Golden Age Showcase: The Blue Blaze

Last week we talked about a robot made entirely of rubber, and he appeared in the anthology title Mystic Comics #1.

I’ve been noticing that a lot of the superheroes that have appeared on this blog series actually got their start on this title so it got me a bit curious, who’s the man on the cover?

He’s clearly a superhero and capable of handling himself in a fight.  It appears that he’s incredibly strong and fearless if he’s able to hold all those monsters at bay and from the bullet striking him in the chest it appears that he’s practically bulletproof.  Also, it seems that he really likes the color blue and sadly, that costume isn’t very original or exciting.

So who is he?

Well, it turns out his name is the Blue Blaze and, bland costume aside, he’s actually pretty interesting.

Origin and Career

The Blue Blaze’s real name was Spencer Keen and while his date of birth isn’t known it’s established that he was a young adult in 1852.

Spencer Keen (Earth-616) 002

His father was Dr. Arthur Keene of Midwest College

who had discovered a mysterious “blue blaze” that had the power to bring dead animals back to life.

Spencer had been visiting his father while on his way to a costume party, where he had chosen to wear the blue suit that would eventually become his superhero outfit.

Unfortunately, they were living in the Midwest of America where tornadoes are incredibly common.

Sadly, this was before advanced early warning systems were in effect and the tornado destroyed most of the town, killing Arthur Keene, most of the town, and shattering the container that contained the Blue Blaze and spilling it on Spencer.

In the wake of the incredible tragedy the town tried to recover.  However, in the confusion of the disaster, nobody bothered to check and see if Spencer was dead.  In a rather horrific twist of fate he was buried alive and remained buried until the 1940’s.

Fortunately for him, the strange substance of the Blue Blaze didn’t just keep him alive, it gave him “strength a thousand fold by means of substrate dermatic rays” (whatever the hell that means) and in 1940 he arose from the grave because he “was made conscious of the slow dominion of evil”.

His subsequent adventures would reflect his rather grisly origin.  His first opponent was a mad scientist named Dr. Drake Maluski

The Doctor’s grand scheme was to reanimate corpses into an army of zombies in order to take over the world, proving that our fascination with zombies is nothing new and will probably never die.

Maluski Zombies

It should be noted that on the spectrum of violence in early Golden Age comic books the Blue Blaze took the “I have no trouble with using lethal force” approach and the evil doctor was killed when his lab exploded.

In his second adventure the Blue Blaze confronted another mad scientist named Karl Barko.

Barko was an inventor and in his story he was attempting to run a protection racket where he would blow up mine shafts filled with people if the mining companies didn’t pay up for his inventions.

While Barko attempted to use gadgets such as “freeze rays” and special explosives to combat the Blue Blaze but was quickly defeated and shipped off to a mental institution.

His third adventure was a battle against another mad scientist called “The Star Gazer”

who was using star rays to create monsters that fought for him.

Star-Monster (Earth-616)

I bring this up because this adventure was the cover story of Mystic Comics #3, and his home to what I think is one of the greatest comic book covers ever.

The Blue Blaze would go on to have one more adventure where he traveled to Eastern Europe in order to stop the Trustees of Hate from provoking a war between the fictional countries of Borsia and Gratzia.

While the Trustees of Hate were headed by the awesomely named “Dr. Vortex”, the Blue Blaze defeated them fairly easily.

So what happened?

His battle with the Trustees of Hate would be his last and Blue Blaze would disappear from comics in August of 1940.

However, the writers must have thought that they should leave a backdoor open in case the Blue Blaze would make a comeback because in his last adventure they make it known that every time he defeats evil he travels back to the grave in order to wait for the next crime to solve.  For some reason there are strange cosmic forces at work that move his body around to “new centers of crime” and when he is needed he will wake up to do battle with the forces of evil again.

To date the Blue Blaze hasn’t had a modern incarnation or revival like some of his other Golden Age companions.  Looking back it is easy to see why, his costume is kind of boring and while he does have a cool origin story and fought some pretty interesting villains it is easy to assume that he simply got lost in the crowd.

Which is a shame because when you consider all the other mythical/demonic/undead heroes and villains Marvel has in their library:

I think the Blue Blaze would fit right in with the right writer and costume change.

Golden Age Showcase: Flexo

Stories about metal creatures created to serve the bidding of their masters is nothing new.  The ancient Greek god Hephaestus had two mechanical assistants to help him in his work.

and Jewish folklore talks about the Golem, a mystical man of clay that can be brought to life whenever the Jewish people are threatened.

But the idea of a living creature made out of inanimate material really took off in the 20th century.  We call them robots.

Today we’re going to talk about one of the lesser known robots of pop culture: Flexo.

No, not that one.  While I love Futurama, the Flexo we’re going to talk about today is a product of the 1940’s and boy is he strange.

Yes, that is a real comic book superhero and yes he does look like the bastard lovechild of Gumby and Iron Man, but despite his strange appearance he was actually a pretty important character in the early days of Timely Comics.

Origin and Career

Flexo the robot first appeared in Mystic Comics #1 in March of 1940.

Mystic Comics Vol 1 1

The character was created by writer Will Harr and artist Jack Binder.

While I couldn’t find a lot of information on Will Harr, Jack Binder was one of the more successful artists during the Golden Age,

who helped create the original Daredevil,

and who was the older brother of Otto Binder,

the man who created little known characters such as the entire Captain Marvel family and Brainiac.

Harr and Binder’s Flexo was created by two brother scientists named Joel and Joshua Williams with the intention of fighting crime and ridding the world of evil.

The robot itself was basically a rubber suit filled with gas and could be controlled remotely by the two men.  Thanks to his stretchy suit and the fact that he wasn’t limited by pesky things like a skeleton the robot could perform some pretty amazing feats.

In his first adventure Flexo was summoned by the Williams brothers after they had been robbed while carrying a dangerous sample of radium.  The group eventually traced the sample to the lab of the evil Dr. Murdo

But since this was a short story, and since this was the 1940’s, Flexo and his creators manage to defeat the Doctor and his goons in short order.

Flexo would go on to have three more stories where he would continue to rescue his creators from various threats such as foreign spies,

and a wicked insurance fraudster named the Iron Duke,

a man who ran a protection racket where he would burn people’s houses down and have them split the money with him, or perish in the flames.  Flexo and the Williams brothers stopped the Iron Duke after he burned down a tenement building with children still in it.

Flexo’s last adventure was also his biggest.  The Williams brothers snuck the robot into the fictitious nation of Teutonia (it should be noted that while the United States wasn’t technically involved in the Second World War at this point it didn’t stop comic book heroes from fighting thinly disguised Nazis) to steal back a formula for a deadly weapon.

So what happened?

Flexo fell victim to the same fate that befell almost everyone we talk about on this blog series, people just lost interest in him after World War 2.

But Flexo actually made a comeback not too long ago, and even helped save the universe as we know it.

This is going to require some explaining.  In the Marvel Universe there are various human led government agencies tasked with protecting Earth from various threats.  Most of us know S.H.I.E.L.D

and while they protect the Earth from most super powered threats there are other organizations such as S.W.O.R.D that protect Earth from alien threats,

and A.R.M.O.R, which protect the world from threats from other dimensions.

 Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency (Earth-616) 02

The reason I bring this up is because in 2012 Marvel ran a series called Marvel Zombies Destroy! where A.R.M.O.R is called upon to stop a Nazi zombie plague from another dimension from destroying our Earth.

It’s a cool idea but I don’t think it was designed to be taken seriously since they tasked this guy with stopping the invasion.

That’s Howard the Duck and to talk about him would take an entire article all to itself but long story short, in order to stop the Nazi zombie menace Howard assembled a team called…The Ducky Dozen.

One of the members of the Ducky Dozen was a new and improved Flexo.

He was upgraded with more autonomy and even gained the ability to speak.


The group would travel to the dimension where the zombies had originated and were almost immediately set upon by the zombified remains of some of Marvel’s greatest heroes.

Sadly, Flexo would perish in the final issue of the series.  He was ripped apart by zombie goats and atomized when the surviving members of the team detonated a nuclear bomb to prevent any more zombies from entering other dimensions.

Flexo is an interesting character.  While he only lasted a couple of stories he was a shining example of just how interesting and creative the Golden Age could be and he had the privilege of dying a pretty awesome death.

He is a great hero and a great idea who deserved way more attention and credit than he got.

Golden Age Showcase: Atomic Man

The Golden Age of Comics gave us our first modern superheroes and established the idea of the modern day origin story as an important part of any superhero’s lore.  There were plenty of ways for someone to decide to become a superhero.  He/she could be naturally endowed with great power,

He/she could have suffered a great personal tragedy,

or a person could have gained powers from some sort of magical incantation/device or scientific experiment.

But one of the most popular ways for a superhero to gain powers was a little known plot device called radiation.

It should be noted that while radiation can kill you in real life, a lot of comic books saw the wonders of the real life Atomic Age and decided that this,

could give you superpowers.

The list of superheroes who gained their powers from some form of radiation is extensive and makes up some of comic’s greatest heroes.

Most of these characters were products of the Silver Age of Comics, a time period between 1956 and 1970 where comics became heavily influenced by science fiction and the brave new world that gave us the Space Race and Tang.

However, the heroes of the Silver Age were not the first superheroes to gain powers from strange radiation.  Comic book writers had known about atomic energy since the end of World War 2 and responded accordingly.

Today I present the first hero of the Atomic Age, a man known simply as…Atomic Man.

Origin and Career

Atomic Man first appeared in Headline Comics #16 in November 1945.

There are two things worth mentioning here.  First, while the Atomic Man doesn’t appear on the cover he is used in its advertising and second, this comic would have been published mere months after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War 2.

The character was created by comic strip artist Charles A. Voight,

who began work as a cartoonist in 1908 and was most famous for a strip called “Betty”.

Voight created the Atomic Man as a scientist named Dr. Adam Mann, a scientist who made it his life’s work to study this strange new nuclear science.

Sadly, Dr. Mann fell victim to a lab explosion while experimenting with uranium 235, the type of uranium which makes atom bombs go boom.   The explosion embedded radioactive shrapnel into his right hand.  However, instead of killing him the shrapnel gave him incredible powers including super strength, flight, the ability to manipulate minds (somehow), and energy blasts.

Naturally, Dr. Mann was somewhat terrified of his newfound power, not just because he had the ability to do great damage to the people he cared about, but because of the damage it could cause if it fell into the wrong hands.  As a result the doctor would wear a lead lined glove on his right hand while in his civilian identity and take it off whenever he needed to call upon his powers.

It should also be noted that his costume simply appeared once he took off the glove.

So what happened?

Atomic Man would appear in five more anthology issues and had a pretty good run for a Golden Age hero, even making the cover of Headline Comics three times.  He spent his time fighting various science fiction threats, criminal enterprises, and communists.

His last appearance was in September of 1946, his creator would die in 1947.  Atomic Man himself would be phased out of the Headline Comics title when the comic transitioned away from superhero comics to crime stories that were written by Captain America co creators and comic book legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

While Atomic Man has faded from memory his legacy is an important one for comic books.  I mentioned before just how many superheroes gained their powers from radiation and Atomic Man was the first hero to accomplish this.

But there is something more to the hero than just a cool origin story.  Atomic Man represented a change that wasn’t just occurring in comic books, but in our society as well.  We had just witnessed the awesome and terrifying power of atomic energy,

and we had so many questions and concerns.  How dangerous was this thing?  What if it got into the wrong hands?  What were the true effects of radiation on the human body?  Will this new idea elevate us to a new Golden Age or plunge us into the apocalypse?

Yes a comic book hero as silly as Atomic Man got quite a few things wrong about radiation and yes, maybe a children’s comic book wasn’t the best place to be asking these sorts of questions.  But whether its audience knew it or not, Atomic Man did ask these questions, putting it at the forefront of some of the most important issues of our time.

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Hello Earth

Today we’re going to talk about a Kickstarter comic book project called “Hello Earth”.

It bills itself as a “science fiction/horror comic” about a group of aliens who mysteriously land at JFK airport (because as we all know, every alien in fiction seems to gravitate towards New York or Washington D.C) bringing a strange creature known only as “Project Nimbus” who desires to learn more about Earth.

According to the information provided the alien’s human guide eventually uncovers a massive conspiracy and the unseen threat of an alien invasion.

Kickstarter link:

Why I like it

I am a huge fan of science fiction.

I’m not the biggest fan of horror but this is one of my favorite movies of all time.

The reason I bring this up is because both “Alien” and “Hello Earth” understand what makes horror truly effective: it’s not WHAT you see, it’s what you DON’T see.

I want anyone reading this article to really think about “Alien” for a second.  It’s a dark movie, and I don’t mean that it’s gory or violent I mean it’s dark

You’re watching the movie and you can’t quite see what lurks in the shadows, you have no idea what the contents of the crashed ship are,

and when the Alien starts killing people you only see glimpses of the creature.

It is truly terrifying stuff.

Now let’s look at “Hello Earth”.

If you watched the Kickstarter video above you’ll see that the comic is not very dark, it doesn’t bother hiding its aliens, and it’s actually not very scary at all.  If anything it looks more like a “fish out of water” comedy than a horror film.

But if you ask me that’s a point in the book’s favor.  You have no idea what the aliens are doing there, you have no idea what they want, and you have no idea what’s going to happen.  At the same time there are glimpses of something much larger and much more sinister going on.  The video reveals that the landing alien ship was actually on JFK’s flight schedule a few days before it landed.

Who are they?

What do they want?

What are they planning?

Why you should donate

Besides from the intriguing idea, the artwork is fantastic,

and they’ve got a great creative team behind it with plenty of experience.

But besides all of that, I believe that the real reason this comic needs to be made is because we are long overdue for a smart, well written, well drawn, and well thought out sci fi horror comic that knows how to build suspense and lead the reader wanting more rather than throwing everything at the reader all at once and hoping they’ll like it.

I hope you enjoyed this article and please feel free to donate to this campaign and make this project a reality.

Kickstarter link:

Golden Age Showcase: The Fiery Mask

Today we’re going to talk about another member of the 2007 Marvel Comics series The Twelve called the Fiery Mask.

What’s interesting is that out of all the twelve Golden Age heroes that were in the comic book series the Fiery Mask is a hero with one of the longest and most interesting Golden Age careers out there.  He had pedigree and he had some pretty interesting Golden Age stories.  Let’s take a look.

Origin and Career

The Fiery Mask debuted in the Timely Comics book series Daring Mystery Comics #1 in January of 1940.

Daring Mystery Comics Vol 1 1

That’s him on the cover of the book, so he already had much more exposure than most of the heroes we’ve talked about on this blog.  This makes sense considering that the hero was actually created by comic book legend Joe Simon,

who helped create a little known superhero named Captain America (you’ve probably never heard of him, he’s really obscure).

His origin story was titled The Fantastic Thriller of the Walking Corpses.

Jack Castle was a doctor who worked with the police and one day he was called in to investigate a strange case where corpses were coming back to life thanks to a mysterious beam of light.

So right off the bat we have zombies and weird science fiction, a good start.

Jack investigates this strange phenomenon until he is eventually kidnapped by the zombies and dragged before their leader.  Side note: it should be noted here that at this time in pop culture history a zombie was a creature who was a mindless slave to a single person, not the brain hungry hoards we know and love today.

The leader of the zombie hoards was a twenty foot tall monster of a man who simply called himself “The Zombie Master”

who was using the ray to turn the city’s homeless population into a zombie slave army.

Unfortunately for the Zombie Master the ray didn’t work on Jack and in his rage the villain cranked up the power causing a massive explosion that killed him and gave Jack super strength and the ability to control fire.  Naturally being the noble spirit that most superheroes of the Golden Age were Jack Castle decided to use his powers to become a superhero.

So after a pretty awesome origin story The Fiery Mask’s next appearance was in The Human Torch Comics #2.  Here he faced the villainous Dr. Simon Sendach, a scientist obsessed with creating artificial organs to transplant into humans.

He had even had success in creating an artificial stomach that could sustain the human body on a diet of blood.  However it had the side effect of turning the recipient of the device into a bloodthirsty maniac similar to a vampire.

Again, awesome.

The Fiery Mask would go on to have two more solo adventures where he would fight an evil scientist named Dork

who sought to take over the world by creating a strange blob like creature that ate human flesh.

and in his final battle he fought a demonically possessed baby,

and traveled to Hell where he fought and beat a demon who was committing a string of gruesome murders in out world.

So what happened?

Sadly the Fiery Mask was much to awesome to last for very long.  I guess the flame that burns brightest burns half as long (pun very much intended).

The hero would fade into obscurity until 2007 when he was featured as an important character in J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve.

Like the rest of his teammates the Fiery Mask was captured by the Nazis and placed in stasis, only to be forgotten until they were rediscovered in 2007 and returned to the United States where they were slowly reintroduced to society.

The Fiery Mask wouldn’t play much of a role in the beginning of the series.  Around the middle of the series it was revealed that his origin story was simply made up.  Instead of gaining his powers from the science of the Zombie Master he had actually been granted the ability to control fire by a man who had been killed by a mob hit.

To that I say…BOOO! BOOO!  They had the gall to change one of the coolest and cheesiest Golden Age origin stories to a man gaining his powers thanks to  a simple set of circumstances?!  Poor form Mr. Straczynski!  Poor form!

Sadly this new revelation, that the Fiery Mask’s powers could be transferred to other human beings, would prove to be integral to the plot of the story.  At the very end of the series all the heroes confront each other over the death of the Blue Blade at the hands of Electro.  The Phantom Reporter reveals that it was one of their own who committed the crime: The Dynamic Man.  Fiery Mask attempts to keep the peace.

But he fails and the Dynamic Man is revealed to be a half crazed android who attacks the group.

Dynamic Man manged to crush the Fiery Mask’s windpipe but just before the Mask died he managed to transfer his powers to the Phantom Reporter.

Who then proceeded to use his new gifts to end the fight and destroy Dynamic Man for good.

The Fiery Mask had one of the longest lasting Golden Age careers ever enjoyed by his colleagues from The Twelve.  Granted, that may not be saying much but the stories he was a part of were some of the strangest and most interesting stories in an age where strange characters and events ruled comic book.

It’s just a crying shame they all turned out to be lies.

Star Wars: My review and opinion

So this is normally the day when I post some article on an old and crazy Golden Age comic book character but since it’s the Christmas season and since most of the pop culture consciousness has turned its massive head towards one particular franchise for the time being


I thought it would be interesting to offer my two cents on the movie and the franchise as a whole.

Note: The following below does NOT include any spoilers for the new film.  Feel free to read away at your leisure.

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens, at least enough to want to buy tickets for the next one.  Let me be clear here, I didn’t think it was “Oh my God this film is the greatest thing ever in the history of movies J.J Abrams is a God among men” good but good enough to bring Star Wars back into the popular consciousness and is a feather in the cap of the movies director J.J Abrams.


I thought it was a respectful homage to the old cast, I think the new cast did a phenomenal job, and I think the future of the franchise is in very good hands.


Most importantly I thought the movie succeeded in its most important goal: capturing the spirit and feel of the original trilogy.


But what exactly does that mean?  How did the Force Awakens succeed in making us remember the original films while going out of its way to say “hey those prequels that everyone hates?  Yeah, those don’t exist anymore”?  Well, let me explain what I think makes Star Wars a huge success.

For starters there’s something we have to come to grips with: the Star Wars movies just aren’t very good.


Okay, pitchforks down everyone!  Let me explain.

If you take the original trilogy and put it up against another science fiction masterpiece like “2001: A Space Odyssey”


Then you can start to see a lot of holes and uncomfortable gaps in the plot.

For example: Isn’t it kind of strange how the Death Star is a massive space station the size of a small moon but only needs one exhaust port to vent what must be a massive amount of waste energy into space.  And doesn’t it seem weird that all that exhaust wouldn’t send something as small as a fighter sized torpedo flying outward?


Isn’t it strange that a farm boy from a backwater desert planet who just recently joined the Rebellion (bear in mind in the beginning Luke wanted to join the Empire as a pilot) was just given a highly advanced space fighter and expected to survive the dangers of combat in deep space?


Granted, you can make the argument that the Rebellion needed all the pilots it could get and that Luke was familiar with the controls from flying his T-16 back home, but as any actual fighter pilot will tell you combat is incredibly stressful.

And that’s just the first film.  How about the elephant in the room that is the really uncomfortable kiss between Luke and Leia in the Empire Strikes back?


Or how about how an entire legion of the Empire’s best stormtroopers


were defeated by these guys?


Here’s the thing though.  The Star Wars movies may not be very good but that’s okay.  In fact: it’s part of what makes them brilliant.

In the original trilogy George Lucas tells us an epic story filled with space ships, laser swords, and feats of daring that seem so impossible you could call them magic but the story he tells is only part of something that is so much bigger.  Probably his most brilliant scene in the entire trilogy is the Mos Eisley cantina scene from A New Hope.


Sure the scene has a purpose within the film, the main characters are looking for a ship to take them off planet and it introduces another character in Han Solo


but Lucas takes time in this scene to let the audience look at all the aliens and other crazy characters that are also in the bar.  You may know Luke and Obi Wan but aren’t you a bit curious about this guy?


or this guy?


or how about this guy?

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What’s the back story for these creatures?


Why is this band playing the same song over and over?


And how did Cornelius Evazan get the death penalty on twelve systems?


(author’s note: I do know why because Wookiepedia is a thing.)

Most of these questions have been answered and that’s what makes this scene so brilliant.  The original Star Wars trilogy was wise enough to give us A story within its massive universe but it didn’t tell us THE story.  It granted its audience enough information to be entertained but left enough out there for us to fill in the blanks on our own.  And fill in the blanks we did.  The toy and merchandise empire Star Wars spawned?


What better way to play out our own adventures than with a Star Wars action figure?  The library of books and video games?

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A chance for other people to put their own stories into the Star Wars Universe.

You want to know why I think the prequels failed to catch the original spirit of Star Wars and were viewed as awful movies?  They tried to explain too much and be more complete movies by talking about things like space politics and…


And that is why I like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We don’t know why the First Order exists or what it’s plan is.


But we don’t need to because, much like the motivations of the original Empire, we are capable of filling in the gaps ourselves.  We barely know any of backstory or motivations for any of the main characters in the new movie


but that’s okay we can do it ourselves, at least until the later movies reveal more about them.

Star Wars is a brilliant franchise because it has the courage and wisdom to surrender itself to the fans.  Much like the Force itself the fandom is a an energy field created by each person making their own contribution to the story as a whole no matter how big or little.  It surrounds the fandom and binds the movies, books, games, tv shows, and countless fanfics and wiki articles together.  It is no longer just Lucas’ franchise or Disney’s franchise, it is a franchise that belongs to everyone who loves Star Wars.

So in conclusion, go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s a wonderful way to get back in touch with your imagination.

The Primordial Soup: What is Star Wars?

So this little movie is going to be coming out soon.


Probably won’t be that much of a big deal…there’s a good chance not too many people are going to see it.

Yes, like many people on the internet with a blog I love Star Wars, but why?  After all, if you look at it at the surface level it’s just a bunch of guys with cool swords flying around in cool ships  and shooting lasers at each other.


But most people who watch and enjoy these movies, and believe it or not I have met people who don’t like Star Wars, know that there is something much bigger and deeper to it.  Over the next couple of weeks I, and most likely half the Internet, will be posting a series of articles talking about one of the greatest movie franchises of all time in an attempt to answer a very simple, yet incredibly complicated, question:

What is Star Wars?

Well, in order to do that let’s look at where Star Wars came from.  George Lucas was an up and coming director in the 1970’s, part of the nascent film school movement that would give us Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.


These are the men that became the titans of American entertainment and created many of the most iconic works of art the world has ever seen.  Here’s the thing though.  Those men in the picture?  They didn’t just come with their ideas on their own.  When they were learning how to make movies they had inspirations of their own.

These guys learned from the classic films of the cinema scene from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  The movies these guys grew up on were the ones that inspired them to make a new generation of American classics.  After all, this

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is basically a better directed and better funded version of this.




is basically a better version of this


and this,


took quite a bit of inspiration from this.


But what about Star Wars?  Well, in order to find out what inspired Star Wars we have to dig a little bit deeper.

First and foremost: what’s the first genre you think of when you talk about Star Wars?  Science fiction.

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Believe it or not there was a time when science fiction was treated as a small time genre in Hollywood and most of the science fiction movies of the 1950’s were pretty cheap and throw away affairs.




Granted, Hollywood did produce some genuine sci fi classics at the time.




and a little known producer named Rod Serling had some really interesting things to say.

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But for the most part science fiction was relegated to B roll status.

So that’s one part of where Star Wars came from but there’s quite a bit more to it then that.  Star Wars opened up a whole new world in showing us what movies could do in terms of action and excitement and it’s pretty safe to say that it didn’t get its sense of excitement from old school sci fi.  I mean, in these old films the space ship tends to just…float and sit there.


Granted it’s safe to say that it was probably because of budget constraints but while early sci fi did that Star Wars gave us this.


Can you imagine sitting in a movie theater in 1977 and seeing THAT for the first time?


Lucas didn’t get the epic space battles that Star Wars is known for by watching B movie schlock sci fi so where did he get it from?  Well, you know how Darth Vader’s helmet looks like a Nazi helmet?


Besides serving the purpose of letting the audience know that THIS IS THE BAD GUY!!  Star Wars borrowed a lot of its action and fast paced bits from the footage and movies about World War 2.


So Star Wars was created on a foundation of early science fiction movies and given a boost with exciting action inspired by World War 2 fighter pilots but there is one final thing missing.  What about the guys with cool swords?


Bear in mind, I am talking about the Jedi within the context of the original three movies (we’ll get to the prequels believe me) and when you’re talking about the Jedi you have to talk about one of the all time legends of movie making: Akira Kurosawa.


For those of you who don’t know Kurosawa is one of the greatest film makers of all time.  He is basically the entire reason we enjoy samurai films


and he created what is possibly the greatest adaptation of any Shakespearean play to film.


He’s done plenty of other work but all we really need to know within the context of this article is that he made the samurai one of the most iconic figures in cinema.


Lucas saw Kurosawa’s work and liked it so much he decided to borrow a whole bunch of stuff for Star Wars.  The term Jedi is a play on the Japanese word “jidai” which is a reference to the Japanese genre of historical films. R2-D2 and C-3PO

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are robotic copies of two comidic, yet incredibly helpful, peasants Tahei and Matashichi from the Kurosawa film Hidden Fortress

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is modeled after the wise and war weary Kambei Shimada from Seven Samurai


and the whole idea of fighting based off of intuition and feeling?  Of emptying your mind in order to anticipate you opponent?  Using the Force?  It’s an overly simplified version of Zen Buddhism.

So there you have it.  Star Wars took elements of early American sci fi, World War 2 action, and Kurosawa’s samurai films and built one of the most iconic film series of all time on it.  Granted, there is much much more to Star Wars then this but hey…we have to save something for later.


Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Aria

Today I’d like to talk about one of my favorite genres in all of literature: science fiction.  The project I want to talk about is a Kickstarter campaign for the prologue and first chapter of what is hopefully going to be a much larger work called Aria.

Aria cvr by JOEYDES

The comic is written and drawn by Joseph DeSantos and is the very definition of a passion project.  According to the campaign page Mr. DeSantos states that the idea for the project came from his frustration with some of the more unsavory aspects of our modern culture such as greed and corruption among the rich and powerful on a seemingly epidemic scale, widespread ecological destruction, and the massive gulf between the haves and have nots.  It is intended to be a story that spans thousands of years.

The prologue and the first issue are intended to give more detail on the backstory

panel 4 page 1 Aria#1

and to introduce two of the main characters, the Earth Air Force engineer Talia Green and the mysterious alien Ya’Ren.

pg. 10 Aria#1- First face to face of Tali and Ya'Ren

The project is currently on Kickstarter and needs a little under $2000 to meet its goal as of writing this article.

Kickstarter campaign link:

Why I like it:

This is probably the most personal I will ever get in this article series.  I have actually had the chance to work with the writer/artist on this project before.  It was on a separate project of my own creation that unfortunately fell through for various reasons that I won’t go into here.  I will say that Joe DeSantos was not one of those reasons and he was a blast to work with.  I will also say that out of all the artists I have seen he is one of the best at drawing emotion into his characters.

Kickstarter exclusive print featuring the cast of Aria#2!!

Talenthouse Submission by JOEYDES


You always get a sense of what’s going on in each character’s mind and to me that’s the hallmark of a great artist.

I’d also like to take a moment to say that Aria is the sort of speculative sci fi project I have a soft spot for.  I love stories about Earth in the distant future, all the problems the future holds, all the potential solutions, and how the future can be used to comment on the present.

So basically I’m saying this is the sort of project that is being developed by an artist I like in a genre I really like.  Yes, I am somewhat biased towards this project.

Why you should donate:

For starters the artwork and story for the Prologue and First Chapter are already done, the campaign is just there to cover the cost of printing.  In an uncertain world it’s nice to know that there are places you can get your money’s worth in a timely manner.

The second reason is a bit more…intellectual.  This is by no means a definitive statement but you can argue that most, if not all, of science fiction can be divided into two very broad camps.

The first type of sci fi story can be seen in movies and shows like Star Wars.


These are the kinds of shows and movies that go to the audience and say “hey, here’s a fun cool looking product that doesn’t have much in the way of a deep message or big important point but look, laser swords!  Space fighters!  Awesome story and characters!”.  We know something like Star Wars isn’t going to challenge our minds and make us think too much (the prequels tried to do that but failed) but we don’t care.  Star Wars science fiction is science fiction as pure entertainment.

 The second type of science fiction story is the kind that bears a lot of similarities to shows like Star Trek.


These types of shows tend to attempt to imbue their stories with a deeper meaning behind the effects and future technology.  Star Trek attempted to broaden the minds of the audience and while future tech like the transporters were designed as a cost cutting measure, the message of exploration, attempts at peaceful co existence with other alien species, and the all around positive vibes of organizations like Starfleet served as a critique of the present day and as a message of hope and optimism.

Now granted, this is by no means a definitive idea.  There are plenty of shows and works of sci fi that bridge both camps but Aria firmly places itself in the Star Trek camp.  By using a past where humanity’s decisions have practically doomed our planet the work serves as a scathing critique of our society and an exploration of what could happen to us.

As I said before, I like the artist and I like the project.  This is definitely something worth checking out.

Campaign link:

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention #5: Space Corps

Today we’re going to look at Space Corps a webcomic developed by Gannon Beck, Bryan Richmond, and Joey Groah.  The comic is all about military service and the personal and psychological ideas behind becoming and being a soldier.  The comic itself publishes pages once a month and can be found here and they have launched a Patreon campaign in an effort to raise funds for more pages, which can be found here.  This comic is rapidly becoming one of my favorites and I am going to tell you why.


What is it?

In terms of overarching story Space Corps is pretty standard.  Earth gets invaded by an alien force called the Winnowers.


They’re a pretty bad group of aliens that believe in genetic perfection and as a result, have embarked on a campaign of galactic conquest in an effort to cull the galaxy for genetic material they can use to enhance their fighting ability.  A kid named Deven Taylor and his family are captured and herded into concentration camps in order to be tested and eventually exterminated.  However, the planet is eventually liberated by the good guys who are part of the Space Corps and Deven joins the Corps in order to fight the Winnowers and liberate the galaxy.

 Granted the story is somewhat generic but that is not the point of the comic.  Instead of trying to tell a large scale story the comic makes itself about the mindset of a soldier and what it takes to serve.  The Patreon page and comic website are very clear that the characters in the comic are based off of real people and it is very easy to look at characters like Captain Brockett


and see the human inspiration behind the character.  While many of the people and soldiers in this adventure are alien, it is still a very human story.

Why I like it

The simplest reason I like Space Corps?  I’m a sucker for military sci fi as a genre.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time

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(eventually I’ll get around to explaining why) and I may or may not have a whole bunch of ideas and half finished scripts floating around in my hard drive somewhere that involve futuristic military action and people blowing a whole bunch of stuff up.

With that said I am a civilian through and through.  I never served in the military and most of my family didn’t either but one of the things that makes military stories so engaging in my minds is the psychological aspect of service.  There are countless stories of soldiers braving adversity and forging bonds that last a lifetime


There’s the honor and pride of service

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complete horror of war when soldiers and civilians face the kind of adversity that anyone who has not served or lived through cannot begin to comprehend.


and there is the tragedy of those who survived it all but are left with the kind of emotional and psychological scars that will never leave.


The point is that military service is filled with all sorts of ideals and situations that make for compelling stories and Gannon Beck, one of the comic’s creators, does come from a military background which lends a lot of credibility to the story and the motivations behind the characters.

Of course, these types of stories have been told before.  Since warfare has been around basically as long as human beings have stood upright it would make sense that there would be plenty of other writers who try to tackle such a subject




(by the way, the last picture is a comic by legendary comic artist Bill Mauldin, whose life and career is definitely worth checking out) so you have do something different if you want to separate yourself from the pack.  Space Corps does this by having one of the coolest and most original characters I have ever seen:


The suit with the fishbowl for a head is Corporal Swarm.  He is one of the main soldiers in the story and without giving too much away, he is a complete and total badass.  But it’s a little more complicated then that.  You see, Swarm is not really a person, it’s more of a hivemind.  The suit doesn’t hold a body, it holds a collection of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of insects who all work as a collective mind to pilot the suit.


So you have a massive colony of bugs, each with their own personalities and lives, living within a fully contained ecosystem of a suit that moves, acts, and fights like a real human.  Not only is this an amazing idea it also allows the character to have a very distinct personality.  Since Corporal Swarm is a hivemind it understands the concept of living and dying for the person next to it better than almost anyone else it allows the character to sympathize with those around him in a way that is different from everyone else.  I don’t want to go into more detail and run the risk of spoiling anything from the story but needless to say Cpl. Swarm is great and helps make the story a great one.

If you like military action that tells a great story and sheds light into the mindset of a soldier and what it means to serve, definitely check this comic out and consider donating to its Patreon page.

Patreon link: