Observation for Now

It has always seemed to me that the human race needs more things to wonder about, rather than less.

-- Gregory L Reece

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lost in Space, Volume 3 Is Here!

            Well, my friends, this particular trip through time and space is at an end.  The product of years of research and dozens of interviews with cast and crew, Irwin Allen's Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series, Volume 3 is in release.

            Amazon listings for  the first two books:  Volume 1 and Volume 2.
            As with Cushman’s previous books on Star Trek, the production of each TV episode is given an exhaustive summary, from story idea to casting, special effects, and contemporary opinions of the show, including fan letters.
            What a ton of fun!
            All kinds of fascinating but little-known stories are told.  This big book tells the story of LiS’s final season, and the latter lives and careers of the headliners.  For example, the cast appeared several times on Family Feud for fundraising.  And did you know that Guy Williams enjoyed a huge following in Argentina, due to his Zorro series?  I didn’t know about the wild adulation he received “south of the border.”  You’ll learn all about the proposed Zorro sequel series, and more.
            Here’s an image of the uncorrected version of the penultimate chapter.  This is from my editing file:
            As you may know, Lost in Space was picked up for a fourth season.  In this book you’ll learn why that never happened.  And all about the various proposals for reunion series or films.  You’ll gain a new appreciation for how hard the production crew and the stars had to work, as you read about the various stage, TV, and movie projects that they worked in.
            And before long you’ll gain an appreciation for the wacky dedication of the author to his topic.  His affection for the show brings his research to life, so you’re not reading a dull listing of facts.  It’s fun.
            If you like Lost in Space, 1960s Tv, televised sci-fi, or show business in general, you’ll really like this book.  I know that I said, “Huh.  Wow!” more times than I could count.
            Future books on SF TV are forthcoming, just give us time!

            You can buy this book from Amazon or from Jacobs/Brown Press, the publishers.

TRUTH IN REVIEWING:  I’m the editor of this book.  That means I got to read it first – pretty neat, huh?

See you next Monday.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Adventure Comics #232: “The House Where Superboy Was Born!”

            According to the DC Wikia, the cover art is by Curt Swan.  The story was written by Jerry Coleman, and the story art was by John Sikela.

            Right off, we have a disconnect with a more modern mind.  True, in the farms of more-or-less 1930s Smallville, and even in 1957, the year of this tale’s publication, births at home weren’t unheard-of.

            But a super-advanced race of geniuses practiced home delivery?

            My question about this spectacular splash page is simply, Why is Superboy carrying a house around on his back?  But, to our story ...

            One day outside Smallville, a huge “WHAMMMP!” is heard, and a chunk of Krypton the size of a city block lands undamaged, without causing a rift in the Earth’s crust that wipes out the human race.
            Take a look at the second panel.  The Kent farm must REALLY be out in the sticks, if Superboy feels secure enough to hang his cape on the bedpost (next to his chewing gum?), where any passerby might spy it.
            We must assume that it’s a storytelling conceit, when we’re able to read, in English characters, the name of Superboy’s scientist dad.

             What a bunch of “ifs”!  If this chunk of Krypton survives the explosion ... if it happens to end up ON THE SAME PLANET as Kal-El ... if Kal-El finds this secret message ....

            Of course, in comic-book-land, nothing interesting would happen without such things!

            Now we read the Three Tasks of Jor-El.  Superboy is most intrigued by the third; it seems most easy to fulfill.  Read some books?  Simple!  But when he takes a further look around, he can’t find any!  What to do?
            Why, take a field trip to his childhood home!

             It’s a good thing that Superboy attached his cape to the lead suit.  Otherwise, nobody would know who he is!

            This crude mudbath-type of outfit is nowhere near as advanced as the lead suit Superman would invent to use against Luthor, in Action Comics #249 (1959, two years after this story).

            You have to smile, though, when you read the last panel of this page.  Superboy is making use of some unused land, to set up his “memorial to Krypton.”  Note that not only is this a swamp, it’s a CONDEMNED swamp!  How in the world can the town “condemn” a SWAMP!?!  What are they going to do – tear it down and build another one?

            Note that the DC editors make it very clear that the materials used to construct Krypton Park are all taken from places where they won’t be missed.

            And now that we get an ogle of Krypton Land, don’t you wonder if its appearance was suggested by Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, which had opened in 1955?

             His theme park now finished, Superboy heads to space to rescue somebody, Task Number Two from Jor-El’s list.  He surveys many planets, looking for a good deed that needs doin’.  He looks a long time.  In the words of Ad Worx in Cujo, “Nope, nothing wrong here!”

            Until he discovers a Very Special Planet.  I wonder how Superboy can tell the mood of the folks at a glance?  From what I can see in Panel Two, I can’t tell whether or not the people look “dejected.”  What a typical example of human do-goodery, to ASSUME that we could meet an alien race and “read” their faces, to infer their emotional state?
            OK, judging by the bottom two panels of Page Seven, Superboy is fixin’ to take that weird rock formation and use it on the advancing comet, like spearing a meatball!

            No, instead of spearing the comet. Superboy smashes it with a rod of iron (just like the irate Jehovah in Psalm 2:9). 
            Then he descends to the planet he has saved, to make sure they know that Krypton saved them.  Or something like that.

             It’s a good thing that Superboy gave a Super-Vision examination to the comet after he smashed it ...
            ... because particles from this comet’s tail evidently had also coated the Krypton fragment when it passed through this same space system.  With amazing omniscience, Superboy knows that the Krypton block “must have passed through the comet!”  Thus “coated,” this Kryptonite is somehow inert, and the Boy of Steel may now take a bittersweet stroll through his forsaken childhood home.

            Here we have another of those gosh-darn coincidences.  That foresightful Jor-El had programmed his secret, invisible projector to trigger only when it heard somebody crying, and only if that weeping matched a recording of the infant Kal-El’s crying.  Ain’t it amazing that Kryptonian science could make a voiceprint match between a baby’s voice and how that child would sound ten years later?

            The last panel of Page Ten previews a book called The Last War, “which tells how Krypton abolished war finally ....”  While this statement might not have meant a lot to the 1957 grade-school audience, consider the times.  This story was produced by a team whose parents experienced World War I, “The War to End All Wars.”  And some of the crew – cover artist Curt Swan, for instance – had served in World War II.  The Korean War (1950-1953) had just wrapped up. (This is a generational generality, but still apt.)
            So perhaps this Kryptonian book, The Last War, was a bit of wishful thinking, a dream that might never come true on Earth.

             The projector clicks off.  Superboy begins to muse on the wonder of it all, only to drop to the floor unconscious.  Some helpful human observers darg him away just in time.  Unnoticed by him, the “coating” that had insulated the city’s Kryptonite has worn off, and without rescue he’d have croaked!
            And what terrible news greets him on recovery:  He can never approach the block again, or even Smallville!  The Kryptonite radiation is too intense.  This outer-space real estate has got to go!  But how can he do it?  What can he do now?

            I doubt that any of the kids reading this story had heard of Archimedes, but the grown-ups  at DC had.  As quoted by Diodorus Siculus, the Greek philosopher famously said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.”
            Or, you could thrown a Kryptonian city block into space!  Don’t say that Superboy uses a lever and a fulcrum.  Put it into our juvenile vocabulary:  He made a giant seesaw!
            We end our tale, of course,  with the status quo restored.  Kal-El is left with a sad memory.  He’s encountered a literal piece of his past, only to realize that he can’t keep it with him forever, except in memory.  On the bright side, he can reminisce while sitting on his giant model of a Kryptonian Kally Jlin!
            See you next Monday, here on the Super Blog!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Superboy #100: Ma and Pa Kent’s Incredible Delusion!

             This is the cover story for Superboy #100, from October, 1962.  The cover and story art are by the inimitable Curt Swan, from a script by Super Creator Jerry Siegel.

            The story begins as Superboy saves a bunch of naval vessels from the explosion of a South Seas volcano.  He returns home to the summer cottage of the Kents, only to be confronted by the cover scene.

            “What the heck?!?” as Cecil the Seasick Sea-Serpent would say.  “Umm, wait here,” Superboy temporizes while trying to figure out the cause of this sudden, strange obsession.  In his secret hideout, the statues of Jor-El and Lara have been stripped of their outfits.  That’s the source of the Kryptonian costumes the Kents are wearing, proof that they have come down here.  But, Superboy’s various space trophies don’t seem booby-trapped.  What caused this wacky flight from reality?  Can he snap the Kents out of it?

     Soon we readers learn that they’re impostors, Phantom Zone criminals set free by the volcanic explosion which opened our story.  (Note that Jerry Siegel came up with this idea thirty-five years before Superman The Movie and Superman II narrated the Phantom Zone’s rupture by a nuclear explosion.)  The criminals, Doctor Xadu and Erndine,  hope to maneuver the Boy of Steel into revealing the location of the Phantom Zone Projector (here called the Punishment Ray), so they can imprison him and let the other crooks out.
            Kryptonian scientist Dr Xadu made his first appearance in April, 1961’s Adventure Comics #283, in the story “The Phantom Superboy!”  Erndine is his wife.

      The panel that depicts these two villains casually pulling off their supposedly lifelike Kent masks makes the adult in me say, “Huh?”  You start to wonder, how dense is Superboy not to figure that these are NOT the Kents?

  • ·         By their distinctive smell – aftershave, laundry soap, etc
  • ·         By their voices
  • ·         You didn’t notice that their glasses are PART OF THEIR FACES?

       To mess around with Superboy’s head some more, they work at the Kent store and deny their previous Kryptonian dress-up act.  But look closely at their faces.  As the customers sweat, the Kents’ phizzogs are dry.

            After flying his foster-foster parents around in a “rocket” and returning them, Superboy finally picks up on the fact that they’re not wilting in the summer heat.  Aha! Finally he thinks to use his X-ray Vision! 

            Kal-El confronts the pseudoKents and finds out what they want.  In return for the Kents’ location, he sets up a real rocket so the evil pair can travel to the planet Exon where, he tells them,  he’s hidden the Projector.
            PSYCH!  By a series of tricks, he’s gotten them to land on a red-sun planet, where their powers will be useless.  Now he can rescue Ma and Pa Kent!

            In the denouement, Superboy has found his foster parents, and filled them in on his punishment for those bad ol’ Zoners.  Good riddance to bad Kryptonian rubbish, we say!


            As promised on the cover, also included in this issue are various “artifacts” which are reprints of interesting Super Features.

             Of course, to us pre-teens, the long-removed years of 1939 and 1949 were really ancient history!

             This two-page center spread looks like the layout for an otherwordly amusement park!  Judging by the tiny depiction of Jor-El working on his rocket, this map is by Al Plastino.

             This pictogram mentions some of the many survivors of Krypton:  Argo City, Supergirl, and Krypto.  Beppo the Super-Monkey isn’t mentioned, despite having been introduced in 1959’s Superboy #76.
            Note the blue-line images in the background?  They’re bleed-through from the next page.

             This page fills out the “special anniversary” material.  The first, third, and final panels have tracings in blue pen, when an earlier owner of this comic decided to emulate the art.  That’s what is bleeding through onto the previous page.

            Well, that’s our survey of (part of) Superboy #100 from 1962.  See you next Monday, friends!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Helpful Freeware for Small Tasks

In my roaming throughout the interwebs, and up and down upon it, I’ve come across several freeware programs that I’ve found quite useful.  Feel free to give them a try.

1.  Show Desktop
            This is a small trick for people like me who liked the larger “show desktop” tab that USED to be at the right end of the taskbar in Windows.  It was shaved down to purt-near nuthin’ for Windows 10. 

One place where it may be found is HERE.

            If you end up opening “Notifications” half the time when you want to use the “show desktop” function in Windows 10, this utility will be helpful.

2.  Copy Filenames
            Just as it sounds ... this simply allows you to open a folder, select any or all files, and right-click.  “Copy filenames” is now one of your options; it copies the filenames (including extensions) to the clipboard as text.  For me this is super-handy.

             For example, if you have a folder (shown above) with various items, you may use Copy Filenames to produce this list:

2016-12-13 Bookshelf.jpg
Page is 6 x 9.25 inches.docx
Cassette Buttons.png

            This is handy if I simply want a list of what’s in a folder.

3.  Caffeine
            If you have a screensaver set to kick in after a certain amount of inactivity, there are times when you don’t want it to!  You might be watching a video, for instance.  Instead of going to the trouble of de-activating and re-activating your screensaver, simply install Caffeine, which keeps your computer screen from going to sleep!  Cute name, eh?

            You may find it HERE.

            Well, I hope these little helpers make life easier for you, as they do for me.  And don’t forget to thank and support the folks who developed them!

            I’ll see you on Monday, a week from today.  Thanks for stopping by!
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