Earthworm Jim Saves Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas Eve! It’s crazy to think that another year is almost over and that we are about to celebrate another Christmas here at Rotten Ink. This time of the year is always very special for me and makes me think back to my youth and all the cool toys, games, music, comics and books I used to get for the holidays as well as always makes me think about how lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life as I have a great family, amazing friends and am blessed to be able to have so many creative outlets like Game Swap Kettering, Sparkle Comics, Bloodline Video, Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre, Radio, Rockstar Pro Wrestling, Rotten Ink and so many other top notch projects that allow for me to have an outlet. As I have said here before, one of the coolest Christmas gifts I ever got was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and that’s why I always think about classic video games around this holiday as if brings back great memories of playing them with family, friends and even trying to beat games myself! So for this update I have decided to take a look a video game character that made his major splash on the Sega Genesis that spawned a cartoon and even a comic series, and this cheesy character is the one and only Earthworm Jim! So if you’re ready to take a trip with Rotten Ink, Marvel Comics and Earthworm Jim this Christmas Eve, you should find a comfy chair, pour yourself some eggnog. and as we all wait for Santa, I think it’s time to have a classic game flashback.

Earthworm Jim was a normal worm on the planet earth that spent his days digging around in dirt and avoiding being eaten by birds. Meanwhile in space Psy-Crow, a feared bounty hunter, accidentally drops a cyber space suit from his ship that falls to Earth and Jim who is on the run from birds looking to make him a meal hides inside it and the suit evolves him into a more human-like life form with intelligence and a goofball charm. But with his new found power and mind, he becomes a marked worm as Psy-Crow on the orders of the evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt is set for death and Jim himself now wants to meet the Queen’s lovely sister Princess What’s-Her-Name! And so began Earthworm Jim, space explorer and hero, who armed with his ray gun has saved worlds as well as those who are in need. Earthworm Jim in his cyber suit weighs around 154 pounds and stands about 5’8” and has super strength and a heroic heart, but he also is a little goofy as he still is a worm! Say what you will about Earthworm Jim, but he is the hero we didn’t know we needed.

Earthworm Jim is a side scrolling game that was created by Doug TenNapel and was a fun silly concept that captured the attention of not only gamers but also game publishers. The first Earthworm Jim game was released in 1994 for Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo and has Earthworm Jim avoiding his enemies and trying to save Princess What’s-Her-Name! The game over the years would go on to be on many other systems like Sega CD, Sega Game Gear, Nintendo Game Boy, PC and Game Boy Advance. The game was super popular and by 1995 the sequel Earthworm Jim 2 was released and continued the story of the first game and was released for Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PC and the Sega Saturn to name a few. This game was a hit but was not fully embraced by gamers and critics as the game did not change enough to warrant its quick release to cash in on the popularity of the original. The game series took a break for a while, and it was not till 1999 when the world got Earthworm Jim 3D that was only released for the Nintendo 64 and has Jim fighting to wake from a coma and must battle his rogues gallery who have all entered his mind. This game was not well received and marked the end of the series for home consoles.

In my youth, I can remember spending many of hours playing both Earthworm Jim and Earthworm Jim 2 for the Sega Genesis at my friends houses as well as at my cousins Dino and Norman’s. Shocking enough, I never did ever buy my own copy of the game and always just played it with them or borrowed it from them for a short time. Sadly I have never played Earthworm Jim 3D as it just never was on my radar as by the time it was released I was all about the Sony Playstation when it came to playing games. One other thing that is crazy to think is that games like Earthworm Jim helped spawn many other weird themed games like Conker, Crash Bandicoot, Banjo-Kazooie and Boogerman to name a few, and yes I know Boogerman was released the same year as Earthworm Jim. Say what you will about the Earthworm Jim series of games, but one thing is for sure, if you grew up in the 90’s and played video games they were on many of our must play games list.

Did you know in 1995 a cartoon series was released based around the adventures of Earthworm Jim? Released by Universal Cartoon Studios and airing on Kids WB starting on September 9, 1995, this series followed Earthworm Jim as he is being attacked by all types of baddies who want his power suit for their own evil plans! This cartoon was part action, part adventure and part silly as it played up on the over all goofy nature of the character and its universe. Voice actor Dan Castellaneta played Earthworm Jim, Jeff Bennett played Peter Puppy and Kath Soucie voiced Princess What’s-Her-Name showing they had some great voice talent on this show. The series only lasted for 23 episodes and ended its run on December 13, 1996 making it a very short run cartoon that built a very small cult fan base from those who grew up in the 90s. The cartoon has made its way to home media on both VHS and DVD with the latter being the complete series. This was a cartoon I can remember seeing from time to time, but was not something I watched often as I was a little older when it was released and was more into other shows at that time. But if you like this cartoon, make sure to do yourself a favor and get the DVD set put out by VEI and relive this classic toon.

In the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s toy company Playmates was one of the kings of the toy aisle as they delivered figures based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, The Addams Family, Toxic Crusaders, The Simpsons, Dick Tracy, Skeleton Warriors, Flash Gordon, Coneheads and Zorro to name a few and along with these figures they also did Earthworm Jim ones based on the cartoon and video game! These figures were released in 1995 with a total of eight figures being made with three of them being different versions of Earthworm Jim. Also in the line was Princess What’s-Her-Name and Peter Puppy as well as baddies Psycrow, Henchrat and Bob! Each figure also came with weapons as well as a mini character like goldfish # 4 and Snott! The series of toys never made it to a wave two even though they made an appearance at Toy Fair with figures of Evil Jim, Queen Slug-For-A- Butt and The Hamstinator all planned. The figures were really cool and fit alongside Playmates other figures. Growing up I did not own any of them but do remember them in stores, to be honest it’s a little crazy that I did not at least buy Earthworm Jim as I was a fan of the game even in 1995!

Back in the 90’s Marvel Comics had already closed down their kids comic branch Star Comics and absorbed many of those titles under Marvel Comics proper like Muppet Babies and Thundercats to name a few. But they also had Epic Comics still going as it was a creator owned branch that was founded in 1982 and featured comics based on Horror Movies like Hellraiser and Nightbreed. In 1994 they tried to open a branch called Marvel Music that was comics based on musical acts like Alice Cooper, Rolling Stones and Billy Ray Cyrus and this was very short lived as by 1995 this branch was history and all titles canceled. But out of the ashes of the weirdness of Marvel Music and the cool kid friendly comics based on cartoons and toys of Star came Marvel Absurd a branch that would have issues of weird teen style comics based on popular toons and video games of the time. Some titles in this branch was just carry overs from Marvel Titles like the Nickelodeon cartoon “Ren And Stimpy” plus the hit MTV cartoon “Beavis & Butthead” that switched over to this branch way into their series. And the new title launched for this branch was “Earthworm Jim” based on the popular video game at the time not to mention the silly parody comic “Marvel Riot” that lasted only one issue. But like most things at Marvel Comics at the time as soon as it started in ended as its whole run was from around 1994-1996 as the brand was just not super popular for Marvel. But I want to take a moment to let you readers know that in 2020 I will do a Top 10 Countdown Of Things That Should Have Gotten An Absurd Comic!

So as you can see, Earthworm Jim was a perfect fit for the short lived Marvel Absurd comic line as he was wacky, weird and over the top! And not so surprisingly, this comic series is a little hard to get and the issues hold a decent price on them to get so I want to thank sellers on both Ebay and Amazon for having them in stock and making this holiday update possible. I want to remind all you readers that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you are ready to see what Marvel Comics and Earthworm Jim have in store for us, let’s get to the comic review section of this update.

Earthworm Jim # 1  ***
Released in 1995     Cover Price $2.25      Marvel      # 1 of 3

Queen-Slug-For-A-Butt, Major Mucus and Doc Duodenum have entered Heck and asked the underground ruler Evil to let them hire an army of evil lawyers so they can sue Earthworm Jim for all the years of stopping their evil schemes! Meanwhile Jim himself is on a “date” with Princess What’s-Her-Name and they are attacked by Psy-Crow and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head who take them prisoner, as Professor wants the cyber space suit and Psy-Crow wants to eat Jim once he is out of the suit!!! As Jim escapes the grip of Psy-Crow his suit runs amuck in the lab while talking goldfish Bob and his catmen have Princes What’s-Her-Name prisoner and force her to agree to marry him as they fake that they will kill Jim if show don’t! Meanwhile the escaped worm Jim finds himself in the prison area and meets many failed experiments that are being locked up and that includes a small puppy man named Peter Puppy, and once Jim finds these creatures need help he returns to the lab and gets his suit back by beating Psy-Crow and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head, heads to the dungeon and frees the creatures and along with Peter jumps on a rocket to stop the wedding of Princes What’s-Her-Name and Bob!

This comic is super silly and really is Absurd and that’s a great thing as a comic based on Earthworm Jim needed to be this way. The plot has all of Jim’s bad guys wanting to defeat him with some trying to hire lawyers to sue him with others wanting to kill him and steal his suit to build an army of super soldiers! But while the lawyers do not find Jim in this issue, they are still on the lookout for him as his main nemesis are Psy-Crow and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head who kidnap him and his Princess girlfriend and want him dead in the ground! Earthworm Jim in this issue is heroic and slightly goofy but shows that he will always stand up for the little guy and do whatever it takes to do the right thing! I love how Jim in this issue also finds his inner hero when he meets a group of freaks that have been created and kept prisoner and knows he must set them free! Princess What’s-Her-Name also shows that she is a great person that is able to take care of herself as she mops the floor with many catmen! I also feel bad for her as she thinks her man Jim has been tortured and even cut by his captures, and this makes her agree to marry a goldfish. Professor Monkey-For-A-Head and Psy-Crow are the issues main bad guys as they are teaming up with the idea to finally bring down Jim once and for all and they are cruel and seem to get joy in this sick game they are playing. Bob the goldfish as well is a sick man who is a terrible creature who is trying to force love in order to gain power. We shall see how the lawsuit goes if the Lawyers of Heck come into play in one of the further issues. Over all this is a very fun action, adventures, comedy and silly comic that brings the video games/cartoon character to life on the pages of a comic book. The cover is fantastic and very eye catching and captures that 90’s style, the interior art is done by Barry Crain and is top notch and does capture the fun nature of the Earthworm Jim universe. So with this first issue being great, let’s see what the next issue has in store for us.

Earthworm Jim # 2  **1/2
Released in 1996     Cover Price $2.25     Marvel     # 2 of 3

Evil, the cat leader of Heck, is upset at his lawyers and orders them to get the job done this issue or they will all way the price! While Earthworm Jim and Peter are lost in space, as they cannot find the hideout of Bob and even after getting directors from a Gas Station planet it takes them sometime to find their way. Meanwhile Bob is gloating and bullying his soon to be wife Princess What’s-Her-Name, as a cat slips a bomb into the Princess bouquet! Meanwhile Earthworm Jim has found the directions to stop the wedding, as Bob now knows that Jim is on his way to stop the wedding! Even Queen-Slug-For-A-Butt the sister of Princess What’s-Her-Name shows up for the wedding as this will truly give Bob power. Once Jim and Peter arrive they take a mutated hamster and head to the ceremony to save the day. Jim just in time is able to save the Princess before they say the “I Do’s” and Bob climbs into a mega mech suit and puts a hurting on Jim, but lucky for Jim he is able to crack Bob’s fishbowl and wins the day! As Jim, The Princess and Peter celebrate the Heck Lawyers have arrived and worse the bomb in the bouquet is about to explode!

Earthworm Jim and his puppy friend Peter are on a mission to stop a forced wedding that will see Princess What’s-Her-Name being the wife of the cruel goldfish Bob…and along the way Jim must fight off catmen, not get lost and come face to face with Bob who also now has a massive suit that is more powerful! I like in this issue that Earthworm Jim once more has a good heart and so wants to be the hero, not to mention he is still shown to be a total goof who it seems by luck is able to save the day. Peter Puppy is shown in this issue that when pushed he can and will turn into a dog monster, making him a good ally for Jim to have. Princess What’s-Her-Name who is a great and loving character shows she is willing to ruin her life in order to protect the life of her wormfriend Jim! Bob is such a jerk and when he don’t get what he wants in this issue spends his time beating up Jim, oh and he also seems to love to boss around his catmen henchmen. The Lawyers From Heck at the end of this issue finally find Jim, but worse just as they have the bomb planted is about to blow. The issue is filled with dumb humor as well as some zany action and adventure moments making for a good read. I also really enjoy the fact that both Pinhead from Hellraiser and the Creature From The Black Lagoon have cameos in this issue and Pinhead is shown as one of the Lawyers of Heck and Gillman is the Preacher for the wedding. The cover for this issue is lots of fun and has a James Bond feel to it and the interior art for the start of the comic is done by Barry Crain and is great with the later part of the issue being done by Manny Galan & Carlos Garzon and is just so-so. Over all this was a good issue, and I cannot wait to see how this series ends.

Earthworm Jim # 3  **
Released in 1996     Cover Price $2.25      Marvel     # 3 of 3

Earthworm Jim is being surrounded by all his rogues gallery as well as Lawyers from Heck as they were their for the wedding of their evil friend Bob, but things turn good when Peter by accident sneezes the flowers with the bomb in it into the crowd of baddies and the explosion leaves most of them down and out! As Earthworm Jim, Princess What’s-Her-Name and Peter escape the planet the Lawyers try and figure out where he went now so they can serve him papers. Peter would like to go back to his home world and Jim agrees to take him, but he soon learns that Peter when hurt, scared, mad or even slightly annoyed will turn into a wild dog beast that is looking for a fight! They go back and fourth with Peter raging and threatening to fight Jim that is until the Princess has had enough and puts them both in their places. Now at Peter’s home planet, they have been followed by Evil and the Heck Lawyers who know have decided to kill Jim and just sue his estate! But before Evil and them can commit the murder Jim and his people are attacked by a giant red dinosaur and Jim is stomped into the ground and is loosing the fight, but lucky for him Princess What’s-Her-Name gets into Jim’s suit and powers up her already massive power and she beats the Dinosaur with ease. With Peter home and Jim back in the suit, the puppy ends up asking if he could just go home and live with them as he now knows that his planet is a terrible place to live. Jim and The Princess agree to take Peter to their home planet and while there Peter ends up saving the day as he attacks and eats Evil and chases off all the Heck Lawyers after becoming the dog monster! In the end Earthworm Jim and Princess What’s-Her-Name continue their date and all ends well.

This third and final issue is fun, but is the weakest issue in the series as I feel they waste so much time with the joke everything sets Peter off in becoming the dog monster…and while funny maybe the first couple of times it wears thin pretty fast when its back to back to back, making me as a reader kind of be annoyed with the Peter character. It almost seemed liked they ran out of story ideas and just made this final issue filled with lots of filler moments. The plot has Earthworm Jim and Princess What’s-Her-Name taking their new friend Peter to his home planet, and they are being stalked by Evil cat ruler of Heck and his demonic army of lawyers as well as trying to survive the planet that is filled with all types of creatures all want blood and kills. In this issue, Earthworm Jim is still a hero but also shows that he can be defeated and also can have a short fuse when annoyed time and time again. As I said before, Peter is pretty annoying in this issue and spends almost all the issue being triggered by everything and going back and fourth into becoming a monster and a normal puppy man. Princess What’s-Her-Name is as always a hero and shows that she don’t even really need Jim to be her hero as she has the power and mind to take care of herself. Evil and his Heck Lawyers are pretty silly and like in the other issues just kind of fumble around and miss their chances to strike. The threat in this issue is around but the stakes don’t seem as high as really this whole issue’s purpose is to get Peter home, and to this reader I kind of feel that this is just a average read with not real thought put into the story and was made to fulfill the contract made with the people who made Earthworm Jim. The cover on this issue is great and eye catching, and the art in this issue is all done by Barry Crain and is good but also seems rushed. To sum it up, this is an entertaining comic mini series based on a very goofy video game character, and I am sure will please fans of Earthworm Jim. Check out the art below to see the style of Barry Crain and enjoy.

So before we end this update, I really wanted to share some of the Horror Movie characters that have cameos in this series. The first one I spotted was Pinhead from the movie series Hellraiser in issue # 2 who is on the planet Heck and is one of the Lawyers that has been hired to bring a lawsuit against Earthworm Jim. It was pretty cool seeing him as Marvel Comics under their Epic line use to make Hellraiser comics. Also in issue # 2 was Gillman from the Universal Monster movie Creature From The Black Lagoon as he is the preacher that is marrying Bob and Princess What’s-Her-Name! Sadly I think these two are the only two Movie Monsters in this series, but I must say this is very cool and I wish more comics would add little Easter Eggs like this more often.

So I hope you enjoyed this Christmas Eve update all about Earthworm Jim and it helped add to your holiday season with great memories of playing the video game, watching the cartoon, playing with the toys and even reading the comics. This time of the year really is filled with magic and makes me always think of my youth and all the great memories of Christmas pasts. So I don’t want to take up more of your holiday with my ramblings, but do want to let you know that our next update will be my Films Of 2019 update and will be the first update of 2020! So until next time enjoy your time with loved ones, have fun opening your gifts and always watch out for each other. Oh and make sure to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Ballad Of Stretch Armstrong

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! I am sure you readers are as excited as I am for Christmas, which is just around the corner as is my Christmas Eve special! For this update, I decided that I was going to take a look at a toy that started in 1976 and is still going strong today, Stretch Armstrong! I am sure if you’re an older reader or a younger reader to this blog, you either had a Stretch Armstrong figure, know someone who did, or at least know who he is. It’s crazy to think that Stretch Armstrong, as of the posting of this update, is 43 years old and has faded in and out of toy stores over those decades and has now finally made it to an update here on Rotten Ink as one of my countdown to Christmas Eve updates. So sit back and pour yourself some eggnog, and let’s talk about the one and only blonde muscle-bound stretchable hero known as Stretch Armstrong and enjoy this flashback down action figure lane.

Jesse D. Horowitz developed the concept of Stretch Armstrong (originally called Stretch Man) for Kenner, and he had two different directions they were going to look at with one being a muscle blonde man and the other a large sumo wrestler. They went with the muscle bound blonde to keep costs down as the sumo was just too bulky. They brought in Bill Armasmith to develop the figure once Kenner loved the idea. When the figure went into production, they used a liquid sugar gel to give the figure his stretching ability and it became a hit with youngsters. And this also sparked other figures in the Stretch Armstrong series that included bad guys that he could fight with. The original run for this toy series lasted from 1976-1980, and those are now major collectors’ items as many of the originals now are long gone to the toy chest in the sky thanks to them degrading. In the 1990’s, Cap Toys got the IP of Stretch Armstrong and tried a come back to the world of toys to once more capture the attention of the kids and become a must-have toy. They added a new villain as well as a dog sidekick called Fetch Armstrong, and this once more has a short lived run in toy stores before once more fading away. And from then on, off and on many more Stretch Armstrong remake figures have been released to stores, but have never captured attention like the original did in the late 70’s and has never made it back to the must-own figures on Christmas lists. Who knows what the future will hold for Stretch Armstrong and his conquest to once more dominate the toy aisles, but one thing is for sure, those youngsters from the past who owned one sure did enjoy playing with it and he will forever live on in their minds.

As I stated above, Stretch Armstrong had his own set of villains with the most popular being Monster Man who was a green skinned reptilian like humanoid who was released in 1978 and is our heroes most popular baddy. Monster Man is also worth lots of money as many of the original figures have not made it undamaged to this modern time. In 1977, the see-through alien Stretch X-Ray was released and was a strange looking guy who grossed out youngsters with his appearance of being able to see his guts and organs. He as well is very rare and the original sales for lots of money. Vac-Man was released in 1994 and was the newest of the Stretch bad guys and was also unique as he came with a pump that allows you to suck the air out of the toy and that made him stretchy. Vac-Man is a red skinned alien who was one mean creature. Growing up I remember the same kid who had Stretch Armstrong also had Vac-Man and all of us kids took turns playing with this figure! One thing is for sure, Stretch Armstrong had one kick butt rogues gallery that I would have loved to have seen in the pages of a comic book series when I was a kid and should have been made by Star Comics in the late 80’s or even early 90’s! Check out the pictures below to see his foes in all their evil glory!

Really quickly, we should talk about the clones of Stretch Armstrong as this figure series had its fair share of imitators that tried to cash in on its popularity with youngsters. Some of the most popular were Mego’s “Elastic Heroes” that started in 1979 and featured DC Comic heroes Batman, Superman and Plastic Man and from Marvel they had Hulk and Spider-Man. They would later add cartoon characters Casper, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Growing up, I always wanted the Hulk one but never could find one used at one of the antique stores in Waynesville or at a garage sale. In the 1980’s LJN decided to get into the game and made “WWF Stretch Wrestlers” that were stretchable pro wrestlers and in the line was Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Randy Savage, George Steele, Junkyard Dog, Ricky Steamboat and King Kong Bundy. I knew one kid who had one of these and I can remember of the playground a lot of us kids stretching the heck out of Randy Savage! Also released in more modern times is a stretch Scooby-Doo figure that is sure to please fans of this classic cartoon character and collectors of stretchable action figures. And these toy series are just a drop in the hat of figures that were inspired by Stretch Armstrong showing that he was a major player in the world of toys and was pretty innovative in its stretchable feature. Check out the pictures below for a look at some of these inspired toys.

Like I said, as a kid I never did own a Stretch Armstrong and only played with them when my friends brought one to school or over at my cousin’s house when they had one for a short time…until they decided to cut him open and see what he was made of. Well I am proud to say that in 2018 I finally got myself a Stretch Armstrong, and best of all he is called the World’s Smallest! And while he is super small and does not stretch as far as the normal larger sized one I would say this that he is single handedly the worst Stretch Armstrong figure ever made! He is made just of rubber and has a hard plastic skeleton and a vey cheap paint job…no joke when opened I was 100% disappointed in this figure and after only stretching him for a few moments I placed him on a shelf and that’s were he has sat for over a year now. So this is just a warning if you want a Stretch Armstrong don’t go cheap and just order a normal sized one like I wish I did.

Hasbro, who now owns the rights of Stretch Armstrong, decided that they wanted to develop the toy property into movies, comics and TV shows and for years talk went around Hollywood about a big budget movie when Disney bought the rights and wanted to make a family comedy film that had many different scripts written and even stars casted including Tim Allen and Danny DeVito at one point being cast in the title role. But Disney failed to make the movie and then the rights went to Universal and it has well turned out many scripts. They wanted actor Taylor Lautner to play Stretch, but Universal as well dropped the ball and never made the film Relativity Media picked up the rights and before anything really went too far the film was scrapped once again. And the last rumor going around I have heard is that Paramount is now the ones who have the rights to make a movie and have as well just sat on the property with no movie set for production. But in 2017 Hasbro and Netflix decided to team up and make a kids cartoon based on Stretch Armstrong and called it “Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters” that would change the age and nature of Stretch and would has him be a young man and his friends who mutate into stretchable heroes! The series is still going now and is the first of Stretch Armstrong media projects to ever see the light of day.

So while Stretch Armstrong never did get his big screen flick, as you have just read, he did get his streaming show in the forum of a cartoon and because of this cartoon we also got a comic series that made this update possible! And while I wish this comic mini series was based on the original figure or even the 90’s one and not a kids show with a younger Stretch, but beggars can’t be choosy and this is was IDW has given us. I want to thank Mavericks Cards And Comics and Lone Star Comics for having these comics in stock and need to also remind you all that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. So if you’re ready I am ready to have an adventure with Stretch Armstrong and see if he can bring some fun to this holiday season.

Stretch Armstrong And The Flex Fighters # 1  **
Released in 2018       Cover Price $3.99     IDW     # 1 of 3

Jake Armstrong along with his friends Nathan and Ricardo become superheroes Stretch, Wingspan and Omni-Mass respective and go by the team name The Flex Fighters. They are now in the city fighting a massive praying mantis that has emerged from the ground attacking workers for a drilling company. The Rook Company lead by Mr. Rook who is responsible for training The Flex Fighters has ground troops also on the ground being lead by Malcolm Kane who can use force if the super team fails to get the mantis under control. The Mantis is strong and is given the powered teens a run for their money, but they are finally able to use extreme sound to knock out and capture it in order for Mr. Rook to study it…but their giant insect is taken away when The Extreme Hazard Unit a government agency takes it away with plans to burn it to death. But while this is going on Omni-Mass has Stretch and Wingspan follow him into the whole the mantis came from and find that its filled with babies and she was only attacking to protect them, and the team now make a pact to save the mantis mom from death.

This very kid friendly comic captures the silly nature of the NetFlix cartoon series and delivers a pretty good middle of the road read with this first issue. The plot has Stretch Armstrong and the rest of the Flex Fighters taken on a massive insect all the while getting orders to capture it alive and protect all civilians while being heroes, and for Stretch to be dealing with the pressure of time schedules his father gives him. Stretch Armstrong is a teen who has lost his mother and has an over baring dad who pushes his son way to hard, and unknown to his father Stretch is also a super hero who has the same powers as Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic. Stretch seems like a good kid with lots of stress and just wants to do the right thing as well as not disappoint his father. Mr. Rook and Malcolm Kane are the heads of a private group that do good deeds and try and use what they uncover to help mankind, good guys with good values. The Extreme Hazard Unit I am not sure about as they appear when the danger is neutralized and take the creature away with the promise of killing it….I think they have other plans. Wingspan is a teen with flying powers and Omni-Mass is a teen with the power to make his limbs grow massive and kind of has a rude attitude. The Mantis is just a giant mantis who fights to protect her babies and really is not bad at all. Over all not much to say about this first issue as I feel it does a great job of capturing also the atmosphere and style of classic superhero books of the 60’s and we get a little backstory on most of our heroes. The cover is pretty great and eye catching for fans of the cartoon series and the interior art by Nikos Koutsis is really good and has a very modern style of what I would think if Star Comics was still around would look like. To sum it up a pretty good first issue and does make we wonder what is going to happen next in issue two.

Stretch Armstrong And The Flex Fighters # 2  **
Released in 2018       Cover Price $3.99    IDW     # 2 of 3

The Flex Fighters are in the tunnel with all the baby mantises and make a call to their boss Malcolm Kane who shoots down their idea and plan to save the giant mantis as he reminds them that their authority runs only through the city. This does not stop them as Stretch and Omni-Mass head to the Extreme Hazard Unit base and Wingspan stays behind the babysit the little ones. Stretch and Omni steal some haze mat suits and enter the lab and set free the giant mantis and as they are about the escape they are stopped by Agent Rathjani who is the one in charge at the Extreme Hazard Unit and uses her tech to capture Stretch, Omni and the Mantis…but to the rescue comes Wingspan and the baby mantises who free their mom and friends and they all try to get away with the Extreme Hazard Unit on their tails.

The second issue the pressure and heat is turned up on the Flex Fighters who want to save a momma creature from being killed and taken away from her babies as well as must disobey their own bosses to do so! In this issue we get more of the backstory of Nathan aka Wingspan as he is from a large family and often feels as if he is over looked and never listened to. And while he is creeped out by the baby Mantises they seem to really like him and is able to lead them to help in their mom’s rescue. Stretch in very confidante that he and his friends are doing the right thing in saving the giant creature and even does a good job of trying his best to lead his friends on this rescue mission. Omni-Mass does what he does best and that’s be ready for a fight and have an attitude doing it! The Giant Mantis and her Babies seem to understand when they are being talked to and offer support and help when they can on this breakout. The Extreme Hazard Unit are jerks as is their boss Agent Rathjani as they really don’t care about leaving babies orphaned and claim they have to kill the mantis for mankind’s safety. As a reader and the cliffhanger ending of the Flex Fighters as well as the giant Mantis and her babies being stuck in the lab of The Extreme Hazard Unit with armed troopers all around! The issue still captures a real kids comic feel and delivers a simple yet entertaining adventure that helps bring more life to our hero characters. The cover is pretty great and eye catching and Nikos Koutsis interior art is great and is truly a through back to classic kids comics of the late 80’s and the 90’s. So with that let’s see what issue three the final issue has in store for us and let’s see how they wrap up this tale.

Stretch Armstrong And The Flex Fighters # 3  **
Released in 2018       Cover Price $3.99     IDW     # 3 of 3

The Flex Fighters and the giant creatures are making a run for it and Omni-Mass is holding off all the armed guards by smashing the ground around them. Once outside they are faced with tanks and it’s up to mama mantis and her babies to take them down, but while this is going on Agent Rathjani captures Stretch and informs him that he and his team are trespassing on their land and that they are going to be in very big trouble! That is until Mr. Rook shows up and informs everyone that he has bought the land and it now falls under Charter City rule and that the The Extreme Hazard Unit has 30 days to move their base and now the Mantis and her babies fall under their care! Mr. Rook and the Flex Fighters end up taking the creatures to an island Rook owns and allows them to live their life there. But as they good guys are about to leave they are being watched by Monster Man who has plans to experiment on the mantises once they leave and so ends this mini series with a cliffhanger for another that is clearly not ever coming.

Stretch Armstrong And The Flex Fighters is a mini series that has a story that could easily been wrapped up in two issues but they needed three in order to make a graphic novel to make a little extra money on licensing the IP. The story of the Flex Fighters fighting and then saving a massive mantis all the while thinking back on their personal life moments that fit for this mission at hand really does have a Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe mixed with a Star Comic issues from the 80’s. In this issues we get to learn more about the life of Omni-Mass and find out that his parents move from town to town and its been hard on him to make friends and even trust people as they are never in his life long enough, we also see he fears letting people down. Stretch and Wingspan take a back seat in this issue and just react to the battle going on around them, but they are fighting the best they can in order to save a life. Mr. Rook is the real hero who out smarts the Extreme Hazard Unit by just buying the land from under them and making their jurisdiction smaller and further out! Super smart move and a way to show up Agent Rathjani who is a pretty mean spirited government worker who loves that she has power and has no remorse for her bad actions and behavior. Another cool aspect of this series is that the giant mantis understands English and does her part in the escape and tries to not only protect her babies but as well as her new human friends. Sadly we get very little of Monster Man as he is on the island and has experiments he wants to do, but never once does he fight a Flex Fighter making the cover very misleading, but to be fair comic companies have been doing this for decades. The art for the series done by Nikos Koutsis is great in this issue as well and I would like to see him at sometime take on doing a comic based on the old Nickelodeon show Doug. Over all this kids comic is nothing special but is very well done and I am sure young readers who watch this show would also really enjoy this silly adventure. While I wish this had been a comic based on the classic Stretch Armstrong this is the series we were given and after reading it I am ok with it as I originally thought this was going to be terrible and poorly written and it really did turn out to be not that bad. Below is a look at art from this series so you can see the style of Koutsis.

So while I am sure that Stretch Armstrong will get his chance again in the world of comic books, I do think it will be many years away and will not be based on the Flex Fighters. And will a live action film based on Stretch ever be made…I am going to guess no and if he does ever show up it will be in a crossover film done by Hasbro in something like G.I. Joe or Transformers. But with this update done the next one will be my Christmas Eve update and originally I was going to cover “He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword” in honor of the live action film that was slated to be released by Warner Brothers this holiday season, but they dropped the ball and did not get the film into production in time so I decided to take a look at something super silly and fun and that’s video game icon Earthworm Jim! So until next time drink a glass of eggnog or two, spend time with your family and as always support local business this holiday season. See you in space with a mechanical suited worm very soon!

 

The Holiday Challenge Of The Go-Bots!

As I have said many times here at Rotten Ink in the early and mid 80’s robots ruled the world for kids as so many cartoons, toys, comics, video games, model kits and movies showcased them and the young and young at heart could not get enough. For many the King of 80’s cartoon/toy robots are the Transformers followed by Voltron…but for me the top are the Go-Bots! Yeah I know many of you are laughing out loud and saying how in the world could you put the Go-Bots over Transformers, Voltron, Robo Force and the answer is very simple as I liked the fact they were in scale with my G.I. Joe’s and Star Wars figures plus I liked many of the characters like Leader-1, Scooter and Cy-Kill! For me this update is lots of fun to cover and write about as The Go-Bots deserve way more respect than they get from toy collectors and it’s about time they get a proper comic book series! I also want to remind you all that Go-Bots was my # 5 out of 10 for my Should Have Been A Star Comic way back in 2013 and it took till 2018 for IDW to make this happen! So if you’re ready to take a trip down memory lane and chat about the Go-Bots lets get to it!

Go-Bots hit toy shelves in 1983 thanks to Tonka Toys who was able to get molds from a Japanese toy company Popy who had a series called Machine Robo that was going strong there. Tonka wanted to cash in on the Robot-Mania that was going strong in America and taken an unknown toy series and rebranding it for the US market seemed like a quick and easy way to cash in and deliver a cool toy line for kids who would buy them up. And this worked as Go-Bots became a pretty popular toy brand and had a good following with youngsters who enjoyed these simple changing robots who were in scale with their Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures. These guys also ended up getting their own cartoon series in order to help push the toys and give the figures more character. The figures like all good 80’s toys had good guys called Guardians that were lead by Leader-1 who could turn into a jet and the Renegades lead by the motorcycle transformer bot called Cy-Kill and they were bitter enemies who lead their respected sides into battle and every day life. But Go-Bots time at being the most loved changing robot figures was cut short when America was blessed with Transformers both as toys and a cartoon in 1984 and they dominated pretty much ever sense when it came to robot action figures. The figures even though loosing the grip of being must have transforming robot toys for kids survived until 1987 when the final GoBots were released. Tonka sold the Go-Bots to Hasbro in 1991 and that is were the brand is still to this day, even having modern figures that were made for very youngsters. While they might not be as respected nor collected like Transformers the Go-Bots are still a very cool toy and cartoon brand that was spawned in the 80’s! I for one remember using the figures in my toy wars and Leader-1 was always in the planning room with Luke Skywalker, Buck Rogers, Captain Kirk and First Sergeant Duke!

Hanna-Barbera in 1983 to go along side the toys made a cartoon mini series to help push the figures and give the characters a backstory as well as personalities. The main series “Challenge Of The Go-Bots” started in 1984 and lasted 65 episodes with 2 seasons and ended in 1985! The episodes followed the war between the good guys lead by Leader-1 as they try and stop the evil ways of Cy-Kill and his band of evil bots! Each episode ran for 22 minutes and was made by Hanna-Barbera Productions and was a semi popular cartoon for the time. I mostly remember it airing in reruns on USA Cartoon Express on the USA Network, and with this sparked my love for the figures even more! It’s crazy as just like the figures the cartoon is often over looked and forgotten about as it’s our shadowed by Transformers even in the toon world, and while the cartoon is great and I have lots of great memories of watching it…I must admit that the Transformers toon is a better show over all. The cartoon has been released on VHS as well as on DVD and are worth watching if you grew up with the Go-Bots as its are true blast from the past viewing.

A short time after the Challenge Of The Go-Bots ended Hanna-Barbera Productions and Clubhouse Pictures teamed up and made “Go-Bots: Battle Of The Rock Lords” an animated movie that hit theaters in March 21, 1986! The film is about robotic transforming rock people from space who need help from Leader-1 and the Guardians to return to their planet and overthrow the evil Rock Lord Magmar who is killing his own kind to get their power sceptres! And of course Cy-Kill joins the fight and helps Magmar and his evildoers. The film did very poorly at the Box Office here in the US only taken in $1,338,264.00 and worse critics and fans alike also trashed the film as they thought it was a poorly made family flick….not to mention “Transformers: The Movie” was also released that year and once more it out shadowed Go-Bots in another medium…is it just me or do you feel like Transformers was the bully of robot properties in the 80s? GoBots: Battle Of The Rock Lords was released on VHS and has yet to get a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release here in America. While it might be the weakest of the 80’s toy line movies released it still is a flick that entertained fans of the Go-Bots. I can remember renting this movie on VHS and liking it, but it sadly was a shell of a film compared to “He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword”, “G.I. Joe: The Movie” and “Transformers: The Movie” all that are amazing watches and captured the mood and feel of the toys and cartoon series that spawned them.

Growing up I had lots of Go-Bots that I would get from stores, garage sales and even trades with fellow kids and they seen lots of play as I really did like them, while I know they are very basic in their transforming features but they held a special place in my toy collection. I had many favorites as Cy-Kill and Turbo were at the top but for me the best figure was Leader-1 as he just was such a cool figure as both robot and jet and he was always a major part in my Toy Wars and always looked after the droids during battle. As I got older many of my toys were donated to my cousins and in that batch was my Leader-1 figure and while I am glad he made them happy and they were able to have adventures with him, he was one figure I missed. But lucky for me while at Mavericks Cards And Comics one day they had a near mint one for very cheap so I was able to get one back and now he sits on a shelf at my job looking over the store. I can remember many of my friends growing up who had Go-Bots always mentioned Leader-1 as one of their favorite figures from the line. So if you grew up with the Go-Bots or still love them to this day leave me a comment and let me know what character was your favorite.

Also besides the toys and cartoon the Go-Bots also spawned lots of cool merchandise over the years for the fans to get their hands on and for them to bring in extra money for the brand. They have and had Halloween costumes, magazines, posters, home media, lunch boxes, shirts, computer game, comic books, books, soundtrack, coloring books, card game, board game and so much more! Over the years I have had many of these items like the cartoon on VHS, a T-Shirt of Leader-1, some of the books, coloring books & magazines and of course I have the comics from IDW as they are the main attraction of this update! So if you are a fan of Go-Bots there is some great stuff out there for you to collect.

I have worked for both a Comic Book store as well as several Media stores and a topic that has came up at many is the Go-Bots or Transformers talk and I have always found it very interesting as in all the talks I have been apart of most have a very weird hatred for GoBots as the fans of the Transformers are very rabid when it comes to the honor of their favorite changing robots, and to be honest besides myself I can only think of one other coworker who would take up for them during these topics. One phrase that is said so much during talks is that Go-Bots were the K-Mart versions of the Transformers, and to me this is a silly statement as while they might not have been as detailed nor as popular they were released before and did bring transforming robots into the minds and hands of the kids to pave the way for the Transformers. Plus most modern mass market Transformers in my opinion are really junky and are bargain basement level toys. So I also need to stress I love Transformers and grew up watching the cartoons, playing with the toys as well as reading the Marvel Comics and they were a major part of my youth, I just want to take up for Go-Bots as they seem to always get the short end of the stick when it comes to respect for them when it came to 80s toys and cartoons. Plus the art below is pretty great and well played to whom ever the artist is!

So as you can see I am a fan of Go-Bots and I know many of you readers are or were a fan at one point and had at least one in your collection. So now lets get to the comic reviews and I want to thank IDW for making them and Mavericks Cards And Comic for stocking them. And for me this is really a great way to start the countdown to Christmas Eve as Go-Bots really does make me flashback to my youth. I want to remind all you readers that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. So if you are ready like I am, as I have wanted a comic series based on the world of Go-Bots sense I was a youngster and now its time to finally read one.

GO-BOTS # 1  ***
Released in 2018     Cover Price $3.99     IDW     # 1 of 5

The Go-Bots are leaving among humans now and Leader-1 and human Mark are one secret missions to save prisoners of war. Scooter along with his human friend A.J are hanging around and while she is at classes he is getting paid to drive people around to get extra money for A.J. And the world’s top sport now is racing Go-Bots and Turbo and his human rider Matt Hunter are champions of that sport. And after winning the big race Matt and Turbo are approached by. T. Coriander Banks who takes them to an underground fight arena and the witness Cy-Kill kill other Go-Bots and robots. And Matt and Turbo soon find that Banks has tricked them and wants them to fight with Cy-Kill and they decline and barely escape alive. They return to the site of the arena and everyone is gone besides dead bodies of Go-Bots and Humans! Meanwhile Mark and Leader-1 get a new mission to stop a rouge band of Go-Bots and once found Leader-1 is tricked and all his programing and codes stolen by Cy-Kill who is running the pack of evil Go-Bots as he wants to kill all the humans and rule the world! A.J meanwhile goes to have a quick meal with her teacher Professor Braxis who informs her that he as well has his own Go-Bot and shoves her into his basement were she see’s Vamp who approaches to attack when Scooter busts in and saves her and roughs up the Professor who claims he was just joking. Once outside the world is going crazy as the Go-Bots have turned on humans due to the stolen codes and A.J asks Scooter if he is going to turn on her as he stands with his fist clinched.

This first issue shows that Go-Bots are not just kid’s toys anymore as this issue is filled with murder and death plus does a great job of building this comic universe. The plot of the comic has the Go-Bots being programed to obey humans and work alongside them and for our entertainment and when Cy-Kill the evil robot decides he wants to take over the world he and his followers start a Go-Bot revelation and turn on the humans they once served. And all of this is set in motion when Leader-1 is tricked and defeated and all his secrets and codes stolen. Leader-1 and his human friend Mark are heroes who help our government in secret missions and really is a hero who don’t care to take a human life in order to save those who are in need…that is as long as Mark allows it. Scooter and Turbo as well are good bots that as well have befriended humans and seem to do their best to protect both Matt and A.J who are their pals. This far hands down my favorite good Go-Bot is Leader-1 as I find him to be smart, brutal and yet noble. Cy-Kill is as evil as ever as he does not mind killing his fellow Go-Bots as well as humans and robots and wants nothing better than to kills anyone who opposes him on his quest to take over the world. Very evil Cy-Kill is and the perfect bad guy for this series and really is a baddie that you can fear and I look forward to see just how bad he will get as more issues are released. To be honest I have read lots of IDW comics based on toys/cartoons over the years and I must say that Go-Bots # 1 is the best I have read and really makes me hyped for this series as a whole. The cover I have is very eye catching and showcases Leader-1 who is the true icon of the Go-Bots. The interior art is done by Tom Scioli who also wrote the script and at first I was a little “blah” on the artwork when seen in previews but once reading the full book I must say I really liked it and I feel he captured the look of the characters as well as has a dash of the old school yet has a modern and updated feel. So lets see what issue two has in store for us.

GO-BOTS # 2  ***
Released in 2018     Cover Price $3.99       IDW       # 2 of 5

Cy-Kill listens as Screw Head who tells of how he and a human were working in a dangerous mind that ended up taking the like of the human and leaving the robot hurt showing mankind does not care about the Go-Bots! This sets Cy-Kill off who demands some of his followers to dump Leader-1 in a junkyard as he and his crew cause chaos and damage that will hurt mankind. Meanwhile we find out that Scooter fights the urge to attack and tries to get A.J. to safety and they end up running into Turbo and his driver Matt Hunter and they quickly know that they will have to all stick together as they are found by police Go-Bots who want to break up these do gooders. Meanwhile Leader-1 barely escapes being crushed and kills his captives and is now our for revenge. Scooter and Turbo ditch the police bots and make their way to Tonka as they hope to find a patch that can fix all this and meet a programer and his forklift Go-Bot Spoons and are informed that this has nothing to do with the chip and is all about the fact the Go-Bots are having a revolution! Once outside A.J., Matt, Scooter and Turbo figure out that they must fight to live and find T. Coriander Banks who is dying and admits he is the cause of this all and as he dies the evil GoBots attack Turbo and Scooter who fight for their lives as well as of their human friends. As things look bad for our heroes they are saved from death when Leader-1 and a band of good bots show up to take on Cy-Kill and his renegades as the humans also make their play with the army! As Leader-1 and Cy-Kill have a bloody fight that leaves them both injured its Leader-1 that comes out the winner and he is surrounded by both sides who want them to lead them…one sides wants to get things back the way it was with humans in charge while the other side want to take over…what is Leader-1 to do.

This second issue is fantastic and brings GoBots to a whole new level as the Renegades as cold blooded and enjoy not only killing humans but also fellow robots who are loyal to mankind. The plot of this issue has Cy-Kill leading his Renegades to war with the humans as Turbo and Scooter along with their humans try to survive and almost are killed until the once injured Leader-1 shows up and wins a massive battle that now leaves him with a decision to make on to help mankind or be loyal to his own GoBots who are sick of being used and taken advantage of by man. I love that this issue leaves us on a cliffhanger that leaves the hero Leader-1 with a decision that will change the lives of many and will give him not only power, but will also make him a hated figure as he will not be able to please both sides. Leader-1 in this one is a hero who steps up and becomes the warrior we all know that he is, plus I love that even with his face cut halfway off and bleeding like a stuck pig he never gave up and was able to defeat a well more rested Cy-Kill. Speaking of Cy-Kill he is 100% cold blooded and gets joy out of killing and loves that his followers do so blindly and do whatever he says. Turbo shows that he as well is a fighter and even with the odds against him is willing to fight to save his human friend as well as do what he thinks is right, meanwhile Scooter is kind of a chicken who is by no means a fighter and quickly begs for his life when things go bad. I also love that Tonka is the company who make the GoBots and they through up their hands when things go bad and say well people should have treated them better! And somehow I feel this is a hidden message for toy collectors who always seem to trash GoBots and treat them like they are generic dollar store toys. The cover for this issue is great and showcases Cy-Kill and the interior art is great and done by Tom Scioli, again his style has grown on me. So lets move onto issue three and see what Leader-1 decides and if Cy-Kill will once more rise to cause an issue for humans and robots alike.

GO-BOTS # 3  **1/2
Released in 2019      Cover Price $3.99       IDW       # 3 of 5

On GoBotron the planet of the Go-Bots and under the rule of Leader-1 is being visited by a group of astronauts from Earth who is with space shuttle bot Spay-C and are attacked by Zod a massive dinosaur robot who is the terror of the planet! And before the attack Leader-1 and his followers chase Zod off and take Spay-C prisoner and it’s clear that Leader-1 is running his world with an iron fist as he sets Spay-C to be reprogramed the next day, and the astronauts are lucky enough to escape, and they risk their lives to save him. Leader-1 has a vision and returns to ask Spay-C to help him and his followers and as they start their journey they are attacked by Cy-Kill who once more has followers and has also got Zod as an ally and this causes Leader-1 and his crew to flee to space but the renegades give chase, but are tricked and left behind. Leader-1 and his group hyperspace to the other side of the planet and Leader-1 explains that the item they seek is here, as the enter the inner layer of the planet its clear its not like the above world as this one is covered in rocks and sand and Spay-C runs off only to fall and become injured, he is later found by Turbo and Scooter who share with the astronauts that Leader-1 is not the kind Go-bot he claims to be, and as Spay-C tries to attack Turbo the astronauts run off and find Rocklords as well as that the planet they are on is Earth!

This issue takes place way after the events of issue 1 & 2 and has Leader-1 ruling over the world and is paranoid about his enemies trying to over throw his rule, but while once noble he is now more unfair and has no issues killing those who do not follow as well will brainwash to get allies. And when he meets a Go-Bot from space he thinks that he has the answer of how to bring peace to the worlds, but of course Cy-Kill and the Renegades want to rise to power and will do whatever they can to stop this quest. In this issue Leader-1 really is not a nice robot as he comes off as a crazed paranoid leader who will do whatever it takes to keep his power…and this makes him very dangerous. Cy-Kill is as power crazy as ever and seems like he will not stop until he takes over. Zod who is a massive dinosaur robot that is such a killer that all the Go-Bots fear him, plus once he joins forces with Cy-Kill all bets are off! Spay-C is an interesting character who goes from protecting his human friends to drinking the Kool-Aid that Leader-1 is forcing on him. The true hero of this series is Turbo who really is the one who watches after humas as well as his fellow Go-Bots like Scooter, he really is the most heroic bot of this series this far. I like also how in this issue the Go-Bots under the rule of Leader-1 build their own world GoBotron over Earth causing the world as we know it to be forever changed. The series has taken a real downbeat turn as it’s clear that there are very few heroes left and the world is filled with lots of greys that seem to be only looking out for themselves. The cover for the issue I have is pretty cool and showcases Spay-C and the interior art is great and done by Tom Scioli again. I do also want to say that while I enjoyed this issue it’s story does seem a little disjointed and that hurts it slightly when it comes to the star rating. But while flawed still highly entertaining and I cannot wait to see what issue four has in store for me.

GO-BOTS # 4  ***
Released in 2019     Cover Price $3.99       IDW       # 4 of 5

The astronauts are shocked and sadden by the fact Earth is now a shell that is the underbelly of a world created by the Go-Bots. Turbo meets up with the humans and forces Spay-C to explain what happened to the world and he lets them know that he has been looking out for them as from space he witnessed the destruction and was waiting to wake them from sleep chambers when things got better…but they never did. As Turbo shows the astronauts the remaining humans who have devolved Cy-Kill and the renegades appear and snatch up some humans causing Turbo and Spay-C to spring into action and save some of them. But the Renegades drop Zod who is ready to kill all in his way, and during the drop the ground shakes and Leader-1 has a vision of the Go-Bot God named Courageous and sets his way to find the Lazer Lance a staff he thinks can kill Zod and stop this fighting once and for all. After the explosion Spay-C is down for the count and Leader-1 runs into Turbo and Scooter and tries to call for a truce and asks them to help him find the Lance so they can all defeat their enemies, and Scooter knows the location! So they all climb to a skull cave and even have a run in with some of the Rock Lords, but once in the cave the run into Professor Braxis who is old and crazy and has created an army of Vamps who attack Leader-1, Turbo, Scooter and the rest of the Go-Bots but lucky for everyone during this fight the Lazer Lance is found and the Vamps flee as Leader-1 goes outside with lance in hand just as Zod and Cy-Kill and the rest of the Renegades appear! Just as Leader-1 is about to use the Lazer Lance it’s taken from him by Cy-Kill who breaks it and all looks bad for our heroes until the Rock Lords help them and cause all the Renegades to fall into a pit! Leader-1, Turbo, Scooter and the repaired Spay-C with the astronauts all join forces and use the damaged Lazer Lance to take down Zod once and for all as he explodes and causes a massive earthquake! As they regroup they notice the Go-Bots Command Center approaching and it open fire and many blasts hit Leader-1 and it even beams up Scooter and other Go-Bots…and we learn that Cy-Kill and the Renegades are the ones controlling the massive ship, and Turbo and Spay-C decide to go on a suicide mission to try and get Scooter back as the Go-Bots mourn what looks like the death of Leader-1.

This fourth issue is a great read and one heck of a great chapter in this mini series! This issues plot has Leader-1 still on his vision quest to get a lance that is his only hope to finally stop Zod, but along the way he must face Cy-Kill and his band of evil doers as well as make peace with Turbo, Scooter and the Rock Lords! Leader-1 in this issue comes off a creepy, crazed cult leader who has a vision and makes his followers follow him on a quest blindly. While in this issue Leader-1 starts off a little power crazed, by the end I think he is starting to realize that he has become a monster himself and tries to rebuild a friendship with the likes of Turbo and Scooter. And while Leader-1 was gunned down at the end of this issue and it looks like he is dead…I am going to say he is not and will be back for the 5th and final issue in the mini series. Turbo once more is the real hero as he looks out for his now dimwitted friend Scooter, is man enough to put his fight with the Go-Bots aside in order to bring down Zod. Cy-Kill is a psychopath who guns down and kills many Go-Bots, tortures humans for his own amusement and is just as power hungry as Leader-1 as he wants to rule the world. Spay-C in the issue comes around and fights on the side of good, glad to see him have a bound with Scooter and Turbo. Oh I also really like that Cop-Tur tries to step up and challenge Leader-1 to become the leader and gets his block knocked off…great stuff! One element I also found very interesting in this issue is the addition of Courageous who is a God like figure for the bots, I also like that the Rock Lords are around and have been created by the “Gods” and they are the more pure versions of the Go-Bots. While the story again jumps oddly in spots it is a great read that is packed with action, drama and even some cool cliffhangers. The cover I have is a little weak and does not do this issue justice. And like before Tom Scioli did the interior art and does a fantastic job. So with that lest see what the final issue in this mini series has in store for us, and most important lets see what the fate of Leader-1 is!

GO-BOTS # 5  ***
Released in 2019     Cover Price $3.99       IDW       # 5 of 5

Spay-C drops Turbo off on the command center that has been taken over by Cy-Kill and his Renegades in order to get his friend Scooter back and bashes and smashes all that get in his way. He finally makes it to the control room and confronts Cy-Kill and gives him a choice fight him and die or let Scooter go and let them leave…Cy-Kill decides to fight and his gunned down. Turbo finds Scooter and the pair try and leave but are found by Crasher who ends up becoming allies with them and both want to end this war that was started by Leader-1 and Cy-Kill! The newly allied Go-Bots return to Earth and Spay-C and some of the Humans are going to try time travel while the others stay and find that the Earth has been under attacked by an army of Vamps being controlled by Professor Braxis and they meet a younger generation of Go-Bots who are now fighting this war, showing that the fighting will never end. The new Go-Bots decide to head to space and make their own world and even take the bodies of Cy-Kill and Leader-1 and rebuild them as one new Go-Bot. While the humans on Earth along with Go-Bots start their own quest to rebuild the planet and in the end Spay-C and some of the some of the astronauts return to the past to warn the world about the uprising of the Go-Bots…but like always those in power do not listen so it as it appears our future is doomed.

This mini series is fantastic and has a surprise connection that I will discuss a little later in this issue review, as it’s a big spoiler. The plot of this issue has Leader-1 dead and Turbo on a quest to save his friend Scooter from the command center that is being controlled by the coldblooded killer Cy-Kill. Once Turbo finds his enemy he kills him and saves his friend only to find that GoBotron has been attacked by Vamps and that the younger Go-Bots have grown in size and have no ties to Earth and want to make their own way on a new planet so they leave. And with that the humans that are left as well as many of the old Go-Bots must find away to rebuild the Earth that has been left in terrible shop after the rise of the Go-Bots. Turbo once more shows that he is the true hero of this series as he does not care about this war that rages on over two Go-Bots egos and just wants to save his friend and respect humans and their lives. I like the fact Turbo don’t want to be in charge and really just want the world to get along and for both humans and Go-Bots to live together. I also like that this series had the guts to kill off both Leader-1 and Cy-Kill who are the franchises two biggest characters, and this move reminds me of how they killed Optimus Prime in the Transformers Movie. I also like how the astronauts decide that they will try and make the best of the new Earth and will help and try and educate the remaining humans who have almost became cavemen again. Plus its so true to life that with major warnings of doom for the world we all share, those who have power choose not to listen as they don’t want to change their lifestyles to make a difference. Now I have to talk about the series main spoilers so if you don’t want to know skip the rest of the review…..Ok I need to stress I think that it’s amazing that the younger Go-Bots will grow to be the Transformers and that the artificial planet GoBotron will become Cybertron! That’s right we get a sneak peek of Optimus Prime who is GoBot Road Ranger as well as Bumblebee and the bodies of Leader-1 and Cy-Kill and are turned into Starscream! I love that finally someone gives Go-Bots the respect they deserve, as they are really the first major changing robot toys! The cover for this issue is cool and yet silly and has Leader-1 holding the body of Cy-Kill and I must also say again the art of Tom Scioli at first was not my cup of tea, but this series made me a fan. Check out the art below to see the style of Scioli.

Go-Bots really do make me think about my youth and Christmas time so this comic mini series was the prefect way to get me into the holiday season! I would love for IDW to do more as I feel that many other stories could be shared about Turbo, Scooter and the rest of the Go-Bots. And for the next update and our countdown to Christmas Eve I will be staying in the world of classic toys turned into comic book heroes as we will be looking at Stretch Armstrong! So until next time readers and friends read a comic or three, watch a Christmas Movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update for a stretching good time.

American Hero: Rambo

Happy Independence Day 2019 to all you readers, family and friends. This is a very important holiday for Americans as this the day that we truly celebrate our Independence! On this holiday we all prepare for the fireworks and are gathered with friends and family grilling out burgers, steaks and hotdogs. Here at Rotten Ink I have been working hard to once more bring you an update about an America Hero in the world of comic book, and this year I have chosen to take a look at John J. Rambo, the iconic character of novels as well as a film series that later this year sees a fifth installment! And I feel 100% that Rambo goes alongside other American themed heroes we have covered in the past like Captain America, Fighting American and The Original Shield who all fight for freedom and deliver amazing comic adventures. So while the burgers are grilling and the gathering is going strong, let’s sit back, relax and celebrate the one and only Rambo!

Let’s talk about the book that started it all for Rambo. First Blood was a novel written by David Morrell in 1972 and was about a Vietnam Vet named John Rambo who is being harassed while hitchhiking through a small town in Kentucky and fights back when the police department treat him like scum and cause him to flashback to when he was a POW. He escapes and this causes a manhunt for him that leads to a terrible shoot out where in the end both Rambo and the sheriff meet their maker, as Rambo dies by a shotgun blast to the head at the hands of his one time commander Trautman. The novel is a dark sad twisted ride as one man who served his country is treated like a common scumbag by the hands of those he defended just because of his look and the length of his hair. The book is a great read and is worth checking out if you like war books and or like the films.

The novel was turned into a film in 1982 and starred Sylvester Stallone as Rambo and made some major changes to the story having Rambo and the Sheriff both living and Rambo going to jail in the end. The film still followed the manhunt through the woods and the stand off in the town making this open for a sequel that came in 1985 with “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” This time Rambo is asked to go back to Vietnam and take pictures of POWs but instead rescues them! “Rambo III” was released in 1988 and had him helping Afghanistan fight off Russia as they tried to invade them. This film also had Rambo fighting a tank with a bow and arrow while on horseback! 2008 saw the release of “Rambo,” the final film in the series thus far that had Rambo saving some missionaries in Burma, and proving that he is a man of honor as he also helps take down an evil general who is committing genocide on his own people. The Rambo films are all badass and rank as some of the best action/drama films ever made! I could go on and on about the films and will in a future review. I just wanted to touch up on the films for this write up. If you have not seen these films, do yourself a favor and go watch them. You can find them on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray.

2019 is filled with many great films like “Avengers: Endgame”, “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” and “Star Wars IX,” but for me my most hyped film of the year is “Rambo V: Last Blood”! I have been a fan of not only actor Sylvester Stallone but also the Rambo films for as long as I can remember and to see what is reported as the final film in the series this year is something very special for me as the character has been a big part of my childhood and even adulthood. In fact many people are shocked when I tell them my favorite actor, writer and director is Sylvester Stallone as many people always think that I would say John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, Tod Browning or some other icon of Horror Cinema. But do me a favor, if you’re reading this and enjoy the Rambo films or even just action films in general, make sure to go to your local cinema on September 20th and see this film as I am sure its going to be one amazing ride as Rambo takes on a drug cartel!

Now let’s talk about the man John James Rambo, who is the son of R. Rambo and Marie Drago. He was born in Bowie, Arizona and in 1964 at the age of 17 he was drafted to fight in Vietnam straight out of high school, and after his tour at war, he returned to the U.S and joined Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg and was trained by Colonel Trautman. Rambo returns to the Vietnam War as part of the SOG brigade in 1969 and during this time he is traumatized by events he sees with one being the death of his close friend Joseph Danforth. He would later also become a POW. and he was repeatedly tortured and only he and one other member of his team were able to escape the camp. A short time later, Rambo asked to return to the war and even learned new skills like how to fly a helicopter. By 1974 he finally was discharged from the military holding a pretty high rank, mostly likely a Captain. Once back home in America he returns to find that people are very hateful towards the soldiers returning home and he himself is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Rambo, now a drifter and homeless, goes to Hope, Washington to visit an old war friend only to find he is dead and that the local law enforcement don’t want him around as they are cruel and try and bully him to leave their small town. Rambo is pushed and he fights back and takes the war to the Sheriff’s office, and it’s only Colonel Trautman that is able to talk him down. After these events Rambo is sent to prison, but Colonel Trautman is able to get him out to do a secret mission for the government to find out if Vietnam still has prisoners of war…Rambo takes this mission and disobeys orders as instead of just taking pictures and reporting back, he saves them and brings them home. In 1988 Rambo is next sent to Afghanistan in order to help the people fight the Russians who have tried to invade their country. In 2008 Rambo is now living in Thailand and makes his living capturing snakes and selling them to locals for fighting as well as giving rides on his boat. Rambo is asked by a bunch of missionaries to take them to Burma that is a warzone in order to help its people with medical and spiritual aid. And after saying no at first, it’s because of a woman named Sarah he agrees to…and once he does his job and the Burmese army captures and kills some of the missionaries, it’s up to Rambo to go in and save them, and of course he does. At the end of this rescue Rambo decides to let it all go and returns home to America. And this is where we are at in the life of Rambo as the events of the fifth film will tell us more about his life and who knows maybe death. Rambo is very layered and deep character, and the film and novel versions have different paths for his life, but one thing is for sure, Rambo is an iconic character of American pop culture.

Rambo has also made it to the world of video games and has had games on systems like Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Arcade Machines and as of late a rail first person shooter for PS3 and X-Box 360. The one that most know about is the NES version that has you playing Rambo who is wearing red spandex pants and mostly uses a knife to fight Vietcong, spiders and other animals. This game was also on the receiving end of a review done by The Angry Video Game Nerd for his popular YouTube show. So for those who like Rambo, there are video games out there for you to play. I thought about doing a NES Challenge for the Rambo game but decided that maybe we will tackle that on a later update.

In 1986 Rudy- Spears Productions was at it again when they decided to turn the R rated Rambo films into a cartoon series called “Rambo: The Force of Freedom” in which Rambo was no longer a loner but instead helped lead a group called The Force of Freedom alongside his friend Colonel Trautman into doing battle with a terrorist group code named S.A.V.A.G.E. lead by the General Warhawk who was a trader in his home country in Europe. The series ran for one season and a total of 65 episodes before being canceled, and the episodes would have Rambo and gang stopping such plots as stopping takeovers of small countries, fighting cults, stopping missiles and everything else in between. While Rambo and Trautman were the main attractions, characters like White Dragon and Touchdown Jones were the support that helped make the cartoon series more fun. While it only lasted one season, it had a lot of episodes and helped fans of Rambo with the wait in between movies. Growing up I remember watching this show from time to time and found that all I wanted in the series was to watch Rambo kick some S.A.V.A.G.E. butt! Not a lot of kids I knew watched the series, and by this time a lot of them were watching more Nickelodeon shows or the more popular shows on ABC, NBC and USA. The series did get some VHS releases as well as later some episodes released on DVD.

So besides the movies and cartoon on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and other home media and the novels and video games, many other very cool merchandise items have been made based on Rambo! Many action figures have been put out and have been done by companies like Coleco, NECA and Toy Island to name a few…my favorite is the Coleco Rambo figure that was based on the cartoon that I had as a kid. Also made were the films’ score soundtracks that have been released on Vinyl, Cassette and CD! These scores are amazing and the song “Home Coming” by Jerry Goldsmith from the First Blood album is powerful and iconic. There were also T-Shirts, Posters, Comics, Buttons, Chewing Gum, Trading Cards, Stickers, Magazines, Lunch Boxes, Halloween Costumes, Erasers, Toy Guns, Arcade Machines and so much more amazing products! So if you are a fan of Rambo, there are many amazing things in the world for you to collect…and I suggest not only the Coleco toy but also do yourself a favor and get the score soundtracks for the film as they are top notch.

So as you can see, Rambo and America go hand in hand and in fact all through the 80’s he was used as an icon to show the American Spirit and even the likes of President Ronald Reagan used him as an inspiration to hype up his run. And now that the burgers are probably almost done and the fireworks are about to fill the sky, we should get to the review of the Blackthrone Comic simply called Rambo! I want to thank Lone Star Comics for having this issue in stock and want to also remind you all that I grade this comic on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So get your red headband ready as we are going to war alongside the one and only John J. Rambo.

Rambo # 1 *1/2
Released in 1989     Cover Price $2.00     Blackthrone      #1 of 1

Major Valane was a bad apple and was dealing in the black market during his time in Nam and after being investigated by higher ups in the US Military, things turn bad and he is believed to be dead…until he is spotted on a nature documentary. The government sends for Rambo to make sure that he can spot Valane and make sure he is alive as Rambo was one of his solider who witnessed the Major set up his own people and even killed Rambo’s friend Wild Bill and forced a wounded Rambo to be in a prisoner of war camp! So ready for a rematch and revenge against Valane, he heads to Canada and battles the harsh weather until he can track Valane and his band of militant hoods. During his search Rambo is attacked by a mountain lion and is saved by one armed vet Brewster who befriends the war hero and helps him stand his ground when Valane’s men track them down and Rambo comes face to face with the man who helped murder his friends.

Sad to say this is really bad and does not capture the feel, mood or character of John J. Rambo at all and really just feels like a cheesy C-Grade army comic! The plot has Rambo traveling to Canada to find a beloved to be dead army Major who was a trader and a black market dealer that set up his own men leaving many of the dead and Rambo a prisoner. Rambo then fights for his life and finds that his old foe is indeed alive and surrounded by a new group of mercenaries. John Rambo in this comic is a man who loves America and loved his fellow solider who survived beside him in Vietnam, he also is a survivor and is willing to run into danger to get the Intel his country needs. But this does not feel like the Rambo from the films, as he is way to positive talkative, makes lots of mistakes and seems to be really aligned with the army in this comic….so in other words the comic Rambo seems very much off. Brewster is a pretty cool side character who is missing an arm that happened during the war being a hero and lives alone in a cabin in the woods of Canada, and the best part is he is still great with a gun! Major Valane is a scumbag who sold out his own team in order to gain money and now has faked his death and is still doing crime! He is cocky and surrounded by tons of militant soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed for him. He is a great bad guy for this style of army comic and sadly didn’t get to live up to his full potential…and the reason being is that the series was canceled after this issue and we never even get to know how Rambo escaped Major Valane and his goons grip! Yep Blackthrone pulled a Star Comics and canceled this series before it got a proper ending for readers. The cover for this comic is pretty eye catching if you’re a Rambo fan even if the art is only so-so. The interior art is very hit or miss as at times it looks like your standard late 80’s indie comic and other pages almost seem unfinished or rushed, and I am sure artist Aaron Lopresti knows that this is not his best work. Over all this Rambo comic is a big letdown as it does not tell all that great of a story, does not do justice to the character and is over all below average. Check out the art below to see the style used in this comic…and yeah Rambo looks nothing like Sylvester Stallone.

While the comic might have been a letdown, we still have all the movies we can watch to scrub this from our memories. I hope you are having (or had) a good fourth of July as this day is one we should truly take pride in our nation and celebrate our freedoms. For the next update we will be leaving Rambo behind and will be going on vacation to once more visit Monster Bash and talk about Night Of The Living Dead as we spend some time in Evan City Cemetery! So until next time, watch a Rambo film or four, see Rambo V in the theater and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next time as we spend more time with the undead.

The Bright Colored Fur Balls Known As The Popples!

Welcome back to Rotten Ink, my place on the World Wide Web that brings my past and present together and allows me to chat about things I enjoy from comic books, movies, video games, music and Horror Hosts. It’s crazy to think that it’s already 2019 and 2018 is in the history books. Before we start our look at Popples, I am going to answer a few questions that I get asked by readers and friends about what are some of the most popular posts on this blog! I will break them down and share the top two posts for some of the most popular update themes, “Horror Host Icon” and “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic,” the ones you readers seem to love the most and the ones I get the most requests to cover. The “Horror Host Icon” updates are hands down one of my most popular themes as they hit home for many of you readers who grew up watching Hosts on TV and even modern viewers who catch their favorite’s on the internet. The top three most read Horror Hosts I have covered as of this posting are: Morgus The Magnificent being the most read Icon update followed very closely by both Commander USA and USA Saturday Nightmares! As for the From Horror Movie To Horror Comic update that has been the most read, that honor goes to Phantasm and is followed by I, Frankenstein and The Willies! So there you have it and with more updates in both of those themes, who knows what updates will be the top in 2020! So with that out of the way, I think it’s time we once more visit that magical world of Star Comics and chat about their mini series based on the popular 80’s plush dolls The Popples. So get your cool 80’s gear on and let’s travel back to when plush dolls were cool and no one had a smart phone glued to their face.

Popples were stuffed dolls that were weird looking animal creatures who could roll up into a ball and were a craze for a short time in he 80’s. So let’s take a look at Popples: the doll, cartoon and comics! American Greetings company Those Characters From Cleveland (TCFC) was the company behind the creation of Popples as their employee Susan Trentel was the designer who invented the roll up action of the dolls as she drew inspiration from rolling up socks! Susan was also the designer who brought to life Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake showing that she was a pioneer of 80’s toys and characters. She along with Thomas Schneider created the first Popples prototype. They went to toy company Mattel, and in 1986, these stuffed dolls were unleashed in toy aisles as well in the world of cartoons thanks to DIC Entertainment and comic books thanks to Star Comics. The dolls would last until 1988 and would have many waves and styles released during this short run including Pocket Popples, a line that was almost like action figures. The cartoon would run for 44 episodes and would go off the air in 1987 with three episodes never airing. The comic series would last for 4 issues and would come to an end in 1987. This sadly is much like many of Star Comics releases based on toys and cartoons. But while the Popples did not make their way into the 90’s and the toy industry moved on, they had two short lived comebacks with the first being in 2007 when Playmates released new Popples figures that only lasted four releases and in 2015 Netflix did a new cartoon series for their streaming service and toy company Spin Master ended up doing a toy line based on this new show. What does the future have in store for the Popples? In 2018 they were sold to Hasbro leaving them open to be made into more toys, cartoons, comics and even video games!

Growing up a kid of the 80’s and 90’s was glorious. As you have heard me say before, we had so many amazing movies, video games, comics and toys and it really was a great time growing up! In these times before the internet was all the rage, many of the big deals that were the talk on the playgrounds was stuff like video games, wrestling, comic books and the newest toys that were on everyone’s must own list…and I can safely say that while I heard them mentioned from time to time and even saw some of the girls have them, the Popples were never a major deal at my school. I remember my neighbor Joanna had some and that’s how I got to first interact with one, and while it was cool that they could turn into a ball, I never did want one as by the time they were released so many other toys, games, comics, horror movies and one special girl were on my radar. Now I need to stress I had nothing against the Popples, they were just clearly more geared toward girls and they were just not something many boys were flocking to. In fact I can remember many toy ads for these plush dolls showing up in comic books I was reading at the time, showing that the toymakers were really trying to make youngsters pay attention to them and help create the demand for them to be on every child’s Christmas and Birthday list. So while Popples were around and a part of my youth, I never really had a major connection to them and by all accounts they just were viewed by my friends and I as girl toys.

So like all good 80’s toys at the time Popples were just not dolls and action figures as these little puffballs have graced all types of other merchandise! The Popples also had the cartoons released on VHS. They had their own vinyl records, books, coloring books, lunch box, board game, shirts, cake pan, bowls, TV tray, stickers, valentine cards and much more. In other words the Popples were everywhere, and they were being pushed to really be a powerhouse in the kids market. While they had a good run, they never did capture the market like Care Bears, Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake did before them.

Stuffed Dolls in the 80’s and early 90’s were very popular among the youth as besides Popples ones like Pound Puppies, Care Bears, My Pet Monster, Rainbow Brite, My Buddy and Teddy Ruxpin were all on kids must have lists and many of my friends as well as myself had many of these plush. So let’s now dive into the world of Star Comics who made a very short lived comic series based on the cartoon version of the Popples and see how well they were as kid comic stars. I want to think both Lone Star Comics and Bell Book And Comic for having these issues in stock and making this review possible. I must also say that I am very shocked and yet really not that Star Comics decided to do a comic series based on Popples in 1986 as they ignored some vey popular toys from the time like Teddy Ruxpin, Jem And The Holograms, My Pet Monster, Nerfuls and so many others. Plus I still really wished that they would have done a comic series based on one of my childhood heroes and icons Commander USA, who was a Horror Host that would have made an amazing kids comic book hero. But let’s not talk about would could have been and instead, let’s focus on what was, as we take some fun adventures with the Popples. Oh and what would an update be without me reminding you all that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and you are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story.

Popples # 1   *1/2
Released in 1986      Cove Price .75       Star Comics      # 1 of 4

Youngsters Billy and Bonnie have gone into New York to go shopping, and after some time passes, the Popples decide to follow them and wind up wandering the city. While walking the streets they come across a dog who has stolen an orange from a stand and follow it back to a limo where they find Alice the young daughter of the ambassador, who has decided to run away from home and hide in her father’s car. Some of the Popples follow the dog into the mansion and find out the young girl’s babysitter is really Madam Spy who is looking for top-secret information! When Alice decides to go back home, the Popples warn her of Madam Spy and they all escape in the limo as a Popple uses magic to drive and Madam Spy puts on jogging shoes and gives chase! Madam Spy wants to get to the Ambassador first so she can take him hostage and find out the big secret, and Alice with the Popples want to get to him to warn of the spying! In the end the Popples and Alice warn her father of the danger and Madam Spy and her helper are arrested with Alice learning the big secret is she is going to be a big sister! In the end the Popples find Bonnie and Billy who hide them in their shopping bags and set out for home.

This Star Comic first issue based on an 80’s toyline is not very good and is so far the weakest I have read from Star to date as I found this kids comic very boring and the characters of the Popples really annoying! The plot of this issue has the Popples going to New York and helping a sad young girl to warn her father of the evil Madam Spy who wants to steal all the secrets he has. The Popples who are the heroes of this comic are riddle talking, bouncing around little fuzzy goofballs who just want to have fun and help capture a spy by accident by stumbling in on the crime. Plus I need to say the Popples also all have weird names like Potato Chip, Party and Puffball to name a few. Madam Spy is the main baddy in the issue and she is by no means dangerous, she just really wants to steal secrets and bring them to the league of spies. Alice, Billy and Bonnie are all just goofy kids who enjoy shopping, oranges and having fun. The thing about this kids comic is that it really is kind of dull and never once did I feel like Alice, her father or the Popples had any danger around them. The cover is pretty eye catching and has that true 80’s kid comic charm, and the interior art is good and done by John Costanza and has that Star Comics style. Over all I don’t have much to say about this issue besides it was a below average read, and it makes me hope the rest of this series is not this bland.

Popples # 2   **
Released in 1987      Cove Price .75       Star Comics      # 2 of 4

Bonnie and Billy come home from school super sad, and the Popples find out that they have both lost their positions on the sports teams and are down in the dumps over it. Some of the Popples stay home to try and cheer up the kids while the others go to the school to see who replaced their friends on the teams. And while there, they meet Tina Terrific a young lady who never jokes and laughs and is good at everything and have replaced Bonnie as head cheerleader and Billy as quarterback. All the other kids fear and dislike her as she shows them all that she is the best and likes to rub it in their faces. After practice a Popple tries to make Tina laugh and find himself being kidnapped by her, and as the others find out the all give chase to get their friend back and that includes Billy and Bonnie. Finally the Popples are able to get their friend back and try to make Tina laugh, and even inform her that people dislike her over her behavior and attitude. This upsets the young girl who runs away and into Billy and Bonnie who end up inviting her to a party at their house and find a new friend in her as she also changes her way of thinking and becomes a fun person.

Issue two brings this kids comic in the right direction as it offers a lesson as well as a fun and goofy adventure for our heroes the Popples. This time around the Popples meet a young girl who pushes herself to be the best at everything and has an ego about herself that drives her peers away, and our fuzzy little friends must show her the error of her ways. This comic has a message and that’s make sure to have a little fun in your life and don’t treat all other around you as if you’re better than them, it also has a message of don’t judge people before you really get to know them. The Popples in this issue are the same fun loving, cheesy joke spewing fuzz balls who just seem to be wandering through life spreading joy and laughter. Tina Terrific is a lonely young girl who has no friends and is so good at everything she walks around school like she’s pro wrestling icon Ric Flair! The thing is she is just a sad youngster who would love to have friends but doesn’t know how to make them. I want to also point out that Puzzle Popple is a jerk as he with no thought tells a young kid that nobody likes her, I mean my gosh I was surprised he didn’t just tell her to kill herself! Puzzle Popple, you’re a terrible little creature with no respect. The pacing of this issue is better than the first issue and while better is still about and average kids comic based on toys. The cover on this issue is just okay and nothing special and this time around again John Costanza does the interior artwork. Over all not a terrible issue and was entreating for the most part, so let’s see what issue three has in store for us.

Popples # 3   **1/2
Released in 1987     Cove Price .75      Star Comics      # 3 of 4

The Popples are on a camping trip with Billy and Bonnie and have decided that they wanted to explore the wilderness for awhile and have fun by building a campfire and telling stories. Meanwhile at one of the nearby cabins, a young man named Seth who only watches TV that features aliens is forced to go outside by his mother and freaks out when he sees the Popples in the woods as he thinks they are aliens! As the youngster runs for his life he runs into real aliens Yuckle, Buckle and Clive of the Kelvin Empire who look like normal people and decide to investigate these fuzzy aliens the youth is telling them about. And once the aliens find them the Popples welcome their new friends to spend time around the campfire and play and this scares the aliens out of their minds! The aliens think that the Popples are bloodthirsty war machines and run for their lives as the Popples chase them thinking they are playing chase, the aliens make it to Seth and them have themselves beamed back up to their mother ship. With the aliens gone the Popples end up talking and playing with Seth who learns they are not aliens and has made new friends.

Issue three of the Popples this far is the best in the series as it really captures the true fun and silly nature of a kid’s comic and brings more personality to them. The plot has the Popples on a camping trip were they meet a new friend who is a fan of Sci-Fi films and as well unknowingly save the Earth from an alien invasion as their fun ways chase them off. The Popples in this issue are in nature and enjoying life by playing and telling stories by a fire, and thanks to their good nature attitudes they are able to scare off aliens who wished to do us all harm. The Aliens who look like little kids start off as war focused and fearsome on wanting to take down Earth and soon turn into cowards when they come face to face with the Popples magic. What makes this issue work for me is the fact it’s a camping issue as I feel that kids comic based around doing this activity always makes for a good atmosphere and brings back so many memories of being a kid running around the woods. The cover is pretty good and is eye catching with the use of the color yellow that always makes a cover stand out. The interior art once more is done by John Costanza who really does great work in the world of kids comics done by Star as it has a really cartoonish look. Over all this is a solid and fun read and mixes Kids comics with Sci-Fi comics and this far is the best issue in the series, I wonder if the next and final issue will be as good or better…so let’s not wait and find out.

Popples # 4  **1/2
Released in 1987     Cove Price .75      Star Comics     # 4 of 4

Bonnie and Billy are down in the dumps as they do not have enough money to buy their mother a gift for her birthday, and this even has the Popples a little down. But when Billy comes home with a flyer for a pet show that pays $50.00 to the winner the Popples are go out into the world and is going to find a pet for their friends they think could win. While across town at the mansion of the Van Ritz their pet French Poodle Prince who is sick and tired of being treated like a puppy by his owners and escapes the house via the fireplace that turns his fur black and while on the streets he is being chased by a dog catcher and is saved by the Popples who take him to Billy and Bonnie as their new pet they name Champion! But things look rough as Champion due to being babied his whole life does not know any tricks or the ones he does he completes them all wrong. But the Popples and the kids don’t give up and end up training Champion so well that he becomes the winner of the contest! But during his award ceremony Champion has an itch and by scratching he knocks off the black color and the Van Ritz come alive when they see their lost dog Prince is in fact Champion! So the Van Ritz’s get their dog back and Billy and Bonnie win the money and end up buying a puppy for their mom for her birthday.

The fourth and final issue in the Popples comic series from Star Comics is a pretty good read for fans of these fluffy plush dolls and those who love 80’s kids comics. This issue’s plot has the Popples and their human friends finding a stray runaway dog and training him to win a dog show so they can get the prize money and buy the mom a great birthday gift. This one is fun as it really felt like a cartoon episode that you would have seen on Saturday Morning Cartoons back in the 80’s and as well had a little Harvey Comics feel. That’s the one thing that for me always set Star Comics apart from the other Kids comics being made in the 80’s and even early 90’s is they always delivered entertaining adventures for home grown characters as well as others that came from toys and cartoons. And while I do think that the Popples is one of the weakest series they released, it still holds lots of nostalgic fun for a reader like me who grew up in the 80’s and know what the Popples are. The Popples not only in this issue but in the whole series are silly, happy go lucky fuzz balls who enjoy pranking, partying and laughing and its clear P.C. Popple is the leader of this group as he has the true magic touch and can do what ever he wants just by snapping his fingers. Billy and Bonnie are just good kids who enjoy as well having a good time but also show they focus on being active and doing the right thing. This ones cover is ok and is eye catching for fans of these guys and once more John Costanza does the interior art and shows that he has true talent for drawing kids comics. Over all this comic series was just ok and this could be one of the cheesiest and lowest rated from me this far on Rotten Ink, but I still had lots of fun reading it and revisiting the 80’s and when Popples originated no matter how little they impacted my youth. Check out the art below to see the style of Costanza and see what I mean that his style really does fit for kid’s comics.

So now that we have had a fun time with the Popples and shared some flashback memories with many of you readers, I think my next update will be something cool from my past that did mean something to me and impacted my youth and that’s the original Star Trek and the film Wrath Of Khan! As I promised back on my update for the Marvel Comic Star Trek series, I think it’s time to start the adaptations of the films and our next update will do just that. So until next time, read a comic or three, buy a 80’s toy or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next time for another space adventure with Captain Kirk.

 

Look In The Sky! It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s Hawkman!

DC Comics has been in the comic book game since 1934, and for the longest time was the top comic company in the world until Marvel Comics came onto the scene in 1939. Over the years, they have traded places off and on being the top company in the game. DC Comics has brought the world some amazing superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash who over the years have all been on many fans’ top Superhero lists as well as have done their share of bringing in money and readers to DC, but while those heroes are household names, many of DC’s heroes slip under the cracks like Red Tornado, who I covered last year. For this update I am going to cover another hero that I feel does not get the respect and attention he deserves. I am talking about the Justice League Of America and All-Star Squadron member Hawkman, who has always been one of my favorite DC heroes and who I feel has been underrated by comic readers for many years. So let’s travel to the DC Universe and enter that Shadow War as we talk about Hawkman and breakdown his 4 Issue Mini-Series from 1985! I hope you have packed a snack as this one might get a little long as Hawkman has been around for many decades and has lots of cool stuff to talk about.

The DC Universe is filled with many Earths, each with a different history for characters and even in some cases names are changed and even characters have died with new people stepping into the shoes of the fallen hero. But while Katar Hol and Fel Andar have been Hawkman, for me, the only guy to wear the bird mask is Carter Hall! Back in the days of ancient Egypt, Prince Khufu was kidnapped and killed by his arch nemesis Hath-Set, and in the 1940’s Khufu is reincarnated as Carter Hall, an archaeologist from America who soon gains the memories of his past life and is able to figure out that his life means more to the world and that his enemy of the past is also wandering the Earth as a scientist who has kidnapped a woman. This causes Hall to become a costumed hero named Hawkman! As Hawkman he wears a mask, wings and created a gravity belt out of Nth Metal. After saving the woman Shiera and falling in love with her, she later becomes Hawkwoman! Hawkman would go on to be a member of the super hero team Justice Society Of America and even joins the Air Force and fights in World War II. Along with the JSA during the 1950’s, he took on Congress when they wanted all the heroes to tell them their real identities causing the bulk of the team to retire for some time. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the JSA comes back and somehow meets with Earth-1’s Justice League Of America, who, for some reason over the years keeps the kids of the JSA members from joining the team and is thus responsible for the creation of the team Infinity Inc. Due to the massive age difference and after the events of Crisis On Infinite Earths, they explain that Hawkman’s aging has slowed down thanks to a super villain who put a spell on the heroes and their spouses…yep now that’s an evil deed, am I right? Now during modern times both Carter Hall Hawkman and the original Hawkman Katar Hol were active in the same Earth, and over the years Hawkman has died, been brought back, joined teams like the Justice League of America, become a terrorist and so much more! This is just a very brief look at Hawkman as sadly the world of DC Comics is one mixed with lots of silly different Earths and reboots that sadly, for the most part, becomes a tangled mess of nonsense. But one thing I must stress is that Hawkman is one kick butt character, and if you like the brief bio I supplied you readers with, make sure to visit your local comic shop and buy a few comic issues that star this mace-carrying winged hero. Check out the images below to see Hawkman in all his glory!

In 1984, Kenner released the first series of their DC Super Powers toy collection, and in that first wave was Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and others that included Hawkman! When I was a youngster, my brother and I tried our best to get any and every Super Powers we could find at local stores with many of ours coming from Hills or Children’s Palace.  The first figures from this series I owned were Superman and The Joker that I got on the same day! Later on I would get Hawkman, who was one of my favorite figures from that toy line. It’s funny to think that as a kid, even though I read comics with Hawkman in them, I always made him super strong in battlers, like he has Superman level power! In 1991, Kenner, the maker of the Super Powers figures, reused many of the figure molds when they started making figures based on the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves and the body of Hawkman was used for the Dark Warrior as well as Little John. In 1990, Toy Biz made a figure that looked like a cheap knock off of the Kenner Super Powers Hawkman, and it stunk up toy shelves. These two figures are only a small amount of toys made based on Hawkman, and for me are the two I remember the most from my youth. Check out the pics below to see what they look like.

Back in 1967, Filmation created a cartoon called “The Superman/Aquaman Hour Of Adventure” that featured 6 minute cartoons featuring the likes of Hawkman sandwiched between longer Superman and Aquaman toons. Hawkman would also go on to star in many other cartoons through the ages like Challenge Of The Super Friends, Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, Justice League Unlimited, The Batman, Batman: The Brave And The Bold and Young Justice, to name a few. It’s crazy to think that Hawkman has been a star in so many cartoons that spanned over many decades, and he is not nearly as remembered or loved by comic readers and those who grew up watching these toons. But again,, while he is not as popular as Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman the winged hero Hawkman still has made his mark on the world of cartoons.

Besides cartoons, Hawkman has also appeared in many live action shows and showed that while DC might not treat him with that much respect, young fans did indeed like Hawkman. In 1979, two episodes of a show called Legends Of The Superheroes were made that had Adam West and Burt Ward once more playing Batman and Robin. They were joined by many other heroes like Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, and yes, Hawkman who was played by Bill Nuckols and wore the classic outfit and hammed it up for both silly comedy kid friendly episodes that were called “The Challenge” and “The Roast”. Years later Hawkman would appear in several episodes of the hit show Smallville and was well liked by viewers, but sadly just like in the comics, they decided to kill the character off in Smallville. He was played by actor Michael Shanks. Hawkman, played by Falk Hentschel, would then go onto be in many other modern CW Shows based on DC Comic heroes like The Flash, Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow and while he has yet to be in any live action films, here is to hoping that sometime in the future he will appear in a Justice League film. My favorite live action version of Hawkman is hands down from Legends Of The Superheroes as it’s super cheesy and his over dubbed loud hawk yell is the stuff of legend when it comes to bad TV from the 70’s, complete with laugh track. Plus while the other actors did a great job in their roles, they did not have the muscles and build to pull off the character right. Below are images from all the actors who have played Hawkman on these TV Shows and each have made their mark on the legacy of the character.

I first discovered Hawkman thanks to old comics that came from garage sales, and I was drawn in as I found the comics weird and entertaining. Besides the comics, the Kenner Super Powers figure was also a very big introduction to the character for me. Much like many of the Superheroes from DC, the main issue is that they have silly costumes and names and always seem dated as they fear making major changes to them and this causes lots of modern comic readers to dismiss some of the characters as out of time. But for me, the outdated look and Boy Scout attitude is what makes DC characters so different from those of Marvel. Over the years of buying comics from all the local shops, I always find myself picking up copies of All Star Squadron or Justice Society from .25 and $1.00 bins if Hawkman is on the cover as I enjoy reading about him trying to save the day. So this update is for Hawkman and Hawkwoman and all the creators behind them from the past and present.  While he might not be an A-List hero, he is a great hero who this comic reader has always enjoyed and it’s because of their hard work that made him so awesome.

So we are at the point of this update where we will be reviewing some Hawkman in the world of DC Comics.  The series I chose was The Shadow War Of Hawkman because I remember reading it when I was a youngster and want to see how well it holds up now that I am in my 30’s. I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having all the issues in stock and allowing me to be able to re-read them as it’s been too long. One thing I want to stress to all you comic collectors reading my blog is don’t be like me and sell off your collection at an early age to get money to help a girl you were dating at the time.  While I enjoyed my time with that girlfriend, I also have always regretted getting rid of 90% of my collection. With that, let me also once more remind you that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So get your flight wings on, as we are going to war with Hawkman and Hawkwoman!

Shadow War Of Hawkman # 1  ***
Released in 1985     Cover Price .75     DC Comics     # 1 of 4

Mousy Mason is a down on his luck cat burglar who one stormy night is visited by a race of mean aliens who bully him into taking a heist for them to steal the anti gravity units from Hawkman and Hawkwoman and threaten him with harm if he refuses. Meanwhile in the city Hawkman and Hawkwoman stop a gang of crooks who have been targeting the elderly, and after making short work of them, they fly off and chat about their old home planet and whether it’s right to read the minds of humans if it is to help them. The pair change into their human identities of Carter Hall and Shiera and start to go to work as they need to set up an exhibit for Mavis Trent and her press agent Joe Tracy, but before they can start, an alarm goes off that someone has broken into their home.  Hawkman heads home to bust the intruder, and Shiera stays behind to work. As Hawkman gets home, he finds Mousy, and the pair are attacked by the aliens who murder Mousy with their vaporize gun and as quickly as they attack, they retreat. Hawkman figures out that this was just a distraction and rushes back to Hawkwoman’s side at the museum but finds that the aliens have been there and that they have used their terrible vaporize gun on Hawkwoman who is now nothing more than a shadow on a wall!

This first issue is as good as I remember it being and showcases why Hawkman is an amazing character that is underrated! The plot of this issue has Hawkman, who has just patched things up with Hawkwoman, at war with himself over the use of his alien powers to look into the minds of man. As he is dealing with that, a race of aliens with a powerful burning vaporizing gun have targeted our heroes as they want the technology that allows them to fly. Hawkman is a man deep in thought who knows that helping people is the right cause, but hates the fact that he can enter the mind of man and see what they are thinking. He is also very much homesick as he misses his home planet and it’s clear that all of this has been a strain on his relationship with Hawkwoman even though they are both very happy being with each other. While battling his own inner thoughts, when it comes to fighting Hawkman in this issue pulls no punches beating up thugs and aliens alike. Hawkwoman is such a cool character who clearly loves her mate as well as fighting crime.  She also has a sense of humor and sadly while fighting against aliens who attack her while at her day job, she is “killed” by their zap gun or so it seems. The aliens in this issue are true scumbags who use their weapons and powers to try and intimidate and kill those who they think are in their way.  They even kill two people just so they can steal a belt! Mousey Mason is just a crook who makes a living breaking into peoples homes, and he becomes the target of the aliens as they use him to distract Hawkman so they can attack Hawkwoman. This poor guy loses his life trying to help battle the aliens that have forced him to enter the home of Hawkman. Mavis Trent and Joe are great side characters with Mavis being a snob who has a crush on Hawkman and Joe Tracy is her smart mouth press agent who likes to tease her as it almost appears he has a crush on her. The cliffhanger of this issue, the “death” of Hawkwoman, is really well done and leaves the reader wanting to find out if she really is dead, and if so, how is Hawkman going to avenge her! The part that works really well for this comic is the fact that writer Tony Isabella mixes this superhero comic well with elements of drama, action, science fiction and even some comedy making for a solid read for fans of Hawkman. The cover for this first issue is fantastic and very eye catching and would surely draw in fans of the character as well as first time readers. The interior art is done by Richard Howell & Alfredo Alcala and is great stuff and showcases the great 80’s DC art style. Over all this is a great comic and held up very well for this comic reader and now makes me very much look forward to reading issue 2 again after all these years.

Shadow War Of Hawkman # 2  ***
Released in 1985    Cover Price .75     DC Comics    # 2 of 4

Eddie Hamilton is a young man who dares to dream of one day being a superhero.  He has the power to grow wings and fly if he thinks hard enough about it and even has a name he wants to be known as, The Icarus Kid! While training to control his power of flight in the farmlands of Kansas, those pesky aliens show up and use a new gun to shoot Eddie from the sky, and the blast burns him alive…the aliens have killed yet again! Meanwhile Hawkman is alone in the Museum room looking at the brunt shadow on the wall that was once his wife.  As he leaves the room he asks police Captain Frazier if he could chat with him for a moment, and Hawkman even snaps at artist Mavis Trent as he does not want to speak to the woman who has a crush on his alter ego. Hawkman opens up to Frazier and tells him who he really is and allows him to witness as he disposes of alien tech that he fears is the cause of this alien attack. Hawkman asks the Frazier to keep his men at the museum as he goes off the fight the aliens alone. Hawkman talks to the birds around his house and finds a hint of radiation and is able to pick up the aliens trails that leads him to the side of a mountain that is the hideout for the aliens. As Hawkman enters and make short work of some of the aliens, he soon finds that these aliens are from his own home planet of Thanagar and are working on orders from their government that wants them to conquer the Earth first and then the rest of the universe!

This second issue has the plot thicken as we learn why the aliens are attacking and that they are attacking superheroes in order to get them out of the way before the invasion that’s planned happens! This issue has Hawkman gearing up to avenge his wife’s murder as the aliens are killing and gearing up to attack the planet Earth in order to take it over. The shocking part of this issue is that the aliens are from Thanagar, the same home planet of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and that their home world is now on a path to try and take over the universe! It also is shown that the alien who killed Hawkwoman was not supposed to, he was only told to capture her! Hawkman in this issue is heartbroken over the loss of his wife and wastes no time getting rid of the high powered tech he has hidden and sets out to bring the aliens to justice. Captain Frazier is a good cop who Hawkman respects, and our hero tells him his true identity as well as gets his help to keep the museum safe just in case the aliens come back. Mavis Trent is upset that the superheroes have caused her some delays and bad press for her art showing, but does seem to have something important that she would like to tell Hawkman, but he just blows her off. Joe Tracy in the issue really is a terrible human as he is more worried about bad press than he is that a brave hero just died before his very eyes. The aliens are super cold blooded and are cruel to mankind and even toward each other, and they clearly have lots of high tech weapons that could kill anyone who gets in their way. And poor Eddie Hamilton aka The Icarus Kid is killed before he can truly be a hero of the world. This issue is really great and had enough drama mixed into the action to build the mini series’ story up. The cover is great as is the interior art once more done by Richard Howell & Alfredo Alcala, making this second issue just as good as the first. This issue holds up to my childhood memories, and I can’t wait to see if issue 3 does as well.

Shadow War Of Hawkman # 3  ***
Released in 1985     Cover Price .75     DC Comics    # 3 of 4

The alien who killed Hawkwoman gets a punishment from his fellow kind as they make his mind and soul bound to a computer, making him a living instrument of information and mind reading. Meanwhile Hawkman is trying to get answer from the aliens he has just beat up and finds that his home world has lost all technology and that they are no longer advanced in the ways of weapons and that’s why they targeted him and his wife. As Hawkman gets his answers, he is attacked by a group of the aliens who beat him down and bind him and just as they are going to steal his anti gravity belt, the aliens are blasted by a stun blast fired by Hawkwoman!! The heroes escape the base and after they are safely away, they take a moment to catch up with each other and Hawkwoman explains that she was not killed in the museum, and it was Mavis Trent who was killed as the artist was the one in the costume, and after she was murdered, Hawkwoman quickly dressed as her in order not to be attacked and killed herself. The pair decided that they can not get any help from anyone as they cannot allow the enemy to find out about their hidden ship and tech and travel to JLA Headquarters in order to erase their history and to do so ,they must stun Aquaman and Elongated Man, but just as they are to erase their history from the computers the screen shows a message from the aliens who have found their old war ship and are on their way to attack and kill them!

Wow, this issue is a roller coaster of emotions as we go from thinking Hawkwoman is dead to finding out she is alive and well! This issue’s plot has Hawkman and Hawkwoman attacking and retreating the aliens and having to sneak around and attack fellow Justice League Of America in order to keep the war they are fighting in the shadows and protect the Earth and all the people on it including those with super powers. The aliens meanwhile have figured out a way to read minds and all the world’s computer information and have highjacked the hidden spaceship of the Hawks and are on a path to use the ship to kill them! Hawkman in this issue is filled with rage and wants to not only get information from the aliens but also wants to beat them to death! His mood changes when he finds that his wife is alive, and he is filled with joy but also has the will to save the world from an unknown terror that they do not know is coming. Hawkwoman is alive and is sad that Mavis Trent died in her place, but also knows that she must pull it together and with her husband stop this Shadow War. One cool thing also in this issue is having Aquaman and Elongated Man in cameos, and it’s sad as both Hawkman and Hawkwoman feel bad that they had to stun their friends with guns in order to achieve their goal. This third issue also does a great job of building the story of the Shadow War and makes the readers wonder how Hawkman is going to stand up to a space ship that is hellbent on killing him! The cover for this issue is as well great and has Hawkman fighting with both Elongated Man and Aquaman, and the interior art once more rocks and is done by the team of Richard Howell & Alfredo Alcala and is such great 80’s DC style. With the alien ship heading toward our heroes and this issue as well holding up to this long time comic reader, I think it’s time to read the final issue in this mini series.

Shadow War Of Hawkman # 4  ***
Released in 1985     Cover Price .75     DC Comics     # 4 of 4

The aliens of Thanagar have started their war with earth in secret as they have used their mind reading computer to get the dirty little secrets of people in power and will use it against them unless they go along with what they say. Meanwhile Hawkman and Hawkwoman leave the JLA Headquarters with Aquaman and Elongated Man still knocked out and beam themselves aboard their old ship and are met with aliens who want them dead! Our heroes fight off the waves of gun firing aliens and make their way to the ships second control room in order to override its controls as they find out the ship is going to crash land in Detroit on purpose starting the war and making a statement for all mankind. While Hawkwoman works to overwrite the controls, Hawkman battles an alien and gets stabbed as they also cut off the air supply to the ship. Hawkman wounded takes over the controls and does what he thinks is best to save lives and that is he blows up his own ship just as he and Hawkwoman beam down to Earth and the explosion kills all but one of the aliens as the leader of this task force also beams down, but he meets his fate at the hands of the mega mind reading computer who uses all its last energy to blast it’s one time captain. The bleeding and wounded Hawkman and his wife Hawkwoman have saved the world from a war they did not even know was happing. In the end the new artist hired at the museum is shown to be a spy from Thanagar and the Shadow War has really just began!

The Shadow War comes to an end thanks to the heroic efforts of Hawkman and Hawkwoman who had to put their own lives, friendships and even ever returning to their home planet on the line, and the sad part is no one besides the aliens they beat and themselves will ever really know what they did to save the Earth. This final issue in the mini series plot has Hawkman and Hawkwoman beaming aboard their highjacked war ship and beating up some aliens and then blowing up their own ship that has been set to blow up Detroit by the aliens! Hawkman in this issue once more shows that he is a skilled fighter, but also is super smart and can use his brain to also defeat his enemies. Hawkwoman as well shows that she is smart and super skilled in combat and proves why she is not a sidekick but a full fledge equal in the superhero partnership. The Aliens from Thanagar so wanted to kill our heroes as well as start the war full force showing that they were cold blooded and murder and mayhem was what they enjoyed. While they might now have been super powered super villains they still were a major threat to the world as we all know and love it. The thing that works so well about this comic mini series is that at all times the odds seem against Hawkman and Hawkwoman and they seem to be trying so hard not to alert Earth to the battle and war that is gearing up to crash down on them, and all this dread and heroic moments makes this feel really more epic than it should feel. And this is why as a kid I really liked this comic series and even now as an adult I find myself still very much enjoying it. The cover of the fourth and final issue is well done and has our heroes beating up the aliens and the interior art once more is crafted by Richard Howell & Alfredo Alcala and show that they are a pair of artist that work so well together. Over all this is a great read for fans of the character Hawkman as well as those who enjoy 80’s era of DC Comics as this is a cool mini series that showcases why Hawkman is still around to this day in comics, no matter how neglected I feel he is by DC. Below is some cool artwork from this cool comic series, so check it out!

So now that we have witnessed Hawkman win the Shadow War, I think it’s time we walk away from the world of DC Comics and their underrated heroes and into a world with giant monsters that come from the deep where our only hope is giant two person controlled robots….that’s right, we will be entering the world of Pacific Rim! Thanks for spending some time with me here at Rotten Ink, and I really do hope you friends and readers enjoy my updates as much as I do writing them. So until next time, read a comic or three, watch a movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next update as we talk about war ready robots!

NES Challenge: The Adventures of Bayou Billy

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! I am sure you’re wondering why we are here in the bayou of Louisiana in the middle of gator ally.  Well, we are here waiting on the one and only Bayou Billy! So you readers know what that means, we are at another NES Challenge.  This time around we will be playing The Adventures Of Bayou Billy on the good old RES (Retro-Bit Entertainment System) to see if I can beat it once and for all! Bayou Billy is a game for the Nintendo that almost every kid I knew owned, and not a one of them could beat it much like Dick Tracy and Goonies II that seemed almost impossible to beat and made for many hours of frustrating play. My cousin Stephen Alexander hates this game as he also has never beat it and in fact can barely get off the first level, and he is a pretty good old school NES game player with over the last few years beating such titles as The Karate Kid, Monster In My Pocket, Jaws, Karnov, Metal Fighter and Super Mario Bros, to name a few. So as you can see I have a pretty tough challenge ahead, but I am up for it as for this play through I am going to pig out on Cajun style food and drink to get me into the mindset of Billy! So let’s watch out for gators and see if we can lend a hand to Bayou Billy as he tries to save his lady from the evil grasp of Godfather Gordon!

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In 1989 Konami unleashed The Adventures of Bayou Billy onto the masses in North America, and a cult game was born. The game is a hybrid of side scrolling beat-‘em up, jeep driving and light gun shooter that follows Billy from level to level as he fights his way through a total of 9 of them. The plot of this adventure is pretty simple: you take control of Billy West, a former U.S. soldier turned vigilante who goes by the name Bayou Billy who is going up against crime boss Godfather Gordon’s smuggling operation.  For this, the crime lord kidnaps his girlfriend Annabelle Lane! This of course is a trap and leads Billy on a butt kicking New Orleans high stakes adventure to get her back and to stop Godfather Gordon’s reign of terror. The game was originally released in Japan in 1988 by Konami under the title “Mad City.”  When coming to America, the game went through some changes as they decided to make the game way harder, added in voices and laughter plus changed some background layouts & colors! The game was a pretty big hit for the NES and is one that most kids of the late 80’s had in their game collection.

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I first learned of The Adventures Of Bayou Billy thanks to TV commercials that aired on TV during Saturday Morning Cartoons as well as after school toons and can remember being pretty hyped to play the game as the hero reminded me of the movie character Crocodile Dundee. My parents decided that we did not need The Adventures Of Bayou Billy in our collection and did not buy our household a copy, but lucky for me, neighborhood kid brothers Jeremy and Aaron did and they would invite me over to play the game or try to as I can remember it being so hard that it became almost a challenge between us to try and beat it…we as young kids failed. The next run in with The Adventures Of Bayou Billy came when my cousins Dino and Norman had the game, and once more we played it and failed and I even borrowed it from them to try and beat it and could not even get to the final battle with Godfather Gordon. When I was older, I ended up buying a copy of the game from a second had store around here called Replay Media, and this time around my good pal Jason Gilmore and I tried to beat it and just like before, we failed…so as you can see, failure and Bayou Billy go hand and hand for me as a gamer. And just last year I bought a copy of the game complete in box from Amazon just for this update, cause now at 37 years old I am looking forward to trying to beat this game for the first time…but to be honest I would be surprised if by the end of the day I get to the end screen…I know I have no faith in my abilities of being an old school player. Check out below for a look at the copy of the game I will be playing as well as its box and booklet.

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The Adventures Of Bayou Billy TV commercial was one I remember as it had an actor playing Billy in the heart of the swamp wrestling with an alligator all the while he was telling us about the game play of it being three styles in one from side scroller, to driving to shooter, all the while doing a terrible and over the top bad Cajun accent. The alligator in most shots was a rubber one with one close up of a real one. This overly done and cheesy commercial worked on the youth at the time as it made this game a must have for kids as Konami built it up to be so grand that we just had to have it to impress our friends and to be cool on the playground.  Not to mention that we had to try to beat the amazing adventure that awaited us. Video game commercials like this were a great way for companies to get the attention of the youth who would see it and talk about it at school and with friends building a buzz around the game that caused many kids to bug their parents enough to get it. Nowadays I feel like YouTube and sites like IGN are the tools that spread the hype and game trailers to the target audiences. If you feel like having a good flashback or even want to see the commercial for the first time, check it out on YouTube and be ready for a laughable good 31 seconds with the one and only Bayou Billy.

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Besides the TV commercial, Konami pushed Bayou Billy by running sales on the hit game in toy store ads like Children’s Palace, Toys R Us and Kaybee Toys making it easier for kids to get the game by showing their parents the marked down sale price. They also made a handheld version to give young gamers another way to play the game besides on the NES and to get more money from what they saw as a franchise I am sure. Thinking about it now, I wonder why Konami never made a sequel to Bayou Billy as it would have been neat to have seen the character make the leap to the Super Nintendo or even the Sony Playstation. But any chance of Bayou Billy making a return with a new game on any video game systems is slim to none as Konami is a shell of a company they use to be and many of their workers have left them as they are focusing on gambling machines mostly…so sad.

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Bayou Billy also made the leap to the cartoon world as he appeared in two episodes of the 1989 cartoon series “Captain N: The Game Master” and was resident of Bayouland in the Videoland universe. In the cartoon, Billy had a pet gator named Loafer and helped main character Kevin Keene learn to survive in the swamp land as his game was one that Kevin could never beat, sounds like the story of many gamers’ lives. The episodes that Billy appeared in were called “How’s Bayou” and “Having A Ball,” and this once more showed that both Konami and Nintendo really wanted to push this game and title character to the moon by even adding him to their popular video game themed cartoon. The Billy character in the cartoon acted like the movie character Crocodile Dundee and this was a plan again, to help push the character as Mick Dundee was very popular in pop culture at the time. If you want to see these episodes, make sure to check out the Captain N: The Game Master complete series DVD boxset put out by Shout Factory, but be warned, it is out of print and carries a high price.

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Before we get to the NES Challenge and the Archie Comics Bayou Billy comic reviews, I would like to take a moment to take a look at the band Zebra and their first album that was self-titled as they were formed in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1975 and fit perfectly for this bayou themed update! The band members are Randy Jackson, who is the vocalist and guitarist, Guy Gelso on drums and Felix Hanemann on keyboards and bass, and this line up is still going to this day! They built their name playing clubs around Long Island, New York and covered songs by bands like Rush, Led Zeppelin and The Moody Blues, and this got the attention of Atlantic Records who signed them and released their self-titled album in 1983 making it a huge hit for the company and band. Over the years they released a few more albums via Atlantic like No Tellin’ Lies (1984), 3.V (1986) and Live (1990), but none of them did as well as their first release.  They were dropped in the early 90’s from Atlantic and took a break as a band while Randy Jackson made a side band he called Randy Jackson’s China Rain, but fans would be happy when Zebra would return in 1997 and in 2003 would release their final studio album to date Zebra IV. While not a band that is a household name, Zebra is still active and rocking clubs in New York and New Orleans showing that this band knows how to rock.

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I decided to cruise around Kettering, Ohio in my 2004 Ford Mustang and listen to Zebra’s 1983 release, and on this day the weather was chilly with slight rain and the sound of Zebra was fitting for the smooth and peaceful ride. The first thing I noticed about this album is that it has a weird mix of styles.  The best way I can describe it is if you mixed bands like Keel, Asia, Alan Parsons Project and slightly Cinderella into a blender and poured it all into a glass that had the logo of the band Fastway on it! With that said, this is my type of rock n roll as I enjoy the sounds of 80’s rock, and singer Randy Jackson has the pipes much like Ron Keel of Keel and Dave King of Fastway. Many of the tracks on the disc are solid and great tunes with the two most famous tracks off the disc being the best and those are Who’s Behind The Door? and Tell Me What You Want with the latter being my favorite as it is catchy and has great guitar rifts. Another great track is Take Your Fingers From My Hair, a ballad that is soothing and well structured, so much so that band Dream Theater even did a cover of it back in 2009. I don’t want to spend too much time on this CD, but if you enjoy good clean 80’s metal, make sure to check this disc out as it’s a good one.

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I selected the day January 24, 2017 for my showdown with Adventures Of Bayou Billy, and for this epic day of another NES Challenge, I decided I needed food and drinks that fit the New Orleans bayou theme of the game. Juliet, whose family is from Louisiana, bought me some snacks that are favorites for the bayou like Zapp’s Potato Chips, and to drink I stuck to my classic ice water. She made some chicken and sausage jambalaya as sadly I am allergic to shrimp, and it slowly cooked in the crockpot. The weather outside was grey and cloudy with slight rain with the high of only 45 degrees so it was perfect to sit inside and try and beat this classic Nintendo game! Below is a picture of the jambalaya and Zapp’s that we ate during this epic NES Challenge.

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I started my quest to beat this game at 12:00pm in the mindset that I had to beat this game as it has tormented me for years, but I must also say that doubt also was lingering as the visions of just how hard the game is kept creeping in as did the failure of my last NES Challenge of trying to beat Werewolf The Last Warrior. But I shook those thoughts off and fired up the RES, took the controller in my hands and began my quest to save Annabelle Lane from that evil crime lord Godfather Gordon! To my surprise, after only a few tries I was able to defeat the first level only dying a few times kicking at the alligators and moved onto the second level that was an easy shooter where I had to take on a helicopter while using my d-pad for the gun. The third level was the start of me having a real hard time with the stage boss who is big, mean, and ready to fling Billy around like a rag doll. After losing on stage 3 and wasting all my continues, I took a break and watched Hatchet III for the second time to keep with the New Orleans bayou feel of the day. I jumped back into my quest to save Annabelle after the movie, and I failed really hard as I was not in the groove and kept dying on stage one! I walked away for a moment, and Juliet gave it a shot and sadly she didn’t last long as she allowed Billy to be beat worst than S.D. Jones against King Kong Bundy in a WWF Wrestling match! I cleared my head of the butt whooping I had just taken, and after taking a deep breath, I turned on the RES for the last time of the day and got into the zone of trying like hell to help Bayou Billy get his girlfriend back! I started out strong once again kicking the crap out of the bad guys who are just hit sponges who take way too many hits, and after losing my cool after cheap enemy hits I came to the conclusion that this game is just way too hard for no reason and instead of busting a blood vessel to try and beat it I would rather just turn off the RES and sit back and relax and read some comics because this game was not worth the anger it induces.  All joking aside, this game was just too hard for this aging gamer to beat in one day. But with that said, I must say that the Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators potato chips and the homemade jambalaya were fantastic and made this day of defeat a heck of a lot better!

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To no surprise I was unable to beat The Adventures of Bayou Billy as I find it to be one of the hardest games in the whole Nintendo library! But I need to give a shout out to all the henchmen and crazed animals who all tried their best to keep me away from their boss. I need to show some respect to Godfather Gordon, that man who made this adventure so hard to beat not only because of his toughness but also his ability to hire the right muscle to keep me and Billy at bay! I also need to speak about Gordon’s bodyguards Rocky and Rocco who show their power by stopping you into the ground like you were just a tiny ant under their boot. In other words, all these bad guys do their jobs of making this game almost impossible to beat very well! So here is to all of them for making this old school gamer once more walk away from his RES a defeated man.

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So while beating the game was a complete bust, I still was able to enjoy some good bayou style food and a fun filled silly day of playing a classic NES game on my RES while hanging out with my girlfriend Juliet! I also want to thank Konami for making this classic game because while it has tormented me for years, it still has added entertainment to my life. But now it’s time to tackle the Archie Comics series based on this video game that thanks to the team up of Lone Star Comics, Darkstar and Bell, Book and Comic I was able to collect, read and review for this NES Challenge Update. And as Bayou Billy dusts himself off after the butt kicking we both just took, he wants me to remind you that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So grab your giant Crocodile Dundee knife and let’s head back into the swamps and this time enjoy some comic books based on this video game adventurer Bayou Billy.

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Adventures Of Bayou Billy # 1  **1/2
Released in 1989   Cover Price $1.00     Archie Comics   # 1 of 5

Bayou Billy is on his way to testify in court when he stops some street punks from robbing an old couple on vacation from New Jersey. Once in court the words Billy says and the fact he can point out the perpetrator who started some wicked fires named Hurricane Hank, leads to the pyro to be found guilty, and along with Assistant District Attorney Annabel Lee he is able to get one of Godfather Gordon’s henchmen off the streets. That night Annabel gets an anonymous call to meet some people who have the dirt on the Gordon Crime family only to find herself the target of a hit that leaves her shot and wounded, but luckily she knows karate and is able to steal the hitmen’s boat and finds herself weak at the doorstep of Bayou Billy’s home deep in the swamp. Godfather Gordon is mad at his son Rock Gordon for botching the hit as now they know Billy is now at her side. Rocco Gordon, Godfather’s stepson, comes up with an idea to send their mercenary team F.I.S.T to kill not only Annabel and Bayou Billy but also his Delta Force friends who were heading to the home to join their friend in the approaching war. Bayou Billy is joined by trap master Broadside, Tracker a Native America tracker and fighter and lastly the eye-patch wearing Sureshot who is a master of the bow and arrow and together they protect Annabel and defeat the likes of Mr. T.N.T and Cut Throat. In the end the battle leaves Bayou Billy’s swamp home destroyed but he and his team have mopped up some of Gordon’s top henchmen and saved the town’s Assistant District Attorney who is now out to get Godfather Gordon in a jail cell.

This first issue sets the groundwork that Bayou Billy is a bounty hunter who once was a Delta Force solider who still has war buddies and is a legend around New Orleans as criminals think that he can not be killed and will not die…hey wait, just like The Phantom! The story for this issue is that Annabel Lee has become a target of the Gordon Crime Family as she has been very outspoken about their crimes.  This leaves her the target of a hit that she is lucky to escape from, getting help from the town’s hero Bayou Billy who along with his own team are ready to tackle crime and bring it down. Bayou Billy is a little cocky yet very loyal and committed to doing the right thing.  You can tell he has a crush on Annabel Lee, who doesn’t have the same feelings for him. He has no fear and tackles trouble head on laughing off threats from baddies. His Delta Force buddies Sure Shot, Tracker and Broadside are loyal friends and clearly guys Billy can depend on for the coming turf war. Godfather Gordon and his two sons Rock and Rocco are pure evil crime lords who have their hand in all types of crimes and don’t care who they kill in order to get what they need and want. Their elite team called F.I.S.T is made up of all types of criminals from the hitmen Cut Throat and Creole all the way to helicopter pilot and gunner Wild Bill.  But while they are all skilled at what they do, they are just out classed by Billy and his group. Annabel Lee is a woman who wants to use the justice system to put criminals away and does a great job at doing so; she is also pretty and can defend her self as she as a green belt in martial arts. Over all this is a fun kid friendly adventure comic that takes some liberties with the video game it’s based on.  One of the major changes is that Rock and Rocco are the sons of Godfather Gordon and not his bodyguards. But while changes like that might upset The Adventures of Bayou Billy diehard fans, I can look over it, as I found they mixed action, drama, crime and war comic well to make for a kids comic that packs a gator sized bite. The cover is great and is a more cartoonish version of the NES cover box.  The interior art done by Amanda Connor is fantastic and she helps bring Bayou Billy to life on the comic pages. I should also note that The Adventures of Bayou Billy is apart of the Archie Adventure Series line and joined its place in history along side other titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, The Fly, Sonic The Hedgehog and ManTech Robot Warriors for delivering quality comics aimed toward early teen readers. But with issue # 1 being a great read, I am looking forward to seeing what issue # 2 has in store for us.

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Adventures Of Bayou Billy # 2  **1/2
Released in 1989   Cover Price $1.00     Archie Comics   # 2 of 5

That firebug Hurricane Hank is having nightmares in prison about his last run-in with Bayou Billy that not only landed him in jail but also minus a hand! He wants so badly to get out of jail and get his revenge once and for all and must come up with a plan. Meanwhile Bayou Billy pays Godfather Gordon a visit, and after roughing him up, is able to get money to build a new house as his F.I.S.T agents blew up his last one so Billy finds it fair that the crime boss pays to build him a new one. Worse for our heroes is that the whole F.I.S.T group is freed, and Hurricane Hank does escape jail and sets into motion a scheme to kill Bayou Billy! Tracker however followed Hurricane Hank and alerts Billy as the Gordons alert Annabel Lee to where he is hiding as they find their one time henchman too much of a loose cannon now. Bayou Billy knows it’s a trap and shares a story with Annabel from his Delta Force years about how he was set up by a Gordon back then that left him dead for a short time and was only brought back thanks to the effort of his friends.  He shares the story of the second time he was dead and saved when a hitman sent by Godfather Gordon named Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill used a nerve gas that took his breath away.  If not for an old man living in the bayou named Papa Jambo, he would have once more been in a grave. Bayou Billy takes Annabel Lee to his friend Grease Monkey and her garage as he goes after Hurricane Hank.  A battle breaks out that leaves a warehouse burnt down, Bayou Billy bruised and sore and Hurricane Hank once more on the losing end of life.

This second bayou adventure is a fun kid friendly read that loses the charm of issue # 1 slightly as this one just was kind of middle of the road and comes off as almost a watered down version of a Dick Tracy story. The plot is: a criminal who Bayou Billy put away and cost him to lose one of his hands escapes jail more crazy than ever. and his madness to get revenge is what leads to his downfall. Hurricane Hank is a man who had slipped into madness as he is plagued with nightmares of losing his hand and every moment of his life is used plotting the death of Bayou Billy and setting the world on fire. While once a respected henchman for Godfather Gordon, his mental state has even made the crime family turn on him. Plus his ego gets the better of him as when he had Bayou Billy down for the count and could have fried him like chicken on a boat, he instead chooses to try and kill our hero with his bare hands that just leads to him being out smarted and out classed and at the bottom of the water. Godfather Gordon as well as his sons and F.I.S.T stay out of this fight and pretty much lay low after the last beating they took, but Godfather does at least call in a tip so that Hurricane Hank can be found with the hope he and Billy will just kill each other! Tracker, Broadside and Sure Shot act as distractions so Billy can get Hurricane Hank and each play their part well.  We also meet Grease Monkey, the cute redhead female mechanic and friend of the Delta Force group who works on their trucks and boats. Annabel Lee is now clearly in love with Bayou Billy and is still trying her best to put the Gordon crime family behind bars, but is faced with lots of setbacks and bribes to judges. I also enjoyed Papa Jambo who not only saved Bayou Billy from death but also taught him all his tricks of the trade in the swamps. The fights in the issue between Hurricane Hank and Bayou Billy are great and reminded me a lot of classic comic book fights you would have seen in Mighty Crusaders and other independent hero comics. The cover is just okay with the black lines being used as shadows on Bayou Billy being a little cheesy.  The interior art is also a little off and is done by a team up of Amanda Connor and Mike Esposito who both normally do great work. While this issue is just okay, I did have a good time reading it and enjoyed the idea that Konami and Archie Comics put time and thought into trying to make this comic series based on a video game work. Well let’s see what issue three has in store for us. Oh and I have to say, I want to know more about Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill ,the man who killed Bayou Billy for the second time and wore a trench coat, a hat and a gasmask!

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Adventures Of Bayou Billy # 3  **1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $1.00     Archie Comics   # 3 of 5

The New Orleans Police Department is having a heck of a time trying to break down a man named Blackie Blue who is in fact really a creature that is part human and part ferret thanks to a scientist to did an experiment on him while on death row in prison! After Blackie makes short work of the cops, he rushes away and the job of finding him goes to Tracker, Sure Shot and Broadside as Bayou Billy goes out on his own to try and find Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill, the man who killed him many years back. But when Billy joins his friends, he soon finds out that Blackie Blue is as strong as an ox and escapes our heroes with ease. Later Bayou Billy and Annabel Lee meet up and return to Billy’s new home paid for by Godfather Gordon’s money, and they are as well visited by Tracker, Broadside and Sure Shot and plan to talk over a cup of coffee when Blackie Blue attacks and pulls Billy underwater almost killing him if not for the help of the alligators of the swamp who attack and keep Blackie at bay! As Billy fills his lungs with air and warms up, Annabel Lee comes up with a plan to capture both Blackie Blue and Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill by pitting them against each other! Bayou Billy likes the idea and sets up the trap that works as a charm as Gaskill is knocked silly by a mighty punch and Blackie is knocked out via gas grenades and all Billy has to do is cuff them and bring them to face justice. In the end as Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill is in court he escapes thanks to a smoke grenade and a terrible lawyer who allowed him to get his hands on one.

This issue’s plot has Bayou Billy on a mission of revenge as he wants to bring down Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill, a hitman who was hired to kill many years back, but to add to the madness an inmate that had been experimented on has escaped and is now more beast like and he has his sights on killing Billy! The two fights between Bayou Billy and Blackie Blue are one sided as the beast man is way stronger and has raw animal instincts to kill his targeted prey making you really feel as if our hero could be taken down! Blackie’s fight with Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill is also pretty much one sided as the beast pushes through the madman’s gas attacks in order to knock him silly and only after he complete his goal does he fall. In this issue Bayou Billy is as noble as ever but does have the nagging want for revenge that keeps him off the case of the major threat at the time as he wanted to stop his old foe who had been laying low for years. Plus I like the fact that Bayou Billy is very loyal to his friends as well as his girlfriend and that they all hang out not only in town but also in the swamp…that’s what I call friendship goals! Blackie Blue is an interesting bad guy as when human he had an accident that dyed his skin and hair blue and it’s hinted that Batman was responsible and that his partner in crime was The Joker! Blackie was on death row and because he didn’t want to die, he was chosen to be a subject in a experiment that turned him into a wereferret that has raw power and the need to kill his prey! As the beast Blackie’s appearance is this blue fur all over, sharp teeth and claws and wearing a prison jumpsuit.  For Wolf Hunter 2 fans, think Panthor. Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill on the other hand has a hideout in a shack near an old farmhouse and is still toying with making new gas grenades and is taken by surprise when he is attacked by Blackie, but is smart enough to escape in court. This issue was lots of fun and had just the right amount of action, adventure and even a dash of horror to keep this 37-year-old comic reader entertained. The cover is pretty cool and showcases the horror element with a dash of late 80’s Marvel Spider-Man cover appeal, and the art inside is solid again and done by the team of Amanda Connor and Mike Esposito again showing that they work very well with each other. We are three issues in and over all Archie Comics as part of there Adventure Series is doing a great job of making this Konami video game character a very fun comic one, well worth reading, and I can’t wait to see what the next issue brings.

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Adventures Of Bayou Billy # 4  **1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $1.00     Archie Comics   # 4 of 5

Bayou Billy is having a nightmare about the death of his first wife Laurie who was blown up with a car bomb that was meant for him.  The hit was placed on him by one of the Gordon family and after quitting his job as a New Orleans police officer, he became the bounty hunter he is today…that was two years ago to the day and he still wants answers to who wanted him dead. Once more he gears up and sets out to look for Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill whom he thinks might have the answers and heads to a rough bar called the Rue Morgue.  A lead brings him to loan shark enforcer Two-Head McGraw and after a brief fight, they send him to a slimy man named Snitch who spills his guts that Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill is hiding in an old chemical plant. Bayou Billy shows up and tries to get the jump on his old enemy only to find himself on the receiving end of a gas bomb that leaves him disorientated! Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill goes to Grease Monkey’s garage and knocks out the young mechanic and steals one of Billy’s monster trucks.  Once Billy awakens to try and find Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill, he is attacked with his own truck! But with the aid of a can of red paint and good luck, Billy is able to trick Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill and use his own jeep as a bomb that leaves the killer gas man at the mercy of Bayou Billy who gets the name of the man who placed the bomb that killed his wife.  It’s Hurricane Hank, the man who drowned two issues back, but with this shattering news he also has delivered Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill to the cops and justice….but through out his adventure a shadow figure has been following him!

This issue works really well as we get a good background on to why Bayou Billy does what he does and why he hates the Gordon crime family so much.  Plus his reasons are legit as they tried to not only kill him but killed his wife! Bayou Billy has spent the last two years of his life hunting down criminals in the big easy all to find out who of the Gordon’s paid for the bomb to be placed that killed his wife, and sadly at the end of the issue he does not get the answer he seeks. Also packed into this issue are many of the criminals who work for the Gordon Crime Family like Snitch a skinny eye glass wearing weasel of a man who will spill his guts for the right price, Two-Head McGraw who are joined twins who act as muscle for Rock Gordon when people cant pay pack the loans he has given them, and lastly Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill who we all know is the gas mask wearing killer who tried to murder Bayou Billy a few years back. All the bad guys are pains in the butt this issue but all fall to the hands of Bayou Billy who is a man on a mission to get answers. Grease Monkey, the female mechanic and friend of Bayou Billy, also comes into play as she is attacked by Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill who knocks her out and steals one of the monster trucks she has in storage.  Lucky for her, she was not killed. This issue is packed with drama but also an equal amount of action making for one heck of a good kid friendly comic read! The cover on this issue is a little downbeat with Billy at the grave of his wife, and I am sure scared some parents away from buying the issue for their child. The interior art was done once more by the team of Amanda Connor and Mike Esposito and is great as always.  In fact, the month this issue was released, Amanda Connor was Archie’s Artist of the Month, way to go Amanda! Over all this was a great issue and worth reading for sure, now sadly we are at the last issue in the comic series based on The Adventures Of Bayou Billy.

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Adventures Of Bayou Billy # 5  **1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $1.00     Archie Comics   # 5 of 5

Bayou Billy robs criminal La Rue and his henchmen Mitts and Slugger of a briefcase filled with dirty money, and now he is wanted for questioning by the local law.  This shocks his friends Tracker, Sureshot and Broadside as they don’t know why Billy did it! Also at this time, fellow bounty hunter Black Gator is very upset that the media only pays attention to Bayou Billy and wants to shutdown his competition permanently! We soon find out that Godfather Gordon has hired Schwartz N. Eiger, a criminal ex-soap opera actor to play as Bayou Billy and pull off the crime so that his enemy will take the rap for the crime and be out of their hair for awhile.  Meanwhile Billy himself is having bad dreams about a black gator and is under arrest for a crime he did not commit when he wakes up, but lucky for Billy he has some tricks up his sleeve and escapes the cops only to run into Black Gator who wants to kill Bayou Billy to prove he is the best bounty hunter.  All the while Godfather Gordon is watching as it all comes to a head when Bayou Billy, Black Gator, The Cops, La Rue and Schwartz N. Eiger all meet up at an abandoned theater where Billy clears his name and comes out the winner in the fight with Black Gator.

This final issue was clearly not intended to be so as many questions are still left unanswered like how will Bayou Billy get his revenge of the Godfather Gordon family for putting a hit on him that backfired and killed his wife as well as many bad guys are still out in the world including Black Gator who clearly wants to kill Billy and ruin his reputation at being the best bounty hunter in the bayou. But with that said, I must also say this issue has a fun vibe to it as it pits our hero Bayou Billy against a Black Gator, a man who wears a ninja outfit and is as skilled as he is in fighting! Plus throw in washed up actor Schwartz N. Eiger as well as smaller crime lord La Rue and his baseball dressed bodyguards Mitts and Slugger and you have a recipe for a fun kid friendly crime caper. This issue as well is really cool as many of the faces of the past issues are around like his mentor Papa Jambo as well as Godfather Gordon and his sons making this a cool send off for the comic series. Bayou Billy is a solid character who is badass when he needs to be as well as a quick thinker when the time calls for mind over muscle.  I also like that while he kicks the crap out of people he is also shown getting his head knocked around to making him a more believable character than many comic heroes based on video games. Tracker, Sureshot, Grease Monkey and Broadside are all great sidekick characters who help add to the story as well as each have their own generic yet so good personalities. Annabel Lee is a cool character as she is not only a lawyer but also Billy’s girlfriend and not a female character that is always needing to be saved by the hero! Godfather Gordon and his sons Rock and Rocco are slimy, and you want to see them get theirs.  They also employee so many colorful and odd mercenaries & scumbags like Schwartz N. Eiger, Swamp Gas Charlie Gaskill, Hurricane Hank and Wild Bill to name a few! Not to mention this series had some other cool bad guy characters like Black Gator and the werewolf-like Blackie Blue both who were foes that Billy had a hard time with. I think the best fight in the whole series took place in this issue as the Billy and Black Gator’s fight was epic and was what comic book fists fights are all about. The cover for this issue is good and reminds me of something you would have seen on a Marvel Comics G.I. Joe cover. The art inside is solid once more and is done by Amanda Connor and her partner in crime for this final issue Robert Downs, and it’s great kids comic work. Over all Adventures of Bayou Billy was a very good kid comic series that showcased a Nintendo game character in a great way and gave him even more of a personality, and I am sure it drove some comic readers into buying the game, just like the game forced people to look into buying the comic. I for one wished the series had more issues as I enjoyed reading this for the first time for many of the issues and again for others. Check out the art below for a sample of what you will see if you read this comic series.

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While I might have failed at beating The Adventures of Bayou Billy on my RES, I did get a victory in getting to read the Archie Comic adventures based on the character! I am also very shocked that this game never did get a sequel as like I said, many kids I knew owned it and for the most part it’s a pretty beloved game for many old school gamers. But for our next update, we are going to be leaving the bayou and heading into the world of animals running wild with the taste for human flesh as we take a look at the Action Lab: Danger Zone series The Final Plague! So until next time friends and readers, play a video game or two, read a comic or three and as always support your local Horror Host.  See you in about 10 days!

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The Ghost Who Walks Among Us And Can Never Die…The Phantom

In the world of comic books, crime doesn’t pay thanks to the Superheroes who protect the innocent and punish the guilty. I mean Gothom City has Batman, The City has Dick Tracy and New York has many like Spider-Man, Daredevil and Fantastic Four, to name a few. But while the big cities have their protectors, so does the jungles of Bangalla in Africa who has the one and only The Phantom! What is really cool about The Phantom is that he is much like Batman and Dick Tracy as he has no superhuman powers and is just a man who is a vigilante and dedicates his life to defending the weak and beating evil down. If you think about it as well, The Phantom, who was created in 1936, is a character who bridged the comic strip hero and the comic book superhero and is the first hero to really walk that line. So let’s kick 2017 off right and spend some time in Bangalla and see what The Phantom is all about and how DC brought him back to comic books in 1988.

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First, we must take a look at the life of the creator of The Phantom, the one and only Leon Harrison Gross aka Lee Falk, who was born on April 28, 1911 in St. Louis Missouri and had a decent childhood growing up Jewish.  Things would take a slight turn for the bad when his father passed away when Lee was still young, but his mother remarried sometime later and this gave Lee a stepfather he loved and respected and looked up to. The older he got, he began making comic strips and made up a fake bio story for himself as he claimed to be a world traveler who experienced so much out in the world which lead him to create the characters Mandrake The Magician and later The Phantom who were both picked up by King Feature Syndicate. He created The Phantom as he grew up loving the stories of Tarzan and The Jungle Book and decided to also add in pirates and thugs from around the world as it was a topic that also interested him.  Originally he wanted to call the character The Grey Ghost and wanted his costume and all to be grey but things changed when he liked the name The Phantom better and the news printer screwed up and made the costume purple, and the color stuck with readers. Weirdly enough, Falk did not have faith in his characters and thought they would only last a few weeks and was shocked that they lasted his whole lifetime, During World War II Falk worked for KMOX radio and was the chief of propaganda.  Also, the older he got the more world traveling he did in order to not have to lie about his background stories. Lee Falk was married three times and had three children with two daughters and one son. Lee Folk also loved the theater and over the years wrote 12 plays, directed 100 of them and produced over 300 others! Not to mention over his lifetime he even ran five theaters! His plays would have such Hollywood actors as Basil Rathbone, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Chico Marx and Charlton Heston acting in them! As you can see Lee Falk was a very creative man who did lots of very cool things. Lee Falk passed away from heart failure on March 13, 1999 at the age of 87 and up to his death he was still working on his comic strips…a true man who loved his characters and creations. It’s amazing to think about just how many comic strip creators worked on their strips all the way up until their deaths showing that unlike the comic book world, the creators loved their creations and got joy of bringing them to life for the readers. This update is dedicated to you, Lee Falk, a true icon of comic strip artists and a man who lived for what he loved to do.

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The Phantom is a hero who has no super powers and uses his wits, fists and guns to right the wrongs and protect his friends and tribes around his home in Africa. His costume is the following: a black eye mask, a skull ring and a purple costume that was based on an old African idol.  The look is used to scare criminals and pirates, who are his main targets. The Phantom is a costume and legacy that is passed down from generation to generation within the Walker family who do this in order to give the appearance that The Phantom is not human and immortal to strike even more fear into the hearts of those who do evil. The Phantom is a trained fighter with his fists, and I would guess that he has the punch of a heavy weight boxer! He is also skilled with a gun and while not a full dead shot, he hits his target when it’s needed. The Phantom is very smart and has the same kind of mind for solving crimes as Batman, The Shadow and Dick Tracy as he is also quick to get out of a bad situation. The Phantom’s main weapon is fear as legends spread of him being a ghost and not able to be killed, using superstition of the unknown to his advantage of just passing on the title to the next in the family bloodline. The 21st Phantom also has a pet wolf named Devil who helps him uphold justice and has his white horse Hero to get him places faster. Say what you will, The Phantom is a kick butt hero who might not be super but sure knows how to get the job done!

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On June 7, 1996, thanks to Paramount Pictures, a film based on The Phantom was released to theaters and was directed by Simon Wincer and had Billy Zane as The Phantom himself. Also in the cast were Catherine Zeta-Jones, Treat Williams and Kristy Swanson with the score being done by David Newman. Before it was made The Phantom had many different directors attached to it including big names like Sergio Leone, Joe Dante and Joel Schumacher who all left the project at one point or another for reasons of their own. Paramount picked the relativity unknown Simon Wincer, who had directed a few films before it like Quigley Down Under, Free Willy, Lightning Jack and Operation Dumbo Drop to name a few and they gave him a $45 million budget.  He is the one who hired Zane to play the title role as they both were fans of the character since childhood. The film’s production went smooth, and the hype was high for the film’s release as Paramount was wishing for the same kind of success as Warner Brothers had with Batman in 1989 and Touchstone had with Dick Tracy in 1990…but the box office and critics were not nice to this film as it only brought in $17,323,326.00 in the US and didn’t even get released in theaters overseas! The film came in at #93 of the year and beat out such films as The Frighteners, Trainspotting, Thinner and Mulholland Falls to name a few. While the film bombed at the theater, it developed a cult following when it was released on VHS and DVD, making the film turn in a small profit for Paramount. While I am a fan of The Phantom character, I skipped this film at the theater and waited for home video.  I found it to be a fun dumb popcorn movie that, while it didn’t 100% capture the magic of the comic strip, it at least delivered some fun action and adventure. And I must say that the outfit for The Phantom that actor Billy Zane wears was pretty well done and looked like a modern version of the classic suit and brought out elements to make it stand out on the big screen.

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But the 1996 film was not the first time The Phantom made the jump from comic strip to media on the big and small screen as the first was the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial simple called “The Phantom” that had a total of 15 chapters and had Tom Tyler as The Phantom. A serial sequel for The Phantom was in the works in 1955 with actor John Hart in the role of The Phantom and as production was chugging along they soon found that they no longer owned the rights to use The Phantom and quickly changed it over to calling it “The Adventures Of Captain Africa.” This was followed by the cartoon “Defenders Of The Earth” that aired on TV in 1986 and had Peter Mark Richman voicing the character for a total of 65 episodes, only lasting one season. In 1994, a cartoon called “Phantom 2040” was released as a series that lasted for 35 episodes and a total of 2 seasons with Family Ties actor Scott Valentine lending his pipes to make the character speak. And in 2009 they made a TV mini series based on the character and called it “The Phantom” that had two feature length movies to tell this new version of the character.  This time around actor Ryan Carnes landed the role of the character. So as you can see, Hollywood has had many plans for this character to be the next comic character to be on every kid’s t-shirt and have toys on every chain store shelf…while they tried, it just was not meant to be as it was clear the youth was just not biting at The Phantom to replace their Batman toys and comics. I can proudly say that as a youngster I did my part, as I owned The Phantom action figure from the Defenders Of The Earth toy line.

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Besides the movies and cartoons getting released on VHS and DVD, some other really cool stuff based on The Phantom has been released over the years from action figures, t-shirts, posters, statues, comic books, novels, card game, video game, Halloween costumes, replica skull rings, bobble heads, lunch box and so much more! The Phantom has had his fair share of collectibles for his fans to collect and enjoy, not to mention, besides DC, other comic book companies like Pacific Comics Club, Gold Key, Whitman, King, Pioneer, Dynomite, Marvel and Moonstone among others have printed adventures of this character. Besides some of the comics and the Defenders action figure, one thing I had in my teens was a skull ring replica that a fellow classmate gave me, and I can remember wearing it around school and feeling super cool…yeah, I know –  I was young and didn’t know any better. I wonder if that ring is still someplace in my parent’s basement, also know as Independent B Movie Studios. So in closing, if you enjoy The Phantom, the world is filled with collectibles for you!

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Speaking of Independent B Movie, the old shot on video company that my friends and I use to make films together under that brought you such shot on video classics as The Wolf Hunter, Farmer Joe and Who Keeps Feeding Grandpa to name a small few.  For a small time we toyed with the idea of doing fan films based on some of our favorite movies and characters with lots of things being written and talked about at our annual company meetings. Characters like Superman, Lone Ranger, Leatherface, Spider-Man and Neo from The Matrix all had fan scripts written or talked about, and one of the characters I was developing a fan film for was The Phantom! The idea for my film would have had Matt Hoffman or Jason Gilmore playing The Phantom who was sent on a mission to stop Dr. Frankenstein from creating a monster for the Nazi’s who needed this super solider to turn the tide of the war.  The setting was Frankenstein’s Castle in Kettering and the woods around it would have acted as the jungle with all the typical friends taking on roles like Josh Weinberg who I wanted to play Dr. Frankenstein.  Garrison Kane would have played The Monster and Dave Wean, Patrick Neeley, Mike Ritchie and Jason Young would have made up the supporting cast. If memory serves me right, I think the title of it would have been called “The Phantom vs. Frankenstein,” real original right? The costume was going to be ordered offline and The Frankenstein’s Monster mask was something we would have gotten from Foy’s in Fairborn. But the film idea went nowhere and a script was never written as only scraps of paper with notes was all I had taken down for my idea for this flick, and sadly that are long gone by now. I could have only imagined if we were to have filmed this just how cheesy and terrible the action fights would have been, but I am sure much like all the films we made, it would have had a small cult following for being so bad it’s good. Below is a mock-up poster for this movie done by my friend Jason Young who I’m sure would have been cast in this could-have-been fan made film.  Check it out!

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Speaking of Jason Young – before we get into the reviews of DC Comics first run of The Phantom, I want to share something very cool with you: my good friend Jason has started a comic review blog called “The Bewildering” for independent comics issue # 1’s he finds in .25 and $1.00 boxes at stores as well as conventions! And with his reviews, he breaks down the issues’ plots really well and will update about once a month.  It’s worth checking out if you enjoy your comics on the moldy side of the comic racks. Jason Young is a super talented dude as he is the owner of “Buyer Beware Comics” that puts out his bio comic called “Veggie Dog Saturn” among other titles. He is the co-owner of “Sparkle Comics” and its horror comic branch “Blood Scream Comics” and is working on a very cool comic called “Defenders Of The Planets” based on knock off He-Man toys from the 80’s! He also is co-host on the comic podcast called “Gutter Trash” with artist Eric Shonborn, not to mention he works at Mavericks Cards And Comics, a local shop that helps hook me up with comics for this blog! So in other words you are for sure in for a high quality good read with his blog, and I recommend that you check it out and show him some love.

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So now that we have taken a look at The Phantom from comic strip to an old never made fan made film that would have been directed by me, lets get to the main attraction here at Rotten Ink and that’s the comic book reviews! When choosing The Phantom as this update I had to think long and hard about what comic company I wanted to choose as many have tackled releases for The Phantom.  Most of the time I would just gone with Marvel Comics but decided to go with DC as the covers caught my attention more and looked like it could be a fun mini series.  Plus I feel like sometimes poor DC gets the short end of the stick here as I cover Marvel way more often. I want to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock to make this update possible and want to also say thank you again to the late great Lee Falk for creating this iconic character for all us comic readers to enjoy! And as always, I need to remind you that I grade these issues on a standard 1-4 star scale rating and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So with that, let’s enter the Skull Cave and see what kind of adventure we can share with The Phantom!

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The Phantom # 1  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 1 of 4

A young boy named Kit Walker is writing in the journal in the Skull Cave as he is the next in line to be The Phantom, the ghost who cannot die.  He is talking about his fears and reads back to the first Phantom who watched as his father was killed by pirates and he himself washed ashore in Bangalla, Africa near death.  He was taken in by its tribe and found that if the world was going to get justice, it was by him becoming justice itself and becoming the first Phantom who wanted to protect his new home and get revenge on the pirates! Now Kit Walker is an adult and the 21st Phantom who along with his step-nephew Rex, wolf Devil and white horse Hero are called upon by the tribes people as some drug smugglers have kidnapped two of the patrol men and are waiting for the big drug transaction. As The Phantom rushes off to save his friends the patrol men, one who even is under his protection for saving his life some time back, Rex starts to read the history of The Phantom journal and learns that the 13th Phantom was tricked onto a pirate ship by a evil men named Chessmen and captured! In modern times, The Phantom arrives too late as one of the patrolmen is shot dead, and as he frees the other, he soon finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun of a hired gun of one of the original Chessmen who has always been told to kill The Phantom and his supporters!

Three Phantoms’ tales are woven together into this issue’s plot as we take a look at what sparked the 1st Phantom to take on the mantel of being the ghost of justice as well as follow the 13th on a set up mission and are in present day with the 21st who is battling relatives of enemies from the past! And while this might sound confusing, it’s really not and by all accounts is really well done and gives each of The Phantoms their own characters and own traits letting you get the feel that this is truly a mantel that is handed down from father to son over the decades. All three of the Phantoms are very strong-willed people who understand that evil in the world will prey and destroy the weak if someone does not watch out for them.  Each puts his life on the line to rescue the innocent and stomp out the evil that is running loose. Rex is a young man who while is not blood to current The Phantom, he is adopted into the legacy and feels very much connected to it all and wants to learn the history and family secrets to prepare for the day he is called upon to wear the purple costume of good. The pirates and captain are the villains of the story thus far and when they are not stealing or selling drugs, they are killing and have zero remorse for ending lives too soon.  One of them shoots a man in the head without a care all because he had the mark of The Phantom on him! And what’s really shocking is they show the aftermath of the gunshot with a body on the deck in a pool of blood; that’s pretty crazy for a comic based on a comic strip character. The only thing that kind of made this comic a hard read was that some of the lettering for the journal was written in cursive and at times it was hard to read as it felt piled up and a little sloppy. The cover is well done and has The Phantom doing what he does best and that’s beating up pirates! The art is great and is done by Joe Orlando who I think did a fantastic job of mixing the normal 80’s DC Comics style with a touch of Sunday Comics appeal. Over all I am very impressed with this first issue and really kick myself for waiting until 2017 to read this comic as younger me would have really enjoyed this back in 1988!

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The Phantom # 2  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 2 of 4

Rex is reading the history of The Phantom in the Skull Cave as The Phantom kicks into high gear and saves the remaining officer and takes down the captain and his men, but all he could get from the captain as who is his boss is the name Chessman because his own shipmate shoots and kills him before turning the gun on himself. The officer calls the colonel on the ship’s radio for back up and help as The Phantom slips into the jungle with anger and revenge on his mind as the name Chessman is attached to those who did his father wrong many moons back. After a few hours The Phantom contacts the colonel and finds that a man named Charles Chessman from New York is the prime suspect of being the head of the drug smugglers, so alongside Devil, The Phantom as Kit Walker boards a plane for New York to get his answers and justice…but soon finds that his American girlfriend Diana’s family are long time friends with Chessman! The Phantom heads to the office of Charles Chessman only to find himself under arrest! All the while young Rex is reading about the 13th Phantom and his struggle to break free from the pirates who sold him into slavery.

The Phantom once more shows why he is the man who cannot die when he beats up a boat full of pirates and heads to America to settle a score with a person connected with the torture of his father. While he is dealing with his want for revenge, his adopted nephew is learning the history of The Phantom. This issue feels like a great classic hero tale and adds in just enough violence, drama and modern settings to give it an appeal to readers who enjoy Batman, Superman and classic stuff like Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon. The Phantom is as heroic as he can be in this issue and saves not only the life of an officer but also a whole plane full of passengers and crew when a man tries to take it over and with one quick punch that threat comes to an end. Rex, like any young man, is wanting to learn all he can and prove that he could be very worthy of The Phantom legacy someday. The pirates and the captain are such scum that they even turn on each other when the odds are out of their favor.  The Captain has no spine and is about to squeal like a pig on who hired them before his own right hand man put a bullet to good use. Diana Palmer is a woman who clearly cares about her boyfriend The Phantom and understands his odd way of life, but her mother doesn’t like the relationship and thinks The Phantom is too creepy. Something that is working really well for this comic mini series is that like his father The Phantom is trying to get the revenge that his father was unable to dish out all those years back and this adds to not only the drama but also the action. The cover is pretty slick and holds a classic look and the interior art is done by Joe Orlando again and is fantastic.  Again, the only complaint I have is that some of the cursive lettering is hard to read in spots but that’s very minor and didn’t take away any of the enjoyment of the issue. So with issue two being as good as issue one, I cannot wait to see what issue three has in store for us the readers, and I wish I would have bought this series when I was a kid as I would have enjoyed it a lot.

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The Phantom # 3  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 3 of 4

The Phantom and Devil outsmart and out-maneuver the officers and as they go on a wild goose chase to track him down he slips back into the office of Chessman and beats him up and tells him he has a short time to turn himself over to the police and tell them the truth about his drug selling and stolen good ways or that he himself will be the judge, jury and executioner. After taking his leave, Diana comes to see Chessman and is upset over the fact that he beat up one of her friends who she thinks is truly a nice guy and decides to go on a dinner date with Chessman and has a terrible argument with The Phantom leaving the couple at odds and even possibly broken up. The Phantom goes out the night of the date and gets information on all of Chessman’s thugs.  Meanwhile, during dinner Chessman hires a hitman named Stryker to hunt down and kill The Phantom who is in turn now hunting down Chessman’s right hand man! All the while, we get flashbacks to the 13th Phantom who escapes his chains and goes on a hunt and kills the first of The Chessman brothers to send a message to the others that no one crosses justice and The Phantom.

This third issue ushers in the idea that The Phantom is now onto the man who has not only killed his friend and is pushing drugs but also is a relative of the evil men who pushed his father, the 13th Phantom near death’s door. And while trying to put a stop to the evil of this man he might lose his girlfriend as well as his life as now the hunter might just very well become the hunted. The Phantom is a man alone in New York as his own lady thinks he is on the wrong track, and this leaves him trying to fight this fight without her knowledge of the target, but at least he has Devil by his side and is kind enough to give Chessman a choice of turning himself in or become a body in the morgue. Diana is making a big mistake by thinking that her longtime family friend is a nice guy and not scum.  This leaves her also at the madman’s mercy as she is now at his house for dinner and he is desperate to rid the world of The Phantom.  I would not put it past him to use her as a human meat shield when the action goes down. Chessman is just so slimy and plays the role of a nice guy who really has a black selfish heart, and I can’t wait for him to get served some cold justice. Stryker is a mystery and looks like your typical mafia style hitman, and he could be a challenge for The Phantom once they meet! The story of the 13th Phantom from the past and the 21st Phantom’s paths are one in the same dealing with the same evil and crappy people The Chessman family is good story telling and writer Peter David is doing some amazing things to make The Phantom cool for comic readers of 1988 and beyond. The cover once more holds a classic look and captures the adventure style of the character and his legacy as again the art by Joe Orlando is top notch and amazing stuff. Once more this issue is as good as the other two so far and leaves the reader wanting more and wanting to see how the story ends in the next issue. So like The Phantom, let’s lurk into the shadows of your favorite place to read comics and see what happens next.

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The Phantom # 4  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 4 of 4

At dinner Diana overhears Chessman telling Stryker about his right hand man being busted by the cops thanks to The Phantom and that this spoiled a major drug deal for him.  Before she can get away, Chessman and Stryker take Diana hostage and want to use her as bait when they find out she knows him! The Phantom spends the next nights breaking up Chessman’s illegal operations but finally finds a message that Diana is in trouble and heads to Chessman’s house and into a trap. The Phantom sets Diana free but she is soon recaptured by Chessman who throws her into his car and hits the streets to get to his private plane.  While The Phantom and Devil make short work of Stryker, who, armed with a sniper rifle, hardly put up hardly before being knocked out. The Phantom watches as his enemy takes his true love away and borrows a police horse and tracks them down to bridge where traffic has come to a standstill and with a gun to her head Diana is forced to watch as Chessman and The Phantom have a showdown that leaves them both falling off the bridge. Chessman is in bad shape and rushed to the hospital but is suspected to live and will face charges for his drug empire.  The Phantom is thought to be dead until he shows up with Devil to Diana’s house and they patch things up and all ends well. We also see that the 13th Phantom also had an epic fight with the pirate Chessman brother that as well left them both falling off a mountain that they both died from, but this once more proved that the legacy of The Phantom would live forever.

This four issue mini series took us on an adventure that had us in the past and modern times as well as in the jungles of Africa and the slums of New York and pitted good vs. evil and justice against law breaker. The Phantom in this issue not only brings down many drug and gambling rings but also takes down a hitman as well as defeats a rich business man who is the ring leader of smugglers and has lived his life as a lie and gotten the support of many with his phony good guy persona. And most importantly, he also wins his girl’s heart back as well as keeps the legacy of The Phantom going and intact. The best part about The Phantom is that while he is super talented in hand to hand combat, he also uses his mind to really bring down those who are doing bad and wicked things. Devil is a loyal wolf and is a big help when it comes to fighting crime and is the best ally as he is threat with his razor sharp teeth! Rex learns lots about The Phantom legacy by going into the records, a place he is not meant to be, but a place it is known he would enter as all future Phantoms have interest in the past adventures. Diana Palmer is a woman who stands by her man…well that is until he beats up and points the figure at a rich family friend and then you turn on him and try and send him home until everything he said turns out to be true and he saves your life and then you fall back in love with him. Diana should have had faith in her superhero boyfriend as she clearly has a brain in her head. Stryker is all talk as he acts as if it would be easy to kill off The Phantom and when he gets his chance, he crumbles faster than a house of cards in a hurricane! The 13th Phantom in this series is a hero who is beaten, sold and near death but finds his inner power to get his revenge and to prove that his family legacy is not to be taken lightly. Charles Chessman is a man who has no morals and only cares about making money and getting his own fat out of the fire and would kill an innocent woman to get away, even after being given the chance to turn himself in he decides that he would rather not and try to kill his nemesis. He is much like the Chessman Pirate Brothers as his ego is what causes his downfall and leads him to a life in jail. The one thing that shocked me about this comic series was the fact that it shows not only blood but also a suicide and shows them both very gritty and this brings a more raw and natural feeling to it. The cover on this issue also is very well done and captures the heroic nature of The Phantom and adds the touch of mobsters and gritty city life to its appeal. The art is again done by the talented Joe Orlando and his work helped make this comic series even better of a read and added to the enjoyment of the sold story written by Peter David. Over all, if you enjoy classic hero tales that are filled with drama, action and a more realistic hero, then I suggest checking out this 4 issue mini series as I am glad that I did all these years after its newsstand run. Check out below to get a taste of the artwork from Joe Orlando and see just how good it is.

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Being a fan of The Phantom since a young age, it really is shocking that it took this long for me to read this mini series as to be honest I remember seeing it at comic shops in my teens and never pulled the trigger on buying the issues. I really think fans of such characters, as Batman, Dick Tracy, The Unknown Solider and Moon Knight should check out The Phantom if you have not already. With our next update, we are staying with DC and taking a look at one of the biggest events in comic history in my life time and one that some say brought the beginning of the end for the comic boom and I am of course talking about Doomsday: The Death Of Superman! So until next time, make sure to read a comic or three, read a novel or two and as always support your local Horror Host, and I will see you next update for Superman’s deadliest fight ever.

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Stone Protectors: Trolls Who Wanted That TMNT Money!

Can you believe that it’s already December and we are just weeks away from Christmas? This time of the year always gets me sentimental for the past and when Santa Claus coming down the chimney to bring me toys, comics, movies, music and video games was all that was on my mind and made for many sleepless nights leading up to the big day. I am sure many of you as youngsters used to toss and turn all night with your brain working overtime thinking about what wonders awaited you in your stocking as well as the presents that were just in the living room under the family Christmas Tree, but that dang pesky night time was keeping you away from your holiday wonder. Another thing that comes to mind is Christmas lights on houses.  My mom used to love to look at houses with lights on them, and my Dad would drive us around to look at them when I was a kid, mostly in our town of Waynesville and in Kettering. When I was dating Jennifer Perkins many years back, I can also remember driving around Waynesville and surrounding towns looking at lights as that was something she enjoyed. With it being so close to Christmas, I figured we would take a look at a comic series based on a toy and cartoon line that many people have forgotten about from the early 90’s – The Stone Protectors those cool Trolls with stones for power! So grab a glass of eggnog and you might as well grab a few cookies as we take a quick and fun journey into the world of Trolls!

Crazy Christmas Lights

Troll Dolls were a popular toy back in the 1960’s and 70’s.  They were created by Thomas Dam back in 1959 in Denmark.  After he made one for his daughter for Christmas, the other kids saw and wanted one, and a toy franchise was born. The naked and some time dressed up wild bright colored haired plastic dolls were popular all over Europe and America but mostly with young girls who spent time dressing them up and collecting them on shelves. The toy fad of trolls in the US was very popular from 1963-65, making them a must have toy for Christmas and birthdays. But while the Dam Trolls were high quality, a copyright screw up in the United States lead to other companies flooding the market with cheaper made products that filled toy stores and local 5 and dimes. In the late 80’s, Troll dolls started to make a comeback in America as a new batch of youngsters discovered them at garage sales and thrift stores. They came back out with the tagline “Adopt A Norfin Troll” and were official licensee products put out by E.F.S. Marking Associates. By the 90s, Trolls were being marketed to boys with such action figure lines like Stone Protectors, Hairy Heads a series of Mighty Max toys and Battle Trolls, and this sparked video games, comics, videos and a massive amounts of Trolls dressed in all type of outfits. Lots happened with the rights, from Dam getting his copyright restored in 1994 to DreamWorks releasing a musical animated movie about the Trolls this year. But I am sure you’re wondering what my connection to Trolls is.  I grew up owning them and my Grandma Salyers had many of them as did my neighbor Joanna. I can always remember laughing about their bare butts and trying my best to play with them alongside other action figure, but they never did quite fit in. In my late teen years I worked for Krogers as a bagger and I can remember that we used to sell them for a while in the floral department, but once they sold them out at a discount they were gone for good. One day my good friend Jason Gilmore and I found one in the back stock room very high up almost to the rafters and using a broom that we threw as a spear we knocked it down! Once in my hands I used a sharpie and white out and created a voodoo priest Troll doll complete with a skull face and tribal tattoos! One bagger loved it so much he bought it from Jason and I for $20.  We turned around and used the money to buy used VHS horror films and music CDs. Years later while working at Game Swap in Kettering, Max Ervin took an old Troll Doll and made it look like Kiss Guitarist Ace Frehley! Love them or hate them, Troll Dolls made an impact in the world of toys and at some point in time I would guess most of you readers at least owned one of them in your household.

Original Troll Dolls

In 1993, Ace Novelty decided that they were going to take a stab at making Trolls hip and cool for boys too and decided that they could do so by making them in scale with Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures as well as make them dress like ninjas and pro wrestlers and give them evil and nasty looking baddies to beat up on. In 1993, I was about 13 years old and all the kids I knew were very much into collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I only remember one kid every having a Stone Protector at school and it was just a toy line that never caught on with me and my friends. The series had a total of seven figures made with all five of the Stone Protectors being made: Chester, Angus, Clifford, Cornelius and Maxwell as well as two of the bad guys Zok and Zink, with each figures coming with weapons and accessories. They would later also do a line of figures called “Stone Protectors: Sports Heroes” and would have our heroes dressed in sports gear like basketball and baseball outfits. Over the years of going to flea markets and thrift stores, I have seen these little guys all over the place selling as low as .09 a figure! I have also seen them used at Game Swap in Kettering and in the cheap toy bin at Mavericks Cards and Comics. I must truly admit that I have zero connection to the Stone Protectors, and by 1993, the toys I was buying were the likes of Toy Biz X-Men, Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and was buy tons of comic books and was well into trying to impress girls in my own awkward monster kid kind of way. So how about you friends and readers, did you collect and play with Stone Protector action figures?

Stone Protectors toys 1Stone Protectors toys 2Stone Protectors toys 3

Like any good toy line, a cartoon was made to help and push them into the minds of the youth, and Stone Protectors tried to capture the viewers who were already watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Toxic Crusaders or even Swamp Thing but just like the toy line, it failed in its goal as only 13 episodes were made and not all of those 13 aired on TV. Each episode was 30 minutes long and was a syndicated toon that could be aired on the station who bought the package. The toon’s plot followed The Stone Protectors as they tried to protect the Mythrandir Kingdom and its princess Opal from the evil Zonk! The cartoon would also be released on VHS for home video watching, and I must say I have never watched an episode of this cartoon nor do I ever remember any of my friends talking about this show. So yeah, like the toys this cartoon was not a shining star in the time of my youth.

Stone Protectors Toon 1Stone Protectors Toon vhsStone Protectors Toon 2

SNES players were treated with a game based on Stone Protectors for their system of choice.  The Super Nintendo game came out in 1994 and is your standard beat’em up side scrolling game that has you trying to stop Zok from changing the fate of a world. The game was also planned for release for the Sega Genesis but was never released likely due to poor sales of the SNES version and the fact the Stone Protectors failed to capture the toy, comic and cartoon market. I for one have never played the Stone Protectors game and in fact never even remember seeing it on the shelf at the local video rental stores…man, it must have been hard to be the Stone Protectors game as all you wanted to do is entertain and instead all you really got to do is collect dust. Below are some screen shots of the SNES version of the game as well as its cover box.

Stone Protectors video game 1Stone Protectors video game SNESStone Protectors video game 2

Troll Dolls have always kind of been creepy, and they have the cold dead eyes just like the Hugga Bunch dolls.  When surfing the net, this picture popped up and acts as proof that these little naked, dead eyed, creepy smiling little dirt bags are up to no good! I saw this picture years back and laughed my butt off, as it was a clever way to show just how odd these little dolls really are in appearance. The look of terror in this woman’s eyes says it all as the Trolls have her tied up and for sure have wicked things on their plastic little brains. Not much is known on the fate of this woman and the Trolls in the picture are being seeked out for questioning by both the Cowboys of Moomasa and C.O.P.S, so if you have a gang of Trolls living in your house make sure that at night they are locked up as you don’t want to go missing like she did! But for real this picture is funny, and I had to add it in as I think you my readers might also get a laugh from it.

Hot Woman Slave of the Trolls

Before we move onto Harvey Comics 4 issues in the Stone Protectors series, I think I should deliver some nightmare fuel for you tonight, just by simply letting you know that out in this wonderful world we all share are some costumes that will chill your bones worse than any horror film and will forever scar your very soul as some company thought that the world needed full body Troll costumes! Imagine coming home late one night from work and your street is empty as you shut you car door you notice a shadow with hair that is wild and pulled straight up to the heavens and as you start to walk to your door you notice another and then another and as you fumble for your keys you feel something behind you only to come face to face with this costume….its dead eyes meet yours and for the first time in your life you feel total terror! Look below and feast your eyes on these terrifying costumes.

Trolls Costume 1Trolls Costume 2Trolls Costume 3

So there you have it, Troll Dolls can be fun and collectable as well as can be creepy and things of nightmares and mental torture! But we are now at the point in this Christmas Countdown update where we must take a look at the Harvey Comic series based on the Stone Protectors toy and cartoon line, and I want to thank both Game Swap in Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these comics in stock. While you dye your hair and spike it just to get into the spirit of this update, I need to remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if your hair is ready, let’s go on an adventure with Cornelius and the rest of the Stone Protectors and see just what these guys are made of.

Stone Protectors 0

Stone Protectors  # 0  1/2
Released in 1993     Cover Price $0.00     Harvey Comics   # 0 of 3

On the planet Mythrandir an eruption causes havoc and frees the evil Zok and his henchman Zink to attack the Crystal Castle, and just in time Princess Opal is able to split the magic crystal into gemstones that come to earth and find a terrible rock band to become a powerful group of Trolls calling themselves now the Stone Protectors! While Princess Opal becomes the prisoner of Zok, the Stone Protectors get onto their tour bus called The Rolling Stone and are sucked into space where they arrive at the Crystal Kingdom and are attacked by a giant lava monster that traps them inside the bus ship and due to magic from Zok, they are frozen in place as his the monster. But the Stone Protectors are not going to be beat that easily.  They play some good old rock n roll music causing them to break free, save Princess Opal and escape. Zok is ticked off and wants the stones that are stuck in the bodies of these troll looking rock stars, as Princess Opal tells them that they are stuck with the gems and that they must be the champions of the Crystal Kingdom! In the end, The Stone Protectors are hyped that they are now not only a rock band but heroes.

This was hands down the worst comic I read this year, and I am not just saying comics I have read for Rotten Ink updates but over all, even ones I have read without writing about…in other words, this is terrible! The plot has a numbskull band being chosen by powerful gems from space to be their protectors and by choosing them, it also gives them powers and draws them into space where an evil goblin looking troll named Zok is taking over a kingdom that was once beautiful. They save the pretty princess and now are targeted and at war with Zok and his evil henchmen. The Stone Protectors are all the same, and none really have any personality besides they all talk like dumb surfer dudes and care about their hair. They fall ass backwards into saving the day and even with super powers thanks to the gems, they still come off as numbskulls. The Stone Protectors also look like Troll Dolls but dressed in over the top hip cloths, and they never reference the fact they look like trolls once the gems attach themselves. Princess Opal looks like a normal blonde who could have been lifted from She-Ra The Princess Of Power, but not nearly as cool. She also really has no personality besides the fact she cares about her kingdom and doesn’t like being called “Babe” as the annoying Stone Protectors call her almost the whole time the meet her. Zok and Zink are evil but not really shown how evil they are as all they really due is turn the castle ugly, and Zok creates a Lava Monster. One thing funny is that by the end, Zok all but flat out says that he will murder The Stone Protectors and rip the gems from their dead bodies…now that’s evil! The cover is not really good and not eye catching.  As for the interior art, it’s done by Bill Valley and looks as sloppy and amateurish as it comes! I have seen high school artists make better-looking comics. Over all this was a poor way to kick off a comic series and really is not making me looking forward to reading and writing about the rest of the issues in this short-lived comic series.

Stone Protectors 1

Stone Protectors  # 1  *
Released in 1994     Cover Price $1.50     Harvey Comics   # 1 of 3

The Stone Protectors are attacking a Zok stronghold in the Kingdom, and the battle is pretty one sides until Zink shows up.  The bad guys are able to kidnap Maxx and force the other Stone Protectors to retreat, leaving their bandmate and friend behind. And worse, they soon find out that a spy is filling in the bad guys on plans of attacks, and it’s Haret, the teenage daughter of a top rebel warrior named Lantar.  She is helping the good side lose in this gem war. But soon Haret learns that Zok has been lying to her, and she takes Cornelius to rescue Maxx and the friends fight for their life to escape the bad guys’ base. Once free, Haret confesses to Princess Opal, and she is forgiven and goes on the rescue mission that allows them to save her dad Lantar and all make it back safely where The Stone Protectors have a rock concert to entertain the troops.

This issue is only slightly better than issue 0, and I must say that the downside to this series so far, besides the terrible art, is the fact The Stone Protectors are just bland typical party dudes who are not likable. The plot of this issue is super simple and has a spy leaking information to Zok that leads to the capture of two key fighters for the good guys. Once the spy figures out that she is wrong, she helps the good guys rescue the prisoners and all ends well. The Stone Protectors are as annoying as ever with Cornelius being the most annoying, always talking about how good looking he is and going on and on about his hair. The Stone Protectors are such a poor man’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and have no real individuality to make them cool or likable for this comic reader. Princess Opal, who also for some reason is called Empress Opal, takes a back seat for the most part and only shows that she cares once more for her people and kingdom and is willing to fight herself to try and win it all back. Zok and Zink are around but really offer not to much in the way of action and for the most part, the bad guys of the issues are just henchmen who are easily beat. The cover is better this time around and has Cornelius jumping into action with his swords…and wait a minute, Cornelius is the leader of the Stone Protectors and Leonardo is the leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they both use swords…man, the Stone Protectors are true rip off artists. The art inside once more is done by Billy Valley and is as sloppy as before and not to my liking at all. Over all this is another poorly plotted and drawn issue that is something I think I just want to wrap up, so let’s move on to the next issue.

Stone Protectors 2

Stone Protectors #  2  *1/2
Released in 1994     Cover Price $1.50     Harvey Comics   # 2 of 3

The Stone Protectors are in the middle of battle once more with Zink and the evildoers, but during the fight Princess Opal is shot and is taken to safety were she is diagnosed to have a stage 5 coma, an injury that doctors say she will not recover from. Haret tells The Stone Protectors of a wise lizard man named Mystan who lives in a cave and might be able to help the Princess.  He tells them of a magic healing cloak on the dangerous planet of Turbulantia…and without a second thought The Stone Protectors head out on their quest to save the Princess. Our heroes crash land on the planet and are attacked by weird creatures that are wanting to fight just cause that’s all they know, and after the fight the Stone Protectors meet Giddy who tell them the cloak they seek is being worn by the planets evil king named Gollun who they track down beat up and take the cloak and bring not only Princess Opal back but also peace and beauty to the planet that was ruled by evil for thousands of years.

I am noticing something – this issue is slightly better than the last issue showing that the series, much like wine, was getting better with age. The plot of this issue is as simple as the issues that came before it and has Princess Opal in a coma and the Stone Protectors must take on an evil King to get his magic cloak in order to save their friend’s life. The Stone Protectors are less annoying in this issue and shockingly enough, act like heroes.  While they have cheesy things to say, it’s clear that when given a mission they focus and get it done. Princess Opal is a major part of the story even if 99% off the comic she is as stiff as a board and near death, while other heroes Lantar and his daughter Haret take backseats and only put in cameos. The series’ main bad guys Zok and Zink as well do very little in this issue besides the fact Zink is the one who shot Princess Opal and almost killed her. King Gollun is a pushover, and they take his cloak pretty easily and by doing so the evil King dies! That’s one thing I should point out: in this kids’ comic lots of henchmen and bad guys are killed most with grenades! The cover is pretty cool and reminds me of issue 7 of DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths that has Superman holding the body of Supergirl with tears in his eyes. The art once more is done by Bill Valley, and while still very sloppy, it’s a tad better than it was in the past issues. Over all, this is another bland issue, and with this one out of the way it makes me happy that I only have one more to go!

Stone Protectors 3

Stone Protectors  # 3  *
Released in 1994     Cover Price $1.50     Harvey Comics   # 3 of 3

The Stone Protectors and Princess Opal are in a battle are pushing back Zok’s men, and this makes the evil ruler very upset.  He sets a new plan into action that consists of kidnapping the daughter of Yatzir, a powerful spiritual man who can bring to life monsters to fight for the safety of his people, and forces him to join his evil side to defeat the Stone Protectors once and for all. But good always beats evil, and The Stone Protectors save Yatzir’s daughter.  The wizard turns his power on the evil Zonk and once more the good guys get a victory, as Zonk suffers another defeat.

The final issue is super basic and has a paper thin plot showing that this series was in trouble as it was clear they had nothing to really add to the adventures of The Stone Protectors. The plot is simple and bland and has Zonk kidnapping a wizard’s daughter making him join his side in the war for the Crystal Kingdom, but the Stone Protectors save her and the wizard is able to turn his powers now to fight on the side of good. The Stone Protectors are just around, and by this point, as a reader I was just bored with them as in a total of four issues they never did really get personalities that made them likable or even made me care about them. Princes Opal is brave but pretty much has zero personality too, besides she hates being called babe and as I have stated before will fight for her people. Zok and Zink are evil but offer no major threat and both seem like normal henchmen, not the major evildoers they are supposed to be. Yatzir and his daughter have magic powers but like all characters in this series, they have no personality making them feel like throw away characters. It’s clear as day that this comic series was not a priority for Harvey Comics as no time or effort was made to make this cartoon and toy tie-in series good. And like most toy tie in comic series, this has no clear ending and for all we know, this battle for the Crystal Kingdom and the Gem Stones is still going on to this day. The cover for this final issue is back to being really bad and looks sloppy and half assed. The art inside is done by Bill Valley again and looks the same as it was last issue, so bad. Over all if I was a youngster reading these comic adventures of the Stone Protectors, a toy line I was buying, I would be very disappointed and this would not have brought any new fans to the toys as the comics were just really poorly done. Over all, I am really glad to be done with this comic series and check out below for an art sample of this series done by Bill Valley, and keep in mind this is the better panel I could find.

Stone Protectors art 1

After reading these comics this cold December night, I can really go for some Christmas cookies and eggnog as well as a stack of Spider-Man comics to wash the taste of these poorly told adventures of The Stone Protectors. I am also really glad that as a youngster I didn’t have a connection of the cartoon and toys as I would be very angry about the way the characters were treated by Harvey Comics for this small run series. But for those who grew up loving The Stone Protectors, I would love to know what you thought after reading these comics, did you enjoy them? But it’s almost Christmas time and for our next update I want to chat about a comic adaptation based on the classic 1980 science fiction film Flash Gordon by Whitman. So until then, stay warm, read a comic or three and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next time for a adventure in space!

Flash Gordon Movie Logo 0

Who Remembers Solarman?

Welcome to another update, our first one in our countdown to Thanksgiving here on Rotten Ink, as we once more take a look at a superhero that failed to capture readers and lead to a short-lived comic series that left the character almost forgotten in modern times.  For this one we will be taking a look at Solarman, a Marvel Comic character that’s long been forgotten by most. What’s really crazy is that this character is one that Marvel really wanted to take off as you will see during this update. It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is weeks away, and that great food and family time is just around the corner. I am sure some of you can’t wait to smell that turkey cooking, and for all my vegetarian friends, I am sure you hyped for the tofu turkey and all the wonderful sides like corn, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Turkey 2016

When you think of holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, one thing comes to mind, the word home. For me, the old two story house in Waynesville on Royston Drive will always be home.  One day I would love to buy it and have Juliet and I live there, but another place I call home is the basement of my parents’ house that was dubbed Independent B Movie Studios as it is the place that ideas for films like Werewolf Of Ohio 1-2, The Wolf Hunter and Cocktober Blood were all brainstormed. It was the “set” for no budget films Nightmare and One Second Too Late. It was the place that the first ever Horror Movie Marathon took place, and it hosted many long nights of playing video games with my pal Jason Gilmore as we tried to beat games like Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill and Clock Tower. It was the place that my old computer sat were I would write scripts for possible films and during breaks would play cheesy DOS games like X-Men, Waxworks and Plan 9 From Outer Space from hard disks. It was a place that acted as shelter for me and my past girlfriend Misty as we were in-between apartments and acted as a place for me to stay when I needed a place to lay my head for the night. Now, in 2016, it’s completely different from what it use to be in its heyday.  Gone are the movie posters all over the walls; gone is the floor model TV along with the VCR, DVD player and many video game systems.  Gone are the old computers, and gone are the days of it being the house of ideas for no budget movies but it will forever be a special place for me and many of my friends as it was a magical place filled with lots of amazing memories and great times. Below is a modern picture of the old “studio” with the amazing orange carpet that has been down there since the start of its legacy.

Independent B Movie Studio

In 1979-1980, David Oliphant created three digest-sized comics based on a character he created called Solarman that were more educational comics than your normal superhero fare.  The character was named Davos who lived inside the Sun and came to Earth.  He became a baseball player and taught the wonders of Solar Energy. In 1989, Marvel decided to buy the character rights and use him as a new hero that would set the world ablaze with his comic that was to be written by Stan Lee. They changed the character from just being a solar alien to the a teenager getting the power from a dying alien.  In other words, Stan Lee went the route he has traveled so many times and wanted to reproduce the magic of Spider-Man, but unlike that character, this one failed to capture the readers, and issue one came and went with a whisper. But this did not stop Lee and Marvel as in 1990 they tried again with an issue # 2, and this as well came and went with little to no fanfare. A third issue was not in the cards nor has a re-launch ever seen the light of day from Marvel. So what went wrong with Solarman as Marvel pushed so hard and even had the comic legend Stan Lee write his adventures? My opinion is that in 1990 the character had a dated feel to it, and by this time kids and readers were more into Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men and a character who’s a kid with sun powers was just too silly and tame for them.

Solarman Old SchoolSolarmanSolarman ad

In the 90’s, Marvel Comics captured the Saturday Morning Cartoon world with such classics as X-Men, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer and The Incredible Hulk, but in 1991, they also tried again with Solarman by turning him into a cartoon pilot for FOX with the intent of turning it into a full cartoon series.  This also failed as FOX never ordered the series after its airing. The plot of the cartoon was that of the first issue of the comic with a little added and taken away and done in the style of The X-Men that was a huge hit for FOX’s Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup later on. I was a major Saturday Morning Cartoon viewer when I was a young, and in 1991, I was watching such toons as Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, Bobby’s World, Darkwing Duck, Doug, Ren and Stimpy, The Simpsons, Tom & Jerry Kids to name a few.  I can 100% say that I don’t remember the Solarman cartoon at all and don’t remember a single kid on the playground or at lunch talking about it! So do any of you, my readers or friends, remember this cartoon special airing? Did you watch it? Was it good? Comment below and let me know.

Animated Solorman 1Animated SolormanAnimated Solorman 2

So now that you are up to date on who and what Solarman is, I think we are at the point of the review where we will take a look at the comic series from Marvel based on this forgotten hero. I want to thank Dark Star in Yellow Springs for having these comics in stock in their dollar bin and must also once more like a broken record tell you readers that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you’re ready to travel to outer space and back to Earth again, let’s grab some water and a snack and visit the world of Solarman.

Solarman 1

Solarman # 1  **1/2
Released in 1989     Cover Price $1.00     Marvel Comics     # 1 of 2

Gormagga Kraal and his robot warriors are traveling in space and draining suns of their solar energy in order to feed his ultimate weapon that will help him rule the universe. Aboard the ship is an old scientist named Dr. Sha-Han and his young daughter Altarra, both of whom are shocked by the evil of Kraal who has now set his sights on the sun the Earth orbits. Sha-Han as seen enough and steals the Circle Of Power, an item that can create a powerful life that can stop the path of destruction Kraal is blazing.  When Sha-Han’s escape pod is shot down, it crashes to Earth, and while dying he meets young want-to-be comic book artist Ben Tucker who he gives the circle of power (a bracelet) to and visits him as a spirit as he dies on the beach to tell him whenever he is in danger let the sunlight hit the bracelet and that will unleash the power of Solarman! Ben Tucker is a teenager whose dad owns a gym and wants his son to train to be a jock, while all he really wants to do is draw comics for Marvel.  On his way to school, he is attacked by some robots who are looking for the bracelet who kidnap him and take him to space where Gormagga Kraal orders for his arm to be cut off so he can reclaim the bracelet.  But Ben is saved by Altarra (who dies saving him) and her tiny robot Beepie who allows sunlight into the ship, and Solarman takes over the body of Ben and blows up the massive ship forcing Gormagga Kraal to escape on a tiny escape pod vessel. Ben returns to Earth with his new friend Beepie and starts to work on his next comic called “Solarman”.

The best way to start this off is saying that this is Marvel Comics version of Green Lantern with teen drama with a main character that looks a lot like a young Peter Parker. This first issue is pretty well done, and I for one think that if they should have put it out via Star Comics and played up the fact that it’s a superhero for kids as it mixes comics and old scifi films together to create a world where aliens want to steal the energy of our sun and robots in trench coats can walk freely down the road. The plot is: an alien overlord wants to rule the galaxy and is stealing the Sun’s energy to store for his powerful super weapon.  He targets Earth’s Sun but is set back when one of his own helpers steals a powerful weapon to crash land on Earth, passing the weapon onto a nerdy kid who now gains super powers. Yep that sums it up pretty well, and I should also add in that it has a Shazam (Captain Marvel) feeling to it as well. Ben Tucker is a button up, white shirt and tie kind of kid who spends his free time drawing comic strips with the hope of being hired by Marvel.  While most geeky kids can identify with him, the downside is he comes off like a stereotype of how people think comic “nerds” act. But while he is a nerd, Ben is still a likeble kid who I am sure has a touch of us all who are creative. Solarman is powerful and wears lots of orange and yellow and has cheesy lines that would make Flash Gordon blush.  This first issue only gives me a small taste of their hero and not enough to fully judge, I would say he’s not terrible as he makes me want to check out the next issue. Oh and I should say he’s like Solar Man from the movie Superman IV: Quest For Peace as he has to get his power from the sun and without it he’s useless. Beepie is a generic tiny robot that fans of R2-D2 and BB-8 from Star Wars will surly love.  He’s a loyal little guy who wants Earth not to be destroyed so he is kind of a hero. Sha-Han and Altarra are blue skinned aliens who serve a purpose and move the story along.  Not much more can be said about them besides they are both dead. Gormagga Kraal is also a blue skinned alien who has a metal arm that can stretch and has a terrible attitude and does not value life as he doesn’t care how many have to die for him to complete his goal of galaxy ruler.  This guy would be great friends with Zardoom (Defenders Of The Planets) and Ming The Merciless (Flash Gordon), and I could picture them at a Starbucks plotting how to take over Mars. The cover is pure late 80’s cheese and has a Star Comics look to it.  The art is done by Jim Mooney with the story by Stan Lee. While Marvel really wanted Solarman to be the next big thing for them, this issue just was not a draw for readers at the time. I for one enjoyed it and think it’s a solid above average comic that’s aimed for young readers.

Solarman 2

Solarman # 2  **1/2
Released in 1990     Cover Price $1.00     Marvel Comics     # 2 of 2

Ben Tucker and his friend Jeanie are watching the news, all about holes in the ozone layer, and as Ben draws Dr. Doom, the friends chat about him and how he is the ultimate bad guy. Meanwhile Dr. Doom has shot a satellite into space and is the one who is causing the holes and wants a ransom from the world in order to stop it. Later in the day, Ben goes to his Dad’s gym to find his father being strong-armed by some goons and quickly goes out side and turns into Solarman and runs them off. When returning as Ben, he tries to tell his Dad he is Solarman but his father thinks his son just reads too many comics. Ben decides that he must keep his secret to himself as well as must stop Dr. Doom and travels to his location and tricks him into thinking he needs an interview for the school paper as they view Doom as a legend or so his story goes.  But Doom is not fooled for long as he throws Ben into a prison room. Lucky for Ben, the room has windows and sunlight and this allows him to turn into Solarman who flies into space and destroys the satellite and comes back down to tangle with Doom until the sun is about to set and leaves Doom in a foul mood! In the end as Ben returns home and bonds with his Dad with a picture he drew him, and it’s reveled that the Dr. Doom he had fought was nothing more than a hologram as the real Doom was in the basement sick with the flu.

This is the final issue of the series before Marvel gave up on trying to make readers care about Solarman and his adventures in Sun powers at least in the comic world. This issue’s plot has Ben Tucker and his hero side Solarman dealing with Dr. Doom who is trying to ruin the ozone layer as well as try and gain the respect of his father who wants a jock for a son and not an artist. The pacing is well done, and the action of Solarman is kept being used at the right times to further the plot more and not to waste panels with fights that were just put in to take up pages. Ben Tucker this time around is more skilled in his art and seems to have a crush on his friend Jeanie who always seems to be around and pushing for him to get his big break in comics in a sly kind of way. Ben himself is weak physically, but mentally he is strong and knows after a failed attempt that he must keep his hero side a secret. Solarman is as cheesy as ever as his power is high but his one liners are so bad they would make Spider-Man cringe.  Besides his power, he can also fly and breath in space with no problems. Ben’s Dad is as gym orientated as ever but shows he is no push over as he does not back down to three thugs who want his gym to pay them for street protection. It also shows that he loves his son no matter what he does or does not do. Dr. Doom is once more mad with power and wants to world to beg at his feet as he wants to be their ruler.  The fun part about this is the whole fight I as the reader was like come on, Doom could mop the floor with Solarman.  Then at the end you find out the real Doom is sick in bed with the flu…that’s right Victor Von Doom has the flu in this comic and the Doom that’s doing all the bad things is really just a hologram. The cover is pure early 90’s ham and eggs as it’s as basic as they come, and the art inside the issue is well done by Mike Zeck. Over all while Solarman is a very lame in nature superhero, but I still found the comic to be entertaining and could not see really why it only lasted two issues and became a forgotten Marvel Comic. If you find any issues in your local comics shops .25 or $1.00 box, give it a chance as you might just find yourself enjoying it. Below is some artwork from the series so give it a look as it might be what pushes you over the edge of wanting to check it out.

Solarman art 1Solarman art 2Solarman art 3

Solarman was a character who had lots of potential, and for the most part his two comic adventures were lots of fun and could have lead into more and more if fans of the 90’s would have supported it. But let’s flare away from Solarman for our next update and this time take a look at another Horror Host Icon, Iowa’s own Dr. Morbius as we continue our countdown to Thanksgiving. So I hope you enjoyed this quick update, and that you’re having a great November so far and are just enjoying life as we all live it on this great planet we share and call Earth. So until next time, read a comic or three, support your local Horror Host and as Bill & Ted would say Be Excellent To Each Other.

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