Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bionic Nostalgia - Bigfoot

Much like the Bionic Woman episodes of "The Six Million Dollar Man," I don't think I had seen "The Secret of Bigfoot" since it originally aired back in 1976.  This two-part episode, at the height of Steve Austin's bionic popularity, hit on so many power spikes of pop culture at the time, making it classic 1970s television. 

For all of you fans of "Ancient Aliens" or the real Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell who don't know, that whole cycle of strange phenomena began back in the 1970s.  From Erich Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods? to the movie documentary The Mysterious Monsters, it was all hot at that time.  The commercial for the latter, which featured a Bigfoot's arm crashing through a window to grab its victim was pulled from television by parents' groups for scaring young children. 

That one struck a chord close to home for me, living so close to the Pine Barrens.  We didn't believe in the Jersey Devil, but we also weren't stupid enough to go in the woods at night, or sit on the couch with a window behind it.  Bigfoot was hot, aliens were hot, and so were earthquakes after the big disaster film.  A pop culture fuse had been lit and the folks behind "The Six Million Dollar Man" were going to get on board. 

"The Secret of Bigfoot" two-parter had it all - two geologists investigating the San Andreas fault, an ancient alien base, and Bigfoot, played by Andre the Giant himself.  It could only get better as Steve went to save the couple, and came face to face with Bigfoot, or as the badly stereotyped Native Americans called it, Sasquatch.  Only the stereotypes that date these episodes mar it.  Watching it again on Esquire recently, I found my childhood again. 

We were a little under a year away from the wave of jiggle shows of which Lee Majors' wife Farrah Fawcett was a big part of, and I hadn't discovered girls yet, so watching Steve Austin trade blows with the Sasquatch was a dream come true.  There is a good and lengthy fight with voiceover narrative by the aliens watching, until Steve pulls off Bigfoot's arm. 

The aliens have been there in the mountain for generations, guarded by the robotic Sasquatch.  Filmed in weird soft focus, they dress in leisure jumpsuits and a young Stephanie Powers is very interested in what makes Steve tick.  Bigfoot, while having some very cool facial make-up has an even worse wardrobe problem as he looks as if he's wearing pilly wool dreadlocked brown pajamas.  Sasquatch makes friends with Steve, maybe just to get fashion tips.  Throw in a massive Cailfornian earthquake and a nuclear bomb, and you've got a nail-biter.

In the original two-parter we get a few cameos of Jaime Sommers, a reminder of how closely linked the two series were.  As with anything so popular in pop culture, the Sasquatch kept coming back, but not always played by Andre the Giant. Ted Cassidy filled in a few times, and not as satisfactorily in my expert opinion.

The last time we see the creature, it's in the season five episode titled appropriately and simply enough, "Bigfoot V."  There's been a Bigfoot sighting and everyone is after him - anthropologists, hunters, opportunists, Rudy Wells, and Steve Austin and the OSI.  Other than some silly talk about the difference between space Bigfoots and Earth Bigfoots, this is pretty pedestrian stuff for the show, which had become mostly for the kids by this time. 

Of course, the show had such an effect on our culture that when many people think of Bigfoot, they see in their minds Andre the Giant rather than the ape-like beast from the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, and that's saying something.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in a Flash

Back in a flash, and gone in a flash as well. I haven't read a DC Comic in quite some time, maybe a year at least. There was a moment there, just a moment mind you, when there was interest, but the event fatigue that has almost killed Marvel Comics, drove me equally away from DC. Notice that the thrust of this single issue of The Flash I'm looking at today is pretty much following up storylines from my reviews a year ago, not cool. Whatever happened to one-and-done comics? Hell, one story in one issue could be the next hot gimmick - that's one gimmick I would gladly put my money down for.

Speaking of money, and I hope the powers that be are reading this, the first comic book I had to have, and actually sought out a comic shop to go and put money on the counter for was The Flash #22, and that was for Jay Garrick, the real Jay Garrick, the original Golden Age Flash. That's $2.99 sight unseen, from the shelf to the counter and out the door. Think about that, DC Comics, you put the real Jay Garrick in a comic book, and I hand you money. Otherwise, I'm not interested in your line for a year or more. Someone says there's a traditional hero from my childhood acting like a hero, and I'm a customer again. Do the math.

This issue is the fourth part of a storyline called "The Button," some hogwash trying to connect Watchmen to the DC Universe. I'm really not interested honestly. Watchmen's story is over. Anyone who read the acclaimed maxi-series knows this. Any further use of the characters, who are technically Charlton heroes and barely Alan Moore's creations, is just DC giving Moore the finger. So as far as any of this button nonsense goes, I really don't care. It's the Jay Garrick stuff I want to talk about.

Jay Garrick is the first Golden Age superhero from Earth-Two I got to know. I never had a problem with the multiverse, it's only DC's writers who had trouble with that. I was fascinated by this older Flash from another world, and as I got older, I grew to love those Golden Age versions of the heroes more than the rest – Green Lantern, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, they ruled, but Jay was the first and the best.

Jay Garrick is cover-featured on The Flash #22, shown burning through the original cover of Flash Comics #1 from 1940 to appear today. Nice effect, as if the book wasn't already sold on me. Sadly, Jay only appears on five pages of this roughly twenty-one-page comic. It was enough to make me cheer for a moment, but then again that's something Marvel hasn't been able to do for quite some time.

Batman and the Flash, the Rebirth versions of these characters, are in pursuit of the Reverse-Flash through the time stream. The villain is apparently destroyed by a force - maybe God, maybe Doctor Manhattan – that also leaves our heroes without their Cosmic Treadmill and swept away into the winds of time. Metaphoric and cosmic, but it's that kind of comic. Then they hear a voice, telling Barry to say his name, "Jay."

There's a weird Shazam! like vibe in that, but the name summons Jay Garrick, and he uses his speed to get Batman and Flash back to their universe, back to the Batcave, back home. He looks like our Jay Garrick, sleeker, maybe not as much of an old man, and the costume has a few tweaks, but nothing to complain about – shinier helmet, new boots, and his sleeves cover his hands more. It was still Jay, not that guy from that Earth 2, this was the old Flash I loved.

Jay mentions being free, perhaps from the Speed Force, or some other dimension, or maybe some other Earth invisible from the 52-Earth multiverse… or maybe from Doctor Manhattan himself. Like Wally West in DC Universe Rebirth #1, he tries to get Barry to remember him, to no avail, and he vanishes into oblivion. I got my five pages and DC got my three bucks.

The deal still stands however. Give me back my Flash, hell, I'll get greedy, give me back my Justice Society, and I'll give you my money, DC Comics, deal?

Roger Moore 1927-2017

Actor and humanitarian Roger Moore has died. His family announced today that he had passed from cancer after a lengthy battle with that and various ailments beginning with a diabetes diagnosis in 2013. He was most well known for his seven-film stint as James Bond 007 in the 1970s and 80s.

Last week when I reviewed Octopussy, I was not so kind to Sir Roger Moore, and while it's true he had (literally) become a clown in the role by that point, he did star in two of my favorites from the franchise Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. Notably he was in the role for the most films so far, and is still the best James Bond for many fans. And for prepubescent me, he was my favorite Bond as well, but perhaps that shows where the movies were aimed at the time.

Bond wasn't all Moore should be famous for. He was incredible as "The Saint," also on TV, he was fun in "Maverick." In particular, he was a favorite of mine in the infamous but much fun Spice World, with the Spice Girls. Roger Moore was a legend and he will be missed. I'll be watching a few of his Bonds and raising a martini to his memory, shaken, not stirred.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis ~ Throne of Atlantis is the first sequel to Justice League: War, which in turn was a result of the New 52 continuity created by The Flashpoint Paradox.  Confused?  Don't be.  Suffice it to say, the DC Comics Universe used to be different and fun, and now it's not.  These are the adventures of what passes for the Justice League in that new world. 

This is a Justice League that doesn't get together for meetings, doesn't look like themselves from the comics (or the ones I fondly remember), and doesn't particularly even like each other - except for Superman and Wonder Woman of course, who are romantically involved.  This team dynamic is a darned shame because the cast has great chemistry.  Nathan Fillian's Green Lantern joins Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Jerry O'Connell as Superman, and Sean Astin as Shazam (who is again sadly neither the wizard nor the real Captain Marvel). 

Thankfully this is not really a story about the Justice League, but more of a(nother) retelling of Aquaman's origin, something done much better in the comics, and in the animated "Justice League" episodes "The Enemy Below."  I really didn't care for the re-jiggering of characters like Mera, Black Manta, Atlanna, and Ocean Master however.

I liked the pseudo-anime style animation and the majestic score by Frederik Wiedmann, who had previously composed for "Beware the Batman" and the much-missed "Green Lantern: The Animated Series."  But that's really about it.  Like previous entries in this new series of animated features, there's a lot of violence, both bloody and lethal, not something I watch superhero cartoons for, at least not to this extent. 

Look for a cameo by pre-Steel as John Henry Irons and a reference to "Mercy Reef," the cool Aquaman spin-off from "Smallville" that never got past the pilot stage.  Not recommended unless a hardcore fan, or you like the New 52 Justice League

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rest in Peace Chris Cornell

Soundgarden and Audioslave front man Chris Cornell took her own life last night after performing with the reunited Soundgarden in Detroit. I had been texting with a Facebook friend about the concert when it was done. He was telling me what a great show it was, and how bigger things were coming for the band. He texted me later, saying that Cornell was dead. He had hanged himself.

I admit, until last night, it had been a few years since I thought of Chris Cornell. I loved his "You Know My Name," the first real rocker to be a James Bond theme in decades. I was never really an Audioslave guy, but Soundgarden was on my playlists long before Cornell became one of the founders of the grunge movement in Seattle. I loved their cover of the Ohio Players' "Fopp" early on and played that to death on mixtape after mixtape. I stayed with the band through grunge success, and remember the summer of 1991 with Temple of the Dog with Cornell on lead singing "Hunger Strike," which whenever it came on the radio I would yell back, "Domino's delivers." Fun times.

Here's the part where I usually say we've lost a legend, and he will be missed, and we have, and he is, but there's just something missing there. My good friend, and a terrific writer, Jessica A. Walsh, posted something on her Facebook wall that says exactly what is really on my mind. Chris Cornell seemed okay last night, he seemed amazing, and now he's gone. Here's what Jess wrote:

"Chris Cornell's apparent suicide is another reminder that what people reflect on the outside may not at all resemble how they're feeling on the inside. You can work, laugh, play music, hang out on social media, have a loving family, and still be dying inside.

"That's why we need to spend more time communicating and building relationships and being of service to one another."

Thank you, Jessica. And if anyone out there is feeling this way, please talk to someone, talk to me, talk to anyone. You have friends, you have choices, you have life, and it can all work out.