Friday, July 29, 2011

Fanholes Side Story: Smurfs Are Smurfy! part 3

First, let's discuss the theme song. As a kid, the only time I ever found Gargamel frightening was during the opening sequence where he uses a magic spell to destroy the Smurf village. The series ran for nine seasons so this will be just a quick overview of two episodes. It's interesting to note that episode 16, ‘The Purple Smurfs’, is based on the comic ‘The Black Smurfs’. The change from black to purple was made for fears of racism. Who would have thought something as innocent as the Smurfs would be accused of racism?

Only recently has The Purple Smurfs comic been released in the US.

The Purple Smurfs come about after a purple fly bites Lazy Smurf on his Smurf tail. For some reason this has the affect of turning him into a Purple Smurf. Not just Purple though, he is pretty much a mindless Smurf zombie. Hopping around, shouting ‘Gnap!’ and infecting other Smurfs. Papa Smurf is able to make an antidote after capturing the purple fly, but not before the other Smurfs have transformed into Purple Smurfs.

As Papa Smurf returns to his hut for more antidote he is bitten. During Papa's transformation into a Purple Smurf his hut explodes. The resulting explosion sends the antidote into the air which cures the others.

The Purple Smurfs is one of the better episodes, so if you’re looking for a little nostalgia fix I’d recommend this episode. Plus, it's just fun seeing the Smurfs become insane zombies and biting each other.

Based on the comic of the same name, Gargamel decides the only way to destroy the Smurfs is by attacking from within. To do this he creates Smurfette. So what does it take to create a Smurfette? A magical lump of blue clay, a dash of sugar and spice (but nothing nice), a dab of crocodile tears, half a pack of lies, the chatter of a magpie, and a heart of stone. Thus, Gargamel creates the only female Smurf. Meanwhile, the Smurfs are out picking Smurf berries. Hefty Smurf is the first to encounter Gargamel’s creation, finding her crying all by her lonesome.

She asks, ‘Do you like what you see?’ ‘I dunno.’ Hefty replies, having never seen a female Smurf before. ‘You will!’ Smurfette responds with a sly smile. Hefty immediately takes her to the village. Not long after she contacts Gargamel and begins her scheme. She tricks Greedy Smurf into opening the dam. Then, in a battle over the control leaver, breaks it, flooding the village.

Papa Smurf puts her on trial where she confesses to being an agent of Gargamel. She then asks if there is any way she can become a real Smurf. Papa Smurf creates a spell which transforms Smurfette from a dark haired evil creation into a blonde full-fledged Smurf. When the Smurfs see her they immediately begin fighting over her. Gargamel tricks her, so she tells the Smurfs a surprise is waiting at the oak tree. All the Smurfs immediately run out and fall in to the trap.

In an attempt to distract Gargamel and Azrael, Smurfette dresses up as The Lone Smurf and manages to free the Smurfs. After Gargamel and Azrael are defeated, the Smurfs are surprised to learn that their savior is in fact Smurfette!

In the comic Smurfette leaves because she can’t stand all the Smurfs fighting over her. She does, however, come back eventually. So we now know the origin of Smurfette, but the question remains...where did the other Smurfs come from? Perhaps it's best to simply relax and enjoy the cartoons or comics.

Bottom line, if you're even a little bit curious about the new film i'd recommend taking a look at the comics or picking up the DVDs of the animated series. As i said, they are great fun, full of humor and a nice distraction. Plus, if you want to look deeper into some stories you may find some social commentary.

And another thing, as Papa Smurf says...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fanholes Side Story: Smurfs Are Smurfy! part 2

You may ask yourself...why would a grown man read Smurf comics? Basically, I wanted to revisit a part of my childhood. I have to say, after reading several Smurf comics, I’m glad I did. It's nice to take a break from all the violence of mainstream comics. While I enjoy comics such as Captain America and Invincible, it's nice to not deal with any heavy subject matter. You’ll find no guts ripped out, Soviet spies or any of the like. These are comics I’d easily hand my nephews when they are old enough to read...just as my uncle gave me a pile of comics once.

You may remember an episode of the cartoon series called Astrosmurf. The cartoon is pretty much a direct adaptation of the comic. In the comic, Astrosmurf longs to Smurf to other planets and journey to the deepest reaches of space. He builds a spaceship, but is unable to lift off. He just can’t pedal fast enough. He becomes depressed and Papa Smurf quickly devises a solution.

He tells Astrosmurf they fixed the spaceship. Before he leaves Astrosmurf drinks a potion which puts him to sleep. The other Smurfs quickly disassemble the ship and begin a two day long trip to an extinct volcano and reassemble Astrosmurf’s ship. Astrosmurf wakes up on what he thinks is another planet. He discovers the Swoofs. Swoofs are simply Smurfs transformed by a potion Papa Smurf created. Astrosmurf wants to stay with the Swoofs and never return home. Not wanting to keep up the charade, Papa Smurf concocts several tests of courage. Despite his own shortcomings Astrosmurf manages to triumph. In the end, the Swoofs tell him that as a Swoof he must do all the chores, drink oil and other outrageous aspects of Swoof society...Astrosmurf quickly decides to return home. He is given another sleeping potion by the Swoofs while the ship is disassembled and reassembled again.

The cartoon version is only slightly different. It omits a few of the tests of courage and adds Gargamel and Azrael into the mix at the end. The Swoofs are red in the comic, but in the cartoon they are green.

In King Smurf a power struggle erupts in Smurf Village as Papa Smurf is away for a few days. After arguing about who should be in charge they decide to hold an election. One Smurf begins to realize he can get others to vote for him simply by making promises. Promises he does not intend to keep. He is elected and soon dons a gold outfit proclaiming himself King Smurf. He makes decrees, and warns offenders will be punished.

Eventually a group of rogue Smurfs break away and start their own village. A battle between the two sides erupts and in the end Papa Smurf returns and demands to know what has happened. King Smurf apologizes and all is forgiven. There is, of course, a moral here. We can see King Smurf as a parody for any politician. You may also be surprised to learn the Dutch title for this story was The Smurführer, a play on Führer. Keep in mind that this comic was written in a post World War II Europe.

When this story was made into an episode of the cartoon series, it was changed quite a bit. The role of King Smurf is played by Brainy Smurf. Brainy Smurf's Palace isn’t destroyed in the battle, but rather by a flood when the dam breaks. Here, Brainy learns that being a leader is more than simply making empty promises and giving orders.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fanholes Episode #20: To Boldly Fanhole!


This episode has the Fanholes boldly going where they've never gone before! An all Star Trek Podcast! It starts off with a somewhere cold segment on Star Trek Voyager, then the Fanholes share which of the feature Trek films is their favorite, next comes the age-old dilemma of Kirk vs. Picard, and finally we hear the Fanholes weigh in on the 2009 Star Trek feature film.

Fanholes Episode #20: To Boldly Fanhole!

Fanholes Side Story: Smurfs Are Smurfy! part 1

You may find it surprising, but the Smurfs are not only foreign but have been around since the late 50s. Belgium gave us the Smurfs and Tintin...and waffles of course, so we owe Belgium. It's also interesting to note that both properties have a feature film coming out this year. Go figure.

As a child of the 80s, I feel that I grew up with several great cartoons. As an adult I have revisited many of them, though there are several I have not. One property I have not revisited, until now, is The Smurfs. As a kid I loved the Smurfs. I’d wake up early every Saturday and watch as Gargamel tried his best to capture and eat the Smurfs, or turn them into gold…sometimes he seemed to be conflicted. I can also remember eating lots and lots of Smurf Berry Crunch Cereal.

First, a little history. The Smurfs were created, as I mentioned, in Belgium, by Pierre Culliford. Better known as Peyo, he created the Smurfs for a comic strip in 1958. The Smurfs began as characters in a strip called Johan and Peewit. If those names sound familiar it is because they would later show up in the cartoon series and movie.

By now we all know of the live action film being released this week. This new film, however, is not the first Smurfs movie. A previous animated film, which we know in the US as The Smurfs and The Magic Flute, came first. Made in Belgium in 1976 it didn’t reach the US till 1983, and by then the animated series had been on the air for two years and was quite popular. Though, when this movie was brought over it was not dubbed with the same voice actors who were used in the animated series.

A tagline for this movie states it's the first and only Smurfs movie ever. But really, who would ever imagine that nearly thirty years later there would be another Smurfs movie? Nevermind a live action version. The Smurfs and The Magic Flute is not available on DVD in North America.

As for the 2011 film…I think the trailer speaks for itself. Most likely, it's not going to be very good. Oh, it may prove popular with kids, but for those of us who grew up with the cartoon series…we see the trailer and groan. The two recent Alvin and The Chimpmunks live action movies proved quite popular and successful at the box office, so perhaps we can place the blame with that film series. As for me, I will not be seeing this film in theaters. I may not even watch it once it's on DVD. It just looks that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to proclaim my childhood will be ruined forever. I just feel this will be a bad, bad movie.

There are, however, other media we can focus on and enjoy. There is of course the animated series, as well as the comics for which several of the cartoon episodes were adapted from. I will be taking a look at these two sources as I take a smurf down memory lane.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Hey everybody! As of late, I have been having a big Cap-A-Thon lately in preparation for my Top Ten Captain America list for the History of Comics on Film Blog. Justin suggested that I might make a Fanholes side story akin to the Thor side story where I go over some current stories that were too recent for me to include in my Top Ten.
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First off, I'd just like to mention that I have enjoyed Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America even though I haven't included any of his run in my Top Ten List. In my defense, at least half the stories deal with BuckyCap, and he wasn't really the focus of the Top Ten list. Also, in that half of the run there are some political hot-buttons pressed that I could do without as well as the ever-present knee-jerk reaction comic writers have where they are compelled to villainize the 1950s.
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The majority of the other half of the stories with Steve Rogers tend to
involve tie-ins to crossover events I'm not particularly fond of, such as House of M or Civil War. There's also the ruination of the old comic nerd phrases such as, "Is he dead? Or Bucky dead?" Or the good ol', "Only Bucky stays dead in comics."
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Don't get me wrong, "Winter Soldier" is expertly written, despite its off-putting premise. I think I'm just one of those guys who will never get used to Bucky or Barry Allen being among the living again (even if it may only be a limited-time offer).

Captain America: Man Out of Time #1-5
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Mark Waid pens an update of Captain America's introduction to the modern day in this 5 issue mini-series. While I have been impressed with the majority of Waid's previous work on the character, I have to admit this book is somewhat of an odd-duck to me. Marvel's sliding timeline is only half-put into play here and you start to wonder how well a man could realistically adjust if he were to jump 6 decades into the future. In Avengers #4 the present day is only 1963, but today this story is set in 2011! It's gone from 18 years on ice to 66 years in suspended animation!
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Almost the first thing that happens to the Captain when he awakens is a kid with a gun shoots him point blank. Not five minutes outside of Avengers Mansion and we're literally assaulted with a variety of social commentary that you'd think would make a guy's head explode even if he wasn't on ice for the last 66 years!
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Wimmenz is docterz and segregation has disappeared! Time's Square looks like aliens have taken over and all these folks have their new-fangled PDAs and Mp3 players. Instead of Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade being ham-radio operators, they now use message board forums and the interwebz to get NPPI on the Avengers for Captain America. The timeline keeps sliding like this, and one of these days Cap'll wake up in the cockpit of Doc Brown's Delorean or on the beach of the Planet of the Apes pounding sand with Charlton Heston!

Ultimate Captain America #1-4
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I may not care for the Ultimates very much, but god damn Ultimate Cap is a hoot! In this mini-series from Jason Aaron, we get the Ultimate version of the character Nuke going up against Ultimate Cap. I guess Nuke has been watching too many Jane Fonda workout videos, because he's almost the political antithesis of his 616 counterpart here. He's trying to break Cap by exposing what he feels are all the so-called atrocities perpetrated by America since Ultimate Cap has been away. He not only tortures the Captain, but forces him to listen to chapter after chapter of what he considers the low points of America's wartime policies in Vietnam. Of course Ultimate Cap doesn't put up with that crap indefinitely. He manages to escape and proceeds to kick the ever-living shit out of "Jane Fonda" Nuke. Then to return the crappy favor Cap reads Nuke some chapters of the Bible in his hospital recovery room. Take that Ultimate Frank Simpson! You think this A on my forehead stands for Fonda!?!?!

Captain America: Patriot # 1-4
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The focus in this particular mini-series is on the 3rd man to fill the shoes of Captain America. The Patriot (a.k.a Jeffery Mace) is a Golden Age Marvel Comics character who ended up serving as Captain America. In fact, the story from Avengers #4 that revealed Steve Rogers was in suspended animation since 1945 is actually a retcon, since there were Captain America Comics published from 1945 onwards. To explain these discrepancies, characters such as the Spirit of '76 and the Patriot himself served as replacement Captain America's in place of Steven Rogers.
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If my fellow Fanhole, Justin (Grimlock),managed to convince you to check out The Marvels Project, then I think you may find this a good companion piece. Karl Kesel and Mitch Breitweiser manage to create a similar atmosphere to the one crafted by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting in the Marvels Project. Though the obsession with villianizing the 50's does creep up on you before you know it. Oh well, I guess every comic writer feels the need to throw in their two-cents on McCarthyism.
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There is also a key moment where Mace has to suit up as the Patriot once again. However, this is because Captain America can't be seen speaking at the funeral of a man who received a Blue Discharge. Mace decides to go anyway (as the Patriot) to speak at his friend's funeral. Mace eventually continues his career as a newspaper reporter and gives up the life of a super-hero.
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It may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy the focus on the minutiae of Captain America's various replacements over the years and were a fan of The Marvels Project, I'd at least give this book a look.

Captain America: Forever Allies #1-4
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Forever Allies, by War & Remembrance scribe Roger Stern, is probably my favorite of this recent batch of comics. Part of the story is told in the past,with Bucky and the Young Allies. The present day part of the story focuses on BuckyCap who is on the trail of my new favorite Sexy Evil Sentai Lady, Lady Lotus.
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She especially looks attractive in all the flashback sequences. It's also fun to see Bucky working with Toro and all the rest of his old crew in the Young Allies. The story makes a positive use of Bucky's past so that it is viewed as a strength in his current day adventures as Captain America. This is a refreshing change of pace from all the grim and gritty back story of the Winter Soldier. - Derek

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fanholes Episode #19: The Two Jimmies!


Fanholes Episode #19: The Two Jimmies!

This episode is all about going to the movies! The gang talks their favorites, from Foreign Films to Martial Arts Flicks. Then back to other genres such as Musicals and Action Films!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fanholes Side Story #9 Gordon's Alive!

Flash Gordon has been around since the 30s, having began with the comic strip. Later, there was a radio show, film serials, a TV series, cartoon series, movie, another cartoon series and another TV series. Like the Phantom, I’ve been a fan of Flash Gordon since I was a kid. I grew up with Defenders of the Earth, the 80s feature film and reruns of the movie serial and TV show. Unlike the Phantom, however, I kind of lost track of Flash after awhile.

The latest incarnation of Flash Gordon is from Ardden Entertainment. The first issue opens with a cliffhanger. Literally. This version of Flash is more akin to Indiana Jones. Like Jones, Gordon is a Professor at a university and enjoys diversions like mountain climbing. Gordon being a professor is quite a change from the norms of being an athlete though. In the comic strip Flash was a polo star and in the 80s movie he was a football pro.

Another change is to the character of Dale. Here she is with the CIA, which isn’t as drastic a change when you think about it, as Dale has been everything from a travel agent to a TV news reporter. It does, however, put a modern spin on the character, as she can take care of herself. There are two elements of the original story still in place. Once Flash and Dale meet up they board a plane, which immediately crashes. We also have Dr. Zarkov who is still a crazed scientist in this update, however he finds himself manipulated by terrorists to construct a WMD. Instead, he creates a spaceship and after a pitched battle with the terrorists Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov blast off.

The gang are shot down by Ming’s forces and scattered. Dale is taken to Ming, who paints himself as the hero of a civil war and puts on a display of elegance and power in an attempt to deceive and seduce Dale. Flash encounters the Rangers and is soon drawn into a battle to the death with the Prince of the Lion Men. Meanwhile, Zarkov encounters Vultan of the Hawkmen. Quite a lot happens after issue #3. Flash forges an alliance with the Lion Men and they attempt an alliance with the Hawkmen, who attack them on sight. Meanwhile, Dale senses Ming is not being completely honest and tries to escape his city. Flash does manage to forge an alliance with the Hawkmen finally, and also becomes involved in a love triangle between Princess Aura and Prince Barin.

Issue six is the final showdown as Gordon’s forces attack Ming’s city. Flash is the only person who can forge an alliance between the different forces who were oppressed by Ming. He's also, seemingly, the only one who can keep the fragile alliance together. It was a key element of the live action movie and the comics as well, so its nice to see this aspect of the mythos has survived. In the end Ming is defeated, though escapes with Princess Aura. On the final page we learn that the series will continue in the Invasion of the Red Sword.

If there is one complaint I have, it's that there seems to be a lot of reused art throughout this series. We seem to be subjected to the same image of Flash, who has a somewhat dumbfound expression on his face, over and over. Artist often reuse art, or even swipe from others, but this just seems lazy. It pops up several times in each issue, sometimes its even used multiple times on the very same page. Also, some of the manipulation comes off very flat. We’ll have a manipulated image in the background and another image superimposed, with maybe a splatter of blood thrown in that has the whole thing looking like a mess. These problems are mostly confined to the first three issues. As the series progresses, the art improves, there is less art being reused and the comic feels more defined and fleshed out.

Other than that, I have to say I’ve enjoyed this re-imagining of Flash Gordon. It does a fine job of not only updating classic characters that have been around since the 30s, but it also pays homage to what has come before. If you are a fan of Flash Gordon I would recommend you check it out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fanholes Episode #18: Guest-Tinction Agenda Part 4, Featuring Michael C. Dougherty and Andrew Marnik


This episode, the gang has Michael C. Dougherty and Andrew Louis Marnik on to discuss their work on the Firefly fan-film, Browncoats: Redemption.

In honor of this special occasion, we and the Browncoats: Redemption crew are running a contest this week. Simply send your answers to the following challenge to If your answers are correct, you will be entered in for a chance to win a free copy of Browncoats: Redemption, graciously offered by the BC crew!

CHALLENGE: Name all villains in the Firefly universe that have appeared in more than one episode or comic book. We're looking for all baddies with more than one appearance in-canon.

The winner will be chosen one week from now.

Browncoats: Redemption official site

Fanholes Episode # 18: Guest-Tinction Agenda Part 4, Featuring Michael C. Dougherty and Andrew Marnik

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fanholes Side Story #8 Vampires Suck?

Vampires have been done to death the past couple of years. We can blame Twilight (at least i do) for the massive outpouring of vampire movies, books, tv shows, name it. When I heard there would be a new Vampirella book I thought maybe Dynamite was going to jump on the band wagon, but I also thought maybe they could do her some justice.

Let me get personal for a moment. I’ve never been very big on blondes. I think that’s largely due to two femme fatales from my childhood. Bettie Page and Vampirella. My first exposure to Vampirella came when I found a few back issues of her comic magazine, complete with beautiful covers painted by Frank Frazetta. It was the kind of thing I knew I’d get in trouble for looking at if my mom caught me. But it was totally worth it.

Each issue has no less than four variant covers. I should add that these covers depict classic Vampirella, which is a big tease as the ‘classic’ Vampirella only shows up as a dream demon...or something. A repressed aspect of Vampirella’s personality perhaps...we’re not quite sure. We hit the ground running with Vampirella taking out several of her kin and picking up a sidekick along the way. She battles other vampires, even some pretending to be cops and is teased with the knowledge that something bad is coming. A big bad that Vampirella can either submit to and rule at its side, or fight it...but only by embracing her true nature. As far as her origins go, she speaks of Drakulon and Adam so its still unclear what continuity this series is following exactly.

For the first five issues Vampirella is mostly running around acting like Batman. She uses a vampire bat emblem to kill other vamps. This ‘look’ she has is simply sunglasses, a long trench coat and some guns. Not very inspired, but it gets the job done. Vampirella has went from being very exposed in her bikini to being completely covered up. The art is good for the most part. Though I have to say there were a few pages where some of the characters looked very distorted, almost as though the artist just didn’t have time to finish.

At the end of issue five we see Vampirella in her classic outfit, finally, and also we’re teased that she has embraced her destiny of becoming the bride of the big bad that’s coming to destroy the planet. This series seems to suggest the ‘classic’ version of Vampirella has been mentally suppressed and is something she must embrace to fully defeat the evil before her. I should state that this big bad is a...well it’s a worm. Kind of reminds me of the sand worms from Dune. Only, not as frightening.

I would say this comic is similar to The Last Phantom. Both are reboots or re-imaginations of classic characters. Both start out in redesigned costumes, only to finally embrace their roots in the fifth issue. Where I would recommend the Last Phantom to fans of the Phantom, I’m not sure I’d recommend this comic to fans of Vampirella.

However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this book is bad. I like to give new titles the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll give it another seven issues to see where the story is going.