Top 10 Should Have Beens In The Star Comics World

Welcome back to my blog, and thank you for reading my trip down memory lane mixed with pulp culture and things that still fascinate me to this day. Last blog I mentioned that Marvel pulled the plug on Star Comics after only a four year run, and I then mentioned that during that time they missed lots of great stuff that could have made some some great comic adventures.  What if they were still around to this day; what great stuff might have come from this?  After thinking about this, I decided that this blog entry will be my top 10 properties that should have been turned into a Star Comic.  Then Part 2 will show some friends and family’s top 5 picks, so sit back and enjoy!

#10 

Adams Family Logo

They are spooky, kooky and an all around fun time for the young and young at heart.  This off the wall family have been around for many years and have been in every kind of media from comic strip, TV, movies, games and books.  In 1938, Charles Addams created The Addams Family (Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Puggsly, Fester, Gramama, Lurch & Thing), and the comic strip was published in the New York Times and was a popular read for the masses. In 1964 ABC aired The Addams Family in which live actors like John Astin, Coralyn Jones, Ted Cassidy and other actors played the parts of the family. The series ran until 1966 and had good solid ratings. Then in 1973, Hanna Barbara made an animated series that ran for a year and featured silly adventures of the family done in the style of Scooby-Doo.

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In 1977, a new live action special was made called “Halloween with the New Addams Family,” and while John Astin and most of the original cast returned to play the characters they did many years before, the magic seemed to be gone and the special was only so-so. In 1992 they tried an animated series again that only lasted one year, “The Addams Family: Animated Series.”  This series also inspired some action figures from Playmates. The kooky family’s next major break was the 1998 film starring Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christina Ricci and Christopher Lloyd.  The film was a hit and made The Addams Family a household name once again. The film sparked two sequels, video games, novels, pinball game and lots more merchandise. While many other small Addams Family specials and such were made, the two most impactful were the 1964 ABC show and the 1998 Paramount film, but the 1992 cartoon series also holds a special place in my heart.

halloween-with-the-new-addams-family2The_Addams_family_cartoon 90sMovie Poster

Now let’s talk the merchandise for a moment to show the popularity of the Addams Family.  Many amazing products were made including a fun kiddie board game from Milton Bradley based on the 1973 Cartoon.  In 1965, Ted Cassidy made a song and dance craze called The Lurch.  The amazing NES Video Game System had several games including the very hard “Festers Quest”, and even a breakfast cereal was made to go along with the 1998 movie. All this was in addition to toys from Playmates, and many more fun and silly products. I used to eat the cereal and was always happy to get a box because they used to give away free mini flashlights as a prize! I still have my Lurch and Fester flashlights to this day. I also spent many hours along side my brother Bryan and friend Mike Cessna playing Festers Quest and never beating it. As for the Play Mates toys based on the 1992 Cartoon, the only one I ever owned was Lurch and he came with a old pair of sheers.  It was a cool toy for the time.

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But before I go into why Star Comics should have created a comic based on The Addams Family, I do need to touch up on the fact that a mini series was made by Gold Key Comics based on the 1973 cartoons. The 3 issue run came out in 1974, the year the toon was canceled, and featured silly very kid friendly stories. As always the people at Whitman comics always republished what Gold Key had released the same year. I’m not sure why the comics only lasted three issues, but it might have had to do with the fact the cartoon was canceled within a year, leading me into my pitch of what Star could have done.

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If Star Comics were around in 1992, the issues would be based on the cartoon and would follow the family doing all types of silly stuff from going to the beach to having normal yet odd holidays such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. While the main stories would follow Wednesday and Puggsley to gain the kid crowd, it could also follow Lurch and make the silent and hulking butler a main focus.  As an example, he goes to camp with the Addams kids, and they get lost in the spooky woods,  While other kids are scared, The Addams kids and Lurch are having a blast. The rest of the family would be shown and highlighted as well. Say what you want about the Addams Family, but they are nice spooky kid-friendly characters that would been pleasing in a comic series from Star. I am guessing if this comic would have been made it would have run for at least 3-4 issues before the plug was pulled like so many before it, but I guarantee that those issues would have been a fun time for those who enjoyed the cartoon.

#9 

hey dude logo

Hey Dude was a popular live action show on Nickelodeon in 1989 that followed workers at a dude ranch called the Bar None owned by a city slicker named Mr. Ernst and his young son Buddy. Workers included Ted, a smooth talking ladies man and Danny, a local Native American.  They were joined by blonde cutie Melody and rich horse trainer Brad.  All the staff are in their teens and are joined by Lucy who is the overseer of the workers and is in her late 30’s/early 40’s. The show revolved around the Ranch, and the silly wars the boys and the girls would get into over petty things.  The show also built up sexual tension between Brad and Ted adding some teen drama to the mix. In my youth this was one of my favorite shows and was one of the best live action shows of the time on Nick. It also sparked my second major celebrity crush as I had the hots for Kelly Brown who played Brad.  I also found Christine Taylor really hot!   But my first major crush (that I still have to this day) is Danielle Harris, but that’s for another entry.

TedChristine Taylor MelMr. E

Hey Dude ran for five seasons and was canceled in 1991.  During that time, the Ted character came and went and Jake was introduced who was Mr. Ernst’s nephew from L.A. who was also kind of after Brad.  The show was a staple of my youth, and I can’t count the times I watched the same episodes over and over, having a blast doing so. I was so bummed when the show went off the air and was shocked by the little merchandise the series got. To this day besides the DVD season releases by Shout Factory, the only item I can think of was a novel called “Hey Dude: Show Down at the Bar None”.

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Besides the stunning Brad, one of my favorite characters from the show was Danny Lightfoot, a Hopi Indian who was not only wise but also a total goofball who loved to fuel the fire of Ted’s numbskull ideas and bets. But during many episodes Danny would always explain that his people were the ones who created a custom or food item, and this sparked my brother to always walk around and make fun of the character by asking if “Danny and his people created that.”  It was all in good fun, and just the other day on the phone he even referenced it again! I am sure that one of the reasons I really liked the character is because both my Grandfather and Grandmother are part Native American, as were my great-grandparents and so on before them.

Danny

If Star Comics was still active in 1989, they could have reached out to a teen audience and did some issues about the Bar None Ranch and its workers. The comics could have followed Ted and Danny (and maybe Jake depending on when the comic was made) as they got into trouble and adventures in and around the ranch. It could also have built up the flirting of Ted and Brad giving female readers some romance to keep them interested as well. Another fun aspect that they could have played up on in comics would be cowboy ghosts and Native American spirits and beliefs, giving it a little more action and adventure. But with this show airing a year after Star was shut down, we’ll never get to know if this show would have gotten the Star treatment. I will say in closing that it’s about damn time this show saw a DVD release, so a big thanks goes out to Shout Factory. And my guess it would have lasted at least 4-5 issues.

#8

Tales From Cryptkeeper

In 1950, EC Comics was making horror comics called “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Vault of Horror” and “The Haunt of Fear.”  Each issue was hosted by a grim yet tongue in cheek host such as The Crypt Keeper, The Vault Keeper or The Old Witch. The comics were filled with ghouls, blood and grim stories and were crowd pleasers to young readers. But much like many things over the years, parents hit the roof when they found that their children had been reading comics about murder, death and ghouls. So like any good crazed, tightly-wound parent would do, they protested the company and the comics and had a massive bonfire in which hundreds of copies of the classic comic were burned making original copies highly collectible.  EC also sparked the comic code, that tried to ban comics that found unsuitable for children and eventually causing the demise of EC in 1955 after dipping sales and the overly huge backlash of parents, teachers and the comic code.

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But the Crypt Keeper came out of the ashes in 1972 when a live action movie starring horror legend Peter Cushing was made, taking many of the comics’ old stories and adapting them to film.  The film’s plot had a group of strangers who were on a tour and get lost and end up in a tomb like area where the Crypt Keeper tells them strange and brutal stories with each person as the lead.  Of course, this all has a twist ending. In 1973 a sequel was made called The Vault of Horror, and it followed the same formula as the first but this time the guests are trapped in an office building. In 1989, HBO made a hit TV series out of the comic that ran for 7 seasons and had the Crypt Keeper acting almost as a horror host, introducing each episode with a touch of comedy and skits. With the HBO series came films based on the show like Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood and Ritual, making this the most popular version of the comic to come alive. In 1993, a Saturday morning cartoon was made for ABC called Tales from The Crypt Keeper that featured kid-friendly horror stories hosted by an overly silly Crypt Keeper who still had a mean streak. In season two, the Keeper also found himself at war with old rivals the Old Witch and Vault Keeper, and this was the formula for that whole season. After season two ABC pulled the plug on the series, but it was only gone a short time as NBC picked up a third season in 1997 and changed the format and animation.  This only lated one season.

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Both the live action HBO show, and the cartoon sparked merchandise for kids and collectors.  There was a pinball machine, talking dolls, action figures, shirts, Halloween masks and decorations and of course reprints of the old comic. My brother had one of the talking dolls, dressed in a tux who said a few hammy lines from the HBO show, and he of course got the reprint comics. I didn’t get any merch until many years later and own a few of the toys based on the animated series and also own a Halloween mask of the Crypt Keeper. Like all merchandise, these things helped keep the Crypt Keeper in the minds of the masses.

Crypt Keeper ToyCrypt PinballCrypt Keeper Halloween

So again in order for Star Comics to make issues based on the 1993 cartoon, they would have had to hang on and been given a better chance by Marvel. But this would have been a no brainer and would have just followed the formula of the cartoon and the original comic series and could have had The Crypt Keeper telling cheesy kid friendly stories that all ended with a lesson learned, never really pushing the envelope to cross the line into making them too gruesome. I know as a kid I would have eaten this up.  I grew up watching horror films and horror hosts, and this would have been a series that I would have bought like clock work. The animated version of the Crypt Keeper was green in color, and his attitude seemed to be that he was your friend telling you a spooky story to have fun alongside you.  This would had transferred perfectly to comic. It’s a shame that Tales From The Crypt Keeper never did get a comic, and Star would have been the perfect company to do so.

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On a side note, back in the days of Waynesville I owned one of those mini black and white portable TV’s, and FOX got the rights to rerun the HBO series.  So I would turn off all the lights in my room and shut the door and would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and then Tales From The Crypt. It was a fun time at night that allowed me to see the show.  I am sure many of you readers remember this showing and have fun memories of watching. Oh yeah, and if Star were to have done comics for Tales from the CryptKeeper, I would have guessed a 5 issue run.

#7 

Conan Adventure Logo

In 1932 Robert E. Howard created Conan The Barbarian and wrote his adventures for Weird Tales Magazine, and the character became a hit with the fantasy world. In 1950 his stories started to be turned into paperback novels and were taken not only from Howard’s writings but also other authors who wrote of his journeys. In 1970 Marvel Comics began the comic series “Conan The Barbarian” that spawned spin offs like Red Sonja, Kull and King Conan. The main series ran for 275 issues and stopped being made in 1993. For many years no comics came out based on the raven haired brute, then in 2003 Dark Horse Comics picked up the licenses and Conan is still coming out as of 2013. This is only the literature part of Conan’s vast history, and this is only a quick sampling.  This part could have gone on and on!

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Conan was such a hit that for years many other merchandise came out including video games, t-shirts, board game, toys and statues, all these making fans of Conan very happy. Some of the most popular ones are the Remco 5 ½” action figures that were just generic Masters of the Universe cash-in’s that came out in 1984.  To this day, they fetch lots of money on Ebay and toy conventions.  Of course the video games that have been made for systems such as Commodore 64, PC, NES, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360. While none of the games did well critically, I found the PS3 game to be very fun and the NES game, while crappy, is still a fun goofy play. It’s a shame that the PS3/Xbox 360 game did not sell well because this caused THQ not to give it a sequel.

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Now for Conan in film and TV, a fun journey for all! In 1982, a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was released.  The film was a blood bath that had Conan going after Tulsa Doom, the leader of Set worshipers who was responsible for his parents’ death and him being sold into slavery. The film follows Conan as he grows up and gets revenge. The film is amazing and is in my top 10 films for sure.  In 1984, a sequel was made called Conan the Destroyer, and sadly this film took a PG-13 route and took out all the over the top blood shed of the original and tried to make it more kid-friendly and has Conan trying to protect a young princess from a wizard.  While not called by name, Schwarzenegger once again played a Conan-like character in the 1985 film Red Sonja. In 1992 Conan The Adventurer,the animated adventures aired, early mornings and followed Conan and his friends as they try and stop the evil Wrath-Amon who was the priest of Set who needs the star metal to be free once more.  It lasted 65 episodes and also spawned a second animated series that flopped called Conan and the Young Warriors that only lasted 13 episodes. Then with the success of Hercules and the Legendary Journeys TV producers thought why not try a show that’s hammy and base it around Conan, and thats what happened in 1997 with a show simply called Conan.  German bodybuilder Ralf Moller played the title role, and the show followed him and his friends’ adventures through 22 episodes. Finally in 2011, the Conan movie franchise got rebooted with Jason Momoa as the Barbarian. Although some were not as good as others, Conan has had a good run in film and TV.  The TV shows and the 2011 film were not well received, but still gave fans something new for the iconic character. In my younger days, I spent many hours watching the 1992 cartoon and watched the original 1982 more then any kid my age should have. 

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The 1992 cartoon is our focus and would be the best bet for Star to base a comic series around.  But before we get into that, let’s talk the terrible toy line that went alongside the cartoon. These things were large clunky pieces of plastic with terrible sculpts and bad paint jobs! I felt that way now and I felt that way then. I was and will always be a Conan fan and when the cartoon and toys came out, I was super hyped to see both. The cartoon lived up to my expectations and was a fun adventure cartoon, while the toys just sucked.  I only bought one, the Skeleton warrior Skulkur, and man what a disappointment.  From the moment I took it out of the package, I knew I was in trouble as the figure was stiff and had this terrible spin around action. No one else I knew in school had one of these figures making this one a school yard dud. To this day I do not have any of these figures laying around Independent B Movie studios (the place all my old toys are) nor will I ever get one of these abominations again. Oh yeah and the main Conan figure looks like a generic toy you would find on the shelves of Odd Lots/Big Lots.  In fact, I remember when these toys did flood those shelves.

Conan ToyHorse ToySkulkur Toy

Much like Tales From The Crypt Keeper, this would be a no brainer run of comics.  The fact that Marvel was all ready putting out comics based on the Barbarian would have made this one an easy sale. The comic would have followed the same formula as the cartoon and would have Conan and his friends fighting bad guys like Skulkur and Wrath-Amon and trying to find hidden treasures, protect the star metal and such. Plus they could have used Needle, his Phoenixx sidekick more and made him just like Snarf in Thundercats or even Orko in Masters of the Universe.  Many more of the side characters like African Warrior Zula and Jezmine the female circus performer could also be showcased, and the characters could be fleshed out and given time to really shine . While the main Marvel book was geared towards teens and adults, this series could have captured the younger crowed. The issues could also have an underlying meaning like don’t steal or be nice to others and do it so slyly that the readers wouldn’t pick up on the fact they have just been taught a lesson in manners. I could see this series running 10 issues for Star before they pulled the plug on the series.  I think this one would have had a little life even after the cartoon was canceled.

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#6 rockafire explosion logoIn 1980 a pizza chain was born that was the rival to McDonalds in getting kids hyped up to go out to eat.  That place was Showbiz Pizza Palace. The restaurant had many gimmicks that were used to bring kids in such as arcade machines, ticket prizes, toys, and most famous was the animatronic band The Rock-A-Fire Explosion who would bring young and old there to see them perform. Showbiz became so big that they started to buy other pizza chains that were going under including Chuck E. Cheese. But the fun times came to an end in 1990, as Showbiz had some major changes in its business including a rebranding campaign.  This led to The Rock-A-Fire Explosion getting the boot and Chuck E. Cheese becoming the star of the show. While Showbiz and The Rock-A-Fire are gone they are not forgotten. I have many fond memories of Showbiz and going to birthday parties there and watching The Rock-A-Fire show and only somewhat liking the pizza.  I have never been a pizza fan, and I remember thinking that the pizza was mediocre at best. My younger cousin Steve, who I now work on many movies and TV shows with, was scared to death of the band and I think Fatz Geronimo was the one that terrified him the most.

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The Rock-A-Fire Explosion had many members that included Billy-Bob, a hillbilly bear with a great heart and who played bass guitar for the group.  He is the most popular of the members and was the pizza chains mascot.  Fatz Geronimo was a gorilla who sang and played piano for the group; at one time he was to be the main man of the group.  Beach Bear plays guitar and sings and is a surfing polar bear.  Looney Bird lives in an oil can and offers vocals.  Mitzi Mozzarella is a teenage mouse wearing a cheerleader outfit and sings.  Dook LaRue is a dog who wants to go to space and plays drums.  Lastly while not part of the band but acting as a warm up act was Rolfe deWolfe & Earl, a stand up comic wolf and his puppet. The band was huge and drew many people to the restaurant. While the stage show was animatronic, at times a man in a costume would walk around as Billy Bob and greet the guests in the arcade area. To this day people who grew up in the 80’s and have been to Showbiz Pizza have a special place in their hearts for The Rock-A-Fire.

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The company made lots of merchandise based on the band in order to make that extra dollar off the guests that included glasses, mugs, vinyl records, dolls, small toys, posters and so much more. In 2008 a documentary about the band was also made and showed just how in love people still are with the band and the idea of Showbiz Pizza. All the classic vintage items are huge collectors’ items and go for high prices on Ebay and conventions. In 2011, I was lucky enough to find a classic mini Fatz figure for only a $1.00!

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If Star Comics would have jumped on this popular kids attraction, they could have had a fun and silly comic on their hands and could have got major push by selling the comic at the pizza place.  Showbiz could have used the comic as a tool to try and draw more guests in. The concept of the comic could have followed that band as they toured the world and got into many off the wall adventures, I mean could you imagine Billy Bob in Japan or Russia?  Chuck E. Cheese also would be used and could have been written in as the bands manager giving that hat wearing rodent a push as well. Plus with all the band members all with different personalities, they could have had many funny moments just with the in-band fighting. But for some reason Star Comics just must not have seen how easy this comic would have been to make and how kids at the time would have eaten it up. Given Stars track record I would guess that this would have lasted 3 to 4 issues if it was made and would not have had a clear cut last issue. Here is to someone who I hope some day will make the comic based on these amazing characters that meant so much to so many kids of the time.

Billy Bob on The BeachChuck E CheeseMits

#5

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In 1983, Tonka Toys brought out a line of changing robot toys called The GoBots.  The toys were simple and would change from robot to some sort a vehicle and were geared towards younger kids. At first, the toys sold really well and seemed to be building up steam even without the backing of a cartoon or comic to push it. But this ride at the top of changing robots came to a quick end when in 1984 Hasbro released The Transformers toy line in the United States. Fans flipped for Transformers and loved characters like Optimus Prime, Jazz and Bumblebee as well as the superior designs and tranforming abilities of the new figures. Gobots tried to fight back and in 1984; an animated TV mini series made by Hanna Barbera was released to compete with the Transformer cartoon called Challenge of the GoBots. While the cartoon did not do as well as its competitor, it did get full seasons starting in 1985 and ran for 65 episodes. In 1986 a theatrical film was made called GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords and released 3 months before Transformers The Movie.  The GoBots film was a flop and performed poorly at the box office and with critics. The toy line came to an end in 1987, ending the legacy for a short amount of time, until Hasbro bought the rights from Tonka and turned them into toys for kids under 5.

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Many people seemed to think that the GoBots toy line was the K-Mart version of the Transformers, and most think that they just followed the trend, but this is not the case.  While the toys were very cheaply done, they were still out a whole year before Transformers. The main bad downside to the toys was the fact that the joints would become super loose and your figure would lose an arm here and there.  I cannot count how many Cy-Kill toys I had that one of the arms would fall off. One of the other terrible aspects of the toys was the fact that most of their transforms were terrible and would be just a bend here or there, making them seem like bulky silly robots. Growing up I had many GoBots and used them when I played with Star Wars as other robots that would join in on battles or be at Jabba’s Palace. I think my two favorites in the toy line are the most popular characters, Cy-Kill and Leader One.  While they were nothing special, I found them to be pretty bad ass toys at a cheap price. I still find loose GoBots at Mavericks Cards and Comics and get a chuckle at seeing them.

Leader one ToyCy Kill ToyScooter Toy

Besides the toys, cartoons and movie, many other merchandise was made based on the series that included a game for the Commodore 64, lunch boxes, Halloween costumes, magazines, coloring books, stickers and many more items. It’s odd that this property never did get a comic run from either Marvel or DC. It’s also odd much like the back lash of the toys many of the other items made based on the characters have negative vibes around them.  The Commodore 64 game is always ripped apart and is considered a turkey of a game.

Gobots Coloring BookGobots C64Gobots Magazine

This is yet another easy one to make into a Star Comic and would have fit in with the rest of the properties that they all ready put out. Marvel Comics was already making Transformer comics for the older teen reader, and GoBots would have been a perfect way to get younger readers drawn into Marvel and to maybe push them towards books that were only a few years away. The plot of the comic would be the same as the cartoon and would have had Leader One and the good guys battling Cy-Kill and the evil robots. It could be a pretty cookie cutter format and could have relied on mindless robot battles with normal recycled plots. I know it’s sounding like I am saying that Star should have made a half ass comic series, but that’s not what I am really meaning at all. All I am saying is that this could have been a fun cheesy comic that was geared towards young readers.  I am sure I would have eaten it up even with tame and generic story lines, as would many other kids of that time. I think this would have lasted for about 12 issues if Star was to put it out and would have gotten a clear cut last issue. It’s a sad world we live in when Leader One never made it to a comic book in his prime.  What makes it worse is the ad below for the cartoon that is drawn in your typical Star art style, making me wonder if something was in the works and fell through when the film bombed and the toy line was on a decline making Star cancel the deal.  I guess we will never really know.

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#4

mad scientist logoWhen you were a kid in the 1980’s, lots of things came out that were related to horror and monsters.  In 1987 Mattel released a toy line that claimed to be Too Gross! Mad Scientist allowed you to be your own Dr. Frankenstein or even a Egor, if you owned a bendable Mad Scientist figure, and would allow you to create, dissect and melt your own creations. The line of toys also had dress up kits to become a crazy doctor yourself. In 1988 as well a very short lived animated cartoon was made that lasted two episodes called “Mad Scientist: Experiment of Error” and was only released on VHS. Weirdly as fast as it came, the Mad Scientist toy line disappeared in less than two years, making it one of those toy lines that made you wonder what just happened.  Many blame the NES for the death of this toy line that seemed to be gaining more attention than action figures.  Some also blamed the price of the playsets claiming that they were too expensive for parents to get for their kids.  All I can say is that it was a fun toy line that had some amazing animated/ live action commercials.

Monster Lab

My first introduction to this toy line was of course the commercials that aired during Saturday Morning Cartoons.  While they got my attention, I was not so hip to the whole chemistry set aspect of the toy line making me at first blow the whole line off as just another silly creepy toy. But then one day at school someone had a few of the figures on the playground.  They had Dissect an Alien where you removed the guts of a monster alien with slime in his belly and a bendable Mad Scientist figure.  I played with them both and really found the toys neat and offered to trade to get the Scientist figure.  To my shock, he did not want to trade but instead sold the figure to me for a dollar! This made my day and for weeks at home I would do odd little science experiments alongside my new figure. Next at KB Toys, a now dead toy store that was in the Dayton Mall, I found gummi bear style molds of creatures from the lab of the Mad Scientist and bought those and made plaster molds from them and spent time painting them to give to my Mom. Sadly I never owned any of the major play sets, but what little I did have from the toy line I enjoyed a lot.

mad figure

I know what you’re all thinking why, did he pick a toy line that for all accounts failed,  had a cartoon that never even made it to TV, as his # 4.  Let me tell you why. I think that one of the big reasons this toy line failed is the lack of real push from Mattel.  I think they lost interest in it fast and never fully saw the potential in its appeal. If Star Comics would have made this into a comic, I think that it would have kept the line a little fresh in kids’ eyes and might have made it last a little longer. The comic could have followed The Mad Scientist and let’s say a every day normal boy who helps him in all his wacky experiments that of course go wrong! You could have issues where monsters escape and they must round them up, a potion that makes The Mad Scientist normal and his young friend must find a way to return him to his crazy self and many more plots like that. Not to mention think of all the monsters you could add.  As far as bad guys, you could have the town mayor be the one who wants to lock up the Mad Scientist and throw away the key. But sadly Star Comics was all ready on the verge of closing up, and this series never did make it to the light or I should say was never even considered. If this was a Star Comic though, I could almost guarantee that much like its shelf life on toy shelves, its comic stand life would also be short.  I see it only lasting for about 4 issues. It’s a shame this never happened I would have loved to read the adventures of a lunatic Mad Scientist!

mad scientistmattel logoMad Alien

#3 

commander usas groovie movies LogoI have always been a fan of Horror Hosts, being young and watching scary films alongside them always seemed to make the film less scary and you felt protected by the hosts’ silly antics. Saturdays were always a fun day for me.  I would spend the mornings watching cartoons and eating cereal.  Every other week we would go shopping at Big Bear & Hearts, and then we would get home in time to watch Commander USA’s Groovie Movies on the USA Network! After the Groovie Movie was over, I would go to my room and play with toys or go out side and play ball tag (where we would play tag with a soccer ball that we would throw at others in the game) or even possibly record my own radio show via a tape deck and then at night it was time for USA’s Saturday Nightmares! Commander USA was a retired super hero that rented space under a shopping mall in New Jersey and would host a movie or two and would have some sort of crazy thing going on in his Video Vault. He was joined by his best friend and sidekick Lefty who was really just Commander’s right hand with a cigar ash smiley face drawn on. The show started in 1985 and ran until 1989, switching from Saturday to Sundays and was a staple of my youth. The thing about Commander USA, who was played by a great stage actor Jim Hendricks, was that during the movie you felt as if he really was watching the film along side you.  That’s something a really good host can do, is make you think he or she is watching whatever turkey they are showing this week. It’s odd looking back over my life and seeing just how many horror hosts motivated me to be the creative person I am today, hosts like the late great Dr. Creep, my “Dad” A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Joe Bob Briggs, Grandpa Munster, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Son of Ghoul, Sammy Terry and many more.  So to all of you hosts out there, thank you for doing what you do and inspiring people like me with your antics.

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Commander USA had very little merchandise, but what he did have was pretty cool as you could join his fan club that came complete with a membership card.  Also an official fanzine was made called ” Commander USA’s World of Horror”. Over the years his show has shown up on sites that offer his show on DVD-R’s and are worth getting if you want a nice flashback to a great era of the USA Network. Also Jim Hendricks is talked to in an amazing documentary about horror hosts called American Scary.  If you like horror hosts, this is a must-see.

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A comic book based on the adventures of Commander USA still needs to happen! Star Comics could have drawn in the horror kid crowd like myself by making issues about the Commander’s super hero ways in and out of the Video Vault! This comic series could have been played two ways, and both would have been good,  One could have followed him as he is retired and is forced back into action to save the day, like to find a purse snatcher that has been running wild in the mall above the Video Vault, or say stop an ice cream monster that has been made by a mad doctor who was mad when a store ran out of his wanted pair of gym shoes.  The second route they could have taken was to follow the Commander in his prime and to show him doing amazing feats like fighting super villains or going up against famous monsters like Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster. This comic would have made me so happy and would be a series that I would have bought every issue back then and even to this day.  But if I know Star Comics like I think I do, I would say that if they did take a chance and make this comic, it would run 3-4 issues before they got cold feet and ended it. That’s one thing I will say, more horror hosts need comic books based around them.  At this time the only ones I can think of that have their own is Indiana’s icon Sammy Terry, Elvira and one about Wolfman Mac and his Chiller Theater . I think that a Baron Von Porkchop Comic will be coming your way soon, and I hope that these four books will trigger more comics about Hosts. With that to quote Commander, “Keep your nose in the wind… and your tail to yourself…”

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#2 

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In 1986 a plush doll that was aimed toward boys was released by American Greetings.  This doll was named My Pet Monster and was a blue furred, devil horned, sharp teeth, big nosed creature who was bound by bright orange handcuffs, and if those handcuffs came off he was said to come alive. The toy was one of very few plush dolls that was geared toward boys and to many people’s, surprise it was a huge success! The doll was so popular that many more were made in the line that included such beasts as Gwonk, Rark and Wogster. My Pet Monster warmed his way into hearts up into the early 90’s before the line went silent. In 2001 he came back for a second run but went through some changes.  While most of him looked the same, his nose and snarl looking teeth were way more tame, and this change was to please kids who found the original too scary. The rebirth was short lived but the doll now is a collectors item that kids of the 80’s will search for it to relive their youth. I never owned one of the original dolls but I do remember that a classmate had one, and he was a hit for the day on the playground when he came to school with his owner. I remember many of us going down the slide with him and spinning on the merry go round was a blast with our friend, My Pet Monster. The one I own is the 2001 rerelease that I found at a thrift store some years back.  It was in perfect shape and now even as I write this, he sits in an old vintage chair in my apartment looking at the TV. 

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My Pet Monster was so popular that is spawned many other merchandise and came to life in films and cartoons. My Pet Monster was made into kids books, coloring books, puzzles and a lunch box. In 1986 My Pet Monster also was made into a live action direct to video film, and had a young boy who when he got hungry would turn into the monster and get into all kinds of silly messes. The film was only moderately successful and has never made it to DVD or Blu-Ray. In 1987 ABC picked up a cartoon based on the toy line that followed a young boy named Max who was the keeper and best friend to the My Pet Monster who was more silly than scary. The cartoon ran for one season and had 16 episodes that can be found on DVD.

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If this were turned into a Star Comic, I would have skipped the film and cartoon and focused on the toy line itself.  The charm of the My Pet Monster was that when the orange shackles came off, he was free to act wild and crazy making the comic being able to go above and beyond with him going crazy in all types of areas. Like say he wanders to a school where a young man is picked on and watches as bullies keep making fun and shoving the kid around.  So My Pet Monster sees enough and talks the kid into un-shackling him and letting him show the bullies that it’s wrong to pick on others by pulling pranks and scaring them half to death.  Each issue could be a new kid with new issues and each time My Pet Monster is the problem solver, and while he is doing good things, he could still have a mean streak. This would have made many kids happy to see My Pet Monster in comic forum, and I am sure would have made Star a lot of money. I give this an 11 issue run with Star and I think it would have gotten a real final issue. It’s odd that this was never looked at to become a comic, and I believe that not only did Star/Marvel drop the ball on this, I think DC and Archie did as well.

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#1

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Now before you get all huffy and say that The Incredible Hulk is already a long running series with Marvel Comics, you should take another look as I am saying that one should have been made based on the 1978 live action TV show. So with that let’s look at the Hulk’s history

The Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1962.  Issue # 1 that shows how scientist Bruce Banner was hit with gamma rays trying to save a young hot shot Rick Jones.  When the moon was full Banner would turn into a super strong brute called the Hulk and became wanted by General Thunderbolt Ross and the US army. Originally the Hulk was grey skinned, and as the series matured a few issues they changed him to green and instead of the moon triggering his transformation, it happened when he was angry . The comic series was and is Marvel’s top comic based on a monster type character out lasting the likes of Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Godzilla and Monster of Frankenstein.  The Hulk has many great enemies that include the Leader, the Abomination, the Glob, Wendigo, the U-Foes, Absorbing Man, Dr. Samson and many more. In fact as I am all sure you know, Wolverine’s first appearance was in a Hulk issue (#181). The character became so popular that he even got his own comic Magazine called The Rampaging Hulk in 1977. The comic is still going strong to this day and doen’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.  I could spend pages and pages talking about this because the Hulk is my all time favorite super hero and the series is just so rich with plots and characters.  But I am here to get to the point of why Star should have made comics based on the TV show so let’s move on shall we.

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The Hulk was a fan favorite of kids who read comic books.  So they thought, hey why not make some cartoons based on the giant green monster and they did just that in 1966 as part of The Marvel Super Hero’s show that lasted 13 episodes. The 1966 series animation was based on the comic panels and was very crudely done, but still was a solid toon. Then in 1982, they gave it another go around this time the cartoon was just simple called The Incredible Hulk and was played along side Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  The animation was better, and the plot’s were silly fun adventures but this one only lasted one season and 13 episodes as well. Many years would pass before they gave him another chance at the animation world, and 1996 marked his return to TV in animated form.  This one was called The Incredible Hulk as well and lasted two seasons and 21 episodes making it the longest running cartoon and had Lou Ferrigno come back to voice the Hulk. While this one was more up to date, I think it lacked the charm of the 1982 show which is my favorite. Sadly, none of the cartoons are out in the USA on legit DVD’s, and the only way you can see them is on Netflix, PAL Region 2 DVD’s or on Bootleg DVD-R’s. But I hope in 2012 they will be released for US fans.

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The Hulk has also had many action figures, and while some are based on his film appearances, other great old school ones have been made based on the comic and loosely on the live action show. My favorite one has to be the Mego Hulk.  While he is way off scale compared to the rest of the Mego collection, he still has a simple charm to him.  Plus fans of Wizard Magazine’s Toy Fair Issues will always remember him in their stop motion comics as a lunk head. Both small and large versions of the Mego dolls are worth tracking down and owning if you are a fan as well. I also really liked Mego’s Pocket Hero version of the Hulk because he was in scale with Star Wars and G.I. Joes. Lastly I have always had a soft spot for Toy Biz’s first Hulk toy that actions such as him bending a bar and smashing a soft rock. These four are just a drop in the hat of all the badass Hulk toys out there. One thing that always let me down is the fact Mattel never produced their Hulk figure for the Secret Wars line.  Many rumors say that he and The Abomination would have made it to series 3, and it’s a shame the line folded before then.

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The Incredible Hulk has also made his way into the video game world like in 1984 when “Questprode:Hulk” that was released for Commodore 64 and Atari Computers.  It was a text adveture game and marked the first video game to be based on the character. In 1994, a side scrolling action game was made for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo called “The Incredible Hulk.”  While the game is by no means a masterpiece, it still is a fun button masher, and let’s you face some of your biggest foes like Abomination, Rhino and The Leader. In 1997 “The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga” came out for the Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn and was a terrible action game plagued by bad controls. Next up was “Hulk” a 2003 game based on the movie by Ang Lee and was made for Sony Playstation 2, Xbox, PC and Nintendo GameCube. Then in 2005, a pretty badass game came out called “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” and was an open world mission based game that allowed you to go as rampaging as you wanted.  It came out for Playstation 2, GameCube and Xbox. Last on this list for now is a 2008 game made by Sega and based on the film starring Edward Norton called “The Incredible Hulk.”  It takes the same idea as Ultimate Destruction and just ties it into the move. On a side note an Atari 2600 game based on the Hulk was in the works but was never finished by Parker Brothers due in part to the video game crash of 83. The story goes that the game was almost done and this gives hope a ROM of it will be found soon because the cover box has been discovered. While none of the games above are groundbreaking, I did find each and every one of them a fun play through even if some of them made me want to scream.

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Many more great merchandise items have been made that include coloring books, lunch boxes, stickers, Halloween masks and costumes, banks, Halloween pales, board games, Colorforms, candy, toy boxes, shirts, shoes, hats and so much more. One of my favorite things as a kid was my brother’s and my Hulk toy box that was a purple base and the lid was a giant Incredible Hulk Head! We use to even take it outside and play with it putting it over our heads and stumbling around like little fools. Sometimes we would fill it with water and drop the figures inside it and act if it was a deep dark abyss. I miss that damn thing! Oh and my mom still has pages of an old Hulk coloring book I colored for her when I was like 4-5, showing that I have always loved The Hulk.

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We still have one more thing to cover about The Incredible Hulk and his impact on our culture and his popularity, and that’s Hulk at the box office. Hulk films have been made before the ones that made it to theaters but those will be separate from this due to the fact they tie into the TV show that I think should have been continued in Star Comics. The first film in theaters was Universal & Ang Lee’s 2003 film called HUL.  This film had Eric Bana playing Bruce Banner who as a child was given Gamma radiation by his father who worked for the government, who also happened to be The Absorbing Man.  The film’s Hulk was CGI and looked like a dated video game graphic.  This film was more drama then action and while it made money at the box office, it left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. In 2008 Universal tried to reboot the film and made THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  This time amazing actor Edward Norton played Bruce Banner, and while the Hulk was CGI, they got Lou Ferrigno to voice him. The film has Bruce on the run from the government and trying to learn to control The Hulk.  Oh yeah, throw in The Abomination for fun, and you have this fun smash’em up movie. Again this one did well in the theaters but not well enough for them to do a sequel.The Hulk was also in 2012’s Avengers the movie and steals the show as he smashes his way throughout the film.  While he only had two solo theater movies, many fan-made films have been made as well.

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In 1977, a movie pilot was aired on CBS based on the Marvel Comic called The Incredible Hulk and followed David Banner (they thought Bruce didn’t sound manly enough) who during a test overdosed his body on Gama Radiation.  When he becomes angry he grows into being a muscle bound green skinned monster know as The Hulk. David goes to his friend and fellow doctor Elaina, and together they try and find a cure, but when a snooping reporter named Jack McGee gets involved, an accident leaves Elaina dead.  David is thought to be dead as well, and The Hulk is blamed.  This was such a hit another made for TV movie was made, and in 1978 it became a full series that followed the same formula: David would go town to town changing his name to find work or to get one step closer to a cure, and Jack McGee would be on his heels looking for the big news story of The Hulk.  Bad things would happen, and The Hulk would come out and save the day.  Then David would be forced to leave in order to hide his secret. This show ran for 5 seasons and a total of 82 episodes. After the show was cancelled, made for TV movies were still being made. The show was one of my favorites, and I found myself glued to the TV whenever it was on.  I remember coming home from school and skipping the after school Disney Shows (Duck Tales, Gummi Bears, ect.) and trying to tune in a fuzz station on the kitchen TV that would show reruns of The Incredible Hulk.  To this day, the show remains my all time favorite! Lucky enough Universal, who owns the show, has released all seasons on DVD! I think the show was amazingly acted with Bill Bixby playing David Banner being one of the best portrayals ever in TV and film, and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was perfect painted green and playing The Hulk. Growing up Ferrigno was one of my heroes because of this show.

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A total of 5 made for TV films were made.  The first was the pilot that kicked off the series, and the second film “Return of the Incredible Hulk” quickly followed and had David/The Hulk having to help a young woman who is crippled and getting bad medicine from the family doctor and her step-mother. The first film to follow the end of the series was the 1988 film, “The Incredible Hulk Returns” and has Hulk teaming up with Thor to stop organized crime. Then in 1989 came “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” in which David Banner is framed for a crime and becoming The Hulk, he and Daredevil must clear his name and stop The Kingpin. Then in 1990 came the final film “The Death of The Incredible Hulk,” and it involves spies and the Hulk falling to his death in the end. Another film was planned, but sadly Bill Bixby lost his battle to cancer in 1993. When these movies were coming on, I know I drove my Mother and Father crazy.  That’s all I would talk about and when they would finally air the whole family would gather in the living room with a big bowl of popcorn and we would all watch the film. Times like that will always be an amazing memory of my youth and how great my family was. I remember also being so sad when in the final film The Hulk died.  While the way he died was pretty lame, it was sad because I knew that this was the end.

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Now let’s get down to it.  This live action show was made for comic books and should have continued in comic books.  Star Comics would have been the perfect home for it. The issues could have followed the style of the show and could have had David Banner going from town to town finding people in need and turning into The Hulk to save the day only to have to restart over again in the next issue. They could have picked kid-friendly issues and topics and tackled the “Just Say No To Drugs” attitude that was big at the time. The Hulk of the show was perfect for kid’s comics because he was never smacking animals or flying off the handle, he seemed to have a good childlike nature that showed him who was bad and who was good. Plus they could have had some of the better artists of Star work on the book and have the comic versions look just like the actors, making this truly fit in the same storyline of the TV Show. Plus they could have turned the planned yet never made film into a comic and gave us the fans young and old the real closer we needed for the series. While this doesn’t stand a chance I wish Marvel would even consider doing this now! This was a no brainer for Star Comics to do, but they really missed the boat on this one, due to the fact they owned the characters! I would say that if made this would have had a pretty long run for them something like 10-12 issues.

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So there you have it from Commander USA to The Incredible Hulk, you see what comics I would have been lining up for if Star/Marvel would have made.  In the next blog I’ll let some family and friends give you their top 5 choices! See you all next update.

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CrystarMeth: The Saga Unfolds

Welcome back friends and readers.  Today’s update is going to be my look at the 11 issue Marvel run of The Saga of Crystar, but first I will tell you a little about how I got to know what Crystar was. One of the stores that used to be a great place to get toys and halloween costumes when I was a kid was Woolworths, an odd five and dime store that carried off the wall merchandise for very cheap prices. The store in the Dayton market was located in Kettering in a strip mall called Van Buren Shopping Center along side grocery store Krogers, video arcade Krazy Kats, Noble Romans Pizza, The Post Office, Fashion Bug, Ron’s Pizza and a handful of more shops. From a very early age (kindergarden age) the one thing I could remember was going to Woolworths with my mom and brother, for I am sure I mentioned it before I lived in Kettering up until first grade when we moved to Waynesville.  These trips to the store would always lead to me getting a toy, candy or a pack of trading cards. The store, as I remember it, was very poorly lit with stained titles not only on the ceiling but also the floor, and the merchandise always seemed to be a mess on the shelves. The candy isle was filled not only with name brand sweets but some pretty generic ones too. While the store was a dirty mess and the merchandise cheap, this was still a very cool place to get your hands on some great none-mainstream toys.  The toy department at this store always seemed to be filled with Remco toys based on AWA Wresting and generic Masters of the Universe knockoffs as well as Spider-Man parachute figures, but this is also where I would first see Crystar and his made-of-glass warriors. But before I get into that, I need to address Halloween Costumes at Woolworths.  I should also state that sadly Woolworths closed down, Krogers moved out of the shopping center and many businesses closed down for good like Krazy Kats and Ron’s Pizza. What was once a mighty shopping center became a mostly empty eyesore that some years ago got torn down and homes were built in its spot.  While one half of the center is still around, the once powerful Van Buren and its many stores are now just memories.

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Halloween has always been my favorite holidays, and Fall is my favorite season.  Back in my very younger days, Ben Cooper Inc. was the company that made almost every costume that you and your friends wore for Halloween.  Ben Cooper originals were made up of a cheap plastic face mask and a vinyl body suit that was based around horror characters like Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster or cartoon/comic characters like Yogi Bear, He-Man, Casper, Batman and Incredible Hulk.  Sometimes you would also be able to get movie characters like Alien, Darthvader or Jaws. Ben Cooper Inc. were the juggernauts of Halloween costumes ruling the market from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s, but all things must come to an end as in 1988 they filed for bankruptcy for the first time as many of the companies like DC & Marvel took their characters elsewhere. Ben Cooper Inc. bounced back in 1989 but sadly lost the battle to other companies when in 1992 they closed the doors for good. Ben Cooper masks are now very collectible and many people my age and older have good and some bad memories about wearing these costumes.  One thing’s for sure Halloween and trick or treat lost a major player when the company went belly up. Woolworths always had many of the Ben Cooper costumes for very cheap and would have the boxed ones as well as ones that hung on the shelves, always making it a fun time looking through all of them and choosing what character you were going to be.

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For Halloween one year my mom bought my brother and I costumes based on the film Krull.  My brother got to be the lava demon The Beast, while I got to be the cyclops Rell, and man we both thought we were cool in these cheap costumes. For Kindergarden I went to Beavertown Elementary, and we had a thing called a Halloween Parade where we all would walk through the higher grades and show off our costumes to kids who were older. Well there I was walking from classroom to classroom in my Rell outfit when all of a sudden some smart ass kid says “Hey Cyclops only have one eye, why do you have three?” and then he and his closest classmate had a chuckle.  I felt terrible and being so young I just couldn’t think of a comeback and I spent the rest of the parade without the mask on.  That one student had ruined it for me. Looking back on it now, it was silly for me to be that heartbroken over one dipshit kid’s remarks but for some reason it bothered me, enough so that I remember it to this day. Damn you, Ben Cooper Inc,. for adding three eyes to the mask!

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Remco was a toy company that was founded in the 1940’s and became a major player in the 50’s with such toys as Big Max, Coney Island Penny Machine and Movieland Drive-In Theater play set. By the 1960’s, they were making toys based on Batman, The Beatles, The Munsters , Star Trek and Lost in Space. The 70’s brought toys of The Monkees, Partridge Family, Spider-Man, Micky Mouse and Ronald McDonald, not to mention a makeup kit based around rock band Kiss. But the 80’s is when they really boomed with action figures based around The Universal Monsters like Creature From the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man all in scale with Kenner’s Star Wars toys, not to mention they also got a lab playset. They also made action figures based around Conan The Barbarian, AWA Wrestlers like Ric Flair and the Road Warriors, DC’s Comic characters Warlord and Sgt. Rock, Archie Comic superheros The Mighty Crusaders and even The Karate Kid got a toy line that covered parts 1 and 2 and of course Marvel Comics own Crystar. In my youth I had some Remco toys as I had many of the AWA Wrestlers, some of the Karate Kid figures and a small amount of the Mighty Crusaders. The 90’s were less kind to Remco as action figures based on the cartoon Swat Kats was one of the only semi major hits for them. Many people don’t know that Remco was broke in 1971 and became a sub company for Azrak Hamway International in 1974 who later sold Remco to Jakks Pacific in 1997. While Remco for the most part is a company of the past, its legacy of cheap made toys still lives on for collectors, and yes I collect them.

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On the piled up toy shelf of Woolworths, Kettering many moons ago I first laid my eyes on the Crystar toy line and was taken aback by these fantasy figures. I owned lots of 3 3/4″ Star Wars, G.I. Joes and a few Battle Star Galactica and Indiana Jones figures and thought they would make great additions to the intergalactic battle my figures were fighting in my bedroom, in between playing with He-Man and LJN WWF Wrestlers. But for some odd reason, I went and found some other generic figure and it was my brother Bryan who ended up getting one when he picked up the evil wizard Zardeth, a character with a black hood on and only one eye. My brother kept the figure for a short amount of time and then passed it down to me.  By this time he had no weapons and his cloak was gone. Not knowing much about the character, he just became a henchman of The Emperor and just another knucklehead for Luke Skywalker to kick around. Besides the Marvel Comic series, the toy line had no other way to reach us kids making these toys almost a mystery. Most action figures around that time had solid source material like a cartoon, movie, TV show to push the toy or at least an A-List comic book.  So it was a strange move for Marvel to go the route of a comic series a year after the toys hit and pick a cheap company like Remco to make the figures of what they were hoping would be a major player in the kids media market. Growing up I only knew of one other group of kids having Crystar figures and that was the Vietnamese neighbors we had next door, who by the way had one bitching cool toy collection. Years later I would get a Moltar figure (the lava king) and he also just acted as a punching bag for Luke. So while I knew Crystar as a toy line, I didn’t pick up it was a comic series until years later. Now with many years passed I do own some Crystar figures and have grown to love them as well as Remco as a company.  So going into this comic series is a first time read for me and I am really looking forward to learning the characters’ history.

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In 1982, a line of fantasy action figures hit the market by toy company Remco with very little fanfare and with no real push, making the seven figure, six mini playsets and two dragon toy line to be lost in the shuffle of action figure toys filling shelves at the time. A year later Marvel Comics released issue one of The Saga of Crystar that was to act as the back story to the action figures. Now the way this is sounding, one would think that the comic was based on the toy line when in fact it was the opposite; you see Marvel Comics created Crystar to license out to a toy company and use the toys to sell the comics! Marvel had a master plan to get a bigger slice of the toy market with a new creation.  Sure, they had toys made of Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk and Captain America, but they wanted more.  So a new world was created with Crystallium and its new fantasy hero Crystar who lead the good named The Order and with all good guys.  They needed a bad guy, so why not his own brother who is called Moltar, the leader of Choas.  And then they thought well horses are over done in fantasy worlds, so let’s let them ride dragons and instead of our heros and villains looking normal let’s let The Order be living crystal and The Choas living lava! They then came up with a back story and shopped the idea around to toy makers and found Remco who wanted to take on the license even without any source to push it.  So the toys came out and again, as I have stated, very few kids had any that I knew.  A year later the comic was released and I knew no one who read it.  Even though the line of toys and comics almost seem that they were failures, I for one have grown to really like the figures and you shall see what I think of the comics below.  I will also say Marvel and Remco really did push this series with amazing ads and things to draw attention.

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I have been a huge fan of the band Danzig since I can remember.  I even remember getting a Danzig cassette tape in my Easter basket one year! So it was a pretty cool when I found out that the skull both Danzig and Samhain (both bands fronted by Glenn Danzig) use as a logo is from the cover of issue # 8 of The Saga of Crystar! I found that to be an interesting fact so it goes to show you that Danzig must have been reading Crystar.  So check out the skull from the comic and then the one used in the logos below.

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Now I am going to break off from Crystar for a moment and talk about video games again, I have been a series gamer sense the NES days and have been a wrestling fan for a little longer. I grew up watching pro wresting with my dad, Brother and grandfather and have also bought every WWE and at the time WCW game that came out. One series I always buy the day it comes out is WWE series up until this year from THQ. The WWE games of the past 8 or so years have had a great habit of adding legends to the game from Hulk Hogan to Iron Sheik making long time wrestling viewers like myself happy.  I would much rather play the superstars of the past then those of the present. To compare say John Cena of this day and age to Bret “Hitman” Hart of the past is laughable as Hart would work circles around Cena. So in late 2012, THQ gave us WWE 13 which treats gamers to a huge roster of today’s superstars and divas as well as superstars and divas of the Attitude Era that ran roughly 1997-2002.  While many say the true start was in 1998, the attitude started before that. Many great icons of this time period were added like Bret Hart, British Bulldog, X-Pac, New Age Outlaws, The Road Warriors, Vader, Gangrel and more, but some superstars seemed to be snubbed for no good reason.  Many names have made wish lists across the net like Steve Blackman, The Headbangers, Chyna, Raven, Lance Storm and The Oddities to name a few.  There are many who have not made it into the game because they work for rival company TNA such as Jeff Hardy, Al Snow, The Dudley Boys and Rob Van Damn. And yet still some did not make the cut because at the time they were in WCW or WWE just has something against them. May I remind you that THQ only could only suggest what wrestlers made the game; WWE has the final say on who’s in and who’s out.  But here is a list of four wrestlers I think were snubbed and have a place in WWE 13!

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The Patriot (Del Wilkes) was an independent masked wrestler who made a name for himself in the GWF (Global Wrestling Federation) from 1991 until 1992 becoming a crowd favorite and even winning the federation’s world title. After leaving the company, he went to All Japan Pro Wrestling and became a draw even winning the tag titles with partner The Eagle, and returning there off and on throughout his short career. WCW was his next stop as in 1994, he and Marcus “Buff” Bagwell formed the team Stars and Stripes, and they would be multiple time Tag Team Champions.  The Patriot left the company in 1995 and went back to All Japan for a couple of years. In 1997 WWF/WWE brought The Patriot in to feud with Bret “The Hitman” Hart and his new Hart Foundation (British Bulldog, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) who would slam America and speak of how great Canada is.  The Patriot was the man who bled red, white and blue and took offense to this slander and took the fight to Hart. The feud would have both men fight on Monday Night Raw and PPV’s in single and tag matches. But sadly The Patriot got a serious injury that not only ended his time in the WWE but also his career as a pro wrestler. The Patriot was being geared to be a top babyface in the company and even had action figures made while he was there.

The reason I think he should make it into WWE 13 is because while his time was short with the company his feud with the Harts was a great one.  It struck raw emotions with both American and Canadian fans given the battle’s meaning. Plus he was a solid worker who would at least have the over all game rating of 86, giving this already amazing roster one more competitor for the World Title or at least the Intercontinental. Not to mention that his song in 1997, “Medal,” would later be used as Kurt Angle’s, making the song available to use for anyone’s created Angle character. I should also note that way back when, my Aunt Teresa let some pro-wrestlers use her garage as a training area complete with a ring & weights and from time to time The Patriot was one that would work out, how cool is that! While I know he is not a super popular wrestler, I would be happy to hear that this star spangled hero that is in the same vein as Hulk Hogan and Hacksaw Jim Duggan would have at least been DLC for the game.

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Every guy who watched WWE/WWF wanted to have “Sunny Days,” and I was one of them! Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known, as Sunny was a valet and sometimes wrestler who began her career in 1992 at Smokey Mountain Wrestling as a snooty character named Tammy Fytch managing her real life boyfriend Chris Candido and Brian Lee to winning the tag titles. She and Candido left in 1995 to work for the WWF/WWE.  At first she was used as a backstage interviewer but quickly enough she became Sunny as Candido became Skip, and together they were the Bodydonnas.  Later on they would be joined by Zip, and Sunny would manage them to tag team gold.  She later would dump them and manage teams like The Godwinns and The Smoking Gunns. She would also manage Ron Simmons for a short time who was going under the name Faarooq. Sunny would then host WWE shows like Shotgun Saturday Night and would also manage The Road Warriors who were going under the name LOD 2OOO. Sunny was let go in 1998 after backstage heat between herself and top diva Sable, not to mention she had no showed events and had an addiction to pain pills. Tammy would no longer be Sunny and would join federations like ECW, XPW and even had a very small run for WCW. While Sunny has made some appearances in the WWE and has become a Hall of Famer, she has not worked for the company full time since 98. Sunny was the top Diva for many years and was the first Diva who broke the mold of what a woman wrestler should look like and paved the way for many of the company’s top female talent. Sunny was so popular she had her own home video, was magazine cover girl many times and had a number of action figures. For the longest time, Sunny was my favorite Diva and for the most part still is in my top two.  Sunny brought the sex appeal and attitude that kick started the company into success. Sunny should have been added in the game, if not as a wrestler, at least as a manager.  Oh I should note, I also use to have Sunny posters in my room and still have my ECW Tammy shirt.  Like most teens, I used to think that Sunny was the most beautiful queen of wrestling and while lots of fans have turned their back on her because of her “issues” I stand by how I felt then and say Sunny should have been in WWE 13!

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Dr. Death Steve Williams has wrestled in many federations that include WCW, NWA, ECW, All Japan and Mid South to name a few. Williams has held world titles and tag titles and was considered one of the toughest men to step into a wrestling ring, even becoming one of the first American Wrestlers to be considered a true main eventer in Japan.  In 1998 WWF/WWE hired Dr. Death right when they were having an event called “Brawl For It All” in which wrestlers competed on TV in fights that were much like the Tough Man Contests that had popped up all over the US and became popular. Williams was the odds on favorite, and the WWE was banking on him winning and pushing him as the company’s top heal.  Rumor even has it that he was suppose to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin for the World Title. Williams entered the contest and made short work of his first round opponent (Jean-Pierre LaFitte), but his second round opponent Bart Gunn was another story as Gunn took down Williams tearing his hamstring and then knocking him out. Williams missed several months of action, and his push went up in smoke.  When Williams returned, he was put with broadcaster Jim Ross who acted as his manager and spent his time being a badass bully. But the knock out left the WWE with a bad taste, and they let Dr. Death go in 1999.  Williams would later still make appearances for the WWE but never would be a contender. Dr. Death should have made it to WWE 13 because he was a legit badass who would have fit in perfect with the likes of Brock Lesner and Ryback as a muscle bound brute who would have represented the Attitude Era very well. While Dr. Death didn’t live up to what Vince and the WWE wanted for the time, he still helped make the WWE what it was by showing that truly anything can happen in the ring.  Dr. Death would have made a great addition to the game’s runners for the World Title and would have had the over all game rating of 88. Williams battled cancer for years but sadly lost his battle to throat cancer in 2009. Oh yeah and you better believe if Dr. Death was in the game, he would be Oklahoma Stampeding Ryback’s lame ass!

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Last on the list is not only a legend of the 80’s but also a guy who was a part of the whole Austin 3:16 creation.  That man is Jake “The Snake” Roberts! Now I don’t want to spend much time on Jake’s past, but I would like to focus on his second run in the WWE that started in 1996 and had him returning at the Royal Rumble as a good guy and spreading the word of God. Roberts, who was in real life a born again Christian, would use this for his in-ring character and even spiced up his snake using an albino serpent that he named Revelations and laced his interviews with bible passages and warnings of the evils of drugs and alcohol. In 1997 Roberts would go on to enter the King of The Ring tournament and would beat his first round opponent Triple H and then do the same in the second round when he beat JBL.  In the third round, he faced Vader and won by DQ but took serious injury to his ribs. The final match had him face off with Stone Cold Steve Austin who made short work of the veteran, and during his crowning Austin spoke the words “Austin 3:16 Said I Just Whooped Your Ass,” making fun of Robert’s who was bible thumping. Roberts then would go on to feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler who used Jake’s past against him. In late 1997, WWE wanted Jake to wind down and end his career pushing The Snake out who still wanted to wrestle. While many would count Jake out and say he has no place in WWE 13’s Attitude Era roster, I would be so bold to say he help create it when he lost to Austin, kickstarting one of the biggest phrases in wrestling history! Jake “The Snake” Roberts would have been a perfect addition to the roster and would have added a fun moment in Austin’s Attitude storyline as you had to beat him for The King Of The Ring crown. Jake’s over all game rating would be 83 due to the fact he was on the tail end of his major pro wrestling career. Jake was the cinderella story when he returned and while it was a short return, he still had a huge impact on the Attitude of the WWE.

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So those are four Superstars that I feel were truly left out of WWE 13 and really deserved to be on the roster or at least DLC. But while I am on the topic of wrestling and Sunny, I should note that after WWE and wrestling days, Tammy Lynn Sytch joined up with another former wrestling valet Missy Hyatt who had opened a website called Wrestling Vixxxens and posed nude for the site causing the net to be abuzz about her move to bare all. I will not lie, when the news broke I surfed the net looking for the pics and was not disappointed when I found them! Part of me wonders if her decision to do this site hurt her chances of coming back to the WWE at the time.  I mean I think Vince missed the boat on really using Sunny/Tammy to her full potential. I know she had issues with drugs and what not but so did most of his locker room…Shawn Michaels anyone? It almost seemed like Vince made up his mind that Sable was going to be his top diva and for the most part that was a terrible idea as she turned out to be a pain in his ass as well as a moneymaker. I would love to see Sunny return to this day as a interviewer or manager and I for one will always be a Tammy fan.  

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One other thing:  as of late I have been finding old copies of Mad and Cracked Magazines at stores like Game Swap and Half Priced Books, and this has also reminded me of my youth. When I was growing up not only were comics, ghost stories and movie-based novels the only things that kept me reading instead of just playing NES or watching a film on VHS but so were Mad and Cracked Magazines that we would buy from Big Bear or find at Garage Sales. Back then I found myself getting a chuckle from these magazines as they spoofed popular movies, shows and culture all in a silly over the top way. But after reading through them once more, I found myself not only feeling nostalgic but also really looking deep into which magazine I really liked more then and now.  When I was younger, I would say that for sure I was more of a Cracked fan and owned and “collected” those issues more so then Mad, while my brother I would take a guess liked Mad a little more for I remember him having piles of the magazine and lots of the paperbacks. Take a look at these old pics below of a young me holding his prized Cracked magazines as well as me with an old Mad Spy Vs. Spy paperback in super cool Spider-Man PJ’s.

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Mad Magazine began in 1952, founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gains, and was at first a comic book put out by EC comics the same company that released comics like Tales From The Crypt and the Vault of Horror and switched to Magazine format with issue #24. It was a parody comedy magazine that would poke fun at films, shows and culture and would change hands many times finally being owned by DC Comics (Time Warner). The magazine is still going as of 2012 and has spawned many other products such as a board game, a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy show called Mad TV that aired on Fox, a cartoon, toys, masks, shirts and paperback books to name a few. Mad’s spokesman is the silent, missing front tooth, one eye lower then the other, big eared, red headed goof named Alfred E. Newman. Newman is the poster boy for Mad and has sparked the phrase “What, Me Worry?” and truly has become a true American pop culture mascot icon. Most people my age could tell you who Newman is and many would say that Mad was better then Cracked. Mad also offered such great features as Spy vs. Spy, Captain Klutz and the work of Don Martin. 

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Cracked Magazine began in 1958 as the brain child of Sol Brodsky, an artist for hire who later became Vice President for Marvel Comics, and was a inspired by the popular Mad Magazine. Cracked followed the same formula as Mad and spoofed movies, TV and pop culture with an even more silly approach. Cracked had a sense of humor about itself and even had used the tag line that it was there for people to buy after Mad had sold out at the newsstand. Cracked would be sold for awhile but slowly lost its hold in the market in late 90’s and was on life support during the 2000’s before it was canceled for good in 2007. But you can’t stop Cracked now as it’s been reborn as a silly news site that has been becoming more and more popular. Cracked’s poster boy was its janitor Sylvester P. Smythe a blonde haired, wide faced nerd who was a man of few words. While Smythe was not as popular or iconic as Newman, he still has his place in the hearts of those who grew up reading his magazine. Cracked didn’t have much in the way of merchandise besides a stuffed doll and some paperbacks. Some of Cracked’s other highlights included Shut Ups, The Uggly Family, Talking Blob, Sagebrush and busty sexy female reporter Nanny Dickering. 

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So I am sure you’re wondering after all these years what Magazine am I enjoying at this time in early 2013.  While it’s been hard to pick and each have their charms I still find that Cracked is the one I am enjoying more! Cracked has such a simple silly charm that is still putting a smile on my face making me chuckle. Cracked also was the company that used to release Monster Party and Monsters Attack scary, goofy and spooky stories that pleased the Monster Kid in me. So there you go, a quick look at Mad and Cracked Magazines.

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One other thing I would like to talk about (and I will from time to time as this blog moves forward) is the no budget movies I have made over the years.  So I figured I would start with the short film that started it all, “Teen Suicide” and it’s sequel “Suicide 2.” In 1997, I was a senior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and I hated the school with a passion.  While I had friends, I found that many of the staff were not as nice to strange kids who were into horror films and metal music, making my time at the school a bad experience filled with suspensions and detentions. At the start of the school year, the main principal (who was a cool guy) decided that he was going to put me into the media class to see how well I would do at making movies, TV shows and working as a school DJ on the radio station.  The first time he brought me himself as well accompanied by two security guards making the class wonder if Michael Myers had just been put in a room with them as they sat me away from everyone.  Then they took the teacher KB into the hallway. But with time this was probably the best thing Kettering schools ever did for me as I met some of my nearest and dearest friends in this class. Guys like Dave Wean, Matt Hoffman, Rion Neeley and Brandon Womeldorff all made me feel welcome and showed that they had just as many weird interests as I did. The media class also made it so that the rest of my schedule changed and this put me in a sociology class with Hoffman and Brandon. For one of the the class’ big projects we were to make a video about a subject we picked. Hoffman, Brandon and Myself were joined by Scott Harmon and a kid named Chris as the group and at first we picked serial killers (with my push) but decided to instead make a film based on teenage suicide.  So we all sat around class and the library and began to brain storm what was to become our first film.  This is what not only started Fairmont Productions but more importantly my love of making films! Before this I drew comic books and loved to write stories, but I never thought that I could make my own films.  Boy was I wrong. And the film began production in 1998.

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As we hammered out the ideas and plot of the film, we all were assigned roles as cast and crew. Matt Hoffman was cast as Matt, a teenage boy who is picked on every day of his life by bullies at the school.  The film would follow the last week of his life before he decided suicide was his only way out.  Hoffman was also a co-director. Brandon Womeldorff played The Car Thief and also directed, did some camerawork and edited the film.  The Car Thief was a trench coat wearing bully who got his jollies by car jacking Matt and stealing things like CD’s from him. Scott Harmon played the Kung-Fu Bully, a master of the fighting arts who loved to beat on Matt every chance he could get, and Harmon’s fight scenes with Hoffman in this movie could still be some of the worst ever filmed in Fairmont Media history.  Chris (none of us ever got his last name) just played a Bully in the school hallways who would knock the books out of Matt’s hands and try to stuff his face in the bathroom sink. Chris didn’t do much on this production and in fact was suspended during filming and even for the screening in class. I played a bully who would later be called The Silent Predator, who hung around wooded areas and tried to drown Matt in a stream, and I also did camera work, co-directed and picked most of the film’s soundtrack that was filled with bands like W.A.S.P. , Motley Crue and Pantera. The filming of the flick took place mostly at Fairmont High School but we also filmed at Hoffman’s parents’ house, my parents’ house, behind Woodlane Plaza and State Farm Park. During filming we kept talking about how the film’s end needed to make an impact.  We then decided to make the film silent, all but the moment where Matt would read his suicide note out loud to the audience. Filming took about a week with Brandon and I trading off who ran the camera, a giant Super VHS camcorder that weighed about 20 pounds, and each of us worked out our scenes with Hoffman. Looking back on the production of the film, we sure did torture Hoffman with lots of fake beat ups, being shoved around, making him jump on the back of a moving car, ketchup splattered on his head and the final stunt that still makes Hoffman feel like he was a major Hollywood stuntman (we will get to that shortly), and I must say while at the time he bitched a lot, and I mean a lot, he still was a trooper and went along with the “script”. I remember for my scene we chose to shoot behind Woodlane Plaza in Kettering (the same strip mall location that has Mavericks Cards and Comics and Christopher’s Restaurant as residents) right after a big rain storm making the small stream that runs behind the building deeper and faster.  The scene called for Matt to be walking along the stream as The Silent Predator appears from nowhere and shoves him into the water. On set that day was just Hoffman, myself and Brandon, who was running camera, and we went over the scene a few times and at first Hoffman agreed to be shoved into the water, but after watching the fast moving water rush by he changed his mind and the scene was changed to him almost going in but barely being able to hold on. So we all got into place as I wore a flannel around my waist and a Whitesnake band t-shirt I waited for my big scene.  Boom, my cue hit and a huge smile hit my face as I shuffled into frame and shoved Matt a few times toward the stream, and boom, he hit his cue and that was a wrap. But looking back at the scene, we should have shot it again so I didn’t have that goofy ass smile on my face that looked like David Lee Roth at a strip club! We later talked Hoffman into shooting a scene where it looked like he fell into the water, but it didn’t look right because he had different clothes on and the water speed and level were all wrong.  This deleted scenes has long been lost. But all this was leading up to our big pay off, the end of the film where Matt was to kill himself, and this act was one epic scene.  The final scene’s first part took place at my parents’ house in the kitchen as Matt would write his suicide note and speak the only lines used in the whole film.  Hoffman seemed very moody that day and was very argumentative towards Brandon and I and almost seemed like he was in the zone and on par with what the character Matt was doing. Hoffman sat at the table with a notepad and a pen and began to spout off this suicide note that seemed to mirror some issues he was having in his own personal life.  While I laughed then, I should have really taken the time to chat with my friend after this scene to make sure he was doing okay.  From there we went to a near by K-Mart and bought some ketchup to use as the fake blood and headed to State Farm Park to film the final scene atop a big hill that slopes, covered in rocks, small trees, trash and muck.  That’s when Hoffman who was holding his pellet gun told us he had an idea.  So we hurried and filmed his walk across a bridge to get to the hill and then made our way to the site and as we reached the top that’s when he told us “I am going to fall backwards down the hill when I shoot myself!” Brandon and I laughed and mocked him for his “shocking” stunt.  You see Hoffman at times would say and do outlandish things for attention, and we thought that’s what this stunt was just him running his mouth and not really intending to do what he said, but boy were we wrong.  As we set up the scene and filmed him looking at the gun and then putting it into his mouth, pulling the trigger and falling out of frame, we thought this was a wrap after we did a pick up shot of him on the ground with the “blood” on his head.  Then Hoffman sat up and said, “you ready to film me falling down the hill?”  Brandon and I looked at each other and gave a fuck yeah and went down the hill to film this epic scene. As we set up the shot and got the right angle Hoffman sat at the edge of the hill with his back towards us.  We could tell he was second guessing his stunt and seemed like he was now thinking of a way to get out of it. After some coaching and name calling, Hoffman pulled off the stunt and fell backwards down the hill, loosing control of his fall for a moment but catching himself before he got to hurt, making all my group of friends dubbing that hill Suicide Hill. We squeezed the “blood” onto his head and got the last shot of the film.

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For days Brandon edited the film on the AVID system, putting time and care into each scene, I sat with him many times as he worked, other days our pal Rion did. When it was done, Brandon asked Hoffman and myself to watch it in one of the editing rooms, and we all were taken aback by how good the film was.  Looking at it now, I am still proud of the film even with all its flaws and honor it as the first film I ever worked on. Then the day of the class showing happened, and our teacher made us come up and tell the other students what our film was about.  Scott Harmon and I took that job and rushed a quick introduction, and the lights went out.  The film started and had Matt walking down a school hallway in slow motion as the Bush song “In A Lonely Place” played, and we thought we had them. As the film ended and the credits rolled to Motley Crue’s” You’re All I Need,” Brandon and Hoffman stood in front of the class to answer questions about the film or what we learned about teen suicide.  Our classmates seemed stunned by what they had seen, and the only question we got was, “was that Pantera that played when he shot himself?”.  And then it happened; Hoffman said he had a confession to the class, and as everyone got quite he then proclaimed that he had tried to kill himself in the past and ran from the room, as the teacher and students looked on stunned.  Brandon was in the front of the classroom like a deer caught in headlights! While Teen Suicide was not a hit with our peers, a year later in 1999 Brandon wanted to make a sequel that was bigger, longer and filled with dialogue! The film’s plot had Matt (once more played by Hoffman) waking up after his suicide attempt and learning that he could not die and had been given a second chance to get revenge on the bullies who tormented him. Brandon returned as The Car Thief.  Scott Harman came back as Kung-Fu Bully and had yet another stinker of a fight with Hoffman, this time in the school’s radio station.  I returned as The Silent Predator who in this one seemed more demonic and acted almost as the ring leader, and we added Dave Wean as a Crazy Bully, Rion Neeley as the Roof Top Bully, Dan Salter as the Skateboard Bully and Linda Webb as Matt’s girlfriend who is cheating on him with the Car Thief. The film was filled with one Matt beat down after another, until he finally got his revenge on all those who tormented him and having his end battle with me in the woods of Hill’s and Dales Park as a red light shinned on us. Matt at the end of this one blows himself up with a self made bomb. While this film was a favorite to play at the group’s parties, to me just lacked the charm of the original and for the most part was more of a generic action film then a film with a message. When we left high school and continued making movies, we dropped Fairmont Productions and became Independent B Movie (a gathering of many production companies) and began selling our films on VHS at horror conventions like Cinema Wasteland in Strongsville and Fright Vision.  Teen Suicide and Suicide 2 sold pretty well. Years later Suicide 1-2 would hit DVD and match the sales of the VHS. Independent B Movie was riding high, not only the founders (Brandon, Hoffman, Myself) were making movies but so were Josh Weinberg, Dave Wean, Jason Gilmore, Patrick Neeley and my brother Bryan, making this tiny no budget film company seem like something special. We did start a Suicide 3 many, many years back but production slowed when turmoil in the group of film makers started to slow things down, but that’s another story.

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Now for a little horror host spotlight:  In March of 2007, the late night viewers of Kenosha, WI got their blood chilled by a show called Nightmare Cinema hosted by a Werewolf named Uncle Wolfman, who every full moon is locked in an abandoned TV station in the middle of nowhere on Bray Road by his vampire friend Vampiro. To kill time Wolfman shows a bad b-movie, a classic cartoon and TV show episode and waits out his curse in the station that is clearly haunted. Uncle Wolfman is your classic Lon Chaney Jr. style werewolf who speaks with a twisted snarl and raspy voice, drawing you in with every word. His style is very classic and each episode has it’s own mark and facts. Fans of horror host shows from the 60’s and 70’s should check his show out! I first heard of the Uncle Wolfman via the website Horror Host Graveyard and after seeing an episode or two I quickly became a fan. As of 2013 the show is still going strong.

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I took the chance on a full moon night and called the old station’s #, got a ring and an answer from Uncle Wolfman himself, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for you my readers. So with this let’s get onto “5 Questions For The Wolfman”!

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Me – So how is it being stuck in a haunted abandoned TV station every full moon?

Wolfman – Being stuck has to do with my temptation to feed.  So, Vampiro and I have an agreement; Vampiro guards me during the full moon by locking me up. In return, I guard Vampiro’s tomb during the day.  However, Vampiro occasionally forgets to feed me, so I order a pizza, and get the delivery driver as an appetizer.

 Me – What is your favorite film you have shown on your show?

Wolfman – I don’t know if I have a favorite movie from those we can show. I suppose that, being a Mantan Noreland fan, I like King of the Zombies, schlocky as it is. My true loves are the classic TV. We recently had an old episode of “Suspense,” featuring a rare television appearance by Bela Lugosi in an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontilado, and there was an episode of “Tales of Tomorrow,” called “Ahead of His Time,” which starred Boris Karloff. But I suppose my favorite was a cartoon episode from “The Milton the Monster show–the only one I know of in the public domain– called, “Zelda the Zombie.”

 Me – Who are the hosts that inspired you to become a horror host?

Wolfman – I only ever really watched Dr. Kadaverino (Jack LaBlond) on WITI chanel 6, Milwuakee, who was the only one on when I was very young. Later came the Original Svengoolie, Jerry Bishop, and later Son of Svengoolie, Rich Koz, both starting out on WFLD channel 32, Chicago (Son of Sven’s now just Svengoolie, on WCIU, Chicago and METV nationwide).

 Me – Growing up did you read comic books? If so, who is your favorite superhero?

Wolfman – I read many comics as a kid, from Archie to Sad Sack; I really liked the EC magazines, with Tales from the Crypt, The Witching Hour, all of those. I also like the Hulk, Thor and Conan the Barbarian–of which I still have all the comics, mags, graphic novels and the original stories by Robert E. Howard, which I reread from time to time.

 Me – If you could run with a werewolf pack from a horror film or TV show who would you run with?

Wolfman – Serious attempts at TV show werewolves suck. I wouldn’t run with any of those wannabes. Besides, if Uncle Wolfman really wanted to run with a pack, he wouldn’t suffer being locked-up three days a month.

 Me – Thanks Uncle Wolfman for taking your time and answering these questions.

But enough of wrestling, Tammy Lynn Sytch, Danzig,THQ, Remco, Cracked, Mad, Ben Cooper, Teen Suicide and Woolworths, let’s get down to Marvel Comics “The Saga of Crystar” 11 issue run! Remember: I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. This review is thanks to a team up of Mavericks Cards and Comics, Bell, Book & Comic, 2nd and Charles, Half Priced Books and Amazon. And remember these reviews will have spoilers.

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 The Saga Of Crystar # 1  *** 1/2

Released in 1983   Cover Price $2.00    Marvel Comics #1 of 11

Prince Crystar and his brother Moltar rule the kingdom of Crystallium together after their father, the king, was killed in a battle that pits their side (The Order) against the evil of the Chaos. While both share the power, it’s clear that the kingdom respects Crystar more, causing the brothers to have a little rivalry. Lavour is Crystar’s girlfriend and her servant girl Ambara has a crush on the prince as well, but his best friend Warbow has a crush on the servant girl.  The Kingdom’s wizard Ogeode comes to the Princes and warns them that evil is coming and that this time he will be powerless to stop it.  When Zardeth, an evil wizard, enters the castle the seeds are planted, and the brothers have a fight leaving Crystar dead.  His brother Moltar takes over and steals Lavour! But things are not all good as Moltar and his new followers embrace The Choas and become living lava men, and Crystar is brought back to life and his followers are turned into living Crystal.  This leads to a war between the brothers that leaves Moltar’s ego bruised and Stalax with a life threating crack in his crystal body. Crystar hooks up with Ambara as Warbow is heart broken and even looses an eye to Zardeth who shoots him with an arrow! 

This is a great way to kick off a comic book series that is attached to a toy line and really serves as the back story of the characters. Crystar comes off as a likeable and nobel hero who has pride in his family, kingdom and friends and has almost a mix of Prince Valiant and King Arthur feel to him. You get the vibe from this first issue that Crystar will fight to the death to defend his kingdom. His men that include Warbow, Koth, Kalibar and Stalax are all given time tolet their personalities shine. Ambara, who is the love of Crystar, is shown to be a sweetheart who would do anything for her Prince. Feldspar, Uncle to both Crystar and Moltar, is an interesting character as he choices no side and takes both sides curses on himself (top half crystal bottom half lava) to show he respects both nephews.  I hope he is fleshed out more in the series’ in coming issues. Moltar is a man filled with jealousy and is easily fooled by the evil ways of Zardeth and then manipulated by the bitch Lavour. This is a solid comic that really flushes out all the characters and makes me look forward to reading issue 2. The art work is okay, but I wish it was a little better.  It’s odd that the ad art for the Remco toys looks better. The cover is amazing and very eye catching for the time and would surely draw in fans of Conan, Kull and Masters of the Universe. 

crystar 2

The Saga Of Crystar # 2  ***

Released in 1983   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #2 of 11

Crystar is not pleased when he finds that his uncle Feldspar has removed him from the throne and is now acting as King to the kingdom until he and his brother work out their feud.  Meanwhile Moltar and Lavour are being fired up by Zardeth who wants them to get revenge on Crystar and take the kingdom by force and sends a team of lava men to kill him who in turn fail. Stalax is dying, and Crystar and friends must travel to get Ika, the daughter of Ogeode, who in turn becomes living crystal herself to learn of the secrets of the process.  When Crystar thinks the young woman is in pain, he goes in after her and both disappear.

This second issue is more about Crystar wanting to do the right thing and the brooding ways of Moltar who still thinks he is getting the shaft by not ruling the kingdom. Ika is an interesting character who gives her self to the mirror that transforms flesh to crystal showing that she is loyal to saving human life. Ogeode is kind of a dick in this issue as he forces his daughter to do this heroic act all so he can learn the secrets of the crystal without having to forever be changed. While the Crystar storyline is pretty good, I felt Moltar was not used well in this issue and almost seemed to much like a snot nosed kid who lost his video games for a month. Over all this is a good follow up issue that has better art work and a pretty cool cover.  So far I like where this series is going.

crystar 3 The Saga Of Crystar # 3  ***

Released in 1983    Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #3 of 11

Crystar and Ika find themselves in modern New York in the home of Doctor Strange and his butler Wong and are confused by this new world filled with so many things they have never seen. Meanwhile back in Crystallium, Ogeode alongside Koth and Kalibar travel in the portal to find the missing prince and also end up in Doctor Strange’s study. While Doctor Strange and the goofball Ogeode try to find a way to send the warriors back home, Moltar sends Lava Men through a portal.  They also end up in Strange’s house and after a quick fight, they find their way home to Warbow, Ambara and the recovering Stalax.

This was a cool way to tie into the rest of the Marvel Universe.  Crystar and his crystal warriors once more come off a nobel fighters, as Warbow’s secret crush is still in the air as he looks at Ambara. Moltar once more acts as a general and sends flunkies to attack his brother. Ogeode is as brain dead and scattered as ever as Ika shows she is down to help The Order. I am not a huge Doctor Strange fan and only found myself liking the character when he appeared in other comics like Spider-Man or Man-Thing and in the very terrible yet fun 1978 made for TV movie.  So I actually find him a perfect fit for the myth and legend that this series is building for Crystar. Here’s hoping that Crystar and Moltar will meet again in a battle in the next issue to see which brother is better. The art work is good again and has the same style as the last issue, but this time I’m not a super fan of the cover. With that let’s jump into issue # 4.

crystar 4

The Saga Of Crystar # 4  **1/2

Released in 1983   Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #4 of 11

A father is telling his children a bedtime story about Crystar and Moltar and how they each became the warriors they are now.  He also goes a little into the back stories of Crystar’s friends like Warbow and Koth and shows that Moltar has called a meeting with Crystar and his Uncle Feldspar to speak of the unfair way he has been treated.  Moltar doesn’t understand why Crystar and his men get to stay in the kingdom but he and his followers have been pushed out, and if they are to smooth things over they must be even. Feldspar thinks about this matter and decides it’s only fair that Crystar and his men must also leave the Kingdom and are asked to leave by dawn.  Mad about this decision, they still agree to leave. In the end the father is Kalibar telling his own children this story on the night he must leave the Kingdom

This issue is good and solid, and I do like what they did for the twist ending.  Crystar is a little more bullheaded this time around and challenges his uncle’s word over the peace offering his evil lava brother is pitching. In this one, Moltar is just what I love to see in my comic bad guys: a smart brain and the ego of a mastermind. Plus we get a little more of the Warbow loves his best friends girl storyline as well as a little more background on Koth and Stalax. The art is good; the cover is bland.  While this is not the best issue in the series thus far, it still was a good read. 

crystar 5

The Saga Of Crystar # 5  ** 1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #5 of 11

 Crystar is in the Marvel office as the comics editor and writing staff try to figure out a good story for issue 5.  When he is finally taken into his world he is set to meet with Moltar and his uncle. Everyone leaves besides Ika and Stalax who try to use a spell to send the lava people far away from the Kingdom but instead bring the Chaos’ base to the Kingdom. Moltar and Crystar can’t agree on much except that Zardeth and Warbow need to stop fighting and that the base needs to be moved back to its right place. Zardeth teams with Ogeode, and together they use magic to set things right.

This issue starts out dumb, and the whole editor’s office thing is mind numbing.  But once we get back into the comic story line, it picks up. Crystar plays a big part in this story as does his girl’s love for him. Ika steps up in the issue and seems to be filled with rage over The Order being kicked out of the kingdom and wants to use her magic to rid them of The Chaos. Moltar comes off as a badass leader who has his wizard in check and a plan to take over the kingdom. As I said it starts off bad, but becomes pretty good by the midway mark. The art is good, and the cover is good making this issue an average read.

crystar 6

The Saga Of Crystar # 6  ***

Released in 1984    Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #6 of 11

Nightcrawler of the mutant team the X-Men visits his girlfriend who is a part-time practicing witch, who felt a disturbance earlier and used her crystal ball to open a portal.  When Nightcrawler uses his teleaport ability in the apartment, he is sent to Crystallium where he is spotted by Stalax who thinks that he is a demon sent by the Chaos. Nightcrawler flees the scene and stumbles into the base of Moltar who as well thinks he has been sent to join him in his battle against his brother. Crystar and his men go looking for this demon, and Ika sneaks into Moltar’s base and hears them speaking of this “demon’s” arrival.  She is caught by Zardeth and Moltar who are going to kill her until Nightcrawler steps in and stops them.  Crystar and crew arrive to save her and befriend the mutant. In the end Ika sends him back to Earth where his girlfriend awaits.

Yet another fun adventure that adds a popular main stream Marvel character to the storyline. Nightcrawler fits in pretty well, but unlike the Doctor Strange appearance, this one seems to be more focused on the guest hero than on the book’s main hero, Crystar, who seems to have not much to do in this issue besides search for Ika and briefly chat with his Uncle. Moltar also doesn’t do much besides welcome his new “friend” and capture Ika. Though Lavour is given a little more in this issue, she comes of as a flirt as she tries to get info from Nightcrawler all the while hitting on him. Over all this is a fun crossover issue that really adds nothing to the main story arc but makes for a fun read.  The art is good, and the cover is so-so.  So let’s see if issue 7 explores the mian story more.

crystar 7

The Saga Of Crystar # 7  **1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #7 of 11

The Kingdom is under attack by Malachon and his hill men, and they plan on killing as many people as possible including Kalibar’s wife and kids.  Crystar and his men are told of this attack by Ogeode who sees it in a vision, and they come to the aid of the Kingdom, chasing off the hill men and helping the wounded. All the while Moltar, Lavour and Zardeth watch and plot a way to use Feldspar’s anger to their advantage as he scolds Crystar for coming into the Kingdom. Ogeode & Ika take Crystar and his men across the ocean to their hometown to get answers of why his uncle is acting so oddly, and Moltar strikes a deal with Malachon and his men to become living rock and fight on their side!

 This issue is packed with fighting of sorts as the Hill Men are made look like weak fools to Crystar and his men, and Malachon has an almost Jim Jones thing going as I could see his people drinking poisoned Kool-Aid if he ordered them to. But I’m honestly not sure whether he’s really needed in this issue.  He almost seems like he is just thrown into this mix to add more action and to have more butts for Crystar to kick, but we shall see where the character goes in the next issue. You feel bad for Ika, whose boyfriend in her home town turns on her because of her new crystal appearance, and her father acts as if she has not all ready made sacrifices to help The Order. Speaking of the Wizard’s hometown, not much is flushed out yet and I am not sure what to think of the Warrior Woman Shen who appears to be in charge. This issue is clearly used to build up the next issue that could be the huge battle we have all been waiting for. With that let’s get onto issue 8! Oh yeah, the art is still good, and the cover is pure cheese.

crystar 8

The Saga Of Crystar # 8 **1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #8 of 11

Crystar is troubled by an old memory of a time when the first war was going on, long before he and his brother were at war and long before they were transformed. The memory sends him into a day of mourning every year over the day his friend Captain Heyatt was killed while helping them fight a giant sea monster and chaos demons.  It’s also the day Koth lost his true love in the same battle. It’s also a day of mourning for Moltar, who’s sad over the loss of his friend. While Crystar tells his friends of this day, Ogeode is in a meeting with his fellow hometown council members.

This is a filler issue and once more adds backstory but nothing to the main story line of this comic series. The way Heyatt dies is stuff straight from old sword and sandal films and could easily be the death of Steve Reeves’ friend in some bad Hercules film, as he takes a thrown spear to the gut. Meanwhile, the new bad warrior Malachon who is transformed at the end of last issue is nowhere in sight! Ika and her boyfriend still have some beef with one another, and Moltar cries at the end for his lost friend from years ago. This issue also reminds me of Clash of The Titans for some reason.  I am sure it has to do with the giant sea monster. The art is okay and in some spots looks dull.  The cover is a step up from the last several.  Now that another filler issue is done, let’s hope they get back into the storyline, and we can see some sort of payoff coming. 

crystar 9

The Saga Of Crystar # 9  **1/2

Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #9 of 11

Ogeode is speaking to the Council of The Order about the war that is about to break out and tells his fellow townspeople that they need to help Crystar and his men in this battle when things go south.  The people are not sold on helping the men made of crystal. The Crystal men go around and speak of returning home when the acting King Feldspar shows up and wants to speak to the council of peace talks between the feuding brothers. But the peace talks are fake as Feldspar is really just Zardeth and the guards are Hill Warriors and Lava men.  They attack and kill many of the Council people until Crystar and his men show up and chase them off. Crystar also has a stare down with Malachon before the leader of the hill men retreats. In the end the Council decides to help, and Ika’s boyfriend Beek is turned into living Crystal.

This issue is the final straw for Crystar to go back and reclaim his thrown and stomp Chaos back into the hell pit from which it came. Zardeth and Malachon both show how cold blooded they are as they slaughter many unarmed men, and seem proud of their actions. At this point in the series you are at a fever pitch to have The Warriors of The Order stop the Chaos Warriors, and after every set up and every innocent death, this fever gets higher. Plus at this point in the series you also find yourself wondering why Feldspar is acting the way he is and wonder if he really doesn’t want his nephews to work things out because he is enjoying being king. As far as Crystar, at this point you can see a bullheaded hero who is shaping up to be one hell of a good king.  As for his brother Moltar, you get the fact he is second guessing his turn to the dark side but he still thinks he is the best choice to lead his people. With only two more issues to go ,the War to settle the score is now on! The art is good, and the cover is all right.  Let’s get ready to rumble with issue 10.

crystar 10

The Saga Of Crystar # 10  ***

Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #10 of 11

Moltar is not pleased about the attack that left many council members dead and hates the fact that both Zardeth and Malachon seem to have enjoyed the bloodshed. Crystar and his crew decide to go back home to try and end this war.  He confronts his uncle Feldspar about the throne.  Crystar agrees to step down but he also says that Chaos will not rule the Kingdom. As Crystar leaves the Kingdom, his crew tell him that they will fight by his side to bring down the Lava Men and The Hill People. Crystar’s brave warriors include his girlfriend, the Wizard Ogeode, his daughter Ika and her boyfriend Beek, Warrior Woman Shen and finally the Crystal Warriors Warbow, Koth, Kalibar and Stalax.  To his surprise, the local villagers call to arms and join Crystar’s army just in time as the warriors of Chaos come in from the sky and start a battle that leaves Koth missing and believed to be dead as he protects Ambara from attackers. In the end The Chaos Warriors retreat, and the warriors of Order mourn their friend and plan for an all out war.

This issue has it all: a thick good storyline that is an amazing build up for the final issue, Crystar finally reaching his breaking point and wanting his Kingdom to be happy and wanting to end the evil of The Chaos.  The shock of a member of the Order team missing and thought to be dead adds the drama, not to mention it also shows that at this point Moltar is loosing the respect of Zardeth and Malachon who both seem to mock him for not joining in on battles and how week his Lava Men are. It also shows how hotheaded Beek is and how he even seems to take an attitude with Crystar about what he thinks is right and wrong, not to mention the fact he is crystal now makes him a strong ally to have in this war even if he is an ass. Over all this is a great issue filled with a solid storyline, shocking drama and some butt kicking action. The art is well done and while in some spots seems a little rushed, it still looks good.  The cover on the other hand is just so-so and highlights the two lead warrior females Shen and Ika. Can’t wait to see how this saga ends and here is hoping for a great ending.

crystar 11

The Saga Of Crystar # 11  **1/2

Released in 1985   Cover Price $1.00   Marvel Comics #11 of 11

Koth is not dead and is now a prisoner of Chaos warriors who plan on sacrificing him to the Hills once they get some information. Moltar starts to have second thoughts about his turn to evil and even has his girlfriend Lavour second guessing it as he doesn’t want to see his one time friend killed. Crystar and his men are gearing up to take the fight to The Chaos when by accident Ogeode brings in members of Alpha Flight from Earth that include Puck, Shaman and Northstar who decide to fight on the side of good! All this happens after Crystar butts heads with his uncle who is still trying to not pick a side. Moltar goes to Koth and asks him to please share some info so that his death will be quick and gets the cold shoulder leaving him pissed and lost for a direction.  That night Malachon takes Koth to an alter and is about to kill him when the warriors of Order show up and the final war begins! Crystar gets his revenge on Malachon as a member of The Order looses his life being a hero (who you ask, well you should read it to find out). In the end Zardeth is taken down as Moltar and Lavour turn on Chaos and rejoin the brothers, but before the evil wizard dies he takes away the curse of Moltar so that he can never touch his love Lavour again as she is left as a lava person. So the brothers are reconnected, and the Kingdom will now live on happy and chaos free.

This was a fun journey that had an almost rushed ending.  While the end is good, it could have been a hell of a lot better. The good turn for Moltar seems rushed this issue, and the fact they turned him back human shows that after this series, they didn’t have a plan for Crystar to ever return. Moltar was a great bad guy that at times was not used they way he should have been.  In many issues he seems to take a back seat to the evil wizard Zardeth and even the crude Hill leader Malachon. The fact that we never see the brothers in their new forms truly fight is kind of a let down and makes the build up to this final war a let down. Crystar is a great hero and really transforms as you keep reading by the end of this series he reminded me of so many iconic sci-fi heros like Luke Skywalker, Conan The Barbarian and even Optimus Prime in the fact he was strong willed, believed in the right thing and was noble and loyal to his friends and people. One storyline that I wished would have been fleshed out was the Warbow loving Ambara plot that seemed to fall flat the farther we got into the series. Plus, I would have liked to see a little more of Warbow’s as he clearly was Crystar’s best friend. All of Crystar’s warriors and friends were likeable and fun characters besides Beek who really was an ass most of the issues he was in and treated Ika like dirt if she did something he didn’t like. The guest heros in the last issue were a waste.  You could have taken the Alpha Flight goons out of the issue, and they would have not been missed.  They strike out with them but hit homeruns with Doctor Strange and Nightcrawler. The series as a whole is amazing stuff and is worth the read.  It’s was a great way to build up these characters that were created to sell toys that kids had no clue to who or what they were. Marvel should have given this series a little longer to grow, and they should have not rushed the last issue when they built up this payout to be a blow out of good vs. evil. Sadly as of early 2013, Marvel has not done anything with Crystar and company besides put him on a cover as a zombie for one of the Marvel Zombies miniseries. Going into this series, I had very limited knowladge of the character besides a few of the toys I had in my youth and now after reading this series I wish I would have done so much earlier because Crystar would have been a toy and comic series I would have collected then. 

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Man, this was a long update!  I had a lot to talk about from toys to horror hosts to video games to independent movies.  This update was filled to the brim with retro and nerd goodness. So next update we might take it a little smaller as we take a look at Blue Water Comics series for horror film Leprechaun for Saint Patrick’s Day! So see you then for the all green and gold coin loving good time.

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