#850: Truly A Marvel

GETTING MORE TALE #850: Truly A Marvel

You can blame my dad!  He doesn’t remember getting me into Marvel comics, but he started it.

My neighborhood friends did have something to do with it initially.  Marvel’s Secret Wars was turning into the comic event of the year.  Neighbors like Bob Schipper and George Balasz introduced me to some of the characters – The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Storm, and Bob’s favourite Hawkeye.  Bob liked collecting “limited series” and 1984’s The Last Starfighter (based on the movie) was the first he completed.  Marvel also had the comic rights to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, so it was natural for me to gravitate to them rather than DC.   Even Kiss had a Marvel comic.

I remember Marvel four-packs at convenience stores.   You would get four Marvel comics from four different titles in one bag.  My dad would buy these for us on the way to the cottage to give us something to do.   Just one bag of four books would keep us occupied on those long drives.  Iceman, Iron Man, ROM the Spaceknight and the X-Men entered our lives this way.  I didn’t want DC comics; I wanted the characters that I knew.  We were not comic fiends the way some kids were, but Marvel was there for me with astounding tales of science fiction and fantasy.

My father has no memory of buying those old books.  He looks at these Marvel movies today completely dumbfounded.

“Who’s that guy?” he’ll ask.

“That’s Tony Stark!  Iron Man!  You bought my first Iron Man comics when I was a kid!”

Although he always responds with “I don’t remember that,” I sure do.

It’s all true.  He bought my first Iron Man.  When I started reading them, James Rhodes was actually Iron Man.  Tony was just about to reclaim the helmet for himself when I jumped in.

Of the heroes, ROM was my favourite.  His adventures crossed over with Ant Man, Alpha Flight and others, exposing me to more Marvel characters.  A ROM annual (#3) with the X-Men hooked me on the Spaceknight.  At this time, my grandfather was dying of cancer.  When we went to visit the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to see him anymore.  He was too sick and they didn’t want me to remember him that way.  I can remember sitting in the waiting room reading ROM #62.  The battle to save Earth from the Dire Wraiths was a good distraction from the hospital sounds and smells.

As a little kid, I couldn’t buy everything.  It was hard just getting to the stores to catch every issue.  So my mom got out her cheque book and bought me subscriptions to my three favourite books.  Now there was no way I would be missing the latest issues of ROM, GI Joe, and The Transformers.

DC Comics had the big movies – Superman, Batman – but Marvel didn’t seem to translate well to live action.  We had the TV show The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno, but it was only loosely based on the comic.  (The TV producers didn’t want the Hulk to be green but fortunately Stan Lee insisted upon it.)   Marvel finally came out with a great film in 2000’s X-Men, directed by Brian Singer.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan were fantastic, but it was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that was the real breakthrough.  Unfortunately the X-Men films declined in quality too quickly.  Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man debuted in 2002, but suffered the same fate by the third film.

Whether it was Blade, Fantastic 4 or Ghost Rider, Marvel rarely made me gasp in awe at the silver screen.  Not until Iron Man flew around the world in 2008.  That Jon Favreau film was a game changer.  Especially when Samuel L. Jackson showed up in a surprise cameo as Nick Fury to discuss the “Avenger Initiative”.  Suddenly the idea of Marvel heroes interacting with other Marvel heroes seemed possible.

None of us could have imagined the marvel-ous tapestry that they would weave over the next 22 movies.  Finally seeing my heroes like Captain America, Thor and Ant Man in movie form made me remember what I loved about my old comics.  They tried to stay reasonably close to the original stories.  The costumes might have been updated and less colourful, but there was no mistaking the Mighty Thor for anyone else.

And now all these decades later, I’m going back, buying graphic novels and catching up on my old friends in the Marvel Universe.  Reprints of The Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars, and the very first adventures of the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the X-Men are all in my library any time I need some nostalgia therapy.  Thank you Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and all the rest.  Jim Shooter, Larry Hama, Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman, I will always be grateful for bringing me childhood heroes month after month!


#841: Happy Canada Day! 11 Tunes

Happy Canada Day from LeBrain HQ to you.  I know this is rough one, a weird one, and a difficult one.  I’m going to ignore the current goings-on and everything else that has to do with Canada Day, and present to you Eleven Canadian Songs You Need to Hear Right Now.  Enjoy!

1. Helix – “Billy Oxygen”

2. Arkells – “Leather Jacket”

3. July Talk – “Picturing Love”

4. The Guess Who – “Albert Flasher”

5. Blue Rodeo – “Side of the Road”

6. Harem Scarem – “Slowly Slipping Away”

7. Rush – “Vital Signs”

8. Gordon Lightfoot – “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” (re-recorded version)

9. Monster Truck – “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”

10. Kim Mitchell – “Rumour Has It”

11. Thor – “Keep the Dogs Away”

WTF Search Terms: More Rock and Roll edition

WTF Search Terms XII: More Rock and Roll edition

“Here We Go Again” with more WTF Search Terms!  Everything seen below is an actual search term, that a real person clicked to somehow get here to  As David Coverdale might say, “Here’s some rock and roll for ya!”

  1. jon mikl thor arnold the beatles greatness (One of these things is not like the other)
  2. russ parish is god (Good, yes, God, no.)
  3. buyers for kiss albulms (What you got?)
  4. taking the rush blu ray disc out of moving pictures deluxe edition (It’s not that difficult, guy.)
  5. queensryche take hold of the flame cheap trick lyrics (Again these things are not the same.)
  6. used t-120 vhs recording tapes for kids sing along (OK…)
  7. cherone nice good guy (I wouldn’t know?)
  8. marilyn manson sucks himself (No!  How many fucking times do I have to tell you!)
  9. iron maiden gone too soft (Bullshit.)
  10. the demon code prevents me from declining a rock off challenge lyrics (ACCEPTED!)

If you enjoyed this and would like to read more WTF Search Terms, please click here!


REVIEW: Thor – Keep the Dogs Away (1977)

Here’s the third review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale! For the last installment of this series, click here!

THOR – Keep the Dogs Away (1977 RCA)

From the snowy shores of Vancouver British Columbia came Jon Mikl Thor, cult favourite and man of remarkable physique!  Keep the Dogs Away is his second album, but the first to be billed simply as Thor.  (Prior to this, they were Thor and the Imps.)  It’s corny, cheesy, not too serious and occasionally fun.  According to Wikipedia, this thing even went gold!

I’ve certainly loved the title track for as long as I can remember.  I used to see this guy Thor on MuchMusic all the time.  Usually he’d be bending a steel bar in his mouth.  Sometimes, he’d blow up a hot water bottle with nothing but lung power.  In one mid-80’s Power Hour interview, I distinctly recall him explaining that he was wearing spikes before Motley Crue were (true) and that his spikes were bigger (also true).  That’s the level we’re at here, just so you have an idea.  Thor is now a B-movie thespian, and I remember seeing bits of one of his films, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) on TV.

There’s nothing exceptional here in terms of vocals, musicianship or songwriting, but the tunes are entertaining enough.  You’ll find yourself able to sing along to “Sleeping Giant” and “Catch a Tiger”, with its simple “Yeah you know!” refrain.  “Catch a Tiger” distantly resembles Rising-era Rainbow.

“I’m So Proud” is just rock and roll, kinda lite and reminiscent perhaps of the lesser Gene Simmons’ solo album material.  Thor wouldn’t be influenced by Kiss just a little, would he?  “Tell Me Lies” might be Thor aping Alice Cooper.  I’m sure Alice was an influence on young Jon Mikl.

Side two commences with the cascading piano of the pompous but fun “Military Matters”.  What Thor does here cannot really be strictly called singing, but he sure is bellowing!  “Superhero” is comically bad, but…I seem to find myself humming along.  Is it the basic simplicity?  “Wasted” is of similar quality, although Thor’s not even trying to sing at this point.  “Rosie” isn’t much better, and then the album closes on “Thunder”, a resounding thud of mediocrity.

I don’t regret the $10 that I spent on this. I’d wanted “Keeps the Dogs Away” (the song) for a long time and now I have it on a physical product.  As far as I’m concerned, I have all the Thor I need now.

1/5 stars.  But almost in that “so bad it’s good” category.

Footnote about the credits:  I like that John Shand played guitar and six-string bass, an instrument used by both Spinal Tap and Aerosmith.   I also enjoy that, apparently, this album was recorded in 1943.

Thor bends steel bar in his mouth

Part 215: Mono


Today, I was listening to some old-school Dio, and I had a thought.  A sudden thought that I wanted to explore:

“My taste in music was 100% solidified by that month in 1986 that I had mono!”

Yeah!  I think it’s true!  I was sick at home for a month (at least) too tired to do anything except record videos on the Pepsi Power Hour!  I was inundated with a steady intake of incredible songs, in many cases for the first time.  And because I still have the old VHS tapes, I know exactly what’s on them.  This brief but intense period of my life was rocked by this soundtrack, over and over again:

power hourOzzy Osbourne – “The Ultimate Sin”

Hear N’ Aid – “Stars”

Dio – “Rock and Roll Children”

Black Sabbath – “Die Young”

Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”

ZZ Top – “Rough Boy”

Kim Mitchell – “Lager and Ale”

Thor (Jon Mikl Thor) – “Keep the Dogs Away”

Triumph – “Never Surrender”

Loudness – “Let It Go”

Spinal Tap – “Hell Hole”, the theme song that my sister and I dedicated to our old Catholic grade school!

These songs were first impressed upon me during that period, the visuals always cool and intriguing to me.  Especially Lee Aaron.  Ahem.  Anyway.  I watched these videos over and over again.   I recorded the audio (in mono) (…hah, I made a pun!) to a cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman.  This came in handy at the cottage.  We didn’t have a VCR or cable there, so the only way to bring my songs was to tape them from the TV.

That one intense period of being stuck at home with nothing but heavy metal heroes might have made me the LeBrain I am today.  I’m glad something good came out of it!  I couldn’t even go swimming that entire summer!

Motherlode of Christmas Rock!

I have 31 discs of music to listen to now.  And a whole lotta other goodies.  Here we go!

First up – books.  Peter Criss’ Makeup To Breakup, and the latest from Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Guiness’ Book of World Records.   I’ve leafed through Peter’s book — all he seems to do is bitch about Paul and Gene.  Review will come.

Next, Queen.  A total of 8 discs of awesome remastered Queen to listen to:  The Miracle, Jazz, A Night at the Opera, and Live Killers!

Next up, Rush.  6 discs in each of these two Sector box sets, including 2 DVD’s in 5.1 surround, plus 2 discs of 2112.  Awesome.  (I already have Sector 2 and have a review of that coming in the next few days.)

And the rest:  The 4 disc Cult Love Omnibus Edition.  Thin Lizzy’s Life Live (2 discs), Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra, and the new Rage Against The Machine XX edition (2 discs plus a DVD).

But that’s not all.  Check out this Kiss lunchbox, these movies and vintage G1 Transformers 1988 “Bugly” action figure.

Lastly my folks got me this neat Joby camera tripod.  This is going to come in handy when I make my next Transformers stop motion animated movie.  I did a brief 15 second screen test — check that out too!

Hope your Christmas was filled with happiness, love, joy, and rock!


FUBAR (2002, directed by Michael Dowse)

Ferrell Mitchner, an amature filmaker, wants to look at two locals who live the party life, fast and hard. Terry and Deaner are two “bangers” living in Calgary Alberta.  They shotgun their beers, vandalize stuff, and avoid getting a real job, and to them that’s just fine.  They live a worry and care-free lifestyle with a killer soundtrack behind them:  AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Thor, and original metal music too.

All’s not well in partyland though:  Terry and Dean’s best friend, Tron (Troy) isn’t hanging out with them anymore.  Things seem pretty dull in Calgary until Terry blabs to Ferrell that Dean’s got cancer.

And it’s bad cancer, too.  Testicular cancer.  While Dean acts like it’s a joke, his on-and-off girlfriend Trixie convinces him to get treatment.  For the sake of their daughter Chastity, Dean decides to go.  But not before one last massive blow-out party weekend.  Camping.  And Ferrell’s going to film the whole thing.

While the cancer aspect doesn’t sound funny, it does lend itself to many lines about Dean’s “giant nut”.  It’s the dense but lovable Terry and Dean who make this comedy work. Eternally quotable, Fubar is equal to or better than Trailer Park Boys’ dialogue.

Even though he cast some nasty fuckin’ evil shit on people, Merlin went to Heaven. That stuff’s real. Merlin was in King Henry’s court.

I liked this one, too.

Some of the best burgers I’ve ever had came from bowling alleys. Bowling alleys have some of the best cooks. Just because they work at a bowling alley, doesn’t mean they’re not gonna put some pride in their fuckin’ burgers.

The fact is, anybody who grew up in the 80’s knew somebody just like Terry and Dean. Dumb, but lovable and loyal, finding amusement in the simplest activities like farts, jumping fences and play fighting.  Terry and Dean are not unlike that guy down the street who wore his jean jacket even on the hottest summer days. Along the way, they encouter real Albertans like themselves, (like, actually real, as in these people didn’t know it was for a fictional movie) .   Guys who drink hard and party hard all weekend, waking at the crack of noon to do it all over again. While some would like to live in denial that such people exist, they’re out there, and they don’t give a shit what you think.

A big part of why this movie works is Paul Spence and David Lawrence.  Somehow they manage to give the characters of Dean and Terry just enough pathos, while keeping them genuine.

This is a truely awesome Canadian cult classic. It is a comedy with a real heart beating inside. Most importantly, it is only the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll want to see what adventures Terry and Deaner are up to when they move to Fort McMurray in Fubar II!

Bonus features are extremely high quality, with deleted scenes that should have made the final cut, and some hilarious commentary tracks.  I’m always a big fan of character commentaries.  The character commentary in this movie is hilarious.  Just as a sad scene is about to take place, commentary Deaner says:

I know I’m supposed to be sad because of what’s gonna happen…but this song’s so good, I can’t be sad.  (“Run To The Hills”)

Note:  You gain absolutely nothing by owning this on blu-ray vs. DVD.  The movie is supposed to look like they shot it with no money (which they basically did), and blu-ray actually looked worse in my opinion.

5/5 stars, just give’r.

Dean Murdoch Paul Spence
Terry Cahill David Lawrence
Farrel Mitchner Gordon Skilling


Part 31: Quest For Music Videos!

Back in 1985 or so, MuchMusic was the window through which we discovered the vast majority of heavy metal.  For a while there, my sister had good taste in music.  Her favourite band was Motley Crue.  She was obsessed with their tall, tall hair.  I taped her the first two albums, Too Fast For Love and Shout At The Devil on two sides of a 90 minute tape.

Together, we watched a shitload of videos.  Our favourites were often the ones where the band seemed to be on some sort of quest, or adventure!  Some of these videos I haven’t seen in years, so forgive me if the memories are hazy…

Motley Crue – “Too Young To Fall In Love”.  It seems like some little kid is telling Motley Crue something important, and then they kick some ass.  My sister used to say to me, “I think that kid is telling Nikki Sixx to stand up.” 

Lionheart – “Die For Love”. You gotta see this one. Dennis Stratton, ex Iron Maiden. This evil guy in a white suit and a wheelchair has a pretty blonde girl captive! The band must come to the rescue! I hope their hair doesn’t get mussed! Good song though. Great song, even. SERIOUSLY funny video though, like those poses…the singer jumps around…they kind of dance-fight with the bad guys….

Queensryche – “Queen of the Reich”.  The Queen turned them to stone!

Thor – “Knock ‘Em Down”.  Thor (Also known of Jon Mikel Thor) was this musclebound metal singer, and his video was hilarious.  This evil space-witch named Pantera enslaves the population of the world below!  Thor, riding in his space ship (which is obviously a Millenium Falcon model with some battleship parts glued to it, and crewed by nothing but big-breasted women), beams down!  The evil space-witch shoots him with her red eye lasers, but Thor reflects it back with his mighty hammer!  The space-witch is defeated!

Dio – “The Last In Line”.  That video actually scared me a little, with the monsters leaking fluid and stuff.  I’m glad the kid got out of hell, although it looks like Dio has to stay.

Dio – “Holy Diver”.  Always the hero, Dio awkwardly weilds a sword that is obviously too big for his tiny frame.  But he does slay an ugly dude who doesn’t put up much of a fight.  Is that Jimmy Bain?  George used to say Vinny Appice is the guy forging the sword.  Is this true?

Grim Reaper – “Fear No Evil”.  The band ride into action on an armored APC (Asskicking Personnel Carrier), with spikes and tusks!  They must free the slaves of the evil minotaur.  Steve Grimmitt breaks the chains of the slaves with his bare hands! 

Armored Saint – “Can U Deliver”.  At least the beginning part, they seem to be looking for a sword in a desert!  A techno-coloured desert!

And of course, Kiss – “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Gene doesn’t seem too impressed with Paul’s swordplay.  Vinnie looks less like a chick than in the previous video.  The post-nuclear holocaust seems to have somehow increased the size of women’s breases, if this video is to be trusted.