My Three Favorite Episodes Of The Original Jonny Quest

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It has long been my favorite Saturday morning kids’ cartoon show, except it didn’t start life on Saturday mornings. Jonny Quest actually started life as a prime time animated series for a general audience. I didn’t see it when it originally aired. I was a little too young then. In fact, I wasn’t even born until the series was halfway through its original run, so I first saw it when it made its way to Saturday mornings.

This is going to a bit on the morbid side, but the main difference between the original series (which is the only version I’ll talk about, because I hated all of the other incarnations of the show) and other kids’ cartoon shows was that people died in Jonny Quest’s world. That just isn’t allowed in cartoons for kids. In fact, I recall an episode of Thundarr the Barbarian in which the “barbarian” and his team were battling several knights in shining armor. One of the enemies was punched hard enough to fall apart revealing it to be a robot. Realizing they weren’t living beings, Thundarr let his team know it was OK to stop pulling their punches. Man! I thought barbarians were always set to kill.

So, in Jonny Quest, if a jet plane blew up, we wouldn’t see the pilot parachuting to safety. If there was a gun fight, people got shot and died. There was even one episode in which Race Bannon used the plow of a bulldozer to ricochet his shot around a corner to kill a bad guy. And we know Race got him, because the fellow fell into sight having been the recipient of an incredible shot. That Race Bannon. What couldn’t he do?

Jonny Quest was also the first prime time animated series in which the characters were rendered to look like actual people. Not stylized the way the characters in its predecessor The Flintstones were depicted. The Quest characters were simplified, sure, but they had hands with five digits instead of the typical cartoon four. And they looked like people. The overall design was terrifically done by illustrator Doug Wildey. Wildey gave the series a comic book illustration style, using lots of black and varying line weight. Most animated series use a thin unvarying line, which isn’t as interesting to this viewer.

It was produced by the giants of television animation Hanna-Barbera, who had pioneered a style of animation that limited the amount of drawing that needed to be done, making a weekly animated series economically possible. And Hanna-Barbera had several series, some in prime time, others on Saturday mornings. Even with that process there would still be time crunches and at times the animation suffered.

What never suffered in the original series was the score. It was excellent. Hoyt Curtin was the composer and his musical score is among the best ever for any adventure series. It enhanced the action and set the tone so perfectly for each scene. And the opening theme is perfect.

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Watch your mouth, Race!

The series was not without its flaws. It was produced in the 1960s and wasn’t terribly sensitive in its portrayals of people who weren’t of the Western world or white. When depicting more primitive societies or Asians or Egyptians, etc. the languages spoken would just be gibberish. When issuing the series on DVD at least one line of dialogue was removed from the episode titled Pursuit of the Po-Ho. Bannon had painted himself purple in order to impersonate a god of the primitive Po-Ho people. He was attempting to instill the natives with fear. In doing so, Race called them “heathen monkeys.” That line was removed.

As an adventure series, Jonny Quest really captured my interest. The design and music were great. I loved the characters, although their dog Bandit would get rather tiring at times. All that barking. Which, incidentally, was provided by Don Messick, who was also the voice of Dr. Benton Quest for most of the series.

So, here are my Top Three Favorite Episodes:

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3) The Robot Spy (Originally aired November 6, 1964) This episode wasn’t a favorite when I was a kid, but as I got older I grew to appreciate it. It features Dr. Quest’s arch-nemesis the mysterious Dr. Zin. Zin really has it in for Quest and he wants to steal the secret of a powerful ray gun Quest is developing, so he sends in an unusual spy. It’s a robot designed so simply, it’s essentially just a large black metallic ball, that it is treated as a curiosity, which Quest brings into the secret military compound. It turns out the black ball has an eye and legs and tentacles that, when they strike the guards, can render them unconscious.

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Dr. Zin was a recurring villain. This episode was his second of three appearances and I’m certain that, had there been a second season, there would have been more Zin. My research tells me that later versions of the series featured Dr. Zin very prominently, but I don’t care about those shows. Those were made for kids.

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2) The Curse Of Anubis (Originally aired October 2, 1964) Jonny and his crew have been invited to Egypt by archeologist Ahmed Kareem, an old friend of Dr. Quest’s. Unknown to Quest, Kareem had become a radical Arab nationalist and he plans to frame Quest for the theft of ancient Egyptian treasures, which Kareem had in fact stolen. The radical believes this deception will unite the Arab nations against the Western world. However, in stealing a sculpture of the god Anubis, Kareem unknowingly causes a mummy to return from the beyond to punish those who had violated an ancient tomb.

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What I really like about this episode is the ever encroaching threat of the mummy. However, no one is aware that the mummy has been reanimated and is on their trail. In the end, when things seem most desperate for our heroes, the mummy arrives to exact justice.

This one uses Curtin’s score particularly well when building the tension of the stalking undead avenger.

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1) The Invisible Monster (Originally aired January 28, 1965) This is a popular favorite and it’s easy to understand why. Dr. Quest gets an urgent call from a scientist friend whose experiment had gone terribly wrong. Somehow he had created an invisible creature that feeds of electrical energy.

The Quest team head to the remote tropical island where Dr. Quest’s colleague had been running his experiment. But they are too late. The scientist’s lab has been destroyed and he has disappeared and is feared dead. Something has left footprints and a path of destruction in its wake. Part of that destruction is a local village of island natives.

There is so much that is cool about this episode. The invisible menace, the sounds it makes, and, when Jonny gets an idea how to make the creature visible, it looks great. A giant hump of a creature with one eye and a gaping mouth. Such a good episode.

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That first season had plenty to like: Admirable heroes, interesting villains and monsters, great futuristic gadgets, exotic locations, and plenty of adventure. All with fantastic music, great sound effects, terrific design, and people who would actually die.

If you would like to hear me and a couple friends go on about how great this series is, you can download my friend’s podcast The Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules episode #29.

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A Pedant Watches An Old Episode Of Hawaii Five-O

maxresdefaultTwelve seasons! Wow! The cop drama series Hawaii Five-O was on the air from 1968 to 1980. That’s twelve seasons. I knew it was a long running series, but I didn’t remember it went that long. Impressive.

And it’s been living on in syndication ever since. Today the classic cop show that gave us the immortal phrase “Book ’em, Danno” can be seen on the MeTV or AntennaTV oldies channels. And it’s… of its time. Looking back on some of those old TV dramas, during this new Golden Age of Television, makes them seem rather naive and hokey.

Jack Lord, the star of the series, played Detective Captain Steve McGarrett. And he could be very over-dramatic at times. McGarrett would really work up a head of steam, when he wasn’t otherwise trying to be very, very intense. Steve wasn’t a lot of laughs.

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Jack Lord: Just a little like Karloff, don’t you think?

Lord was one of those “chin actors.” I don’t know if I just made up that phrase or not, but what I mean is his acting style led him to point his chin at the person he would be talking to. And, is it me? Or did Jack Lord look like Boris Karloff? A better looking version, but there is a resemblance.

He did have great hair, though. When I was a kid, I used to think his big hair swoop was intentionally meant to mirror the big wave of the Hawaiian surf we saw in the opening titles of every show.

Also, let’s not forget the show’s excellent theme song as played by The Ventures. It’s a great instrumental track that is still a thrilling listen.

There is one episode, in particular, about which I will get a bit pedantic. The episode is called The Bell Tolls At Noon (originally aired January 6, 1977) and it features Rich Little in the part of a revenge killer. That’s right – Rich Little! The Vegas entertainer from the days of yore (1970s mainly) who made his living doing impressions of famous celebrities. He did Pres. Nixon, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, and many others. His biggest breakthrough impression was his Johnny Carson. When he figured how to do Johnny, it made his career.

In The Bell Tolls At Noon, Little plays a recovering drug addict, Johnny Kling, who is obsessed with old movies. He has put himself on a mission of revenge against a group of drug dealers, who he blames for the drug overdose death of a young woman who was very special to him.

Kling’s first kill is a sniper shot of one of McGarrett’s informants. This greatly upsets McGarrett, because the informant had just set up a meet at which he was going to give the very serious cop everything he could to bring down a major dealer. This puts McGarrett on the trail.

The trail leads to a drug rehab center where we find Kling entertaining fellow recovering addicts by doing, can you guess? Yep! Impressions of old time Hollywood actors. What? Rich Little’s character does impressions? Little was born to play Johnny Kling! (Well, I suppose Frank Gorshin could have played the roll.)

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“Oh, man! I’m killin’!”

Anyway, McGarrett stops to watch the act, which seems dated even in 1977, and the intense detective does manage to crack a smile at the stale material. He then actually meets and talks to Kling (once the ovation for the routine finally dies down, that is). The two talked to each other with at most a couple feet separating them. McGarrett looks Kling right in the face. This is important to remember. Ok?

At that time, there is no reason to suspect Kling, so off he goes to kill his next victim. This time he calls McGarrett after the kill and sends the detective to a motel, where Kling says the books have been closed on a particularly bad bad guy.  The killer had set up one of the motel rooms so that, when McGarrett finds the victim, the scene mimics an old Cagney gangster film. Kling is really into Cagney and that plays into the finale of the episode, which I won’t spoil.

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“Oh, man! I’m killin’!”

The scene that gets to this pedant comes when the Five-O squad investigates that motel room. Danno brings the motel manager to be questioned by his boss. She isn’t much help when it comes to describing the strange man who rented the room. She’s very vague. She can’t even remember if he was taller or shorter than her. She did recall that the man wore sunglasses and she remembered the kind of clothes he was wearing.

McGarrett instructs Danno to have her work with the police sketch artist, who just happens to be at the scene. He was just sitting off camera. The Five-O squad must have quite the budget if they can bring a sketch artist to every crime scene. Usually witnesses are brought down to the station to work with sketch artists, but not on Steve McGarret’s Five-O squad!

So, off she goes to start working with what must be the world’s greatest police sketch artist. He must have been some kind of a witness whisperer, because he was able to pull out details from a witness who had already been so vague.

Soon the artist finishes two sketches. One with the suspect wearing sunglasses, one without. We only see the one without the shades. Before we see the sketch, the witness takes a look and says, “Well, it’s not a spitting image, but it’s OK.”

Danno brings the sketches over to McGarrett, who was seething in the corner. He tells his boss that he can’t vouch for the accuracy, because the witness kept changing her mind. She must have changed it a hundred times. She just about drove the artist crazy. That’s when we get to see the sketch…

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Not a spitting image?! Lady, this is the definition of a spitting image!

The audience gets to see a police sketch like no other. This is not a sketch drawn from a witness’s vague recollections. This is a portrait of Rich Little! The man himself either sat down to be drawn by a portrait artist or gave the artist a headshot photo from which to draw this “sketch.”

And McGarrett, who had met the man earlier that day, looks at it and shrugs. He tells Danno to show it around, but thinks it’s probably a dead end.

Steve! Look at it! It’s Rich Little!

He did eventually make the connection and stop the bad guy.

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This Month’s Great Cover Is A-Maze-ing

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Steve Ditko returns to my monthly blog series examining great comic book covers. He has been featured twice before. First was a cover he did for Charlton’s Haunted and, more recently, was the cover of a landmark issue of Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man.

This month I’ll look at another cover Mr. Ditko created for Charlton. It’s the cover of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #65 (April, 1978). It’s not an action packed, superhero type of cover. Doctor Graves wasn’t a superhero series. It was mystery and suspense, so the way covers were designed was different. Yes, there might be battles with monsters depicted, but the genre leaned more toward stories of psychological battles.

This month’s cover is an excellent example of just such a battle. It’s a man lost in a maze. He’s small and isolated. The bird’s eye view informs us of where he is and it heightens the feeling of isolation. There’s nothing chasing him that we can see. He’s just trapped. Searching.

His facial features consist of essentially seven little dots. And the choice pale white for his face color seems to indicate fear. With his hands pressed against the walls, we’re left wondering: Is he fatigued? Desperate? Does he feel as though the walls are closing in on him? All of the above?

Ditko’s execution is fantastic. The perspective drawing of curved walls mixed in with straight, variously angled walls cannot have been easy to draw. And using the full cover gives the impression that the maze is never-ending.

It is an a-maze-ing cover! (Such a good pun, I had to use it twice.)

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Great Album Retro Review: This Ain’t No Outerspace Ship By Love Tractor

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I’m going a little hipster here by looking at an album by one of the lesser known bands to come out of Athens, GA in the ’80s. Also, as this series continues, you will probably notice quite a few of my picks are from the ’80s. What can I say? I guess I’m stuck.

It was 1987 and my friend John, who was my cohort in the discovery of music that matters, not that crappy pop and hair metal getting all the radio airtime, found out about this band. They’re called Love Tractor. I hadn’t hear of them before John discovered this their fifth album: This Ain’t No Outerspace Ship.

I have to admit, I don’t know much of anything about their other musical output. I will try to remedy that, but I just love this album.

If you need an example of lilting guitars, this is it! Along with the lilting guitars is plenty of excellent melodies and hooks. This album just feels so good.

The tracks:

Cartoon Kiddies – This is my second favorite track on the album which is an ode to TV cartoons, most particularly Top Cat. Now, Top Cat wasn’t one of my favorites, but this song is a great kick off

Small Town – There’s just something about Mark Richmond’s vocals. There’s an ease to them as well as just the merest hint of snarl. Nothing threatening though. And his frequent forays into falsetto really work for me.

Chili Part Two – This song is more of an instrumental, which touches on the band’s roots as they started out an instrumental band, with a few bits of lyrics thrown in. And I find it so effective when the lyrics come rolling in – “Heeeeeere cooomes that feeeeliiing agaaaaiiin!”

Night Club Scene – The lilting guitars glide over the big ’80s drumbeat as this song opens. It’s a slower song that contains the line that gives the album its title. What does the song mean? I dunno.

Outside With Ma – For me, this is the weakest track on the album. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It has a darker feel than the rest of the album. It also has a funky feel, which doesn’t quite work.

Rudolf Nureyev – Returning to their roots, this is the album’s first of two fully instrumental tracks. Plenty of lilt and I can almost see the dancer after whom it is named dancing gracefully along.

Beatle BootsHands down, my favorite song on the album! It just feels so good. It’s got a great ’80s dance vibe. The lyrics speak of an emotionally complicated woman who is both a hero and a mess. I love this song!

Amusement Park – This song sounds like Summer. It’s about hanging out and seeking thrills. “Meet me here. Meet me there.” Let’s go downtown, to the record store, and, of course, to that amusement park.

Party Train – A fun, rockin’ yet still funky cover of The Gap Band hit. Love Tractor makes it their own. And it’s pretty good.

We All Loved Each Other So Much – On the original vinyl release, this was the last track of the album. It was also the second fully instrumental track. It’s a quiet contemplative tune and, at just over seven minutes, the longest track on the album. Lilting to the very end.

Got To Give It Up – This bonus track is another funky cover song. This time the band covers the great dance party track by Marvin Gaye. Lots of falsetto and lots of fun. It’s a nice bonus.

Wanna give it a listen? Of course, you do! It’s available on iTunes and Spotify. Check it out!

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The Tale Of An Old Favorite Toy And A Criminal Act.

This week’s blog has been pulled from the archives of my personal blog, from way back in April, 2009, at dimland.com. Actually, this is the second pulling, because it was reused on the Two Different Girls blog (with an update) in April, 2013. So, now I’m re-reusing it in April, 2018 (with a slight amount of re-writing). I’ll see if I can avoid re-re-reusing it in April, 2024. No promises, though!

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I collect old toys. Well, I should say I used to collect old toys. I no longer have the disposable income I once did. To tell the truth, I never really had that much disposable income and yet I would still collect old toys.

Not just any old toys. I collected the toys that I or a friend or relative had when I was a child. I used to say that I was buying back my childhood. One toy at a time.

There was one toy, however, foolishly given up in my youth, that had eluded my ability to buy back for many years. (Did I ever buy it back? Read on.) It’s an action figure that was put out by Matchbox Toys in the mid 1970s. It was part of their Fighting Furies pirate series and he was called the Ghost of Captain Kidd. He was sold only at Sears.

When I originally wrote this piece I had thought the year was 1973, but, with the assistance of the excellent website – WishBookWeb.com, I have found it was actually 1975. I was ten years old and I was looking through the Sears Wish Book catalog, something every kid must have done in those days, when I spotted him. There he was, the Ghost of Captain Kidd. He was pictured with two other pirate figures, but I didn’t care about them. I wanted the ghost.

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Image from WishBookWeb.com

I saved up my allowance money and, when I had enough, my mom ordered it for me. I don’t remember how long I waited, but I’m sure it felt like weeks and weeks.

When the fairly plain and unassuming package arrived, I was beside myself with excitement. It was worth the wait, because it was such a great toy. The Captain had a button on his side that you could push to move his right arm and simulate sword fighting. And though he was quite a bit smaller than my Johnny West and GI Joe, he had a feature that they didn’t: The Captain could glow in the dark!

To this day, kids dig just about anything if it glows in the dark. But the Captain didn’t just glow, Matchbox also had the brilliant idea of painting, in pale white, a skull and skeleton on the figure. So, when he glowed you could see his ghostly skeletal structure. It was a very cool and eerie effect.

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So cool!!

The Captain quickly became one of my favorite toys. I would frequently bring him over to my friend Todd’s house, along with my other action figures, and Todd and I would play with his GI Joe playset and his actions figures for hours.

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This was a pretty awesome playset.

And, now, that criminal act alluded to in the headline.

At the end of one of our adventures, I left the Captain at Todd’s house, so he could play with him some more. Todd was very good to his toys, so I wasn’t too worried about him having one of mine for a while longer. The only problem was his family then went on vacation before I could get him back. My Captain was trapped in Todd’s house! They would be gone for at least a week and I’d be damned if I would be without such a favored toy for so long.

I hatched a plan.

Todd’s house had an attached garage which led to their basement. I knew that his family never locked the overhead garage door (those were the days). My plan was simple: I would head over to his house, open the garage door just enough for me to crawl under, go in, and get my toy.

I’m certain the statute of limitations has long since passed, so I can tell you now – my plan worked like a charm. I retrieved my toy and no one was the wiser. I don’t think Todd ever knew I’d broken into his house.

And I was single-minded. There was no taking of any of his toys or comic books. No stealing money, no going through his older sister’s underwear drawer. (Come on! I was only ten!) I was there for the Captain. And he was all I took. I swear.

In time, as with so many of the other toys of my youth, the Ghost of Captain Kidd went away. No doubt sold at a garage sale. I grew to regret giving him up.

For years I was unable to get him back. I had seen him on eBay a couple of times and once came close to getting him, but, at the last moment, someone outbid me and swiped him away. Which is probably a good thing as money was (and still is) needed for more mundane things. You know, food, clothing, mortgage. Nothing so exciting as the Ghost of Captain Kidd.

I even went as far as to call Mattel, the toy company that now produces the Matchbox toy line, to ask if they’d consider reissuing the Fighting Furies, especially the Captain. Toy companies have been known to reissue toys from time to time. As far as I know, my call didn’t accomplish anything.

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The Shroud of Turin?

Then in 2013, with some of the tax refund left unspent, I was chatting with a Facebook friend of mine. We got talking about old toys and the Captain came up in the conversation. Naturally, she was curious if I had tried to find the Captain recently. I hadn’t, so I took a look on eBay.

There he was! And only $75.00 at the buy it now option! I had previously seen him priced at $200 to $300. I had to buy it! I went through the necessary steps, but before pulling the trigger, I had to take the most important necessary step: I had to ask my wife if I could buy it.

“Honey? Do you remember me telling you about the Ghost of Captain Kidd toy I had when I was a boy. And that I have been wanting to get it back for a long time?”

“You mean the doll that glows in the dark?”

“Action figure! And, yes, that’s the one. It’s on eBay and I can buy it now for a mere $75.00 plus shipping. Can I buy it? Can I? Please! Please! Please!”

“Of course, darling.”

So, I bought him. When he arrived he was smaller than I remembered, but still oh so cool. That’s one more piece of my childhood back in the fold.

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And there he is.

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You know what’s a really good movie about an elderly Englishman taking the law into his own hands?

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Lionsgate UK

I realize it’s only been a couple weeks since my last movie retro-review, but I just watched this one and I wanted to write about it while it’s still fresh in my mind.

The movie is Harry Brown (2009) and it is like Death Wish (1974), however the protagonist doesn’t take overt pleasure from what he feels forced to do. In Death Wish, Charles Bronson’s character, Paul Kersey, kills with a smile. He enjoys killing the lawless who hold New York City in a grip of terror.

In Harry Brown, the title character, played brilliantly by Michael Caine, is scared and fed up with a toothless police department that doesn’t seem all that concerned with dealing with the young criminals, who terrorize the good people of a London housing estate. Brazen drug dealing, harassment, vandalism, and violence hang over this community.

Early in the film we see video taken by two lawless youths out on a lark riding recklessly on a motor scooter in broad daylight. They terrorize a young mother walking her baby through the park by shooting at her with a gun. Intending only to frighten, one of the bullets hits and kills her.

There is some instant retribution meted out to those two creeps, but the tone is set. This housing estate is not safe. Day or night.

Harry Brown is a quiet man. He’s elderly, which also differentiates him from Death Wish’s Paul Kersey. Caine was 76 when this movie was released, but I get the impression that his character is even older. He lost his only child in 1973 (we are not told how) and his wife is very ill and hospitalized, close to death. Harry has one friend, Len (David Bradley). Harry and Len meet each day at a local pub to play chess.

While Harry has somehow escaped the notice of the local hoodlums, Len, who is also elderly, has not. They have marked him for special attention, it seems. Vandalizing the outside of his apartment, pushing dog crap through his mail slot, physically accosting him, and they even sent some burning material through the mail slot causing a fair amount of smoke damage.

Len has had enough. He tells Harry he intends to fight back using a bayonet, which he has taken to carrying with him wherever he goes. “Go to the police,” pleads Harry, but Len has already done that and to no avail.

Days after Harry loses his wife, he also loses his friend. Len was not successful at fending off his harassers. In fact, he was killed with the very weapon with which he had intended to protect himself. Having nothing left to lose, Harry decides to take action.

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Harry Brown is a former marine with combat experience and decorations from his involvement in dealing with “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. We learn that he was a good marine and that he had respect for his enemy back then. They fought for something. His current enemy fights for nothing. Their lives are worth almost nothing anyway, so why not lash out? Why not get high? Why not terrorize the neighborhood?

Caine does not play the vigilante with anger. He is angry, but he keeps it down. Harry has determination, but he also has fear. His military training has him familiar with weapons and tactics, however his age works against him. Despite possessing some skills, he’s no Laim Neeson in the Taken series. Harry is a fearful, old man trying to do something to stop those who killed his friend. The most anger he shows is in his reaction to learning that, because Len had a weapon, it could be argued the hoodlums acted in self-defense. So, at most, they would get manslaughter, not murder. If, that is, they could be indicted at all.

The critical reaction to this film was generally good. Some reviews found its social commentary unpleasant and thought it was a ludicrous action-thriller. But it’s not exactly an action-thriller. It is a revenge-thriller in which our hero is as lucky as he is skilled. When watching Death Wish or Taken audiences never doubt the hero will triumph. He might be a little worse for wear, but he’ll win. But, Harry often really seems to be in over his head.

Does Harry Brown triumph?

This film is rated R. The violence does get intense and the F-bombs are dropped often.

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You- -You Can’t Resist This Month’s Great Cover

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He is considered one of the greats of the Silver Age (1956 – 1969) of Comic Books. He helped hone the image of DC Comics in an effort to compete with the upstart Marvel Comics. (Make Mine Marvel! Whoops. Sorry. I’m a Marvel kid, what can I say?) He was Carmine Infantino and I never really cared for his drawing style.

Yes, I acknowledge he was a good storyteller and overall a good artist. I was just never moved or excited by his work. Especially in the later years of his career, when I thought his people looked too stretchy.

As I enter stock into Nostalgia Zone’s online catalog, I get to check out lots of comic covers. I have had several catch my eye and I note them for future inclusion in my great covers series. Well, whose cover should have caught my eye just recently?

Carmine Infantino’s.

This month’s cover makes excellent use of the entire page with Infantino’s drawing of Death passing quite a ponderous amount of gas. Will The Flash be overcome? Will he die? Will he get the giggles due Death’s nasty farts?

Probably not any of those. (Well, maybe he’ll chuckle to himself a little.)

I also like the use of color. According to comics.org the colorist might be Jack Adler, but they aren’t sure. The green isn’t just one shade, nor is the figure of Death. Trading the traditional black outline look for using two shades of blue, with the darker blue replacing the black, gives the figure a ghostly feel. It’s a nice touch.

I may not be a fan of Infantino’s work in general, but I think this one (and several covers done for the Batman series) looks very good.

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