Friday, May 18, 2012

The New Traveller's Alamnac: No $#!+ Sherlock Edition for the Sher-Locked


Produced herewith is a supplement to our well-received compendium, this time with the focus centered on the exploits of a famous and celebrated British consulting detective, which happened concurrently with the farragoes of the illustrious team in service to Her Majesty's defense, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, formerly known as "Prospero's Men". We are reproducing notes made by one of our lower-ranking agents disguised as an employee of a respectable bank in England, who, with considerable risk, opened a safety deposit box belonging to Dr. John Watson and examined the contents.  "J"'s notes are highlighted where appropriate:

Pre-1898: It appears the great detective was known to have encountered one member of Ms. Murray's League prior to 1898...

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes by Loren D. Estleman

1898 M or M ?: The year in which Ms. Murray's League assembled was a busy one...

The Peerless Peer by Philip Jose Farmer - It is not known if Lord Greystoke ever joined an American counterpart to the League, or if one existed prior to 1939, though Mr. Farmer hints that the services of  a Mr. Spider, Mr. Savage , Det. Tracy,  Ms. Drew, Mr. Colt, Mr. Carter, Ms. Pinkerton and Mr. Cranston were likely enlisted within the 39 year range.

Seance For A Vampire by Fred Saberhagen - Perhaps Mr. Holmes was reluctant to meet with his cousin's unrequited love interest. It would explain a lot...the sanguinary Count appears to have made no effort at a reunion, perhaps due to embarrassment...

The Seven Per Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer - This is an amusing attempt by Dr. Watson to try and appease Colonel Moriarty's libel suit by bringing the Great Detective's drug addiction to light and improve Professor Moriarty's tarnished public image...*

The Canary Trainer by Nicholas Meyer - Holmes himself narrates this tale of his adventure during "The Great Hiatus" when everyone thought he was dead. He wasn't lonely - Miss Irene Adler and a known "Phantom" were present...*

The Star of India by Carole Bugge - This faintly comic escapade occurred shortly after Holmes' return to the land of the living and features Dr. Watson's first meeting with our head of Military Intelligence, mere days before he befell his tragic fate in Limehouse.*

Late 1898: Martian Invasion of Earth

The War of The Worlds by Manley W. Wellman & Wade Wellman - Holmes was accompanied by Professor Challenger in this adventure, a useful account of events in London while Ms. Murray was with Mr. Quartermain in the country.

The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer - It would seem Mr. Holmes has had his own brushes with weirdness...*

Jack The Ripper:

A Study In Terror by Ellery Queen - A savvy account  of Holmes investigation by an American rival...*

The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin - well, it has been said that Holmes seemed different after his "resurrection". This may have been Watson's early effort at damage control after a severe drug relapse. Holmes' often-described lament at Moriarty's passing has dangerous consequences...*

The West End Horror by Nicolas Meyer - Holmes is back in fine form solving what appears to be a copycat crime and even encounters his cousin's biographer, Bram Stoker.*

1904-1915 None of Your Beeswax: We are now coming to the strangest period of the Great Detective's life - his sudden and unexpected retirement and desire to become a keeper of bees.

The Breath of God by Guy Adams - Ms. Murray's encounter with Oliver Haddo in 1910 is well-chronicled, but it would appear that Holmes and Watson had their own encounter with the man, as well as teaming up with Thomas Carnaki, of Ms. Murray's second League. Watson may have thought the events were too recherche for the public and changed the names of the persons involved. Mr. Haddo is split into two aliases -identified as "Alistair Crowley" and"Karswell Trelawney", here. * 

"The Adventure of Hillerman Hall/aka, How A Hermit Was Disturbed In His Retirement" by Julian Symons - A young woman from the village of St. Mary Mead approached Holmes begging for his help in a private matter. Mr. Holmes did not catch "Jane"'s  full name, but it may have been "Marble" or "Maple"...*

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - beginning in 1915, Mr. Holmes life was forever changed by the entrance of Miss Mary Russell, a young American woman who begins her long association with him first as an apprentice, then as his wife. It is through Miss Russell's accounts that we also learn of Sherlock's 2nd child with Irene Adler, Damian, an artist who signs his work, "The Addler".*

The Royal Jelly Factor: Evidence exists hinting that Holmes may still be alive...

The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout - A representative sample of an account of Holmes 1st-born with Irene Adler, Auguste Dupa, who underwent a name change and enjoyed a successful, if not particularly exciting career as a private detective.*

The Pirate King by Laurie R. King - Holmes flirts with a second avocation by making his screen debut opposite his wife with a small part in a silent film...*

A Three Pipe Problem by Julian Symons - ...and here we learn of his stage name, Sheridan Hayes...

Sherlock - Presumably tired of acting, a younger actor assumes the role in reenactments of his recent caseload, which involves working in tandem with descendants of his brother Mycroft and of John Watson. The Moriarty and Adler family trees extend well into the 21st century and have been documented elsewhere...*

Elementary! - chronicling his experiences in the colonies in the present-day, alongside Dr. Watson's Chinese great-granddaughter. 

Sherlock Holmes in The 22nd Century - there is some speculation that a descendant of Inspector Lestrade transmitted messages via unconfirmed technology to Mycroft Holmes in 1898, assuring him that a confidential cloning/cryogenic longevity experiment has been a complete success...*

Thus completes our supplementary companion. We hope it clears everything up.

*Note: all items marked with an "*" are an attempt by the lickspittle "J" to indicate he is familiar with the facts pertained within. He has been deported back to the colonies with great haste.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Garfield, plus Spider-Man, minus Jon

Is it time? I like to time these posts just right...I'll time it with the box of movie tie-in cereal  I just bought. It was terrible, like stale Frankenberry. Oh, and Mr. Kellogg, Curt Conners is The Lizard, not The Green Lizard. Though judging by the teeny-tiny photo provided, he looks like what Killer Croc could look like.

The only thing that could top a new Spider-Man movie would be an Avengers movie, or a new Batman movie by Christopher Nolan. Both are out this year. So is that why the reaction to the new film with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacey) is a bit "hm...okay."? What happened?

Well, we're getting a retelling of the origin. Do we need it? The 2002 film was loosely based on the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko original, but it also mish-mashed with/incorporated bits and bobs of Brian Michael Bendis' update from Ultimate Spider-Man. A brightly-colored spider bit Tobey on his hand as he tried to use the class trip as an excuse to get off the bench and reach first base with Mary Jane. Something new was added: Organic web shooters. No, that's not an exclusive kitchen gadget sold at Whole Foods, that means that Spidey's webs came out of his arm - his body could secrete spider silk, conveniently through his wrists and not his buttocks, like a real spider. You know, if Stan and Steve had spider silk emerge from Peter's buttocks, then Kim Kardashian would be cast as Spider-Woman. Yes, that is the train of thought I'm riding on - welcome aboard. I'll derail that train now.

Spider-Man's powers were that he gained the proportionate strength and reflexes of a spider - which meant that he didn't grow eight arms (though that happened later as a side-effect of an attempt to remove his powers), but he did have the ability to stick to surfaces voluntarily and also a psychic "Spider-Sense", which warned him of danger. Since he was not born with these powers, he is not considered a mutant. The spider silk that came from his arms was a manufactured  super-strong polymer he invented - along with the "web shooter" a touch-sensitive gadget that fires this compound like silly string. when fired, the webs are flexible enough for Spidey to manipulate it, sculpting into shapes like a club, glider wings, a shield, a sphere and even decoys. It hardens after a few minutes and dissolves completely after an hour. In Ultimate Spider-Man continuity, the formula for this compound was an unfinished project of Richard Parker, Peter's father, who was a scientist. In "classic" continuity, Richard and Mary Parker were S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents - it's not clear if Marvel ever tried a combination of the two approaches, but perhaps the upcoming film will. The cartoon spin-off of USM eschews the continuity of that book in favor of an idea hinted at - that all superhuman are drafted into becoming government agents and put into active duty.

When Raimi ditched the "mechanical web shooters" in favor of "organic web shooters", it launched a flame war on the Internet. Why? The big reason is that it takes away an important element of Peter Parker's character - his intelligence. Without that, or without something in its place, he can come off like a cipher. Stan and Steve opted to show how bright Peter was in a distinctive way - not some backyard project that he had been tinkering with, but an invention that he created for one purpose - to fight crime as Spider-Man. Raimi made Peter more lovestruck and less cerebral, so he came off as a sap. Regrettably, the comic books followed suit. Writers now create suspense by making you wonder if Spider-Man is going to be a patsy to another character's schemes in every new storyline. Raimi's decision created a ripple effect that changed Spidey's characterization. He reasoned that it was more realistic than "...creating a miracle polymer and not even think of selling it to 3M for a couple million bucks," yet very little about superhero comics is realistic. Consider how in X-Men comic Wolverine has always been the big  draw, while more-powerful characters like Storm, Jean Grey and even Iceman wind up sidelined in some way or other.

One choice Raimi made that made sense was to feature Mary Jane Watson as the main love interest in the series. This is because in the comics, she eventually became Peter's wife - and still is, if you're reading the Spider-Man newspaper strip. In the comic books, however, the marriage has been written out of continuity to allow for a more flexible status quo. (I'm staying out of that particular debate right now - that's an entry for another time)

Peter Parker's only had two love interests that could be considered serious - Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane. Gwen was killed-off in a memorable storyline in the late 70's. Writers often find her to be a more plausible love interest than M.J. and have been tempted to bring her back from the dead, first as a clone, then as part of new spin-off media tie-ins/retro-continuity. The past is a different country - they did things differently there. I'm sure if Gwen were still around, the writers would have the same problems that they have with M.J. or Aunt May - and they killed her off in 1994, bringing her back from the dead in 1998!

I actually dread seeing Dennis Leary as Captain George Stacey. The clips we saw in the trailer hint a leaden performance and some cliched, kitchen sink conflict/melodrama, yet in the comics, George was an likeable character - his death is actually technically more effective than the death of Gwen, whose final scenes were as a limp rag doll tossed around.

There's not much to be said about the Lizard beyond the "The Green Lizard" rubbing the rhubarb. He's a popular villain, but every story with him is usually the same. Oh, well, he gets his moment.

I recall Sam Raimi's idea for the 4th Spider-Man film would have been to feature The Sinister Six - just mad,mad,mad - but brilliantly mad! I think he wanted to show off that it could be done, since the most villains we've had in a superhero movie to date is four, if your counting the film tie-in to the 1966 Batman show with Sir Adam West. Speaking of Batman, I can't help but wonder who the heck is Joseph Gordon Levitt playing...he's eating up too much trailer footage to be anyone but the Riddler. Well, the trailer talks in riddles...

Oh, and  yellow eyes! The last time I saw this was the old Spider-Man cartoons of the past. Every idea gets used. Almost. I think a live-action Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends would work. Jennifer Lawrence or Emily Browning as Firestar, Ryan Gosling or Taylor Lautner as Iceman. Mr. Muggles (from Heroes) as Ms. Lion. Judi Dench as Aunt May. Megan Fox as Spider-Woman. Tobey Maguire as The Beetle. Flo Rida as The Hypno Hustler. John Slattery as Silvermane. Seth Macfarlane as the voice of Video Man.  Go for it!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Thrill of The Hunt!

Just like Free Comic Book Day, I'm offering a reprint/special edition of a column that was once titled, "Selective Six featuring Comic Book Rehab". The advice offered is still within it's sell-by date. Unless Fantagraphics is offering a surprise in conjunction with their elaborate hardcover reprints of Carl Barks material, there's no Disney offering this year. :(  However, IDW is offering a preview of Simon Furman's new Transformers comic, ReGeneration One, which sounds neat, even if it's planned to be a continuation of comics that are not available within easy means at the moment...

 Let me know what you've got your eye on or how you feel about the state of the event - or any "on-the-scene coverage" and what you actually managed to pick up. It's possible that I might wind up dog sitting tomorrow and will have to miss the fun. 'Not the first time - I remember I missed out on Gemstone's reprint of "Maharajah Donald" due to weekend College classes, but just a few months ago I found Gladstone's giant-sized reprint from the early 90's - part of their "Carl Barks Library of Donald Duck Adventures In Color". 'jeez, that was a long title. Did they ever get around to doing a "The Carl Barks Library of Grandma Duck's Farm Friends In Color"? Wouldn't be surprised. Don't count on finding any of those free comics for free when the day is over...

Enjoy. And this one's complete...not a preview. ;)

ComicBookRehab: The Thrill of The Hunt!: I've made allusions to hunting and "The World's Most Dangerous Game" in regard to Free Comic Book Day - which is this Saturday, May 5th - be...