Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It´s Mutanten Mittwoch with John Romita Jr

Lately I have skipped quite a number of birthdays - comicwise and where celebrities are concerned - so instead of trying to catch up on that front I have decided to do a post about something I am currently reading. Again.

Yep, I´m talking about Marvel´s merry mutant melangerie and especially John Romita Jr´s stint on the book during it´s heyday in the 80s which - as longtime readers of this blog know - is one of my favorite periods of the book second only to Marc Silvestri´s glorious run on UNCANNY X - MEN.

This is not the first time I have read these issues and I really am not sure why we keep coming back to the same stories again and again. Today somebody asked me why I spend so much money on what is supposed to be a disposable past time - at least that was the original concept behind it. Comic books were created as cheap entertainment to be enjoyed and then discarded. Which is how the general populace still sees it which may be one of the reasons why it still does not have the place in culture and society it clearly deserves. And it has only been through comic readers, collectors and creators that comics have evolved into more expensive, more complex and more artful entertainment over the last few decades.

Because no matter what the initial intention for comic books was there are some stories that resonate with us. May it be because of a certain point in time we are at when we encounter them for the first time or things we only discover at the second or third reading or they represent our first foray into seriously collecting comics. Some stories have a lasting impact while others are just quick entertainment meant to occupy our minds during that short time we take the subway to commute to work.

As with all things that go back a few decades I am not entirely sure about the exact timeline here but I guess I must have read the first issues of John Romita Jr´s UNCANNY X - MEN in the spanish translations by Planeta DeAgostini´s FORUM imprint in the 80s. I had just finished with getting my entrance application to the university of applied sciences when I got my hands on the spanish version of UNCANNY X - MEN 196, which was not only my first encounter with this incarnation of the X - Men but also with SECRET WARS II which is still one of my favorite companywide crossovers.

Since I have already waxed philosophic about that particular issue, Chris Claremont´s brilliant writing and my love for SECRET WARS II in particular in this post I won´t go into more detail. Boy, when I wrote in 2013 that SECRET WARS II would be a topic I would return to I really wasn´t kidding.

Speaking about returning, let´s go back to all the times I bought John Romita Jr´s issues of UNCANNY X - MEN and the next must have been another translation, this time the german version in the dreaded pocket books by Condor. Because of the big success of DIE GRUPPE X they started an edition of album sized issues but they mostly covered the second Dave Cockrum and the Paul Smith era in those so except for two issues you found most of the John Romita Jr UNCANNY X - MEN issues in those pocket books. I always wondered how americans would react if they got their hands on those as the german article " die " - which only means " they " -  would clearly be read as the english word for ceasing existence.

So far, all of the issues I read were translations - which in the case of the german pocket books were very abbreviated versions that omitted ninety percent of the original text - so that when I finally got the chance to read these issues in the original version for the first time through the CLASSIC X - MEN reprints I didn´t think twice. You have to remember that this was before the now obligatory reprint policy was put into place and back then all X - MEN stories we had in trade paperback was The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Pasts and the last one was not the thick trade they sell you nowadays but two flaming issues : UNCANNY X - MEN 141 and 142.

Now you might think that it would stop there since I finally got to read the issues in the original version but far from it. As I have mentioned once or twice I have dabbled in art myself and as somebody whose knack has always lain more towards the inking side than penciling I was always very interested in seeing inked pages by the pros. Which was not that easy before the days of the internet where you can easily find hundreds upon hundreds of original art pages without even trying ( although it is easier to find something by accident than a certain page you are specifically looking for ) so the closest thing we got to that was in the form of the spanish BIBLIOTECA MARVEL pocket books or the ESSENTIAL phone books.

So with that we are already at five different versions of SOME of these issues - not all of them mind you - but there are still a few I haven´t mentioned. I also have some in the english pocket books by PANINI UK because the art still looks good even in the small format and unlike the german pocket books they have the full text. I already mentioned that some of the issues are SECRET WARS II crossover issues so they are in the SECRET WARS II omnibus which is so far the highlight of my collection - at least until the SHANG CHI : MASTER OF KUNG FU volume 3 omnibus is at an affordable price at amazon. Right now they sell it for 132 bucks which is 7 Euros more than you pay at a comic book store. Those guys are all crazy.

Speaking about crazy, when the Epic Collection X - Men : The Gift was offered through amazon for less than 20 Euros - and we´re talking about a 35 Dollar trade here - I went and bought it again. Because not only does it have the issues in a much higher printing quality than the CLASSIC X - MEN issues it´s also easier to read them in one sitting and I don´t have to go through my longboxes. Granted, there is also the X - MEN AND ALPHA FLIGHT mini series included which I already have in various versions but it also contains the four issue NIGHTCRAWLER mini series by Dave Cockrum based on the popular Kitty´s Fairy Tale issue I haven´t read before. And one of the first stories has part of the Marvel universe flung back to the hyperborian age and you can´t beat a team up of the Avengers and the X - Men especially in a Conan version. Plus, Storm has a really nice outfit. 

In closing I have no real wisdom to impart on you besides that maybe my fascination with these issues has to do with the fact that this was Chris Claremont at the height of his abilities which was one of the reasons the UNCANNY X - MEN became Marvel´s most popular book in the 80s. He wrote all the members as three dimensional interesting characters and especially had a lot of strong female heroes which was not very common back then. Plus his writing was edgy and very much in the Zeitgeist of that time and while some of it may feel dated Today most of it still holds up. And I don´t have to mention that these were the classic versions of the mutants where Wolverine was still an intriguing character shrouded in mystery instead of the unrecognizable versions we got Today thanks to the complete lack of editorial supervision by Disney. I swear, in one of the hardcovers I recently bought the first page of the credits were all editors and I had to laugh really hard because reading the comic you know that none of them did their job, they just came to collect their paycheck.

Anyway, this post is not about bemoaning the sorry state Marvel comics are in right now but rather to showcase it´s glory days and especially John Romita Jr´s UNCANNY X - MEN run. So here are a few more examples of his rising star which would only go on the even greater heights from here. 

As the time I can spend on these posts is rather limited lately - and I can feel my eyesight already fading at this point which means I have to wrap up things quickly - it will no doubt take me a few days to finish this post ( no doubt it will take me at least one day to add the links, another to do the birthday part, another one to add the videos, one more day to write all the clever and witty remarks you all love and hate plus a few more days to put all the material like original art pages and animated GIFs I found doing the research for this post in the right folders ) so while the next post may be a DC post again there is a high possibility that even if it will be a FLASH FRIDAY post it will be next week or Friday in two weeks.

With that said we go directly to the link section which is a bit shorter than usual. Normally I try to make sure that there are at least ten links so the ones I constantly bookmark don´t pile up too much but I don´t have the time and energy to go through the list twice. I hope what the links lack in quantity they more than make up in quality. First we have some links concerning the topic of Today´s post starting with BIZARRO JIMMY OLSEN`S MIDLIFE CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS which has posts on Uncanny X - Men 190 and Uncanny X - Men 191MARS WILL SEND NO MORE with a review and the complete story from Uncanny X - Men 193 and you can find all kind of X - Men covers as well as other stuff on UNCANNY X - MEN NET .

Continuing with the links, it´s not really related to this post in particular but if you like to see original art pages as much as me you might want to check out TOM PALMER ILLUSTRATION which always has niece art pages.

Speaking about nice art pages, as I wrote in the intro I have missed a lot of birthdays since my last post and I thought about including them here but the list is just too long. Since I have started the blog I have always tried to keep it as real as possible and aside from the occasional exception where I write a post in advance or later I have managed to stick to that policy. So all the guys and gals that I have missed to dedicate a post to will have to wait until next year - except those lucky ones that DID get a post last year which you can still check out through the archive links. One of the birthdays I wanted to cover this year I will mention is Kerry Gamill´s birthday ( I had hopes to continue my series of posts on John Byrne´s SUPERMAN revamp in the 80s ) and while I didn´t do a special post about him I did various posts on his contributions to comics like the issue of Power Man & Iron Fist where our heroes for hire meet Doctor Who - well, kind of. Anyway, the reason why I mention Kerry Gamill at all is that you can check out some of his best splash pages from Power Man & Iron Fist on DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND and there´s also a post on the sometimes X - Men companion and future superhero Binary with Ms Marvel 20 by the X - Men dream team of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum which introduced her new costume and also the next issue .

With the past birthdays taken care of we come to Today´s jubilarians ( and X - Men readers will know that I chose this word on purpose ) starting with spanish actor Hugo Silva. The 40 year old actor was the big draw for women on the show Los Hombres De Paco, a show my mother never let me watch because she found it too chaotic. It´s one of the shows I hope the americans never re - make because they would surely ruin the tone of the show which is a cross between The Simpsons and The Shield. But that show is in the past and in the present Hugo is best known as 1980s cop Pacino on cult show El Ministerio Del Tiempo. I have already mentioned the show once or twice in the past but since I already mentioned Doctor Who I should probably explain why it´s not simply a rip - off. As with most spanish tv shows it centers around a unique idea namely that you can´t travel through time with a machine. There are however certain portals or doors that lead to other time periods which are all in one big structure policed by the Ministry of Time and the series tells the adventures of the special agents of the ministry who try to keep the natural order of time.

One of the similarities with Doctor Who is that a lot of things happen in each episode although each one is one hour long so every episode is more like a short mini movie. At the moment the series is on hiatus and the next season hasn´t been announced yet but as successful as it has been so far I have no doubt it will continue. It also is not clear if Hugo Silva´s character Pacino will return but he had a really interesting story arc.

Another movie heartthrob is Bruce Penhall who looks back on 60 years and getting his sweaty paws all over megabodacious übersexbomb Roberta Vasquez´ well endowed unmentionables in a few Andy Sidaris movies.

He also got it on with playmate Suzi Simpson in Enemy Gold and real life Power Girl Julie K. Smith used her body to subdue him in a jacuzzi in The Dallas Connection. I have done various posts on Cynthia Brimhall, Roberta Vasquez and Carolyin Liu, Dona Speir , Ava Cadell , Sybil Danning , Becky Mullen and Andy Sidaris so if you want to read more just use the tags.

Meg Foster celebrates her 69th year and she was in a plethora of tv series from Bonanza, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Streets of San Francisco, Hawaii Five - O, Cagney & Lacey, The Cosby Show and Miami Vice to The Twilight Zone and appeared in such cult movies like They Live ! and Masters Of The Universe with Dolph Lundgren where she was Evil Lynn.

What many people don´t know is that Gary Goddard, the director of that movie was a big Jack Kirby fan especially of his NEW GODS. So when he got the chance to make a big sci fi movie instead of making a Masters Of The Universe movie he made a movie that took a lot of material from NEW GODS and made a cineastic tribute to the King. He even tried to get the studio to hire Jack Kirby as set designer. I guess that would have been the only thing that could have saved the movie. So now you know why they are not on Eternia for most of the movie and why they all act like in a Jack Kirby comic. By the way, Meg Foster did not wear any special lenses in the movie, that´s how her eyes look naturally. Although she DID say that her costume was really uncomfortable and restraining all of her movements.

Meg Foster also starred in such erotic masterworks like Lady in Waiting with Shannon Whirry and Greg Hyppolite´s Undercover Heat with über bodacious Athena Massey as sex starved undercover cop Cindy Hannen.

Even if the story is nothing new - a female cop has to go undercover as a callgirl to find a serial killer - Undercover Heat is one of the best erotic movies I have seen because it has the perfect blend of crime, suspense, erotic and humor that few directors of this genre achieve. It also has a nice pacing of five minutes of story development followed by five minutes of erotic scenes and so on. But the biggest reason why this movie is so entertaining is the stunning Athena Massey and her spectacular body.

If you haven´t seen the movie yet I wrote more about it in last year´s birthday post of cult siren Elizabeth Berkeley where you can also find more animated GIFs of sexy Athena Massey in totally NSFW action. You can find Undercover Heat on YouTube and well stocked DVD shops but since I mentioned Masters of the Universe here´s a special She - Ra team up.

Composer Jay Ferguson turns 70 Today and he has contributed to movies like Best Seller, Johnny Be Good, Gleaming The Cube, Double Dragon and A Nightmare On Elm Street 5 : The Dream Child as well as composing the themes for shows like Melrose Place, Going To Extremes, Tales From The Crypt, Viper and NCIS Los Angeles. Back in the day a lot of the cassettes I listened to on my walkman ( ask your Dad what that is ) were soundtracks because I really like symphonic music. So one day when my brother took the dog for a walk he borrowed my walkman and it was already a few hours after midnight. When he came back he told me that he had not checked what was in the walkman and which kind of sick s - word I listen to. As it turns out the soundtrack for Nightmare On Elm Street 5 was in the walkman and suffice it to say he never took it without checking first. 

Normally I don´t mention producers in the birthday roll call but Today would have been the anniversary of David O. Selznik who produced such classics like The Third Man and Gone With The Wind amongst others. He also produced Duel In The Sun in which cult siren Jennifer Jones plays half breed Pearl Chavez who wants to be a good girl but her spectacular body turns her into the object of sexual obsession of two rivaling brothers.

The two brothers who try to use and abuse poor Pearl are played by Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck who plays the bad guy in the story. I already posted the movie one year ago so you can go there to watch it.

Today is also the anniversary of the birth of Fritz Austerlitz better known as Fred Astaire who starred in all the musicals I saw as a child. He always made dancing look easy even though he practiced his steps for hours.

With a few videos left after going through the birthday checklist I want to include another episodes of The Comic Book Greats with Chris Claremont whose writing was one of the reasons why Marvel´s mutants rose to such prominence in the 80s and 90s. Although that was all thrown overboard when Disney decided to get rid of the X - Men in favor of the Inhumans and it looks like they still have to learn that you can´t just interchange heroes and that as much as they might try to convince everybody, the Inhumans are not the X - Men. Although they have already whitewashed the Inhuman society by omitting the underclass of the Alpha Primitives.

Since we have already covered the usual subjects of cartoons, music / dance and comics it´s time for something completely different so here is some knowledge about german words courtesy of Wanted Adventure.

To close things out here is another longer video that I always have a hard time to fit into posts. One of the things I like to watch on YouTube are videos about tv shows that never got their chance so here is the pilot for a time travel show Rewind which never got the approval for serialization.

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Welcome to the X - Men, ( insert name here ). Hope you survive the experience.

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