Sunday, February 28, 2010

In the Classroom with Doctor K!

Readers often try to imagine what it would be like to take a class with Doctor K (at least, I assume they do. I have no hard evidence to support this.) Some might think it's all "Look how racist this Blackhawk comic is!" and detailed punch analyses, but it is often much more than that. This short film by some of my students reveals my pedagogical strategies:

It was fun to help my students out for a few minutes on this project. I enjoy having students who get into cool stuff like this.

Also, over at the Bureau Chiefs site, I've got a piece up on how to win your Oscar pool. Last year, when I went 18/24 in Oscar picks, I was asked here and on Twitter to put together some advice for making picks. I had a lot of fun writing this one. Feel free to leave comments and any tips of your own.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Bureau Chiefs!

As I've mentioned before here, I'm part of the team collectively known as "The Bureau Chiefs" who put out humorous tidbits at Fake AP Stylebook on Twitter. This week, the Bureau Chiefs website went live at

The site will feature our humorous take on the news and pop culture, as well as feature articles and reviews. My first piece, a review of Joe Hill's new novel, Horns, went up today.
In addition to occasional book reviews, I'll also have a regular feature where I write about a different cult movie every Friday. This will be in a format and approach similar to what I use when writing about horror and sci-fi movies during the Halloween Countdown every year, so if you like that, you definitely should check this out.

Also, the launch of the Bureau Chiefs site means some changes for things here at the 100-Page Super Spectacular. For the past few months, I've basically been limiting myself here to the weekly Gil Kane punches and Blackhawk posts (the latter of which which has been unfortunately absent the last two weeks). While I have written about movies and prose fiction on this blog in the past, I'm pretty much moving all that writing over to the Bureau Chiefs site. That will leave this blog for writing about comics, which is ostensibly what it has been for a while, anyway. Once I get ahead on some of the assignments for the Bureau Chiefs, I hope to expand the comics writing here beyond the two regular features that I've been limited to for some time (and I promise to get back on track with the Blackhawk posts).

I'll also post an announcement here when new stuff of mine goes up on the other site. Since that site isn't set up for comments, feel free to drop in any comments here about my stuff.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 35: The Finishing Touch!

I know I've been dipping into the Green Lantern well quite a bit over the last few weeks, but I've been fascinated with the evolution of Kane's style that can be traced through the four Showcase Presents Green Lantern volumes. Volume 1 is virtually punchless, and throughout those stories, Green Lantern tends to use his ring as more of a defensive weapon, or his ring constructs are used more to detain bad guys than to knock them out. This pattern holds true through most of volume 2, though we begin to see more punching occuring around issue 28, when writers Gardner Fox and John Broome start creating plots where GL's ring is useless in defeating the villain. With volume 3, the punches start coming hard and fast, and the typical Gil Kane punch becomes a regular part of Kane's repertoire, often appearing multiple times in a single story.

That brings us to Green Lantern 56 (Oct. 1967), written by Gardner Fox and pencilled and inked by Kane, which is the second part of a punchtastic two-parter that brings together the entire Green Lantern Corps. To mix things up a bit, I've chosen a punch not from Hal Jordan, but instead from one of Hal's mentors, Tomar-Re. Here, a winged Tomar-Re knocks out fellow Zudarian, Zoraldo.

"Now my fist at the point of his jaw--is knocking him out!" Yes, Tomar--on Earth, we refer to that as "a punch." I do like it, though, that Tomar, who is not used to fisticuffs, still leads with his left.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 34: The Punch Came C.O.D.!

From Green Lantern 37 (June 1965), in a story called "The Spies Who 'Owned' Green Lantern!" comes a rather unconventional punch:

In this story, written by Gardner Fox and inked by Sid Greene, Hal Jordan finds himself under the hypnotic spell of a spy ring, so in order to break that spell, GL commands his ring to shrink him down in his sleep, and then he has Pieface mail him to the spies. This plan doesn't really make any sense, but it does give GL this opportunity to punch his way out of an envelope.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blackhawk Wingsdays: The Outcasts of Blackhawk Island!

The Blackhawks have fought and defeated (often by accident) many enemies that threaten the peace of the world. However, Blackhawk 202 (Nov. 1964) reveals one enemy that they simply cannot defeat: age descrimination!

Also in this issue: the Blackhawks actually fly their goddam planes!

I do want to point out, though, that the splash page here is a pants-on-fire liar. As a Blackhawk scholar, I must address this claim that Blackhawk Island has "never been seen by outsiders." In fact, a quick perusal of the Showcase Presents: Blackhawk volume proves that the black knights were letting reporters and others on the island all the time. So, I'm calling bullshit on this.

In this issue, the Blackhawks battle the Hammer, yet another criminal mastermind who uses elaborate machines to commit his crimes, like this giant flying saucer that vacuums up precious minerals.

Though the Blackhawks handily defeat the Hammer's flying saucer, little do they know that the villain has an ulterior motive: he wants to track the team's flight path in order to trace the location of Blackhawk Island.

This is a pretty elaborate plan when he could have just googled "Blackhawk Island location" and gotten the same result.

On the island, the team undergoes some rigorous training, which often results in Hendrickson receiving some ribbing for his age. To prove he's not an old man, Hendy performs a triple gainer and knocks Stan into the water:

Meanwhile, in a sub off the coast of Blackhawk Island, Hammer launches Operation Methusaleh, which involves some kind of green gas that causes all who come in contact with it to age rapidly.

Right here is where Hammer's plan falls apart, even before it gets started. There is a wide variety of poison gases that Hammer could have used here that would wipe out the Blackhawks instantly and give him total access to this secret, uncharted island. Instead, he has to get all fancy with this bullshit aging gas.

The Blackhawks' system of fans keeps the gas--which they think is just a weird green fog--just off shore. Soon, though, a report comes in of pirate activity, and Blackhawk sends Andre, Hendrickson, and Stan out in the Blackhawk sub in order to investigate. In the process, the trio get exposed to the green gas. Of course, if they had just flown in their planes--which is what the Blackhawks do, after all--this wouldn't be a problem.

The three heroes don't actually find any pirate activity, and so they head back to the island. Soon, though, the exposure to the gas takes effect:

Man, I just love how Andre talks to himself in the mirror. Unfortunately, his pussy-hounding days are over as he turns into a decrepit old man.

The same happens to Hendrickson and Stan as well:

Also, in an odd turn of events, Blackhawk's own right arm becomes withered and old, possibly because Andre touched him there.

You don't want to know what else became withered and old because Andre touched it.

With this turn of events, Blackhawk has no choice but to make a drastic decision that opens him up to a huge age-descrimination lawsuit: the three old men must be fired because the team can't waste resources dragging along some senior citizens.

No retirement party, no gold watch--the three seniors are just put in a boat and cast adrift.

This proves to be a huge mistake, as Hammer makes his way onto the island with his various gadgets and has his way with the remaining Blackhawks:

With all the young Blackhawks captured, the three old men return to the island to live out their final days, and since Hammer does not see them as a threat, he lets them do what they want.

However, even as old men, the Blackhawks shouldn't be counted out. All of the senior citizen paraphernalia turns out to be cleverly hidden weapons. Andre's cane is actually a rifle, and Stan's ear trumpet...

Also, Hendrickson has somehow hidden a giant bazooka in his wheelchair:

Once Hammer is captured, the Blackhawks have a couple of dilemmas to solve: one, they need to find out how to de-age their teammates, and two, they need to do something about the fact that Hammer and his henchmen know the location of Blackhawk Island.

Luckily, they have a Nazi machine that will take care of both problems:

The story ends without Blackhawk acknowledging that he was wrong to exile Andre, Stan, and Hendrickson just because they are old. In fact, he could have gotten off by just saying, "It was my plan all along to have the three old men return and save us!" And so, the discriminatory labor policies of Blackhawk Island remain intact and unchallenged.

According to the Grand Comics Database, "The Outcasts of Blackhawk Island" was written by Bob Haney, even though he's not credited in the issue itself. Though this story certainly has touches of that patented Bob Haney insanity, I had always thought Haney didn't come on this book until issue 203. I'll have to double-check my records on this.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 33: Right Makes Might!

A few weeks back, I mentioned that Green Lantern 58 (Jan. 1968), was a pretty punchtastic issue. In "Peril of the Powerless Green Lantern!" written by Gardner Fox and inked by Sid Greene, GL finds he is having strange reactions to his adventures, such as overwhelming fear, greed, and sadistic tendencies toward criminals. For example, he really lays into three common thugs:

The Guardians diagnose him with combat fatigue and strip him of his ring, but he still has to face some challenges, as detailed in this earlier post.

Also in this issue, a powerless Hal Jordan spends two pages beating the shit out of a bear:

I can tell you right now, that bear does not appreciate the taste of Florsheim.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blackhawk Wingsday: The Enemy Blackhawk Creatures!

During this period of change in the Blackhawk series, a recurring plot occurs in which one or more of the Blackhawks turns against the rest of the team, usually by being transformed into a monster by an evil scientist. Once again, one really has to question the efficacy of a crime fighting team that spends most of their time either fighting each other or rescuing their leader from deadly peril of their own making.

"The Enemy Blackhawk Creatures," from Blackhawk 201, fits this pattern, as the cover shows team members getting transformed into bizarre energy creatures. However, the splash page seems to set up an entirely different story:

It seems like the writer (and no writer is credited here, but it may have been Arnold Drake, who did much of the writing of the series along with France Herron, until Bob Haney took over a few issues later) couldn't decide if he wanted to do tiny Blackhawks or electrical Blackhawks, and instead put both hands together and combined the two.

The story opens with the Blackhawks chasing after some daring crooks who have just stolen the famed "Pearl of India" from the local museum. Andre manages to tackle one of the thugs before he escapes on a helicopter, but in the ensuing melee, the pearl comes loose:

So, while the crime was foiled, Andre feels bad that he managed to lose the pearl down a drain hole, and he makes a strange wish: he wants to be small so that he could fit down the drain and recover the pearl.

Coincidentally, Andre's request is overheard by Cheech and Chong, who help Andre get small. Actually, it's the famous Professor Milbrook, who has recently been in the news for his unorthodox scientific experiments. He informs Andre that a new device he has invented will help him achieve his desire for shrinking.

Milbank takes Andre to his lab, where he demonstrates the machine on a rabbit. After the first blast of the machine, the bunny becomes a giant electrical rabbit, then another blast turns it into a palm-sized hare. Deciding that absolutely nothing could go wrong with this, Andre volunteers to be the machine's next subject.

It turns out, however, that Professor Milbrook has other plans, and he only exposes Andre to the first blast:

As a mindless creature of pure energy, Andre becomes the professor's slave, and the evil scientist turns the monster on the Blackhawks.

During the ensuing battle, Hendrickson and Chop-Chop are also turned into electrical creatures, and while Blackhawk discovers that the creatures are weakened by water, he and the remaining team members are unable to stop them. That means Blackhawk has to come up with another plan:
The plan to lure the creatures to "Playland" amusement park turns out to be total crap, as Blackhawk has no idea what to do with the creatures once he's lured them in there. Instead, all the Blackhawks are captured and turned into energy creatures.

Milbrook then reveals a side-effect of his device: the energy creatures will automatically turn small after a certain period of time elapses, so in order to control his new captives, he just makes them small at the same time:

While tiny, the Blackhawks manage to pick up a broom and cold-cock the professor with it, knocking him out cold. They then sneakily turn the device on him. Little Milbrook and Tiny Blackhawk fight, and Milbrook's face is dislodged, revealing that he isn't Milbrook after all:

Karl (The Con) Kendell--the criminal with the worst nickname--kidnapped the real Professor Milbrook and used his devices to further his criminal career. In fact, he had set the whole thing up with the pearl thieves in the first place.

So, let me make sure this is straight: Kendell's plan all along was to turn the Blackhawks into his own personal army of energy creatures. In order to achieve this goal, he hires a gang to rob the museum of the Pearl of India, confident that the Blackhawks will answer the museum alarm. Then, knowing full well that the Blackhawks will botch the collar, Kendell has the crook intentionally drop the pearl down a drain. Kendell does this so that the Blackhawks will wish they could shrink and, therefore, will be amenable to his offer to use the shrinking machine invention. That is one goddam fool-proof plan.

As part of Kendell's punishment, he is dropped by string down the drain in order to recover the pearl.

At the end of the story, the Blackhawks seem to want to play with Kendell like a little toy doll for a while before they return him to normal size.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 32: SKROGG!

Sometimes, I just like to open one of the Showcase Presents: Green Lantern volumes randomly and see if I can land on a page with a Gil Kane punch. The first volume is relatively punchless, perhaps indicating that the historical development of the Gil Kane punch evolved over the course of his Silver Age superhero work. By the time we get to the issues collected in volume 3, however, the punch has clearly become Kane's signature move, and we can find as many as five or six punches per issue.

Case in point: this image from Green Lantern 54, "Menace in the Iron Lung," written by John Broome, with a rare instance of Kane inking his own pencils at this time.

This is, by all means, a pretty standard Gil Kane punch, with Hal Jordan slugging the guard of the titular villain's estate (it does, however, get bonus points for the sound effect, "SKROGG!"). But a quick scan through the issue reveals no fewer than seven typical Gil Kane punches, plus several variations. The plethora of punches in this issue, in fact, makes me realize that a taxonomy of Gil Kane punches is long overdue, and I really need to get to work on that.