Monday, May 30, 2016

Perils Of Nyoka (1942)

The 1942 serial "Perils of Nyoka" (Re-released under the title "Nyoka and the Tigermen") is a sequel to the 1941 serial "Jungle Girl".  Sort of.  Except for the part were it really isn't a sequel at all.

This serial stars Kay Aldridge as Nyoka GORDON, whereas Jungle Girl featured Frances Gifford as Nyoka MEREDITH.  Nyoka Meredith's father Dr. John Meredith was murdered in chapter 1 of "Jungle Girl", and "Perils of Nyoka" concerns Nyoka Gordon's search for her father Dr. Henry Gordon.  Nyoka Meredith swings around on vines, and Nyoka Gordon hangs out in the desert with her friendly native Bedouin buddies.  Get the picture?

But "Perils Of Nyoka" is a sequel in spirit.  This serial has plenty on globe trotting adventure, treasure hunting, and death traps.  And for those of us who are fans of people wearing gorilla costumes, Queen Vultura's pet ape Satan appears in almost every chapter.  Some people think that "Perils" is actually a better serial than "Jungle Girl".  I personally prefer Jungle Girl, but "Perils" is in my top 5 favorite cliffhangers.

So.  What's so great about "Perils of Nyoka?"

The Music.  This may be odd thing to talk about in a review of this sort, but I love the opening theme.  In my opinion "Perils" has the best music of any cliffhanger serial.

The Villains.  Queen Vultura is up there with great serial villains like Ming the Merciless and Fu Manchu.  Visually she is memorable, and, dare I say iconic?  She assassinates people with her poison ring, she masquerades first as Nyoka and later as a native sun goddess, and she has a legion of arabs and her afore mentioned pet gorilla at her command.  Actress Lorna Gray has also appeared as the heroine in serials such as Captain America (1944) and Daughter of Don Q (1946) but she really shines as this native Femme Fatale.

The Action.  While most serials have a brawling fistfight every chapter in which the heroes break all the  furniture in a room, this serial shakes it up with a swashbuckling swordfight in chapter 1.  We also get breaking suspension bridges, spike traps, human sacrifice, ect. ect.  My favorite chapter endings include a pit-and-the-pendulum style sacrificial altar, where the altar lifts to meet the pendulum rather than the pendulum descending, and a trap where cave winds threaten to blow our heroes out of a tunnel and over the edge of a cliff.

Why do I feel this serial is slightly weaker that "Jungle Girl?"

Our Heroine.  This Nyoka doesn't lead the action the same way Nyoka Meredith did in "Jungle Girl".  She gets knocked out pretty much every time she's in a fight, and is rescued by her boyfriend Larry (Played by the future Lone Ranger Clayton Moore) or her dog Fang, far more often than she escapes herself or bails out the guys when they get into trouble.

Fang is basically like Lassie in this story, to the point where are Nyoka is constantly locking the helpful canine in his cage or tying off his leash just so she can get into trouble easier!

The Globe Trotting.  Yep, one of the things that makes this serial great is also one of the things that weakens it.  After awhile all the trap filled lost temples our heroes need to explore in order to find the next clue on their treasure hunt start to feel a little redundant.  And then in the final chapter their quest takes them right back to where they started.  So, all of that traveling feels a little pointless.  Would it have helped if this serial was 12 chapters instead of 15?  Maybe.

But those aren't good reasons to NOT watch this serial.  If you love a good action adventure romp, go check this out ASAP.

Fawcett Comics published an adaption of this serial, which led to the Golden Age comic series "Nyoka the Jungle Girl".  Most of these comics are now public domain and can be read for free here.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Perils of Nyoka (Fan Art)

It's been awhile since I've done any Fan Art (and all the old artwork I posted on this blog makes me cringe now). Since my blog description includes Fan Art I decided it was high time I did some.

Here's a digital drawing I made of Nyoka Gordon, the evil Queen Vultura, and Satan the Gorilla from the 1942 cliffhanger serial "Perils of Nyoka" aka "Nyoka and the Tigermen."

You can expect a review of Perils of Nyoka sometime in the near future.  It the meantime, if you have any Fan Art Requests, leave them in the comments!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Thoughts on the MacGyver Reboot Trailer


CBS is rebooting MacGyver.

They just released a Trailer last week.

I mentioned this in an earlier post: MacGyver was one of my childhood heroes.  As such I have mixed feelings about the whole reboot thing.  But I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Richard Dean Anderson played Mac for seven seasons.  The newcomer, Lucas Till, has seven years worth of RDA's shadow to overcome.  And a haircut that looks like Harry Styles from One Direction.  The Richard Dean Anderson mullet was awesome.  Why does the MacGyver of the 21st century look like he belongs in a boy band?  Hopefully Lucas Till will either get a new stylist, or wear a ponytail for most of the show.  I could live with the ponytail.

I don't have a problem with the actor Lucas Till.  True, I've only seen him in X-men: First Class, but I thought he was good in that movie.

Original series creator Lee David Zlotoff is involved in the new series to some degree, so that's promising.

So, aside from the hair, what are some concerns I have about the show?

Target audience.  If this show is aimed at original fans or people who grew up with it because their parents liked it, well, reboot MacGyver will have to bend over backwards to appease these fans.  If it's aimed primarily at a new audience, that's a different story.  But it will have to win over people who have maybe never even heard of MacGyver and need to be convinced that he's the Bees Knees.

Original series MacGyver was a show that could be enjoyed by all ages, but I believe it may appeal most to young boys.  Hopefully this show will keep it kid friendly.  In this day and age, sex sells.  80's MacGyver had a girl of the week every week, but was always a perfect gentleman.  Hopefully the show creators will keep that element from the original show, as I personally believe it's a key part of Mac's character.

Character:  Speaking of Mac's character, Lucas Till comes across as a bit of a cocky showoff in this trailer.  MacGyver isn't a showoff.

Supporting cast.  One complaint I've seen online is how this show is adding so many new characters.  In a way this makes sense.  Modern audiences are used to seeing a core group of heroes and continuing storylines, rather than be introduced to new supporting characters with new problems each episode, then have the hero ride in like the Lone Ranger, and resolves everything in 45 minutes.  But MacGyver did have a supporting cast.  Peter Tornton was a regular, Jack Dalton, Penny Parker, and Nikki Carpenter were all recurring.  Some people in online forums and comment sections are asking why not simply bring back these classic characters?

I see this logic, but on  the other hand, do you really want to see a new actor playing Pete Tornton?  Or Jack Dalton?  As hard as MacGyver's shoes are to fill, it may be even harder for the quirky side characters like Jack Dalton or Penny Parker.

There's also the concern that having MacGyver leading a team of field experts on weekly missions could be a bit to much like all the police procedurals that are all over the place.

Humor.  There's a joke right at the end of the trailer, where Mac asks, "Does anyone have a stick of gum?" Pause. "Or a cue tip?"  Yes, it's funny.  But it's also a joke at MacGyver's expense.  Sometimes there's a fine line between a wink at the fans and self parody.

So, with all that wining out of the way, what did I like about the trailer?

The added backstory.  This MacGyver escaped from terrorists using a little bit of nothing to make a homemade explosion and blow open his cell door.  It looks a little bit  like Iron Man's origin, and it brings Mac into 2016 nicely.

The part were he tricks the fingerprint scanner.  This is something Mac did all the time on the original show.

That exploding arrow made from PVC pipe. THAT'S SO COOL ! ! !

The new logo. Yes this is a small thing, but it helps differentiate from the original show.  I love the way Mac's iconic Swiss Army Knife becomes the V in MacGyver.

So, is this enough to convince me to watch the show?  I honestly don't know yet.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, I'm trying to keep an open mind.  I may try out the first couple episodes.  It will either be an enjoyable show, or it will cause me to weep over my RDA MacGyver DVDs.  Because we'll always have Paris, right?

Monday, May 16, 2016

How I Would Fix the Prequel Star Wars Trilogy

Welcome to the first installment of "How I would Fix" in which I and all of my Hubris take works of fiction that are less than critically acclaimed and try to make them better.

Have you ever heard of this thing called The Machete Order? The idea was to create an order in which one can view all of the Star Wars movies without pesky spoilers for first time viewers.  By watching A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones (Phantom Menace is apparently skippable) Revenge of the Sith, and lastly, Return of the Jedi, one experiences the whole story, but all of the twists in Empire Strikes Back are left intact.

Which got me thinking.  Why didn't George Lucas just make the prequels in-between 'Empire' and 'Return'?  My idea is this: After the climactic battle with Darth Vader, Luke returns to Dagobah to finish his training, build a new lightsabre, and get some answers from Obi Wan Kenobi, before retuning to Tatooine to rescue Han.  After the whole 'You told me Darth Vader murdered my Father.' 'What I said was the truth...from a certain point of view.' bit from Return of the Jedi, Obi Wan launches into the story of what really happened.  The entire Prequel series is now a frame story, narrated by Obi Wan  Kenobi, and if possible all squished into one movie.

Because, lets face it.  How much of the Prequel series is really important?  The relationship between Obi Wan and Anakin.  Friends turned enemies.  Anakin's relationship with the Emperor.  The rise of the Empire.  And finally, the 'love story' between Anakin and Padme, which is only important to show that Anakin had kids.

If the story is told from Obi Wan's point of view, two of these four elements can be pushed to the back burner.  The love story can be in the background.  Hey, Anakin and Padme could potentially be married and the beginning of the story.  They could already have kids between the ages of 1 and 3.  The Emperor's rise to power can also be downplayed.  We know about the Empire from the original movies.  Do we really need to see the details?  We do need to see how the Emperor manipulates Anakin, but that's about it.  I think these elements could easily fit into one story.

The best part of all this is it fixes some of the problems with 'Return of the Jedi'.  That minor reveal about Luke and Leia?  After the BIG reveal about Darth Vader in 'Empire Strikes Back' it feels lazy, anti-climatic and tacked-on.  Now that would be revealed in back-flash form in this third movie, rather that at the last minute.

So.  That's my solution.  Rather then two trilogies, we have the Star Wars Quartet.

As for a title for this third movie, I would pitch: 'Star Wars: Rise of the Sith,' or 'Star Wars: Fall of Skywalker,' or possibly 'Star Wars: Legend of Vader.'

Let me know how you would fix the prequel Star Wars movies in the comments.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why You Should Read: Harrow County

I've been a fan of Cullen Bunn  for a couple of years now.  If that name rings a bell, you may have heard it from the fantastic ongoing title "The Sixth Gun" from ONI press.  Earlier this year I picked up volume one of "Harrow County" from my local comic shop, and I was just gifted volume two for my Birthday.  Harrow County is published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Cullen Bunn, and illustrated by Sixth Gun guest artist Tyler Crook.

If I had to describe Harrow County, I would say that it's a bit like artist Norman Rockwell tried his hand at writing Lovecraftian horror, or perhaps H.P Lovecraft was attempting to paint Americana.  This is a tale of horror that takes place in a quaint backwoods American town.

Brief disclaimer: If horror isn't your cup of tea, you may not want to read this.  It does have some freaky gross stuff, including disembodied human skin, the owner of afore mentioned skin, and a individual who is shown consuming raw maggot infested meat.  If that ISN'T a turn off, however, this may be the book for you.

I'm not really sure how to give a synopsis of the story so far without delving into some mild spoilers, but I also can't do the book justice without delving into the story.  So, if you really really hate spoilers, just take my word for it that this book is awesome and stop reading now.

Still here?


Our heroine is Emmy, a young woman coming of age and developing strange otherworldly powers.  She soon discovers that she is the direct descendant of Hester Beck, a very evil woman dabbling in witchcraft, who had been lynched by the townsfolk years before.  The townspeople aren't too keen on the prospect of another witch in town, so naturally Emmy's life is in danger when her abilities are discovered.

After a time the townsfolk grow a fear and respect for Emmy, even though she tries to make it clear that she is nothing like Hester Beck.  She is uncomfortable with gifts and peace offerings, and flat out refuses to use her powers for evil, as shown when one of the villagers asks her to place a hex on somebody he doesn't like.

And that's what I love about the story so far.  The first two volumes are a great picture of how we don't have to be defined by our past, our roots, or the evil we may be born into.  It's so encouraging to see an upright individual who chooses good when everyone expects them to be bad.  And we can all make that choice.  Let's all be an Emmy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On Villains...


We love to hate 'em.

I watch the show Grimm.  In the first season, Adalind Schade made my skin crawl.  By the end of season two, I was cheering every time she was on screen.  Sure she was evil, but she was also really cool and funny!  I realized that I loved to hate her.  And I loved loving to hate her.  She's one of my favorite characters now.

I've been doing lots of research on the great villains of classic British crime novels.  Ian Fleming's Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu, and Sapper's Carl and Irma Peterson of James Bond, Fu Manchu, and Bulldog Drummond fame.

My fascination with villains makes sense when you think about it.  I read comics, and great Superheroes need to have great villains.  Captain America has The Red Skull, Daredevil has both Kingpin and Bullseye, and of course Batman has Joker.

But my fascination with the arch nemesis goes back further than my reading of comic books.  Here are two of the first villains I loved hating.

First we have Lord Sinister.

Created by the Lego company in 1998, Lord Sinister was the primary antagonist for Johnny Thunder, Pippin Reed and Dr. Killroy of 'The Adventurers' toys and online comics.  Lord Sinister was know by different names over the years, and also depending on the country the stories were published in (All of the characters went through name changes.  In some countries, Pippin Reed and Dr. Killroy were know  as Gail Storm and Dr. Lightning).  Lord Sinister's aliases include Baron von Barron, and Mr. Hates.  I came onboard rather late in the series, with 2003's 'Orient Expedition,' So He'll always be 'Lord Sinister' to me.

Johnny Thunder is a thrill seeking Adventurer and Treasure Hunter from Australia.  He, Dr. Killroy, and Miss Pippin Reed, a photographer for World Magazine, travel to exotic locals in search of treasure to 'Put in a museum, where everyone can see it!'  While searching for treasure they usually found ways to protect the downtrodden and right wrongs and all that good stuff.  But you can bet that Lord Sinister will be close behind, allowing our heroes to do all the hard work, just to steal the treasure out from under their noses and put in his private collection.  Or at least he'll try.  Usually he'll end up triggering some kind of booby-trap, allowing our heroes to nab the treasure.

So, Lord Sinister isn't the most evil villain in the world.  He's a Snidely Whiplash type who wouldn't be out of place in a silent melodrama.  But he was a lot of fun and will always have a special place in my heart.

The other is Murdoc, Played by Michael Des Barres, in the hit 80's TV show MacGyver.  I was pretty much MacGyver's biggest fan, ever since I was first introduced to the show somewhere between the ages of 9 and 12 all the way through my teen years.  Murdoc was introduced as a master-of-disguise assassin, working for the organization-of-evil H.I.T. who has a vendetta against Mac and his buddy Peter Thornton.  He 'dies' at the end of every episode he's in, but is always back for the next season.  He's been blown up, fallen off cliffs, submerged in underground lakes of boiling oil, and fallen into snake pits.  Usually his last words are "MAC-GYYYY-VAAAAAAAA---!" shouted at the top of his lungs.

Murdoc's character evolves quite a bit over the course of the show.  He goes from from maniac-with-a-flame-thrower in Season 3, to a tormented Phantom of the Opera type character in the Season 4 episode 'Cleo Rocks'.  He and MacGyver even call a truce and team up in Season 5's 'Halloween Knights'.

You don't want Murdoc to win and kill MacGyver, per say, but you really don't want MacGyver to ever CATCH Murdoc either.  You like that their never ending chess-match is a stalemate.  And really, that's the way it should be.