Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Michael Myers Slide at Comic Con International 2014

A flash mob of dancing Mikeys and a little witch taking a nod to Halloween III.  Could it be due to the release of the new Halloween film series box set?  Nahhhhhhh... 

Suffice it to say, marketing pitches come from all sorts of twisted angles.

                            Listenin' to:  The Cure - Faith

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ray's Current Reviews at Blabbermouth

A handful of my new reviews are running at Blabbermouth, spotlighting the latest from Judas Priest, Mastodon, Mushroomhead, Overkill, Accept, Corrosion of Conformity, Powerman 5000, Ill Nino and Wovenwar.  More to follow in the upcoming days.

                         Listenin' to:  Tomahawk - Anonymous

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Baseball Players Are Handling Hecklers

It sure beats letting fucktard fans get under your collar.  Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel followed the lead of Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips in dealing with smack yakkers.  Each gave their respective mouthy hecklers a subversive kick in the shorts with directly-addressed signed baseballs.  Unfortunately, however hilarious these methods in bucking the nasty public may be, the exchange for taking the high road will no doubt bring more trash talkers to stadiums in the hopes of scoring similar souvenirs and/or selfie shots with big leaguers.  It's the nature of the beast, as Twisted Sister would sing.

                  Listenin' to:  Elvis Costello - This Year's Model

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 7/27/14

After a week off, welcome back to Sunday Triple Play!  Back into random shuffle mode with three differing vibes.  Starting off this week is Krautrock and alternative (though they long proceeded the latter tag) pioneers Can and their jiving "Vitamin C."  You've heard this song sampled in rap, but Can's overall contributions to rock music are grossly understated.  If there's any band to dig up should you be unfamiliar with them, this is the one.

Next are dance-punkers LCD Soundsystem, who had too brief of a run but put out a lot of vibrant, sometimes nutty music in their short time.  Go ahead and shake some ass to "Get Innocuous" here.  If this doesn't make you groove, then check your pulse.  Finally, a sedate wrap-up with The Beatles (or John Lennon, if you will) and "Julia" from The White Album, one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard and ever will in this life.

Can - "Vitamin C"

LCD Soundsystem - "Get Innocuous"

The Beatles - "Julia"

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego

At first, I'd been put off by the Riot Grrrrl makeover to Harley Quinn in DC Comics' New 52 universe.  However, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have run like hell with the hedonistic bombshell, Ms. Quinzel, ushering her into a new dawn of coolness ordained by slapstick and gallows' humor to go with her uncontrollable urges to maim and kill. 

I've been waiting for the new Harley Quinn series to live up to the revved-up, Byrne-esque hilarity of Issue # 0.  The series has thus far been amusing and at-times it's pushed the envelope, but not quite over-the-edge as the zero book.  Nonetheless, I'm still not over seeing Harley bulldoze into a house where the madam of the family is hosting a sex toy party and we see cock rings flying all about the panels.  Then the decision to hint at Poison Ivy harboring lesbianism has been a riot too, considering all the innuendo unintentionally slung between she and Harley has left the former sexually badgered and the latter clueless. 

Welp, DC finally matches the promise of its zero issue with a damned funny one-shot roast, Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego.  As the high profile convention is the hottest topic in comics this week following the 75th anniversary of Batman this past Wednesday, Conner and Palmiotti are given liberty to loosen Harley's reins a bit once again and this books kills--in a different connotation, of course.

 Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego is similar to Issue # 0 in the fact it's drawn by a cavalcade of artists including Paul Pope, Javier Garron, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella, John Timms, Stephanie Roux, Marco Failla and others.  Better, it embraces the gonzo spirit of the launch issue and it plays a twisted, campy card (a Joker, natch) with the same levels of farce and subliminal perversions.  The scene where Harley stumbles into a room of Joker cosplays is raunchy only by suggestion, but it's one of the most outrageous moments this series has yet churned out.

As the title would imply, our vampish girl clown takes in the San Diego con and raises a ruckus everywhere she turns.  Harley happens to have a little knack for art in her repertoire, thus she brings her portfolio (centering upon a bile-spewing heroine, Hurl Girl) to the convention in the hopes of getting noticed by the publishers.  Of course, this is Harley Quinn we're talking about, so it's no surprise she keeps getting thrown out of the con for gross offenses such as photo bombing interviewees and yanking the bottom down of a Batman impersonator whom she believes to be the real Bat-McCoy.  Even more hilarious is the fact the Bat-cosplay is wearing Harley boxers, leaving her to entertain the goofy thought Batman himself has a secret crush on her.

You'll have to read this book to appreciate the looniness of it.  Every other minute, Harley's geeking out over celebrities as Conner and Palmiotti mash up her rambling dialogue in those sequences, spoofing celeb stalkers with haunting accurateness.  Harley gets herself into many other fixes including a gut-busting confrontation with a purposefully nasty waitress at a special hate-themed cafĂ©, Rude Rick's (someone notify the long-ago wrassler Rick Rude, eh?) to a destructive spree ride in the Adam West Batmobile.  Her night out in the company of a gaggle of Harley Quinn impersonators (one who is male) is a freaking scream, especially when the real Harley pings a cop in the ass with his pistol.  The police lineup of fake Harleys thereafter had me laughing so hard the book dropped out of my hands.

More of this, please, DC...

             Listenin' to:  Megadeth - So Far, So Good...So What!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ray is Joining the Creative Team as Script Writer for the Upcoming Comic Book Series, No Salvation

I'm pleased to announce I have joined the creative team with Society 1 vocalist and mastermind, Matt "The Lord" Zane plus artist Dominic Valecillo on the horror-themed Society 1 tie-in comic series, No Salvation.  I appreciate Matt bringing me on board as the series' script writer and I look forward to a long collaboration with these talented gents. Stay tuned for further announcements regarding this series.

                 Listenin' to:  Tiger Army - II:  Power of Moonlite

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Creative Process Broken Down

Fortunately, most of my internet surfing is relegated to research and networking and I can almost never nap during the day.  Snacking is kept to a minimum, but I can certainly feel the pain of the blue section at times!

                     Listenin' to:  Overkill - White Devil Armory

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Batman Day!

Happy Batman Day, fellow Bat-freaks!  Freebies at your local shop today!   75 years of The Dark Knight?  Daaaaaaaaaaamn....

                   Listenin' to:  Novembers Doom - Bled White

Monday, July 21, 2014

Yes, it DOES Exist

                   Listenin' to:  Society 1 - A Collection of Lies

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Ghost # 6

Sorry for the delay this weekend, readers.  I took the day off yesterday to have some family time and to catch the stellar Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie.  Sunday Triple Play will return next week, so in the meantime, let's have a look at this week's Cool Comic o' the Week selection, Ghost # 6.

Like the Big Two and Valiant have been doing recently, Dark Horse Comics has revamped a few of their old stable characters.  These come from when the imprint blew up in the nineties on the backs of popular sci-fi, comics and fantasy franchises like Aliens, Predator, The Terminator, Tarzan, Godzilla, Gamera, The Mask, Hellboy, Usagi Yojimbo and of course, Star Wars, the latter of which they've nurtured for a long time and will soon be surrendered to Marvel.  You may recall a number of original character titles Dark Horse unveiled back then (aside from making Sin City a powerful household name in the genre) which launched at a buck a pop, such as X, Will to Power, Barb Wire, King Tiger, Motorhead and of course, Ghost.  From these, Barb Wire was made into a pretty awful B movie starring Pamela Anderson.

Thus far, X and Ghost have made a dent on the reboot favorability scale.  As of Issue # 5, Ghost has brought on board the new pencil and ink team of Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons respectively.  Carrying into the sixth issue, Ghost could become a sleeper hit in due time. 

I'm a big fan of Svengoolie.  Who isn't?  By now, if you don't know who this guy is, you're clueless or you were never weaned on the years of pre-cable VHF channels, home of Saturday night horror movie moguls.  The most famous of course, is Dr. Dementia, but where I'm from, we had Ghost Host and Creature Feature out of two different city markets.  Ghost Host on Channel 45 had a creepy, chuckling undertaker who spun classic horror films spanning from the Universal monster mashes through the mutated enormity rampages of the fifties and the Hammer classics of the sixties.  Creature Feature, the same theme, only hosted by a dashing vampire who also happened to double as the kid-friendly space ranger Captain 20 (as in Channel 20) during weekday afternoons.

If you saw the original Fright Night, you were won over by Roddy McDowell's brilliant salute to these maestros of the macabre, since the Saturday night horror hosts had already suffered a collective demise before that film's release.  Svengoolie unapologetically takes up the torch for this lost art, though his shtick is intentionally corny and lighter in spirit than McDowell's vampire hunter or that freakazoid guffawing undertaker I grew up with.  I love Sven (real name Rich Koz) and what he stands for.

Thus I was immediately won over by Ghost # 5 and 6.  I'll tell you why in a minute.  Admittedly, I strayed away from this series, though I'd read the first couple issues of Dark Horse's original launch.  There's something about Elisa's spectral form, Ghost, that reminds of Moon Knight, only with cleavage and facial exposure.  However, I'm glad I gave this new launch a try.  As an effective hunter of supernatural evil, Ghost has the power to morph her body transparent and solidify any part of it in attack mode.  She's also one fierce mama.  This makes her a formidable fighter and she's well differentiated from Marc Spector.

In this story, Ghost has gotten the ass of beating up ordinary thugs on the Chicago streets and though she's making a difference in reducing crime, Elisa's craving more challenging use of her skills.  She's about to get that in a hurry and from a peculiar source.  Starting to reassemble her shattered past life by taking up writing assignments from her friend and editor, Sloane, Elisa is drawn to a local television station that broadcasts a cable fright flick show, Von Ghastly.

Elisa and her ghost hunting pal Tommy are watching Von Ghastly and they come to the conclusion the people who are being tortured as part of his segment bits are actually dying on camera. Gruesomely, for that matter.  Using her resources to enter Von Ghastly's buttoned-up set, Elisa finds  she cannot manifest into Ghost upon crossing the metaphysical threshold and immediately becomes susceptible to pain and injury. 

It turns out Von Ghastly is a hellish cult leader who has brainwashed numerous people to offer themselves as five rotating parts in his "Gears of the Wheel" evisceration chamber.  As they die violently on his show, Ghost is captured and made a part of the festivities.  I'll leave you learn to how she fares in this yarn.

Writer Chris Sebela is obviously a Svengoolie fan since the setting takes place in Chicago, mutual home of Sven.  Sebela's script drops anecdotes about Von Ghastly starting out with corny humor and rubber chickens, thus his homage is so apparent you'll be screaming "Berrrrrwyn!" in the back of your head--assuming you're tuned in to MeTV regularly at 10:00 pm on Saturdays.  In that respect, Sebela does a terrific job of merging schlock with a contemporary horror edge and this resurrection of Ghost has the makings of something special.

                    Listenin' to:  The Doors - Waiting for the Sun

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Popeye Might Say This is Embarassking

                        Listenin' to:  Puscifer - V is for Vagina

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


                         Listenin' to:  Herbie Hancock - Sextant

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Header Needed...Just Laugh

                          Listenin' to:  Mushroomhead - XIII

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shades 'n Sherwood and...

Following this past weekend's Cool Comic o' the Week selection of Sherwood Texas, I had a little extra fun in response to author Shane Berryhill's call for mug shots with shades and his book.  The smartass in me couldn't resist.

                     Listenin' to - Elvis Presley - Elvis at Stax

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 7/13/14

Sad news for rock 'n rollers and punkers that Tommy Erdelyi, the remaining original Ramone, has passed on to the next life to join his band mates.  Marky Ramone gets the honors as the Ramones' longest-standing drummer, and he's also the representative glue to keeping them together for so long.  Yet Tommy's death marks an end to the formative years of the Ramones' legacy even if that legacy has been well-preserved and documented by Marky.  As a tribute, this week's Sunday Triple Play kicks off with "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" from the Ramones' eponymous self-titled debut.

Next up this week is the spectacular taiko drumming ensemble, Kodo, who tour the world playing traditional Japanese music to the nth power in the interest of promoting global peace.  This long sliver of their performance at The Acropolis is testament to their stage flair and polyrhythmic genius.

Wrapping is Carlos Santana's legendary Woodstock performance of "Soul Sacrifice" as we draw close to the monumental festival's 45th anniversary.  Too bad this clip doesn't include the prelude of Woodstock attendees drawing up a stomp and clap chant that climaxes in the shouted mantra of "Peace!  Peace!  Peace!  Peace!" before "Soul Sacrifice" kicks in.  Still, you can feel the power of Santana and his ensemble here and your soul will soar in tandem.

The Ramones - "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue"

  Kodo - "Akabanar" live at The Acropolis

Santana - "Soul Sacrifice" live at Woodstock, August, 1969

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Sherwood, Texas Miniseries

Hopefully you were one of the fortunate peeps at Free Comic Book Day to snag a split job from indie publisher 12- Gauge Comics featuring Boondock Saints and the debut of Shane Berryhill's gritty re-imagination of Robin Hood lore, Sherwood, Texas.  As one of the most promising freebies of this year's event, the five issue miniseries was officially launched this week, and with the appetizing intro price of only a buck.

Part of this low-price incentive comes from smart marketing, while the other part comes from the fact the first issue here represents the material outlined in the FCBD offering, but with extra pages marking the continuation of the story.

Berryhill, author of the y/a genre Chance Fortune books, shows a harsher side of his storytelling talents with Sherwood, Texas, a place that, believe it or not, actually exists.  Albeit, Berryhill reportedly just learned of this fact after gauging online reception to the FCBD teaser.  We'll cut the man some slack, because if the real Sherwood, Texas is anything like Berryhill's bloody microcosm, people would be well-advised to stay clear.

Sherwood, Texas' world is set in a sprawled dustbowl hellhole where outlaws rule, the antithesis to the olde English folklore behind Robyn Hode and his "merry men" hiding for cover in the woods and making a mockery of the local sovereignty.  The opposing sides here are biker gangs, which our brooding antihero, Rob Hood, is thrust between upon his return home from the navy following the death of his father.  The bad guys (who are naturally responsible for the slaying of Hood's dad) are flipped as reprehensible drug pushers, human traffickers, rapists, murderers and basic shitheels of society.  Naming themselves The Nobles, it seems there's no low these thugs will go to in the effort to singlehandedly control Sherwood, Texas and to squash their rival biker gang, The Jesters.

Amongst the ranks of The Jesters is Rob Hood's Indian half-brother, Will, and it's established early-on there's bad blood between them at the funeral of their father, Richard "The Lion" Hood.  Reminiscent of the opening scrum between the Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet, The Nobles crash the funeral and Rob is goaded into taking a shot at their leader, Prince.  Snubbing Will's invitation to join The Jesters for a wake in honor of Richard, Rob is essentially cast as a lone wolf.  Again, Berryhill capsizes the original Robin Hood ethos while saluting it in subtle fashion.  No worries of any corny, Costner-esque water-downs here. 

Aside from the warmth of his girlfriend, Molly, Berryhill's Rob lives a cold and lonely life, and he is going to pay the price immediately for his refusal to align with either side amongst the warring sanctions.  Remember, the original Robin Hood is likewise a former soldier looking to get away from conflict, but conflict comes to and essentially defines him.  When Rob finally caves in and attempts to bury the hatchet with Will at an isolated bar called "LJ's" (as in Little John, get it?), the beefy proprietor (LJ, naturally), sends Rob flying out the window to an even worse fate at the hands of The Nobles.

Issue # 1 finds Rob left for dead after some brutal mistreatment as the ghost of "The Lion" summons Will to rescue his half-brother, setting up for a shaky alliance you figure will equate to a bloody reckoning between the feuding biker gangs. 

Berryhill has stated in an interview he feels Sherwood, Texas is "Robin Hood through a Quentin Tarantino lens."  Tarantino has a knack for mating kickass, atmospheric music with his tension-filled scenes.  I would recommend Matt Boroff's writhing Sweet Hand of Fate album to accompany the tormented desert vistas of Berryhill's Sherwood, Texas. 

For certain, there's a heavy pulp element to this miniseries and though Zenescope has been banking most of their books with the toughening up and titillating of classic fairy tales and beloved fantasy that has stood the test of time, Sherwood, Texas ups the ante in a big way.  Daniel Hillyard's work is grittier and more abstract than the lush pencils and colors in, say, Wonderland, Grimm Fairy Tales and of course, their female competitor to Berryhill's, Robyn Hood.  Sherwood, Texas is obviously a rough 'n tumble tale and Hillyard's jagged facial expressions on these characters insinuate weathered folk who are no strangers to violence.  Violence is sure to follow here...

                      Listenin' to:  Ramones - Rocket to Russia

Friday, July 11, 2014

Most "Blab" Worthy Album of the Prior Month for Blabbermouth

My reviews from last month for Blabbermouth should be going live any day now as I dig in and prepare for this month's listening sessions.  Instead of picking the album I gave the highest rating to last month (that honor is shared by Boris and Goatwhore with a 9 out of 10 each), I'm going with the album that arrived this week and was already under fire on the basis of a mere few samples prior to. 

The new Mastodon album is another milestone in their esteemed careers and both Helstar and Volume IV likewise impressed me last month with their latest offerings.  However, Judas Priest's Redeemer of Souls is currently the hottest topic in new metal music releases, so by all means, it deserves this month's most "Blab" worthy acknowledgement.  While hardly perfect, the Priest did an honorable job with Redeemer of Souls, as I note here in this sample from my review:

"Gauging the pre-release fan chatter out there, “Redeemer of Souls” rings more like Judgment Day than the release of a new JUDAS PRIEST album.  This should be cause for celebration, since it’s JUDAS freakin’ PRIEST, damn ya.   Nevertheless, “Redeemer of Souls” arrives amidst skepticism following their sprawling metal opera “Nostradamus” that sent most of their fans into a panic.

Of course, PRIEST’s been here before.  As commercially successful as “Turbo” may have been for them in the late eighties, the band recognized they’d attracted the wrong crowd and set out to make things right for their long-timers.  “Ram it Down” was a valiant step back to where they once belonged and the same opportunity is presented them now with their 17th album.  KK Downing is unaccounted for on “Redeemer of Souls,” which only fuels the pre-game hate.  Richie Faulkner, tie your shoestrings extra tight, young man; you’re in for a wild ride.

So let’s get one thing straight, people.  Inhale, exhale.  Stay calm.  “Redeemer of Souls” is not another “Nostradamus” or even “Angel of Retribution.”  Despite the appearance of a few mini-epics on the new album, which hardly wank, this is a straightforward rocking JUDAS PRIEST album.  Rob Halford and the band have alluded they’re out to satisfy their fans by giving them what they want.  There are a couple of a new tricks revealed from their leather-clad sleeves on this album, but for the most part, “Redeemer of Souls” sits snugly in a vibe caught between “Ram it Down” and “Painkiller” with a few faint touches of “Defenders of the Faith.”

Stay tuned for the full review at Blabbermouth!

          Listenin' to:  Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash at San Quentin

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If This Notice is Legit...LMAO

You'd think they'd have one of these notices posted at the shower stalls at Flying J's.

                              Listenin' to:  Elvis Presley - s/t

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Weird and Unrelated Things a Google Search Gives You

I'll reserve today's original post topic for another time since I'm utterly fascinated with the bizarre mindset of Google.  I have to share the findings of what I figured would be a supposedly simple search for one thing that ended up with some gonzo, unrelated results.

Now, any Google search vet, particularly one seeking images related to a certain subject, will tell you that eventually you're going to find something containing a skimpy-clad model, full-on nudity or outright belly slapping.  It's guaranteed.  Put in a search for images of people smiling and you're certain to find something that'll really put a smile on your face if you're in need of such a fix.  On the other hand, the miscellaneous flotsam Google can fetch you just defies logic.

Case in point, this morning I'm searching for the album cover image to George Jones' Icon 2 compilation.  Put in "George Jones Icon 2," it stays pretty much on course to Mr. Jones and country music, but it gives you a misprinted version of the album cover and no sign of the correct one no matter how far you scroll.  Phooey.  Going under "George Jones Icon2" with a closure between the "icon" and "2," I got what I was looking for sure, but let me pass along a sample of the befuddling images Google provided me under this search:

Country fried steak:

Oliver Hardy and Mae Busch from Their First Mistake:

Curious George (my kid would dig this):

Cardinal George Pell:

Lt. Uhura from the Star Trek animated series:

One of a handful of swimsuit divas represented by Agencia de Modelos:

Saxophonist Michael Lington:

G.I. Scout Rasta headphones:

Well, at least there are a couple of loose-ended "George" connections including musician George Benson, who you can also find in this search.  Where Tim Tebow, Fredi Washington, Gregory Peck, Sarah Jones & Alfie Boe or cupcakes have a connection to George Jones is beyond me.  What, no mason jar filled with white lightning?  Whewwwwwwwwwww.   WTF, Google?

                         Listenin' to:  George Jones - Icon 2

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 7/6/14

This week's Triple Play hops genres as blatantly as one can, just because.

First up are electro pioneers Kraftwerk, who are finally getting their due in the development of electronica, techno and EDM.  They may sound primitive in light of today's more sophisticated technological advances, but these guys were one of the first to tinker with the sounds and they innovated the potential for synth-driven music with rich tones and swinging groove.  Kraftwerk pushed into territories seldom few artists had the courage to go as boldly as they did.  My son is ape shit for "We Are the Robots," but he's also keen on "Computer World," a fitting reminder to the world that things are constantly moving toward change, like it or not.

Next up is Aerosmith's seething tirade against the threat of nuclear holocaust, "Nobody's Fault."  Metalheads will automatically cue to mind thrash legends Testament, who did a solid cover and a hilarious video for this one.  Yet Aerosmith's version is far more brutal.  This thing writhes.  Crank it.  Wrapping up is Stringbean, one of the fastest banjo pickers who ever tramped the Earth.  Those who watched the country variety show Hee-Haw in the 1970s will recognize Stringbean as one of the bit players of the ensemble, most famously, the droll scarecrow hanging about the joke-a-thon cornfield.  His goofy, pencil-thin, elongated wardrobe was part of his performing shtick, but his true calling card was some mighty fast fingers on the five string.

Kraftwerk - "Computer World"

Aerosmith - "Nobody's Fault"

Stringbean with Earl Scruggs and Lester Flat - "Run Rabbit Run"

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Daredevil # 196

One of my all-time favorite superheroes is Daredevil.  DD has always had a strong following over the years, much of it having to do with introducing Elektra, international assassin and the forbidden love equivalent of Catwoman (or Talia al' Ghul, for that matter) to Batman.  Anyone who knows me knows I'm a Bat-freak, though I spent most of my younger years trailing Spiderman.  By the time I hooked up with horn-head, my number two comics hero took his place.  Mad love for you, always, Spidey, no worries.  A three spot ain't so bad.

Here's one of the coolest issues in Daredevil history, Volume 1, Number 196 from 1983.  You can tell by the cover alone this has the potential to be one bad mama jama and it is.  Writer Denny O'Neill, one of the all-time greats, conducts a hell of team-up story, "Enemy."  It's impressively self-contained, but "Enemy" marks the rambunctious prelude to a more encompassing plot bearing future explosive ramifications for Matt Murdock.  Naturally.

Back when Daredevil # 196 came out, superhero team-ups and crossovers were a little more special then, since they became a hopeless norm during the make-a-buck nineties.  Sure, Marvel already had Marvel Team-Up featuring Spiderman and a different character or even a full hero unit each month.  That meant you could get Spidey and The Fantastic Four in one story, then the webhead with only The Human Torch some odd time down the road.  Yet when characters jumped trains from their own pages to someone else's like Wolverine did in Daredevil # 196, it hardly felt like a gimmick.  Sadly, a decade later, crossovers were a norm and very much a profit-angled gimmick.

In this story, Wolverine is on the trail of Bullseye, who is seriously injured and about to be transported out of the country to Japan for specialized surgery in seclusion.  Protected by some anonyomous goons, Wolverine is momentarily taken out as he's gassed and shot while attempting to capture Bullseye.  As Wolvie recovers quickly to the awe of his attending physicians, Daredevil enters the picture as he too is keeping tabs on Bullseye.  Thus sets up for an uneasy alliance between Logan and Murdock, and "Enemy" is loaded with biting sarcasm, dark humor and a solid scrum against twenty of Kingpin's hired hands.

At this point in Marvel history, Wolverine was still coming into his own as a brand character, which means he's tougher, mangier and hedonistic in his handiwork.  The clash of ideals between Wolvie and Daredevil becomes the separation point that Denny O'Neill has a field day exploiting between them.  Some of Wolverine's more hilarious banter comes in this issue, such as "Every boy needs a hobby" after Daredevil comments on the former's brutal fighting techniques.  Shortly afterwards, Wolverine nyuks, "Try not to be too harsh on me, bub.  I got a delicate sensibility."

It gets funnier (and subversively ruthless) from this point.  Daredevil # 196 marks the first appearance of Lord Dark Wind, aka Kenji Oyama, a hooded Japanese mastermind who looks like Cobra Commander.  Ironically, there's an advertisement in this issue for a G.I. Joe Atari (Gen X'ers, clue the youngsters about Atari, if you please) video game with ol' snake breath and Duke featured in it.  Dark Wind is credited as developing the fusing of adamantium steel to bone, which of course, ties in to Wolverine.   Wolvie's entrance into Daredevil's world comes from a tip leading to the origin of his famous adamantium skeleton.  Dark Wind (not yet identified by name in this story) hires Kingpin to provide security for the transportation of Bullseye and thus the table is set.

The story throws in the subplot of a dying criminal named Tarkington Brown who receives a call from Wolverine tipping him off to his and Daredevil's upcoming throw down in pursuit of Bullseye.  Brown, who knows Matt Murdock's secret and harbors a major grudge, subsequently sneaks into the big brawl and attempts to shoot Murdock.  Wolverine saves the day by incapacitating Brown.  The reader should insinuate Wolverine has set up this little side drama to gain Daredevil's loyalty, if not his trust. 

Remember, Wolverine was part of a rogue ops team before joining the X-Men, and that sense of unscrupulousness is the crux of his character.  This before being reimagined into a gruff, claw-swinging antihero.  Denny O'Neill brilliantly extracts that nihilistic nuance out of Wolverine in this story as Bullseye is escorted to safety out of the country and Matt Murdock purchases a flight ticket to Japan.  He's already gone through hell with Elektra back in issues 189 and 190 and things aren't gonna get easier in 197 as he meets Yuriko, another figure who will lead Daredevil to the recuperating Bullseye and assured mayhem.

As serious and dark as comic books tend to be in contemporary times, Daredevil # 196 rode the line between the dark and light.  This is a test of mettle for Daredevil as it was for readers back in the day.  "Enemy" is a fun and often hilarious tale with all of the old school comics ethos intact, yet there's a pervading haunt to this tale that indicates comics would soon be losing its innocence at-large.  The Elektra saga changed the game, as did the first-time death of Jean Grey in Uncanny X-Men # 136.   

Glory days, these were.

                Listenin' to:  Johnny Cash - Out Among the Stars

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rob Halford Says Lady GaGa Is a Total Metalhead...

As reported by Blabbermouth.  Interesting, to say the least...


            Listenin' to:  Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lone Wolf 'n Cub

                           Listenin' to:  Boris - Heavy Rocks