Friday, September 30, 2011

At Last... Scenes from Stevenson's First Home Football Game!

Sorry it took me so long to process and upload these pics 'n vids. Enjoy!



Finally ready for some football... the opening kickoff! Note that SU's team is on the far sideline, away from the stands. I imagine that this was a deliberate attempt to keep the players' focus away from the temptation to do the "hi Mom and Dad, look at ME!" routine. There are also a lot of extra B-squad players in uniform for this special occasion.

Nicky and I model our "SU-rags."



The brand-new SU Marching Band does its first-ever pregame march-on...





... and its first-ever halftime show. Not too shabby, wouldn't you say, for a group that had just begun practicing as a unit about a month before.

The aftermath of an amazing game. SU needed a last-second field goal (from a kicker who'd earlier missed an XP) to send it to OT. Christopher Newport responded to an SU TD in overtime #1 with a score of its own, helped immensely by an egregious pass interference call on an uncatchable pass. CNU then managed a field goal in OT #2 and stopped SU on two plays before a lob pass found a tumbling Mustang receiver in the back corner of the end zone (the one seen above).

This game is all of a piece with SU's other games this year. Last week, the Mustangs (1-3) lost at Lebanon Valley 61-37, continuing their season-long propensity to score points and give up even more points. In the four games thus far, the fewest points that SU has given up have come in the 46-43 CNU game. Well, if we have to have a losing season, then it's much more entertaining to lose 61-37 than it is to lose 61-7.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Comics Review: RICHIE RICH: RICH RESCUE #4 (September 2011, Ape Entertainment)

You... ah... darn dirty Ape! After surprising and pleasing me with the thoroughly enjoyable RR:RR #3, and getting me excited about seeing the plot threads of what can now only laughably be called a "miniseries" neatly tied up in this final issue, you give me... a thoroughly blah, occasionally nonsensical yetis-poachers-and-ninjas tale that could have been chucked into any old stand-alone issue. I honestly feel as if I've been had. What grade can I possibly give for the four-issue "arc-that-wasn't" but an "Incomplete -- See the Instructor"?

I'm only mildly disappointed that Marcelo Ferreira, rather than James Silvani, was tasked with drawing "Yen for a Yeti." I would still prefer that Silvani handle the lead stories in issues of the continuing series -- and he does pen one of the backup stories here, which come with their own set of nits ripe for the picking -- but the real problem here isn't Ferreira's manga-ish artwork, it's a Jason M. Burns and Nathaniel Sharir script that forces me to dig back into my stash of out-of-date vocabulary and label "lame-o." How else could you describe a story that includes Reggie confusing the words "sherbet" and "sherpa" and the lead bad guy gloating, "We like our endangered species the same way we like our eggs... poached!" At least Gloria only used the line "Are we there yeti?" as a gag at the end. Logic takes a holiday as we are asked to believe that Mrs. Rich (who is said to be off on her own "mission" with Mr. Rich, whatever that means) sent Rich Rescue on a wild-goose chase after a nonexistent "artifact" just knowing that the team would run into a mission (saving a yeti from the poachers) that would remind them of the overarching importance of showing "compassion." As if the gang hasn't already displayed such commitment when they have had the opportunity to do so. But a bigger gaffe than any of these is the cynical refusal to perform the hard work of pulling the threads together and completing a satisfyingly whole narrative. I certainly think that a miniseries should accomplish THAT, if nothing else. Both newbie RICHIE readers and "old-school" sorts like myself would agree on that point.

Kevin Freeman and James Silvani's "Give a Dog a Bone" continues the book's "Uk-wuk?!" tone by giving us a story co-starring Dollar and... Buck. Buck Showalter? Buck Rogers? Bucky Beaver? Nope, a hitherto-unseen (at least, to MY knowledge -- Mark Arnold may know better) member of the Rich family K-9 Corps. The diamond collar certainly suggests as much. I'd like to believe that "Buck" is a reference to Dollar's original name, which dates back to the Dollarmatian's late-60s origin story, but that may be giving Freeman too much credit. I must admit that the byplay between the dogs is rather amusing; Buck is a little more "cartoony" and enthusiastic, while Dollar generally plays it deadpan. Perhaps Dollar was conserving his strength because of all the computerized bone-finding gear that he has stored in his collar. I mean, that stuff must weigh at least a hundred pounds. No doubt the origins of Buck, like the ultimate plans of The Condor, will be revealed in the continuing series... at least, I would like to think so. Otherwise, we're back to this famous scenario, which is not a place where Ape wants to be. (Oh, the plot... the dogs dig up a dinosaur skeleton. THAT, at least, I have seen before.)

"Unhappy... uh, Happy Birthday" brings back Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson... and the original Irona, Bascomb, Chef Pierre, Gloria, Mr. and Mrs. Rich, I'm happy to say. Amazingly, we also get another (apparently) new pet, in this case a white cat with cent signs rather than Dollar's dollars. The brief plot doesn't really work unless you buy Richie as being REALLY STUPID, and Colon's figure drawing is a little stiff, but I do like the backgrounds, and the coloring is quite nice. As a sort of lead-in to the RICHIE GEMS reprint title -- which perhaps should have been advertised at the end of the story, somehow -- this was not a bad idea, though the execution is only so-so.

Even the usually reliable "Keenbean's Corner" gag falls a bit short here, as Irona (whose abilities the Prof is showing off) suddenly acquires the ability to multiply at will (or by magic, whichever you prefer). So I'm heading into the continuing-series era with mixed feelings, in the end. I've gotten more enjoyment out of this title than I had expected, but the missteps and oversights in #4 have made me a little more nervous about how the book is being managed and guided. Ape will get a fair chance to put my doubts at ease, though.

Comics Review: DARKWING DUCK #16 (September 2011, kaboom!)

Don't let that "A" cover fool you -- One-Shot and Cat-Tankerous do not appear in this concluding issue of "The Election Arc." Well, they make no tangible appearance, anyway; they do guest-star as psychic projections. That seems fitting, somehow, as I felt that I needed a mind-meld, or something similar, to dope out where Ian Brill was going with this last chapter. My reasoned guesses as to what was coming down turned out to be completely wrong, and the manner in which parts of the denouement were pulled from thin air irritated me, though not to the extent of, say, DUCKTALES #3. We do get a good lead-in to the grand Darkwing/DuckTales crossover, but one VERY big plot thread is just left there, dangling mournfully in the breeze...

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

S
P
A
C
E

No resolution of Magica's disappearance?! Instead, Suff-Rage turns out to be desperate politico Constance A. Dention, who was using The Phantom Blot's "evil ink" to power her VR suit (anyone getting Bane flashbacks here?), employing hypnotism and mind control to fool the populace of St. Canard, and creating illusions of herself so as to appear jointly with... herself. When The Blot made his appearance in civvies (which he quickly changed to the familiar hood) at the end, I for once was hoping that he'd give us the usual spiel about how and why he created and manipulated all of this high tech. No such luck, as The Blot instead went all Xanatos on us and talked about this merely being Phase One of (all together now!) a "master plan." One with Magica De Spell, I might add, which might explain the magical qualities of the ink that The Blot calls "slime" for some unknown reason. That would certainly seem to be a worthy teamup for a climactic crossover, especially if the duo are able to forge alliances, even ones of convenience, with St. Canardian villains. I would have appreciated some explanation, however, as to why Constance was able to "control" the ink, which neither One-Shot nor Cat-Tankerous could manage. What exactly was so special about her? The only really amazing thing about Constance was how her head could possibly have gotten into/out of the very tiny opening at the base of Suff-Rage's Dr. N-R-G-like face mask.

We get a bunch of flashbacks to "The Duck Knight Returns," "Crisis on Infinite Darkwings," and "F.O.W.L. Disposition" during a lengthy sequence in which DW, having invaded Suff-Rage's turf in the OTHER tower on Audubon Bay Bridge, is mind-invaded by the villainess. Seeing as how this is the last "normal" issue of DARKWING (as if anything related to DW's "universe" could EVER be normal!), I appreciated the "wrapup" aspect of this. As to HOW Suff-Rage managed all of this, your guess is as good as mine.

Don't think I didn't appreciate seeing Doofus, Gosalyn, and Honker together... but shouldn't they have been formally introduced to one another? We also get appearances by Sunni Gummi, Jiminy Cricket, Pablo the Penguin, Max Hare and Toby Tortoise, and several others, as James Silvani once again indulges his mania for cameos. I do hope that Silvani dials back a bit on the character-dropping for the crossover; there are more than enough DuckTales and Darkwing spear-carriers to fill the panels without digging into the feature-film and Silly Symphonies vaults, believe me.

The best thing in the issue, by far, is the "Five Minutes Later..." ST. CANARD GUARDIAN headline showing the dire near-immediate consequences of Launchpad's winning of the election. This perfectly encapsulates the difference between Duckburg (described here as "so close [to], yet so different [from]" St.C.) and DW's home turf, where such outrageous occurrences are the normal order of the day. Even for St. Canard, however, the "Five-Minute Flake-Out" is going some. It also provides a nice excuse for Scrooge to get involved, and for a completely believable reason. Bring on the crossover... but please, fellas, do right by poor Morgana before all is said and done, OK?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 31, "City of Gold"

For me, this episode will always be the "Kimba meets Uncle Scrooge" ep. Actually, that's putting things a bit too strongly (ya think?). It's more like, "Kimba brushes up against a scenario that Uncle Scrooge would have given his back teeth to experience." No matter. For that glimmer of a Barksian vibe alone, this will always be one of my true favorites among Kimba episodes, despite the occasional logical hiccup. (No, El Capitan, I'm not referring to you. Just go right ahead and keep on digging.)

The ep is also notable as our first really extended exposure to Kimba's little pals, Dot, Dash, and Dinky. In several future "Kimba cast as a young child who just happens to be the king of the jungle" eps, D-cubed will treat Kimba very much like a peer, even mocking him on occasion. Their role in "City of Gold" is more satisfying and believable, because they basically serve as "junior partners" to "big brother" Kimba. Sure, they bait him a little bit on occasion, but they definitely see him as a role model to emulate.


If "Goldopolis" sounds contrived, that's because it is. The original Japanese opening narration clearly refers to the lost city as Timbuktu. (Actually, Timbuktu isn't really lost, just simply way down on its luck, but that's another story.) I rather wish that the Titan crew had kept the Timbuktu reference, given its historical heft. For it to make sense geographically, however, we would have to mentally shift the location of Kimba's kingdom many hundreds of miles to the north, away from the savannah country in which we typically envision it as nestling. So perhaps the change to an entirely fictional city makes sense, after all.

Try laying Dot's "We want to see something very spooky!" on the ticket-seller the next time you go to the theater to watch a horror movie. I'd love to see the person's reaction.

The ep makes its one sort-of-compromise to the "Kimba the Kid" genre in our hero's comically exaggerated reaction to the prospect of going into dreaded Twin Skull Cave after the fleeing Tom and Tab. Even so, Dot's wheedling, "butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth" encouragement still plays into the notion of D-cubed looking up to Kimba as an exemplar of true courage, to wit: doing what needs to be done despite your fears. And Kimba delivers, plunging into the abyss... though, after the fight with Fang near the conclusion of "Journey into Time," he probably should have been even MORE freaked out by the bats than he was. The shadow-effects on the cave walls presage what will turn out to be one of the series' more visually impressive eps.

Kimba's "turning Toon" (how else would you explain where he got the vine?) is a good lead-in to his violent meeting with the lost Tom and Tab. This scene reminds me a bit of the subterranean intersection of Scrooge, HD&L, Flintheart Glomgold, and El Capitan in DuckTales' "Treasure of the Golden Suns" part two (aka "Wrongway in Ronguay"). T&T, who are quite effective in their "tweener" role here, flip from villainy to obsequiousness with comical rapidity. It won't be the last 180 they perform herein, to be sure.

It was well established in "Dangerous Journey" that the flying lizards don't like sunlight, so it's not a surprise to see a colony of the critters down here. Kimba, Bucky, and D-cubed got to the cave rather quickly, so this saurian swarm is probably completely independent of the colony on Stony Mountain. They possess many of the same moves, though, or at least the recycled animation indicates as much.

Kimba sure is one amazing animal. Not only does he come equipped with built-in radar, but his tail appears to be constructed of adamantine! How else can you explain the thoroughly inexplicable maneuver that gets Kimba and T&T over the gorge and away from the lizards?! The subsequent double cross comes as no real surprise as we're actually teased regarding Kimba's possible destruction. But, with a caudal appendage like that, can anyone seriously believe that Kimba's second long fall of the episode has finished him?

D-cubed's comical turn at "going to the rescue" again indicates that they are clearly supposed to be considerably younger than Kimba here. I could have done without the "Look, she's so goofy!" pose when Dot shouts "GO!," however. At least the kids attempt to accomplish something, unlike Bucky, who, despite his role as the "teacher" and "adult authority figure," is pretty much useless throughout.

"Getcha motor running... head out to the rescue..."

The return of Gold (Hal Studer) and Rush (Gilbert Mack) finally reveals their role in the ep over and above serving as Kimba's punching bags. Question: If Goldopolis is really, most sincerely "lost," then how can anyone possibly have a map leading to it? They didn't even have to figure out any tetchy clues a la the Ducks' deciphering of the Treasure Ship in "Golden Suns."

The reunited Kimba and T&T, of course, have no real use for Goldopolis' gold; the script amplifies this fact as T&T pine for water when riches are all around them. But I would think that the architectural importance of the city -- and the potential for hordes of humans coming to dig it up and disrupt Kimba's nearby kingdom -- would be reason enough for the animals to want to keep the city hidden. Kimba's later promise to the guardian Granddaddy Turtle (Mack, essaying an old, Spanish-sounding voice that sounds for all the world like a more gravelly version of El Capitan) not to reveal the location of Goldopolis arises, I think, from Kimba's simple sense of honesty and fairness, but this thought had to be lurking in the back of his mind somewhere.

It occurs to me that a turtle is not exactly the most efficient guardian that one could have for a treasure, but Granddaddy T. proves to have most unusual powers. No doubt he developed his locomotive skills during all those years of isolation. The business about wanting to keep the gold from being stolen makes no sense on the face of it; the city has been buried and lost for hundreds of years, so why would he be so paranoid about theft that he attacks visitors without even trying to determine whether they have hostile intentions? Perhaps he was simply desperate for food (I certainly can't see where he would get his comestibles from). Or maybe the natives of Goldopolis tried to loot the city during its downfall, and the memory has rattled around in Granddaddy T.'s mind for all these years.

I think that the Titanistas goofed when they had Kimba say that he would "let the water out" to cause Granddaddy T. to slip and fall. There is no water in the area, as T&T's yowling makes clear. Given that the liquid seeped out of a fire pit that would have no source of fuel otherwise, I'm guessing that Kimba let loose part of some sort of a naturally occurring oil deposit.

Kimba certainly doesn't show his love for these humans at any point, eh? After the second beatdown of Gold and Rush, we get the deus ex machina of the earthquake, featuring some very impressive effects (though the exploding statues and pillars seem like overkill to me, and the neatly descending rock spurs outside Twin Skull Cave bespeak the show's budgetary limits). As always seems to be the case in such situations, the heroes manage to escape in much shorter time than it took to get into "the spot they were in." It's especially impressive in that Granddaddy T. never got a chance -- at least, not on screen -- to TELL Kimba how to get out of the cave. It's also surprising that Gold and Rush are given an official exit scene. I know we'll all sleep better knowing that those two made their getaway. (It's almost as if G&R were being prepared for a return engagement, but they never appear again.)

"Lost his home"... and that ain't all, as the gang's tearful goodbye to Granddaddy T. makes abundantly clear. (Actually, this "deadly cover-up" is handled with delicate grace compared with what we'll be seeing in the next ep.) We close with a legitimately fine piece of ending narration from Ray Owens that links T&T's "return to the dark side" with the eternal vagaries of the natural world. "And things are again as they were" (except for Granddaddy T. and Goldopolis, of course)... as another teller of treasure tales would no doubt add to the Narrator's sentiments.

Up next: Episode 32, "The Last Poacher."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: THE CARL BARKS BIG BOOK OF BARNEY BEAR (2011, IDW/Yoe! Books)

Well, at least IDW/Yoe! didn't go completely crazy and give this reprinting of (most of) the contents of THE BARKS BEAR BOOK (1979) a title like BARKS' BIGGEST BIG BOOK OF BARNEY BEAR. The mind reels (or should that be, "the bind beels"?) at the implications of that.

Barks' non-Duck work from the 1940s has long deserved a handsome color reprinting such as this one. The incomplete nature of the contents, however, is disappointing. I've no doubt that copyright issues kept Barks' one PORKY PIG story and one ANDY PANDA tale out of this volume, but why were the two HAPPY HOUND (aka Droopy) stories and the BENNY BURRO solo efforts left out, seeing as how they were also based on MGM properties? Indeed, I happen to think that Benny worked better as a solo character than as a partner of the slow-moving, slow-witted Barney Bear. Here's why:

(1) Benny and Barney's "universe" is superficially akin to that of Duckburg, populated by dogfaces and the like, with the occasional exotic critter (such as an alligator, an elk, or a gorilla) thrown in. In such an environment, the existence of Benny, a sentient four-footed beast, is problematic at best. Things get even hairier when we see Benny in the company of dogs and cats who are treated as plain ol' animals. So what's so special about Benny, anyway? It's almost as if Kimba the White Lion were living among humans and conversing with them as a matter of course, as opposed to it being a skill that Kimba had to learn from Roger Ranger.

(2) There doesn't seem to be any reason for Barney and Benny to pal around with each other. Barney, especially in the later stories, lives in a house complete with cranky neighbors, a yard to keep up, bills to pay, etc. Amazingly, though, we never find out where, or how, Benny lives until he's seen at home in a late story. Most of the time, he just shows up in order to get a story started, or else is already present when the story begins. Donald and the Nephews, of course, had the "blood relations" angle to keep them together, not to mention the clear precedents set by the animated cartoons and the DONALD DUCK daily strip. Barney and Benny, by contrast, are together because... well, the title says so. No wonder Barks quickly got tired of the "wartime duty" and handed off the responsibility as soon as he could after the shooting had stopped.

The above being said, Barks' "Book of B&B" makes for a pleasant read, even if it rarely rises above the level of professional craftsmanship. Barks' artwork is certainly a highlight, with Benny being drawn in an especially charming fashion. Occasional flashes of Barksian cynicism are seen, with Carl sending up modern artists in OUR GANG #28 (Barney's messed-up attempt at a painting wins a blue ribbon) and getting comical mileage out of the postwar housing shortage in OG #34 (Barney sells his home to get away from obnoxious neighbor Mooseface McElk but then can't find or build a new home to save his life). In terms of story themes, Barks seems to bounce from "phase" to "phase" in a manner that he generally avoided in the DONALD stories in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES. Early on, B&B are mostly "on the road" (occasionally showing up in places like Mexico for no apparent reason), and many tales center around Barney attempting to master some skill, generally with Benny's unwilling assistance. Intriguingly, many of these "would-be mastery" tales involve becoming a hunter of some sort, which one might think would come naturally to a bear (but then, maybe that's the point of the gag). Along about 1945-46, the stories begin to resemble contemporary DONALD stories, with the unfortunate exception that the "sensible" Benny often causes trouble for Barney himself. By the end, with Barks' Western Publishing associate Gil Turner now providing many of the scripts, the tales boil down to a repetitive string of confrontations between Barney and Mooseface McElk, the Neighbor Jones wannabe.

If I had to pick favorite stories from this bunch, they would probably be "The Rainbow Pixies" (OG #29) and the very first story, the tale of the giant horn (OG #11). "Pixies" is a pretty straightforward, but funny, "tit-for-tat" tale. The horn epic, meanwhile, is the closest that B&B ever get to an "adventure," as the boys foil a kooky scientist's bizarre plot to create the world's largest and loudest horn through manipulation of a natural Western rock formation. I doubt that Barks would have tried to get away with such a zany antagonist in a DONALD story -- a walk-on gag player, perhaps, but not a legit foe -- but at least B&B accomplish something vaguely meaningful in stopping the guy.

The ancillary material here is pretty decent. Jeff Smith provides a bland but serviceable introduction, in addition to crafting a charming cover illo, and we get some real rarities in the introductory pieces, "Bear Right" and "Barks Bio Bits." A mid-50s photograph with Barks and such other Western Publishing luminaries as Phil De Lara, Carl Fallberg, Tony Strobl, John Carey, and Al Hubbard is very much appreciated; oh, to have been a fly on the wall listening to those fellows talk shop. Even better is a tantalizing sample of a newspaper comic strip, PIPSQUEAKS, which Barks worked up in 1953. I know that Barks was interested in drawing realistic human strips, even managing to get some human characters into his Duck stories of the early 50s, but was he really interested in "giving PEANUTS a run for its money," as Craig Yoe implies? I will have to consult Tom Andrae's book for more information, I suppose. Not that I think PIPSQUEAKS would have been a success -- it's drawn in an anachronistic style that somewhat resembles those advertisements of the 20s and 30s featuring adult cartoon characters with large heads and tiny bodies. But the mere existence of the strip suggests that, even while Barks was committed to working with the Ducks, he wouldn't have minded spreading his creative wings in a somewhat freer manner than was possible when he was working with Barney and Benny.

Comics Review: DUCKTALES #4 (August 2011, kaboom!)

We're finally back in harness! And the new computer (an HP TouchSmart 610) is performing like a champ thus far!



Now, as to "the issue" that has been "at hand" for quite a while now... The artistic grotesqueries that defaced DT #3 are thankfully not an issue here. Jose Massaroli and helpmate Ruben Torreiro of Jaime Diaz Studios fame do a professional job throughout, and Leonel Castellani's "B" cover (why it wasn't the "A," I couldn't tell you) is a lovely, clever tribute to the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie poster -- not to mention a special "in-joke" for all those fans who know of the influence that Carl Barks had on Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (not to mention the influence that the Indy posters had on the final version of the DuckTales logo).

The real issue with #4 is Warren Spector's writing... and, while Spector sets forth several intriguing ideas and reaps the fruits of several plot points that had been subtly sown in earlier chapters of "Rightful Owners," there are still too many continuity bloopers and outright "Huh?" moments for the epic as a whole to be considered a success. Had Spector simply had an editor worthy of the title, I have a feeling that this story would have been far more satisfying.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

S
P
A
C
E

After previously whiling away so much time in the vicinity of Rippon Taro, Spector spins us through three "artifact-return scenarios" here, all of which are based on Barks tales that were adapted by DuckTales. This is "grasping" the continuity-question "nettle" with extreme prejudice, and I must admit that Spector scores an undeniable point in his melding of the two versions of "The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan." The use of the TV villain Sir Guy Standforth is inspired, answering an obvious question arising from the end of that episode: what would Sir Guy do when (not if) the lovesick Abominable Snowman/woman (given the Barksian name of "Gu" here) caught him? If he were a worthy villain, of course he'd try to turn the unpleasant situation to his advantage, and that's just what he has done here. I could have done without some of the ootsey-poo business, and Spector has to give "Gu" (who resembles a sort of Taz in drag here) a garbled voice that even King Fulla Cola wouldn't have signed for in order to punch some of the gags across, but I think that Spector deserves some real credit here...

... Which he promptly gives right back while describing Scrooge's return of The Golden Fleece and the baby dinosaur. These were tougher assignments; because Barks' "The Golden Fleecing" and "Forbidden Valley" differed in so many essentials from the DuckTales adaptations of same -- indeed, there's a very good argument that "Dinosaur Ducks" truthfully has little to do with "Forbidden Valley" in the first place -- Spector had to be very careful not to bollix up the mixing beyond recall. Mark down two in the "bollix" column:

(1) The "Harpies" of the DT "Golden Fleecing" are back to being "Larkies" and looking the same, as in Barks, but one of the clones behaves just like Anastasia, the fat Harpy who fell in love with Launchpad, aka the "Big Deep No" (sic). (Actually, I think that Darth Vader now has a copyright on that phrase.) Scrooge also has the golden coat in hand, which, of course, he never even had made in the DT version of the story.

(2) Forbidden Valley doesn't appear to be so "forbidden" any more, as both the pursuing Beagle Boys and the mint-loving giant jellyfish (THAT thing again?! Is it a jellyfish or a lamprey?!) manage to track the Ducks to the dino-infested domain. (I didn't know that Forbidden Valley was anywhere near a source of salt water.) Gladstone, pretty much along for the ride up to this point, "luckily" lures the monster into attacking the B-Boys with some native chicle, declaring after the fact, "Glad I thought to use that stuff!" (huh?).

In the midst of all this "returning" comes a would-be "touching moment" that rings as true as a lead nickel. Commending Webby for agreeing to give up her trademark bow to the bling-obsessed "Gu," Scrooge claims that "...my most treasured memories are the ones involving giving up something important to me." If we take this literally, then Scrooge should be positively ecstatic anytime Magica De Spell shows up to claim the Old #1 Dime! There are even exceptions to Scrooge's stated caveat that he only changes this policy when the possible loss of money is involved. I realize that Scrooge was supposed to learn something about ceding possessions with grace in this story, but this almost goes TOO far.

A similar mixture of inspired ideas and inexplicable muddle occurs when the gang get back to Duckburg and the final confrontation with Rockerduck takes place. HD&L's offhand uncovering of a supposedly returned artifact and Billups' sudden recognition that his curator job might be in jeopardy if all items are returned, both tossed off almost casually in DT #3, turn out to be key moments in the story. This speaks well, I think, for Spector's eye for plot detail... though Billups has to be some sort of idiot to keep Rockerduck's "unreturned deposits" in a location where any Huey, Dewey, or Louie can find them. The sudden return of King Fulla Cola and the Himalayan contingent on Donald's carrier, however, is simply too ridiculous to take seriously. Aside from the matter of travel time, where could a carrier dock in the Himalayas? And why does Donald (who appears to be doubling as a seaman and a naval policeman here; I didn't think that Admiral Grimitz thought that highly of him) have to take the "speeder" Camille Chameleon to Duckburg Jail, in particular? Daisy goes these lowlights one better, or worse, when she suddenly spouts forth some conveniently timed exposition...

Rockerduck: ... But, wait a minute -- where's Gladstone? He was working for...
Daisy: I remember now! Gladstone was hypnotized by notorious St. Canard (sic) villainess Cinnamon Teal! I was hypnotized, too, so I'd forget everything!


So, Daisy... remembers... that she was hypnotized... to forget... to remember. Got it.

Regarding the ultimate dispensation of the minion Farquardt, Ryan Wynns does a thorough job of analysis here. For my part, suffice it to say that I always half-expected Farquardt to turn out to be an ally of the bad guys, perhaps even one of those shadowy figures who lurked around the borders of the story but were never definitively identified (remember the fellow who addressed the conclave of Barks, Rosa, and Darkwing villains in #1?). We were certainly led to believe that on several instances in the first couple of chapters. The problem with a "red herring," however, is that you need to be presented with a clear alternative before you can fully buy into the deception... and, once Billups was revealed as a baddie in #3 and Farquardt presented himself in opposition, all the "false clues" suddenly seemed pointless. It would have been better, I think, had Farquardt simply been a bumbling would-be adventurer who bungled in his efforts to help Scrooge, yet won out in the end by being a faithful companion. I don't honestly see what was gained by all the suspicion-sowing.

We end with a "group hug" (with that damn jellyfish in the background... *sigh*) and a foreshadowing of the upcoming Darkwing/DT crossover. The sneak peek, sadly, pales in comparison with the ending of DARKWING DUCK #16. Spector doesn't help by including a boxed note asking "What is Magica De Spell's interest in the events that have just unfolded?" when Magica openly tells us that her present goal is to team up with Camille and Cinnamon Teal. Whatever Spector's role may be in kaboom!'s Disney curtain-lowerer, I do appreciate the effort he put forth in "Rightful Owners" and only wish that it had turned out better. I hope he gets another chance, with more and better editorial assistance, when (if???) Marvel-or-whoever sees fit to fire up a DUCKTALES title one more time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hey, We Just Passed a Milestone...

The "King's 51, Stevenson 26" post was my 500th! Doesn't seem like that many, to be honest.

It now looks as if we will not be getting the new (replacement) computer until Thursday at the earliest, and I have several extra University commitments that afternoon and evening, so my hopes of reviewing DUCKTALES #4, BARKS BEAR BOOK, and the rest by week's end have gone a-glimmering. I probably won't be up and fully functional until sometime this weekend, and I'll be preoccupied with professional stuff at first. Please bear with me while things get sorted out.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

King's (Pa.) 51, Stevenson 26... and a Computer Update

After its dramatic win over Christopher Newport, SU's football team really looked its age (to wit: several shades younger than even Grundoon and Churchy LaFemme's nephew) in its first conference game against King's College of Wilkes-Barre. The defense is evidently going to be a big problem all year, and turnovers definitely don't help. The next home game is October 15 against Widener.

I'm still planning on putting up vids from the CNU game once I get the new computer issue straightened out. Apparently, the original machine had a hardware problem, so we sent it back and are being sent a new one. We won't get it until midweek at the earliest, however, and then comes the process of loading the software and such. I'm managing with the help of Nicky's mini, but only just holding serve at present, mostly getting only essential schoolwork and communication done (tonight's posts were a bonus). I can't get back to reviewing Kimba until I can get the stills I clipped for the "City of Gold" review off my old hard drive, and, even then, I'll need to get some new software to do additional picture editing. DUCKTALES #4 and the reprinted BARKS BEAR BOOK will hopefully get reviewed by the end of this coming week.

Comics Review: DISNEY'S FOUR COLOR ADVENTURES, VOLUME 1 (July 2011, Boom! Studios)


For all the optimistic good cheer evident in David Gerstein's introduction, I think that we're more likely to see the deployment of a FIFTH color than to see a follow-up to this collection of American Disney comics rarities. That's not to say that the reprintings of ONE SHOT COLOR COMICS #4 (February 1940) and ONE SHOT COLOR COMICS #13 (1941) -- to give these tomes their rather awkward "official" names -- aren't heartily appreciated. As, respectively, the first all-color English-language Disney comic and the first comic-book adaptation of a Disney (sort of) feature film, they deserved to be brought back into the light.

COLOR #4 is as meat-and-spuds as it gets -- a great, quivering, 64-page hunk of DONALD DUCK daily-strip reprints from early 1939. The strips are presented one after another, without even the slight attempt at gag-dividing that was seen in the first two issues of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES. With the idea of American Disney comics being so new at the time, I wonder how many readers unfamiliar with the nature of the DONALD strip thought that the "narrative" was "mighty confusing." While the collection of work by Bob Karp and Al Taliaferro (..."with Carl Barks"? Why wasn't that explained?) suffers from the same "law of diminishing returns" that plagued "Gladstone II"'s relentless reprinting of old strips in its DONALD DUCK title, the gags are somewhat easier to take now that Donald has graduated from his previous stint as "The Compleat Asshole" and is now starting to faintly resemble the harried suburban Everyman and ineffective parental figure whom Barks would inherit and raise to a higher creative plane. The Nephews (whose earliest appearance in the SILLY SYMPHONIES DONALD Sunday strip are also reprinted here, complementing an informative article on Taliaferro by Thomas Andrae) have likewise been toned down from their earliest, most "hellionish" incarnation and are now just as likely to flummox Unca Donald, or innocently get him into trouble, as to actively torment him. Sometimes the point of a gag has curled up and died in the intervening seventy-plus years -- when was the last six-day bike race YOU saw? -- but most of them are pretty decent, even today.

COLOR #13 is a fairly thorough "panelization" of the various featured items in The Reluctant Dragon (1941), now perhaps best remembered as (1) the first appearance of a Goofy "how-to" short ("How to Ride a Horse"); (2) the first big-scale "How it's Made" tour of the Walt Disney Studio, as experienced by humorist Robert Benchley (who himself famously pioneered the "how-to" genre in a series of live shorts); (3) the film that came out during the bitter Disney strike of 1941 and thereby mocked its own "just one big happy family" pretensions. David Gerstein describes how artists Irving Tripp and Jack Hannah relied on storyboard materials to produce this pioneering effort, but Tripp almost takes it too far in his adaptation of "The Reluctant Dragon" itself, drawing "backgrounds" that are more like a rumor and using pose after pose that appear to have been cadged directly from the 'boards. This can also be seen in Tripp's adaptation of "Baby Weems," but that was presented in the movie in storyboard format to begin with. "Dragon" was more ambitious and deserved better, but instead, we get static poses and text, text everywhere. Several full pages include just one smallish character drawing afloat in a sea of explanatory verbiage. It's as if we've gone back to the dawn of the comic strip at times. At least the figure drawing is good. Jack Hannah's putative rendition of the Donald short "Old MacDonald Duck," which was also presented in rough format in the film, and "How to Ride a Horse" (artist unknown, according to inDucks) look a bit more like many of the original Disney comics that would be coming down the pipeline in the early FOUR COLOR days, though there is still lots of text. (I do hope that the letterer got paid more than anyone else for this issue.) There's an unexpected bonus in the form of a text adaptation of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Fantasia (1940), the first attempt of several to put this story into comics format, and a column about Fantasia (which was in the process of bombing big-time at the b.o.) by Leopold Stokowski. Since The Reluctant Dragon was seen as a "cheater" by many critics at the time, the inclusion of the Fantasia material here may have been an effort to give the Dragon adaptation "class by proxy," not to mention convince just a few more folks to go see Fantasia in the process.

Boom! has made many missteps in its handling of the Disney characters, but one can't really fault the company's archival efforts, nor the high quality of the CLASSICS hardbound line. Had Boom! refrained from reprinting everything it released in the early stages and reserved the collections for "special events," perhaps its bottom line would have been boosted and the traditionalist fans whom the company turned off with its radical "new directions" would have been sufficiently mollified to support the company. Sometimes, I think that Donald's Nephews should have been named Coulda, Woulda, and Shoulda when they appeared in Boom! releases... If this is, in fact, the last of the vintage wine, then it was a generally enjoyable potable on which to part ways.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comics Review: TUBBY: THE ATOMIC VIOLIN AND OTHER STORIES by John Stanley and Lloyd White (2011, Dark Horse)

I'm cleaning up a few loose ends here, as I wait for the bugs in my new computer (and have there ever been bugs -- verily, they are the size of pigeons!!) to be worked out. I sense a little bit of weariness in this newest collection of stories from the 1950s TUBBY title, a little less willingness to go far afield from the templates of the "typical" LITTLE LULU stories. Stanley's resorting to dream-dodges to explain a few of the more fanciful tales is actually rather disappointing. This collection also features more appearances by Iggy's "comically senile" Gran'pa Feeb, the first LITTLE LULU character whom I can say that I actively dislike. Joshing forgetful seniors is a staple of comedy from way back, of course, but the conceit seems a little more distasteful in an era in which we know more about the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. The ALVIN backup stories begin to include more dialogue, and there's an anticipation of the JUDY JR. tales from THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN in the battles of wits between Alvin and a little girl named Kathy. These stories, however, are more palatable, less cruel, and give Alvin more interesting things to do than are his standard wont in LULU stories.

Apropos of the book's credits, I wish that someone would explain to me how Lloyd White "finished" Stanley's stories. I understand Stanley's partnership with Irving Tripp, but what made White's participation different enough that a different word had to be used? Here's where I miss ancillary commentary in these volumes...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Still In Between Home Machines...

... and, between the time for delivery of the new all-in-one and the time that will be required to set everything up, I probably won't be able to post anything truly substantial until this coming weekend at the earliest. I WILL, however, provide some newsy notes:

(1) The first Stevenson home football game on Saturday night was an amazing experience. It would have been first-rate theater regardless of the outcome, but SU actually WON the game, a double-overtime thriller that ranks right up there with the ND-Michigan Harry Oliver game of 1980 as the best game I've ever seen in person. You can see pictures from it here. Nicky and I took some extended movies which I'll be converting into YouTube format and posting as soon as I can.

(2) My brother-in-law Terry was involved in two car crashes within the space of one week. Neither was his fault, and he wasn't seriously injured, but both of the family cars were totaled. How much the combined insurance will pay for is still an open question, and the family needs two cars...

(3) DUCKTALES #4 is indeed slated for release this week, according to ComicList. So is the delayed reprint of THE BARKS BEAR BOOK from IDW. Those of you who have the original paperback, however, would be well served to hang onto it. Apparently, this tome will not reprint the full contents of the original, no doubt for copyright-related reasons. Still, half a loaf, and all that...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DUCKTALES #4 Preview

The sneak preview for the issue is finally available. If Massaroli and Torreiro did indeed carry all the mail here, then we should be in good shape, artistically speaking. It's also promising that Warren Spector appears to be sticking specifically to the DuckTales version of "Lost Crown of Genghis Khan" (including the use of numerous supporting players from the TV ep). But since when has "Gu" the Abominable Snow, uh, Woman been able to form semi-coherent sentences?

I've got my fingers crossed...

Friday, September 9, 2011

DUCKTALES #4... Primed to Escape Next Week?

This page on Boom!'s web site seems to suggest that DUCKTALES #4 -- the release of which was delayed in the wake of the critical thrashing given to DT #3 -- will be hitting store shelves next week. However, I'd hesitate to say more than that its release is a definite "maybe." Notice that DT #4 is listed as both scheduled for release on September 14 and as a "coming soon" attraction. I don't honestly know what to make of that. It'd certainly be nice (not to mention less embarrassing) for kaboom! to wrap up the "Rightful Owners" story arc before we swing into the trumpeted DuckTales-Darkwing Duck crossover. But seeing will definitely be believing in this case.

Comics Review: LITTLE LULU, VOLUME 27: THE PRIZE WINNER AND OTHER STORIES by John Stanley and Irving Tripp (2011, Dark Horse)

My home computer has pretty much died, so I'm posting this latest review from Stevenson's super-soggy Greenspring campus, aka "Seattle East." (At least the forecast for tomorrow -- and SU's first home football game -- is promising.) My new Kimba post will probably be delayed for a bit until we can get the new home machine set up. I'll still try to post the promised football report using Nicky's laptop, though.

Dark Horse is now combing the corpus of John Stanley's "miscellaneous" LITTLE LULU work. This latest volume collects the entirety of two Dell Giants from 1957, LITTLE LULU AND TUBBY AT SUMMER CAMP and LITTLE LULU AND TUBBY HALLOWEEN FUN. You can read and view much more about the former of these hefty quarter-dollar mags here, and I suggest that you do, since SUMMER CAMP hangs together a lot better than does HALLOWEEN FUN. The structure of Stanley's signature chain of short features is relatively predictable -- kids get ready for camp, kids go to camp and meet new kids, kids scheme and have (mis)adventures, kids go home -- and there's no psychological quirkiness to wade through on the order of Charlie Brown developing a baseball-like rash on his head and becoming "Mr. Sack" or the PEANUTS gang visiting a weird camp for "born-agains," as they did in 1980. The little tales and vignettes link together quite nicely, however, and the sense of completing a satisfying whole is palpable. HALLOWEEN FUN is a bit more erratic; since there are only so many tales you can tell about getting costumes, cadging candy, and holding Halloween parties, we get a few Witch Hazel stories thrown in here and there to help "make weight." One of these last is a rather strained explanation of how Lulu's "poor little girl" character accidentally devised the name of the Halloween holiday. Suffice it to say that it's a surefire groan-inducer. The climactic Halloween-party story, though, is Stanley at his web-weaving best, combining several plots and subplots in a way that leaves you marveling (not to mention smiling) at the end. There are still several Giants to reprint, so we haven't quite seen the last of these Dark Horse collections -- and a good thing, too.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Half-Decade of Disaster


For a while there in the 1970s, it seemed that everyone -- even Richie Rich and his show-biz pal Jackie Jokers -- was trying to capitalize on the disaster-movie craze. For a "craze," however, the disaster fad has produced more than its share of aftershocks; witness such modern films as Titanic, The Day After Tomorrow, and Armageddon. Many of these movies make full use of the wonders of CGI technology. There's something to be said, however, for the old-school, "less is more" approach. Thanks to Netflix, Nicky and I have just recently seen (or reseen) three entirely representative disaster films from the "heroic age." Fittingly, one represents the earliest flowering of the genre, one represents the art form at its arguable peak, and one symbolizes onrushing decadence.

Let's start with the granddad of them all -- apart from those oldsters who hold out for something really ancient like The High and the Mighty (1954), of course. I'm referring to Universal's 1970 mega-hit, Airport. A site called Clyde's Movie Palace does a good (and funny) review of this film from cockpit nose to wingtip, so I'll direct you there for details. You've probably seen this all-star bash at one time or another, anyway; my first exposure to it was on the Philadelphia ABC affiliate's Saturday-night Million Dollar Movie. I hadn't seen it for a bit, however, and found myself stunned by several things while viewing it with fresh eyes... and they weren't the obvious ones, like how could a plainly nervous guy clutching a satchel (Van Heflin in his final great role) finagle his way onto a commercial plane so easily, even in 1970. Consider that this is a G-rated movie with:

1. Implicitly approved-of romantic liaisons and marital breakups. (Burt Lancaster's harried airport manager, abandoned by his social-climbing bitch of a wife, deciding to make his fling with a comely co-worker [Jean Seberg] more of a permanent thing; Dean Martin's playboy pilot clearly throwing over his own wife for the sexy flight attendant, er, stewardess [Jacqueline Bisset] whom he has impregnated.) Yes, those were swingin' times and all, but everyone is presented as a solid enough citizen apart from the sexual dalliances. I assume that these themes were carried over from the original Arthur Hailey novel, but it's one thing to read about them and another thing to actually see them carried out on-screen.
2. Pretty frank discussion of abortion. There's even a pro-life message in the sense that Bisset decides to keep her baby.
3. A cheerfully law-breaking senior citizen. (Helen Hayes in her famous, Oscar-winning turn as the perpetual stowaway Ada Quonsett. What sort of role model is that for the clean-cut youth of 1970, I ask you... uh, wait...)
4. Smoking!! ("Cigs on a plane"!)

You'd think that Airport might have earned at least the equivalent of a PG-rating with the scenes of "intense disaster action," only... there's really only one such scene, which results in the death of one person and serious injury to only one other. The movie plays out more as a melodrama with disaster trappings than a full-blooded disaster film, IMHO. Still, as a lead-in to what was to come, it holds up reasonably well as a piece of entertainment. The use of split screens, though it takes some getting used to, is a clever bit of innovation; perhaps producer Ross Hunter was hearkening back to his use of same in Pillow Talk (1959)?

Next comes Irwin Allen's The Poseidon Adventure (20th-Century Fox, 1972), which I'd never seen until Netflix brought it to me. I know that Allen's run as "The Master of Disaster" ultimately degenerated into farce with such critical and box-office stinkeroos as The Swarm and When Time Ran Out, but he was definitely on top of his game as a producer with this fascinating film. The disaster (a luxury liner capsizing in the Mediterranean) is obviously more "comprehensive" than the bomb blast in Airport, but what really makes Poseidon work is the decision to structure the main portion of the movie as a "quest," with a handful of survivors struggling to reach a goal (the escape hatch to safety) that seems more and more mythical as time goes on. And not all of them make it. The parallels with The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, and similar works of "quest" fiction are remarkable and will stick in the mind long after memories of the dated clothing and hairstyles have faded away. The "quest" even gets a memorable theme song, one of the best movie themes of the 1970s and a deserved Oscar winner.





Allen's The Towering Inferno (1974) made even more money than did The Poseidon Adventure, but it already shows the signs of incipient creakiness. There's far less attention paid to character development, far more to spectacle. By the time of Airport 1975 (1974), the bloom was definitely off the rose. I watched this one (which came packaged with the original Airport on a single DVD) with legitimate trepidation, knowing as I did that the film merited inclusion in the Medved Brothers' original Hall of Shame. It actually wasn't as bad as I expected -- it was more ridiculously inane than incompetent. That's not to say it was within a mile and a furlong of actually being good, mind you. Here is where Airplane! (1980) found the lion's share of its parody fodder: Linda Blair's chipper kidney-transplant patient, Helen Reddy's singing nun, the shockingly garish airplane decor, improbable guest-star cameos (Gloria Swanson playing herself in her first movie role in a quarter-century!), major stars embarrassing themselves (Charlton Heston trying much too hard to be hip), etc. For you WDTVA fans, there's even a bonus as Ken (Rabbit) Sansom makes an appearance as the persnickety passenger Gary. (He's the guy who appears at 2:01 with the blond stewardess.)



For good, clean, mindless fun, give me those old-time disaster movies! (But, in the future, not so many in succession, please.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA, Episode 30: "Adventure in the City"

It's logical that Kimba WOULD wince when he thinks of this episode. Along with the (far inferior) "Running Wild" and "The Troublemaker," this is one of the few times that Kimba can be said to have had a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." He's not the only character who's off his feed. Uncle Specklerex follows up on the heels of a powerful debut performance with a peevish, irritating, bull-headed turn as a prideful elder who gets Kimba, Kitty, and Pauley into all sorts of trouble when he comes to visit Kimba's jungle. Kitty suddenly becomes a scold in what Bob Thing theorizes is a clever, elaborate attempt to "break" Kimba (sort of a distaff-powered reversal of the scenario of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW) but which plays out as a major turn-off, especially given the specific circumstances, which make Kitty out to be an ungrateful airhead. Even the three one-shot humans who play major supporting roles carry with them some "dreadful secrets," which duly come out at the end and provide a mostly humorous, slapstick-filled episode with a real "barb in the tail." Despite all this, "Adventure in the City" is a fun, if somewhat sloppy, ep to watch, in the manner of one of the better episodes of Goof Troop or Bonkers (and yes, such creatures certainly did exist).


I guess Uncle Specklerex didn't "apply himself" to "learn[ing] anything new" after "Journey into Time." Instead, he's trying a different approach to "prove himself" to Kimba -- an entirely negative one. First run down Kimba's "clean" and "peaceful" jungle, then bait the supposedly "unadventurous" younger lion into a contest. This is actually rather ironic, given the time at which Kimba was produced, the era of the 60s youth rebellion.

Kimba tries too hard to make himself look bad; who knows but what that vicious blow to the head caused the subsequent "brainfart" of jumping over the river? In any event, a resentful, embarrassed Kitty cuts Kimba precious little slack for his error. Just wait, she gets worse...

Specklerex continues to try to overcompensate for his advanced age by playing "Macho Lion" with the visiting Don Free (Ray Owens) and Arthur Scott Free (Gilbert Mack), then pressing the point by following them to "the city." I don't believe that this is the city where the young Kimba came ashore in "The Wind in the Desert," for reasons which will become clearer later. This place is clearly very close to the jungle; witness the suddenly-appearing paved road, not to mention how quickly the animals, even Specklerex, make it to town just using their pawsies.

Kimba puts his paw in his mouth when he criticizes Uncle S for going to the city; he should surely know by now that, for all of Specklerex' faults, Kitty has "a lot of respect" for her aged relative. But in the string of "comically unnoticed perils" that follows, Kitty should obviously know that she's being menaced at SOME point; after all, she cries out when the (narcissus-related?) vine grabs her and even speaks to the menacing snake. This isn't the scene in DuckTales' "Sweet Duck of Youth" in which Scrooge wanders through the swamp, completely clueless as to the lurking menaces. It's as if Kitty expects Kimba to save her as a matter of course (perhaps she doesn't think all this counts as a "crisis"?). Sorry, but this scene doesn't really work for me, even as a gag.

"And I said tie them together with a sheepshank, not a bow knot!"

Kimba continues his "anti-roll" by knocking over the garbage can and alerting the municipal carabinieri, or whatever they are, and we subsequently begin a very long slapstick pursuit sequence triggered by (1) Scott Free's fearful reaction to the lurking Mr. Trailer (Ray Owens) and (2) Specklerex' understandable unfamiliarity with the idea of a train. This train ultimately leads to the coast and, presumably, the city where Kimba actually did wash ashore. Perhaps this is a commuter train of some kind connecting the inlands with the coast.

The run-in with the signal tower must have croggled Kimba's brains once again, for he subsequently commits arguably his biggest sin of the episode -- going along with Pauley's decision to commandeer the truck. So what if the frightened driver (Gil Mack) decides to bail out and leave the animals behind?... oh. Cue the Speed Racer-style daredevil action, except it comes complete with an anthropomorphized vehicle. I wonder why Pops Racer saw fit to give the Mach 5 underwater driving capabilities but didn't include the "shake dry" option. I also wonder why so much animation was recycled in this scene, right down to the grass blowing back towards the windshield. Surely a few additional "bad driving" gags could have been created for the purpose? Even with all the repetition, there is some well-sculpted slapstick timing on display here, almost as good as the geometrically precise chase gags seen during Tale Spin's "The Golden Sprocket of Friendship."

I really wish that Mr. Trailer's "statement of purpose" had been left unspoken until what we now suspect will be a "big revelation" scene at the end. It wouldn't have been too difficult to have maintained the suspense as to why Mr. Trailer was so adamant about catching the elder Free, or why Scott was so determined to dodge him.

All things considered, Specklerex gets off fairly lightly for causing all this trouble; why, he even enjoys a breath of fresh air and a refreshing drink (or six). He also gets to vent his rage on the hapless humans once he gets free on the boat. (Nice continuity with "Journey into Time," BTW, in Don Free's comment that spotted lions are extremely rare.) Kimba is a bit rough on the humans himself, but he really had very little choice and was even thoughtful enough to apologize after the fact.

After Specklerex invades the Frees' remarkably huge cabin (check that overhead shot!), the slapstick abruptly stops and the ep turns deadly serious. Even the Frees' reaction to the lions' ability to speak is more of a sincere astonishment than the quasi-comical "A g-g-g-g-ghost!"-like reaction of the truck driver. After Don Free oddly teases a "return engagement" that will never take place -- was the Titan crew doing a CYA here, just on the off-chance that Don Free was "supposed to be" Roger Ranger?? -- we get a decidedly bittersweet payoff to the Free-Trailer conflict. Yes, Mr. Trailer is satisfied that Scott admitted his guilt -- and, by so doing, pulls an Inspector Javert, Inspector Gerard-like last-second turnaround -- but what kind of fallout will ensue from the fact that Don now knows the truth? In a sense, I'm glad that the ep didn't show Don forgiving his Dad. Sometimes, it's better to avoid the pat ending and let the audience imagine what will happen in the future. That's what makes for thought-provoking TV.

The ending scene with Kimba, Kitty, and Uncle S has a somewhat "tacked-on" feel, and it's not clear that Uncle S has completely learned his lesson -- after all, he still has SOME pride -- but that doesn't detract from an enjoyable watch.

Up next: Episode 31, "City of Gold."