Savage on the Street (and Smith): The Other Doc Savage (#SFWApro)

docsavage1Before Gold Key, Marvel or DC took a shot at adapting Doc Savage to comics, his own pulp publisher, Street & Smith, gave it a try (cover artist unknown to me; all rights to current holder).

As detailed at Pulp Super-Fan, Doc debuted as a backup in the Shadow’s comic in 1940, then shifted to his own book. The book didn’t feature Doc alone but also Ajax the Sun Man, Mark Mallory, Captain Fury and other characters. During this period, the stories were adapted from the pulp novels, such as The Red Serpent based on The Crimson Serpent and The Polar Treasure based on the same-name novel.

I thought Marvel had problems squeezing the plot of a pulp into two regular issues, but the eight-pagers from this era are even worse. Doc’s supporting cast are trimmed down and the Polar Treasure adaptation begins with Doc and Victor Vail already in the Arctic (the opening page narration sums up what has gone before).

In 1941, things changed. Doc crashed in Tibet and like countless Westerners before him, encountered Tibetan mystics who could endow him with great powers, via a magic ruby. This new, super-powered Doc Savage (also used in a Street & Smith radio show) ran until the comic was cancelled and Doc moved back to The Shadow in 1944. Unfortunately I haven’t found any stories from this era online.

After a couple of issues Doc ditched the ruby reverted back to a straight crimefighter.In 1948’s Television Peril, a scientist ignores Doc’s warning that matter transmission by television (yes, it’s the same thing as teleportation, but TV was cool and new back then) and becomes the dupe of a schemer who plans to send armies instantly across the globe for conquest. It’s not an adaptation but it’s not far off Doc’s regular adventures. The Crystal Creatures, in which research into plastics creates unkillable silicon monsters, is closer to an issue of DC’s Strange Adventures in tone.

And that’s pretty much all I have on this period, but I’m grateful for the various sites that put this material up online. I have now read at least something from every era of Doc Savage comics — at least until the next comics publisher gives it a shot.

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Filed under Reading, Comics, Doc Savage

New And column out–

A Box Made of Rules,” on how society likes forcing female square pegs into round holes.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

The Un-Changing of the Guard: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (#SFWApro)

OHMSSPosterWith Sean Connery increasingly restless as James Bond, Eon Productions traded him out for George Lazenby for ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969). For some, Lazenby’s one shot at the role represents a sad waste, a road not taken. I’m with those who say we were better off with Roger Moore. There are flashes where Lazenby connects with the role — when he’s confronting Diana Rigg in an early scene, when he’s fleeing from SPECTRE and it looks like his time has run out — but most of the time he’s as bland as can be. It’s a shame because most of the movie is good. But a good movie with a bad Bond is not going to be a good Bond movie.

In the teaser, Bond saves Tracy (Diana Rigg) from suicide—drowning herself—only to get attacked (by her father’s goons, apparently). He beats them but Teresa’s gone, leaving Bond quipping “this never happened to the other guy.” Cue the theme, which affirms series continuity by showing clips from the previous films between the silhouetted girls.

It’s been two years since You Only Live Twice and two years in the series too. At the start of the film, M pulls Bond off the hunt for Blofeld (“A license to kill is useless if you can’t set up a target.”). Bond dictates a resignation letter to Moneypenny but to the relief of both Bond and M, she switches it to a request for vacation.

In Europe, Bond encounters Tracy at the baccarat table, pays off her debts and suggests she be more careful. Tracy: “People who want to live play it safe.” She invites Bond up to her room, where a goon jumps him again, then she meets him in his own room where a now-suspicious Bond slaps her around before they make love.

Tracy leaves the next morning but her father Draco, a crimelord, meets with 007 and suggests marrying Tracy could cure her self-destructive urges (the assumption sex with Bond is a cure for suicidal tendencies is the film’s weakest point). Bond values his single-guy freedom and says no.

With Draco’s help, Bond locates Blofeld hiding in a fortress in the alps, and infiltrates it posing as a herald from Britain’s college of arms (we learn during this film that the Bond family motto is “the world is not enough.”). Blofeld is obsessed with proving himself a nobleman by blood and wants to show the college his documentation. Despite the two having met in the previous film, Number One doesn’t recognize him (Dahl ignored film continuity in adapting the book, which was Blofeld’s first meeting with his nemesis). The clinic has a cadre of beautiful patients, who despite thinking Bond isn’t interested in girls (I don’t know what 1960s subtext I’m missing that gives them that idea) hit on him and soon discover otherwise. It turns out Blofeld has brainwashed the women to unleash sterility-inducing into crops and food animals all over the world, getting amnesty and the title in return for the cure. He locks Bond up but 007 escapes (it’s a very good sequence) and with Draco and Tracy’s help, thwarts Blofeld. James and Tracy admit they love each other and marry. Bond retires from MI6 but as he and Tracy drive off on their honeymoon, Blofeld pulls a driveby. Tracy dies. As one of my Bond books says, if Connery had played the scene (“There’s no hurry you see—we have all the time in the world.”) there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house. Lazenby not so much.

Like the later For Your Eyes Only and Living Daylights, this comes across as a back-to-basic film after the previous two Conneries. 007 has no gadgets (other than a kind of portable photocopier he uses to copy information from a safe at one point), the chase sequences are free of gimmicked vehicles and the fights look relatively realistic (though much longer than the previous films). Diana Rigg is irresistibly charming. On the downside, Bond’s visit to the clinic is very draggy and Telly Savalas’ Blofeld seems more the level of a Big Apple crimelord than an international threat.

The movie had potential, but between casting and plot-holes, most of it goes unrealized.

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Filed under Martinis Girls and Guns, Movies

Medical problems, Donald Trump and more: political links

As I mentioned in a previous linkpost, Aetna is looking to quit the Obamacare exchanges because it’s losing money. Jim Newell at Slate looks at other problems that have developed in Obamacare and how to fix them.

•Deaths from pregnancy-related complications rose 27 percent in the US between 2000 and 2014 (the rest of the world, the rate went down). In Texas, the rate doubled.

•The company that makes Epipens has increased the cost 400 percent since 2007. Why? Because they can (Consumerist profiles the CEO responsible) And insulin prices are skyrocketing too — one form has gone from $45 to $1,447 for a month’s supply. The company that makes Epipens says it’s providing discounts for some customers, and anyway the price increase is totally not their fault.

•Megan McArdle richsplains that there’s no reason to provide affordable health care, it’s just our irrational nurturing instincts that make us think these price hikes are objectionable. After all, food is more vital than medicine so why aren’t we protesting the price of food? Answer, because it’s a lot easier to switch brands or switch to something cheap without dying. That was easy!

•Health officials are questioning if moderate drinking is really good for people. The liquor industry is upset.

•Thinkprogress argues that Donald Trump is courting the white supremacist vote. Digby discusses this. One apparent Trumpite/white supremacist attacked an inter-racial couple with a knife. Shakezula looks at an article covering a white supremacist protest and the reporter’s efforts to sound neutral. But have no fear, Trump plans to reach out to minorities (by telling them their lives suck) LGM suggests that while Trump makes bigotry more mainstream, he makes it easier to condemn it.

•Lance Mannion suggests that Donald Trump has bought into the illusion he offers—that he thinks he really is a hypercompetent savvy business leader who knows what has to be done to fix America.

•Trump’s campaign may lose, but he’s making money off it.

•Pumping up the terrible threat of Russia is great for the defense industry.

•Consumerist looks at Wal-Mart’s reliance on police to substitute for on-staff security.

•The American Bar Association may get tougher on accrediting law schools by putting some teeth into one requirement, about how many graduates pass the bar exam. One school has a solution: require seniors take a sample bar exam before graduation and flunk anyone who can’t pass.

•Right-wing pundit David French warns that doctors are too accepting of transsexuals kids. “When the kids grow up” — you know, become adults — the doctors might actually authorize a sex-change operation!

•A smart lightbult is no longer smart as the manufacturer no longer supports it.  ZDnet suggests this is going to happen more and more unless manufacturers adopt common standards for the internet of things rather than proprietary systems.

•A British CPA firm sends an employee home for not wearing high heels.

•Why are there so many bank branches everywhere? Apparently customers like it.

•A recent hack exposes malware the NSA deploys on targeted computers.

•A teenage athlete finds two women asleep and puts his finger inside them. No jail time though—the judge decided rape was a harmless mistake and there’s no need to ruin the kid’s life.

•A study finds that while people are judgmental about parents leaving children alone, the judgments of whether it’s wrong depend on the parent’s reason (meeting a lover? Running an errand? Caught in an accident?) but so do judgments of whether the child’s in danger (i.e., the more “selfish” the parent, the more risk to the child).



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I Love Gervasio Gallardo covers (#SFWApro)

As I used up my review material yesterday, here’s a cover-art post. Gervasio Gallardo was one of the talented artists who worked on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line of paperbacks. I love his work, for example the cover for George MacDonald’s Lilith.


Or the spectacular sinking-of-Atlantis cover of Poseidonis.


Or bringing the pretty for William Morris’ Water of the Wondrous Isles.

Wondrous+postFor horror we have several Lovecraft covers such as this one here (though technically the stories are Derleth mimicking Lovecraft).

gallardo-survivor-1971And for a more fantastical mood, there’s Lovecraft’s Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.


As Clark Ashton Smith’s Xiccarph is a more alien setting than Poseidonis, a somewhat weirder, more alien cover.

tumblr_lxbspnwlSY1qhtuebo1_500This post has no purpose other than to say how much I love Gallardo’s art and to show you why. All rights to all images reside with current holder.


Filed under cover art, Reading

Atlantis, Hiroshima, Woody Allen, Dick Grayson: Media consumed (#SFWApro)

Lost-Continent-Ballantine-Books-1972I’d assumed THE LOST CONTINENT by C.J. Cutcliffe-Hyne (cover by Dean Ellis, all rights to current holder) would be one of those books I loved as a kid and would find disappointing now, but no, it’s still entertaining. This is an old-school epic in which Deucalion, governor of Atlantis’ Yucatan colonies, is called home to become husband to the usurper, Phorenice, who is now Emperor of Atlantis. This proves rather awkward as Deucalion is both a model of propriety who puts country before self and has little interest in women (it’s clear he’s a virgin), not because he’s gay but because back then a manly man often didn’t (as Jules Feiffer put it, the opposite of the undatable wimp wasn’t Casanova, it was a guy who could get lots of women but is too busy being manly). Surprisingly, Deucalion still comes off as a believable hero for all his nobility, while Phorenice, despite having the beauty required of evil queens, is also extremely smart and ruthless, entirely believable as a conqueror. Throw in some prehistoric life and sorcery and oh yes, Atlantis sinking, and you have a heck of a story.

white light/black rain — the Destruction of Hiroshima (2003) is a documentary in which a-bomb survivors, the Enola Gay crew and others discuss the impact of the bomb both literally (“The destruction just kept spreading outward.”) and psychologically (“I never had nightmares about it.”). Nothing terribly new to me, but hearing the first-person accounts (including their lives since the event) still packs a punch. “After the hysteria passed, I realized my skin was dangling from my arm.”

Woody Allen’s ANYTHING ELSE (2003) strikes me as an inferior remake of Annie Hall in which Jason Biggs has the Allen role as a struggling writer in a doomed, dysfunctional relationship with Christina Ricci. Where the earlier move showed both sides of the relationship were flawed, this unfortunately blames everything in Ricci; Biggs’ only flaw is that he just loves her too much to let go, even when she stops sleeping with him, sleeps with other men or invites her mother (Stockard Channing) to stay in their cramped apartment (it all feels very misogynistic). Allen has an interesting role as an older writer who’s almost as crazy as Ricci, but in different ways. And despite some great lines (“I couldn’t decide whose nihilistic pessimism would make you happier.”), it has lots of clunkers (seriously, jokes about psychoanalysis are as dated as jokes about the Korean War). So thumbs down. Jimmy Fallon plays Ricci’s ex, Danny de Vito plays Biggs’ inept agent. “There must be a million women who’d be thrilled to sleep with you—well you could probably find one provided you got her drunk enough.”

After Nightwing’s supposed death, Dick Grayson transitioned into the GRAYSON series (    ), of which I just read Vol. 2 (We All Die At Dawn) and 3 (Nemesis). The great strength is that the authors really respect Dick, who’s shown to be ultra-capable, heroic, and still with a streak of circus acrobat (the trapeze is his metaphor for a lot of what he goes through). The weakness is that the first volume is choppy to the point of having no narrative thread (judging from other reviews, my not reading the first book isn’t the problem) and Spyral—the secret agency Dick is infiltrating—doesn’t stand out from SHIELD or ARGUS despite its best efforts (the identity-concealing tech they use isn’t cool enough for that). The oddness is the constant emphasis on Dick’s sexiness, not in the sense that he can or does seduce women, but that everyone seems to enjoy looking at him (even the gay hero Midnighter makes quips about Dick’s butt) and thereby invite the audience to do so. It struck me as much closer to the way female heroes often get handled than the guys (so if you’ve ever lusted for Robin or Nightwing, this might be the book for you).

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Filed under Comics, Movies, Reading

Blood and souls for Arioch—wait, it was just blood for the Red Cross, sorry (#SFWApro)

Yes, I gave blood today. Atypically, it wiped me out. This may tie in with having walked both dogs separately before I went down, and it was humid and hot this morning after several nice days. And I didn’t do any extra hydration, so that may be all it took. Plus the Plush One decided to demand attention after I got back, so my work today ended up being research reading (my last-ditch solution when I can’t focus on anything else). And eventually I got too wiped/distracted to focus even that much, so I’m just writing today off as a sick day.

painting2(No, giving blood wasn’t this bad. Hung Liu’s Dr. Norman Bethune from when it was at the North Carolina Museum of Art. All rights to image to current holder).

Despite that, the week went well. The high point was that I finished the plot arc of Southern Discomforts. I still have to finish off the character arcs but I knew there’d be a lot of that to do after the final battle went down. I know how most of this plays out, but actually getting it to the page will take work. With any luck, though, I’ll wrap up this draft before the end of the month.

I rewrote Oh the Places You’ll Go! and started to get a handle on the problems. The main one being it’s a character story but I don’t have enough character conflict or arc. I think I see how to fix that though.

And I have the text of Martinis, Girls and Guns written through Casino Royale (the Craig version). Though I’m seeing things I can add that will make it more valuable. Part of what interests me about the series is how it’s survived so many cultural changes, so emphasizing the real-world culturaul and political backdrop at the time they were made is a big part of it. But I think I can do more.

I also started a new short story, a pulp detective thriller (with magic and a female lead) I’m tentatively calling Farewell my Deadly but I don’t care for the title. I think it looks like a strong one—I’ve already got a clear idea of the protagonists—but I ran out of actual plot after a couple of thousand words. Hopefully more will come to me soon.

Oh, and one important thing, I’d learned of a film and a TV show that really belonged in the appendix of Now and Then We Time Travel, so I emailed McFarland and they’ll be able to put them (it’ll be much easier than doing when I get galleys). They both came out before my March 31st cutoff for coverage, so I’m glad to have them in.

And I’m confident my energy will return by tomorrow.

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Filed under Martinis Girls and Guns, Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing