food characters. It’s a formula that works so why mess with it? Speaking of messing with things, it looks like the next issue is going to deviate again by being an adaptation of Meet the Raisins. So let’s take a deep breath and dive in.

The California Raisins 3-D # 4  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $2.50    Blackthorne Publishing    # 4 of 5

The Raisins (there are four of them now) are excited because their show is getting ready to come on. We go into the TV documentary where our host tells the humble origin stories of A.C., BeeBop, and Red (names!) as they formed their first band with bass singer Zoot, who introduced them to his eventual replacement, Stretch. From there we see the Raisins’ slow rise to fame with the help of their young manager Rudy Bagaman. From impressing Ed McMelon and being literal smash sensations to rebuilding their shattered careers by working with quirky director Frederico Rasperini and playing a series of concerts in the arctic. Their eventual, triumphant return comes when Rudy Bagaman nearly crashes a plane, providing an amazing introduction to the band. The documentary concludes there, and the Raisins are pleased with what they saw.

Admittedly, I’m a little torn about this one. I would have preferred an original story as opposed to a straight adaptation of Meet the Raisins, but this was extremely well done and captured the charm of the TV special so I can’t be too mad. As I’m sure you noticed above, the Raisins now have their names, and they’ve gone from being a band of five to a quartet with a completely different back story. I wonder if these Raisins are the next generation of California Raisins, or is there some sad fifth Raisin out there in the word waiting to write his tell-all book about how his band abandoned him. The artwork in this one is the same as the rest of the comics so far: really great! Needing to be able to distinguish the Raisins from each other isn’t as big a deal though, because along with their names come new, more distinct character designs. The cover features our newly revamped Raisins rocking out on the stage. I wonder if the next issue will be an original story or another adaptation (though the next special wasn’t for a few years). Might as well take a look and see….

The California Raisins 3-D # 5  **1/2
Released in 1988   Cover Price $2.50    Blackthorne Publishing    # 5 of 5

Back to multiple stories so: In the Music Mash, the Raisins (there are still four of them, but they’re not the same four from the last issue) are in the studio preparing for a gig and arguing over a new song. They decide to visit their friend Gigo who’s created a new machine that can create hit songs on the spot. Everything is going well, and they bring the device to a gig with them, but when a workman leaves his toolbox too close, the machine malfunctions creating chaos onstage. In the end, the Raisins realize it’s best to go back to basics and sing one of their classics.

In California Battle of the Bands, the Dough Buys and Richter are headed to the semifinals, and the Raisins (all FIVE of them) are late to their recording session. When they arrive, an oddly cartoony Rudy introduces them to three Lady Raisins who are their new backup singers. Back at the battle of the bands, Cookie, and Candy French Fry are sabotaging the competition for their boss, Big Burger. They plan an earthquake device and play a few more pranks on the Raisins when they show up to play. When the Raisins discover the mischief, they interrupt Ratchet’s set to warn them about the earthquake device, and the two bands work together to defeat the bad guys. They celebrate their victory with a concert all together.

I have SO MANY questions. Are there multiple bands performing as the California Raisins? This kind of follows my theory from last issue, and we do learn that there’s a whole Raisinville from which these bands could have been formed. This is all to say that these Raisins are different, unnamed Raisins than the ones we saw last issue. And then there’s the numbers issue. Was Fifth Raisin on vacation for the last story and a half? Also, what is Gigo? He’s not a discernible fruit or vegetable? Is he an alien? That said, there are so many things right about this, like Shrapnel, one of the battle bands that are clearly an homage to Guns N Roses. It was also amazing to see Shirelle, Dixie and Crystal, aka the Sweet Currants, in this issue even though they, like the Raisins this time around, weren’t called by name. I’m also glad we got one more chance to see Big Burger try to thwart the Raisins and thus conquer Raisinville. The art was great, but the latter story was a little more cartoony than anything else we’ve seen in this series. All told, this was an extremely fun and solid comic series that served these classic characters well.

So there you have it, the life and times of the California Raisins with a sprinkle of holiday cheer.  I hope it’s merry, warm and bright for you and yours, and that you’ll join Matt back here on the blog for his big holiday update.  He’ll be taking us from the land of singing fruits and vegetables into animated knights and dragons when he covers the comic adaptation of Dragon’s Lair. In the meantime, make sure you’re well stocked on hot chocolate, support local and indie businesses as you’re able this holiday season, and read a comic or three.

The Next Generation Of The Final Frontier

First officer’s blog, Stardate 69885.3.  Greetings, Inkfleet cadets – Juliet once again reporting for blogging duty.  Today we’re heading to the final frontier to talk about a show (and the comics based on it) that is and was incredibly important to me, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I’ll henceforth be abbreviating as ST:TNG.  So why The Next Generation and not the original series?  As I’ll get into further along in this update, I adore the original series, but ST:TNG was such an important part of my childhood, for better or worse.  Matt, on the other hand, is a HUGE original series fan so it’s only appropriate that I handle this one while he takes on the original series at a later date.  So settle in with some tea – earl grey – hot and prepare to bolding go where no one has gone before.

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In 1986, 20 years after Star Trek’s debut and as Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were demanding larger salaries during the production of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Paramount began to consider a new Star Trek television series.  This actually wasn’t the first first time they had toyed with the idea.  In 1977, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had announced that Star Trek Phase II would be coming to the small screen as part of the newly created Paramount Television Service.  The series was to feature a second five year mission for the original series crew, but when Paramount Television Services failed to launch, the plot for the pilot episode was rewritten and became Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced in October of 1986, the cast in the spring of 1987.   Originally Gene Roddenberry hadn’t planned on being involved in the production but came on as creator, working with Paramount exec Rick Berman, after he was unhappy with some of the original concept designs.  The show premiered in October, 1987 in what’s called first-run syndication, meaning that any TV station, regardless of network affiliation, could carry the show in the timeslot of its choosing – a fact that I actually just learned while researching this blog that clears up a lot of my own confusion as to whether I was viewing the episodes first-run or in syndicated re-runs (both, kind of).

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The first episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” introduces us to the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D (Kirk’s Enterprise was the NCC-1701 in the show and then the NCC-1701-A beginning in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) roughly 70 years after Kirk and co’s original five year mission.  Captained by Jean-Luc Picard, the Enterprise’s ongoing mission is, like in the original series, to seek out new life and new civilizations.  This Enterprise, however, is home to more than officiers, and the presence of children and families on the ship becomes a subtle but important theme throughout the show’s run.  The Federation and the Klingons enjoy a relative peace, making it possible for a Klingon officer, Lt. Worf, to be head of security.  New threats, however, have emerged most notably with the Borg Collective joining other villainous races like the Romulans.  The Borg are a cybernetic race assimilated from other conquered species.  Their origins are a bit vague as they hail from the faraway Delta Quadrant (where Star Trek: Voyager takes place), but their story and the threat they pose is explored throughout ST:TNG and the subsequent movies and shows.  I’m actually really curious to see if they’ll be a part of either the forthcoming CBS Star Trek series slated for 2017 of which very few details have been revealed, or, if perhaps they’ll make an appearance in the Abrams-verse Star Trek films, which are simply an alternate timeline/universe split off from the original series – more on that in a moment.

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I would be remiss to mention the Borg without mentioning Q, as he both begins ST:TNG and introduces the Borg to the Enterprise crew and the viewers.  Q is an omnipotent being, one of many like him who form the Q Continuum.  Masterfully played by John de Lancie, Q serves as a both a framing device for the entire ST:TNG series and a recurring meddlesome presence who, although typically arriving humorously, often raises huge philosophical and ethical questions about the Enterprise’s mission to “seek out new life and new civilizations.”  So although he was a bit over the top, Q really helped add a whole new dimension to the stories of his episodes.  Speaking of dimensions (see what I did there?), Q was often (especially in the novels – again, stay tuned, we’re getting there) involved in stories that explored the concept of multiple dimensions and the space-time continuum.  Although The Original Series dealt with these concepts quite a bit, I feel like they really shone in ST:TNG, and the novels that centered around time were particularly interesting and well crafted. We’ll talk about those in a moment, but first a bit about my history with the show itself.

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I was four years old when ST:TNG premiered so unlike The X-Files, I don’t have a distinct memory of the first time I saw the show.  Rather, the show’s been ever-present in my life; much like public radio, ST:TNG was just always there.  By 1991, our local station had also started re-running episodes daily as I do have very clear memories of watching ST:TNG every night at 7pm after Little House on the Prairie in our then-new house (which is my parents’ house to this day).  Several year later, I think after the show had ended in 1994, they moved the reruns to 11pm, and I remember being completely upset because that was past my bedtime. Pretty quickly, however, my bedtime was changed to accommodate watching ST:TNG every night even though I had probably seen every episode five times over already – thanks, Mom and Dad!  That should be some indication of how much the show meant to me.  I’m going to get into that a bit further, but first let’s talk about some of the merchandise as this kind of all ties together.

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There was SO.MUCH merchandise for ST:TNG.  The variety of toys alone was rather staggering.  I can remember going to the Bookie Parlor (yes, the same comic store Matt’s spoken of fondly many times here on the blog) as a child and being rather amazed at how many ships and playsets were available, not to mention the posters, books, comics, t-shirts, lunchboxes, pogs and more.  In terms of action figures, the first set of ST:TNG action figures came out in 1988 from Galoob.  This set of 10 3.5 inch figures came out as a limited release and are pretty rare to find today.  The largest and popular assortment of ST:TNG figures were the 5” Playmates figures that were released in waves of 10-23 figures beginning in 1991.  Funny enough, I never had any of these as a kid.  I couldn’t even tell you why, but I only ever got a handful of the First Contact figures which were larger at 6 inches tall.  However, thanks to the heroic efforts of Matt, in my 30s I’m now the proud owner of a nearly complete set of the 3.5” ST:TNG figures.  Other notable merchandise that I actually owned includes a replica communicator that actually featured Patrick Stewart’s voice,  a giant poster with bios of each crew member and a more recent acquisition: a complete of set of PEZ dispensers of the whole ST:TNG crew (check out the photos below).  Though not exclusively ST:TNG, I also owned and proudly wore a Women of Star Trek t-shirt that featured the amazing ladies from the original series all the way through Deep Space 9 (my version of the shirt pre-dated Voyager’s premiere though I’ve seen later editions that included Captain Janeway).

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There were also VHS tapes, and lots of them.  Beginning in 1991, tapes of individual episodes were released and eventually every single episode made it onto VHS.  They also made it onto LaserDisc, released with two episodes per disc.  Again, a full run of the series was released in this format.  The first season of ST:TNG came out on DVD in 2002.  All seven seasons were eventually released, and in 2007, the full series was released in a 49 disc set.  The series was also released on Blu-Ray, remastered from original 35mm footage using a special technique that allowed for maximum picture quality.

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The the video game department, ST:TNG had lots of options for the PC gamer, from movie tie-ins for Generations and First Contact to highly specialized games such as Armada and Borg Assimilator.  On the home console front, NES, Gameboy and Gear Gamer players got Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993.  Sega would follow in 1994 with Star Trek: The Next Generation – Echoes From the Past and Generations: Beyond the Nexus.  ST:TNG made it to the Playstation 2 with Encounters and Conquest (which was also available for the Wii), and was represented in the Xbox 360 and PC game Star Trek: Legacy.  Arcade fans got to experience the super cool Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine.

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Of all the really cool pieces of Star Trek: The Next Generation merchandise that I either owned or coveted, by far the most important items to me were the paperback novels.  They began in 1988 with Ghost Ship, the first of the numbered series, which went all the way to 63.  I was the proud owner of all of the ST:TNG numbered paperbacks through #45 (at the time, that was the most recent release).  I got the majority of the early run at a library sale, and began seeking out others at the library and then buying them from Books & Co as I found them.  There were also one-shot novels outside of the numbered series including titles like Q-Squared, Vendetta, Imzadi and Kahless.  These books were hugely, hugely important to me as a young reader.  I had always been an advanced reader for my grade level, but because I was so excited about having more ST:TNG stories to consume beyond the seven seasons of the show, I devoured these books, sometimes reading one in a single evening.  From the age of 11 to 13, you typically didn’t see me without one or several ST:TNG paperbacks in my possession at all times.  My quest to find new ones to read meant I spent a lot of time looking through the sci-fantasy paperbacks at my local library and eventually I began picking up other titles, both by genre mainstays like Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffery and other random one-offs, some very good and other delightfully cheesy.  But it wasn’t all warm fuzzy scifi nerd joy for a young Juliet.  As I’m sure you can imagine, the other 11-13 year olds I went to school with didn’t quite think the ST:TNG novels were as cool as I did.  Pair that a teacher who required you to track the pages you’d read, out loud, in front of class each day (remember that sometimes I’d read a whole novel on a usual day), and you’ve got a lot of pre-teen mocking and accusations from  classmates and a teacher that I was lying about the reading.  Sigh. Pre-teen angst aside, I learned a lot from these books as I came to understand which of the regular authors tended toward which type of stories and who was stronger with certain characters.  It’s helped me as a writer think about my own strengths and the type of stories I both like to tell and am good at writing.  By far, my favorite ST:TNG novel writer was Peter David.  I absolutely loved his use of multiple timelines that could both stand on their own as interesting stories and intersected in interesting ways.  David’s Q-Squared more than likely laid the groundwork for me to fall in love with even more complex timelines in novels like The Man in the Empty Suit and even experimental work like House of Leaves.

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The novels weren’t the only books released around the ST:TNG franchise.  There was an episode guide called The Complete Guide to Star Trek: The Next Generation that was re-released several times as the show was renewed for additional seasons (and that at one point in my life, I had memorized – no joke).  There were also several technical manuals, books about the science of Star Trek, and a host of other random series tie-ins like Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek:  The Next Generation.

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This of course brings us to the comics.  There were several series of ST:TNG comics released by DC and later their Wildstorm imprint.  For our purposes, I’ll be covering the first ST:TNG six-issue miniseries, now called Volume 1, released in early 1988.  They were written by Mike Carlin, who was also group editor for Superman at the time and later served as DC’s executive editor from 1996 until 2002.  The artwork was by Pablo Marcos, who had previously made a name for himself doing horror comics for Marvel.  Marcos would stay on for a good portion of the second ST:TNG DC run (Volume 2), the bulk of which was written by Michael Jan Friedman.  Big thanks to Matt for tracking down the Volume 1 series for me via Lone Star Comics, and before we engage, remember that here on Rotten Ink, we grade comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and look for how close the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s set a course for the DC six-issue mini-series of Star Trek: The Next Generation….Engage!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation  #1  *
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.50    DC    1 of 6

We begin with Captain Picard’s opening narration (the same one that opens the show), which leads into a monologue of his reflections on the Enterprise, its mission and the fact that unlike his prior command posts, this ship is carrying not just his crew, but their families including many children.   On the bridge, Picard’s crew, including Commander Riker, Lt. Worf, Lt. Yar, Counselor Troi, Lt. Commander Data and Lt. LaForge, are ready to proceed with their first mission as they conduct scans of a nearby planet and adjust to working together.  An alien race makes contact and expresses and interest in meeting the Enterprise crew.  As Picard begins to make plans for an away team, Dr Crusher and Wesley visit the bridge to ask for more medical supplies, but everything is interrupted when the supposedly peaceful aliens fire on the ship.  After consulting with Riker and Troi, Picard decides that the away team will go ahead as planned with Riker, Troi, Yar, LaForge and Data visiting the alien planet.  As soon as they arrive, they’re fired on again again and pursued by warriors in a large armored vehicle.  Meanwhile, back on the ship, Picard has to deal with young Wesley asking him about his plans for dealing with the potentially hostile aliens and a husband and wife bridge team who are bickering nonstop.  Back on the planet, Yar gets the hostile aliens under control for the moment, and Troi probes their minds to discover that their actions aren’t necessarily purely hostile but that they’re involved in some kind of war games.  The team is then transported elsewhere, by another set of aliens who apologize for the welcome the Enterprise crew has received to their planet thus far.  Out of concern for his crew, Picard has jumped into a transporter and ends up on the same ship as his away team to be greeted by the aliens, who appear to be children.

Huh.  So…that was….an issue that I read.  The beginning of this issue read almost like it was going to be a comic version of the first episode of ST:TNG, Encounter at Farpoint but ended up veering off to its own story. According to the editor’s notes in the back of the comic, DC began work on this ST:TNG mini-series in early 1987, right around the time the show began shooting its first season, which I think, explains a lot about why some of the characterizations feel just a bit off.  For example: in the show, Data rarely speaks with contractions, save for some very deliberate scripting choices and the occasion flub, but in this comic, he uses them nonstop.  It’s entirely possible that decision wasn’t made until Brent Spiner began shooting as the character so the DC folks had already started working on the comic and this wasn’t communicated to them.  The way the characters interact with one another, even the way they address each other (commonly by first names instead of by last name or title) also feels just a bit off from the show. Speaking of out of place, the biggest problem I had with this issue were the things that felt like DC trying to “comicfy” ST:TNG – as if the show itself didn’t have the right elements for a comic in the 1980s (come on guys, it’s in space!) so they added giant Mad-Max-esque armored vehicles, warriors who looked like your usual Conan-Krull-HeMan clones and gave the bickering bridge couple capes…just so you were sure you were reading a comic book  The art itself is okay – very much of its time and nothing to write home about.  The cover is pretty cool with a painted looking Enterprise in warp flight over the LCARS display.  Let’s see if they can iron out some of my complaints in the next issue, though it’s got Picard fighting aliens in front of a Christmas tree on the cover so I’m not exactly optimistic.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation #2  *1/2
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.00    DC    2 of 6

The Enterprise is en route to a Federation Starbase for standard maintenance, and the crew is preparing to celebrate Christmas on the holodeck.  The sensors pick up an alien vessel traveling at warp speed nearby so Riker proceeds with the usual diplomatic greetings, but when the communications channels are opened, the Enterprise’s instruments go berserk.  They recover quickly and finally reach the strange mummy-like aliens who are happy to accept the crew’s invitation to join them in their holiday celebrations.  The rest of the crew make merry on the holodeck, which is made up to look like ski slopes, but Picard and Yar excuse themselves to greet their alien visitors.  As they proceed to the holodeck, one of the aliens wanders off and catches Wesley, who’s also wandered away from the party, but says that he’s “not the one I’m looking for.”  Wesley tries to warn Picard and the rest of the crew, but when confronted, the aliens just say that there was an odd presence that they were chasing, which could also explain the earlier malfunctions on the Enterprise.  Picard doesn’t seem terribly concerned, so Wesley throws a tantrum and leaves the party.  Troi chases after him saying she believes him because she’s sensed something strange as well.  The aliens and the Enterprise crew clash as the presence once again wrecks havoc, materializing to look like Santa Claus (seriously).  When this happens, the aliens are unmasked and revealed to look suspiciously like a race of Grinches (again, seriously).  Finally the presence is freed out in space and the aliens agree to stay and celebrate Christmas with the Enterprise crew.

I spent the first few minutes of this comic extremely confused because I thought that this was going to be a continuation of the story from issue 1, but nope.  Instead we forge ahead into a rather ridiculous holiday story that ultimately results in the Enterprise crew and some aliens bonding over the spirit of Christmas.  It’s exactly as cheesy as it sounds, and I groaned loudly when the mysterious presence began to manifest itself in the shape of Santa Claus.  I won’t tell you what I said, when, upon flipping back through the pages to write this review, I realized that the aliens looked like the Grinch. Sigh. I suppose I should mentioned that I’m not a fan of holiday specials in general so the concept was already rather painful.  But even putting that aside, this just felt way too wacky to be ST:TNG – like bad fanfiction.  The art in this issue was slightly improved from the last – the characters are starting to look a bit more like themselves.  Let’s see if we can take a few more baby steps towards a good read in issue 3.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation  #3  **1/2
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.35    DC    3 of 6

The Enterprise is beginning another mission when Picard catches Yar and Wesley running through the corridors playing a game.  He chastises them, and Yar tells Wesley a bit about her childhood on a rough colony planet before she’s summoned to the bridge.  The Enterprise has encountered a strange ship of unknown origin with no apparent lifeforms on board.  Yar volunteers to lead an away mission, saying that it’s best to investigate now that get caught in a trap later.  The mission, however, quickly goes awry as the team is attacked by invisible assailants, who seem to somehow know Tasha Yar.  Back on the Enterprise, Picard has to figure out whether or not to destroy this mysterious ship, and as he grapples with the ethics, Q appears on the bridge to throw his two cents in.  The alien ship begins firing on the Enterprise, and Picard makes the decision to protect the civilians onboard by separating the saucer section and commanding from the battle bridge.  Meanwhile, Wesley observes the transporters being used without anyone seemingly being beamed aboard the saucer section, while Deanna senses a psychic attack on Tasha Yar.  Q tries to bait Picard into destroying the alien ship, but then the Enterprise receives a hail of distress from the human-like creatures aboard who claim to have been abandoned by their leader.  While Q continues to argue with Picard, the aliens board the battle bridge and accuse Q of breaking his part of their deal.  While Picard tries to make sense of the arrangement that Q has made, Gordi informs him that the saucer section has vanished in space as our story is to be continued.

FINALLY, a comic that feels like ST: TNG and not some silly kids book (no offense if that’s what you’re into, it’s just not what I’m after in a Star Trek comic).  The story for this issue very much had the feel of a regular episode with moments of comedy, adventure and drama as well as Q meddling about as Picard tries to navigate the Prime Directive and captaining a ship with both commissioned crew and civilians onboard.  If that wasn’t enough, we got the ship separating, which always felt like a treat in the show (by treat, I mean thing that would cause a young Juliet to demand the attention of everyone around me: “Look! Look!  They’re going to the battle bridge which means THEY’RE GOING TO SEPARATE THE SHIP!!”).  The art’s still not fabulous, but for the most part, everyone looked remotely like themselves.  I’m actually a bit excited to see how this one wraps up so let’s move on to the next issue.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation #4  **1/2
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.35    DC    4 of 6

The saucer section is lost in space as Q argues with Picard’s crew on the battle bridge about his role in this situation claiming that there’s someone else controlling the situation that even he does not have influence over.  Meanwhile, the saucer section under Riker’s command is experiencing strange turbulence as it hurls through space.  In sick bay, Tasha Yar awakens to see a mysterious cloaked figure named Reglech, who she recognizes from her childhood on the colony planet.  While Picard discovers that Q has mysteriously lost his omnipotent power (and manages to get a good punch in), Wesley sneaks onto Riker’s bridge and manages to be in the right place at the right time when Riker relieves his helmsman of duty.  Tasha, meanwhile, has wandered away from sick bay with Reglech who taunts her about her childhood.  As a Q appears on Riker’s bridge, other Q’s watch as Tasha overpowers Reglech and observe that she shows promise.  Tasha brings “Reglech” (who’s now revealed to be another Q) to the bridge and the Q’s leave the saucer section, which finally stops shaking.  Meanwhile back on the battle bridge, Q finds himself abandoned on the Enterprise, powerless, and lashes out.  As the saucer section comes back into range, Q’s tantrum causes Gordi to be shot by a phaser, seemingly killing him….to be continued.

Interesting that this comic came out in May 1988 because almost exactly a year later, season two episode “Q Who” would air, the main plot of which is that Q is kicked out of the continuum for his meddlesome behavior.  That aspect of this issue is interesting, but feels kind of rushed in comparison to the way the story is told in the episode.  The bits about Tasha’s childhood are also interesting but rushed.  One thing that did annoy me was that the Bickley’s, the bickering husband and wife crew members from the first issue, are back and bickering in full force.  Seriously, who are these people and why are they necessary?  They aren’t even comic relief, they’re just annoying.  Another thing that’s more bothersome than outright annoying is Data’s reaction to Gordi’s apparent death.  I’m hoping they better explain his emotion-drive outburst in the next issue because this early in the show, it’s really not fitting for the character.  So is Gordi really dead?  Let’s find out!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation #5  **1/2
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.00    DC    5 of 6

Gordi is seemingly dead, and Data is furious.  The Android attacks Q as the saucer section is re-attached to the ship.  Dr. Crusher arrives on the battle bridge and begins to tend to Gordi.  She takes him and Q (who’s still powerless and was pummeled by Data) to sick bay.  Worf and Picard discuss whether or not Q’s lack of power can result in him eventually changing and shedding his trickster nature, while Data worries over Gordi in sick bay.  Reglech has been confined to the detention deck with the aliens from the ship back in issue 3 (hey, remember those guys?) and manipulates them into facilitating his escape.  Tasha pursues the escaped Reglech, who goes to sick bay as Q is awakening.  Reglech is to kill Gordi, but Data jumps in the way, seemingly unhurt by his phaser blasts.  Then Q jumps in the way, sparing both Data and Gordi as he willingly sacrifices himself.  This puts Q back in the good graces of the continuum and he leaves the Enterprise unharmed as Gordi finally awakens.

All told, this isn’t a terrible arc, though really, I think the story would have been better served over a few more issues.  I seriously forgot about the aliens from the beginning of the story and was a bit shocked that for all of issue 4, they were apparently biding their time on the detention deck.  The Enterprise crew is once again all over the place.  It’s really interesting because for as well as they’ve got Picard down in this story arc, other characters just seem so off in terms of characterization.  Data is by far the worst offender.  Whereas others seem off, there are things about him in this story arc that are straight up canonically wrong.  As I mentioned in the prior issue’s write-up, I was hoping that his emotional outburst over Gordi’s attack was some kind of product of Q’s meddling, but apparently, it was just the product of bad writing -or- of the comics being written/produced prior to or concurrently with the beginning of the first few episodes so the characters weren’t really properly fleshed out.  And that’s the thing I have to remember, people reading these comics in 1988 only had a handful of ST:TNG episodes to compare the characterization to whereas I have multiple viewings of seven seasons under my belt, not to mention the novels.  So with that in mind, I’ll move on to the final comic in this six-issue mini-series.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation #6  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.00    DC    6 of 6

The Enterprise is finally on its mission to the mystical planet Faltos (which is where they were headed before the great Q interruption that made for the last story arc).  As Picard gives the orders to set course, Data begins to argue with him about the coordinates, saying that Picard is wrong.  Just as Data is about to be relieved of duty, the crew figures out that he is telling the truth, Starfleet command has implanted secret information about Faltos into Data’s brain.  The Enterprise finds the mysterious planet and send an away team to meet with the Faltos world tribunal, made up of many different races of aliens. Deanna has a bad feeling about the mission, but Riker doesn’t want to keep the tribunal waiting so they proceed.  The tribunal treats them as welcome guests, so welcome, in fact, that they’re informed that the Enterprise’s crew will now be permanent residents of the planet as so many visitors have done before them.  Naturally, the away team and Picard are outraged, and as they try to figure out what to do, Data realizes that perhaps there’s additional information hidden inside him.  So Picard and Dr. Crusher beam down to the planet under the pretense of diplomacy and proceed to help Gordi tinker with Data.  they learned that Data’s creator, Dr. Soong, studied crystalline energy while trapped on Faltos and used that knowledge, now implanted in Data, to escape.  So Picard and his crew put their plan into action and escape in the Enterprise, but not before the leader of the world tribunal uses his powers to remove all knowledge of Faltos’ location from Data’s (and thus Star Fleet’s) memory.

Story-wise, this was actually a pretty good way to wrap up this six-issue run.  Of all these comics, this one felt the closest to an actual episode of the show, just adapted to the pacing needs of a single issue comic, and there’s a part of me that actually wonders if this story wasn’t somehow recycled for an early episode of Voyager that’s very similar.  I’d love to know a bit more about Faltos, and see more of the planet, but even that didn’t bother me as it was obviously the easiest thing to skip for page restraints without messing up the actual story.  The art, on the other hand, still wasn’t great.  There are panels where everyone looks good, like comic stylized version of their TV characters, but in others, the characters, Data in particular, just looked ridiculous.  Earlier in the series, I was really unsure as to whether I’d be interested in reading the volume two comics, but I think with this ending, I may give them a shot at some point.  Speaking of which, I have a few more comics to cover here on Rotten Ink, the two movie ST:TNG movie adaptation comics.

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Of course, there were actually four ST:TNG movies, or three and a half depending on how you classify Generations since it is technically both an original series and Next Generation movie.  Generations was released in 1994, and the tactic of having a film covering both shows was interesting.  On one hand, I get it – all of the Trek movies up to that point were based on characters from the original series, and only three years prior, while ST:TNG was still on the air, Star Trek VI came out in theaters.  The flipside of this is that ST:TNG ended a successful TV run only months before Generations was released in theaters so it kind of begs the question, what else did that property need to do to prove itself worthy of getting its own film.  But ultimately Generations was a good passing of the torch and paved the way well for First Contact, which to me is the best ST:TNG film.  I’ll leave the plots of both of these for a moment as we’ll get to them in the comic reviews below.  After First Contact in 1996, Insurrection followed in 1998. I have mixed feeling about that one.  I don’t think it was quite as bad as many people claim, but it reminds me a lot of X-Files: I Want To Believe in that it really wasn’t a film, just a two-part mid-season episode on the big screen.  And then we have Star Trek: Nemesis.  I’ll level with you, dear Rotten Ink readers, I’ve only seen once, in the theater, and even fourteen years later that still feels like enough.  I ought to be able to have the same attitude about Nemsis that I do about Insurrection because I think the logical side of my brain knows that’s the case.  However, because Nemsis was considered such a commercial flop and a mess of a movie, it ended up being the last Star Trek movie before the JJ Abrams films (which I actually don’t mind especially since they’re attempting to simply make them an alternate universe which keeps in the spirit of Star Trek), which just really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  But we aren’t talking about Nemesis as there wasn’t a comic adaptation of it.  So here with go with Star Trek Generations.

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Star Trek Generations # 1  ***1/2
Released in 1994     Cover Price $3.95    DC    1 of 1

Captain Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are in attendance for the high profile launch of the Enterprise B.  On the ship’s maiden voyage, it encounters a distress signal from the Laku, a transport ship of refugees.  The rescue effort, however, goes completely awry resulting in Captain Kirk’s death.  Years later, the crew of the Enterprise D is celebrating Worf’s promotion when news arrives both of a personal tragedy for Picard’s family and in the form a distress call from the Amagosa star observatory.  The crew meet Dr. Soran, who was once a refugee on board the Laku.  He’s in league with the Klingon Duras Sisters, stealing trilithium and kidnapping Gordi, all in an effort to return to something called the Nexus.  Picard agrees to a prisoner exchange, but tricks the Klingons and goes after Soran, entering the Nexus himself.  While the Enterprise battles the Duras Sisters, Picard meets up with Kirk, who’s been living inside in perfect fantasy in the Nexus since the launch of the Enterprise B all those years ago.  Together, the captains defeat Soran, but not without a price as Kirk truly dies this time around.  Picard returns to his own reality to find his crew safe, but the Enterprise D destroyed.

I should have known that with Michael Jan Friedman credited for the story adaptation, this would be a great comic.  As I mentioned above, Friedman wrote most of the ST:TNG Volume 2 comics as well as a good number of original Star Trek and ST:TNG novels.  So not only is the characterization spot-on, the plot follows the movie extremely closely with good pacing for a comic adaptation (pacing is one of those things that seems really tricky to nail when adapting a film into a single comic).  The only thing that didn’t quite work story-wise was the subplot of Data getting the emotion chip, and that’s really because so much of what makes that great in the movie is Brent Spiner’s acting, not the script itself.  Plus, a tricorder singing about “lovely little lifeforms” just doesn’t read with the same charm it has onscreen.  Gordon Purcell’s artwork is wonderful.  Everyone looks, not just like the actor that portrays them, but there’s a lot care to capture their facial expressions and mannerisms.  Also, (and I realize that this also has to do with age and changes in the way comics are printed) the colors are really rich.  This comic both does the film justice and is an interesting read on its own.

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Star Trek First Contact # 1   ***
Released in 1996     Cover Price $5.95     Marvel     1 of 1

Picard still has nightmares about his time with the Borg, and because of his when they attack Earth, Star Fleet sends the Enterprise E (yes, they got a new ship) to patrol the Neutral Zone instead of into the action.  But when they learn that Star Fleet is losing, Picard disobeys orders takes the Enterprise into the thick of battle.  They’re able to destroy a Borg cube, but not before it launches a smaller sphere ship that creates a temporal vortex that sucks the Enterprise in.  Quickly the crew realize that they’ve been transported back in time, and that the Borg are trying to go back to assimilate Earth before First Contact (the first time humanity used warp engine technology triggers a visit from the Vulcans) and thus change the future.  The Enterprise destroys the sphere, but not before some surviving Borg beam onto the ship and begin assimilating it, including the Borg Queen who takes a special interest in Data.  Meanwhile on the ground, an away team attempt to aid Zefram Cochane and his assistant Lily in succeeding in their destiny of flying the first warp ship thus alerting the Vulcans to the fact that humanity has evolved in its intelligence.

Switching things up a bit, this adaptation was released by Marvel instead of DC.  Luckily, in the same vein as DC’s Generations adaptation, this was written by John Vornholt, who’s written a ton of Star Trek novels so it’s safe to say that like Michael Jan Friendman, he’s well versed in the universe and the characters.  The story fit the film nicely, but for me didn’t have the same impact as the movie.  To be fair, First Contact is by far my favorite ST:TNG movie, and to again draw an X-Files comparison, like Fight the Future, it’s one I still get excited about watching no matter how many times I’ve seen it (and I still get a little teary-eyed when First Contact happens).  So for most people, this comic will absolutely do the job and then some, but I still came away just a little underwhelmed.  The artwork by Terry Pallot and Rod Whigham is good.  Slightly more cartoony than the Generations artwork, but still great for the human characters.  Actually my super minor artwork complaint is more about the space scenes.  In panels where something is happening with the Enterprise, especially when it’s fighting the Borg cube, there are super cartoony sound effect words that for me ruined the mood of what otherwise would be a very dramatic moment.  The overall presentation of the book is nice – it’s thick with a cardstock cover as part of the Star Trek 30th anniversary line of products.  Again, this is certainly worth a read to get a taste of the film and for ST:TNG fans.  Earlier in this update, I showed you the Enterprise D, so check out the Enterprise E below….

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Alas, it’s time for me to set coordinates for another mission and return the helm to Matt for our next update.  We’ll be staying in space (sort of) and in the 90s for his next update, which is also (sort of) holiday themed. While I was crying over Vulcans in First Contact in 1996, earlier that year another space movie was released that also pitted hostile aliens against humanity for the fate of the future.  Since we’re two years too early for X-Files Fight the Fight, I’m obviously talk about Independence Day.  So join us next time as Matt dives into this film, its comic tie-ins and it’s sequel…20 years later.

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Horror Host Icon: Morgus The Magnificent

On January 3, 1959, the House of Shock opened for business with Morgus the Magnificent hitting the airwaves on News Orleans’ WWL-TV.  For the next half-century Morgus would delight monster kids (and their kids and grandkids) in his home city of New Orleans as well as New York and Detroit via syndication.  Greetings, friends of science and members of the higher order!  It’s Juliet, proud to report for blogging duty to talk about this very special horror host that was part of my family’s late night movie experience as Rotten Ink brings you Horror Host Icon: Morgus the Magnificent.  horror_morgus

Momus Alexander Morgus was descended from a long line of scientists dating all the way back to Morgus the First who it is said was the architect of the Great Pyramid.  Morgus, the 96th of his name, attended the Vasco Da Gama Medical School (the Caribbean’s finest – where he later served as the chair of quantum mechanics and far-out physics) and currently serves as the head of the Momus Alexander Morgus Institute (MAMI) and is a member of the “higher order.”  He’s the author of several volumes of scientific research including New Hope for the Dead and Molecules I Have Known as well as the inventor of many technological breakthroughs. The early years of horror hosting, alas, aren’t as well documented as they could be, but from what I can tell, it looks like Morgus was the first host who wasn’t a ghoul or vampire and was also the first host to structure his show in an episodic fashion rather than a more sketch or stand-up style.  Each episode of the House of Shock had Morgus unleashing a new experiment, and if you took the movie out, the segments would be almost like an episode of a modern day sitcom.  This is the same structure Matt and Baron Von Porkchop use for Terrifying Tales of the Macabre. The man behind Morgus was Sid Noel, a WWL radio personality and actor who both created and played the character.  Morgus’ main assistant in his experiments was Chopsley, a tall masked executioner who never spoke. Like Dr. Creep’s sidekick Duffy the Dog, Chopsley was portrayed by a variety of actors over the years, but the original Chopsley was Tommy George, a 6-foot-7 Bernard Parish motorcycle cop, who’s now deceased.  Another mainstay of the Old Ice House (and my mother’s favorite character) was Eric, a talking human skull who alerted Morgus to presence of visitors and was known to agree with his master.

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In 1962, Morgus starred in the first feature film centered around a horror host as his hosting character (Vampira was in Plan 9 From Outer Space in 1959, but that film wasn’t centered around her horror host persona) in The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus.  It’s a fabulous B movie that has Morgus creating an Instant People Machine to help with easy travel.  People go into the device and are turned into sand for easy shipping around the world where they are then reconstituted into people using another of Morgus’ devices.  In true Cold War-era fashion, spies from the vaguely Soviet nation of Microvania want to use the device for nefarious purposes all the while a super stereotypically reporter, “Pencils,” is hot on the trail of breaking the whole story wide open.  The film recently, finally, got a proper DVD release after floating around the gray market for decades, and I’m proud to report that I’m writing this blog in the shadow of a cinema-sized poster for The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (the yellow image below) that hangs in a place of honor in the apartment.

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In 1964, Sid Noel took Morgus to Detroit to produce a series of episodes for Storer Broadcasting as well as do an afternoon weather sketch.  The Detroit show was called Morgus Presents and only lasted in the Motor City until 1965 when Noel and Morgus returned to New Orleans to pursue a syndication deal, paving the way for Lawson J. Deming and Sir Graves Ghastly to take up Detroit’s horror hosting mantle.  Upon returning to New Orleans, Morgus followed the same formula he had in Detroit, a daily weather report using his Morgusso-Electromagnetic-Weather-Prognosticator and episodes of Morgus Presents (this time in color).  But that was also short-lived, and it would be 1986 until Morgus resumed production with another iteration of Morgus Presents.  The premise, set and characters were basically the same save for a few timely updates including Eric’s upgrade to E.R.I.C. (the Eon Research Infinity Computer), whose memory banks held all the world’s knowledge – basically classic Eric was attached to an Apple II.  There were 52 episodes of Morgus Presents produced between 1986 and 1989, and as you’ll see below, this is the series you’ll more than likely be watching if you track down old Morgus episodes.

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When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Mogus’ whereabouts were unknown for a brief period after the storm, leaving fans extremely worried.  Luckily, Morgus sent word that he was indeed okay and looking forward to returning to New Orleans TV sometime in the future.  In 2011, Morgus the Magnificent was inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class that also included Vampira, Zachlery, Dr. Creep and many others.  That same year, the Mystery of Morgus, a documentary on the host’s legacy, aired on WVUE-TV in New Orleans.  Reruns of Morgus continue to air in New Orleans under the name Morgus Presents: The House Of Shock, but Sid Noel has been keeping busy too.  In the 90s, he created “Uncle Noel’s Fun Fables,” a character building reading program for public school kids.  In 2013, Noel partnered with the New Orleans Public Library system to create The Internet Story Club of America, an online vault of stories for children as well as resources for parents and teachers.

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Morgus’ popularity transcended far beyond the TV set and the silver screen.  One of his most notable contributions to a none-film medium is the pop song “Morgus the Magnificent” by Morgus and the Ghouls.  The aforementioned Ghouls were actually New Orleans music royalty Dr. John and Frankie Ford.  Dr. John also has a separate song called “Morgus The Magnificent” on his Mos’ Scocious Anthology.   Modern New Orleans funk band Galactic also pays homage to Morgus in “Friends of Science” on their Ya-Ka-May album.  In grand New Orleans tradition, Morgus has been featured on Mardi Gras doubloons and has been honored by many of the carnival krewes including Endymion and Athenians.  Not to be left out of the Morgus action, a Detroit newspaper had a short-lived comic strip based on the good doctor.  It’s also worth noting that George Noory of Coast to Coast AM cites Morgus as a major influence and has had him as a guest on the show several times.

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So how does someone born and raised in Ohio become slightly obsessed with Morgus the Magnificent?  Is it the Michigan connection?  Nope.  As I mentioned when I wrote about Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, my mom is originally from New Orleans so in addition to spending some time there as a child to visit my grandparents and other family and friends who lived in the Big Easy, from a fairly early age I became really enamored with the city because of the stories she’d tell me about her childhood there.  Morgus was a part of that childhood.  My mom and my uncle both remember Morgus as being appointment viewing when they were younger, and had the ritual of sharing a bottle of Coke while watching the show – though according to my mom, you couldn’t drink it until the show began.  My mom even told me that when she moved to Ohio as an adult, she was really excited to discover Dr. Creep and Shock Theatre because she had such fond memories of Morgus, and though Shock Theatre was more sketch-based than episodic, I can see some similarities between the hosts.  But actually, Eric (who’s “just a skull”) is her all-time favorite – and now my adopted favorite as I’ve been delving into the Morgus Presents episodes, though I’m also super fond of Mogus himself (for the record, Matt is a Chopsley man).  Watching the Morgus Presents episodes have also made me truly appreciate what drew my mom to Morgus; the humor is right up her (and my) alley with a perfect mix of smarts and slapstick that’s a tad absurdist and just a little dark.

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And now, friends of science, it’s time to delve into some episodes featuring Morgus the Magnificent.  As I mentioned above, these are all episodes of the 80s Morgus Presents series as it’s nearly impossible to find any of Morgus’ older material, which is a shame because I’d love to see some of the episodes my mom watched as a kid.  Nonetheless (and lucky for us), the 80s episodes are pretty hilarious and well worth a watch.  As usual, I’ll be describing the host segments while the movie’s description comes to us via IMDB.

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Morgus Presents: Brides of Dracula
Starring – Peter Cushing & Martita Hunt     Not Rated     1960

Host: Morgus is getting ready to unveil his latest scientific achievement, a one-hour solution for baldness. He’s going to transplant the scalp of a donor onto the bald person while still allowing the donor to regrow his hair in less than an hour. Just as he’s about to show off the treatment, there’s a knock at the door, and in his first appearance, Wiley Faye, shows up and introduces himself. Faye has been watching Morgus on television and wants to be his manager. When Wiley hears about Morgus’ baldness solution, he calls up bald billionaire Cornelius Goodrich and arranges for him to come over. Before Cornelius arrives, the hair donor shows up. After a few minutes of negotiation, Larry is prepped for the transplant. Wiley and Cornelius arrive soon after, and Cornelius volunteers to receive the transplanted hair. After the surgery, Morgus has to pay Larry, but Cornelius isn’t awake yet. Wile tells Morgus to write the check and that Cornelius will cover it. But Cornelius only makes donations to people who are married. So Morgus has Chopsley bring out Zelda, a rather zombie-esque young woman who was in the room where he keeps former patients. Cornelius asks Morgus what he’d do with an unlimited amount of money, and Morgus tells him about his dream of Morgusity, a science city. Cornelius writes the check, but it’s his policy to always give the check to the wife of the family – so he enters the room marked Keep Out where Zelda and the other patients reside….

Movie: A young teacher on her way to a position in Transylvania helps a young man escape the shackles his mother has put on him. In so doing she innocently unleashes the horrors of the undead once again on the populace, including those at her school for ladies. Luckily for some, Dr Van Helsing is already on his way

morgus CREATURE walks among us dvdMorgus Presents: The Creature Walks Among Us
Starring – Jeff Morrow & Rex Reason     Unrated     1956

Host: Morgus is finally going to open up the secret room (the one marked “Keep Out” at the far end of the lab). He explains that vampire are real, though not like we see in Hollywood, and that there’s a blood shortage to feed them. Morgus has been breeding all-weather mosquitos that he sends out to sample blood from people living in the city. He then recalls the mosquitos and puts them into a device to extract the blood to feed Victoria and other vampires like her. So Morgus implores the viewers to open their windows and contribute their blood to science. He explains the conditions of vampirism and says that if you have the symptoms, you should visit the lab for blood treatment. For those who aren’t experiencing the conditions of vampirism, Morgus and E.R.I.C. have set up a special hotline (555-Morgus) to volunteer to be mailed leeches to contribute blood for the afflicted. The calls begins coming in and Chopsley works hard to pack leeches as Morgus presses more mosquitos. We meet Norman, another vampire in Morgus’ care. More sufferers of vampirism show up at the lab, but the mosquitos aren’t coming in as fast as they need to and soon Morgus has a bigger problem, the blood machine is leaking. In an effort to get more donations quickly, Morgus offers some entertainment – just like on all the other telethons. He, Chopsley and E.R.I.C. sing Home on the Range. A man from pest control arrives, saying he’s killed all of the mosquitos at the request of Alma Fetish, Morgus’ landlady. As Morgus tries to explain to the man what he’s done, the vampires attack.

Movie: In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist. This makes the Creature very unhappy, and he escapes, killing people and setting fires in the process.

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Morgus Presents: Dracula
Starring – Bela Lugosi & Helen Chandler    Unrated   1931

Host: Morgus tells the viewers that this may be the last time they see him. He’s asked the governor to send over the state’s best minds to join him in a journey to the future. Using his Morgo-Megafreezer, Morgus explains that he’ll cryogenically freeze himself and his volunteers to then be unfreezed in the future. Naturally, Morgus will go to the future so he needs someone to take his place in the present and sets about unfreezing his grandfather who’s encased in a block of ice. While Grandpa Morgus recovers from the unfreezing, distinguished scientists show up at the lab to be frozen. Alma Fetish interrupts to complain about the noise, but soon Bill Anderson, an accountant shows up, with a get-rich-quick scheme for when they’re unfrozen. Unfortunately Grandpa Morgus doesn’t recover well so Morgus arranges for Wiley Faye to take care of his business in the current era while he’s frozen. Wiley will also help run the museum that Morgus proposes will open in the lab while everyone is frozen.

Movie: After a harrowing ride through the Carpathian mountains in eastern Europe, Renfield enters castle Dracula to finalize the transferral of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula, who is in actuality a vampire. Renfield is drugged by the eerily hypnotic count, and turned into one of his thralls, protecting him during his sea voyage to London. After sucking the blood and turning the young Lucy Weston into a vampire, Dracula turns his attention to her friend Mina Seward, daughter of Dr. Seward who then calls in a specialist, Dr. Van Helsing, to diagnose the sudden deterioration of Mina’s health. Van Helsing, realizing that Dracula is indeed a vampire, tries to prepare Mina’s fiance, John Harker, and Dr. Seward for what is to come and the measures that will have to be taken to prevent Mina from becoming one of the undead.

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Morgus Presents: The Eyes of Charles Sand
Starring – Peter Haskell & Joan Bennett     Not Rated     1972

Host: We pick up from a prior cliffhanger (from the Godzilla Raids Again episode) with the real Morgus outside the lab listening in to his evil clone angrily proclaim that he’s placed his Morgusaroid clones throughout the city strapped with explosives, but the real Morgus has a plan. He’s going to sneak into the lab through the secret bookcase passageway and will pretend to be one of the clones. Evil Morgus decides to create more Morgusaroids to try to grow his evil empire to the state capital. The new clone is a bit scrawny so Evil Morgus decides to arm a new clone and picks the real Morgus who succeeded in sneaking into the lab. Chopsley boxes him up for shipment to the governor with a bomb attached. A workman comes to take the box away and hearing Morgus’ screams, frees him. Morgus defuses the bomb and heads out the window to sneak back into the lab. Evil Morgus rails against the TV station for cutting off his evil speeches and gets ready to send a clone strapped with dynamite to the station. The governor calls and concedes the state to Evil Morgus, who now decides to go after the whole country. Evil Morgus hops on to the cloning machine to create more clones of himself, but the real Morgus reverses the polarity of the machine and zaps Evil Morgus into oblivion. Morgus recalls the clones to the lab for their subsequent donation to the army along with a donation of Chopsley clones to the sanitation department. The first Chopsley clone makes himself right at home and locks himself in the original Chopsley’s hide-y hole behind Morgus’ chalkboard. Morgus has a deal to sell the cloning machine to the government, and a representative from the pro-football scouting organization shows up to strike a deal for one of the Chopsleys. When he asks a Chopsley to sign the contract, they all being fighting over it and smash Morgus’ cloning machine.

Movie: A young man inherits the ability to see visions beyond the grave. He helps a girl investigate her brother’s alleged murder.

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Morgus Presents: Frankenstein Conquers The World
Starring – Tadao Takashima & Nick Adams     Not Rated     1965

Host: Morgus is ready to make history as aliens make first contact with the inhabitants of the Old Ice House. The aliens communicate through music, which Morgus employs E.R.I.C. to translate, but the TV station interrupts this momentous occasion by starting the night’s movie. When we return, Eric has translated the message; it’s pi. The aliens continue to communicate, addressing Morgus by name and telling him that to prepare for a cultural exchange. Morgus realizes that they mean a cultural representative of the Earth, and of course nominates himself. As Morgus prepares for space, he explains that the aliens must be highly advanced and will bring peace to the Earth, which he’ll help negotiate. Part of the preparations include rigging up a system for Morgus to eat liquified bologna sandwiches in space via a rubber glove and having Chopsley stuff Morgus into a dryer to see how he can withstand the g-force of launching into space. Morgus calls Wiley Faye, and tells him to get the media over to the Old Ice House as soon as possible. E.R.I.C. informs them that the aliens are getting closer as Morgus begins to pack for his journey and the first reporter arrives to interview Morgus. The alien arrives with a bang, and flashes the sign of the higher order before freezing Morgus to scan him. Morgus is unsure how to communicate with the alien, but Chopsley makes some headway with a game of tic-tac-toe. While Morgus is getting ready to go, the alien says that it doesn’t want Morgus, it actually wants E.R.I.C. and in his place, they send alien-version of the skull hooked to a computer in his place.

Movie: During WWII, a human heart taken from a certain lab in Europe (Dr. Frankenstein’s) is kept in a Japanese lab, when it gets exposed to the radiation of the bombing of Hiroshima. The heart grows in size, mutates and sprouts appendages, and eventually grows into a complete body and escapes. Later, a feral boy with a certain physical deformity (a large head with a flat top) is captured by scientists who refer to the boy as Frankenstein. The creature grows to the height of 20 feet, escapes again, fights police and army, and is practically indestructible. Later, a reptilian monster goes on a rampage. Eventually the Frankenstein creature and the reptile face off in a terrible battle.

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Morgus Presents: Godzilla
Starring – Takashi Shimura & Akihiko Hirata    Unrated   1954

Host: Morgus is trying to get a hold of the president because our country’s biggest weapon is at risk. Morgus goes on to explain that the battle of the future is the battle of the brains. Therefore Morgus has created a device to help preserve the best brains of the nation, giving up their bodies to hook into a device that resembles a giant E.R.I.C. Morgus calls forth the great brains of the nation, especially those of the higher order, to come to the lab and volunteer for this service while Morgus continues to try to call the president. Chopsley offers up his own brain, but Morgus says that in fact Chopsley’s brain is too valuable to preserve in this fashion (because it’s never been used). Someone calls in and suggests that Morgus preserve his own brain. E.R.I.C. chimes in with his agreement so Morgus talks Chopsley through performing the surgery and transporting Morgus’s head onto the device. From his position on the device (and looking rather like E.R.I.C.), Morgus expresses his dismay that no one has volunteered to preserve their brain at the Mt. Morgus Brain Preserve. Chopsley’s solution is to make bumper stickers that proclaim “I Heart My Brain.” An FBI agent arrives because Morgus has been calling the White House talking about the end of the world. The agent says he’ll take Morgus to see the president, but gets grossed out and runs into the room marked “Keep Out” when he sees Morgus’ headless body sitting at the lab table. Morgus goes on to explain that once the brain is separated from the body, it becomes more powerful and demonstrates this by sweeping the lab with his mind and then fools Chopsley into playing chess with his headless body. Morgus finally decides to replace his head on his body, but when he ordered Chopsley to do so, E.R.I.C. interrupts and reminds Chopsley of their deal – a body for E.R.I.C. and he’ll fix Chopsley’s face. With his skull on Morgus’ body, E.R.I.C. when accepts a phonecall from the president inviting Eric the Excellent for a visit to the White House.

Movie: A 164-foot-tall (50-meter-tall) monster reptile with radioactive breath is revived, thanks to nuclear testing. It goes on a mad rampage, destroying Tokyo – can it be stopped? Should it be killed?

Morgus Godzilla Raids Again dvd

Morgus Presents: Godzilla Raids Again
Starring – Hiroshi Koizumi & Setsuko Wakayama    Unrated    1955

Host: E.R.I.C. introduces the show because Morgus is still under arrest from the previous episode. Soon Morgus and Chopsley arrive in handcuffs, and Morgus explains a bright idea from Wiley Faye and his cloning machine, which was used to create the Morgusaroid clones, had caught the attention of the law. But now Morgus sets about the business of creating more Morgusaroids to sell to the public. There are different models ranging from the very basic un-housebroken Morgusaroid to a fully customizable model. While Chopsley feeds them (they only require dog food and water), Morgus shows a video by order of the judge that released him, of the Morgusaroids doing community service throughout New Orleans. The newly trained Morgusaroids are prepared for shipping, and a rock and roll musician shows up seeking Morgusroids to fill out his band. The Morgusroids rock out, and Morgus makes a sale. But Morgus cautions that they need to be careful with the duplicator machine’s intelligence control. Before he can explain further, a woman arrives to buy a Morgusaroid to serve as her permanent escort. The orders for Morgusroids keep coming in so Morgus hops back onto the duplicator. Chopsley gets distracted by the phone ringing and a Morgusaroid flips the wrong switch (the intelligence switch) and creates an evil version of Morgus. A man from the department of labor shows up to arrest Morgus for employing clones that are only 10 minutes old, and when he tries to warn him about the Evil Morgus, the man takes the Real Morgus away. Evil Morgus closes the show by vowing to take over the city.

Movie: Koji Kobayashi, a spotter for a Japanese fishing fleet crash lands his plane on a barren island. His best friend, Shoichi Tsukioka, manages to find him and lands his plane next to his so he can be rescued. The two pilots are shocked when they see two giant monsters waging war before falling into the ocean. The two pilots race back to Japan to inform the government what they saw. Soon the world comes to the realization, that a monster closely related to the original Godzilla is on the loose as well as a new monster named Angilas. Soon, the two monsters arrive in Osaka where they resume their battle. Will the two monsters destroy Osaka before they ultimately destroy each other?

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Morgus Presents: Godzilla vs. Mothra
Starring – Akira Takarada & Hiroshi Koizumi    Not Rated   1964

Host: Morgus promises that the evening’s experiment will answer all of our unanswered questions about physics. He reveals an invisible table, created with a special formula of liquid molecules that when treated properly will vibrate and make an object invisible. Morgus quickly proceeds from solid molecules in solid objects to animals, showing off his invisible hamster named Albert, which he then makes almost reappear with yet another formula. A visitor appears at the lab, Claude, an invisible scientist who turned himself as such during a botched experiment. Claude wants Morgus to perfect his visibility formula and cure him. But the formula must be injected directly into the adrenal gland so Morgus performs invisible surgery on Claude who begins blinking in and out of view. The operation doesn’t appear to work so Morgus wraps up Claude like the Invisible Man. The next thing they try is to give Claude the formula orally after-which he freaks out and starts throwing things at Morgus. He and Chopsley finally get Claude calmed down (and sedated) and use clown makeup to fool him into thinking he’s invisible. While Claude jogs to supposedly make the medicine work, Morgus waits for the doctors from the sanitarium that he’s had his fans call for Claude. The doctors arrive, but Claude’s unwrapped himself and disappeared, and the doctors think Morgus is the crazy one.

Movie: A greedy developer has placed huge machines to suck dry a part of the ocean near Tokyo so he can put luxury condos there. After a storm, a giant egg washes up on the beach nearby and is immediately put on public display. The developer’s plans go awry when he disrupts Godzilla’s rest and the monster goes stomping through Tokyo again. It’s up to the elderly Mothra, and then to its two offspring, to save Tokyo from destruction.

morgus godzilla vs the sea monster dvd

Morgus Presents: Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
Starring – Akira Takarada & Kumi Mizuno     Not Rated    1966

Host: Morgus sends Chopsley to the store for sandwiches saying that there’s precious little time to eat while they finish their latest scientist breakthrough. As he greets the viewers, Morgus alerts journalists in the audience that they’ll want to pay special attention because this invention will give them an edge on the competition. The Morgusoscopic Prognosticator allows you to see into the future and find out what’s going to happen before it happens – so, among other things, news reporter could know the news before it happens. The Prognosticator works by employing Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which Morgus take it upon himself to teach the viewers about, and spits out the future readings via the computer E.R.I.C. is wired to. Morgus uses the machine to predict a nearby fire, which moments later in started by Chopsley, who is barbecuing in the hallway. Once the firemen leave, the chief stays behind to ask Morgus how he knew to call for help ahead of time. Morgus demonstrates the machine successfully, but as the chief leaves, his landlord Alma Fetish pays him a visit. She’s fed up with Morgus’ experiments, but he cons her into helping him by rigging her up with a camera so he can break the news as it happens using the machine’s predictions. Morgus launches the Futuristic News with himself as chief correspondent, Alma as roving reporter and Chopsley as the weatherman. As a car pulls up, Morgus is excited because he thinks the station manager is coming to write him a check for the Prognosticator and the Futuristic News service. Morgus uses the machine to see what kind of contract the manager will offer, but it tells him that a well known TV scientist will die live on the air in 1 minute. Morgus tells the viewers not to worry as he keels over. Morgus’ ghost watches in a panic as the station manager arrive with the contract.

Movie: Some teenagers want to obtain a boat to find a brother. When they look around a boat without permission, they find a thief who takes them on his escape. They are caught in a storm and arrive at Letchi Island where natives of Infant Island have been enslaved by the terrorist organisation Red Bamboo. Red Bamboo runs a heavy water factory to process a juice which holds off the monster, Ebirah, which otherwise traps them on the island. The young men meet beautiful but tough Daiyo and wake up Godzilla to put an end to the Red Bamboo.

morgus house of frankenstein dvd

Morgus Presents: House of Frankenstein
Starring – Boris Karloff & Lon Chaney Jr.     Not Rated     1944

Host: Morgus is ready to shake up the medical world with his revolutionary DIY Clinics, where the average person can learn to diagnose and treat their own ailments using books and video cassettes made by Morgus himself. Patients begin to arrive at Morgus’ clinic including a woman about to have a baby, a man with a bloody injury and a woman who needs Morgus’ help to lose weight. Two babies are delivered, and a man named Perry Hoolihan arrives, suffering from halitosis. Morgus preps Perry for surgery (yes, for bad breath), and after a few explosions, he’s sent to recovery with aspirin (Morgus’ cure for everything). The clinic quickly fills up with patients in recovery (taking aspirin distributed by Chopsley) and Morgus reminds a man removing his own appendix to wear gloves. As more patients come to the Clinic, Morgus tries to get them up with television (via a telescope looking into the window of an adjacent building) and hospital food. Meanwhile, babies continue to be delivered and Morgus invites the doctors of the world to become franchisees of his DIY Clinic. Mr. Carter, the man who removed his own appendix, is recovering and Morgus urges him to take aspirin. But another patient is having a bad reaction and Morgus realizes that Chopsley’s been giving boric acid (roach powder) to all of the patients instead of aspirin, making them all drop…like roaches.

Movie: After escaping from an asylum the mad Dr. Niemann and his hunch back assistant revive Count Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster in order to extract revenge upon their many enemies.

morgus invasion of the body snatchers dvd

Morgus Presents: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Starring – Kevin McCarthy & Dana Wynter   Not Rated    1956

Host: Morgus proclaims that the world is running out of food. The world’s population is growing and so are human beings – like Chosley, who Morgus declares is far too tall. Morgus has two experiments for the evening that will allow food to grow larger and people to grow smaller. After some persuasion, Chopsley agrees to be part of the experiment and enters a compression chamber to become half his size. Morgus and the smaller Chopsley move on to the next experiment of trying to make food larger, but as they get started, Chopsley proves rather useless because he’s no longer strong and is too short to reach anything on the lab’s top shelves. As Morgus grows a watermelon to 3 times its size, a man from the phone company arrives to collect on the payphone in the lab. The man mentions that he hates his job and always wanted to be a jockey but he’s too tall. Of course Morgus and his invention can help. He shrinks the man, who leaves the collection money with Morgus. As Morgus grows more vegetables, Chopsley pouts about being small, and the small telephone man and his wife return. The wife is furious and wants Morgus to make her husband big again, but instead Morgus talks her into getting into the compression machine too with the promise of being thinner. Mr. Wallace from the Defense Department arrives, and Morgus strikes up a deal with him to get this new technology to the Secretary of Defense. Meanwhile, Chopsley attempts to inject himself with the serum for the watermelon so he can grow large again. Morgus tries to stop him but ends up injecting himself and growing into a giant.

Movie: Dr Miles Bennell returns his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors. He is initially skeptical, especially when the alleged dopplegängers are able to answer detailed questions about their victim’s lives, but he is eventually persuaded that something odd has happened and determines to find out what is causing this phenomenon.

morgus son of godzilla dvd

Morgus Presents: Son of Godzilla
Starring – Tadao Talashima & Akira Kudo    Not Rated    1967

Host: Morgus is very excited to welcome the stock brokers in the audience as his latest invention will make millions for the lucky investor. He’s created a perpetual motion machine using bionics so that the human heart is the source of the perpetual energy or MAMI Energy. Of course, the machine won’t be powered by the heart of a living human; a corpse is delivered, and Chopsley sets about connecting it to the machine. Morgus explains that the body requires no fuel other than plain water, and then calls out the press for printing an article calling him “The Weakest Link” (placed next to the funnies). Using a car battery, Morgus and Chopsley jumpstart the body and the machine. Shortly after it starts, they’ve created enough energy to power a fan. A workman arrives to read the gas meter and sneaks some photos of the machine in operation, and soon afterward, JP Randolph arrives from OEC to present Morgus with an award, The Oil Energy Cartel Peace Prize. Randolph says that OEC has authorized Morgus to make a donation of his machine to them, and they’ll of course give him $100,000. But they’re not planning on giving the donation to the people, rather they want to keep it away from the public. Luckily, Morgus calls a “code 3” and Chopsley hauls Randolph away. As Chosley returns, Morgus notices that the corpse is beginning to smell, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the bug man who’s there to spray (and looks suspiciously like the gas meter reader and takes pictures of the machine just like him). Later, Morgus is making arrangements with the press, and a building inspector (with the same accent and look as the others) visits and snoops around, After he leaves, Morgus fields some audience questions via the phone in the lab about the device, and unfortunately we don’t know how things turn out because our copy of this episode ends with the movie.

Movie: A group of scientists are on tropical Solgel Island in the Pacific to conduct weather control experiments. Just before they begin, they find giant preying mantises measuring 25 feet tall called Kamakaras. They decide to go ahead with the experiments, but a malfunction in one of the devices and as a result a radioactive storm that pushes the temperature up to two hundred degrees. The storm also causes the mantises to grow even bigger to 100 feet tall. The mantises then make their way to a huge mound where they uncover a giant egg which contains a young Godzilla, later named Minilla. Eventually, Godzilla shows up and saves his offspring. The rest of the movie features Godzilla taking care of and teaching his young son the skills that will eventually help him to become the new “King of Monsters” as well as fighting the Kamakaras and a giant spider named Kumoga.

Morgus Terror Of Mechagodzilla DVD

Morgus Presents: Terror Of Mechagodzilla
Starring – Tomoko Ai & Goro Mutsumi     Not Rated    1975

Host: Morgus is catching up on fanmail, which includes many propositions from his female viewers. But alas, Mogus has an announcement. As the last of the Momus A. Morguses (Morgusi?), he must marry and produce an heir. With the help of his manager, Wiley Faye, the perfect candidate to be the bride of Morgus will arrive at the lab later in the show. But all is not well, as Chopsley packs his bag to leave. During the movie, Morgus convinces Chopsley to stay, and the executioner is helping his boss spruce up his hair as Wiley arrives with not one, but three perfect candidates. Morgus conducts a blind interview and chooses his bride, but he’s not to wed her; he needs her genes. DOA, the woman Morgus is to marry is in pieces on his lab table. He eventually assembles and revives her, and he sets to work teaching her to speak so that she can say their wedding vows. Later that evening, Morgus follows the advice of his father’s book, The Morgus Mating Manual, and tries to court DOA, but Chopsley’s stolen most of the diagrams from the book. Wiley returns with the rest of the wedding supplies and guests. As the Justice of the Peace begins the ceremony, he asks if there are any objections and the bride speaks up saying that she wants Chopsley instead, and Morgus is left chasing after the happy couple.

Movie: Aliens from a dying galaxy plan to destroy our cities and build their new home on Earth. Their weapon is Mechagodzilla, a 400-foot-tall robot armed with powerful lasers and guided missiles. Only Godzilla is mighty enough to stop the colossal machine, but when Professor Mafune joins the aliens, not even Godzilla will be able to defeat them. Mafune controls Titanosaurus, a gigantic amphibious dinosaur, through a biochemical connection with his cyborg daughter, Katsura. Godzilla is no match for Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla together, but Interpol agents have discovered Titanosaurus’ weakness, which may give Godzilla the fighting chance he needs to save the world!

morgus wolfman dvd

Morgus Presents: The Wolfman
Starring – Claude Rains & Lon Chaney Jr.      Not Rated     1941

Host: Morgus has a brand new invention with which to rock the scientific community. He’s solved the problem of transportation with a machine that will modify the matter of people and turn them into a sand-like substance for easy shipping and transportation. Chopsley returns from Alma Fetish’s apartment with a frozen turkey for demonstration purposes and brings along Michael the dog. Morgus puts the turkey into the machine and delivers the particles to the Morguso-Restorator machine to demonstrate how matter is then rehydrated and put back together. Morgus then decides to demonstrate the machine on a live source, Michael. Some of the resulting sand lands on the floor, and when Morgus puts it into the Restorator machine, Michael returns as a smaller dog but is safely returned to Alma. The next test subject is Kid Diamond, a local rock star, who insists that Morgus try out the machine first. After a successful test, Kid is turned to sand and placed in a labeled jar on Morgus’ shelf ready for shipment to Mexico City. The next visitor is Jack Smith, a shady character who want Morgus to send some jewels through the machine for shipment to his “dear old mother in Mexico City.” Jack had intended to fly to Mexico City, but Morgus is happy to send him right through the machine and then sends Chopsley down to the police station with the jars of the jewels and thief. Morgus is in the midst of arranging for the jars and the Restorator to be shipped to Mexico City when a policeman arrives, confused about Chopsley’s delivery. Morgus restores the thief, who’s promptly arrested. Then members of a bowling team arrive and ask to be sent to Mexico City. He passes the jars off the Chopsley and tells him to up to “put all four in the box.” So Chopsley dumps the contents of the jars into a box, mixing up all of the sand. Morgus attempts to restore all four people from the mixed up sand and creates a giant blob monster made of their matter. Note: this episode’s plot is very similar to that of the feature film.

Movie: Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela’s mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Transformed by the full moon, Larry heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen Conliffe.

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And there you have it, Friends of Science, my look at Morgus the Magnificent.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know or getting reacquainted with this legend of horror hosting.  It was really interesting to me, as I researched Morgus’ on air history, to see the affection for him in multiple cities – most notably New Orleans and Detroit.  We tend to think of horror hosts, especially those early hosts, as being so of their city, and while Morgus is certainly of New Orleans, the character and the writing of the show is of such quality that it’s easy to see why viewers in other cities could so easily adopt him as their own.  Very special thanks to Matt for asking me to write about Morgus and for his persistence in tracking down the episodes for me. For the next update, I’ll be retreating back to my own little corners of the web and handing the reigns back over to Matt who will have you peeking under your bed and into your closet when he covers the Boogieman.  Until then, pleasant dreams….

The Boogieman logo

The Witching Hour Is Close At Hand

Greetings, Inkerinos!  It’s Juliet, once again reporting for guest writing duties here on Rotten Ink.  The last few times I’ve been here, I’ve primarily talked about comics based on TV shows that meant a lot to me at one point or another.  Today, we’re going to do something a little different and talk about a comic series that was not based on a TV show but something else that had a huge impact me on me, Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour.49712

For many people, the instant association you make upon hearing Anne Rice’s name is Interview With A Vampire, and while I love that book and the series of books based around the original title, The Witching Hour and the subsequent Lives of the Mayfair Witches series (which did end up crossing over with the Vampire Chronicles books at a few points) remains my favorite of her work.  The Witching Hour was released in 1990.  At the time Rice had already released several Vampire Chronicles novels, the Sleeping Beauty erotica trilogy written under the name A.N. Roquelaure (that I maintain is infinitely better than 50 Shades could ever dream of being, and by the way, a new installment, Beauty’s Kingdom, is being released this month!!!), and many one-shot novels like Cry to Heaven, The Feast of All Saints and The Mummy or Ramses the Damned.  Before I tell you too much about the plot of The Witching Hour, I want to share with you a bit of how I came to read the book, and why Rice’s work is so special to me.

Broadway Opening Of 'Lestat' - Arrivals

Anne Rice

My mother grew up in New Orleans, which is where Anne Rice is also from and where the majority of her books take place at least in part.  There are few authors who hail from and/or celebrate New Orleans in their writing that I can recall my mom reading, talking about, and when I was old enough, sharing with me:  Anne Rice and mystery writer Julie Smith.  More recently I fell head over heels in love with the writing of Romanian-born Andre Cordrescu and was happy to return the favor in a sense by sharing with my mom his New Orleans, Mon Amore. I knew who Anne Rice was long before I actually read her books and actually briefly met her prior to that as well.  The occasion was a book signing here in Ohio at what was then a great, independent local book store (that’s now sadly owned by a chain), and I believe it was for the release of Servant of the Bones.  Because we knew the lines were going to be insanely long, my mom and I went to the bookstore right after I got out of school.  Two things stick out from that day:  my mom and Anne Rice chatting for quite a while about New Orleans and seeing some of the best-dressed goth kids in my young life in line to have their books signed and thinking that I’d LOVE to dress that way.

The Garden District in New Orleans

The Garden District in New Orleans

It would be only a couple more years until I read The Witching Hour, my first time being from the signed hardcover edition my mom had gotten that day.  The book had both an immediate and lasting impression on me as both a reader and writer.  At the time, The Witching Hour was the first adult book that could be considered to be in the horror genre I had read, but even after I moved on to other works by other authors in the genre, it has a special place in my heart because the worldbuilding and family history that make up the story felt really akin to the numerous fantasy paperbacks I spend several summers checking out from the library.  It was a perfect entrance into the horror genre for that, and the fact that it meshed gothic horror with a modern story and an added twist of ritual and magic (which is basically what I would later spend my college career studying…well, the Ancient Greek version of ritual and magic).  I was already writing when I read The Witching Hour, but it’s the first book I can remember reading and thinking, “I want to read more things like this” and then thinking, “maybe I should write things like this” and examining what it was about the story and its structure that worked for me and thinking about how I could apply those elements to what I wanted to write and how to bring a story together to make it effective for a reader.

This is the real house in New Orleans that the Mayfair mansion is based on it.  Anne Rice lived there for many years, and yes, I've made it a point to go see it on every trip to New Orleans since reading the book.

This is the real house in New Orleans that the Mayfair mansion is based on it. Anne Rice lived there for many years, and yes, I’ve made it a point to go see it on every trip to New Orleans since reading the book.

So what is it about?  Without giving away too much, it’s about a family of witches.  But it’s far more complicated than stake burnings and spells.  There’s a mysterious being known as Lasher whose attachment to the family goes back centuries and a prophecy involving the thirteenth witch, all of which is revealed through present-day action and a comprehensive history of the Mayfair family compiled by a strange organization called the Talamascha.

The Witching Hour spawned a sequel called Lasher, and a third book, Taltos followed. In 2000, Merrick began weaving the Vampires Chronicles and the Lives of the Mayfair Witches together.  This would continue in Blackwood Farm and culminate with Blood Canticle, in which Rowan Mayfair and the vampire Lestat finally meet face to face.  At the time, Blood Canticle was to be the final volume of both series as Rice was leaving the horror genre supposedly for good.  Now that she’s returned to her roots with Prince Lestat and a new volume of her Sleeping Beauty erotica series, I can’t help but wonder if (and get super excited at the remote possibility that) Anne Rice might give us another Mayfair Witches story at some point.

LasherNovelCover_TaltosLrgMerrickBlackwoodFarmBlog_Rice_BloodCanticle

Unlike the Interview With a Vampire/The Vampire Chronicles, which had a bit of merchandise and a higher pop culture status because of the films based on two of the books, The Witching Hour/Lives on the Mayfair Witches was pretty contained to the books themselves.  The one notable, though to my knowledge unintended, tie-in was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Sub Rosa that had a plot very similar to the Witching Hour.  Millennium Comico began what was intended to be a 13 issue series based on The Witching Hour in 1992, perfect timing as Lasher was coming out in ‘93.  We’ll talk about the fate of the series after the comics so remember that we grade these on a 1-4 star scale and look for entertainment value, quality of the story, the art and how true the books stays to the source martial.  So let’s travel to New Orleans’ Garden District and meet the Mayfair Witches.811556_01

The Witching Hour  #1  ***1/2
Released in 1992     Cover price $2.50    Millenium Comico    #1 of 13

This first issue opens with a doctor who’s been haunted by strange dreams ever since his meeting with a strange Englishman named Aaron Lightner who works for something called The Talamasca.  In their conversation, the doctor had recounted to Lightner how he had first encountered the Mayfair family in their New Orleans Garden District home when he had been summoned to treat Deirdre, a young woman in a seemingly waking coma who was under the care of her three aunts.  As the doctor began to explore treatment options with many roadblocks from the aunts, it was revealed that Deirdre has a daughter in California, and there are strange signs and mentions of “Lasher.”  Then one day, a strange man appears on the front porch.  He’s there to visit Deirdre and oddly, she seems to respond to him, even calling the name Lasher.  But just as soon as he appears, the man disappears.  Lightner tells the doctor that he’s recorded other stories, ghost stories, from the Mayfair house in which people claim to have seen the same man.  We then move, via a tabloid cover, to California where Michael Curry is grappling with both his strange psychic powers and a recent near-drowning from which he was saved by a mysterious woman he’s now obsessed with finding.  Michael reflects on his childhood in New Orleans, thinking he saw the ghost of a man in the Garden District and then blacks out dreaming of being visited by an Englishman there to hear his story.  Next we meet Father Mattingly, a New Orleans priest who recalls Deirdre as a troubled child who claimed to have visions of visitations from a man who her aunts claimed was the devil himself. It’s revealed that Deirdre’s grandmother, Stella, was murdered by her brother Lionel – a crime that the family covered up, and Deirdre’s mother Antha committed suicide by jumping out the window of the house.  There’s talk among the older priests of the legacy of the Mayfair women; their vast wealth and jewels, the fact that even when they marry they do not take their husband’s names, and, of course, the mysterious man who seems to haunt the family.  Father Mattingly wanders to the Mayfair house and notices Deirdre on the porch, but is interrupted by Aaron Lightner who invites him to lunch.  Later that evening, he passes by the house again on his way back to the rectory and notices a young man standing on the porch caring for Deirdre and muses that although he could not save her, he’s glad that this man is there to help her.

As I’m sure you noticed, there’s A LOT going on in this first issue, and yet we barely got anywhere.  I had kind of figured that would happen.  Actually when I agreed to cover The Witching Hour comics for Rotten Ink, I remember telling Matt that I had no clue how they could possibly manage to turn the book into a coherent comic because, as I mentioned above, it’s massive and in-depth and spans years and locations and characters.  This first issue, however, does a damn good job of it.  It’s a really visual book with beautiful, at times water-color-esque artwork that I think really works for this type of story.  A lot of attention was obviously paid to the way the visuals could do what Anne Rice’s prose does in terms of moving the story along and giving you the necessary information to start to piece together the story.  I’m already concerned, however, as to how in the world they’ll ever get this story accomplished in a mere thirteen issues.  I suppose that From Hell was originally done in eleven issues, but those had twice the page count of this first issue.  I fully acknowledge that some things will have to be cut for clarity and space, but it’s not obvious to me what that will be — I’d assume it’s going to be a truncated version of the Mayfair family history as Rowan’s story will probably begin to take precedent as we get further into the series.  Let’s get to issue two and see if that’s indeed the case.512HF8oJwKL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Witching Hour  #2  ***
Released in 1993     Cover price $2.50    Millenium Comico    #2 of 13

Issue two begins with Dr. Rowan Mayfair watching a TV broadcast featuring an interview with Michael Curry where he implores the woman who saved him from drowning to come forward so he can thank her.  Rowan recounts the events of Michael’s near death experience, but we learn that she has secrets of her own.  Like Michael, Rowan is plagued by abilities she cannot control; she can kill people via some kind of telekinesis, which we see play out in a flashback from her childhood.  Nevertheless she finally agrees to meet Michael, and with Aaron Lightner looking on from the shadows, the pair form an immediate connection, sharing their deepest, darkest secrets through conversation and their powers which give them an almost psychic bond.  But, Michael is due on a trip to New Orleans, which has Rowan very apprehensive because she was born there but forbidden by her adoptive mother to explore her family history.  Michael’s first stop in New Orleans is to the Garden District house from his youth, the place where he saw the so-called ghost, the moment he attributes to awakening his powers.  At the gate, he sees the man, unchanged from his childhood, and then the figure comes at him, passing through him and confirming that it’s some kind of otherworldly being.  Aaron Lightner is there to witness the whole thing and informs Michael that it’s imperative that they talk.  The book ends with a page of text about a dark ages magician and alchemist called the Talamasca, the first historian of the mystic and the order that grew out from his followers, saying that only its most experienced members deal with witchcraft.IMG_0177

And here we go!  At least I think so.  I hope so. Okay, I should back up.  This issue begins by establishing Rowan and Michael, their powers and their relationship.  It’s a lot to cram into a few pages, and I wonder if people who’d not read the book would understand the depth of the connection and all of the psychic powers information.  Then again, I’m not sure if this is the type of comic that would have gotten a lot of attention from people who hadn’t read the book.  Maybe…maybe not.  It’s odd because this issue felt both slow and rushed until the very end – then it was just right.  When Michael finally arrives in New Orleans and has the experience at the house, I was excited.  Perhaps it’s because that’s the first real moment of action in this issue that wasn’t just a flashback or vague psychic vision.  Actually, and this going to sound weird, the text-only page was the most exciting for me.  I adore the Talamascha. I’m a bit of a sucker for secret societies that study the mystic, and I love that this is one of the things that connects the Mayfair Witches series to Rice’s Vampire Chronicle books (David Talbot is a high ranking member).  I haven’t found any evidence to prove this theory, but I’ve often thought that it was the inspiration for the Watchers Council in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  To make things cooler, this comic included tear-out Talamasca calling cards AND my copy had both cards in tact.  How cool is that?!  Check out the picture above.  Speaking of pictures, the art in this issue was good. It definitely wasn’t as clever in the layout department as the last one, but still a very solid offering.  Let’s get to the next one.218898-19377-116150-1-anne-rice-s-the-witc

The Witching Hour  #3  ***
Released in 1993     Cover price $2.50    Millenium Comico    #3 of 13

Rowan awakens from a dream about an incident in her past at a strange hospital.  As she catches her breath, she realizes that someone is standing outside her house and comes face to face with the vision of a man, the same man, she realizes, that Michael has been seeing.  Meanwhile in New Orleans, Aaron Lightner formally introduces himself and the Talamascha, explaining that Michael holds a enormous power and mistakenly thinking that it was Rowan who sent Michael to New Orleans because the infamous belongs to the Mayfairs and will be hers.  Back in California, Rowan receives a call from one of the aunts who had cared for Deirdre, her mother, who is now dead.  Rowan is torn between joining Michael in New Orleans and keeping the promise she made to her adoptive mother to never set foot in the city.  Aaron continues to explain what he and the Talamascha know about the Mayfair family, saying it’s strange that the man made himself visible to Michael because he ought to be after Rowan.  He goes on to say that the Mayfairs are a family of witches and that the man has been attached to the family for centuries.  We see, in a flashback, the circumstances under which Deirdre was made to give up Rowan and learn that there’s a green jewel that’s passed down to the Mayfair women.  Aaron becomes panicked upon learning that Rowan is traveling to New Orleans for the funeral and gives Michael the Talamascha’s journals on the history of the Mayfair Witches.

And here we have a shift from the first part of the book to the second.  But first let’s talk about covers.  The cover for this one is a bit confusing to me because it’s kind of more appropriate for what I assume will be the topic of issue 4, the original Mayfair witch.  Regardless, there’s A LOT happening in this issue, and we move back and forth from Rowan in California to Aaron and Michael in New Orleans with flashbacks sprinkled in.  I think the back and forth worked really in terms of the page layout – without much need for explanation, the reader could move seamlessly from place to place.  That can be challenging in the wrong hands, even with visual support from the artwork, which was the most straightforward/regular comic style we’ve seen in the series so far.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m curious about the pacing of the issues.  It’s taken us three issues for the set up, which seems about right, but the history of the Mayfair Witches is pretty exhaustive so I’m curious how they’ll pull off that AND the actual story of Rowan, Michael and Lasher.  So let’s get to issue four and see what happens.

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The Witching Hour  #4  **1/2
Released in 1993     Cover price $2.50    Millenium Comico    #4 of 13

The history of the Mayfair Witches begins as told by Petyr Van Abel, an agent of the Talamascha in the 17th century.  Petyr arrives in a small French village, where a comtesse named Deborah is to be burned in the square as a witch.  As a child, Deborah had escaped Scotland with the help of Petyr after her mother, Suzanne was also burned for witchcraft. On their journey from Scotland, Deborah refused to speak, save for conversations in the night with someone or something Petyr could not see.  At the Talamascha motherhouse, Deborah had exhibited a strange power, the ability to read the mind of anyone she touched with bare hands through visions, a similar power to Michael’s, and she calls upon a being known as Lasher.  Petyr finds himself falling in love with Deborah, but his loyalty to the Talamascha prevents him from acting on his affection.  Later, when she’s about to be married, Deborah visits Petyr for one night of passion, and he does not see her again.  Back in the village, we learn that Deborah’s daughter Charlotte has escaped the village and it’s persecution, and Petyr vows that he’ll do anything to save Deborah including calling upon “her devil” if need be.  We end in the present with Michael realizing that Deborah is one of the figures that’s been plaguing his dreams and realizes that Lasher is the first word he said after coming back to life from his near-drowning.

I adore the history of the Mayfair Witches so it was fun to finally see it getting under way in the comics.  It’s a very detailed story, but I thought that for the most part, the visuals helped move things along.  The only flaws with the artwork were that the handwriting sections of Petyr’s journal (used as narration) were a bit hard to read and transitions between years and places weren’t as obvious as they were in the last issue.  A couple of times, I had to go back and re-read a section to be sure I was in the right place.  Again, not sure how that would go for someone who hadn’t read the book and was coming at the story completely fresh.  Speaking of the book, this issue did a great job of capturing the feeling of unraveling the story of the witches along with Michael as you and he read the history.  So let’s find out what happens to Deborah and where her daughter Charlotte ended up in issue five, which came out 3 years after issue 4…..uh oh.2901137-ann5

The Witching Hour  #5  **
Released in 1996     Cover price $2.50    Millenium Comico    #5 of 13

It’s the morning of Deborah’s execution, and she’s brought out the village square to burn for her crimes.  She claims innocence but then summons Lasher whose presence is made known in a violent storm.  Deborah is transported to the top of the highest building in the town and then throws herself from it, falling to her death at Petyr’s feet.  Back in the present, Rowan has arrived at her mother’s funeral and is overwhelmed by the large, strange Mayfair family.  Aaron Lightner arrives to apologize for Michael’s absence and accompanies Rowan to her mother’s coffin.  We return to Petyr’s narrative as he arrives in Port Au Prince to visit with Charlotte, who’s revealed to be his daughter.  Charlotte’s husband has fallen ill, and she seduces Petyr in the hopes of baring a daughter who can also communicate with Lasher.  Ashamed of what he had done, Petyr leaves the house later that night and sees Lasher himself, who tortures him with visions of Deborah and the undead.  Petyr’s final letter to the Talamascha reveals that he’s gone mad, terrified to leave Port Au Prince for fear of Lasher.  Back in the present, Aaron tells Michael that with Petyr’s death, the Talamascha decided not to engage with the Mayfair’s directly, but simply to observe them from afar, which is what they’ve been doing ever since.  He then tells him that it’s imperative that Michael continues to read the history.

…..And that’s it.  Seriously.  The series just ends.  Not only do we miss out on the rest of the history of the Mayfair witches, which is an awesome story, but we basically entirely miss out the whole Rowan-Lasher story, which is a big freaking deal because (spoiler alert): she’s the thirteenth witch.  The writing was all over the wall, or rather, the page with this one.  First of all, it came out three years after the rest of the series and was only labeled as issue #5, not #5 of 13 like the others.  The artwork was different than (though trying to mimic the style of) the rest of the series, and even the paper seemed cheaper.  It strikes me as more strange that they even bothered with a slapped together fifth issue so far after the fact rather than just never continuing the series after issue 4.  After waiting that long, it must have been such a disappointment to original readers/fans of the series.  Obviously they didn’t know that they wouldn’t finish it when the book was planned, but part of me wonders if it wouldn’t have been wiser to do a series focused exclusively on the history of the Mayfair family rather than incorporating the modern story into the book.

Scan 50

This was a disappointing end to a promising series, and it feels like an extra shame because there’s so little out there about the Witching Hour.  Perhaps if another Lives of the Mayfair Witches book does come out, a great modern company like IDW or Dark Horse will take on some kind of comic adaptation of one of the stories.  Here’s hoping. While I go back to my bookshelves, it’s time for you to join Matt on a field trip to the Rotten Ink theater for another installment of Marvel at the Movies, coming up next time.

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Who Are You? A Former CSI Fan Looks Back on the IDW Comics

Greetings, Inketeers!  Juliet once again humbly reporting for duty as your guest writer.  Yes, the promise and the threat have become reality, and despite my prior ramblings on fandom and shipperdom in my X-Files update, Matt’s invited me back to regale you with more of my ramblings….I mean, review the first arc of IDW’s CSI comics.  I was initially a little hesitant to do this one because while it’s easy for me to proclaim my allegiance to the X-files from every hilltop, my fan relationship with CSI is rockier, a bit more complex.  That said, this is actually the perfect time to explore all of that as I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it as of late.  So let’s get to it, shall we?

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Before there was Miami, New York, and heaven knows what other cities, there was just CSI.

I suppose I should clarify that when I’m talking about CSI, I’m referring the to very first one that took place in Las Vegas.  The show premiered in the fall of 2000, and I recall thinking the concept looked fun.  However, I didn’t really begin to watch it until the second season was rerun during the summer of 2002.  I wish I could say what made me latch on to the show so intensely.  Yes, it’s got all of the things I like in a show, but to be honest, I think I may have been having some separation anxiety as the X-Files series finale had just aired that spring.  So, in essence, I was on the fandom rebound.

Look, those last few seasons were rough, but you guys didn't have to leave me....

Look, those last few seasons were rough, but you guys didn’t have to leave me….

And rebound I did, with the intensity anyone just getting out of a nine year relationship.  That year, a fellow X-Files fanfic writer and I had started a small fan group on Yahoo.  Given that the show had just ended, the group never really took off in any big way, but it served as inspiration for something that would take off and became a huge part of my life for quite a while, The Graveyard Shift.

I'm kind of surprised any of our graphics were still floating around the internet.

I’m kind of surprised any of our graphics were still floating around the internet.

As I said, when I fell for CSI, I fell hard and of course I landed face-first in a ship.  I pretty much immediately decided that my OTP (for you non-shippers out there, that’s One True Pairing, a term I’m pretty sure hadn’t been invented in 2002 or at least I had never heard the whole time I was running the group) were Gil and Catherine.  I was not alone in this ship, by any means, but interestingly enough, the CSI fandom writ-large was fairly divided on ships: half of us were GCR (Gil + Catherine [the now commonplace practice of combining the names for ships: Pam + Eric = Parric, Susan + Jackson = Sackson, etc hadn’t really taken hold just yet]) and the other half was GSR (Gil + Sarah).  If you watched the later seasons of the show, you know how it ended up, and if you didn’t, well, my team lost.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Crissom? Grillow?  I think I'll stick with GCR

Crissom? Grillow? I think I’ll stick with GCR

For now, back to the Graveyard Shift.  We were a group of fans and the majority of us were also fanfic writers who shipped Gil and Catherine.  What started as a small core group of co-writers who’d watch episodes together while chatting on AOL Instant Messenger grew into a community of hundreds.  But even as the group grew and we made new friends, there was always a great core group, some of whom I still talk to today even though the Graveyard Shift faded away long ago.  For those first couple of years, I was heavily, heavily invested in the Graveyard Shift.  I was the founder and quickly dubbed the “fearless leader,” and thus felt inclined to lead by example, writing a lot, helping others edit and develop ideas and just keeping the conversation going.  Now a days I find myself doing a lot of the same thing on a daily basis, professionally and personally, but at the time, it was extremely taxing, and I’m okay with admitting that I got burnt out really quickly.

You know, if they aren't going to end up together in the show, maybe don't have them hanging all over each other in every promo shot. I'm just saying...

You know, if they aren’t going to end up together in the show, maybe don’t have them hanging all over each other in every promo shot. I’m just saying…

But the other problem is that the show really took a turn for the worse around season 4.  Sure, we got Lady Heather (who I ADORE) every once in a while, but as the seasons went on, the episodes got increasingly predictable, the characters went in weird directions, there were major cast changes and yes, my ship sank.  It was disappointing to say the least.

For the record: Lady Heather and Grissom...totally okay in my book.

For the record: Lady Heather and Grissom…totally okay in my book….though I don’t know what you’d call that ship.

I could go on about how the sort of collapse of the CSI fandom, or at least my turning away from it, had a weird domino effect in terms of my relationship with fandom, etc, but I’ll spare you that for now.

Just look at Lady Heather so I don't have to tell you the sad story of 10 years of writers block and fandom absence.

Just look at Lady Heather so I don’t have to tell you the sad story of 10 years of writers block and fandom absence.

In my time in the fandom, however, the merchandise was just starting to flow.  There were of course DVDs of the first few seasons, and as the show and it’s Miami and New York spinoffs progressed, there were computer games, board games, all of sorts of CSI everything.  The first soundtrack, containing lots of wonderful post-triphop (yes, that’s a technical term) was released, but in my time in the fandom, the biggest development was what I’m going to be reviewing, the CSI comic series.

This was a backboard for a CSI pinball machine...yes, CSI pinball is a thing that happened.

This was a backboard for a CSI pinball machine…yes, CSI pinball is a thing that happened.

In 2003, IDW, who at the time was known for 30 Days of Night, launched its first ever TV tie-in comic with a five part miniseries based on CSI.  The arc was called “Serial,” and was written by Max Allan Collins, a mystery writer who’s also known for his movie novelizations (including the great novelization of the first X-Files film) and TV tie-in novels.  The artwork was done by Gabriel Rodriguez, who went on to be the primary artist on Locke & Key.

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CSI: Serial # 1  **1/2
Released in 2003    Cover price $3.99    IDW    #1 of 5

It’s nighttime in Las Vegas, and a young woman’s body is found near a dumpster.  Gil Grissom and his team of CSI’s are called in to gather evidence at scene and find something odd, an authentic reproduction of a woman’s bonnet from the 19th century.  Catherine and Warrick focus on the bonnet and the body while Nick and Sarah question potential witnesses and doing so, stumble upon another body, this one in a dumpster.  In the autopsy room, Catherine observes signature stab wounds before she and Grissom are called to yet another scene.  There’s a dead prostitute who’s been stabbed similarly the other victim, and Grissom begins to compare the cases to the murders of Jack the Ripper.

I had completely forgotten that this series had a Jack the Ripper parallel, which is oh so fitting given that CSI was sort of my last big fandom (in which I was actively participating in said fandom), and Ripper Street is basically my first fandom back in the game nearly 10 years later.  This first issue is a bit slow, but there’s a lot of story to set up and the details are compelling enough to make you eager to read the next one and see how the story unfolds.  The artwork is a nice mix of realistic but still comic-esque work and more abstract, painted looking panels for the flashbacks and/or quickshots that were used in the show as transitions between scenes and coming back from commercials.  So speaking of transitions, let’s get moving on to the next issue and see how our Ripper mystery unfolds.

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CSI: Serial #2 ***
Released in 2003    Cover price $3.99    IDW    #2 of 5

We open with Grissom, Catherine and Warrick at the second “Ripper” crime scene.  Grissom begins to explain the parallels with this murder and that of Ripper victim Polly Nichols, but they note that although staged as much, Gail Kelly (the victim) was not actually a prostitute.  Meanwhile, Nick and Sarah begin to piece together the particulars of the dumpster murder victim, who’s likely not connected to the Ripper murders. They discover the woman’s identity and begin to search her apartment for clues finding garbage packs seemingly full of evidence.  Grissom, Warrick and Catherine discover an interesting link to their case; there’s a convention for Jack the Ripper enthusiasts currently happening in Las Vegas.  Warrick visits the convention and of course everyone there denies everything.  The case seems stalled as elsewhere in the city, a prostitute is ready to meet her end at the hand of the faux Ripper.

Now we’re moving right along…sort of.  I recall my mom complaining that CSI was a bit slow for her liking and if the comic is any indication of the pacing of the show, in retrospect, I can see what she means.  It’s super procedural, which is why I think I lost interest in the show after a few seasons.  You can only watch the same things over and over for so long.  Anyway, that’s more of a judgement on the source material than the comic itself.  Despite being a tad slow, it’s very well written, good artwork.  Hopefully the story speeds up in the next issue so let’s get to it.

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CSI: Serial # 3 ***
Released in 2003    Cover price $3.99    IDW    #3 of 5

At the scene of the latest murder, Grissom Cath and Warrick talk through the similarities between this case and another Ripper victim, and Grissom observes a change in motive.  Back at the lab, Nick and Sarah are ready to give up on the evidence collected in the garbage bags when Greg shows up with DNA evidence from 3 different sources, one female (the victim) and two male, one of which was related to the victim.  Later that night Catherine follows up on a lead that Gail Kelly,  one of the victims was HIV positive, while Grissom is visited by Hines, the reporter who’s been following the case.  He’s obtained a recording on the newspaper’s tipline that may foretell the faux ripper’s next move.  Meanwhile Catherine’s got a a lead of her own when she tracks Gail Kelly’s whereabouts through some show dogs, but comes up short.  But Nick and Sarah’s lead begins to pan out.  They find the victim’s brother whose DNA they obtained earlier and interrogate him.  He points to the victim’s abusive boyfriend.  The issue ends with Gil and Brass staking out the neighborhood where they Faux Ripper’s been striking. A suspect comes into view, but gets away…though not before leaving evidence on Grissom.

This issue started off a bit slowly and stayed that way, but a lot of things happened.  It’s kind of the nature of a story like this that it’s a lot of nitty gritty details that go toward solving the mystery.  As I get further into this story, I’ve noticed that I have to keep referring back to the earlier comics to keep the victims straight – that’s not a problem I recall having with the show,but maybe it’s because this particular story has a lot happening between the different CSI’s and the victims each paralleling the Ripper story.  That parallel, by the way works really well for the most part, and I’m glad they chose to do this story in comic form rather than on TV.  I think the harkening back to Victorian England would have been rather cheesy in the typical CSI-style flashbacks, but the artwork lends itself nicely to subtle stylistic differences between the modern and Victorian flashbacks.  I’m very much looking forward to issue 4 because I cannot remember how this story ends…or in this case begins to end.  So let’s go!

1096917 CSI: Serial #4 ***1/2
Released in 2003    Cover Price $3.99    IDW    #4 of 5

We open where the last comic left off, at the scene of Grissom’s stakeout gone slightly awry.  Catherine and Warrick arrive on the scene for backup.  Grissom’s concerned that by letting the faux ripper go, they’ve only played right into his hand and encouraged him to follow the real ripper’s pattern.  Meanwhile, Nick and Sarah interrogate the boyfriend of their garbage dump victim, and while he admits to being violent, he points the finger back at the girl’s brother.  Grissom, Warrick and Catherine find another dog hair at the crime scene and one of the cops radios that they’ve got the suspect in their sites, but he once again escapes, this time leaving another body.  Warrick mentions that the man running the Ripper convention is named Tumblety, meaning he may be a distant relative of an original Ripper suspect.  If the case follows the original Ripper pattern, there’s only one victim left before the killer disappears so Grissom prepares to visit Tumblety.

The story’s progressing nicely in this issue, though I’m wondering how they’ll wrap everything up in only more comic without seeming cliched or contrived.  I actually had to do some research on the whole Francis Tumblety thing because his name wasn’t ringing a bell from my prior Jack the Ripper reading.  Tumblety was an actual Ripper suspect, and based on his biography, I’m wondering if he wasn’t a partial inspiration for Jackson on Ripper Street.  Then again, I could probably link just about anything to Ripper Street if I tried hard enough (obsessed much?).  I’m going to keep this one short as I’m eager to get to our conclusion.  So onward to issue 5.

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CSI: Serial #5  ***
Released in 2003    Cover Price $3.99    IDW    #5 of 5

The media is on to the Ripper story, but the good news is that Sarah and Nick have solved the dumpster murder (it was the brother) and can help the rest of the team with the Ripper murders.  They’re sent to Tumblety’s house while Grissom ambushes him at the Ripper convention in the middle of a panel discussion during which he’s passionately defending his ancestor. Grissom interrogates Tumblety, and it’s looking worse and worse as a knife found in his garbage is proved to be the murder weapon.  So….whodunit? Well dear reader, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  You’ll just have to read for yourself.

If you watched early 2000s crime dramas (CSI, Law & Order, Without a Trace), you won’t be terribly surprised by how the ending of this comic series panned out.  It’s not a disappointing ending at all, and probably the first time I read it, it was really cool.  Now, however, having seen it a million times, the ending feels just a bit cliche.  Ultimately though, this is a really good series. The artwork and story are consistently well done and fit the sensibility of the show.  An ad on the back of the final issue reminds me that IDW had already begun advertising a follow up story called “Thicker Than Blood,” which I also own and remember even less of than this first story.  Perhaps I shall grace Rotten Ink once more to tell you all about it at some future point.

In the meantime, Matt will be returning for the next update and taking you on a delicious trek into the woods as you travel to Camp Candy.

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I Want to Believe in The X-Files Season 1

Greetings, gentle readers of Rotten Ink, Juliet here. I’ve decided to take advantage of Matt’s longstanding invitation to do a guest post and give him a break after a busy Halloween season by exploring one of The X-Files comic series with you.

Hum the theme with me. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo-doo...

Sing the theme with me. Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo-doo…

The X-Files premiered on September 10, 1993. Realizing that I was 10 when the show premiered 20 years ago this fall is the first thing to truly make me feel old. Although there were other shows I was a huge fan of as a child, The X-Files is the first and only show where I’ve watched ever single episode as it aired for the entire run of the show. It was without question my favorite show during its 9 year run and if pressed to pick an all-time favorite TV show, that’s my answer. There are plenty of shows I absolutely adore: The Avengers, The Rockford Files, Star Trek, Sports Night, Six Feet Under and my current TV crush, Fringe, but my affection for The X-Files simply cannot be matched. It’s everything I love in a show: some kind of detective or spy element (the more strange/covert, the better), strong female characters, the ability to be both dramatic and funny, an element of the supernatural or paranormal and, as my mom best put it, “a super complicated plot with plenty of twists and turns that you can babble on and theorize about nonstop.” But The X-Files was even more than those elements combined. As the seasons and the mythology progressed, I became so emotionally invested in the show. Both characters’ quests to believe in something whether it be aliens or religion, Scully’s battle with cancer and Mulder’s feeling of responsibility for putting her in harm’s way, the ideas of trust and truth and how both can be twisted and broken, these are the things that made it easy to become so completely invested in this show, to the point that I can still remember how devastating the end of season 4 was and how agonizing it was waiting all summer to find out whether or not it was going to be okay. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I won’t spoil it for you, though given that 5 more seasons and two feature films followed, I don’t know that you’ll be able to experience the uncertainty about that particular moment the way those of us watching in 1997 did.

Artist's rendering of my reaction to the end of Season 4.

Artist’s rendering of my reaction to the end of Season 4.

The X-Files was an important turning point in television for a lot of reasons: one of the first television shows to be released in season sets on DVD and as one of the 20th anniversary articles pointed out, one of the first shows whose fandom thrived on the internet yet one of the last shows set in present day where the internet was not yet an integral part of day to day life. More on the internet/fandom points in a bit. The X-Files DVDs are among my favorite items in my movie collection. I have the original run of giant, fat, fold out cases, and wouldn’t trade them for the world even though they take up an insane amount of shelf space . The season sets started coming out right around the time I got my first job in high school at a locally owned CD & DVD shop. I didn’t even own a DVD player when I began saving up and buying those sets with my employee discount (which still made them over 10 times as much as the sets cost nowadays).

They take up a mile of shelf space, but I love them.

They take up a mile of shelf space, but I love them.

Admittedly, even when I was younger, the thought crossed my mind that my infatuation with The X-Files would fade, and certainly the later seasons sometimes made the show hard to love. Both before and after The X-Files’ run, there were shows that began as my FAVORITEST.SHOW.EVER. That either got increasingly stupid (Lois & Clark) or increasingly repetitive (C.S.I. – more on that if Matt ever lets me write another one of these – which is really a promise and a threat). It says a lot about my attachment to show the and its characters that 20 years later, I can still not only watch it over and over on DVD, but am also still hoping that the oft-rumored third movie will one day materialize. I’d also be lying if I said my fangirl heart didn’t do a little flipflop upon seeing David Duchovney and Gillian Anderson’s latest Entertainment Weekly cover.

Seriously...look at them.

Seriously…look at them.

Ah, shipperdom.

Aren't they just the best?

Aren’t they just the best?

Wait, what? For those of you who know what I’m talking about, feel free to skip the next four paragraphs ahead or nod along as you read the testimony of your fellow nerd…as in Nerd…capital N. None of this trendy nerd business, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I say capital N Nerd because that’s seriously how I felt about fandom and shipperdom when I was younger – painfully nerdy. Of course, as a grown up, I’ve met many many people who are into fandom, hell, who taught me the term fandom, but as a younger person, it was at times isolating to be so.freaking.into. something in a way that goes beyond liking a TV show, movie, book series, etc. Remember, this is all happening right as the internet is very slowly becoming commonplace in people’s homes (yes, children, there was a time before we all had all of the internets at our fingertips 24-7). As I got older, it was amazing to meet people who shared this similar kind of obsessive love for a fictional series, whether it be the same series I loved or not, the first of these folks being my best friend Anne. When I met her in high school, Anne was super into the Buffy fandom, a love that she passed on to, and that I’ll write about at some future point. She’s also the person who introduced me to online fandom, which really opened up a whole world and connected me to people who were the exact type of obsessive, yet creative fan that I was previously so embarrassed to be.

I still have my copy of this one.

I still have my copy of this one.

The X-Files became my first formal foray into fanfiction, though, as I recently told another friend I had really been writing fanfiction from a very early age as a young Star Trek fan, though never really knew that there was name, let alone a community of people who write it. Fanfiction is another one of those weird to talk about things, especially because of the whole 50 Fifty Shades of Grey situation. And actually my discussion of fanfiction would be much better suited to a blog about C.S.I. So look forward to that at some point (again, if Matt ever lets me do this again). Now to return to the digression from which I digressed, what is shipperdom? Shippers are typically members of a fandom who are want to see or are supportive of two of the characters getting together in a romantic relationSHIP. It goes beyond just wanting to see the characters end up together though. If you’re a shipper (or at least this is how all of the shippers I know, including myself, are), you study every interaction between your pairing in a given episode. You look for the subtle, the subtext of the conversation; you analyze everything. It’s a huge emotional investment for many. If you happen to watch a show where there are two major but opposing ships (C.S.I. is a huge, personal example…again, more on that another time), it’s that much more intense. And remember, this is all for fun.

I have a never-ending supply of these.

Shipperdom is having a stockpile of pictures like this.

Again, if you’re into fandom and/or a shipper, I’m probably just hitting the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not, you just might be questioning my mental health and relationship to reality. Here’s my disclaimer in the simplest of terms possible: yes, as with anything else, there are people within the fandom community who don’t have a good handle on reality and thus form a unhealthy obsessive relationship with whatever fiction they’re a fan of. There are plenty of people, however, for whom even a seemingly obsessive relationship with fiction is relaxation, a creative exercise and is leisure-time and balances can be struck, line can be drawn between fandom, work, family, etc. So long-story short (too late): I was/am a Mulder-Scully shipper.

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Duh.

You can imagine, I’m sure, my excitement when in the third theatrical trailer for the first film, Fight in the Future, it looks like we’re finally going to get the kiss we’ve all been waiting for. To be fair, that was only one of many things that had me completely hyped to see Fight the Future, and it’s one of those films I have a very distinct memory of seeing in the theater. I went with my dad (also a big fan of the show) to see it at the Beaver Valley Cinema (yes, the same theater Matt recently talked about in his rundown of now defunct independent movie houses). We had to see it at Beaver Valley because right when the film opened, there was some kind of issue with 20th Century Fox and Showcase Cinemas (at the time, the main first-run theater chain in the Dayton area), and I think the Showcases got the film a week or two late or it closed early. I can’t remember precisely how it all went down, I just remember that we felt lucky that Beaver Valley had the film because it was the only theater in the area showing it for a while. It was a packed house, and (SPOILER ALERT) coming back to the kiss, I will never forget the loud groan from the audience when Scully gets stung by the bee.

So that happened.

So that happened.

A side note about Fight the Future: its soundtrack remains one of my favorites to listen to front to back. The show soundtrack, Songs in the Key of X is also great, but the Fight the Future soundtrack is the perfect combination of dark, moody late 90s songs and some really unexpected covers (Filter’s rendition of “One,” anyone?). I just might be listening to it as I’m writing this…maybe…. Another side note: I was researching who wrote the Fight the Future paperback adaptation on Amazon, and a beekeeping book was the first item in the related searches. Ha!

The bees' big scene costarring Mulder and Scully.

The bees’ big scene costarring Mulder and Scully.

When Matt and I saw the second film, I Want to Believe, it was a nearly opposite experience. Although the film was available most everywhere, we were two of maybe five people in the entire theater, and I really ought to apologize to those 3 other people and to Matt because I may have been, uhm, a bit vocal about (more SPOILER ALERTS ahead) the lack of aliens, any mention of the 9 seasons of mythology, any acknowledgement of the fact that Mulder knows the date of colonization or comments about a certain infant. I have really mixed feelings about I Want to Believe. On one hand, it’s a miracle that it got made so long after the end of the show. The new content was a pleasant surprise and felt like a good extended episode that was not mythology related but served the characters well. On the other hand, for a fan who stuck with the show for 9 years of twists and turns in the mythology, sometimes brilliant and other times horrendous, it felt like such a betrayal to loyal fans to not even have a passing mention of what had come before. I understand the bind the writers were in; one of the flaws cited about Fight the Future was that it wasn’t very accessible for folks who didn’t know the show. Luckily when it came out, The X-Files was one of the most popular shows on TV. However, when I Want to Believe came out in 2008, The X-Files hadn’t been on TV for 6 years, and many loyal fans hadn’t even made it through the last 2 sans-Mulder seasons of the show or had only watched the admittedly lackluster series finale. So yes, including a lot of mythology in the main plot of I Want to Believe would have made an uphill battle of a film that much more difficult, but I feel like the message to diehard fans was, “well guys, at least you got another movie…”

And at least we got this.

And at least we got this.

There have been, of course, on-going rumors about a third X-Files film especially this year with the 20th anniversary giving the show renewed media coverage. Chris Carter, David Duchovney and Gillian Anderson have all been quoted as saying that they’d be interested in doing a third, but there’s been no movement from Fox yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if happens though. Despite years of rumors about a second film, I had just about given up hope when I Want To Believe materialized. Until then, we’ll have to settle with the season 10 comic series that’s currently being put out by IDW, which I’ll probably touch on in a future guest post once the series is a bit farther along.

Come on guys, that third movie can start filming any day now.

Come on guys, that third movie can start filming any day now.

But comics are why we’re here so let’s get onto it, shall we? Today I’m going to look at the Topps X-Files Season One tie-in comics as well as the comics for Fight the Future. During the show’s original run, Topps had a 41-issue main series of comics based on the X-Files with stories that different from what was on television. In the middle of this run, in 1996, they began to publish a special series of episode adaptations from season 1. The idea was actual to do comic adaptations of the whole show, but that fell through before the season 2 books were ever completed. We start with the Pilot, naturally.

PilotThe X-Files Season 1: Pilot   **1/2
 Released in 1997  Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   0 of 8

The following is inspired by actual eyewitness accounts. In Oregon, a young woman is found dead in the woods, and the authorities begin wondering if “it” is happening again. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, a young FBI agent named Dana Scully receives her new assignment working with Fox “Spooky” Mulder on an unusual case docket known as the X-Files. These cases deal with the unexplained, the paranormal, and they’re Mulder’s passion in life. Scully’s job, per her superiors, is to use her scientific knowledge to debunk these cases, the first of which is figuring out who killed Karen Swenson, the young woman in Oregon. Mulder thinks this is a classic example of alien abduction, while Scully maintains there must be some logical explanation for what’s been happening to Karen and her fellow schoolmates from the notorious class of ’89. The truth is, of course, out there, but will our daring duo be able to figure it out before more kids are abducted?

Ah, the pilot episode. It will always have a special place in my heart. Although not the best story of the series, it’s certainly a strong start – better than many first pilots, and some first seasons of the average TV show. The comic version is an extremely faithful adaptation, to the point that X-Files creator Chris Carter is given the writer credit for the comic, while Topps’ Roy Thomas is merely credited for script adaptation. More on that later. John Van Fleet did both the cover and the interior art, while his style works for the cover, I’m not wild about the interiors. I get what he was going for with the shadowy, painted look, but it tends to look sloppy in more panels than not and doesn’t serve the story well. In 1997, your options for re-experiencing the pilot episode were to track it down on VHS, read the YA paperback adaptation or read this comic. But today, the DVDs are so readily available that if the comic doesn’t have anything to add, it’s hard to make a case for it over the actual episode. Let’s see how Deep Throat fares next.

 DeepThroat

The X-Files Season One: Deep Throat  *** 1/2
Released in 1997   Cover price $4.95   Topps Comics   1 of 8

There’s something strange going on with test pilots at Ellens Air Force Base, and Mulder takes it upon himself (and Scully) to investigate. But before they can get rolling, Mulder meets a mysterious man who advises him to drop the case, citing “a certain interest” in Mulder’s work. But that doesn’t stop Mulder’s quest for the truth, which puts he and Scully into harm’s way as well as the path of young UFO nuts, faux journalists, military wives and, perhaps, the spaceships they seek.

I always forget how much I really love this episode. It’s certainly not extraordinary like “Bad Blood,” “Jose Chung’s From Out Space,” and many of my other favorites, but it’s a strong episode. While the Pilot establishes the paranormal aspect of the show, and teases the conspiracy, Deep Throat ushers in the mythology that, for better or worse, would sustain the show for nine years. I think I especially connected with this one because of the idea of the Air Force pilots flying either UFOs or planes built with UFO technology because I grew up not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where it’s rumored UFOs and or aliens were brought after the Rosewell crash. Hangar 18, anyone? Comic-wise, Roy Thomas gets a title change from Script Adaptation to Writer, and while the comic still doesn’t deviate from the television episode, that fact doesn’t seem so completely obvious this time around. What may have helped with that was the addition of Claude St. Aubin on pencils and Rick Magyar on ink. The art was so much better in this issue and served the story well. Mulder and Scully, for the most part, looked like Mulder and Scully, and the UFO scenes that were super dramatic onscreen looked really nice on the page. John van Fleet is back on the cover with a nice painting of our heroes.

Squeeze

The X-Files Season 1: Squeeze   ***
Released in 1997   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   2 of 8

People are getting their livers ripped out, and Scully’s former classmate is on the case. He asks her opinion on the case, and she and Mulder end up joining the investigation. The other FBI agents think their suspect, a name named Tooms, is a serial killer. Mulder posits he’s a 100+ year old genetic mutant who comes out of hibernation in his creepy newspaper nest to feed on livers every so often. Who’s right about the killer? Read and see.

This is one of those X-Files episodes that even people who didn’t watch the X-Files seems to know: that one with the guy that eats the livers. Actually they’re referring to two episodes because Eugene Victor Tooms is so delightfully creepy that he makes a comeback later in the season. Squeeze was the first Monster of the Week episode (the ones that were not connected to the mythology/conspiracy story), and we’ve once again got Roy Thomas writing the comic. Val Mayrick is on pencils this time around, and the art is good, but we’re back to a more painted coloring style. While it works on some pages, I still prefer the artwork from Deep Throat. John Van Fleet did two covers this time: one of Tooms and one of Mulder and Scully. Overall, it was really hard to capture the super creepy vibe of this episode on the page, especially those last few minutes that were so effective on screen.

Conduit

The X-Files Season 1: Conduit   **1/2
Released in 1997   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   3 of 8

A girl vanishes in a flash of light and her little brother claims to have the key to her disappearance. While the validity of the X-Files division is debated, Mulder finds him drawn to this case from reasons beyond the surface paranormal occurrences that are very similar to an important event from his childhood.

For being such an important episode, this is one I often forget about. Or maybe it’s that I take it for granted. After so many years of being a fan, it’s just ingrained in me that Mulder’s sister got abducted that I tend to forget when we actually learned that for the first time (hint: it was in this episode). This is also the first time “I Want To Believe” takes on a greater meaning beyond the UFO poster on the wall of the basement office. Roy Thomas is once again our writer. Upon further investigation, I found out that he wrote the comics based on the episode scripts and then would watch the episode to confirm that everything matched up correctly. So that explains the near perfect adaptation of the story/lack of additional scenes. On the art end of things we’ve got our fourth artist in four issues with Sean Scoffield on pencils. He’s a little sketchier than the others, but still okay. I do like John Van Fleet’s cover for this one.

Ice

The X-Files Season 1: Ice  **
Released in 1998   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   4 out of 8

Mulder and Scully are sent to a remote Arctic research station to investigate what’s making the team members freak out and kill each other. A prehistoric worm is the culprit, but things get complicated when our agents are stuck at the station with the remaining scientists and no one knows who precisely is infected.

With issue 5 of the comic, we’re now going out of air order for the episodes. I do like this episode. It’s another Monster of the Week (though when you consider Fight the Future, it might almost fit into the mythology), and it’s got a guest appearance from Felicity Huffman, though if you were to rely on the art for the comic, you wouldn’t know it was her. John Van Fleet’s back on the cover and interiors. So things are bit, uhm, painty in the image department. Roy Thomas is once again writing so the story is tight like the episode its based on.

Space

The X-Files Season 1: Space   ****
Released in 1998  Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   5 of 8

Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate a potential saboteur of a space shuttle mission. The mission’s supervisor is experiencing flashbacks from a 1977 Mars mission during which it appeared that a face was sculpted onto the planet’s surface. But soon others on the mission are seeing the ghostly face. Is it a message from another world or simply a man at the end of his rope?

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Alright guys, I’m going to level with you. This comic really surprised me. The episode as it aired was extremely lackluster. In fact, it’s regarded as one of the weakest in the first season and is reported to be Chris Carter’s least favorite. What was boring on screen actually almost works better in the comic format. What was way too slow on the screen seems to be better told on the page. Roy Thomas once again writes and Alexander Savink delivers some really nice artwork, which I think also lends to the good storytelling. John Van Fleet’s cover is one of my favorites of the Season One series, in part because it’s simple and striking. I really expected that getting through this one would be a total chore. I was happy that wasn’t at all the case.

Fire

The X-Files Season One: Fire   ***
Released in 1998   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   6 of 8

An arsonist is targeting British ex-pat aristocrats and is able to make them seemingly spontaneously combust. Mulder and Scully are lured into the case by Mulder former flame (see what I did there?), Phoebe Green. The arsonist poses a caretaker at the vacation home of his next target while Mulder and Scully race to identify the criminal. Oh, and did I mention that Mulder is afraid of fire?

The overwhelming theme of this is one that you hate Phoebe Green, which I think is the point. She’s a rival for Mulder’s affections and therefore she must go. Granted, she’s significantly less annoying in the comic than she was onscreen. Speaking of being less annoying, for once John Van Fleet’s artwork serves the story well. The super painty style makes the fire look really menacing and all-encompassing. The cover, also done by Van Fleet is really nice – one of the standouts of the series along with Space.

BeyondTheSea

The X-Files Season One: Beyond the Sea  ***1/2
Released in 1998   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   7 of 8

A young couple is kidnapped and Luther Boggs, a serial killer on death row, claims to have had psychic visions that can help the police. While in the midst of this investigation, Scully is dealing with the death of her father and some visions of her own. Boggs tries to convince her that he can channel her dead father, while Mulder is injured trying to track down the kidnapper.

This is one of those great character episodes that added a lot of depth and background to Scully. The comic does a good job of interpreting it, and the artwork pairs really nicely with the story. Scott Scoffield is on pencils this time around. The coloring is done to look painted, almost in Alex Ross’ style (maybe capitalizing on the success of Kingdom Come?), which serves the story really well. I was wondering how they’d capture Boggs’ creepy vibe in the art, and this seems to have done the trick. John Van Fleet’s on cover duty again; this one is okay, but not the one of the better of the series.

Shadows

The X-Files Season One: Shadows  **
Released in 1998   Cover Price $4.95   Topps Comics   8 of 8

Mulder and Scully are brought into a strange case involving two men found dead with their throats crushed from the inside. The men are found to have ties with a terrorist organization and are linked to a women named Lauren who seems to have some force protecting her.

This was one of those rather forgettable episodes, and the comic is much of the same. If I could trade this one in for a comic adaptation of Eve, consider it done. John Van Fleet’s on cover and interior artwork, but this time his interiors are really different. They’re way sketchier than his other work, lots of pencil hatching instead of blobby painty coloring. I know that they had planned to do all of season 1 and into season 2, but this was such a lackluster way to end this run.

Speaking of plans for continuing the episode tie-ins, I find it interesting that the comics did not go in order of the air dates and that they completely skipped some of the episodes. Part of me is not bothered that they skipped Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine, though I’d be curious to see if the latter could’ve been better served by a comic like Space. It’s totally disappointing, however that they skipped Fallen Angel and Eve, the former such a important building block in the early days of the series mythology. Speaking of mythology, how about a bonus review in the form of the comic adaptation for Fight the Future.

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The X-Files: Fight the Future  **
Released in 1998   Cover Prize $5.95   Topps Comics   1 of 1

It all begins with cavemen (doesn’t it always?), but soon we are in modern times in Northern Texas, the very land where the cavemen walked hundreds of years ago where children now play and fall down holes that may be the ancient home of a certain living black oily substance. With the X-Files closed down at the end of season 5, Mulder and Scully are investigating a bomb threat at a federal building in Texas. The building explodes, and our heroes quickly realize that all is not what it seems. What follows is a twisted tale into the heart of the conspiracy filled with bees, cornfields, black oil, more bees at really inopportune times, and a giant UFO in the middle of the arctic.

If it’s not already obvious, I love Fight the Future. I’ve seen the movie more times than I can count, have read the paperback adaptation more times than any sane person should, and yet, somehow I missed out on the comic adaptation until now. So I was really excited to see what the comic treatment would be for such a complex story. How could they cram that much story into a 56 page comic? Well, I’ll tell you how: by formatting the darn thing like an intermediate reader for kids with paragraphs of text and a few pictures on each page. LAME. Seriously, what a disappointment. The page count is just enough to cram all of text in, but not really enough to give the story a thorough treatment. Give me the paperback any day. John Rozum did the story adaptation and our old pal John Van Fleet did the artwork, which is sometimes pretty nice and others really just too dark and indistinguishable. The stuff in the arctic in particular is really hard to parse out what’s happening if you don’t know the movie extremely well. If you’re not a super fan, I don’t recommend wasting your time with this one.

I wasn't kidding about the cornfields

They did WHAT to the comic adaptation of the movie?! (Also, she wasn’t kidding about the cornfields)

Thus concludes my brief journey into the comic world of The X-Files. Provided I haven’t scared away all of Matt’s readers, I may return at some point to cover the original Topps run of X-Files comics (that don’t have episode tie-ins) and explore other titles that I enjoy. In the meantime, I return you to his capable hands when next time he’ll be telling you all about the comics based on Steve Reeves’ Hercules movies. And remember: the truth is out there!

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