Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sink or Float?

I'm normally not one to post YouTube stuff, but my Eldest Son showed me this one. He works as the head video guy of a church in Norman Oklahoma and this video contains their two youth pastors doing a skit called "Sink or Float". Of course, it's a take-off of David Letterman's "Will it Float", but these guys add their own spin.
Three things to remember, this is in the church baptism pool, it's all ad-libbed, and the guy in the pink has a hair-trigger gag reflex.
The six minutes of your time is well worth it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jonah Hex #26 "Deathrace to Cholera Bend!"

Jonah Hex #26 July 1979
"Deathrace to Cholera Bend!"
Michael Fleisher, story - E R Cruz, art - Luis Dominguez, cover

Jonah is just a riding along through the high grass in the mountains when he hears gunfire and sees a man on horseback getting gunned down by seven other men. Jonah figgers that it's none of his business, but usually men that shoot other men have a price on their heads. He dismounts and hunkers down in the grass on a ridge and picks off two of the men with his rifle. The rest ride off.

Jonah goes down to the scene and finds that the first rider is still alive. With his dying gasp, he explains to Jonah that there is a cholera outbreak at Comanche Bend and the satchel he has contains the serum to cure it. Jonah promises to take it to Comanche Bend and the man dies.

Just then another man rides up. He is Roy Jameson, the young medical assistant to Dr. Cranston, the dead man. He explains that they were on their way to Comanche Bend because the flooding of the Gila River had caused a cholera outbreak but his horse got a stone in it's shoe and they got separated while he stopped and dug it out. they were worried that bandits might try to steal the serum in order to sell it to the sick families. Jonah agrees to ride with Jameson.

On their way they stop at the Huddleston-Downing stage depot before it gates dark to grab some dinner. When they get there they find the depot boss bound and gagged and three men sitting in the depot. the men start to draw on Jonah and he guns all three of them down. Jonah unties the depot boss but they decide to forgo dinner and makes tracks to the Gila River ferry before the rest of the gang descends on them.

When they get to the ferry, the ferry master tells them that the river is too rough to cross. Jameson tries to plead with the ferry master but he declines..right up until a bullet rips through the chest of his partner. He decides that they had better get on their way. As the raft moves out into the river, the ferry master is gunned down. Jonah grabs a pole and starts trying to guide the raft. He shouts at Jameson to help.

So Jameson accidentally drops the satchel containing the serum. Jonah quickly ties a rope around his waist, has Jameson tie the other end to the raft, and Jonah dives into the river to grab the serum. Jameson pulls Jonah back on board the raft just in time for the whole shooting match to slam into a huge boulder and splinter into half a gazillion pieces. Jonah's and Jameson's unconscious bodies are washed ashore.

Come morning, Jonah wakes up in time to find that two of the outlaws are standing over them and asking Jameson "You all right, boss?". Jameson explains that it was his idea to sell the serum, but Cranston would have none of it. He tells the outlaws to take Jonah to the hilltop and shoot him there, because violence makes Cranston queasy. The two, Bart & Al, take Jonah up the hill, stand him on the edge and fire away, with Jonah falling over the edge. Jameson comes up the hill to be sure that Hex is dead. He explains that he has been thinking that since he is a doctor, he shouldn't be seen with scruffy outlaws like them. He pulls a pistol and shoots both of them dead. As he walks off we see...

Jameson rides into Comanche Bend and sets up shop, selling the serum for $100 a dose (about $1600). The people are outraged but they pay it anyway. That night, after he has sold everything, Jameson starts feeling feverish and realizes that he has cholera!!! Just then Jonah, his arm in a sling, walks in explaining that it took him some time to find a farmer that could dig the bullets out of his shoulder. he also shows that he has one last vial of the serum. He decided to keep some since they were gonna be with sick people.

Jameson offers him anything for the serum and Jonah says that he'll take all the money. the deal is struck and Jameson grabs the bottle. Just as he is about to drink it, Jonah says that he sold the serum, not the bottle, and he shoots the bottle to pieces. Jonah picks up the money and walks out as Jameson is left screaming hysterically that he didn't buy the bottle.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 6
Running Total - 230
Jonah's Injuries - Shot twice in the right shoulder
Timeline - There is nothing to place this anywhere in Jonah's life. The story does span two days.

Not a bad issue. I enjoyed the artwork of Cruz having seen a lot of his stuff in the DC 'scary books'. The ending was something that I would have expected from one of those books, so the look fit right in. A similar ending was used before by John Albano.

Next Issue - a flashback to Jonah's childhood and how he got his first gun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jonah Hex #25 "The Widow Maker!"

Jonah Hex #25 June 1979
"The Widow Maker!"

Michael Fleisher - story, Dick Ayers & Romeo Tanghal - art, Luis Domiguez - cover

We are in Lawrenceville, Kansas, 1876 (cuz there is a caption box that tells us so) and Jonah Hex is riding into town as the newspaper office is engulfed in flames. The bucket brigade has already given up hope even though Nate Ashin, the owner, is still trapped inside. Jonah jumps off his horse and rushes inside since Nate saved Jonah's life back in Vicksburg (and lost his right arm in the process).

Jonah plows through the flames and pulls a large bookcase off of Nate and then they both jump out through a window. Outside, Nate starts cursing the Black Hat Boys, blaming them for the fire since Nate has been printing articles against them. Just then, Simon Nader, the hardware store owner walks up and offers any help he can.

By now the fire is under control so Nate invites Jonah to his house for supper. During dinner Nate tells how the Black Hat Boys have been robbing banks, stealing horses, causing trouble and Nate has been speaking out against them. Nate's wife, Sally, complains that they don't need a bounty hunter, they need a marshall and Jonah Hex is probably going to bring grief down on their heads. Sally gets up to clear the plates when Jonah jumps up and knocks her to the floor just as the window is shattered by gunfire.

Jonah looks out the window and counts eight men in the darkness. He climbs out a bedroom window and manages to climb up a high cliff behind the men. Down on the ground, the Black Hat Boys are getting Molotov cocktails ready to set the house on fire. Jonah lights up a bundle of dynamite and lobs it down onto four of the men. The other four hightail it out of there.

By the time Jonah gets down from the hill and to his horse a large storm has broken and Jonah has to try to track the outlaws through the mud. Several hours later he comes upon their shack. he kicks open the door, announcing that skunk-trappin' season is open. the outlaws throw their guns down and Jonah is suddenly knocked out from behind with a pistol butt by Simon Nader.

When Jonah comes to he is hogtied and tied by his feet to a horse. Nader tells his men to drag Jonah until he is dead and two of them take off. As Jonah is being drug, he manages to get his knife that he keeps in th eback of his shirt. He cuts the rope at his feet and when the riders stop throws the knife, hitting one in the side and then he grabs a rock and bashes the skull of the other rider. He grabs a horse and heads back to Nate's house.

Back at Nate's house, Simon shows up and with the two remaining gang members, he shoves his way in. He explains that he is going to kill Nate when one of the outlaws looks out the window and sees Jonah riding up. The two outlaws panic and head for the door. Simon declares that nobody runs out on him and he guns both of them in the back.

Outside, Jonah is strapping on his guns and calling Simon out, saying that there is nowhere Simon can hide. Nate tells Simon that he needs to give up or Jonah will kill him. Simon tells Nate that Nate will walk out the door, tell Jonah that Nate killed Simon and his men, invite Jonah inside, and then Simon will kill Jonah.

Nate steps outside, telling Jonah to hold his fire and then suddenly dives to the ground, yelling that it's a trap. Simon steps into the doorway and shoots Nate in the back as he lies in the mud. Jonah starts stalking toward the door. Simon panics and starts shooting Hex, but Jonah just keeps walking towards him. Jonah takes two bullets and then grabs Simon by the collar, dragging him outside.

Jonah drags Simon through the mud, grabs a coil of rope of the horse's saddle and throws one end over a branch in a nearby tree. Jonah ties a quick noose around Simon's neck and then forcibly pulls Simon up into the tree, hanging him by the neck. Jonah starts to apolgize to Sally but she starts ranting about what will happen to her, to her children and she yells at Jonah, calling him a widow maker.

Jonah rides of into the rising sun, Nate's body in the mud, Simon swinging from the tree, and Sally and her children sobbing.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 4 by dynamite, 1 by hanging: 5 total
Running Total - 224
Jonah's Injuries - Pistol whipped and drug by a horse
Timeline - 1876. There, that's nice & simple. Totally out of the regular flow from the last issue, or not. Who knows? This story spans one day.

A seemingly short story, we have a burning building, an explosion, a shootout but there is really no room for any character development. Simon Nader was introduced too quickly and there was no drama when he was revealed to be the leader of the Black Hat Boys who were really just cut-out outlaws (Cut-outlaws?). The best part of the whole story was Jonah walking through the gunfire and yanking Simon up into the tree. That just reeked of Albano Weird Western. Great stuff!

Next Issue: Jonah takes up practicing medicine.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jonah Hex #24 "Minister of the Lord"

Jonah Hex #24 May 1979
"Minister of the Lord"
Michael Fleisher, story - Luis Dominguez, art - Luis Dominguez, cover

This is the first story in a long time that doesn't have an exclamation point in the title. That is noteworthy, as are several other items in this story. I will ravage them ...., uh, point them out as we go along.

Jonah is tracking the Sam Bronson gang and he is being accompanied by the Reverend Julian, who is looking for some company while on his way to his next assignment. As they ride along, Jonah notes that the Bronson gang is known for doubling back and laying ambushes. Just then a bullet pierces the Reverend's canteen. See Rant #1

Jonah & Julian jump off their horses and hightail it to some rocks for cover. Jonah hands Julian a rifle so he can help fend off the Bronson gang. The Reverend is a pacifist and starts quoting scripture just as a bullet hits him right between the eyes. Looking at Julian's corpse, Jonah hatches a plan.

The Bronson gang is keeping watch on Jonah through a pair of binoculars. They know that they hit the preacher but it appears that Jonah is still hunkered down in the rocks holding his rifle. Just then, Jonah Hex walks up behind them, wearing the Reverend's clothes and that gives us this wonderful visual. See Rant #2. Jonah shoots and kills two of the five and that's when they hear it, a low rumble.

The gunshots have started an avalanche and as the three outlaws run off, Jonah dives towards the face of the cliff. The rocks and dust finally settle and it is hours later that Jonah finally claws his way to the surface. He remembers diving for the face of the cliff so that the rocks would fall past him (didn't work so well) but he can't remember anything prior to the avalanche, including his own name.

Examining his clothes, he determines that he is a member of the clergy and he finds a letter saying that he is the new chaplin of the 6th cavalry at Fort Onondaga. He hightails it to the fort, only to find it under seige by a massive group of Apaches. He decides that the only way in, is to gallop straight through to the gate.

Inside the fort, the soldiers provide what cover fire they can and when Jonah rides into the fort, the Captain is amazed to find out that the brave rider is their new Chaplain. The fort isn't in good shape. 75% of the men are dead, ammo is low, and reinforcements aren't due for a week.

Tha Captain says that they will all probably be dead by morning. Jonah asks if there are any fireworks in the fort. The puzzled Captain says that this isn't the time for any celebration. Jonah thanks the Captain and then talls to the quartermaster.

Later that night the Captain sees Jonah walking toward the gate with a large box kite and large quantity of firecrackers. Jonah says that he figures that ther is a strong breeze up on the mesa, so he thought he would go fly a kite. Despite the Captain's protests, Jonah heads for the top of the mesa. Out in the darkness, Jonah remembers that the Apaches believe that Koishisa, a serpent-bird, appears to medicine men to warn them of impending doom. Jonah's plan is to fly a bunch of firecrackers over the Apaches and make them think that Koishisa has come.

Jonah gets everything ready, lights the fuse and then he is attacked by a lone Apache scout. Jonah holds off the Indian's knife but starts praying for a way for him to survive without resorting to violence. Back at the fort the Captain asks a Sergeant what is going on out there. The Sarge, using a pair of binoculars, recounts what is happening on the mesa. The Captain asks if the sarge can do anything, so the sarge pulls out his rifle and manages to shoot the Indian in the back. See Rant #3.

Jonah jumps up, grabs the kite, runs, gets it aloft, the firecrackers go off and the Apaches are scared out of their loinclothes. See Rant #4.

Over the next few weeks, Jonah spends his time holding religious services, counseling cavalrymen and tending to the sick & wounded. Then one day one of the Bronson gang rides in to the fort, scouting it in order to rob the Army payroll. The outlaw dismounts and asks the Chaplain for help and is amazed to see that it is Jonah Hex, even to the point of shouting his name. Jonah insists that he is Reverend Julian. The outlaw, badly shaken, heads back to camp and tells everything to Sam.

Sam figures that either Jonah got wind of their plan or that his brain got rattled. Either way, they plan on riding to the fort & killing Jonah. The three of them burst in on Jonah at the fort, drag him out into the courtyard and strap on a pair of pistols. The whole time Jonah is protesting that he is Reverend Julian and doesn't believe in violence. The three men square off against Jonah and on the count of five, the shooting will commence. See Rant #5.

Sam counts, in a very nice one page layout, and when he hits five Jonah's memory comes flashing back and he draws and kills all three men. The last panel shows Jonah, in his old clothes, riding into the sunset, giving a tip of his hat to Reverend Julian's grave. See Rant #6.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 5
Running Total - 219
Jonah's Injuries - Amnesia from crushing rocks
Timeline - hmmmm, no clues whatsoever in this issue.

Rant #1 - I know that it is a literary device to have the hero give exposition in order to lay groundwork for the action that is to take place later. I just wish that Jonah could finish his sentence before the tragedy that he is detailing befalls him. (Ex. "Ah hope I don't git mauled by uh Grizzl....AAAAAA!", or "Just mah luck this is a used rope that will probably brea....AAAAAA")

Rant #2 - The whole story revolves around the fact that Jonah gets amnesia while wearing clergy clothes. There have been several instances where Jonah has substituted a dead man for himself, but this is the first time he ever wore their clothes. Heck, one time he showed up in his red longhandles.

Rant #3 - The Sarge manages to shoot an Indian, in the dark, on a mesa that incredibally far away. He shoots him in the back, even when the Indian's back is not toward the Sarge.

Rant #4 - Dear God in Heaven, how slow IS that fuse?!?!?

Rant #5 - The outlaws hold a gunfight in the middle of the fort and nobody does a thing? The whole damn fort is empty!!

Rant #6 - After several weeks of serving at the fort, Jonah goes back and buries the Reverend. I liked that. Jonah puts on his clothes that have been on the bloated putrifying corpse that has been laying in the desert sun for weeks. Of course, you just just say that proves how badass Jonah really is.

Okay, I have 6 big valid rants against this issue, but I still enjoyed it, in a very very guilty pleasure way. Yeah, it is a gimmicky plot, yeah, the pacifist Jonah was a reach, yeah, yeah, I know. But I still liked it. Mostly because of this...

Next Issue - More Jonah, more dynamite, the one-armed man. Toto, we're back in Kansas!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jonah Hex #23 "The Massacre of the Celestials!"

Jonah Hex #23 Apr 1979
"The Massacre of the Celestials!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Dick Ayers & Romeo Tanghal, art - Luis Domiguez, cover

And now begins the continuity/timeline nightmare that is Jonah Hex. Just as some have postulated that all of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis and so on can be traced back to Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing, I think that the convoluted timeline for Jonah can be traced to this issue and the introduction of Mei Ling. Actually, it can be traced to Michael Fleisher being unable to work a calendar with the same accuracy as Gerry Conway (Scalphunter, which I will be covering in depth just as soon as I can lay hands on missing back issues). But, I am beating a dead horse. On with the story:

Jonah Hex sits astride his horse, overlooking a Chinese railroad work gang. He heads into a nearby town, looking for Big Dan Wallis. He asks around in the saloon, showing the barkeep a wanted poster. The barkeep freaks out because Dan Wallis has walked in behind Jonah, holding a shotgun. Jonah pulls out a stick of dynamite, lights it and throws it at Wallis.

Wallis starts his own freak-out and Jonah shoots him dead, picks up the dynamite and tosses it behind the bar, commenting that it is an empty stick with a fuse jammed in it. As Jonah leaves, the barkeep tells the Chinese floorsweeper to drag Wallis's body out back and to clean the blood off the floor.

Back at the railroad line, one of the workers addresses Samuel O'Rourke, the railboss, regarding missing back wages. They haven't been paid for 6 weeks. O'Rourke tells him to get back to work and the worker swings a sledgehammer at O'Rourke's head. Warned by a shout from another railboss, O'Rourke ducks and then grabs the worker, smashing his face into a rock and then shooting him twice. He tells the other workers to get busy but they refuse.

O'Rourke tells O'Malley to take the workers to the paymaster's shed and that Mr. Gatlin will take care of everything. The workers are herded into a shed and then a wagon with a Gatlin gun is pushed to the shed and all of the workers are murdered. One worker not in the shed, Wing, sees what has happened and runs to a house. He is greeted by Mei Ling and Wing demands to see her father.

Wing tells the old man of the massacre and the old man says that they must do something. Wing says that they are not fighters, what can they do? Just then Mei Ling's brother, the worker in the saloon, enters and tells about Jonah Hex. The father decides that he will approach Jonah and see if they can get his help.

That night the old man knocks on Jonah's hotel door and when he enters, Jonah pulls a pistol on him. He explains the situation and offers Jonah Hex $30 to aid them in their revenge. Jonah refuses and the old man leaves. He is greeted in the street by Mei Ling and explains that Jonah would not help them. Just then O'Malley and two other thugs show up and start taunting the old man for not fighting his own battles. They offer a pistol to him and decide to go man to man in the street.

With one of them holding Mei Ling back the gunfight starts. The old man aims his pistol and fires but the gun is empty. O'Malley, taking his time, pumps four slugs into the old man, leaving him to die in the street as Mei Ling runs to her father's side. Then the thugs decide to 'comfort' Mei Ling and that's when Jonah steps into the street. Jonah informs them that they have about ten seconds to live.

The thugs start stammering that they have no argument with Hex, but two of them decide to draw on him. Jonah guns both of them down. The third one drops his gun and starts begging for his life, saying that he wanted no part of it. He gets a bullet right between the eyes. With her attackers dead in the street, Mei Ling runs to Jonah and starts beating at him, blaming him for her father's death. Jonah tries to talk sense to her but ends up having to slap her unconscious.

He carries her to the hotel where the hotel manager tries to tell Jonah that Chinese aren't allowed. Jonah describes in detail what will happen if an empty room isn't found and the manager finds an empty room. Jonah takes Mei Ling to her room, lays her down and then goes to his own room and in a fit of rage, shatters the mirror.

Several days later while the Ling family is mourning the loss their father, Jonah pays a visit to Mei Ling. Jonah apologizes for causing her father's death, but Mei Ling explains that they believe that he is in a far better place along with their ancestors. Jonah comments that he would feel better if he believed that, but he doesn't believe in nothing.

Later on, Mei asks Jonah why he became a bounty hunter and he says that it was just thrust on him. Things normally turn out all right, but sometimes things like this happen. Mei Ling says that Jonah should listen to his heart and put his guns away, she can see that deep inside he is not a violent man. Later, they have dinner together and some nearby gossips are having a field day with the bi-racial dating going on.

Of course, they are seen by one of the evil Irish rail bosses, who tells O'Rourke all about it. Several hours later, as Mei Ling is leaving the outhouse, she is kidnapped.
Later a boy delivers a note to Jonah's hotel room, explaining that Mei Ling has been kidnapped. He straps on his guns, and commenting on how Mei Ling wants him to abandon his firearms and how it's hogwash, heads off to rescue her.

On the outskirts of town, the three men have Mei Ling bound by a campfire. They decide to fan out and when Jonah comes riding in through the pass, they'll open fire. Jonah manages to sneak up on the guy watching the South entrance. Later, the two watching the North entrance see Jonah riding into the canyon and open fire, knocking Hex off of his horse. When they crawl down from the rocks and roll the body over, they discover they have just shot their partner. Jonah had gagged him, dressed him in Hex's clothes and then tied him to the horse. Jonah is standing behind them and as they turn, he kills both of them, but not before one gets a shot off that hits Jonah's left shoulder.

Jonah unties Mei Ling. He stands there and starts to say that he loves her. Mei Ling stops him and explains that he really loves the gentleness within himself that he is also afraid of. She tells him goodbye and Jonah rides off.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - Six
Running Total - 214
Jonah's Injuries - shot in left shoulder
Timeline - Hmmm, this one is tricky. All of the research I could find on Chinese rail workers pointed to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad that was completed in 1869. I did find a reference or two to workers in Texas as late as 1881. No telling when this takes place. It's after 1866 and before 1876.

As a story goes, I am torn on this one. At times it reads like a schmaltzy romance novel with Mei Ling talking in ancient Chinese wisdom (gack!) and other times I enjoy it, because Jonah is confronted with something he hasn't had to face before, someone who sees past the violence he inflicts on society. But it is the start of the Mei Ling saga (sorry if I ruined any surprises here) and it does open the door to some of the more interesting Hex stories later on. It is nice to see different ethnic groups in the old west and the contributions (both good & bad) that they made to this country.

Next Issue: Jonah repents and starts preaching the Good News! Oh, and an Indian Fire demon shows up as well.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why I love The Brave and the Bold

Six issues now and I have to say that The Brave and the Bold is one of my favorite books. Mark Waid and George Perez are working magic on this title, weaving a storyline amongst several heroes and several locations and every step of it makes perfect sense. The art is top-notch and the dialogue rings right on the money. But better than that are the little touches that Waid & Perez put in. Things like: (cover shots courtesy of Grand Comic Book Database)

Compare this:

with this:
And compare this:
with this:
and finally this (also note the reference to Otto Binder)
with this:

How can you NOT be amazed and awed at a book like this? The sad part is that I'm sure that I've missed a dozen more references in the six issues.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Question for the week

What was the last new character that DC created and eventually wound up in its own book?
I'm not counting a 'relaunch' where the character has changed gender/ethnic group or is in a 'group' book.

The last original characters that I can remember are Firestorm or Vigilante. Any other suggestions?