Monday, September 25, 2017


It’s Monday. I’m back from my weekend stay-cation. I’m diving into my “stuff to write about” box to bring you the usual mix of news, views and reviews. We begin with a cheesy monster movie that came out last September...

Director/writer/producer Mike Lyddon made First Man on Mars [2016] on a budget of around $14,000. You’ll read no snarky remarks from me for this comedy/horror/sci-fi movie’s low budget. Despite the budget, the film kept me entertained or, at least, amused for its 77 minutes. Here’s the Internet Movie Database synopsis:

The countdown to terror has begun. Astronaut Eli Cologne became the first man on Mars, but something went horribly wrong. Infected by an alien organism, he returned to Earth a savage monster with an unquenchable thirst for human flesh.
Cologne [Benjamin Wood] is a obscenely wealthy entrepreneur. He’s financed his trip to Mars in the hopes of being even more obscenely wealthy. Not the best business plan.

Most of the actors play their roles real big. No award-winners in the cast, but they’re mostly fun to watch. Kirk Jordan’s deadpan sheriff and Jeffrey Estiverne equally deadpan deputy are especially entertaining.

The script has many goofy horror movie elements. The stereotypical backwoods folk living in the backwoods where the movie takes place. The less-than-forthcoming-but-sexy scientist who wants to find the transformed Eli before the authorities. The scientist’s assistants who she even makes a “red shirt” crack about. The publisher and the sexy models of his Bullets and Bimbos magazine. Some outrageously gory special effects. Fun stuff if you’re in the right I was when I watched this movie.

The only bumps in this cinematic ride were a narrator character at the beginning of the film, a clumsy commentary calling out online Harry Potter erotic for the child pornography it is and a steaming pile of shit on a corpse. The first wasn’t well-acted. The second just seemed like a weird addition. The third was (literally) potty humor. The worse thing about these elements was that they took me out of the movie, not something you want to do when a movie is as short as this one.

End of the day? Given that I got the film through my local library, I have no regrets about watching it. I won’t watch it again, but it was sufficiently entertaining that I’ll recommend it to others who share my interest in and love for cheesy monster movies. Sometimes you just have to embrace the fun of these things.


From the UK, Commando #5020 reprints “Sea Ace” by a writer who is identified only as Brunt and artist Gordon C. Livingstone. The tale previously ran in issue #346 [July 1968].

The story revolves around two members of the R.A.F. Air Sea Rescue service, nicknamed the “Body Snatchers.” The mission of this branch of the service is to help those lost at sea, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. One of the lead protagonists is a pacifist committed to that mission. The other is a man consumed by hatred because of his father’s treatment by the Germans in the First World War. It’s a solid tale which, among other things, looks at how the perception of a man’s character can differ from one soldier to another. Artist Livingstone is a master of depicting the dangerous seas and military craft so vital to this story. I’d rank issue as one of the best I’ve read to date.

Overseas subscriptions to Commando are available. You can find out more by going to the comic’s website.


Punisher Max: The Complete Collection Vol. 6 [$39.99] collects the five-issue Untold Tales of Punisher Max and seven other one-shots. Twelve stories, twelve different writers. That made for surprising variety, even given Frank Castle’s so familiar war on crime and the more despicable nature of the crimes permitted by the Max imprint and its warning of explicit content.

Castle is not remotely a hero. I’m not sure what the medical term would be for his brand of madness, but he’s a bad man who murders other bad men. Every time he ends a particularly vile criminal, we feel a sense of relief and, hopefully, a little bit of shame that we condone such butchery.

My favorite story in this collection is “Happy Endings” by Peter Milligan with Juan Jose Ryp. It tells of a life-changing night in the life of an accountant and family man. The Punisher is basically a supporting character in this one.

Two women writers are represented in the volume. Valerie D’Orazio’s “Butterfly Effect” revolves around a tell-all book by a hitwoman for the mob. Megan Abbott’s “The Ribbon” is a smaller tale of a man who got away with murder once and is eager for more. The former has a dark energy going for it. The second seems a little tame for the Punisher. I enjoyed both of them.

Several stories involve people who got sucked into crime and made bad choices that led to their facing the Punisher. The outcome of such stories is never in doubt, but what makes them interesting is the journey to that inevitable meeting.

This is a book for adult readers who aren’t squeamish about truly vile crimes or their brutally violent outcomes. A little Punisher goes a long way with me, so I read the occasional collection here and there. But, if you’re more of a fan of the character, you will want to get this book.

ISBN 978-1-302-90739-6


Several bloggy readers have expressed keen interest in my launching an ongoing “Phantom Fridays” blog-within-the-blog in which I would write about the Phantom comic books published by Frew Publications in Australia. I’m not ready to do that yet, but it’s on tap for the future. It will most likely start when I reach the end of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” However, in the meantime, I’ll write about Frew’s comics in catch-all bloggy things like today's.

The Phantom #1778 is a more-or-less typical Frew issue. The front cover isn’t signed. The back cover is by Jeremy MacPherson, who I’m fairly sure drew the front cover as well. The images illustrate the issue’s lead story.

That lead story is “The Challenge” by writer Tony DePaul with art by Paul Ryan. It’s reprinted from the Phantom newspaper story that ran from May 11, 2015 to September 12, 2015. In this tale, Guran, chief of the Bandar, is challenged for that position by the younger Kipawa. It’s an excellent story about leadership, responsibility and wisdom.

Because the lead story ran just 27 pages, the issue also contains two chapters of “Heart of Darkness,” a seemingly endless serial by writer Claes Reimerthi and artist Joan Boix. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to follow this serial which involves supernatural stuff and stretches across the ages. When it’s completed, if that day ever comes, I’ll reread the whole thing to see if it makes more sense and is more enjoyable in one sitting.


I’m breaking up with Archie Comics or, at the very least, taking an extended time out from their comic books. Their new style versions of their classic characters, though sometimes well written and well drawn, don’t have the attraction for me of the classic storytelling of Frank Doyle, George Gladir and Craig Boldman. I think Black Hood is a decent comic, but, though it’s by far the best of their dark super-hero revivals, it doesn’t knock my socks off. Afterlife with Archie is simply repugnant, as is whatever the heck they’re calling their Sabrina comic book. I lasted around twenty minutes into TV’s Riverdale and had my fill.

However, when Archie announced their new ongoing Your Pal, Archie title by Ty Templeton (writer/inks) and Dan Parent (pencils), I ordered it. I’ve read the first two issues and...they didn’t knock my socks off and managed to piss me off. The stories are quite readable and all. It’s the Archie editorial department that annoyed me enough to drop the title from my buy list.

Each issue has three stories of varying lengths. The third of these tales seems to be a reprint of a story from just before the change to the new style. I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with it is that one of the new stories is always continued in the next issue. Both chapters of these two-issue tales could easily run in place of the two new stories now presented in the title. Presenting them over two issue is just a greedy come-on to force readers to keep coming back. It’s crass and it’s cheap and I’ll have none of it.

I can’t remember how many issues I’ve advanced ordered. But, when it disappears from my buy list, I’ll let you know and I’ll make up my own conclusion to the continued story in my final issue. Heck, I’ll even run that conclusion in a future bloggy thing.

Archie comic books used to bring me joy. If they bring joy to their new readers, then I’m happy for them. I’m sad for me, but happy for them. Maybe I should create my own teen humor title.

That’s all for now, my friends. Come back tomorrow for the latest edition of “Black Lightning Beat.” Feel the power!
© 2017 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for warning me about Your Pal, Archie, Tony. I don't like that Archie's books all have the equally irritating $3.99 cover (and the digests are even more expensive). I had an idea about sampling the 1st issue, but now I'll pass.

    Also, in re.: "First Man on Mars", I wonder if the writers named Eli Cologne after King Leonardo's sidekick, Odie Cologne?