Ghost Rider #16

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I fucking love Jaws. Enough so that I open up this column using a cuss when describing one of my favorite movie franchises. So, when I stumbled upon this issue of Ghost Rider #16 and saw the tease on the cover, I had to check it out. As I write this we are smack dab in the middle of the summer and what goes better with beaches and barbeques than our fear of man eating sharks.  Thanks to novelist Peter Benchley and director Steven Spielberg, Jaws has become a tradition that terrifies and thrills fans all over the world. We’re all residents of Amity Island every July and Captain Quint is one of the most bad ass characters ever captured on celluloid.

Even if you put my affection for the flicks aside and just take this cover at face value,  how the hell does someone with a flaming skull and a motorcycle fight underwater? That in itself makes it goofy enough to garner my attention. Written by Bill Mantlo with art by George Tuska, let’s see if its safe to swim with this story titled “Blood in the Water” from February 1976.

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lineJohnny Blaze is fed up with Los Angeles. He has decided to hit the road and head for Mexico. Seems like a popular destination for the superhero set. Upon reaching the border, we discover our neighbors to the south are really only concerned with one thing. Dirty Hippies. That’s right, take your patchouli smelling ass and Grateful Dead records somewhere else pal. What do the customs agents like? Money. Johnny flashes some greenbacks and off to Baja we go.

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“They may hate greasy gringo’s but are suckers for Cherry Garcia

Cruising down the coast, he pines for a simple life and spots a cozy little pad on the shoreline. Looks like quite the tranquil little piece of real estate. Except for a dude hellbent on shooting dolphins from his back porch. While this nutbag tries popping a cap in Flipper’s ass, his daughter intervenes grabbing at his weapon. The stray bullet nails one of the tires on Johnny’s skull cycle, sending him tumbling to the sand. I know every time I fall, my first instinct is to yell “Yahoo” rather than “Wipeout” but different strokes for different folks I suppose.

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“Watch the property value plummet before your eyes.”

Johnny is pissed off over taking a digger on the beach and confronts Mr. Jerkpants with the jazzy jaw. Despite being the type of guy who thinks it’s cool to pound on his offspring, he feels guilty about wrecking Johnny’s ride. He offers his shed  for repairs but Blaze is all about the booty and would rather chill in a dune with the man’s daughter.

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“Say baby, does your dad shoot at all the hunks possessed by demons or just me?”

Rather than get frisky, she feels the need to give her dad’s origin. You see, Frank Phillips is the Punisher of the Pacific. Frank was hired by the C.I.A. to strap bombs on dolphins and experiment with using them as living torpedoes. Crazy as it sounds, militarizing mammals isn’t just the stuff of comic book fiction.  Obsessed with his work, one day he takes his family out to sea with him. His kid falls in the water and a tragic backstory is born.

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“Former Miami Dolphins season ticket holder could stand the losing NO MORE…”

No sooner than we get up to speed on why Frank is stark raving mad, he’s at it again.  This guy is on a mission to eliminate all of dolphin-kind. I’m fond of the next panel, not because I dig murdering harmless animals but rather how dramatic the poor little buggers are as they take hot lead. Seriously, eat your heart out DiCaprio. These dudes deserved an Oscar way before your token victory for The Revenant.

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“We would like to thank the Academy and  Mr.Limpett for paving the way.”

You read that narration box correctly, Frank uses a tape recording to lure them in. Had he played his cards right, there are much more beneficial ways to control ocean life with that technology. Just sayin’…

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“Hey Namorita, I have a mix tape for you!”

Johnny isn’t pleased all this commotion just put the kibosh on his beach blanket bingo with blondie. So what to do? Take the Skull Cycle, despite a flat tire and ride that sucker right at Frank’s boat. Here’s where his plan gets really special. Hurl your leather clad frame on deck cannon ball style. Pretty slick. I believe he may have created the greatest take down of a gunman in Marvel history.

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“As far as dramatic entrances go, ass first is pretty impressive.”

They duke it out as the boat drifts to sea but while the fists fly a rouge wave capsizes the vessel. A flaming skull did little to freak out Frank but he’s amazed that those  finned foes that once felt his wrath are actually pretty friendly. No time for a tickle fest though as we are about to have our main event. That’s right, cue the dah dum’s and close the beaches. Ghosty has noticed a great white forgot his brown bagged lunch at home and needs a snack to hold him over. gr15.1

 “It must suck having no eyelids when swimming in the ocean. SALTY!”

Ghost Rider and Captain Quint actually have some things in common. Sure, they’re both some seriously macho dudes but when it comes to decision making, not so bright. For those who remember the first Jaws film, Quint let his emotions take control and ( 42 year old Spoiler alert ) ends up as shredded wheat. Ghosty’s first inclination is to shoot flames at the shark… underwater. While I commended the insane barrel roll to get on the ship, boiling the shark wouldn’t be my first choice. Serious loss of kudos points there.

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“The look of a man determined to kill a shark or massive cocaine habit? You decide.”

His lone option exhausted, not only has my question been answered on Ghost Rider’s usefulness in water (NONE!) but now I’m not sure about the dolphins anymore. This whole issue I’ve been led to believe they are the victims. Sympathetic to the fact they had been led to slaughter while listening to smooth jams. To that, I now say nay. They are vicious little bastards! Swimming to Ghosty’s aid by ramming themselves into the belly of the beast. I realize they are saving Ghost Riders chaps but man, maybe Frank has been right all along. There is some evil up in those blowholes.

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“Aww, he just wanted a S’more. Do you know how hard those are to come by down there?”

That’s pretty much it. The dolphins do all the damage and save the day. A little lackluster in the man v.s. shark department but we got something even better. Frank has realized the error of his ways. The whole time the true enemy came from within. We close on a tender moment, where he apologizes to an entire species. Alright, tender was a poor choice…cheesy, that’s better. We close on a cheesy moment where a crazy old man shouts at a wave. I’m not sure if the dolphins are supposed to be there in synchronized jump or if it’s just symbolic but let’s talk about if you should check this out.

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“Believe it or not, this is the least absurd moment in the whole book.”

You may think I’m high on seaweed but I really enjoyed this tale. The pace was excellent and the art was seriously outstanding stuff. Ok, granted It didn’t live up to the hype promised on the cover but not being a Ghost Rider fan, I’m already more interested in his exploits from the 70’s.

You may be asking “Dave, didn’t you just claim the ending was a little dopey”? That I did but I also commonly say, remember the era it was released. You won’t get The Watchmen back in 1976, so enjoy things for what they are. In this case done fairly well.

If you see this one out there in the bins, snag it.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter. Unsolicited tip #852 for all the kiddo’s out there, skip high priced variants and go buy some bronze age stuff instead. You’ll thank me later…

By the way, I wouldn’t be much of a Jaws fan If I didn’t leave you with this:

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites  are used solely for informational purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Metamorpho #4

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While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes a cover grabs me. It’s so enticing that I can’t resist getting a little giddy to see what’s inside. Metamorpho #4 dated Jan-Feb. 1966 is exactly what the Doctor ordered. It’s colorful, action packed and takes you on an adventure prior to page one. Pure silver aged goodness.

Now that the front of the book has amused my avacados, let’s open it up and find out if the carpet matches the drapes. First off, here are the creators that brought us Metamorpho’s Mexican migration titled “The Awesome Escapades of the Abominable Playboy”.

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I’ve written about the scripter Bob Haney before in Two Staple Gold. Be sure to give that column a look see. Shameless self promotion is my middle name. Sorry Bob…

The renowned Ramona Fradon penciled this groovy little gordita.  She is truly a living legend. Besides being the co-creator of Metamorpho, her Aquaman work is considered some of the most iconic in the history of the character. Spending the majority of her career at DC, Ramona also drew the Brenda Starr newspaper strip from 1980 until her retirement as an illustrator in 1995.

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Something you need to know about Rex Tillerson aka Metamorpho. He may be one butt ugly dude but deep down he’s a romantic. ‘Morpho was created by mad scientist Simon Stagg and he’s in love with Simon’s daughter Sapphire. Sure, her dad is nuttier than a bag of bolts, has a creepy cro-magnon as an assistant and her name is suitable for a stripper but what a looker! From a readers perspective, this makes for an interesting supporting cast to say the least.

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“That’s funny. ‘El Bonehead Stupendo’ was my nickname in college. Small world.”

Problem is, Sapphire is one fickle female. She has feelings for Rex but wants more attention. How does one garner extra affection from DC’s resident Elemental Man? Easy, he may be able turn his limbs to steel but isn’t impervious to a taste of jealousy. That bitter nectar can make the most steadfast superhero a little loco.

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“Could’ve started Operation: Honesty but the story would’ve ended next panel.”

She selects “Cha-Cha” Chavez, an over the top latin lover as the tool for her spite campaign. A Mexican millionaire who’s wealth is a mystery. In an impressive initial act, he showers Sapphire’s home with flowers. So much so that Team ‘Morpho must escape to the roof. He then displays his redesign of Mt.Rushmore featuring Sapphire’s likeness. Ridiculous? Absolutely, but her dad is sold.

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“Wonder when ‘Bring her Hot Fudge’ makes it’s debut on Urban Dictionary.”

Metamorpho isn’t pleased Cha-Cha is moving Heaven and Earth to woo is gal but has no say in the matter when the entire clan is invited to board his yacht for a trip to his homeland. Setting sail steaming mad, he notices something odd while stewing on the starboard side. A submarine has launched a torpedo at their boat. Rex quickly transforms into a Manganese Paravane (hell if I knew what that was) and destroys the missile.

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“Technically, if there were no time a paperclip would have been a logical choice.”

In the process, Metamorpho managed to also blow himself to bits. His limbs conveniently land on board the yacht. Speaking of opportune situations, there happens to be a lab below deck that Stagg uses to piece his monster back together. He better hurry, an attack plane has started spraying​ bullets at everyone topside. Returning in time to save the day, our hero smells something fishy. Accusing Cha-Cha​ of foul play,  it’s explained as a Mexican way of saying howdy. Nice excuse buddy. What’s next, your Chihuahua ate your homework?

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“OK Chavez enough malarkey…wait, that dog is friggin’ HUGE!”

 

Settling in at Cha-Cha’s mansion proves to be no picnic either. The source of his money is indeed based in criminal activity. He’s an arms dealer and angry rebels have stormed the compound. In a blaze of gunfire, they kidnap Simon Stagg and his lackey Java. Well, take a wild guess who has to go off and save everyone’s guacamole again. This time however, rather than transform into some wacky device, he rolls like a native. Hi-Ho Silver away! Bad ass to the max dude.

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” Sir…that cigar WILL BE AVENGED!”

The hostages have been put before a firing squad for their affiliation with Chavez. Simon, who in the beginning would have covered himself in chicken feathers for the man now renounces him to no avail. As the guns go off, Metamorpho rides in and turns his arm into what he calls an “iron mitt”. To me it looks like a giant ladle but I suppose that’s a tough feature to sell when marketing your powers. “What can you do?” they ask. “Me, I turn into an indestructible spoon!”. Yeah, iron mitt it is.

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“The DCU Ping Pong Champion of 1966”

The rebellion realizes they stand no chance versus a superhuman, so rather than fight they make their case to Metamorpho. They inform him that Cha-Cha Chavez is a dictator that goes by the name “El Lupo” and is one cutthroat bastard. The weapons he procures are used against his own countrymen. ‘Morpho is having none of that. Sapphire is still in the grubby grasp of that sinister señor. He rallies the troops and rides back to the hacienda only to discover Cha-Cha​ escaping via helicopter with his lady.

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“At that height, I think I’d just jump out of the damned thing.”

They’ve fled to the Capital where Metamorpho goes incognito mosquito in a nifty sombrero, following their tracks to a bull fight. The nation’s insurgents has taken to him, spray painting propaganda throughout the city in his name. Beats having your phone number scrawled in bathroom stall by comparison.

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“For a good time call Geoff Johns.”

After entering the arena, Metamorpho discovers that the bull has been fitted with a booby trap. The tip of it’s horns are actually bomb detonators. One tap and the stadium gets blown to smithereens. Well, say no more. This looks like a job for Meta-Matrador, Ole! Yeah, I just made that nickname up but I kind of dig it. The crowd, unaware of their lives being in danger are wowed by Meta-Matrador’s skills. He proceeds to reshape into various forms, avoiding a perilous poke. ‘Morpho snaps off the pesky prick, saving the lives of the onlookers but leaving the Bull with a case of antler envy.

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“Isn’t that illegal? Shouldn’t he get a yellow card or something?”

 

 

 

Defeated, Cha-Cha tries to make off with Sapphire. Java the caveman jumps to the rescue  but you just knew somebody was gonna get jabbed in the ass, or as I lovingly refer to it as a “toro tickled”. With Java down for the count, Metamorpho turns himself into gelatin glue and stops our bad guy in his tracks. That’s right, a scoundrel undone by a snack! Shouldn’t be surprised though as Jello sure did a number on Bill Cosby and Lindsay Lohan. Talk about getting yourself into sticky situations! Ahem…

“J-E-L-L-Oh hell NO!”

Full disclosure, I left a couple of plot points out of my recap. Why? I really want you to go check this out. It’s campy as you imagine but the book is crazier than a pinata filled with firecrackers. I love the ever livin’ crap out of it. Props to me for not fully spoiling a fifty one year old comic. Gotta take my pats on the back where I can get them people.

Here’s a novel idea. Some of you may be familiar with the Justice League Action cartoon. It’s actually pretty rad and my kid really enjoys it. Why not take some silver age yarns like this one and adapt them to animation? It can’t be faithfully reproduced as some of the subject matter isn’t suitable for kids these days but it’s the whole enchilada when it comes to silly entertainment. See that, I’m an idea man. Show me the dinero.

Pick this one up. It’s a classic.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter. For the record, “El Lupo” has no meaning in Mexican Spanish, so feel free to toss that nugget around. Your Welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metamorpho #4 images rights of DC Comics. All other pictures and videos rights of their respective owners.