Friday, July 9, 2010

BYOR (Bring Your Own Research)

Call this a reservation of a topic for future research. In the fantastic anthology The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer: Protean Dimensions, the "lost" story "My Summer Husband" aroused my interests.

The introduction by Michael Croteau states that the story of an Alaskan "bear-god" and his lesss than faithful human mate "doesn't seem to be related to any of his [Farmer's] other work." At this stage, I disagree; however, before I run off half-cocked and make a total idiot of my self, I need to reread a few of Farmer's later novels.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dripping Fangs or Rotting Flesh: The Correct Identification of the Creatures from Robert E. Howard’s ‘The Hills of the Dead’

In his short story “The Hills of the Dead” Robert E. Howard sets the Puritan adventurer against what he calls vampires. However, after reading the story I believe that the creatures described are not a loose tribe of vampires, but a human-flesh hungered mob of zombies. Throughout this article I will be referring to the Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide.

When the creatures attack Kane in his cave, they don’t use the vampire’s great strength or advanced speed, instead “the talon-like nails of the black were tearing at his face…” This is classic zombie tactics against the living. Interestingly, during the entire course of the story, there is not one mention of fangs. From all textual clues, it appears that the creatures possessed normal human teeth. (There is a mention during a later fight that the creatures were “sucking” at Kane’s wounds. While this is a possible mention of fangs, this fails to account for why there was no mention of this earlier.)

During this same fight, Kane makes the observation that the creature’s skin is hard as wood; later the creatures are described as “mummied monsters.” It is highly unlikely that vampires would have wood-hard skin, their unique form of immortality allows their bodies to continue replicating skin and blood cells—thus keeping their skin live-human smooth. Zombies lack this, and are consistently running down their walking corpse of a body as it decomposes ( Brooks; Zombie Survival Guide, pages 10-11). However with proper conditions, like an African desert, the zombies could have been naturally mummified by the shifting sands and winds.

Later, Zunna tells Kane that “Men and beasts flee them [the creatures]…” There is no record of animals fleeing vampires; most animals either treat them as living humans—though occasionally a dog will be mistrustful of a vampire. Zombies create terror in their local ecosystem as beasts flee to escape the virus.

After N’Longa takes over the body of Kran he tells Kane “Them vampires no talk nor yell; they dead.” As we know, all vampires talk; most seem to have an affliction that forces them to talk for pages, making these silent vampires almost unvampiric. Zombies are unable to talk; the only sounds they can issue are, at best, a low moan. Later it is mentioned that the creatures emitted “silent gibbering[s].” According to the dictionary “gibbering” is defined as “Unintelligible or foolish talk.” These two references do not apply to vampires, but quite handily match up with the moans of a zombie—what are moanings if not unintelligible talk.

When Kane and N’Longa cause the creatures to notice them, they attack in a hoard. “Out of the cave they came swarming, the terrible black silent shapes; up the slopes they came clambering, and their red eyes were turned toward the two humans who stood about the silent city. The caves belched them forth in an unholy judgment day.” Vampires rarely attack as a gang, and when they do, their numbers rarely reach over five or six. This, however, is a classic example of zombie behavior.

Finally, during the climatic fight where the creatures overrun Kane biting and tearing at his flesh, we find evidence that the creatures are incapable of feeling pain; as Howard records “skulls were shattered, their faces caved in and their limbs broken” yet they still continued to attack. If a vampire were given this rough treatment he would be forced to retreat until the great pain abated and he was physically ready for another round of combat. Zombies however, have been known to continue attacking even once more than 80% of their bodies were destroyed—and continued attacking until intensive trauma was induced on the brain. (As for the argument that Kane shattered the creature’s skulls, look again to the text. Right after “shattered skulls” Howard mentions “faces caved in,” it seems Kane was limiting his attacks to the front part of the head—dismembering their faces—thereby destroying the zombie’s sense of sight, smell, and (limited) communication, but doing little, if any, damage to the brain itself.

At this point in the article, I am willing to state that the creatures are unarguably zombies mummified by the African environment. Despite my wishes as author, a few pieces of evidence going against my findings need to be dealt with.

During his first encounter with the creatures, Kane manages to kill the things by stabbing them with his cat-headed wood staff. It would seem obvious that the wood killed the creatures (giving good evidence that the beasts are vampires) but I don’t find this the case. Kane is first shocked by this event—one so knowledgeable should not be stunned by finding a wooden stave useful against a vampire; second, Kane rationalizes that the magic within his staff is what killed the “vampires.” I am inclined to agree with him.
Several times in the short story, the creatures are noted as possessing red eyes. In truth, I can find no explanation for this phenomena (Max Brook’s The Zombie Survival Guide helpfully notes: “The eyes of a zombie are no different than those of a normal human.”) Red eyes only seem to exist in the skulls of vampires and demons; one category of beings with red eyes remains untapped for an explanation—normal humans afflicted (in life) with albinism.

It is possible that a thousand years before Kane arrived at the lost city, a number of albino children were born, and due to the fear of the city leaders were only allowed to breed among themselves, after several generations (and a lack of fresh albino children from the normal population) the slightly inbred albino population was allowed to intermarry with the normal population. This caused an explosion of albino population, and thus created a civilization of albinos. [1]

These albino zombies may provide explanation for one of the most curious events of the story. During the climatic battle, Solomon Kane’s flesh is bitten and “sucked” by the creatures many times. Kane is not turned into any type of monster and continues on his adventures. Some types of vampires need several feedings to transform a victim into a blood-sucker, but as shown above, the chances of these creatures being normal infective zombies is low to nil. From this we can conclude that the zombies in “Hills of the Dead” are inflicted with a noncontaminatory strain of the Solanum virus. (Note: the Solanum virus is the official name for the zombie plague, as divulged in the Zombie Survival Guide.) Perhaps the albino genes altered the Solanum virus into a genetic cocktail that can only be contracted by other Albinos.

One final puzzling note is worth pointing out: when Kane first encounters the creatures they exhibit both an attraction and fear of his fire. Neither vampires nor zombies have a fear of fire. A vampire would laugh, or at the very most back away, if a torch was waved in his face; a zombie would fail to recognize the fire and set himself alight—slowly burning himself to death. This is one of the more puzzling elements of the story, and the lone factor that could make a future researcher assign the creatures as a completely different type of monster.

Despite several odd features, I fully believe that the creatures Kane encountered in the African savanna were zombies. This historic encounter would dovetail nicely with the recorded history of zombie attacks recorded by Max Brooks (in his Zombie Survival Guide), where a reasonable argument is built that the Solanum virus progenated somewhere in the African continent.

Works Cited
Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide. New York: Three Rivers, 2003. Print.

Howard, Robert E. "The Hills of the Dead." 1930. The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. New York: Del Rey, 1998. 223-53. Print.

National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. "NOAH — What Is Albinism?" The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. Web. 22 June 2010. .

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Size of Self-Importance: Gulliver as Agent of Identity Politics

In the realm of nonsense political psychobabble we already have the ichorous depths of sexual-politics and race-politics; leave it to master satirist Jonathan Swift to invent and castrate the identity-politics movement four hundred years before its invention--in his immortal classic, Gulliver's Travels. Swift’s own periodic addition may be best termed Size-Politics.

When Lemuel Gulliver crashed upon the shores of the nation of Lilliput, he was a giant among tiny men—or like Godzilla among Japanese—and treated with awe and terror. In an effort to regain their self-importance, the Lilliputians attempt to teach this “Englishman” the greatness and ultimate superiority of their race and beliefs (they are especially fond of showing the extranational traveler the proper end of an egg to break—the only thing separating them from savages). Here the Lilliputians fall into the classic mindset of minority politics; Gulliver makes them feel the tang of nihilism, that their race is small and useless—thus they must strike back at him through legislation. The council demands that Gulliver’s eyes be struck from his face with the nation’s toothpick sized swords—all done in the name of fairness (and to a lesser extent, national security) to the little people. Gulliver escapes onto his next adventure.

Gulliver proves his ill-luck by getting abandoned on the shore of yet another island nation (Brobdingnagian) not long after the Lilliput fiasco—this island however, was filled with men proportionally the size he was to the Lilliputians. Here Gulliver, rather than being the person of strength he was in the nation of Lilliput, he reverts to attempting to prove the greatness to any Brobdingnagian that will give him their ear for a moment. Here the extra-national traveler plays the other part of identity politics, trying to be accepted as better than all majorities. Unlike those who play identity politics in America, Gulliver’s rantings about the glory of England are treated as an after-dinner joke.

Swift’s work exposes the idea of identity politics as little people trying to convince their betters (usually in truth, though sometimes betters by cultural luck) that their Lilliputian souls and ideas are better than the Brobdingnags themselves.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Road to Iran; An Irate Reader's Review of "Zombies of Mass Destruction"

Zombies of Mass Destruction (or ZMD as its creators like to call it) is a mishmash of good ideas poorly executed, and mind-numbingly stupid ideas executed with all the aplomb of a bored four year old. This was written by Kevin Grevioux (blarg!) and drawn by Geraldo Borges & Dave Youkovich (who tried to save this series from itself).

The first issue starts with the only great idea the creators seem to have come up with. An American freighter flies overhead and drops metallic tubes over an Iranian nuclear bomb testing facility; zombies burst forth from the tubes and in a matter of hours overrun the entire complex. Fourteen hours after the tubes first struck the Iranian earth the zombie virus inside of them burns away, killing all chance of the infection spreading and causing a World War Z like global apocalypse. One zombie, however, does not burn and wonders off into the desert.

Now, five pages in, all the crap gets thrown at the poor reader. We are introduced to a shell-shocked almost parody of Captain America. This guy lacks the suit and shield, but in personality (when he has one) and looks he matches up perfectly with Steve Rogers. Apparently Not-Cap married a girl during the first Gulf War and then ditched her when she didn't move to America--or something: the creators are never quite clear what when on between them. For all the difference it makes we can assume that her Mother in Law tried to kill Not-Cap.

We are also introduced to a group of shadowy Republicans who are not sorry that zombies were unleashed on the Iranian site. Because of this, they are shown as the face of uncaring evil--all that is wrong with the American government.

But what did the Shadow Republicans do that was really wrong? Did they use a technology that was maybe best left unused? Yes. But by wiping that Iranian testing facility off the face of the Earth, lives were saved. Iran was then unable to produce the bombs necessary to blast Israel (something the current Iranian leader is itching to do); The Iranians are unable to bomb any other Arab country that fails to fall under their hand. Thus, by unleashing a small scale zombie outbreak on the nuclear facility countless lives were saved from an atomic holocaust.

Not-Cap complains about the Shadow Republicans then agrees to go and kill the escaped zombie. The escaped zombie's been doing what zombies do and eating people, converting them into his own undead army.

Not-Cap spends four pages introducing his team to the reader; but since the reader is given no reason to care about these morons they don't stick in the readers head and bleed together. Some of them right quick, making their introduction all the more pointless. Not-Cap gets bit, but since they have zombie-antidote it doesn't matter.

Not-Cap's commando team gets shot down by zombies with RPGs. The team is attacked by mutant scorpions, then saved by a team of Christian Iranian commandos (???).

From this point, the commandos are kidnapped by zombies and taken to Zombie Village where the Zombie King and Zombie Queen rule over the Temple of Dagon (this last bit was advertised in the blurb, but there is no appearance of any Lovecraftian reference). The Zombie King turns out to be Not-Cap's old Commanding Officer and wants to eat every human in the world. The Zombie Queen is, for even less of a logical reason, the ex-wife that Not-Cap abandoned in the Iranian deserts. She mocks him, and the commandos are thrown into a holding cell.

In the cell, two commandos try to set up a nuclear bomb and wipe out Zombie Village, but all the other commandos beat them up so they don't die. Thus, we can further determine that Not-Cap is a coward. Since this comic series makes no sense, Not-Cap's idiotic actions are presented as heroism.

Through a series of events that make no sense--including the leader of the Christian Iranian Commandos past as an expert on Iranian Temple Design (???)--the commandos escape. Not-Cap rescues his (for some reason still living) daughter and runs into the desert. The Shadow Republicans pull one final bit of "villainy" and carpet bomb Zombie Village to dust. I have no idea why the series wants me to feel sorry for the zombie army that wants to EAT US ALL.

I'm guessing that in this series, the zombies are supposed to be a philosophical stand-in for violent Islam. This is troubling because the message passed on to the reader is: They want to kill you; letting them kill you is the morally right thing to do. What a load of madness. The only characters in this series who acted logically again the undead were the Shadow Republicans with their policy of shutting down any threat with the most logically fitting action.

I normally love the comic books put out by Red 5 Comics (like the fantastic Atomic Robo) but this miniseries is the trash that makes me wary of independent comic publishers.

Final Grade: D-

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Awesomer Lyrics: Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" Made into a Song Worth Listening To

Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" is a song of punishment; in order to be enjoyable is needs a certain something. Scientific research has determined that something is Zombies. In a spirit of kindness for those oppressed by the musical taste of their girlfriends, I present you with the lyrics "Paparazzi" should have had:

We are the dead, we're c-comin' up
Cut my flesh off it's true
Still gonna eat you
It so magical you'd taste so fantastical

Shotgun and jeans, redneck amorous
Not sure what it means
But this Apocalypse of ours, it lacks all price
Ready for those blazing guns
'Cause you know that baby I

I'm your rotted ghoul I'll shamble after you until I eat you
Zom, Zombie
Baby there's no other humans, you know that I'll be
Your Zom, Zombie

Promise I'll be savage
And I won't stop until that brain is mine
Hunter you'll be dinner, chase you down until you're food
Zom, Zombie

I am the ghoul, in the back of your car
knotted ropes and grenades
Yeah cause you're my food, I jump from between the seats
KBar and splattered brains

Rites were fulfilled, Yellow King and return
My eyes are plucked out, clotted gore I cry
It don't have a price, being Zombie Patient One
Cause you know that baby I,

I'm your rotted ghoul I'll shamble after you until I eat you
Zom, Zombie
Baby there's no other humans, you know that I'll be
Your Zom, Zombie

Promise I'll be savage
And I won't stop until that brain is mine
Hunter you'll be dinner, chase you down until you're food
Zom, Zombie

Real good we devour the Earth
Nom Nom on the brains of the army
Don't stop for anyone
We're undead but we still must feed

I'm your rotted ghoul I'll shamble after you until I eat you
Zom, Zombie
Baby there's no other humans, you know that I'll be
Your Zom, Zombie

Promise I'll be savage
And I won't stop until that brain is mine
Hunter you'll be dinner, chase you down until you're dead
Zom, Zombie

(Original lyrics by currently unknown songwriter, provided by

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Slow Moving Reptile (Essay About Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

“All the thoughts of a turtle are ‘turtle.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The turtle, in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, begins its unknown quest pulling itself from a dusty ditch, then getting sidewinded by a car and spinning around in a glibbering spinning ride. After this he is captured by the villainous Tom Joad and tied in the eternal binds of a heavy winter coat; he escapes and is captured again, this time with little hope of a final escape. But, in the end of his appearance, he is freed, and though briefly chased by a hungered orange cat, he continues on to his goal. At the end, he continues on his reptilian pursuit of the mysterious end.

The turtle’s adventure mirrors the journey of the Joad family through the Midwest. In the beginning the family rips themselves from the dusty land—just as the turtle pulled himself over the embankment. The family is then shocked—one could say sidewinded—by the heartlessness (and the heartless technology) of the world beyond their dust pits, just as the turtle was spun about by his own encounter with modern machinery.

Then, the family lived at two different styles of styles of camp—escaping from the first in the dead of night as the proper Law Enforcement agencies burnt the Red Hostel Camp to the rich Californian earth. The second camp held them tighter in communist grip than before as the darkly eternal philosophy of Karl Marx took its tool on the family and others at the camp. Surely this grip of the camps and its change of their philosophy directly relates to the captured turtle vainly attempting to escape (twice, no less) from the against-nature bonds of young Joad’s coat.

In the closing events of the novel, the Joad family escape from a raging flood that dashes the family; though the flood has, in some ways, the ability to end their lives, it does not because the family finds shelter in a barn. The turtles final events, find him chased by a cat, which he avoids by closing himself up In his scute shell. Consider the connection between cat and flood, both serve as a near life ending experience, yet are arrayed directly against each other for the simple reason that cats hate water.

Thus the turtle serves as a symbolic foreshadowing of the exploits of the Joad family. As to why Steinbeck included such a monstrosity, I can only think that he wished to earn the awards for his novel by adding in such blatant foreshadowing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Maddening Secret Cries of Lot 49: A Wold Newtonian Explanation

“That is not danger, it is inevitable destruction. You stand in the way not merely of an individual but of a mighty organization, the full extent of which you, with all of your cleverness have been unable to realize.” Professor Moriarty in “The Final Problem.”

The Crying of Lot 49 presents a problem for the Wold Newton researcher. It must logically be included in the universe due to crossovers found in the Nicholas Meyer Sherlock Holmes pastiche The Canary Trainer, the 1984 science fiction film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension , and the television series Angel. So clearly this novel must take place in the confines of the Wold Newton Universe—despite the drug fueled nature of the work.

THRUSHing out the Nine
The main thrust of Pyston’s novel is that a woman, Opedia Maass, uncovers a long lasting war between two secret societies of postal carriers: Thurn and Taxis, and Trystero. The war supposedly began sometime in the sixteen hundreds. For what we know of the Wold Newton Universe (Henceforth WNU) there were two combative groups in operation during this time frame.

In Philip José Farmer’s The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, the Eridaneans and Capelleans had been in a secret war that began sometime in the sixteen hundreds. The battle between them ended, supposedly, in 1872 when the last of the Capellean Old Ones was killed. This seems logical, until certain facts come to light. Professor James Moriarty was one of the higher agents of the Capellean hierarchy; most of Moriarty’s agents joined him in his later criminal pursuits; during his meeting with Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty stated that he was the head of a “mighty organization” that even the heights of Holmes’ “cleverness [was] unable to realize” (“The Final Problem”); all indications point that the Capellean organization remained at work though Moriarty’s reign.

What then? Surely at the Napoleon of Crime’s death the group ended. Not so, in The Man From UNCLE: The Dagger Affair, a novel by David McDaniel, the true history of THRUSH is recounted. Shortly, the terrorist organization THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) is the current face of the once Moriarty gang.

This is all well and dandy, you may say, but who in Hades were the Eridaneans? I believe they were the immortal Nine (from Farmer's Nine trilogy). During The Other Log of Phileas Fogg many references are dropped to immortality—just as are in the Nine trilogy, also by Philip Jose Farmer. (However, digging deeper into this theory goes far beyond the scope of this paper.)

I believe that Trystero—a representation of the chaotic subculture of the 1960s—is thinly veiled sub-division of THRUSH. Opposed to Trystero in its mission (to do what is never made clear in Pynchon’s novel) is Thurn and Taxis—a representation of the establishment. To continue the dynamic furthor: I propose for Other Logg, it seems likely that the “establishment” forces are, in truth, the Nine—secret rulers of the world. Thankfully, Pynchon seems to understand the evil of both groups, unlike many in the 1960s who built up THRUSH as the catalyst for the ultimate society (see “The Cap and Gown Affair” and my forthcoming article on THRUSH for full information).

The Ring of Thoth-Amon
During her investigations in chapter 4, Oedipa encountered the Alzheimer’s ridden Mr. Thoth. He gave her a “dull gold signet ring” engraved with the WASTE posthorn. In truth, this scene happened much as described. Only Mr. Thoth’s name was changed by Pynchon in order to give the careful reader a clue to the signet ring’s true nature. In the Robert E. Howard penned Conan the Barbarian novella “The Phoenix on the Sword” the enslaved Egyptian warlock Thoth-amon lusts after his lost ring, a thing with which he may free himself from his bonds, and in turn, enslave the world. “It was of a metal like copper, and was made in the form of a scaled serpent, coiled in three loops, with its tail in its mouth. Its eyes were yellow gems which glittered balefully.”

Admittedly, these two descriptions disagree on all counts except that the ring is of a yellowish metal. The reader may now make this objection to my statements: does not Lot 49 reference gold, while Phoenix references copper? The answer for this seeming dichotomy lies within the works of Plato. In his Critias, the dialogue where the legends of Atlantis originate, mentions how the sides of the city’s walls “flashed with the red light of orichalcum.” It is likely that Thoth-amon’s ring was, due to its great age even by the time of the prehistoric Conan stories, orichalcum. Some historians have theorized that the Atlantian metal was a gold copper alloy—this could possibly account for the ring’s seeming property change. The author takes this theory to be true.

A far more weighty matter is the shifting designs; the ring was a coiled snake with yellow gem eyes, to a plain ring with a muted posthorn. One passable idea is that over the many millennia the ring’s signature engravings were whittled away, but Robert E. Howard write a present-day set semi-sequel to Phoenix entitled “The Haunter of the Ring.” This story involves a man using the power of the ring in order to destroy the life of a former lover; the crux of the matter for us is that the ring remains true to the description from Phoenix. “Haunter of the Ring” was first published in 1934, leaving a thirty-two year gap between it and Lot 49; it seems unlikely that during that hiatus the ring’s engraving was filed down, though the possibility does exist.

I take the truth of the matter of the ring to be a combination of Howard and Pynchon. Oedipa did in fact receive the ring of Thoth-amon, as hinted by forcing the name “Mr. Thoth” upon the old man, and the ring did have the snake-line markings. However, “Mr. Thoth” was most likely an agent of THRUSH during his youth and had picked up the ring on a mission. Inside the orichalcum band he marked what he thought be the symbol of his masters. Perhaps he did this as a sign of adoration, or a warning against those who may discover the ring in the future. Whatever his intent, the influence of Alzheimer’s made him offer this trophy Oedipa Maass.

Dangerous Doctors
Dr. Hilarious is another issue. He is presented as a German mad scientist who was instrumental in devising ways to kill Jews by mental means. These included making faces that drove the watcher into a comatic madness. Clearly this cannot work in the real world, so another explanation is needed. The clue to Hilarious’ true identity is contained within Pynchon's express interest in one of the doctor's funny faces: the “Fu Manchu.”

In the 1950s, Atlas Comics (later Marvel Comics) published a short lived series entitled Yellow Claw. The main villain, the titular Yellow Claw, was a blatant a rip-off of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu. The creators made Yellow Claw so close to the then popular Devil Doctor that from my stand point the two characters can be used interchagiblely. (It also helps that the comic stories slip neatly into the Fu Manchu chronology. Scholar Dennis E. Power disagrees and theorizes that the Yellow Claw is a soul clone of Fu Manchu.)

Returning to “Dr. Hilarious,” in the first Yellow Claw story “The Coming of the Yellow Claw” the Yellow Claw forces the Nazi war criminal Fritz Voltzmann into his service. Volzmann is a liability: a complete believer in Nazi ideology—but he is a scientific genius of that comic book kind, that man capable of work in any cutting-edge fringe science.

The end point of Voltzmann’s service to the Yellow Claw was chronicled in the first issue of the comic book Agents of Atlas—where the German only appeared for a few panels. Yellow Claw escapes the incoming American forces, leaving Voltzmann to either die or be captured. (In one panel he is seen being tied up by one of the Americans, yet in the closing interior shot of the American plane, Voltzmann is nowhere to be seen. Since it’s highly likely Voltzmann would be executed for his actions from WW2 to the late 1950s, it seems that he took the chaos of the self-destructing base to escape.) His trail after this event becomes blurred. From the sources I have been able to locate, it seems that he returned to America and set up a successful (hallucinogenic drug fueled) psyologist office. After he seemingly lost his mind and went on a shooting spree, he disappeared. Perhaps the Israeli agents he screamed about were after him.

The inconclusive ending to The Crying of Lot 49 causes more questions. Was Oedipa insane? Exactly what was the goal of Trystero? Who was the unknown bidder? These questions will forever lack answers. But hopefully I have shed some light into darkened corners.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Alex Rider: Revolution (Immortal) 9

The fifth Alex Rider [1] novel, Scorpia, penned by Anthony Horowitz, is an odd book; the focus switches from a youthful James Bond pastiche to a darker form of conspiracy fiction. In any case, the teenaged MI6 operative quickly gets in over his head when he attempts to uncover the organization his father worked for: Scorpia. However, for the Farmer-fan this novel takes on new dimensions. The whole organization of Scorpia seems to be closely modeled off of PJF’s the Nine and, from a Wold Newton perspective, slides neatly into the Nine saga.

The ruling council of Scorpia consists of nine people from different nations: an old German, an Israeli, a Welsh, a Chinese and several of unknown nationalities. As readers of the Nine Trilogy remember, there were several Germanics on the council of the Nine, as well as an Israeli. [2]

During the discussion that follows, it is uncovered that this group prefers the firearms built by the FN company (the weapon of choice for the candidates of the Nine), and that “Only nine were left. One had died of cancer. Two had been murdered” (page 5). This statement fits nicely with the body count from the Nine Trilogy. Xauxaz died of extreme old age [3]; Mubaniga and Jiizfan died at the hands of Lord Grandrith. The death that runs counter to this theory is Iwaldi, a traitor to the Nine who had perfected an immortality drug that not only retarded aging, but caused the user to de-age to his physical prime. However, as stated, he was a traitor, making unlikely the Nine would count him as a member in their histories.

Later in the novel, Rider attempts to sneak into a several hundred year old castle [4] where Scorpia is holding a meeting of all its members. As Rider goes poking about back rooms, he comes upon a white Bengal Tiger in a richly furnished bed room. The animal attacks him until a guard comes in the room and flips a switch on a remote control. “And then the impossible happened….[the tiger] slumped and lay still on the floor....and then it was asleep, it’s stomach rising and falling, its eyes closed.” This devise as described in the novel is nearly identical to the invention from The Mad Goblin which made implanted animals into somewhat autonomous soldiers by alternatively stroking their brain’s anger or fear impulses with a radio-wave machine.

After several minor adventures, Alex Rider is inveigled into joining the organization in memory of his father. After which he is then carted off to an island school for assassinations. During his stay on this small Italian isle, two events of note take place. The first is that in one of the classes, all of the other students were learning a lesson about cigar boxes (for more on the use of cigars in the Nine, I direct my reader to Christopher Paul Carey’s article “The Green Eyes Have It—Or Are They Blue?” contained in Myths for the Modern Age, Monkey Brain Books, 2005).

The much more important event of note is Rider’s mental health examination by a Dr. Karl Steiner. Another Dr. Karl has quite an interesting history, but at the moment we are only concerned with two of his many cover identities. During the first world war, he posed as Baron Karl von Hessel, the captain of the prison camp Loki (in Farmer’s Escape from Loki, Bantam, 1992). There he was obsessed with finding a potion for immortality; ultimately his efforts were destroyed by a young Doc Savage. The second moment of interest is from the final Doc Savage novel Up from Earth’s Center, where Karl poses as a psychologist in order to fulfill his goals (for complete information on these two adventures of Doc Savage and a fuller account of Dr. Karl please again look to Carey’s “The Green Eyes Have It—Or Are They Blue”). It is my belief that both of these Dr. Karls are one and the same man.

During the examination, Dr. Karl injects Rider with what he calls a “vitamin boost,” an amber colored elixir of unknown effect. Later in the novel Rider suspects that he has been injected full of a nanotech soup intended to kill him—but why would an organization that has spent so much money and time to develop a boy into a skilled killer wish to murder him during an unrelated a terror attack on London? Far more likely he was injected with the same strain of elixir that caused insanity in both Caliban and Grandrith—as will be seen below.

Immediately following his “vitamin boost” Rider is sent to murder one of his bosses at MI6, something he attempts willingly, despite it going against his character. This echoes Doc Caliban’s sufferings from the immortality potion throughout A Feast Unknown. The injection did not affect Rider in the same extreme ways, but it must be remembered that he is a pubescent boy and probably would not be physically able to exhibit some of the symptoms. His talk with his boss right before he tries to kill her plays like an encore to the finale of Feast where Grandrith attempts to talk Caliban down.

He is captured by government agents and sleeps off the effect of wanting to kill his boss. Within the context of the novel, this makes no sense as he wanted to murder her out of a mixture of revenge and hate. But within the context of the Nine trilogy, this makes perfect sense. A wounded Caliban slept off the effects of the potion after a nervous break down.

The final item of note is the goal of Scorpia. According to Horowitz, Scorpia is under contract by a Middle Eastern sheik to decimate the school age population of England and, possibly, cause war between England and America in the fallout. This seems plausible, but it is troubling that aside from three mentions, two by Scorpia and one by a British agent, no one seems to mention or care about this backer. I find it more likely that Scorpia, aka the Nine, were themselves responsible for this. Consider what the Nine wanted during the events of Lord of the Trees/The Mad Goblin: to return the earth to its ancient population levels. What better way to do this than start wars between two major countries?

Alex Rider was successful in his bid to end this Nine threat. After a lengthy recuperation from the mental and physical tortures of this mission he was forced into a return match against the Nine—thus time against their deadliest member: the immortal Dr. Fu Manchu. However, this battle goes far beyond the scope of this essay. (For complete information, please see my forthcoming article on the Alex Rider series.)

The ultimate question asked of this article is, did Anthony Horowitz knowing include all these seeming references to the Nine trilogy in homage to Philip José Farmer? This I leave for the reader to decide.

[1] It is worth noting that the Alex Rider series is filled with hints that it not only takes place within the same universe as the James Bond novels but that Rider is the grandson of James Bond by Honeychile Rider (the Bond girl from Doctor No). In The Man With the Golden Gun, Bond notes that Honeychile had twins some years before with a doctor from Philadelphia. Alex Rider’s father and his brother were twins. Two objections to this theory exist. The first is that the twins would have the same last name as Honey’s husband; this possibly resolved in Pearson’s Authorized Biography of 007 when Honey states that she is divorced, thus we may assume that her children took up the RIder name. The second objection is the question of whether Bond could have fathered the twins before Honey married and still leave her husband thinking the children are his own. Considering that Bond was going to take Honey to see an American doctor to fix her broken nose at the end of Doctor No, it is possible that she could have had a whirlwind romance and been married inside of a month.

Please see my forthcoming article on the Alex Rider series for a complete listing of the hints within the Alex Rider novels about Bond.

[2] Strangely, the Israeli wears an eye patch; the novel notes that he “accidentally” shot his eye out with his FN pistol. Perhaps with the death of Xauxaz in A Feast Unknown a new symbolic Odin was needed for the religious rights of the Nine.

[3] Death by old age is no longer recognized as a cause of death in the United States because there is always some deeper cause. It is possible that Xauxaz did die of cancer.

[4] It is worth noting that the castle was lit by candle power, perhaps they were used in place of torches to pass the immortality drug to the candidates. See Christopher Paul Carey’s “The Green Eyes Have it—or Are They Blue” (Myths for the Modern Age, 2004) for more information.

James Bojaciuk

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--Stieg Larsson

I've given into the best-selling craze and read the first of Larrsson's mystery thrillers (Of course this had nothing to do with the fact that Amazon offered the book for a total of five dollars); Well I can't truly say if I loved it or loathed it.

The main set-up for the novel is the best materials for a locked room mystery I've seen; in Sweden there is an island owned by the billionaire Vanger family. The teenaged daughter disappeared during a time where nearly everyone on the island was attempting to clear the only possible exit from the island. Clearly, she had to have been murdered. The body was never found.

Larsson carefully builds two protagonists that meet my two critia for fictional characters, they feel real and I cared about what happened to them. But, they were both disgusting human beings.

This all said, the book has problems; the mystery isn't truly resolved. Near the end of the book, Larsson just pulls a solution out of the ether that just doesn't gel correctly with what we know. This is a pity, since all the building clues pointed in a beautifully devious solution to the case.

The other problem with the novel is the heavy sexual violence. It can be handled well (like in Eckert's The Evil in Pemberley House) or badly, like this. While reading what all happened to Lisbeth Salander, and on a different level the events missing Vanger girl was a part of, it never feels like Larsson cares about the characters and is having a good ol' time putting the poor girls though several rapes (making it worse is that Salander is slightly retarded). Perhaps I'm not stating clearly what exactly disturbs me about this; it's not just that he's having fun, it feels like Larsson is getting a sexual high of the misfortunes of his female characters. And that's just wrong.

Still, for pure page turning ability, I do give the novel points. I was hooked reading from the first page to the end.

Final Rating: B+

Wold Newton: Nothing that can be stated without research; but it seems this novel brings to light a slight interaction between THRUSH and the immortal Nine.

James Bojaciuk

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: The Quest for Bowie's Blade--J.T. Edson (The Old West Maltese Falcon)

This was the first J.T. Edson book I've had the pleasure to read. It had a nice, well flowing plot that I could easily see filmed as an hour long 1960s TV western.

The main thrust of the novel is the maneuverings of different (usually villainous) parties to recover Jim Bowie's knife. The knife supposedly holds the map to a crashed meteor.

One thing I enjoyed was the influence Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon played on the plot. Charles X. Guilemont blunders around like a French Casper Gutman; his sidekick, a female crook, plays in Cario role (I can't help but think that making the assistant a woman was a reference to the sexuality of Cario). In addition, the Ysabel Kid's parner is shot in the opening pages of the novel! All of these similarities could be chance(there could be more since it's been a long time since I've read Falcon), except that in the final pages of the novel, Guilemont announces that he is going to "locat[e]...a statuette of a falcon, is made of solid gold and encrusted with the finest jewels to be looted from the crusades. It's value, sir, in the right circles, is immense." For any too dense to pick up on the connection, there is a helpful footnote pointing the reader to The Maltese Falcon for more information.

Despite this somewhat glowing review I have to point out an oddity that docks the book quite a few points. In the second to last chapter, the Ysabel Kid and Guilemont head off to see if they can locate the Bowie Knife again. So, while waiting the two girls go down to the beach and have a ultra-violent bloody brawl. Since there are several mentions of ripped clothes and bared bosoms I guess this is supposed to be sexy--rather it just leaves the read confused as to What The Heck that was all about.

Wold Newton: Nothing much, there's a reference to the Maltese Falcon, as noted, and Guilemont works for James Moriarty--aside from these, the novel is a complete stand alone.

Final rating: B-
(B+ without the cat fight.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Philip Jose Farmer Reprints that Will, Sadly, Never Exist

Something I've wanted for a very long time is a three volume, leather bound, complete reprint of all the Wold Newton works by Philip Jose Farmer. In all likelyhood, this will never happen. Not only do legal rights hold some of his works from (perhaps ever) being reprinted, the cost of production alone reduces this to the dreams of Never-Never Land.

Still, since I had a few free minutes, I mapped out my ideal contents for each volume.

Volume 1: The Tarzan volume

Tarzan Alive
“An Exclusive Interview with Lord Greystoke”
“Extracts from the Memoirs of Lord Greystoke”
Time’s Last Gift
Hadon of Ancient Opar
Flight to Opar
“The Arms of Tarzan”
“A Reply to ‘The Red Herring’ “
“The Great Korak-Time Discrepancy”
“The Lord Mountford Mystery”
“From ERB to YGG”
“A Language for Opar”
Tarzan: The Dark Heart of Time

In setting this volume's contents up, I tried to place them in thematic sense. So it begins with the biography Tarzan Alive, and seges into the two smaller works that make up, more or less, extra addendums to the biography. After that, the reader is treated to the book-length prologue and first two tomes of the sadly uncompleted Khokarsa series. After that, PJF's sundry artcles on Tarzanic topics, including his inventive geneology of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lastly, Phil's only true Tarzan novel Dark Heart of Time is reprinted to bookend the volume.

Volume 2: The Doc Savage volume

Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life
“Jongor in the Wold Newton Universe”
Escape from Loki
“Doc Savage and the Cult of the Blue God”
“After King Kong Fell”
“Savage Shadow”
“Down to Earth’s Centre”
“The Freshman”
“The Last Rise of Nick Adams”
Greatheart Silver
“The Volcano”
A Barnstormer in Oz

This volume stands in honor of the Man of Bronze; hitting readers first is Phil's biography of Doc and his aides, followed up by an abandoned geneological entry that brings another jungle lord to the Wold Newton family. Doc then escapes from a WWI prison camp in his first adventure. Following this is a screen treatment from a sequel to the George Pal Savage film, the true story of King Kong, and a parody of Doc by The Shadow author "Maxwell Grant." Doc battles demons from Hell, and in Ironcastle a friend of his father uncovers an alien country in the heart of Africa. After this last Doc Savage related tale, several more pulp fiction homage tales come, where Lovecraft, Hemingway, (Rex) Stout, and, in Greatheart Silver's case, every known pulp hero are given the Farmerian treatment. Tying up the volume is Phil's novel homage to the land of Oz.

Volume 3: Sherlock Holmes and the Nine Trilogy

The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
The Adventure of the Peerless Peer
“The Adventure of the Three Madmen”
“The Problem of Sore Bridge—Among Others”
“The Two Lord Ruftons”
“A Scarletin Study”
“The Doge Whose Baroque was worse than His Bight.”
"Who Stole Stonehenge" (fragment and outline)
“Jonathan Swift Somers III, Cosmic Traveller in a Wheelchair”
Venus on the Half-Shell
“The Obscure Life and Hard Times of Kilgore Trout”
A Feast Unknown
Lord of the Trees
The Mad Goblin
“The Monster on Hold”

This final volume opens with Phil's homage to Victorian fiction, before rushing though Holmes' meetings with Tarzan, Mowgli, and Raffles. An essay on the connections between Conan Doyle's different series is followed by the adventures of Ralph von Wau Wau--pity the cannine detective didn't have more stories devoted to him. A quick spin though the works of Kurt Vonnegut is followed by the grand finale of the works. The titanic Nine series, which managed to fit nearly all of Phil's obsessions into three novels and one fragment. (The only thing oddly missing is an air-ship.)

James Bojaciuk

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Planetary Annotations--"Strange Harbours" (Issue Four)

Theme: Captain Marvel

Quick Summary: Jim Wilder, private investigator for the Hark Corporation, chases a mugger though ground zero of a bomb blast that Planetary is also investigating. He makes contact with a artifact uncovered in the blast and is teleported to a pluriverse traversing ship. Wilder is augmented with alien technology, and agrees to find six other people willing to help him return the ship to its home universe.

Opening Line: "It was like Satan farted, that's what it was like."

Page 3, panel 3: “The Snowflake” is the representation of the pluriverse from issue one.

Page 10: Note the lightening bolt motif. Also, a gray alien is in the lower corner of the far right golden pillar.

Page 11: This is my favorite dialogue from the entire series.

Page 12: Doc Brass is glaring at Wilder because the “ship” he contacted was one of the foes the pulp heroes encountered. See issue five for slightly more information.

Page 13, panel 4: Again note the Captain Marvel-type lightening bolt motif.

Page 14, panel 1: Again, the snowflake reappears.

Page 17, panel 1: The number seven is reference to Captain Marvel’s transformative battle cry: “Shazam.” Which stood for:
Issue Four: “Strange Harbours”

Page 3, panel 3: “The Snowflake” is the representation of the pluriverse from issue one.

Page 10: Note the lightening bolt motif. Also, a gray alien is in the lower corner of the far right golden pillar.

Page 11: This is my favorite dialogue from the entire series.

Page 12: Doc Brass is glaring at Wilder because the “ship” he contacted was one of the foes the pulp heroes encountered. See issue five for slightly more information.

Page 13, panel 4: Again note the Captain Marvel-type lightening bolt motif.

Page 14, panel 1: Again, the snowflake reappears.

Page 17, panel 1: The number seven is reference to Captain Marvel’s transformative battle cry: “Shazam.” Which stood for:
S: The wisdom of Solomon.
H: The strength of Hercules.
A: The stamina of Atlas.
Z: The power of Zeus.
A: The courage of Achilles.
M: The speed of Mercury.

I can’t help but feel that the close relationship of the crew is a reference to the concept of the Marvel Family.

Page 18: panel 3: This outfit is mostly a pallet swap of Captain Marvel’s costume.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Planetary Annotations--"Dead Gunfighters" (Issue Three)

This--along with the next issue--is going to be the shortest of my annotations. Also the next two weeks will have no Wold Newton Apologia. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programing

Theme: Chinese Action Flicks

Quick Summary: The Planetary team finds a ghost cop gunning down mobsters in Hong Kong.

Opening Line: Ah. Money to make, drugs to take, whores to kill. Hong Kong is so good to me."


Page 3, panel 1: The signs say “RHS” and “Kent,” I don’t know what, if any, significance they hold.

Page 9, panel 4: “Weekly World News” was a tongue in cheek newspaper that had such headlines as “Hillbillies Shoot Angel” or “I was Bigfoot’s Love Slave.” The complete run can be read at Google Books.

Page 14: The structure of this thing is similar to the reality ship from Issue 4: “Strange Harbours”

Page 16, panel 1: “196,833” is the number that of universe that exist, according to Doc Brass.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Planetary Annotations--Island (Issue Two)

Theme: The early Godzilla films.

Quick Summary: The Planetary field team goes to Japan to attempt to rescue a group of Japanese cultists from Zero Island, the place where all the Godzilla type monsters originated from. The cultists are die during a confrontation with international guards placed on the isle to prevent people from discovering the giant bodies.

Opening Line: “It does us good to have our genitals frozen into small blue dead things.”


Pages4-5: This is the Kaiju, Mothra, from the Godzilla film series.

Page 6, panel 1: Three pop culture items are advertised on the electric signs. The apple is of course for Apple Computers, the “Zard” sign refers to the Japanese pop group, and the triple eyed smiley-face is from Warren Ellis’ comic series Transmetropolitan.
(It was also used as the symbol of the 2001 sci-fi film Evolution.)

Page 7: panel 3: Shinya has a Ninja action figure on his speakers. The ninja is, of course, one of the most prominent pop cultural symbols of Japan. (To foreigners like me, at anyrate.)

Page 9: panel 5: Both Shinya and Master Storyteller smoke Marlboros.

Page 10: panels 2-3: The Drummer is playing with a Game Boy Camera—a state of the art toy in 1999.

Page 10, panel 3: Aum Shin Ryko (Properly called “Aum Shinriko”) is a Japanese death cult that made a toxic attack on Japanese subways in 1995.

Page 11, panel 1: This is the Skelton of the kaiju King Ghidorah, the archenemy of Godzilla. (It is often named “Monster Zero,” perhaps this is the origin of the issue’s title.)

Page 12, panel 3: Note that Snow stole these cigarettes from Shinya. See page 9, panel 5.

Page 14, panel 3: This is Godzilla. King of the Monsters. Right now he is very dead.

Page 17, panel 2: Here Jakita shows another one of the Golden Age Superman powers: enhanced speed. (Faster Than a Speeding Bullet.)

Panel 4: The Zero Island guards carry WW2 era German MP40s. Perhaps this has something to do with the Nazi-Science left-overs that the Four started with. (See issue six, “4”)

Page 20, panel 2: The bright light was probably an extra-universal snow flake, much like the thing encountered by the pulp heroes earlier in 1945.

Page 22, panel 1: This is Rodan, the pterodactyl type creature from the Godzilla movies. He is the last survivor of Monster Island.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Planetary Wold Newton Apologia--"All Over the World"

"The Spider versus The Scorpion"

In 1943, The Spider magazine ceased publication, leaving a question as to what happened to the most blood thirsty of the pulp heroes.
The question was first given attention in the afterward of “A Look at the Wimsey Family” by Mark Brown. The theory put forth is that The Spider disappeared on a secret WWII mission in 1943.
But the truth is much darker. I assume that Jess Nevin’s theory on the identity of “The Scorpion” is based off of the costume differences from the character in Planetary and Page’s Spider. I, for one, cannot find any reason preventing Scorpion from being Spider.*
The Spider joined up with Doc Brass (James Anthony) to create the perfect world—a land, presumably, without the world-wreckers he encountered on a daily basis. As we know from “All Over the World,” the plan failed.

* One exception exists. In the novel Invisible Death, by Lin Carter, the protagonist briefly meets a man named "Wentworth" who is engaged to a miss Nita Van Sloan. Perhaps

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Planetary Annotations--All Over the World (Issue One)

Issue One “All Over the World”

Theme: The 1930s pulp heroes.

Quick summary: Elijah Snow is a grumpy one hundred year old man who gets pulled away from his wilderness shack to consult for the organization Planetary. There he meets his teammates Jakita Wagner and The Drummer, and is sent out to a secret bunker in the Adirondacks. This bunker was used as a secret base by analogues of the pulp heroes. In 1945 they attempted to run a system that would turn Earth into a perfect planet, but their attempts were stopped by an alternate universe’s Justice League.

Opening Line: "Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it."


Page 7, panel 2: The Drummer is drinking Whak Cola. “Whak” is probably a reference to the slang word “wacko,” as in The Drummer is out of his mind.

Page 7, panels 3 and 4: Note that the New York skyline is photographs. Something Jack Kirby often did in his later work.

Page 8, panel 3: Instead of typing, Drummer communicates with the computer by tapping on it with his drumsticks. Also note the little plastic frog head atop his machine. Is it supposed to be Kermit the Frog?

Page 10, panel 2: The drummer is communicating with the helicopter. Why?

Page 11, panels 2 and 3: here and through the rest of the series Jakita has the powers and temperament of Golden Age Superman. Considering what we learn of her parentage, it seems unlike that Superman had any influence on her. Though this could be Ellis’ playing with Golden Age superhero tropes. (Here Jakita jumps from a helicopter, and states that she probably could kick a rhino across the Grand Canyon.)

Page 12, panel 2: “The Vulcania Raven God” is probably a reference to all of the Lovecraftian horrors that stalked the 1930s.

Page 12, panel 3: “The Hull of the Charnel Ship” ties forward to issue 4, “Strange Harbours.” The second display case reads “Vestiments of the Black Crow King,“ I have no idea what this refers to. The third case: “The Murder Colonels” seem to be Ellis’ attempt to create a generic pulp villain.

Page 13, panel 1: This is Doc Alex Brass, the Planetary analogue for the pulp hero Doc Savage.

Page 14: The seating arrangement of the room is a morality index of the pulp heroes. Hark, the Fu Manchu analogue, and The Spider[1], analogue of The Spider, are the darkest men in the room. Neither would hesitate to brutally kill any who opposed them. Next two are Jimmy, Operator #5, and Lord Blackstock, Tarzan. Neither goes out of his way to kill, but they (sometimes) enjoy it more than they should. On The third tier we have Edison, Tom Swift, and the Pilot, G-8. I don’t think that Tom Swift ever killed anyone, and G-8 can be excused for his killings since they all happened during the course of the First World War. Lastly, we have Doc himself. In the pulps Savage rarely killed anyone, preferring to have them sent to his Crime College where the criminals could be lobotomized into model citizens.
However, there is another more simple explanation for the seating. Fu Manchu and The Spider took their personal wars seriously, never enjoying themselves; unless that enjoyment was found in torturing an enemy. Tarzan and Operator #5 had fun in their adventuring on occasion, but were mostly grim. G-8 and Tom Swift lived for the fun of action, the adrenalin rush of combat with evil. And then, Doc Savage; despite his high morals, he readily admitted through all his pulp novels that he adventured for the pure fun of it. While unlikely, there is a certain charm to this explanation.

Page 16, panel 1: The “computer” that Brass is working on seems very similar to the Blue Lantern technology from issue 10, “Magic and Loss.”

Page 17: This is the first full appearance of the “snowflake,” a representation of the multiverse. As for “196,833”; this is the “Monster” number. For more information, see here:

Page 22: The invaders are analogues of the Justice League. Starting at the top and running clockwise, they represent: Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.
Page 23: Note that in the fight parings, Ellis is comparing the pulp heroes to their descendants, the superheroes. Doc Savage and Superman, the ultimate men, battle. The Spider and Batman, the terror shades of the night. Tarzan and Wonder Woman, those who were born in a more savage state. Hark battles Martian Manhunter in a battle of foreigners. (During the 1930s, China and Mars might as well have been the same distance for the normal person.) Edison takes on Flash, scientist versus scientist. Perhaps G-8 is fighting against the Green Lantern analogue as both were pilots.
The rest are less clear. I’m not quite sure why Operator #5 was killed by Wonder Woman, or why G-8 is killed by the Aquaman analogue.

Page 25, panel 1: The cargo of the third helicopter is possibly explosives, as seen in issue 18, “The Gun Club.”

Panel 4: The motto of the Planetary series is spoken for the first time. “It’s a strange world.” “Let’s keep it that way.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planetary Wold Newton Apologia--"Nuclear Spring"

This will be one of the shortest of the Wold Newton Universe (WNU) apologia entries, as there is so little to "fix" in order to let it slip into the small superhero corner of the Wold Newton Universe.

Right now, I am willing to take this as the more-or-less true account of the WNU Incredible Hulk, with three exceptions.

A) Bruce Banner (called David Paine in Planetary for legal reasons) was baithed in extra-universial energy saving a teenage boy, not the wife of General Ross.

B) The Hulk could change back into Banner from Hulk mode. While I disagree with Dennis E. Power's theory that Banner was some sort of lycanthrop, I agree whole heartedly that he is a desendant of Mr. Hyde.

C) The Hulk was finally captured by the American government in 1983 and left at the bottom of a deep shaft--he died ten years later in 1993.

James Bojaciuk

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Planetary Annotations--Nuclear Spring (Preview Issue)

Preview Issue: “Nuclear Spring”

Theme: The Incredible Hulk

Quick Summary: The Planetary team breaks into a secret government base where an aged general tells them the Planetary Universe version of the Incredible Hulk story.

Opening Line: "You come on in, boys. Have a drink on me. Been a long day."


Page 4, panel 1: The general seems to be overly green, his shirt, eyes, and skin all sharing in this tone. Perhaps this is a reflection of his hatred of David Paine.

Panel 2: It’s stated the experiment took place in 1962, this was the year the first issue of The Incredible Hulk hit the news stands.

Panel 4: The general makes mention of “integral series” bombs; then in the next panel notes that the bomb is also a computer. This relates to the mathematical Integral Test for Convergence. This test is used to find if a series of positive numbers are convergent. Perhaps this “convergence” relates to Planetary’s theme of attempting to break and analyze the veil between universes.

Page 5, panel 1: Paine was trying to “monkey” with the “machinery of the universe.” The result of the bomb, had it been successful would be more or less to replace the matter from Universe A with matter from Universe B; or as we see, take the matter from Universe A and combine it on the atomic level with matter from Universe B.

Panel 4: Paine called his device a “quantum box,” a theory more popularlly known as Schrodinger’s cat. This means in the context of the story that Paine doesn’t know what the result of the bomb blast will be since because of the bomb’s nature all possible states exist within the affected matter until it is observed.

Page 8, panel 1: This is the battlefield where the US army combated Planetary’s Hulk analogue. The way the general talks it seems that this battle happened shortly after Paine was blasted with the universal matter swap. But note the wreckage in the upper left corner. It is an Apache Helicopter, a piece of equipment that was not introduced to the army until 1984. In fact the first test flight was in 1975.
Surely you must be thinking that this is a simple error I uncovered, but I don’t think it is so simple. With any other comic series I would agree—a simple lapse on the part of Cassaday—but here, with the level of interconnectiveness and continuity, I can only assume that a later date during the 1980s is being hinted at.

Panel 4: “He finally died. In nineteen eighty three.” 1983 saw a story line where Bruce Banner’s mind took full control of the Hulk. This is most likely Ellis’ comment that the Hulk comics ran out of story lines there.

Planetary Annotations--Introduction

Up to this point, no one has annotated the comic series Planetary—aside from one abortive and cluttered attempt by a college professor. (You can find his work, some of which I do adapt, at

So I’ve taken up the job of searching every panel of Cassaday’s art for material worthy of comment. And since he’s a detail guy, and Warren Ellis adds so much to script, there is a lot of stuff to find—so keep watch.

The schedule for these posts will be an annotation of an issue on each Saturday. On Sunday, if applicable, I will post an apologia on how that issue of Planetary fits into the Wold Newton Universe.

Next: Nuclear Spring Annotation

James Bojaciuk