Tag: Star Trek

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Oh, holy crap!

Last week, outgoing Vice President Pence proclaimed “We just returned from the Oval Office and so it is my honor, on behalf of the President of the United States, to announce that henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘guardians.’” Hmmm. From this, I gather our soldiers, sailors, air people, and Marines no longer have to be troubled with guarding anything.

Upon hearing this pronouncement, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn whimsically tweeted, “Can we sue this dork?” Others — many others; maybe everybody who ever saw these movies or and/or have ever read the very long-running Marvel comic books of the same name — asked if either Groot ( the tree who only says “I Am Groot!”) or Rocket Raccoon (who is a raccoon) would be the United States Space Force mascot.

The government pointed out that they’ve been using the term since 1983 when they appropriated the name “Guardians of the High Frontier.” That’s nice, but the Marvel Comics trademarked property “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuted in 1969. For that matter, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a super-hero for DC Comics named “The Guardian.”

This is hardly the first time the United States Space Force has been accused of purloining intellectual property. Their logo is a pathetically obvious (or hysterically oblivious) swipe of ViacomCBS’s Star Trek, which has been in continuous use since 1966 and, as of this writing, is in use on five separate current and ongoing television productions.

The United States Space Force already has a major problem: many people, including this cynic, find it impossible to utter the name without triggering the giggle-reflex. That’s a really dumb name for what we’re told to accept on faith is a serious use of 16,000 troops and a 2021 budget of $15,400,000,000.00. Prior to their creation on December 20, 2019 (happy birthday, I guess) “Space Force” had been used as the name of the new Steve Carell / John Malkovich situation comedy, which is presently filming its second season. This television series was green-lit by Netflix in January 2019, almost a full year before the creation of the United States Space Force.

Carell’s character, General Mark R. Naird, doesn’t seem to know the details of the Space Force’s mission. What a coincidence! We’ve never been told what purpose is served by the United States Space Force, if any. Is there reason to believe we will be fighting some sort of war in space? With whom? The Russians? Japan? The Klingon Empire? As an occasional tax-payer, I’d like to know something about what we’re getting for our bucks, other than a big wet kiss on the ass of our outgoing Idiot-In-Chief.

There’s good reason why we should take our sundry defense services seriously. Combined, they provide the security blanket for the United States of America, which is a lot more than I can say for our current president. To put a decimal point on this, the budget for our Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2020 is in the neighborhood of $721.5 billion — not counting the black budget stuff. In real estate parlance, that is known as a high rent district.

I guess that compared to $721.5 billion, $15.4 billion is just a fart in a blizzard. Sure, we’re spending a hell of a lot more than all that on Covid research and relief, but we’ve already lost almost as many Americans to Covid as we did in World War II, and it’s disgustingly likely that before this is over that number will eclipse American WWII deaths. So I understand where that money is going. Such expenditures are understandable and clearly benefit the greater good.

Until we have evidence to back up both the concept and the expenditures, the United States Space Force will be commonly perceived as Donald Trump’s vanity project with its marketing elements ripped off from those who have been fostering our sense of wonder without the benefit of any tax dollars whatsoever.

In other words, the United States Space Force is little more than a joke.

But the joke is on us.

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

 

Bernie Farber (L) and the author, as feckless hippies

My dear friend Bernie Farber has been in a nursing home for a few weeks, recovering from an accident. Bernie and I go way back – and I mean way, way back, almost 52 years when we were both bratty young writers for the fabled “underground” newspaper, the Chicago Seed. A smart, funny, dedicated guy who just happens to be a brilliant writer. I rarely reread my old stuff, but I reread his.

When I first heard he was in a nursing home, I felt a strong sense of dread followed by a wistful wave of nostalgia. For the past nine months just about the worst place one could be, Covid-wise, was in a nursing home. We’ve got better procedures now, but thankfully we now have the vaccine. By “we” I mean Bernie; he’s slightly older than I am, but folks in such environs will be getting the shot before I do and that is quite fair. As a science fiction fan and a lawyer who quotes from Star Trek, Bernie has no problem welcoming the shot.

Mindy Newell (R) and the legendary Trina Robbins

The nostalgia part kicked in when I realized Bernie was one of the last people I had seen before the quarantine. I was back home this past February, which now seems like a century ago, and I saw Bernie the day before I drove back to the Atlantic Northeast. When I got home my daughter put barbed wire around the doors and I haven’t been out of state, or even out of the house but for my car, ever since. Ah, the good old days!

Another friend who will be getting the shot around the time this is posted is comics writer/editor/groundbreaker Mindy Newell. That’s because in her secret identity Mindy is an operating room nurse, and that makes her a first responder, so she gets the shot so she can go on saving other people’s lives. Coincidentally, Mindy also is a Star Trek quoting science fiction fan. Talk about “live long and prosper,” huh?

Batman and Robin meet Sammy Davis Jr, sans 7 Hoods

So I want to thank Bernie and Mindy and the thousands of highest-risk folks out there who are, as a matter of fact, our beta testers. I trust the process by which this vaccine was approved, but, still, I figure the first person who used a parachute had thoughts when he first looked down. Science is not faith-based. If you’re among the first to get the jab, you’re opening some important doors for the rest of humanity, as well as for your friends and family.

I have no doubt that there will be so many celebrities taking the shot in public this week you’d think it was being given by Batman and Robin while they were Bat-roping it up the side of a building. Most of our former presidents, arguably save one, will be getting it – Democrats and Republicans alike. Prominent doctors will be going on-camera, starting with Anthony Fauci, putting their money where their mouths are. We’ll probably see a lot of show business folks doing the same thing. That’s great: we need something in the neighborhood of 75% of us to get inoculated before we can pull the death count down, and we all should get the shots as soon as each of us can.

The Multi-Colored Rainbow Religious Sacrament

However, I can predict some of those who will not. Some will bitch about religious freedom, but these people are self-serving assholes. We don’t let Mormons do their polygamy thing, we don’t permit those whose faith structures indulge in human or animal sacrifice to do their thing, and only members of the Native American Church can use their faith as a reason to score some peyote. Religious freedom stops where the next person’s freedom begins – and vice versa.

Some of the death-loving idiots who will refuse to get the vaccine will be seen on television on January 20, 2021 when, unless plans change, our former president Donald Orange Skull will have a massive Loser Rally in his newly adopted home state of Florida, the retirement home of Al Capone and Ted Bundy. Given the fact that some 74,000,000 American racists voted for the lying piece of shit, I think it is safe to assume that almost all of them will refuse to wear a mask, will not engage in social distancing, will decline to get the vaccine, and/or will be carrying handguns.

So I figure around February 1st, which henceforth I shall call February Fool’s Day, the rabid right will have more of its best and brightest lying in bags in refrigerated trucks.

You know what? I’m fine with that. I make my own bed.

 

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Star Wars! / Give me those Star Wars! / Nothing but… Star Wars / Don’t let them end — written by Nick Winters, 1977

With all the streaming at our fingertips, the entertainment business is making a lot of headlines promoting what they’re going to do once Earthlings return to mobility. But don’t get excited just yet: the only cameras operating right now are working Zoom and not Studio Binder. When Keith Richards self-quarantines, everyone should self-quarantine.

Next week’s launch of HBO Max has turned up the heat. Clearly, studios are concerned about competing for subscribers with promises of new content, which, at best, won’t appear until after the winter solstice. My take on HBO Max is simple: it’s goddamn expensive, and right now they’re running little but reruns. It’ll probably work out because they’re not promoting that fact. But reasonable bean-counters understand that few people are going to maintain subscriptions to HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV, CBS All Access, Peacock Premium, and Amazon Prime – to name but a very few – all at once. That’s a lot of money, and it’s also more programming than one can handle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream”

With Further Ado #82: Contemplating with Kirk

With Further Ado #82: Contemplating with Kirk

There are so many great Christmas comics. As a kid, I always loved those “very special issues” where the adventure would take place during the Yuletide season.  I still do. I always read a few Christmas comics on Christmas Eve, and I’m always careful to finish them and turn out the light before Santa comes.

In comics, celebrating other holidays has always been a little hit or miss.  Oh, sure, there’re lots of creepy Halloween stories. Superhero teams always seem to gather together at Thanksgiving, but I’m not sure if I have ever a had a favorite St. Valentine’s Day comic story.

I do now. IDW’s Star Trek Year Five: Valentine’s Day Special is a mouthful of a comic title, but it’s a wonderful Star Trek story, that – like all the best Trek tales – is about more than just spaceships and phaser blasts.

Paul Cornell is a gifted writer, and here he deftly uses the long history of Star Trek: TOS, and Captain Kirk in particular, to tell a tale of lost love, in a fresh and mature way.  This isn’t another story of Jim Kirk romancing some hot babe in the middle of danger and adventure. Instead, Kirk meets his equal: a woman of similar drive and passions. They are drawn together through the years. Continue reading “With Further Ado #82: Contemplating with Kirk”

With Further Ado #79: Doing Your Homework for Star Trek: Picard

With Further Ado #79: Doing Your Homework for Star Trek: Picard

I vividly remember watching the debut episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. I was in Boston at that time, recently graduated, and living with my great pals Pete (Hoff) Hoffman and Hans (Hadji) Rempel. I was the guy deepest into comics, but they each had their favorites and Pete, especially, was a big Trek fan. In fact, we had grown up together in the same little town and watched the original Star Trek series reruns every Saturday night on WPIX. And then, we’d go out and get into the usual high school mischief. Both activities were baked into the core of who we are.

So it was perfectly fitting years later that we were watching Star Trek on another Saturday night before we went out to find more mischief in Boston. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a different Trek from what we were used to. I will be the first to admit that I thought of the original series as the adventures of three friends who wandered about, broke the rules, and sometimes met exotic beauties along the way. TNG, in contrast, was much more disciplined. It seemed to be all about working in teams and overcoming obstacles with creativity. I remember one episode in particular, where Commander Ryker was trying to motivate Lt. Commander Data to manage a planet-side situation, and it was exactly what we had been talking about in my MBA management class that week.

Fast forward to last Saturday night, and my wife and I watched the debut of Star Trek: Picard. How come we all got so much older since the last outings, but Patrick Stewart is ageless? The message is clear – we all really must drink more Earl Grey. Continue reading “With Further Ado #79: Doing Your Homework for Star Trek: Picard”

Brainiac On Banjo #071: To Baldly Go…

Brainiac On Banjo #071: To Baldly Go…

Star Trek Picard started up a couple days ago, so if you know any ViacomCBS executives, now it a good time to hit ‘em up for a loan.

I can’t say I’m a huge Trekker. I saw the first episode at broadcast and thought it was decent but not particularly compelling. The next day, a young lady who held my interest told me she thought it was the Citizen Kane of television (I paraphrase) so, in order to show her how hip I was, I became a regular viewer. Look, I was hardly the first 16-year-old whose hormones determined his television-viewing decisions.

Sadly, the show held my attention longer than my puppy lust. There were some extremely weak episodes, particularly in the third season, and often I was afraid Captain Kirk was going to leap out of the boob tube and run away with my dinner. But as television went back in those days, it was pretty good and, at times, excellent.

Two decades later, Paramount launched Next Generation. I thought it was a very interesting idea, but I saw the broadcast at a Brandeis University comics convention under less-than-perfect circumstances, in a room filled with college-age fans who were pre-ordained to perceive every fart as a rose – and vice versa. I liked the show, loved the tribute to the original series, and found much of the cast to be first-rate. The writing was a bit weak in the beginning, but it improved around season three.

But this Patrick Stewart guy who headed up the show was magnetizing. In a room filled with Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduates, Stewart could grab your attention and imprint himself onto your synapses. I’m not a sucker for the British accent – at least, not when deployed by the male gender – but this man fit the Del Close definition of subtext. And most things Star Trek have a lot of subtext. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #071: To Baldly Go…”

With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery

With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery

Back in the day, when we had no idea that the Star Trek mythology would become so expansive, there was always a hint of untold stories about the folks on the Enterprise before Uhura, Scotty and the gang.   We were briefly introduced to Captain Kirk’s predecessor, Captain Pike, and shown the tragic ending to his career.  Little fanboys watching the show via 70s reruns (like me) couldn’t help but wonder what adventures that guy had in the earlier part of his career.

Over the years, I read a few paperback books focusing on Captain Pike. Marvel published a series called Early Voyages (that didn’t really do it for me) and more recently John Byrne took a crack at it again at IDW.

With all that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by IDW’s new series Star Trek: Discovery – Aftermath. This series spins out of the recent Star Trek Discovery mythology.  As is the case for many longtime fans, this new reboot seemed to have so many troublesome issues for me that I’ve kind of drifted away from it.  Oh, I’m not shaking my fists with fan rage. Like a party that isn’t that great, or meant for me, I found myself slinking out the back door when no one was looking.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #058: Discoveries beyond Discovery”

Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler

Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler

We recently had the opportunity to talk to writer and cartoonist Thomas F. Zahler about his current projects, his thoughts on his craft, and Pop Culture topics.

If you are not familiar with his work, Thom, a graduate of The Kubert School, has had a successful career in comics as a writer, artist, letterer and cartoonist. He has also written for television, including the Ultimate Spider-Man show on Disney XD. He has published a lot of his creator owned comics through IDW Enterprises, including Love and Capes, Long Distance, and Time and Vine.  Thom has also worked on comics for other licensed properties, notably My Little Pony from IDW. You can find some links to Thom’s work at the end of this interview.

Beginning in 2017, Thom published a weekly episodic comic strip on Line Webtoons, called Warning Label. He then collected that story in a printed edition that was funded through Kickstarter last year.

We wanted to catch up with him about his latest project, Cupid’s Arrows, which is set to premiere on Line Webtoons next week.

About Cupid’s Arrows:

Pop Culture Squad: Can you tell us what Cupid’s Arrows is about?

Thom Zahler: It re-imagines Cupids as two-person hitman teams. The idea is that both Cupids on the team have to shoot their targets to get a couple to fall in love, and the story follows a particular team of Cupids named Rick and Lora, who we see go on a number of missions. We also see that they may have a budding relationship with each other, which is not permitted among Cupids.

PCS: What is the inspiration behind this project? Continue reading “Spotlight Interview: Talking about Cupid’s Arrows with Thom Zahler”

Michelle Yeoh Officially Gets Her Own Star Trek TV Spinoff [i09]

Michelle Yeoh Officially Gets Her Own Star Trek TV Spinoff [i09]

We’d heard the rumors, but now it’s official: Michelle Yeoh will helm her very own Star Trek series. But she won’t be taking to the Captain’s chair—CBS has altogether more secretive plans for her.

 

Source [i09]: Michelle Yeoh Officially Boards Her Own Star Trek TV Spinoff

CBS All Access is adding yet another show to their Star Trek stable. This time they’re not giving us the Michelle Yeoh show we wanted since they launched Star Trek: Discovery but one taking place in the Mirror Universe.

It’s Michelle Yeoh, so I’ll take it.

With Further Ado #: 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time again!  Looking for that last minute gift? Or looking for a last minute gift to put on Santa’s list for you? Here’s some suggestions, some you’d expect from me and a few surprises.

THE LOST ART OF KREIGH COLLINS
Volume 1: The Complete Mitzi McCoy

Edited and restored by the artist’s grandson, Brian E. Collins, with an introduction by Eisner Award-winning author Frank M. Young.

If you listen to John Siuntres excellent Word Balloon Podcast, you may have just learned about this book. Siuntres interviewed the man behind it all, the artist’s grandson, Brian E. Collins.  You can give it a listen here, and I’d recommend every episode of this long-running podcast. 

I first stumbled across Kreigh Collins while researching at the Syracuse University Archives and I immediately became a fan.  Lost Art Books just launched the initial volume in a new series devoted to this underappreciated illustrator and comic artist collecting (for the first time) his syndicated Sunday strip Mitzi McCoy in its entirety.

Kreigh Collins (1908-74) had a wanderlust that led to a lifetime of adventures, whether it was leaving his humble midwestern roots to study the masters in the Louvre and hone his craft painting on the banks of the Seine or getting knifed in Morocco while boating and painting his way through North Africa. But equally strong was the draw of his adopted home in Michigan, which is where he launched and set his first syndicated newspaper strip, Mitzi McCoy, in 1948. It didn’t take long, though, for wanderlust to strike again, rendering Mitzi but a precursor to Collins’ eventual 20-year run on the picaresque adventure comic, Kevin the BoldLost Art Books celebrates these beautiful beginnings with this first-ever complete collection of Collins’ Mitzi McCoy.

Drawn as well as scripted by Collins, Mitzi McCoy showcased the artist’s skill as an illustrator and storyteller. His picturesque landscapes, lovely character designs, and thrilling action sequences brimmed with detail and charm, and the strip’s ensemble cast rotated in and out of the spotlight taking turns as protagonists in the dozen story arcs collected in this volume.

Available  for $34.95 at comic shops and directly from the publisher here.

 

EAGLEMOSS AND GIMCRACKS

I love reading about the origins of the modern Yuletide Season, and every year I trot out my copy of The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum. It’s a great read and seems to have spawned a mini-trend in holiday publishing. In this book, Nissenbaum talked a bit about about Gimcracks.  I’m still not sure what a Gimcrack is, but I think it’s meant to mean some sort of novelty or treasure.  And for modern equivalent, I kind of think of the amazing collectibles from Eaglemoss.  They really are miniature treasures.

Eaglemoss, an entrepreneurial UK company with a top-notch US team, has been on the leading edge of producing licensed merchandise for quite some time.  Here’s a few of their most impressive recent releases:

Star Trek

Maybe it’s because my desk is always so uncluttered (a-hem!), but I just love the model Star Trek starships that Eaglemoss has been producing for several years now.


From the new show, Star Trek: Discovery, comes the USS Buran. It’s the ship that the enigmatic Captain Lorca was on and like that character, it looks downright mean.   It  is $54.95 if you order directly from Eaglemoss and at fine comic shops nationwide

Eaglemoss’ new XL editions are 8 ½”  to 10 ½” inches long, which is oversized compared to the rest of their line.  My favorites are the USS Reliant (which also was essentially a “bad guy ship”) and a quintessential Star Trek vessel, the Enterprise 1701 A.   The XL editions list for $74.95 and are available from Eaglemoss here and here.

 

 

The Star Trek Shipyards book is a place to get lost for a few hours.  It’s a virtual encyclopedia of Star Trek vehicles.   It’s the type of book that’s tough to but down but easy to pick up, and you can do it out here. The book comes with a slipcase and a small starship model, all for $49.95.

ONE OF THOSE OTHER SPACE SHOWS

 

But in space, or the TV version of space, it’s not only about Star Trek!  Eaglemoss just launched their new Battlestar Galactica ships. The Viper, which always seemed liked the space versions of a WWII Corsair to me, was always a favorite. It’s usually $25, but for this holiday season Eaglemoss has it on sale here for just $21.21.

 

 

 

 

 

DC COMIC HEROES

Speaking of WWII, the Bombshell Wonder Woman figure channels the classic “We Can Do It’ pose from J. Howard Miller’s classic patriotic poster. This one has been reduced to $17.95 so get it while you can now!

 

Eaglemoss also offers gorgeous busts. Their DC line is professional, spot-on and bring a a sense of fun to it all. The standouts are for me are their busts for Nightwing and Harley Quinn.  Each are usually about $25 bucks, but they are on sale for $21.21 here and here.

 

 


PULP REPRINTS for the BATMAN FAN IN YOUR LIFE

Do you need something for a Batman fan who has everything already? You know the type.  Maybe you are the type.  You never know what to get them because they already have it.

Here’s a suggestion that I bet will be new to them: The Black Bat reprints from Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books.  I just started reading one (“The Black Bat’s Crusade” in #4) and it is way too much fun.  This adventure is a little bit Batman, a little bit Daredevil and a little bit of The Shadow. Each issue reprints two vintage adventures and they are all available at Adventure House.

MODERN PULP from AIRSHIP 27 –

THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN GRAVES  by Thomas McNulty

Airship27 publishes many modern pulp thrillers each year. This one features Captain Elliot Graves and his ship, The Reaper’s Scythe sailing the exotic waters of the South Pacific.  But the mystery starts in 1944, as Captain Graves has disappeared without a trace, his ship supposedly sinking off the coast of Australia with all hands lost. Eight years later, reporter Bill Harrison finds Graves living in Honolulu and manages to persuade him to recount the events of his last and greatest adventure. The legendary sea captain then reveals for the first time what actually happened on a remote South Sea island that changed his life forever.

Writer Thomas McNulty spins a fast-paced tale of two-fisted men, beautiful women and lush island paradises where both heaven and hell await. My Uncle Mike just read it too and even he said he liked it!  Available for just $16.99 here

 

 

* * *


And remember, it’s not all about stuff either.  I always like to suggest OXFAM as a choice to consider for pulp culture geeks – they do great work and their origin story seems like it’s right out a comic. Learn more here.  And in the meantime, I hope you and yours have a blessed Yuletide Season.