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 Part Three: Expendable Youth

October 26th, 1990. New Jersey

Cruising down I-78 in his gargantuan Chevy Impala, George was like the captain of a boat cruising through the garden state, while the automobile’s cassette player blasted Slayer’s new album, Seasons of the Abyss. George slowly rocked his head back and forth as he screamed words to Expendable Youth.

‘injured soul lies on the ground

head blown off face down

lying in a pool of blood

an accidental death homicide 

expendable youth

fighting for possession

having control a principal obsession

rivalry and retribution

death the only solution’

As he pulled off the Interstate, he thought about what all he might buy today. He had a lot of his favorite movies on VHS already, and owned a lot of posters and other merchandise. That actor his sister liked never did one of these shows before, so it would be cool to get him. He also didn’t yet have the poster for last year’s Friday the 13th movie, so he would keep an eye out for that. 

Expendable Youth came to an end. The next song on the cassette was Hallowed Point. This was a much faster paced song with the usual intense lyrics.

‘instinctive regression

with intent to kill

no regard of human life

or the blood spilled’

George could care less that any drivers who passed him saw his long mop of hair flopping about the car while he furiously headbanged to the rapid drumbeat and the piercing electric guitars. However, his head suddenly stopped and he quickly turned the dial down as a cop began to tail him. Now he carefully eyed his speedometer as he didn’t need another ticket, and he knew that cops targeted out of state plates. The dead skin on his knuckles cracked as he gripped the wheel. His face shifted from that of a serious metalhead to a still mask of stoicness. 

“Fuck!” he then yelled as Hallowed Point finished, bringing the cassette to the end of side A. He just realized his Zodiac killer mask was still at his apartment.

At least he managed to get his car in one of Hoboken’s parking garages without incident. Soon he took the train across the river into New York City. Once he got to the convention venue, he saw people dressed up as characters from all the classic horror movies; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and his favorite, Friday the 13th. All the psycho’s were out, there were even some old school Frankensteins and Draculas. It totally sucked that he forgot his mask. His Zodiac killer T-shirt would have to do. 

Naturally, George was a seasoned veteran of the convention scene, already having many autographs of the greats that all the noobs now gathered in long lines for. Looking around at the sea of vendors on the convention floor, he calculated his options. Nearby, he saw someone at a table who had a few girls talking to him. Seeing his handsome features George understood why. He wished girls would talk to him like that. He hovered close while he watched the girls woo over the celebrity. After the wenches walked away he went over and introduced himself. 

“Holy shit it’s Eric Cord!” George said excitedly. 

“Pleasure to meet you.” the actor answered politely, not seeming to mind the fan calling him by his character name.

“Man that sucks that Werewolf won’t be back next year.” George complained. “Such a good show, the creature effects were wicked!” 

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” the actor said graciously. “We had a good run though. Anytime you make a TV show, you never know if it’s gonna get past the first season. We were lucky we got as far as we did.”

Reaching his hands out like a beast George said “Well it’s been four seasons of savagery and I loved it! It blows hard that it will be gone next year. Is there anything you can tell me about the rest of the last episodes?” George was anxious to hear his answer, as the fourth and final season was now airing on the Fox network, and would wrap up this spring. 

“Well if I told you too much you wouldn’t watch it right?” The actor laughed. “I can tell you this though, the story will have a definitive ending.”

George about jumped out his skin and asked “You mean Eric is going to finally kill Nicholas Remy and break the curse?” 

“Now I didn’t say that.” The actor cautioned. “I’m just saying all the loose ends will be tied up. We won’t be ending on a cliffhanger or anything like that.”

“That’s such a rarity in this business man.” George said, talking as if he were a Hollywood insider. 

“It sure is.” Gesturing to several photos at his table, the actor asked “So, would you like an autograph?” 

“Definitely, let me see what you got here.” Looking down, he saw several pictures of the actor that were from the show Werewolf, as well as a few from Night of the Creeps, an obscure horror comedy, and a few one off appearances in various TV shows like Murder She Wrote, Family Ties, Hunter, and Dynasty. Another one caught his eye, one of the actor in a white coat. “Oh that’s General Hospital.”George said.

“Yeah that’s right!” The actor sounded surprised. “Do you watch the show?”

George was revolted that anyone would even think to ask him if he watched something as stupid as a daytime soap opera, but he managed to keep his answer to a minimum. “No my sister does.”

“That’s cool. Well I’d be happy to sign a pic for her.” he said as he picked up his sharpie.

George naturally wanted a Werewolf photo, but he didn’t want to seem like a dick in front of the actor, so he reluctantly selected a General Hospital photo and handed over his cash.

“Thanks man, appreciate it.” The actor signed the picture and asked. “What’s your sister’s name?” 

“My sister’s name is Helen.” George said, looking longingly at one of the Werewolf photos. He may have been a horror nerd, but he knew enough not to blow all of his money in one spot.

“Ok, ‘To Helen,” the actor wrote out a brief message for his fan who he didn’t know, and handed the picture to George. “Thank you very much buddy.”

“Thanks man,” George took the photograph and stepped away from the booth. Before putting it in the small blag bag he carried with him, he stopped in the aisle to take a look. People walked around his massive frame while he read the inscription. “To Helen, thanks for watching. Yours truly, Malcolm ‘Mac’ Scorpio, a.k.a. John J. York.”

October 26th, 1957, Plainfield Wisconsin

In the woodshed Sally felt something brush against her shoulder. She covered her mouth as she gasped. There was no sound, save the awful squealing outside. Nothing but blackness was visible behind her. She wouldn’t dare turn on a flashlight had she possessed one, but she did have a lighter. The small flame lit up the enclosed space, and the first thing Sally noticed were a pair of human feet. They were spread apart, bound to an overhead beam. There before Sally, a female corpse hung upside down, her torso split open, gutted like a deer.

The flame extinguished as she dropped the lighter to the ground. The door made a loud banging sound as it flung open and her own shrieking scream accompanied the howling of the ghoul. Sally ran as hard as she could toward the road, not even trying to see where the fiend was. She could hear it though, crying out somewhere behind her, and she heard its footsteps too.

Now a third sound cracked the empty night air, Sally winced as she heard the shot of the rifle. She thought if she could just get to the tree line she may have a chance. Mercifully, a pair of lights emerged ahead of her. Her legs desperately ran toward them as she put some distance between herself and the fiend. Another gunshot flashed as the pickup truck slowed down. She ran directly toward the front of the vehicle, frantically waving her arms. The truck swerved to her left, nearly knocking her over, it’s tires skidded in the grass as the truck almost flew into the trees. Circling back around, Sally planted her left foot on the rear tire and pushed herself up into the truck’s cab. Slamming her hand into the back window Sally screamed “Go Go!”  She could see the man driving through the back window, he immediately sped away. As she looked back to her left, the road behind her disappeared in the darkness. Sally shed tears of relief, and, she had no thought to what made her do this, but looking back as the shape of the terrible dark house vanished from her sight, she cackled hysterically. 

Whatever that thing was that chased her, she no longer saw it. She didn’t see it frantically throwing itself around the road, it’s rough skinned hands still gripping the rifle as its arms flayed and its body spun around aimlessly in a dance of madness and violence. 

Diego wondered how Morea was doing. He usually got some text hassling him about something or other first thing in the morning. He didn’t see him at his locker when he arrived at school this morning either. Seemed like a typical day otherwise. Walking down the hallway he saw the same two boys pushing the same small kid. Spotting Mia out of the corner of his eye, Diego decided to step up.

“Yeah you’re really tough together huh?” Diego taunted. He was taller than both the bullies, and he got in one of their faces and said “Why don’t you try to do that to me?” The boy stared him down, but his friend pulled at his arm saying “Come on let’s go man, teacher’s watching.” Diego laughed, knowing an excuse when he saw one. The two boys walked away.

Diego helped the smaller boy up when he heard “Wow what are you trying to be, the Flying Fox?” He felt a lump in his throat when he heard the name “Flying Fox.” He turned around to see Mia smiling at him. 

“What are you talking about?” In a rare moment Diego appeared to lose his cool.

“Didn’t you hear, it’s all over social media.” Mia showed him her Instagram page where pictures from a local newstation showed a new vigilante, the Flying Fox, saving a store from robbers. 

“Uh, I must have had my phone off.” He nervously said as they walked to class. Passing people through the hallway, Diego could see other people watching clips of the Flying Fox, both at the store, and in the underground fighting circuit.

“You’re a big hit homes!” Morea said as he ate his taco at the cafeteria. 

“Thanks man.” Diego said. “Was worried about you, didn’t hear from you this morning.”

“Came in late homes.” Morea took a drink of milk before saying. “Listen, I got you another fight.”

“What?”

“You’re a hit homes. The public wants to see, you know…”

Diego stopped him before he could say that name “Hold on man, I’m done with that stuff.”

“I’m countin on you man come on!”

“You ok, you’ve been acting awful nervous lately.”

“All right I’ll level with you. You know this thing was started to settle disputes right? Well, there’s been a little dispute, and..”

“And you need me to bail you out of trouble again.”

Officer Santos waited in the conference room while  Chief Higgins began his briefing. As everyone knew, about a year ago there was a wave of shootings and violence across three days in Los Angeles. Ever since then, thankfully, gang activity had been pretty quiet. Now the department knew why. Higgins showed a clip of two people fighting in an empty swimming pool with a crowd of people around. Apparently, soon after that wave of violence, an underground fighting network was set up. The gangs agreed to settle their disputes through underground fights, and amazingly it worked. It developed from there into people fighting for money, then naturally gambling grew out of it, and it’s operation even expanded internationally. 

Officer Santos felt a lump in her throat when she saw the next clip. It was a fighter in, what to her was a familiar looking Lucha Mask fighting on a rooftop. “In other news,” Chief Higgins said, “looks like we have a  vigilante in our midst. This cat right here calls himself the Flying Fox.” A different clip then came up on the screen. “Here he is again stopping robbers at a convenience store. He’s lucky he didn’t get himself killed.” Officer Santos almost got sick while the other officers laughed around her. “So keep an eye out for this too. We got word on where we think the next fight will be, so keep your ears peeled for instructions later.”

That night Diego found himself in a warehouse surrounded by a pretty substantial crowd. Through the eyeholes of his lucha mask he could see the crowd cheering him on as they chanted “Flying Fox, Flying Fox.” He posed to the crowd, but then felt nervous as Kennedy introduced the next fighter. “And his opponent!” Alexander, said to the crowd, “From the land of the rising sun, Yoshimitsu!” The crowd cheered as the muscular Japanese fighter did a spin kick for the crowd. Kennedy said two more words, “Let’s fight!”

The two fighters nodded to each other as the crowd erupted. They paced around for a moment, both with their hands up. Both fighters felt the desire to entertain and both began a series of ariel maneuvers, none of which landed a significant blow to the other. They paced around again as the cheering continued. 

Diego leapt back up and landed a spinning kick to his opponent, knocking him to one knee. Diego instinctively knew he should take the fight to the ground and start punching, if he was lucky he could land a submission hold. His show off side got the better of him and he leapt back into the air in an attempt to make a Superman punch. 

Yoshimitsu easily caught him with a simple punch to the stomach. Diego hit his head while landed on the hardwood floor while clutching his stomach. Yoshimitsu wasted no time getting on top of his opponent, landing a series of hard blows to the head.

Diego was getting hit hard. He could hear the audience cheering for blood. He desperately  raised his arms trying to block the still landing blows. He feared passing out, his ears were ringing as he looked up to see his opponent pause. The ringing in Diego’s ears was now replaced by something else, the sound of sirens.

“Cops! Everybody out of here.” Kennedy yelled as the crowd dispersed. Red and blue lights flashed in the distance but were fast approaching. 

“I hope this settles Morea’s mess!” Diego thought to himself as he ran out the back. He didn’t see his friend, but was only concentrating on getting out of there. Morea always found a way to weasle out of trouble, and now he had to focus on himself. While running he put his hands up to his mask, he was unsure of whether or not he should leave his mask on. 

Getting some distance from the Warehouse, he saw several cop cars pull up to the building. His legs kept moving a pair of headlights shown on him. He bolted again as another car followed behind him. There were no flashing lights on the car, shit he was really in trouble now. The car didn’t pursue him for long as he heard “Diego!” over the megapone. “Diego, get in here now!” Dam, now he was in some real deep shit. He almost wished it was some gang member about to whack him.

Officer Santos pulled up beside him and pushed the passenger door open on her patrol car. As soon as Diego got in his mother slapped him silly. “You stupid asshole you could have gotten killed!” She ripped the mask off him and looked at it. “You got blood on your grandfather’s mask!”

“I’m sorry mom.” Diego said. “I was just doing it to get some money for us.” Diego wasn’t a weasel like his friend. His stomach was in knots now that he saw how upset his mother was, and he knew his Grandfather was disapointed.

“When we get home your grandfather is going to give you the stretching of a lifetime.” Diego’s mom calmly said as they drove away from the crime scene.

This has been a fun experiment these last couple months, but I am going to end it here. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read these stories. If you liked these, I am working on a horror story that I will begin posting in October. In the meantime take care of yourselves.

 

“This was just too much to believe.” Jennifer thought to herself as she rode through what was nicknamed a ghost city, the taxi easily crossed downtown in the dark since there were hardly any other cars on the highway. “A Nu Gui? A ghost that was abused?” Every time Jennifer saw that girl she wore a red dress, like the ghost her teacher described, and she looked just like the girl in the photographs she found in the empty apartment.

The phone she found in that empty apartment was charging in her own room sincesince she’d left. Picking it up she turned it back on, the light on the screen glowed indicating the device had been resurrected from its former dead battery. She opened the photo album and saw more pictures of Linda with her former classmates, Jennfier’s current students. There was one photo with Deborah that had pink English words written over it. It warmed the teacher’s heart to see the words  ”Best Friends” written over the photo. 

Jennifer checked the text messages but of course they were all in Chinese. She had an app in her own phone that translated Chinese text. It was a rough translation, but she could read a series of exchanges, something about keepng a secret, and her asking for money. Then she saw two English words in the original text that made her skin crawl. The app translated the whole sentence, which she read.

“You are not Brad Pitt. You are bad man. I will tell. I will tell everyone.”

Jennifer dropped both phones and screamed as the Nu Gui stood before her. It remained still as Jennifer stepped back “What do you want.” 

The spectre now moved toward her. It floated, it didn’t walk, it didn’t run, it floated toward her with inhuman power, it’s ghostly white hand extended towards her in accusation, and from it’s black lips came a terrible hissing sound. 

Jennifer madly opened the door to her balcony and slammed it behind her. As the wraith approached she knew the glass would not stop her. Looking down from her second story apartment, she knew it wasn’t that far of a drop. If she landed just right on the park bench she would be fine. Once again she put her old gymnastic skills to use. Once she landed she dared not turn around, but ran as hard as she could to the gate. 

Only after she exited the complex did she stop and take a breath. Looking across the street, she could see the lights to Hollywood English were on. She wondered aloud who would be in there now on a Sunday evening, but in her gut she knew.

She slowly went up the steps and entered the private school. It seemed empty, all the classrooms were dark, but there was a glow of light coming from somewhere, it was near the teacher’s office. Then she heard the sound of laughter, it was a girl’s laugh, a laugh she heard before. The light on the administrator’s office was on. She crept toward the door and she could hear some conversation, her Chinese wasn’t good enough yet to really make out what they were saying. 

Her student Linda screamed as she saw her teacher peering through the door. Linda jumped up and buttoned her shirt as there sitting at the desk he sat, Mr. playboy himself who liked to call himself Brad Pitt. Jennifers boss looked in horror as his teacher had already snapped a few photos on her phone, and gave her a look of disgust before running out the door.

“Wait wait!” Jennifer heard behind her in English, let’s talk about this. Jennifer kept running. It mad sense to her now. Her former colleague probably figured out what the boss was doing and fired him. The locals probably didn’t care to listen to him on account of being a foreigner, and gay on top of that. He probably didn’t speak the language well enough either. She found herself running back to her room. She ‘d forgotten all about the supernatural encounter she’d just had and ran toward the gate of her property. Her boss yelled something behind her she couldn’t understand, but the gaurd at the gate desperately stood near the entrance to try to stop her, he didn’t have a chance.

Running into the building she ran up the stairwell with her boss closely behind. “You son of a bitch!”She turned around to shout at him, and when she turned around, her emotions turned from fear to awe. There on the stairwell, between herself and her boss, the Nu Gui stood with a look of vengeance.

It is too unbelievable to describe what she saw next, and too horrible for her to recount, but the surveilence footage showed her boss running up the steps, and apparently dieing of a heart a attack. For a brief moment there was a glitch in the footage, where his body appeared to float in the air. “You should invest in some good Samsung cameras!” The policemen told the landlord. A heart attack also didn’t explain the sheer look of terror on the man’s face, nor the tiny scratch marks he had on his neck. Jennifer didn’t care for explanations. She had enough excitement for one day. She made her statement the police that her boss chased her up the steps then collapsed. It was a good enough explanation, and finally Jennifer went home and went to sleep.

Soon Jennifer heard that familiar sound of a basketball bouncing on the court, a sound she hadn’t heard in a while. Passing through a thick fog, she could see her brother shooting hoops by himself on a basketball court.

“Hey sis” he said as he rebounded the ball.

“Oh my god.”

“How you doing? I’m real proud of you, you made it across the world!”

Jennifer then saw that familiar girl in her red dress standing on the side of the court. Jennifer didn’t feel frightened now. The girl gave a weak smile and a timid wave.

“Was talking to her.” Her brother said. “She says she’s sorry her English isn’t that good. She wants to thank you for what you did though.”

“Ok,” she waved to her. The spirit then turned around and slowly walked away, disappearing into a fog. 

“Anyway sis, I wanted to tell you I’m sorry. Tell mom I’m sorry too.”

“Sorry.” His sister was confused. 

“Man you know I was going down the wrong road. How many times did you try to warn me? Honestly I was lucky for a while, but one day my luck ran out.” 

She didn’t know what to say, but her brother continued. “I love ya sis.” 

“I love you too.” She hugged him tight and closed her eyes, wishing this moment would never end

And then she no longer felt his embrace. She opened her eyes to see him take a three point shot. The ball sailed through the misty air and sank perfectly through the hoops making that classic swishing sound through the metal chains. 

“Oh yeah all day!” He gloated as he ran toward the hoop to retrieve his ball. He looked back at his sister and smiled, his hand giving the peace sign as the fog rolled in around him, soon enveloping him from her sight. She woke up in her bed and smiled, now she was fine.

I’m gonna end Ghost City here. Thanks to everyone who supported this story. Hope you enjoyed it. Tune in next week for the Lights of Mirigan, followed by the Flying Fox.

Star Wars obviously had a huge effect on the world of comic books, and the property itself had a Marvel Comics series. In fact, the first time the general public would see any Star Wars content was on April 12th 1977, over a full month before the movie premiered, (the second issue would was on stands on May 10th, about two weeks before the film’s premiere.) The first six issues of the series adapted the film, and after that featured original material. The series would run until 1986,

 

The first Star Wars comic of 1980 (issue #34) wrapped up a story about an Empire super weapon called the Omega Frost, which could freeze anything. The February issue had Darth Vader learning who destroyed the Death Star, then proceeding to seek his revenge. Subsequent issues feature Vader and Luke Skywalker in the Crystal Valley per mechanizations of the comic book series villain Domina Tagge. Issue #37 ends with Jabba the Hut, later ret-conned to be the Hut’s accountant Nimbanel. Issue #38 was to begin the adaptation of Empire Strikes Back, but due to distribution issues it was a one off story where Luke and Lea encounter an organic ship.

 

The next issue begins the Empire adaption, but unlike Star Wars, it came out about a month after the film’s premiere. No references are made to previous Marvel Comics stories, nothing of Tagge, the Crystal Valley or the Omega frost. Instead the Rebels are abruptly on the ice planet Hoth. Also noteworthy is the price of this issue went up a dime to fifty cents. One interesting note in the adaptation is that Marvel was not allowed to show the giant space slug from the film, as Lucasfilm wanted it to be a surprise. The final Star Wars issue of 1980 takes place immediately after the film, and features Luke battling an Empire droid.

 

Marvel comics themselves would have their own famous saga that took them to the stars in X-men’s Dark Phoenix Saga. The X-men debuted in 1963, and were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Originally not a big success, the title was relaunched in 1975 and has been popular since. The original team were teenagers who were born with special powers that revealed themselves at puberty. By 1980 the cast are now grown adults, something that at the outset causes a rift between Professor Xavier, the psychic wheelchair bound founder of the team, and Cyclops, original team member and field commander.

 

Running from June to September of 1980 and written by Chris Claremont, the Dark Phoenix Saga does not get to outer space until the end. A majority of the story features the Hellfire Club, a secret aristocratic organization with mutants at it’s inner circle (And inspired by a British spy TV show called the Avengers). The Hellfire club attempts to corrupt and control original X-men member Jean Grey, who has previously come into possession of the Phoenix force, making her near godlike in power. During the course of the adventures two new characters, the popular Kitty Pryde, and the disco based Dazzler, make their debut.

 

Jean loses control of her powers and becomes Dark Phoenix. Soaring off to another solar system, she consumes a star which causes the destruction of a planet and the death of 5 billion aliens known as D’Bari, and also the destruction of a spaceship from the Shi’ar empire. (At the time the population of Earth was about five billion.) The Shi’ar, meeting with other alien races, conclude that the Phoenix Force must be stopped. Interestingly, among the aliens is a creature resembling H.R. Giger’s Alien, who debuted in film a year prior. The X-men would face a very similar alien, known as the Brood, two years later.

 

Dark Phoenix’s saga concludes with the Shi’ar abducting the X-men in an attempt to make Jean pay for her crimes. Trial by combat is held on the moon. Facing overwhelming odds, Jean unleashes her Phoenix force, but, knowing her power is too dangerous for the universe, sacrifices herself in front of her lover Cyclops. 

 

The original ending had an interplanetary council conduct a scientific like exorcism on Jean, safely removing the Phoenix Force, and Jean returning safely home. Marvel Editor Jim Shooter told X-men editor Jim Salicrup “there had to be moral consequences.” When making this suggestion, the finale was already drawn, but changes were made. (Daniels 186) The original ending would see print in 1984’s “Phoenix: The Untold Story.” Since then Dark Phoenix has been adapted or referenced in several animated shows, the X-men film franchise, is now considered a classic. 

 

As succesful as the X-men were, they were no longer teenagers, nor was Spiderman as he was when he first debuted. Fans who wanted a teenage superhero kick would get it at the end of 1980. Debuting a month after Jean’s death, and edited by Len Wien, co-creator of the X-men’s Wolverine and the new X-men, the New TeenTitans would become a much needed success for DC comics. 

 

Written by Marv Wolfman, teen titans was a concept that had been tried before. Wolfman himself actually wrote a teen titans story in the late 60s. Prior to teen titans Marv was writing team up stories and one off stories for Brave in the Bold and World’s Finest. Wishing to write a different type of story, he would write the New Teen Titans in a run lasting 16 years. Teen titans would thrive on young vs old, parent/child differences, as well as the time honored tradition of inter-team bickering. Wolfman envisioned a triangular conflict between the outlooks of the boys men and three girls on the team. Robin, the team leader, had lost his parents, Cyborg conflicted with his dad who’s experiments made him what he is, and Changeling (formerly Beast Boy) didn’t know his family. For the females, Donna Troy, Raven, and Stargirl ran the gamut on beliefs between war, peace, and pacifism. (From the Teen Titans introduction by Marv Wolfman)

 

The New Teen Titans debuted in a special preview of DC Comics Presents #26, which featured a Jim Starlin story of Superman fighting the intergalactic villain Mogul. The first proper issue of the New Teen Titans opened with a scene straight out of Star Wars, with the alien Stargirl escaping in her space ship, the Star Slider, from an alien empire. Jumping to light speed was referred to as Space Sliding, which allowed Stargirl to get to Earth, where later Changeling would call Cyborg a Star Wars reject. 

 

Danels, Les. Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, Harry N Abrams, Inc, Publishers, New York 1991

 

Wolfman, Marv, Teen Titans Volume One, DC Comics, New York 2014

 

Star Wars obviously had a huge effect on the world of comic books, and the property itself had a Marvel Comics series. In fact, the first time the general public would see any Star Wars content was on April 12th 1977, over a full month before the movie premiered, (the second issue would was on stands on May 10th, about two weeks before the film’s premiere.) The first six issues of the series adapted the film, and after that featured original material. The series would run until 1986,

The first Star Wars comic of 1980 (issue #34) wrapped up a story about an Empire super weapon called the Omega Frost, which could freeze anything. The February issue had Darth Vader learning who destroyed the Death Star, then proceeding to seek his revenge. Subsequent issues feature Vader and Luke Skywalker in the Crystal Valley per mechanizations of the comic book series villain Domina Tagge. Issue #37 ends with Jabba the Hut, later ret-conned to be the Hut’s accountant Nimbanel. Issue #38 was to begin the adaptation of Empire Strikes Back, but due to distribution issues it was a one off story where Luke and Lea encounter an organic ship.

The next issue begins the Empire adaption, but unlike Star Wars, it came out about a month after the film’s premiere. No references are made to previous Marvel Comics stories, nothing of Tagge, the Crystal Valley or the Omega frost. Instead the Rebels are abruptly on the ice planet Hoth. Also noteworthy is the price of this issue went up a dime to fifty cents. One interesting note in the adaptation is that Marvel was not allowed to show the giant space slug from the film, as Lucasfilm wanted it to be a surprise. The final Star Wars issue of 1980 takes place immediately after the film, and features Luke battling an Empire droid.

Marvel comics themselves would have their own famous saga that took them to the stars in X-men’s Dark Phoenix Saga. The X-men debuted in 1963, and were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Originally not a big success, the title was relaunched in 1975 and has been popular since. The original team were teenagers who were born with special powers that revealed themselves at puberty. By 1980 the cast are now grown adults, something that at the outset causes a rift between Professor Xavier, the psychic wheelchair bound founder of the team, and Cyclops, original team member and field commander.

Running from June to September of 1980 and written by Chris Claremont, the Dark Phoenix Saga does not get to outer space until the end. A majority of the story features the Hellfire Club, a secret aristocratic organization with mutants at it’s inner circle (And inspired by a British spy TV show called the Avengers). The Hellfire club attempts to corrupt and control original X-men member Jean Grey, who has previously come into possession of the Phoenix force, making her near godlike in power. During the course of the adventures two new characters, the popular Kitty Pryde, and the disco based Dazzler, make their debut.

Jean loses control of her powers and becomes Dark Phoenix. Soaring off to another solar system, she consumes a star which causes the destruction of a planet and the death of 5 billion aliens known as D’Bari, and also the destruction of a spaceship from the Shi’ar empire. (At the time the population of Earth was about five billion.) The Shi’ar, meeting with other alien races, conclude that the Phoenix Force must be stopped. Interestingly, among the aliens is a creature resembling H.R. Giger’s Alien, who debuted in film a year prior. The X-men would face a very similar alien, known as the Brood, two years later.

Dark Phoenix’s saga concludes with the Shi’ar abducting the X-men in an attempt to make Jean pay for her crimes. Trial by combat is held on the moon. Facing overwhelming odds, Jean unleashes her Phoenix force, but, knowing her power is too dangerous for the universe, sacrifices herself in front of her lover Cyclops. 

The original ending had an interplanetary council conduct a scientific like exorcism on Jean, safely removing the Phoenix Force, and Jean returning safely home. Marvel Editor Jim Shooter told X-men editor Jim Salicrup “there had to be moral consequences.” When making this suggestion, the finale was already drawn, but changes were made. (Daniels 186) The original ending would see print in 1984’s “Phoenix: The Untold Story.” Since then Dark Phoenix has been adapted or referenced in several animated shows, the X-men film franchise, is now considered a classic. 

As succesful as the X-men were, they were no longer teenagers, nor was Spiderman as he was when he first debuted. Fans who wanted a teenage superhero kick would get it at the end of 1980. Debuting a month after Jean’s death, and edited by Len Wien, co-creator of the X-men’s Wolverine and the new X-men, the New TeenTitans would become a much needed success for DC comics. 

Written by Marv Wolfman, teen titans was a concept that had been tried before. Wolfman himself actually wrote a teen titans story in the late 60s. Prior to teen titans Marv was writing team up stories and one off stories for Brave in the Bold and World’s Finest. Wishing to write a different type of story, he would write the New Teen Titans in a run lasting 16 years. Teen titans would thrive on young vs old, parent/child differences, as well as the time honored tradition of inter-team bickering. Wolfman envisioned a triangular conflict between the outlooks of the boys men and three girls on the team. Robin, the team leader, had lost his parents, Cyborg conflicted with his dad who’s experiments made him what he is, and Changeling (formerly Beast Boy) didn’t know his family. For the females, Donna Troy, Raven, and Stargirl ran the gamut on beliefs between war, peace, and pacifism. (From the Teen Titans introduction by Marv Wolfman)

The New Teen Titans debuted in a special preview of DC Comics Presents #26, which featured a Jim Starlin story of Superman fighting the intergalactic villain Mogul. The first proper issue of the New Teen Titans opened with a scene straight out of Star Wars, with the alien Stargirl escaping in her space ship, the Star Slider, from an alien empire. Jumping to light speed was referred to as Space Sliding, which allowed Stargirl to get to Earth, where later Changeling would call Cyborg a Star Wars reject. 

Danels, Les. Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, Harry N Abrams, Inc, Publishers, New York 1991

Wolfman, Marv, Teen Titans Volume One, DC Comics, New York 2014

In hindsight, the 1982 film Rocky III turned out to be an important piece of the 1980‘s. Continuing the tradition from the last sequel, it opens with a recap of Rocky’s victory over Apollo Creed in Rocky II, before that famous guitar riff starts and the Eye of the Tiger montage begins. We see Rocky enjoying wealth and fame, doing commercials, and appearing on the Muppet show. All the while Rocky is defending his title against various opponents, eventually stacking up ten title defenses. Meanwhile, a young hungry southpaw named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) is racking up victories, and calling out Rocky in front Mickey, Rocky’s manager.

Just as the first film, Rocky III parallels where Stallone was in his life at the time. In this film, Rocky is caught up in his fame and fortune, and doesn’t take Clubber Lang seriously. In short, Rocky loses the belt to Lang, Mickey dies, and Apollo Creed offers to help Rocky train for a rematch. They go to L.A. to train, and Rocky wins the title back.

This movie takes a departure in tone of the first two movies. There’s more glitz and glam, and the fights are filmed more like an action movie than a drama. It’s also the only Rocky where we see the fight at the end in its entirety.

For the first time we see Rocky doubt himself, which is interesting. Unfortunately Stallone at this point wasn’t really an actor anymore. There’s a scene on the California beach where Adrian gets Rocky to snap out of his funk. Actress Talia Shire completely carries the scene through some really stiff dialogue.

For me personally Rocky III is noteworthy because it’s the first Rocky I’d ever seen. I watched it on HBO when I was little. In that part where Mr. T. taunts Rocky, he says Adrian should come to his apartment so she can see a real man. I remember not understanding what that meant, but my young brain presumed it had something to do with her seeing him naked. Before the first fight scene I remember telling my mom that Mr. T. was going to be all washed up. Then I was surprised of course when Mr. T. won. As the movie kept going and I realized they were going to have another fight, I assured my mother again that Mr. T. would be all washed up, and this time he was.

There’s a really great piece of music for the scene when Mickey died, and Rocky wanders around his old neighborhood (places from the first movie). In my Rocky Balboa post I’d mentioned how I went to Korea. I ended up staying there a lot longer than I planned. When I came back I remember wandering around my hometown, as well as the town I went to college in and other places, and I could hear that piece of music in my head. It was a real morose haunting kind of feeling.

Rocky III is certainly not a masterpiece in film, but it’s important to 1980’s culture in that it introduced the world to two classic 80‘s icons, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, along with his iconic catch phrase “I pity the fool.” Just a year later Mr. T. went on to star in the hit series the A. Team, and also had his own Saturday morning cartoon show and even his own breakfast cereal. Hogan of course went on to be a mega star in the world of professional wrestling. In fact, both Hogan and Mr. T. would headline the very first Wrestlemania in 1985. Rocky III also introduced the Rocky statue, and the song “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor, which is now synonymous with the franchise. All in all it’s a punched filled time capsule of 80’s awesomeness.

From behind Sarah a small female arm rose from the table her father was on. “Sarah that ‘s not your father!!!” The Rider rapidly ripped the sheet away exposing the blasphemous truth to both their eyes. For on the table was an abomination, a creature made from parts that remained of her family. It had the father’s Torso and neck, its right arm was Robert’s, strong and masculine, and it’s left arm was from their mother. A sickening dark metal rod ran down the middle of its chest. The truth was not revealed quick enough, as the monstrosity sat up and grabbed a frantic Sarah by the waste, then out a beastly roar.

“Well Rider. It looks like you did my work for me, bringing this young missy back here.” The Rider turned around to see Confederate Bandit Colonel Lee standing at the top of the stairs. Meanwhile half a dozen armed bandits emerged, as well as 2 more of those horrific creatures. Like the mash of Sarah’s family, they both had a long black rod down their chests, and were monstrous and misshapen.

Out of defiance but also fear the Rider exclaimed “What is the meaning of this madness and devil work?”

“Doubtless you bested my dark rider, but I bet it was no easy task. After the war I acquired the means to build a new army, a dark army from the very pits of hell! You failed to stop me after the great train robbery in Nebraska, and I used those funds to rebuild this place. Here a new army will emerge from human flesh and demonic spirit, and will storm across this union. And you will join us!”

Lee barked orders to his beasts. “Throw them both into the machine. I won’t take chances with our masked friend. Throw them both in whole. Think what a beast can be made from the great Ringed Rider, and this feisty young thing, it can be the creatures bride!

The Rider was quickly picked up from behind by one of the beasts, and soon the two were thrown into the jaws of death that was the infernal machine. It grew silent for a moment as Lee watched on. He thought truly they would be unstoppable now. Suddenly the machine began to smoke and rattle. As if alive it let out a mechanical groan, it shook and sputtered, and soon it began to crumble. Through the sparks and the smoke, a still human hand emerged from the steel, it’s ring shining brightly in defiance.

“Impossible!” Cried out Lee.

The Rider and Sally emerged with guns blazing. They moved swiftly through the smoke as if they were one in spirit, dropping enemies as they went. The Rider hurled one of the bandits into a shelf of chemicals. A lantern fell over top of him and soon the whole shelf was ablaze. The creatures stepped back in fear. An inhuman howl escaped their lips, betraying their fear of this all too familiar element.

“To the stairwell. This may be our only chance.” The Rider said as they made their way away from the machines. Colonel Lee could not quite discern the commotion from within the smoke. The Rider almost did not see him as Lee ascended the stair case, but as soon as he lay eyes on Lee his fist soon followed. Soon the two were locked in mortal combat, Sally wanted to help, but the Rider shouted for her to escape, assuring her that he will soon follow. Sally would have reluctantly agreed, but a monstrous fist gripped her ankle. She turned to see the body that was not just once her father’s, but her entire family. It was her brother’s arm who she wrestled as a child pulling her back. Her mothers smaller effeminate arm motioning for her return, and her fathers face angrily glaring at her defiance.

Luke Cage is the 4th Marvel Netflix show, and the 3rd one from Marvel’s original deal (their first show, Daredevil, was so popular it was immediately green lit for a second season). The title character was introduced in Jessica Jones, and this series follows his exploits as he has left Hell’s Kitchen and moved to Harlem.

This show is in part a tour of Harlem and its history. Throughout the series the viewer is informed about various landmarks in Harlem, the history of artists and writers that lived there, etc. After the previous three Netflix Marvel shows taking place in Hell’s Kitchen, it was a nice change of scenery to have the show set in Harlem.

Similar to those previous shows the titular hero is not focused on saving the world, but on saving the neighborhood. The opening scene is a group of guys talking in a barber shop. Cage is laying low working at the shop, but eventually becomes more of a presence in the neighborhood as a local gangster looks to move in on Harlem. In the process Cage becomes a man of the people, doing the best he can to resolve local problems. The gangster owns a nightclub which brings us a lot of musical performances.

The sound track is one of the highlights of Cage, hip hop and R&B are fully integrated into the show. Each episode in fact is named after a Gangstar song.

While Jessica Jones took a head on approach to sexual violence, Luke Cage fully tackles the issue of race, police brutality, and the black lives matter movement. At one point in the series Cage is on the run from the police. In a show of solidarity people in the community start wearing hoodies with bullet holes in the back knowing this will bring police harassment. (Cage’s super-power is strength and unbreakable skin).

Along the way we get the usual references to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cage is compared to a local Captain America. Bootleg footage of “the incident” (The final battle in the Avengers movie) is available on the street. Matt Murdock is hinted at towards the end. There’s also a nice and unexpected reference to Iron Man two, which does serve as part of the plot.

For all its strengths, I found it to be my least favorite Marvel Netflix show. Some of it may be personal bias, as the two seasons of Daredevil had two of my favorite characters, Kingpin and the Punisher. There was no one in Cage that I found to be as fascinating. The first three episodes of Cage felt a little slow, it wasn’t until the fourth episode that started his origin that I really felt intrigued.

Writing Luke Cage is to face the same problem in writing Superman. How to you make it suspenseful when nothing can hurt the guy? Hence the fight scenes aren’t very elaborate, but instead are brute force. The final battle in the last episode tries to remedy this as the villain has a powered up suit. It looks like a poor man’s version of the end of Rocky V, with the hero slugging it out in the street while the neighbors chant his name. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but aping a poorly received movie usually isn’t a good idea. During this fight, the villain has this big battery pack on his back which powers his suit. I kept waiting for Cage to just crush the battery pack and end the fight, but that never happened. It’s not like he didn’t see it, in one scene he looks right at it. There’s some smart writing here about how Cage is able to win by not feeding his opponent hate, but at this point smart writing doesn’t make up for the common sense question of why he didn’t just crush the battery.

On a more positive note, the final fight was not the end of the show, it actually goes on for another 20 minutes. Interestingly enough, in the end it appears the villains have won. That was a nice touch, because, so far, no Marvel movie, TV or Netflix show ended with the villains winning.

While Luke Cage has many positive traits, if there is a season two I would hope they’d have more intriguing characters, while maintaining its sound track and social commentary.

No one was on the first floor. They found a still working old lantern that illuminated the tools and equipment Sarah’s father mentioned. This included the mechanical devices that were strange and indescribable. They planned to check the second story, where Robert met his fate, but were distracted by strange noises emitting from the very earth below them, The Rider noticed a small handle on the ground, he pulled it upward to reveal a passage to a subterranean chamber. Numerous already lit lanterns shown the way into this dark and evil pit. As they descended the air filled with undecipherable sounds that may never have fallen in human ears before.

While their ears were assaulted by hideous sounds, the bottom of the chamber lay sights of the mad and macabre that eyes had not seen even during the War of the Rebellion. Pieces of cadavers were strewn across blood stained mechanisms. It was like some bizarre processing plant. Pieces of bodies, both human and animal, mutilated by machines. Yet that was not the most horrible sight for Sarah, as she then saw laid before her what was her brother. His remains also desecrated, parts missing, and the top of his head had been scalped. Sarah tried to contain her shriek, only the Riders hand over her mouth kept them from being revealed.

She looked up to see her father lying face up on a table. His face pale and lifeless, a white sheet covered him from the neck down. She ran over to him sobbing, she stroked his gentle face and his white beard. She wished with all her soul they had never come to this town. But then, something uncanny occurred. Through the sheet she could see his hand begin to move. Tears of fear and sorrow turned to joy as she exclaimed “He’s alive!!! He’s alive alive alive!!!”

Suicide Squad is the third entry in the DC Extended Universe. A Dirty Dozen with super villains, the premise is government operative Amanda Waller assembles a team of criminals to fight super human threats. However, only a handful of the operatives are meta-humans themselves. One might wonder why regular humans are on this team, aside from the fact that they’re characters the movie audience knows or are played by well known actors like Will Smith.

I’ve never seen a movie that tried so hard to have a cool soundtrack. It opens with three or four classic songs in a row while the premise is set up. While I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, by that point the constant use of songs seemed excessive.

While working so hard to be cool it forgets a few basic things, like giving the audience enough time to read the text shown to introduce each squad member. In fact the opening shot is of Harley Quinn’s prison and they show text on the bottom right corner of the screen to tell us the location, but the colors on that part of the shot are so dark I couldn’t even read it in time.

Interestingly enough the squad isn’t assembled for a specific mission, but soon enough a situation arises that they’re sent off into, partly involving finding a certain mystery contact. The identity of that contact serves as a plot twist but the way it’s edited doesn’t carry the feeling of shock that it should, it’s just kind of like “oh ok.” Shortly after this another bit of information is presented to the team that is supposed to surprise them, but I couldn’t quite grasp why this information would be surprising, other than to serve that part of the script where the team says “screw this mission I’m going home.”

Most of the Squad members seem pretty interesting, but this team movie mostly centers around Harley Quinn, because she’s a beloved character, and Deadshot, because he’s played by Will Smith. Quinn is fantastic by the way, and I’d happily watch another movie with her, but potentially more interesting characters like Killer Croc are underused. I wanted to know what his condition is, what is his life like, etc. Instead Killer Croc seems to serve the role of Groot in this August would be block buster. Action happens, Harley says something funny, Croc grunts, repeat.

The character Slipknot just kind of shows up, and it’s said that he can climb anything. Why can he climb anything? Is he a skilled master thief (and if that’s all it is why does this qualify him to be on a team to fight meta-humans)? Is he a meta-human? Can he climb walls like Spiderman or something?

Katana is another character that just kind of shows up, apparently because when they wrote the script they forgot to introduce her earlier. She seemed like a cool character I’d like to see more of. She’s not a criminal, but a government operative, which left me wondering why she joined the team in the “screw this mission we’re going to the bar” scene. Maybe because the writers didn’t know what else to do with her or they didn’t have time to film a scene where she fought them instead.

Team leader Rick Flag is pretty good, his life as a government operative leaves him conflicted. Amanda Waller is like an evil Nick Fury of this universe and she’s good to watch. I enjoyed the Joker as well.

The final battle isn’t very suspenseful. The evil plot isn’t exactly clear, a machine is being built, but I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to do, other than generic destruction. There’s no timeline on this plan either, it just seems to always be there with no real progress. One of the big bads get’s destroyed by conventional explosives, which made me wonder why the conventional military couldn’t have stopped it, aside from the fact that the movie is about Suicide Squad. Rick Flag himself wonders why he can’t just take care of the problem with his own soldiers. So is a character in this movie wondering why this movie exists?

As I’m writing this I realize I have a lot of negative things to say. I didn’t hate watching this movie. Looking back on it Harley Quinn pretty much saved it. I will say that one of the things the DC Extended Universe has over the Marvel Cinematic Universe is they’ve established that a lot of things have already happened. Rick Flag has a history. The actual government name of Suicide Squad, Task Force X, has a history. Katana has a history, and Batman ran Killer Croc out of town. Batman vs Superman established a Batman that was active for 20 years, and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie takes place in World War One. (BTW I’m disappointed nobody made a World War One movie since it’s been a hundred years. I find it ironic that the only World War One movie we’ll get is a Wonder Woman movie.)I enjoy this approach more than how Marvel has all their big name heroes being active right now.

Suicide Squad is not a terrible movie, but in the context of a underwhelming Man of Steel and a divisive Batman vs Superman, this movie needed to be so much better than it was. In fact, for all my complaints I’d still say it’s the best movie of this universe so far. As I think about it, that’s worrisome for the future of this franchise.