Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The Master Plan of Doctor Doom (2017) Reprints Fantastic Four #19-32, Annual #1-2 Written by Stan Lee Art by Jack Kirby
This collection continues laying the foundation of what the Marvel Universe would become. When Fantastic Four #19 was published in July of 1963, what did the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe look like? Amazing Spider-Man #5 just dropped, which pits him against Doctor Doom. Strange Tales spotlights the solo adventures of the Human Torch, with Doctor Strange making his debut as a back-up feature. Tales of Suspense is just a few issues into its Iron Man run, and he’s facing off against the Crimson Dynamo. Journey Into Mystery is about the ongoing adventures of The Mighty Thor. Nick Fury’s World War II-era stories are being told in his comic. Tales to Astonish continues its run of Ant-Man & The Wasp. The Avengers and The X-Men had their first issue debuts in July 1963. Beyond that, Marvel is still publishing plenty of romance and Western books from Millie the Model to Patsy Walker, The Rawhide Kid and The Two-Gun Kid. Captain America is still on ice somewhere in the Arctic Circle. In this next phase of Marvel, the cohesive shared universe begins to become a thing, and the Fantastic Four binds it all together.
Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine (2014) Reprints Fantastic Four #1-18 Written by Stan Lee Art by Jack Kirby
I’m not quite sure what Marvel Comics is anymore these days. They have gone all-in on making their books just variants of variants at this point. There’s the stable of adjectives they slap on books that don’t mean much (Uncanny, Astonishing, Immortal is one now with the upcoming Immortal Thor). There’s also the spamming of popular IPs with Spider-Man, Venom, Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider, and Miles Morales being used in multiple comics a month in a way that I think is less about storytelling and more about keeping brands in front of the consumers at all times. While comics have always been a business about finding ways to keep people handing over their money for another monthly installment, in the “old days,” there was a certain freshness & creativity to it. These were comics being dreamed up by weirdos who had yet to determine if they would be popular with a big enough audience to make them economical.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962) Written by Eugene O’Neill Directed by Sidney Lumet
There are some pieces of art that, when you finally experience them, you know you’ve seen or read, or heard something that will resonate through centuries. I had never read a word of Eugene O’Neill, but I knew a bit about him and that he’d written this play and The Iceman Cometh, among others. I could have told you this was about a family of four people. That was where my knowledge stopped. I knew this would have to be a part of this series on film adaptations of American theater, and now I understand why it had to be. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is among the best I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about the entire scale of art in general. This movie connected with me in a way a lot of contemporary cinema fails to over & over again. I credit that to the bravery of O’Neill in writing genuinely human characters. Everyone is a villain here, everyone is a hero, and everyone’s a victim, and in this way, it mirrors all our lives.
A Raisin in the Sun (1961) Written by Lorraine Hansberry Directed by Daniel Petrie
The history of Black people in America is a roller coaster of emotions. That’s being said by someone who can only speak about it from an outside perspective. I’m white, so I know I’ll never fully comprehend what it means to be Black in that nation. I can say that the popular perception of the struggle for Civil Rights is entirely out of whack, at least in the white circles I lived & worked inside of in Tennessee. There’s this penchant to view these things as the “ancient past” when the brutality to hold onto segregation happened during my parents & grandparents’ lifetimes. There’s an anxiety in the white mind that leads to statements like “stop living in the past,” never mind the Southern obsession with the Confederacy, and wanting to cherish its insipid ideology. The telling of the past that doesn’t seek to soothe & fantasize about history is what people bristle at. It’s simply the truth; horrible things happened in the past, and a thread running through reality connects to the present day.
The Enterprise Incident (S03E02) Original air date: September 27, 1968 Written by D.C. Fontana Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
The paradox of making good television: You need to make the episodes as high quality to attract viewers, but you have to make sure you can cut costs at the drop of a hat when the studio executives demand it, but if you lose viewers as a result, you will need to make more cuts as advertisers go, but if you can’t do that your show gets moved around the schedule which means you lose more viewers because they cannot find you. This curse plagued Star Trek going into its third season, relegated to the “death slot” of 10 pm Eastern on Fridays. As a result, Season Three has fewer great episodes than Season Two, and even this season’s strongest episodes don’t match up. However, there are some worth watching.
Amok Time (S02E01) Original air date: September 15, 1967 Written by Theodore Sturgeon Directed by Joseph Pevney
By the end of Star Trek Season One, the audience had come to a realization: Spock was fucking cool. Another person also realized this, Leonard Nimoy. The actor realized his role as Spock held just as much importance in each episode as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and demanded a pay increase. He got it. Desilu Studios, who produced Star Trek, did hire a backup actor just in case Nimoy walked. Amok Time features that actor Lawrence Montaigne as Stonn. This is also the season two premiere and the first & only episode of the original series to bring the crew to Vulcan. We dig deep into their culture as Spock experiences a critical time in every Vulcan’s life: Pon farr.
The Graduate (1967) Written by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry Directed by Mike Nichols
It’s incredible how some movies have remained as relevant as they were when they were first released. The Graduate is a movie straight out of the ennui of 1960s youth culture, but it’s far more nuanced than that. Roger Ebert’s reading of the film on its original release was to empathize with its protagonist. Thirty years later, he retracted many of his comments to say how his sympathies had shifted to the older woman he has a tryst with, how she is the character the audience is meant to feel heartbreak for. The Graduate is a movie with no heroes or villains, simply people existing, making choices, and never truly knowing if the choices they make are the right ones or not.
Balance of Terror (S1E14) Original air date: December 15, 1966 Written by Paul Schneider Directed by Vincent McEveety
Balance of Terror marks the first appearance of the Romulans and surprised me in many ways. This is not one of my favorites, but it is a solid standard Star Trek episode with exciting twists. The first is that no Federation member has ever seen a Romulan. I’m not big on detailed Star Trek lore, so this was my first time learning about the brutal nuclear conflict between these powers, which happened without either side ever seeing someone from the other. This is even more surprising because the Romulans look nearly identical to the Vulcans. I had been under the impression the Vulcan-Romulan connection was something known for centuries, but it’s within the context of Star Trek that it is even discovered.
A Shot in the Dark (1964) Written by Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty Directed by Blake Edwards
By 1964, British actor Peter Sellers was a well-known name in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world due to his appearance as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in 1963’s The Pink Panther. Previously, Sellers had built a career starting as a member of The Goon Squad on British radio and then as an actor, most prominently in Lolita for Stanley Kubrick. At the start of 1964, audiences were shown Sellers’ full range of abilities in Dr. Strangelove, and at the end of that same year, got A Shot in the Dark. Clouseau was a populist character, a mockery of the police that gave the audience laughs over his pompous buffoonery. That’s the core conceit of the character is that he is an idiot who carries himself with unearned confidence and, when he is proven inept time and time again, persists in his methods. He is the perfect parody of a police officer. Filmmaker Blake Edwards wanted to keep the Clouseau money machine going, so he, along with William Peter Blatty (yes, the author of The Exorcist), adapted a French play about a stupid detective investigating a murder and simply made it Clouseau.
There is absolutely no need for me to introduce Star Trek to you. Instead, I will share my connection with the series. I have never been anywhere close to a Trekkie, but I grew up appreciating many nerdy things as a nerdy guy. I regularly watched reruns of the original series that aired on our local Fox affiliate in Tennessee in the late 1980s/early 1990s. They were part of that late afternoon/early evening block of old shows. I loved the movies featuring the original crew, with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock being my favorite for some reason that eludes me. I’ve rewatched it in the last few years, and it does not hold up. In late 2019, Ariana and I watched the thirty highest-rated episodes on IMDb of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a lot of fun and her first time ever watching any of the series. In the same way, this was her first time watching the original Star Trek, and part of my enjoyment was seeing her reactions to things I knew were coming. So starting this Sunday and continuing through every Sunday in March, I will share my reviews of the episodes we watched.