Archive for Dose of Awesome!

The Greatest Comic Cover Ever!

Alright, class, let’s settle down. Everyone take your seat, thank you. It’s time for today’s lesson.

Namely, our lesson concerning HOW AMAZING THIS OLD COVER IS!

That’s Super Friends #16, cover dated at January 1979, and from the looks of it, art by the impossibly great Ramona Fradon herself!

I’ve never read this comic, but BAHGAWD, we can talk about what a fantastic cover this is, right?

We’re not going to talk about the fact that the old Super Friends art style, based on the old cartoons, is outdated, because the job of the artist was the replicate the limited animation style of the cartoons. No style points are lost here, and anyone who complains is getting their eye poked.

So let’s start off with the image that dominates the cover — that amazing superhero trap formed from an Impossible Cube, as imagined by artist M.C. Escher.

I’ve never seen anything like this in any other comic book, and I’m honestly furious about that. It’s such a perfect concept — how do you confine demigods with incredible powers? Well, you put ’em somewhere that has no ups or downs or lefts or rights, somewhere where they can seem to be right next to each other but still be absolutely isolated and alone. It’s a mathematical optical illusion — it can’t exist. But you make it solid or at least multi-dimensional, and it becomes the best way to capture and imprison four-color superheroes. This should be a way more common superhero trope just because of its glorious weirdness.

The last thing I want us to talk about on this cover is the alien’s word balloon. It reads:

“The Earth’s greatest super heroes are helpless to stop us… FROM STEALING THE SKY!!”

I think the only time I’ve seen a similar phrase is from the title of a book in an old Ace Double, namely “Tonight We Steal the Stars” by John Jakes.

I’ve read summaries of both of these stories, and big spoiler alert — no one literally steals the stars or the sky in either book. How could they? The stars are giant balls of gas millions of light years away, and the sky is, well, it’s everywhere. If it’s above your head, it’s the sky, and you just can’t steal that. But what if some villain… figured out how to do it?! You must buy this comic, reader! Or this book! Buy it and read!!!

Obviously, it’s a killer hook, and comics and science fiction could both use those kinds of fantastic, irresistible hooks.

So there ya got it. That’s a quick look at what may be the greatest comic book cover of all time. No gimimcks, just great art and great imagination.

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A Dose of Awesome: Bears!

Just about every time we talk about why some stuff is awesome, I’ve got a pretty good idea why they’re considered so cool. But I’m a little stumped when it comes to bears. Yes, I absolutely believe that bears are awesome. But I also believe bears are pretty dang scary, too.

On the one paw, we’ve got stuff like this:

Almost impossibly cute, aren’t they? There’s a reason why teddy bears are so popular. Bears can be so cute, especially as cubs, but even as adults sometimes. Like this guy:

Aww, look, he thinks he’s Batman!

Why I bet all bears are cute like that, aren’t they? Come on, kids, let’s head up to Yellowstone and feed the bears some jelly donuts!

Uh, maybe not.

You wanna get fairly nervous about bears? Read this article about “bear danger.” You wanna get good and squicked-out about a dude who bought into the idea that bears were big cuddly huggyfuns and paid the ultimate price for it? Read about Timothy Treadwell. You wanna decide you’d rather never go into the woods again? Read this terrifyingly long list of fatal bear attacks in North America. We’re lucky the bears haven’t turned Yellowstone National Park into one huge tourist buffet. All those idiots feeding bears sandwiches out of their cars are just asking for it. And don’t get me started on those adorable polar bears in the Coca-Cola ads.

Maybe that’s what makes bears so cool. They’re cute — heck, I think we can call even an adult bear beautiful — as well as massive, powerful, fast, smart, and agile. And for all their beauty, for all the times they seem docile and good natured, they are just about the scariest, most dangerous animals we can find. That’s kinda awesome all by itself.

That’s not true for all bears, of course. Some are just plain huggable.

‘Scuse me, I meant Huggy. Still awesome anyway.

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A Dose of Awesome: Neil deGrasse Tyson!

It’s been way, way too long since we took a look at the world’s many awesome things, so let’s remedy that very quickly and ponder the awesomeness of the coolest astrophysicist in the world, Neil deGrasse Tyson!

The very bare bones facts about Neil deGrasse Tyson? He was born in Manhattan, raised in the Bronx, an astronomy fanatic in his teens, actually gave astronomy lectures at the age of 15, and attended Harvard, UT-Austin, and Columbia. He was also, apparently, hotter’n a three-dollar pistol. I’m a straight man, and I don’t mind saying that at all.

Tyson is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

So he’s a distinguished scientist — big deal, there are lots of distinguished scientists. Well, not many distinguished scientists were personally recruited by Carl Sagan at Cornell, had college hobbies that included competing on the wrestling team, crew, and competitive ballroom dancing (or won a gold medal at an International Latin Ballroom dancing tournament), or is the host of “NOVA ScienceNOW “on PBS, much less a regular guest on all the better news shows, like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Yes, those are the better news shows, and you know it.

Tyson was among the leaders of the movement to have Pluto demoted to a dwarf planet — which I originally wasn’t real happy about, but once I read his book “The Pluto Files,” the reasoning made a lot of sense. Pluto had no real similarities with the terrestrial planets, like Earth and Mars, or the gas giants, like Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune — and it had a lot more similarities with Kuiper belt objects, of which there are thousands. If astronomers had known how many objects there were that were similar to Pluto back when it was originally discovered, I don’t think they would’ve ever considered Pluto a planet at all.

He’s a huge “Star Trek” fan, he collects comics, he’s appeared on “Stargate: Atlantis” and “The Big Bang Theory,” he’s been spotlighted in “Symphony of Science” videos, and he’s written tons of science books that are non-scientist friendly.

A fourth grader once asked him what would happen if two black holes collided with each other. Tyson liked the question so much, he got the kid a full scholarship to any university he wants to attend someday.

Basically, the guy loves science, and he loves talking to people about how awesome science is. That’s pretty danged awesome!

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A Dose of Awesome: Christopher Lee!

It’s been quite a while since we took a look into our Awesome Box of Awesome Things, so let’s talk about one of the most awesome people in existence: Christopher Lee!

Aw, just some old guy? What’s so awesome about some old guy? Well, mister, lemme tell ya, you better put on yer noseplugs, ’cause you’re about to get drowned in awesome.

If you want the straight facts on Lee, you can check his Wikipedia page, or for a bit more levity, there’s his TVTropes page… but even with dry ol’ Wikipedia, you just can’t hide what an amazing life the man has had. He’s just shy of 90 years old, he’s almost six-and-a-half feet tall, he’s got a voice that is really just one of the most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to hear. And he’s played a spectacular number of roles on the big screen. How many? Well, he holds the world record — 275 roles!

He was Count Dracula in the Hammer horror films of the 1950s and ’60s — and he’s still considered the best actor to have every performed that role. He played Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and plenty of other roles in other Hammer films. He was Francisco Scaramanga in “The Man with the Golden Gun.” He played Lord Summerisle in the original “Wicker Man.” He played Sherlock Holmes and Mycroft Holmes. He played Saruman in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He played Count Dooku in the “Star Wars” prequels. He was even the voice of Death in two British adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

Oh, but there’s more to him than just acting. He met M.R. James, the greatest ghost story writer in history, while applying for a scholarship at Eton. He was the only member of the cast of “Lord of the Rings” to have actually met J.R.R. Tolkien and re-reads the entire trilogy every year.

He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II — and he was a member of a secret espionage unit called the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. There is a very good chance that he actually killed Nazis, which is more awesome than anything you’ve done, isn’t it? One of the men who served with him in the war was his step-cousin Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond novels!

He’s an expert fencer. He did his own swordplay in the “Star Wars” movies and his own stunt driving in “The Man with the Golden Gun.” He received his knighthood on Halloween. He’s an operatic bass-baritone. And he released a couple of heavy metal albums. Both of them were named after Charlemagne. Why Charlemagne? Because Christopher Lee is a direct descendant of the most badass of the French kings.

I don’t know what else to say. Christopher Lee is so awesome, it hurts.

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A Dose of Awesome: MODOK!

Putting a solid definition on what precisely “awesome” means is one of the most difficult tasks out there. What makes a robot or a pirate or a shark or a chainsaw so awesome? As compared to lots of other very nice things? It’s really hard to say exactly. Ultimately, they’re awesome because they’re awesome, and that’s the only definition we can come up with.

But sometimes, things are awesome just because they’re so unbelievably weird and funny. That’s when you know we’re talking about MODOK.

So who is MODOK? He’s Marvel’s Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. He’s got a giant head, a floating chair, tiny arms and legs, and a pompous attitude. He runs the evil science organization called AIM. Oh, and it seems he stole Steven Tyler’s mouth.

He has rare moments of badassery — deeply offset by truly spectacular failures — and this is mainly because MODOK is hilarious. He’s got an immense head and itty-bitty limbs! He’s ugly as sin! His minions wear yellow beekeeper outfits! And despite all the failure and humiliation, lots of people love the stuffin’ out of him, specifically because he’s so awesomely weird.

I actually think I trace the current MODOK renaissance to the great Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9 in 2007, which featured the Avengers being temporarily turned into MODOKs. It’s one of the funniest issues of a deeply fun and funny series, and I think it was the first time I realized that I wanted to see more of MODOK just because he was such a schmuck.

In summation: MODOK: even adorably kid-sized, he’s still dorky, and he’s still awesome.

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A Dose of Awesome: Chainsaws!

From time to time, we like to take a break from comic book stuff to examine things that truly make life worth living — things that fill the heart with joy — things that are awesome. And today, we’re gonna talk about chainsaws.

What makes chainsaws so awesome? Well, you can cut down trees with them. Yep, that’s really all you need ’em for. Cutting down trees.

Oh, okay, you can also use them for cutting down people.

Of course, you should avoid doing that in the real world, as it rarely leads to lucrative film contracts — and if you try it, I refuse to accept the slightest blame for it, you lunatic. Who is this person anyway? Jeeves, have this mad chainsaw goon thrown out right away.

Of course, you’re still on the up-and-up if you’re going to use a chainsaw to cut up zombies and monsters. Because that’s completely awesome.

For more examples of why chainsaws are really, really, really cool, you can read this whole page of awesome chainsaw stuff.

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A Dose of Awesome: Ben Franklin!

People, it’s been a crazy week, and we need a dose of awesome to get us all back on track. So let’s look at one of our most awesome Founding Fathers: Benjamin Franklin!

Ben Franklin is awesome because… Wait, wait, I’m not really going to have to explain all this to you, am I? You can read a (relatively) short biography of him if your historical knowledge is just embarrassingly lacking, or you can read a lot of funny pop culture references to him. But man, the dude experimented with electricity (he did fly a kite in a thunderstorm, but there wasn’t a key tied to the line, ’cause it woulda killed him), invented all kinds of awesome stuff, published a newspaper, edited the Declaration of Independence, was the first Postmaster General, fooled around aaaaaaall over France, and still had time to write essays like the awesomely titled “Fart Proudly.” He was never President, but he still made it onto the $100 bill.

And he’s one of the most awesomely quotable figures in American history — to the point where people actually think some of his quotes are from the Bible. When people mistake stuff you said for the Word of God, you know you’re pretty awesome.

How awesome was Ben Franklin? He was so awesome that the rest of the Founding Fathers — including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — probably sat around talking about how awesome Ben Franklin was. And I’m not joking either. You know how brainy some of the Founding Fathers were, and I’m pretty sure they were amazed at how awesome and smart Franklin was.

And you gotta be pretty awesome to meet up with an unholy anthropomorphic drink pitcher and not freak out about it.

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A Dose of Awesome: Krampus!

Usually, all the awesome stuff I dig up here has been considered awesome for years, decades, centuries. But this is something that just caught fire in the last few weeks. I think I was aware of this before, but suddenly, I’m seeing references to it just about everywhere. What is it? We’re talking about the black sheep of the Christmas holiday — the Krampus!

Okay, fine, what’s the Krampus? It’s a Christmas legend, most common in Germany, Austria, and the Alps, about a monstrous creature who is a companion of St. Nicholas — where St. Nick brings presents to good children, the Krampus brings punishment to bad ones, usually, around December 5th of every year. He carries a bundle full of switches, and he’s sometimes depicted carrying bad children away.

In other words, he’s Incongruous Christmas Monster, complete with horns, obscenely long tongue, chains, bells, and the whole shebang. He’s such a badass that he hangs around a Christian saint — and no one can make him go away!

And Bill O’Reilly can’t even complain that Krampus is doing anything against Christmas! It’s not like he just showed up all of a sudden and started getting Christmas all monstered up — he’s been scaring waste fluids out of kids in the Alps every December for centuries! Bill O’Reilly better keep his distance from the Krampus anyway — he’s got way more fearmongering experience than the Falafel-Master…

And the Krampus isn’t just a feature in old artwork and legends — Christmas festivals in Germany will often include people who dress up in monster costumes and walk among the crowds along with St. Nicholas. Can you imagine that happening at a Christmas parade in America? “Merry Christmas, kids! Now here’s GWAR!

I think that’s why Krampus is so awesome — it’s like taking Christmas and adding a heaping spoonful of PURE HEAVY METAL. Even the name — KRAMPUS — sounds like a heavy metal band, doesn’t it?

So hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve, filled with all the Christmas goodness you can get your hands on — and with extra helpings of Krampus Awesomeness.

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A Dose of Awesome: Sharks!

Awesome things? You want awesome things? Well, how ’bout…








SHAAA — Okay, maybe there are limits to what awesomeness can accomplish…

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A Dose of Awesome: Dinosaurs!

Hey, you wanna know what’s awesome? Dinosaurs are awesome!

There are several good sources for more information about dinosaurs, and several others that are at least a lot of fun to read. And there are some sources that are completely freakin’ useless. Because creationists are idiots.

Why are dinosaurs so awesome? Because they lived millions and millions of years ago, because they were giant lizard monsters, and because they could eat you easy. Yes, you. You’re not that fast, pal. Even the pokey vegetarians would break their diet to chew on you.

The only way to make dinosaurs more cool is to add them to other awesome things. For example, this dinosaur pirate, which can’t decide whether to make you walk the plank or just to tear you apart and feast upon your succulent flesh. I bet he wishes he could do both…

Robot dinosaurs are also cool. Either way, all they really care about is killing all humans.

Maybe the only thing cooler than regular dinosaurs is the idea that they may still survive to the present day. Some paleontologists theorize that today’s birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors. If that’s so, it’s the kind of thing that would let scientists extrapolate dinosaur behavior based on the behavior of today’s birds…

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