Tuesday, January 31, 2017

RAR #22: THE APACHE KID



I have little to say about the Apache Kid, though he meets my criteria for a "Real American" by dint of being a white orphan adopted into Indian culture. His original name was Alan Krandal, but after growing to manhood under the tutelage of adoptive Indian father Red Hawk, he took a new name, Aloysius Kare, a saddle-tramp who was essentially nothing but the secret ID for the swashbuckling Apache Kid. What he did to earn his daily bread when he wasn't making peace between white men and red men remains a mystery to me.

I've only read the stories reprinted in Marvel's WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS, and they strike me as singularly unremarkable. The feature's only distinction may be having the first western hero to sport the name "Aloysius."

Monday, January 30, 2017

RAR #21: FLAMING STAR AND TOWERING OAK

Since I've devoted some posts to the Real Americans of the 1970s GHOST RIDER comic, I may as well sum up those from Marvel's 1960s version.

I won't recount the history of that Ghost Rider, which I've just discussed here, except to say that although the character was patterned after a 1940s hero published by another company, that 1940s character had no Indians involved in his backstory.

The most important character in the short arc of the 1960s Ghost Rider was Flaming Star, medicine man of the Sioux (not, as Michael Fleischer claimed in a later story, a Comanche). He found the special reflective minerals that made possible the Ghost Rider's spectral illusions and gave Carter Slade the motivation to become a masked do-gooder.



Only in one later issue, #6, does this Ghost Rider face a Native American adversary-- and this transpires immediately after Flaming Star, pleased with his pupil's success as a crimefighter, gives Slade an additional weapon: a "spirit-stone" that can increase a man's strength. But an aggrieved Sioux exile, Towering Oak, shoots Slade from hiding and dons the stone himself. The exile is already a strong fellow, as he stands eight feet tall, but the stone makes him supernaturally strong.



Patently, Slade survives being shot, heals up and takes on Towering Oak in a fight. The hero wins when the power of the stone causes the Indian to have a heart attack, whereon Flaming Star reveals that Towering Oak was his rebellious son. A more skilled author might've made something out of the "sibling rivalry" latent in the relationship of Slade and his opponent, but this was just a standard Western tale, no better or worse than a hundred others.

Friday, January 27, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #53

Primary TOM ATKINS acted in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and a few TV-shows like XENA and FORTUNE HUNTER.

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Primary ROWAN ATKINSON acted in JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN and in the 2002 SCOOBY DOO.

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Peripheral RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH acted in the 1967 DOCTOR DOLITTLE with--

Primary GEOFFREY HOLDER, best known as "Baron Samedi" from LIVE AND LET DIE.



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Peripheral MALCOLM ATTERBURY acted in THE BIRDS with--


Primary TIPPI HEDREN, who voiced "Hippolyta" on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.

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Primary EDWARD ATTERTON racked up a few credits on shows like CHARMED and ALIAS.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

RAR #20: WIS'AKA THE MANITOU AND SPOTTED DOE



Here's two more Real American characters from the pages of GHOST RIDER. They're a slight improvement over these two, but still, not much to write home about.

The main concept of this two-part story, which finishes up in #50, is to have modern-day Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze encounter his 1880s counterpart. This character was Marvel Comics' first Ghost Rider, published in seven issues of his own comic book and a few anthology-appearances after the book failed. Ironically, this character was Marvel's attempt to hijack an earlier western crusader with an almost identical crimefighting pattern-- masquerading as a ghost to battle villains-- published for several years by Magazine Enterprises. When that defunct company's trademark on the character lapsed, Marvel moved in-- though at the time, their version of the Ghost Rider was a spectacular failure.

However, their co-opting of the name made it possible for the company to apply the name to the cycle-riding monster-hero, and he became much more famous than either western character. Marvel reprinted the original Ghost Rider's adventures with a new name, "The Night Rider,"and the counterpart in this 1980 story uses that name as well. (The hapless sagebrush spook would get redubbed once more as "the Phantom Rider.")

Anyway-- Johnny Blaze rescues a man from a rockslide, but because of this action he finds out that the man is involved in a conspiracy to blow up a dam near a Comanche reservation. Blaze's apparent association with this villain causes an elderly Comanche shamaness, Spotted Doe, to call down upon him a ghostly warrior known as "Wisa'ka the Manitou."




It's not exactly clear what Wis'aka is. "Manitou" is an Algonquin word for a deity-like being, meaning that it probably isn't close to whatever words Comanches used, though they may have analogous concepts. However, Wis'aka functions more like a genie whom the shamaness Spotted Doe calls up at her will, for Wis'aka never speaks or gives any sense that he has volition. He does have really powerful "orenda," though, because twice he wounds the Ghost Rider with his supernatural weapons, just as the demon-hero is thinking what a pushover the spirit will be. For those readers who may've found the Rider a little too invulnerable at times, this scenes are the high points of the story.

Because of Spotted Doe's magic, Ghost Rider travels back to the 1880s, meets Night Rider, and finds out that Spotted Doe is the daughter of Comanche chief Flaming Star, who was the mentor to the main character of the first GHOST RIDER comic. After the two Riders team up against some owlhoots, Spotted Doe sends the demon-hero back to his own time. He saves the Comanches from further victimization by white villains and rides off to his next adventure.

VON JUNG THE MYSTIFIC (1837)

VON JUNG-- published about 30 years prior to the birth of the most famous Jung in history-- is another of Poe's cerebral joke-tales that doesn't hold up too well these days.

One odd touch of the story is that Poe starts out by telling the reader about the "grotesquerie" of Von Jung's family, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the story:

The Baron Ritzner von Jung was a noble Hungarian family, every member of which (at least as far back into antiquity as any certain records extend) was more or less remarkable for talent of some description—the majority for that species of grotesquerie in conception of which Tieck, a scion of the house, has given a vivid, although by no means the most vivid exemplifications.

The real focus of the tale is that the odd baron has a special talent:

The beauty, if I may so call it, of his art mystifique, lay in that consummate ability (resulting from an almost intuitive knowledge of human nature, and a most wonderful self-possession,) by means of which he never failed to make it appear that the drolleries he was occupied in bringing to a point, arose partly in spite, and partly in consequence of the laudable efforts he was making for their prevention, and for the preservation of the good order and dignity of Alma Mater.

The way Poe sets up the story, it almost sounds like Von Jung's "mystific" talent may have something to do with mesmerism, which became a big thing in France of the 1770s. However, it turns out that Von Jung's "knowledge of human nature" is simply an extremely well developed ability to know how to press people's buttons. The unnamed narrator, after presenting a catalogue of Von Jung's pranks at his Alma Mater, finishes up by telling how Von Jung managed to get away with insulting a fellow named Hermann, known for killing numerous tormentors in duels. The devious Von Jung does so by knowing how deeply Hermann is versed in the *code duello,* and so works a psychological trick that makes Hermann desist from a dueling-challenge on a technicality.

The main significance of this lightweight tale is that Von Jung may be seen as an anticipation of the author's detective-character M. Dupin, who boasts a similar talent for sussing out people's secrets through an understanding of basic psychology. Poe also presents the reader with a very grotesque description of Hermann, noting that the man has "a trunk worthy of a Farnesian Hercules"-- and though his build has nothing to do with the story, its inclusion suggests that this is something of a "brain beats brawn" tale.

On a minor note, the "Tieck" Poe mentions in the first quote was a well-known German author, whose work is largely unread today, though as the link points out, his vampire tale "Wake Not the Dead" predated Dr. Polidori's "The Vampyre,"and appeared in at least one paperback collection of horror stories, as well as being available in translated form online.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #52

Primary MARY ASTOR has just one credit in the 1925 DON Q SON OF ZORRO.

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Primary ROSCOE ATES (in background) has one uncredited relevant role as a photographer in 1933's KING KONG.

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Primary WILLIAM ATHERTON acted in the original GHOSTBUSTERS and THE CROW: SALVATION, as well as voicing "Doctor Destiny" in the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon.

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Judgment call here: CHRISTOPHER ATKINS appears to be a Primary, but it's for a movie that hasn't been released yet: a 2015 project called GATHERING OF HEROES.




THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM (1837)

Leslie Fiedler cites documents from Poe's surviving letters to support his argument that Poe's only finished novel was an attempt to emulate the success of Fenimore Cooper's adventure-books. PYM was not successful with a majority audience, and Poe only attempted one other novel-length work, the uncompleted JULIUS RODMAN.

PYM is a corker, though. Like many Poe works the main story takes place within a frame, as the main character details the story of his experiences at a later date, though the full story is given a tantalizing, unresolved conclusion.

PYM is closer in spirit to Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND than to anything by Cooper, for the titular character is a feckless young man who goes to sea for adventure. Instead Pym suffers an assortment of terrors and tribulations that look forward to the constant perils of serial films, to say nothing of "torture-porn" flicks. Though Pym himself is barely competent to survive the sea's rigors, he lucks out in making common cause with Dirk Peters, a "half-breed" sailor possesses of Herculean strength. Given the author's love of epicene, scholarly characters, Peters is an unusual creation, and the closest Poe ever came to creating a combative hero. Peters lacks the depth of character found in both Cooper's Hawkeye and his Indian buddy Chingachcook, but he does have an almost Conan-esque moment when he uses a knife to slay a giant polar bear.

The phenomenality of PYM starts out as purely naturalistic, but the novel enters literally metaphenomenal waters when Pym and Peters, lost at sea, are picked up by a ship set to explore the South Pole. The ship's crew meets a strange race of Negroid people near the Pole; people who are so black ("How Black Are They--?") that not even their teeth are white. The savages ruthlessly kill everyone in the ship's crew, though Pym and Peters escape for a while. The Americans finally manage to steal a boat from the evil blacks-- as well as taking one of the tribesmen hostage-- and find themselves sailing into a world that gets stranger and stranger. The novel ends on a bizarre note, as the two Americans behold a titanic white human figure waiting at the Pole to greet them.

The narrative breaks off, and an interpolation by another hand explains that though Pym returned to the U.S. and managed to write his story, he died before completing the work, thus leaving the narrative an eternal mystery. Peters is also supposed to have returned, but remains unavailable to anyone inquiring about the adventure. Later authors were more impressed by Poe's PYM than his contemporaries. Jules Verne wrote a rationalistic sequel explaining in tedious detail what Pym encountered at the South Pole. In contrast, H.P. Lovecraft understood that Poe was seeking to evoke the sense of a mysterious, imponderable cosmos. HPL not only incorporated elements of the Poe work into his own "Cthulhu Mythos," he also made frequent use of the trope of the "story that breaks off at the end and leaves the reader guessing."

POLITIAN (1835)

POLITIAN is an unfinished play by Poe, set in 16th-century Rome. Early parts of the play appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger, but it failed to garner good notices so Poe never finished it.

I'm tempted to hypothesize that this was Poe's attempt to ape Shakespeare, given that the play's main action depends upon sexual jealousy among the elite classes. Main character Castiglione has become engaged to his cousin, which is probably less reflective of Poe's own tendencies than of a contemporary scandal during Poe's era. The main character also has apparently had some romantic interaction with his father's ward-- who would be his sister in a functional though not biological sense-- and this would seem to be the only relevance of the play for modern Poe-enthusiasts, as it's pretty bereft of either comic or dramatic interest.

The tome I'm using, Running Press' UNABRIDGED EDGAR ALLAN POE, next prints three Poe efforts that I consider to be more in the vein of "essays." I assume they were included because they bear on the way the author composed some of his hoax-stories, like HANS PFALL. I don't consider the three essays relevant to my project and so I'm skipping them.

RAR #19: SNAKE-DANCE AND WITCH-WOMAN

The early 1970s may have given a featured berth to a new Native American superhero, Red Wolf,
but there were still a lot of bad Injuns in them thar comic-book hills-- and two of them appear in the GHOST RIDER comic.



SNAKE-DANCE appears in the last "Ghost Rider" story to be drawn by the character's co-creator Mike Ploog, and Ploog's art, seen in the above cover, is the only thing good about the character. As written by Mike Friedrich, Snake-Dance is an Apache medicine-man who wants to return his people to their old customs, including that of human sacrifice. Friedrich's story-arc dealing with Snake-Dance is essentially just another tired old quasi-imperialist fantasy of dark-skinned people sacrificing white victims. This might not be entirely out of line if there existed any solid proof that archaic Apaches ever had practiced human sacrifice. Both Snake-Dance's character and motives are pretty lame, and the conclusion of the arc, when Ghost Rider destroys the tribe's traditional sacrificial altar, is a little problematic. Given that the monster-hero possesses his power thanks to a deal with Satan, he's not exactly in a position to be throwing stones here.



WITCH-WOMAN, daughter of the unmemorable medicine-man, is a character with a little more potential, but Friedrich bungles that potential in a confused storyline. When she first appears under the name "Linda Littletrees," she's portrayed as the image of the "good Indian" who wants to live by the ways of modernity. However, she reveals to the Ghost Rider that she too has hellfire-powers like his own, and that she too is an emissary of Satan, bent on subjugating the rebellious skull-headed cyclist so he'll surrender into the service of Hell. Ghost Rider doesn't defeat her so much as escape her, and she appears to kill herself at Satan's command, though later she's resurrected and used as a pawn against the hero. This time, however, Ghost Rider manages to free Witch-Woman from her bonds to Satan and return her to the status of an ordinary woman. Friedrich writes one last story with her attempting to romance Ghost Rider's mortal identity, and then she disappeared from Marvel continuity, except for a much later appearance in a 1994 comic.

The most irritating thing about Friedrich's use of the character is that he breaks his own rules. In the debut issues of Ghost Rider's comic, the character only gains his powers because he makes a willing deal with Satan, but is able to avoid surrendering to the Devil by his own willpower (and an occasional assist from his girlfriend, though her role in the series diminished rapidly). However, Linda is victimized by a Satanic sect when she goes away to college. Her sacrifice by a phallic blade resembles the iconography of various "Satan-films" of the early 1970s, but Friedrich doesn't establish that she makes any pact with Satan prior to being killed, so why does she serve him? Indeed, the following panel implies that her murder was almost a form of sexual intercourse.



I don't have a problem with weird sexual fantasies in comic books, but this one undermines the rules of the writer's own universe, and shows that the author was just batting stuff out without much effort. Given the wasted potential of the character, it's just as well almost no one has tried to revive her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #51

Primary JOHN ASTIN acted in the 1966 BATMAN teleseries and THE FRIGHTENERS, among others.

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Primary SEAN ASTIN acted in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, among others.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #50

Peripheral ROBIN ASKWITH acted in QUEEN KONG with--




Primary VALERIE LEON from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.


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Primary ED ASNER has a couple dozen relevant credits, starting with "Jonah Jameson" in the 1994 SPIDER-MAN.

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Primary ARMAND ASSANTE has a few credits, but only the JUDGE DREDD role is well known.


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Primary FRED ASTAIRE (left) has just one credit, an episode of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

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Primary NILS ASTHER (not shown) has an uncredited role in 1949's SAMSON AND DELILAH.


Friday, January 20, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #49

Primary AARON ASHMORE acted in several relevant TV shows, including LOST GIRL and KILLJOYS, with his role as Jimmy Olsen in SMALLVILLE being his most comic-centric.

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Primary SHAWN ASHMORE also appeared in SMALLVILLE but is best known as "Iceman" in the X-franchise.

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Primary LUKE ASKEW appeared in TV shows like AIRWOLF and movies like THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #48

Primary LINDEN ASHBY acted in two MORTAL KOMBAT movies and the TV series SPY GAME.



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Peripheral PEGGY ASHCROFT acted in SECRET CEREMONY with--


Primary MIA FARROW, (left), as the mother of the 1984 SUPERGIRL.

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Peripheral JANE ASHER (left) acted in THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH with--



Primary VINCENT PRICE, whose second tracing here I'll designate as the "combative comedy" THE RAVEN.


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Primary ELIZABETH ASHLEY (right) confined her performances to a couple of TV shows, THE MAGICIAN and THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN.


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Peripheral JENNIFER ASHLEY acted in BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD with--


Primary ANDREW PRINE (right), who has various relevant TV credits, the most significant being the original WONDER WOMAN telefilm.

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Primary JOHN ASHLEY (not shown) acted in just one relevant work, an episode of THE WILD WILD WEST.


Friday, January 13, 2017

RAR #18: FIREHAIR



Since I've just finished a long blogpost on one of the adventures of "white Indian" Firehair, it behooves to me to include a general post on the character here as well.

Unfortunately, though Firehair's three adventures in the DC title SHOWCASE display the sterling artistic talents of his creator Joe Kubert, the character never went on to more than a few scattershot appearances elsewhere. Firehair appeared in 1969, at a time when westerns were beginning to wear out their welcome in American comics (though they did continue to see publication a lot longer than many other formerly popular genres). Over time, the character was largely consigned to guest-shots in titles like SWAMP THING.

He's also the first "white Indian" I've surveyed here, in accordance with the rules I set down in this blogpost.  There was a 1940s heroine named "Firehair" as well, but she fails to qualify for a post here for the same reasons Tomahawk is disallowed.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #47

Peripheral LESLIE ASH (not shown) acted in SHADEY with--


Primary PATRICK MACNEE, primarily known for THE AVENGERS teleseries.



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Primary DANA ASHBROOK acted in WAXWORK and an episode of CHARMED.

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Primary DAPHNE ASHRBOOK acted in AUTOMATIC and a few TV episodes.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #46

Peripheral BEA ARTHUR acted in THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL with--


Damn near all the principals of STAR WARS, but I'll cite MARK HAMILL to start.




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Peripheral JEAN ARTHUR (right) acted in MYSTERIOUS DR. FU MANCHU (which, unlike the books, was sadly "subcombative"), alongside--


Primary NEIL HAMILTON, "Commissioner Gordon" on the 1966 "Batman" teleseries.

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Primary JOHNNY ARTHUR acted in the serial THE MASKED MARVEL.





Monday, January 9, 2017

SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #45

Primary TOM ARNOLD (left) cameo'd in FREDDY'S DEAD and did voices for HERCULES and THE REPLACEMENTS.

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Primary ALEXIS ARQUETTE played "Caligula" in XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS.


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Primary DAVID ARQUETTE acted in the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER film, among other works.

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Primary LEWIS ARQUETTE voiced characters in several relevant cartoons, though he got to show his face in 1989's CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN.

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Primary PATRICIA ARQUETTE (right) acted in PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST 3: DREAM WARRIORS.


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Primary ROSANNA ARQUETTE has one relevant role, the voice of "Lina" in BATTLE FOR TERRA.