Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday's Child Works Hard for a Living

I'm highlighting a young lady this time around who really does work hard for the money. I'm not a big fan of wrestling - let's face it, this is entertainment as much as sport - but I watch those folks (male and female) out on the mat getting slammed around and I hear the horror stories of how some of these people end up later in life with lots of physical problems and I have to say they are beating their brains out to entertain. Gail Kim is - in my view - a shining light in the wrestling profession. I have read that she had a breast implant ruptured and she told me about a concussion she suffered and wondered why she felt dizzy so she has certainly paid her dues. One of her former team-mates described how dedicated Gail is to her exercise regimen and she seems to genuinely love what she does. After stints with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and then with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and now back with the WWE, since 2002 she has certainly worked hard for the money and walked away with championships in the bargain. She's also appeared in a movie called "Ninjas Creed" and while I don't know how good an actress she might be, perhaps she's moving on to a new career and could certainly do her own stunts. I wish her well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Thor

Similar to Pyroman (see earlier post) this superhero was created through being struck by electricity. In this case the actual Norse god of thunder Thor was seeking a modern replacement and singled out Grant Farrel, a scientist who was working on an electrical conductor. During a thunderstorm a bolt of lightning strikes Grant and, instead of frying him to a crisp as it would most anyone else, it endows him with all the powers of Thor, including great strength and the ability to manipulate lightning. He also gets a hammer and helmet in the bargain, but little else in the way of a costume. In fact I believe that in his first adventure (which I have not actually seen) he fights crime barefoot. He went through a number of costume variations but the one depicted was my personal favorite. Although there were a number of characters during the Golden Age who were named Hercules after the Greek/Roman hero, this was the only one I can think of who borrowed from Norse Myths. He was published by Fox Features Syndicate, first appearing in their Weird Comics #1 in 1940, but had returned to the halls of Valhalla by issue #6. Comic fans will probably be aware that Marvel Comics created their own version of the Norse god in 1962, who continues to appear in their comics through today and who I understand will be the subject of a movie in the near future. The figure was created from a Kenner Atom figure and the head of a Superman when he was going through his long hair period. The helmet and hammer were made from items out of the parts box and the cape from T-shirt material.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Pyroman

This was another character who acquired his superpowers through means that would kill anyone else. As a matter of fact Dick Martin was electrocuted in an electric chair for a crime he didn't commit. But because he had been an electrical engineer (or so it's said) he survived and was supercharged with electricity. Exactly why he adopted the name Pyroman is unknown, but despite the rather lame origin and odd moniker, he became a popular character in the Better/Standard/Nedor pantheon of super folks, lasting from 1942 until at least 1947, appearing in Startling Comics (where he was on a few covers) and later in America's Best Comics, which was reserved for only the big guns. He had a girlfriend named Joyce Clark, who apparently never figured out Dick and Pyroman were the same guy, and Joyce's father Professor Clark, Dick's mentor, who did know the secret. As for the action figure, I used a Toy Biz Daredevil for everything except the head, which was a Captain America. I used putty around the neck and cut pieces of card to make the little lightning bolts on the sides of his head.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Aircraft Carrier Made of Ice

I thought I'd do something a little different today and present one of my scratch-built ship model projects. I have made lots of ship models out of bass wood (harder than balsa), spare ship parts and bits and pieces from the parts box in 1:2400 scale (1" equals 200'). I had, for a long time, been fascinated with a project the British came up with during World War II for an aircraft carrier made of ice - or more specifically a substance called Pykrete, which was made of sawdust and ice. Named for British inventor Goeffrey Pyke who proposed the project, it was designed to fill the gap in air coverage south of Iceland and in the Norwegian Sea to provide air support to convoys to England and Soviet Russia. Pykrete was actually very impressive - a story has British Admiral Mountbatten taking two blocks of material into a conference being held in Quebec in 1943. One of these was just ice, into which he fired his revolver and the ice shattered. But when he fired into the Pykrete the bullet ricocheted, and was variously reported as narrowly missing the British chief of the air staff or actually clipping U.S. Admiral King in the leg. It was decided to build a mock up in Canada, which lasted into the next year with minimal maintenance, so technically it was probably a feasible design since it was designed to operate in Arctic waters. However, the resources required for construction would have been prohibitive and besides, the U.S. began building Escort or jeep carriers from converted merchant hulls, which were used to fill the air gaps at a more modest cost. The Pykrete carrier was named Habbakuk by Winston Churchill (although a clerk misspelled it from the original Habakkuk), and would have displaced 2,000,000 tons, would have been 2,000 feet long and 300 feet wide and would have carried 150 twin engine bombers and fighters. It wouldn't have gone very fast (maybe up to 10 knots), but would have served as a moderately mobile landing platform more than a traditional aircraft carrier. I've shot the model alongside some of the largest ships of the period - British liner Queen Mary, which was 1,018 feet long (foreground), HMS Illustrious at 753 feet long (on the left) and USS Essex at 888 feet long (on the right) for comparison of size - all 1:2400 scale.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Child is Loving and Giving

Julie Benz was a regular on Buffy the Vampire Slayer the series and the spin-off Angel series. I met her in May 2004 and found her to be a very sweet and charming lady. We talked about some of her charity work and that we had both sponsored American Indian children through Save the Children. She had been asked to be a spokesperson for the charity but didn't think she could represent them if she didn't also sponsor a child. She went on to a major role on the series Dexter, about a serial killer who killed serial killers. She played Dexter's wife and one of the few good influences in his life. Of course her character got killed off - couldn't have that kind of influence in a series about a serial killer, now could they??!! At any rate I was very impressed with Julie and wish her all the best in her life and career.

Golden Age Action Figures - Sword & Lancer

The Sword appeared in Ace Periodicals Captain Courageous Comics, Lightning Comics and Super Mystery Comics from 1942 until 1945 so he had a pretty good run for a Golden Age hero. The Sword was in reality Arthur Lake who, on a trip to England, discovers the sword Excalibur in its stone and removes it, instantly being transformed into the heroic Sword. Some coincidence, eh?? A guy named Arthur Lake finds the sword of ancient Arthur who was given Excalibur by the Lady in the Lake. See how these things all fit magically together?? Anyway, the Sword eventually gets a couple of side-kicks/partners: whenever Arthur removes Excalibur from its stone the young Lance Larter transforms into the lance-wielding Lancer and a worker at his father's aircraft plant named Moe Lynn becomes Merlin. That could have proved a little embarrassing if, say, young Lance was in the local drug store buying candy when suddenly he is transformed into a lance-wielding guy in tights!! If I was standing next to him that would sure scare the crap out of me!! The trio mostly battled espionage and sabotage in America. As for the action figures, the Sword was made using a Bruce Wayne figure (George Clooney head) and the arms from a Batman figure. The sword was out of my spare swords and knives box. As for Lancer, he was made from a Mattel Secret Wars Magneto and the head from a Star Gate Danny figure. The lance I made from some pieces from the parts box.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Linda Blair Times Two

If you've missed me I've been out of town and not blogging for a few days. Aside from visiting family I also attended the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan (burb of Detroit). As I mentioned in my second post I had met Linda Blair before and was expecting to see her again - which I did. She was appearing at the show representing her Worldheart Foundation which rescues homeless/abandoned dogs. If you'd like to participate in this effort you can visit the website at I may have more to say about the show over the next few days or so.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday's child has far to go

I had a bit of a problem with this one because who am I to say who has far to go, but finally I decided to give it a shot. For Thursday's child I picked Michonne Bourriague (pronounced mi-SHAWN bore-ee-AY I am told), who's one appearance on the silver screen was in Star Wars Episode 1, the Phantom Menace. The inset upper left shows her in costume and makeup for the role of the bounty hunter Aurra Sing, who has an on-screen presence of about two seconds as she looks down on the pod-race. Not since the period between Star Wars Episode 4, A New Hope and Episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back when Boba Fett created a great deal of buzz, has a very minor character generated as much interest. Dark Horse Comics, who has the rights to the Star Wars franchise in comic book form, has featured her bounty hunter character in a couple of series. As far as her acting career goes since Episode 1 she has done basically nothing. She wasn't even in Episode 2. As far as I can tell she got married in 2005 (which is certainly doing something) and she has been active with teens in self esteem workshops. If she does decide to get back into the acting biz in a big way I wish her luck, but feel she really does have far to go.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Iron Man II - A Humble Review

I went to see Iron Man II yesterday and thought I would post my own little review. I loved the first movie and found Robert Downey, Jr. to be a terrific casting choice for Tony Stark. Unlike the comic book, wherein Stark kept his identity as Iron Man a secret for decades, at the end of the first movie he admits to being Iron Man and at the beginning of this one about six months have elapsed and he's single-handedly ended wars around the world. Tony's looking and sounding incredibly cocky that he has brought peace to the world and promises to keep the world safe even though the device in his chest is more and more quickly poisoning him and will eventually kill him. The U.S. government wants Tony to share the Iron Man technology with them and a rival arms manufacturer named Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is secretly trying to steal or duplicate it. There is also a Russian scientist named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who I think is supposed to represent the super villain Constrictor with his power whips, who shows up with the technology Stark (and Vanko's father) perfected and Hammer wants. Samuel L. Jackson returns in a little meatier role as Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to help Tony out, as does Don Cheadle as LCOL James "Rhodey" Rhodes, who puts on the War Machine armor. Gwyneth Paltrow also returns as Pepper Potts, Tony's long-suffering secretary, who gets herself appointed CEO of Stark Enterprises, and proves herself to be one of the strongest characters in the movie. Scarlett Johansson, who plays Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (although I don't remember them actually calling her that in the movie), does a very nice job as Pepper/Tony's assistant and superheroine on the side. I didn't used to like Scarlett, but she's been growing on me in some of her more recent roles. I'm not going to give away too much of the plot for those of you who haven't seen it but if you like big superhero movies this is (once again) one you don't want to miss. On top of having crackerjack special effects it has A-List actors and an interesting plot with obligatory twists and turns and a good sense of humor. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Raven

The Raven was another law enforcement officer who was dissatisfied with the state of justice in American and decided to mete out a little of his own vigilante brand with his fists and a gun. He is, in reality, Detective Sergeant Danny Dartin who, with an assistant named Mike Collins, is pursued by the police as vigorously as he is by the criminal element. He is engaged to police Captain Lash's daughter Lola, who is sympathetic to the Raven but doesn't realize that Danny and the Raven are one and the same person. He has a bit of the Robin Hood about him in that he captures the ill-gotten loot from the criminals and gives it to the needy and down-trodden. The Ace periodicals character appeared in every issue of Sure-Fire Comics, which became Lightning Comics, and Four Favorites 1-4. The action figure was made using a Captain Kirk (Piece of the Action) figure from Playmates and a plastic cape.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Golden Age Figures - The Hood & Death's Head

I thought I'd offer something a little different today and cover both a Golden Age hero and one of the more memorable (certainly creepy) villains of the period. The hero is the Hood, from Holyoke, who had a pretty good run in Cat-Man comics of about 23 issues. The Hood was in reality FBI Agent Craig Williams who, frustrated that criminals were evading the law, took justice into his own hands as a costumed vigilante. Although he apparently didn't have any super powers, he would mete out justice with his wits and his fists. In this particular story the Hood takes on a supernatural foe called the Death's Head - literally a disembodied head wrapped in an Indian-type headdress. The head proclaims, "Our civilization of the East is far beyond your understanding. In India where I was beheaded I was given life by a great mystic.... With my great will power I will rule the world! Little by little I will control all the great minds of the world and thus the earth itself." Now you've really gotta hand it to the guy - even being beheaded hasn't stifled his ambition! The head takes over the will of a sailor who carries him around in a box. Of course The Hood manages to overcome the Death's Head, who goes flying over a cliff in a car. The Hood figure was made from a Mattel Secret Wars Wolverine figure with the head from a Hasbro GI Joe Cobra Commander figure and the cape from a Superpowers Collection Martian Manhunter. AC Comics revived the character and the costume is sort of a hybrid between the original Holyoke version and the Ac Comics version. As for Death's Head, I used the head from an Indiana Jones Cairo Swordsman figure that had been a little distress before it came into my hands through play-wear. That actually worked to my benefit when I was painting the face. I'm not sure where I got the table but I believe the box was a Playmates Star Trek figure accessory.
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Swiftarrow

Today we have another really obscure Golden Age custom action figure conversion. Let's face it, the only way I would ever get action figures of characters from that period was to make them myself. Today we have Swiftarrow, one of a number of archer characters from the period. The Arrow from Centaur was one of the first in 1939, while the best known was Green Arrow from DC who started life in 1941 and who, in various incarnations, still battles crime up to the present day. Swiftarrow was from the publishing house of Spark (also known as Fact & Fiction Publications), and first appeared in the pages of Golden Lad #1 in 1945. He had four adventures (through Golden Lad #4, 1946), two of which I've seen and both of which are relatively short at five pages when many Golden Age superhero stories ran 8-12. I've read that different artists did the art chores and the Golden Age Hero Directory shows three different costumes, but the red and green one depicted here is the one I'm familiar with. The action figure was made using parts from three Toy Biz figures - Daredevil head and body, Captain America arms and Silver Surfer legs. I carved the quiver of arrows from balsa wood and the cross bow was a leftover part from another figure (always gotta keep a big parts box when you're customizing).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Golden Age Custom Figures - Man O' Metal

This is another one of those characters who suffers some horrible accident that would have killed anyone else but, on this particular individual, turns him into a super powered hero. In this case a steel worker named Pat Dempsey was accidentally covered in white hot molten steel. Instead of melting into a pile of singed flesh, an "inexplainable chemical reaction of the skin texture," results in Pat being endowed with the power to burn "his way through the thickest barriers," and he was also bulletproof and had the "strength of an Elephant." Thus, whenever Pat would be exposed to flame or electrical current he'd be transformed into the Man O' Metal, with blue skin and flames radiating out from his body - a little like whenever Hydroman from the same company got exposed to water he assumed his powers. Man O' Metal ran for about 20 issues of Heroic Comics from Eastern Color Printing and was drawn by the same guy (H.G. Peters) who also drew Wonder Woman in her early adventures. As for the action figure - I used the lower body of a Toy Biz Hydroman (a Marvel super villain), and the torso and arms from a Toy Biz Ka-Zar figure, which I cut in half. The head is from a Toy Biz Superman and I took a flame accessory from a Toy Biz Jack O'Lantern and attached it to the figure's back with a brass nail. I chose to paint the flesh silver instead of blue because I thought it looked more metallic - a little artistic license.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Battleships Lost at Pearl Harbor

Since I was talking about pet peeves about mistakes I've seen in naval history programs yesterday I thought I'd address another one today. There have been a number of programs over the years that have gotten it wrong about how many battleships were total write offs as the result of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. There were officially eight battleships at Pearl Harbor on that date and one ex-battleship (the Utah). Some programs will say that only one of the battleships (Arizona) was a total write off and that the rest were returned to service, albeit after considerable reconstruction. In reality USS Oklahoma was also a total write off. It was the only one of the battleships at Pearl Harbor that day that rolled over and was only showing her bottom after the attack was concluded. After considerable salvage efforts Oklahoma was raised and dry docked by December 1943, but it was late in the war and she was considerably damaged so reconstruction was not deemed worth while. She remained at Pearl Harbor awaiting disposition, where she was photographed with the brand new USS Wisconsin alongside in 1944, before finally being sold again to an Oakland scrapping company in 1946. Oklahoma departed Pearl Harbor under tow on May 10, 1947 but seven days later the tow parted and Oklahoma sank to the depths of the vast Pacific Ocean - maybe the final casualty of the war. As for the target ship Utah - it remains at Pearl Harbor to this day along with the Arizona, where it rests with the remains of 47 crewmen. Just setting the record straight.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Who Won the Battle of Jutland??

While I don't really think I'm going to definitively answer the Title question, I recently watched (again) a History Channel program from a few years ago about the battle and wanted to clear up a couple of facts they got wrong. For those unfamiliar with the battle, it was fought on 31 May-1 June 1916 during World War I and was the largest naval battle of the war. In fact it was the largest naval battle between battleships that has ever been fought. The German High Seas Fleet included 16 dreadnoughts (or all-big-gun) battleships and 6 of the older pre-dreadnoughts, 5 battle cruisers, 11 light cruisers and 61 destroyers. The British Grand Fleet included 28 dreadnoughts, nine battle cruisers, 8 armored cruisers, 26 light cruisers and 78 destroyers. The two forces met rather late in the day of 31 May and engaged off and on for several hours, with a sort of running battle carried out during the night of 31 May-1 June. At the end of the battle the British had lost 14 ships of 111,000 tons while the Germans lost 11 ships of 62,000 tons. The British lost a total of 6,784 dead, wounded or captured, while the German losses amounted to 3,058 killed or wounded. By any measure the British losses were certainly greater, and accounted for the German claims of a victory. However, the British always maintained that they had won a strategic victory because the German fleet never again came out to face the full power of the Grand Fleet - which is the conclusion of the History Channel program. Well, first off The German commander, Admiral Scheer, never intended to take on the British fleet in a full-blown engagement. He was outmatched and he knew it. He always hoped to lure out selected portions of the British fleet and destroy them piecemeal, thus weakening the fleet, so the assumption that he ever intended to fight the whole of the Grand Fleet is erroneous to start with. And then there's the statement that the German fleet never came out again. Not true - they sortied again on 18/19 August 1916 (about two and a half months after Jutland) with the object of bombarding the British east coast town of Sunderland and - again - lure out a selected portion of the Grand Fleet as they had tried before. Despite the fact that the two fleets did not come into contact the 18/19 August sortie of the German fleet had a profound impact on British strategic planning. No longer were they willing to hazard their fleet in the southern North sea and were even willing to accept the odd coastal raid or perhaps even a small scale landing by the Germans rather than chance submarine attack or the mine danger. The High Seas Fleet sortied again on 18/19 October with Zeppelin and submarine reconnaissance support, but finding nothing of interest returned to base. Then on 3 November, in response to the grounding of two U-Boats on the northern Danish coast a battle cruiser, four dreadnoughts and a flotilla of destroyers were dispatched to render assistance, rescuing one of the boats, but suffering two of the dreadnoughts damaged (not seriously) by British submarine torpedoes. Afterwards the German naval effort shifted to the submarine attack on British trade, so there were no further sorties by the battle fleet until late in the war. So, looking back, I really think that it was the Germans who won the Battle of Jutland - but then the British can console themselves that ultimately they won the war.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Atoman

Today another child of the Atomic Age - Atoman - from Spark Publications. This character actually lasted for two issues of his own comic, unlike yesterday's Atomic Thunderbolt who disappeared after only one. In this case we have one of the world's first nuclear scientists, Barry Dale, who finds he has absorbed enough radioactivity that he now has the power to explode atoms - rather than just dying of radiation poisoning like most anyone else would. Atoman finds he can smash mountains, wipe out cities (although I'm not quite sure why he would want to do that), leap thousands of miles and move faster than thought (!). He even envisions himself as the shape of mankind for the future. But until that happens he figures he'll use his vast power to aid mankind, regardless of race, creed or nationality (which makes the whole destroying entire cities a bit problematic). I haven't actually see his stories but I rather liked the character. I made the figure from a Superpower Collection Green Lantern and the head from an Aquaman. The cape was made from T-shirt material with a large red star-burst cut from felt on the back.
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Atomic Thunderbolt

This was a one-shot-wonder character from the Regor Company that headlined the first and only issue of Atomic Thunderbolt Comics. I have never actually read the story but I rather liked the look of the character. This was a period after the first Atomic Bombs had been dropped and the end of World War II when a lot of new characters were introduced into comicdom who got their powers as a result of atomic radiation - rather than just dying like most people would. Atomic power sort of took over from electricity and explosions and lightning effects in the creation of superheroes in the aftermath of the dawn of the nuclear age. In this case Professor Josiah Rhonne had been searching for a way to end the threat of nuclear war with his experiment in transmutation. This process subjected people to neutron bombardment by which the professor hoped to change the atomic structure of the human body and make the tissue immune to radioactivity and atomic explosions. The professor required a human test subject and, low and behold, he stumbles across poor William "Willy the warf rat" Burns, who had turned into a beach-comer/bum after a close encounter with a Nazi torpedo during the war. Willy agrees to participate in the experiment but an accidental explosion in the lab turns Willy into the Atomic Thunderbolt, who can radiate energy and fly. The action figure was made using the body from a Toy Biz Cloak and the head from a Kenner Peter Elliot from Congo the movie.