Tuesday, December 31, 2013

- Just What The DOCTOR Ordered.


Many people may have been wondering why my blogging has been sparse over the past few months. Well, I could say that it has something to do with a new schedule at work that leaves me tired and lacking time, but while true, in part, that's not really the whole truth.

The truth is... I've been feeling out of sorts for many months. Tired. Worn out. Despondent.

Life, at times, has simply got me down.

Add to that, the fact that I've simply been losing my interest in Doctor Strange, in whom this blog is mostly dedicated. A character who had carried my interest and fascination for much of my life, and had carried me aloft whenever I've felt down in the doldrums. But, a character whose own publisher has been systematically destroying over the past 20 years or more.

Thus, with little interest in the very raison d'etre for this blog, and having lost that, also losing a valuable therapeutic tool, I was simply finding it a chore.

With symptoms like that; losing my desire to or even care about blogging, and also, due to the loss of interest in other aspects of life, lie dangerously close to having a hard time time really caring about much at all.

I don't like thinking that way, as I've always sought to live the life of a good man, no matter what else may occur (as I have detailed in an introspective post [HERE]).

But, as such, to help make me feel more like my old self, I have been seeing
The Doctor.





Those are familiar words. They carry weight, gravitas, and a sense of comfort and hope; exactly what is desired when addressed by a Doctor.

However, those words are not spoken by any traditional physician. For those alive and even moderately possessing a nerd pulse, they are the "immortal" words of "THE" DOCTOR.

"DOCTOR... WHO?", you might ask.

For the past 50 years, since November 1963, DOCTOR WHO (a nigh-immortal "Time Lord", with the ability to regenerate a new body when dying, who ventures across time and space in his TARDIS spacecraft,) has graced the world (via the UK) with his reassuring presence - be it on television, novels, audio plays, DVDs, and yes... even comics.


Those 4 words immediately fill you with hope and tell you that you are in good hands. Four words that state that wonderful things are about to befall you. Weird happenings, and high adventure are soon to be yours in the deepest recesses of time and space.
And oh yeah... RUN! Because STRANGE things are right around the corner - and they aren't always friendly.

And yet, there was also another DOCTOR who was comforting us while confronting the bizarre dangers across space time and other dimensions. And he came first. Cover dated JULY 1963 (which in comicbook dating terms means it was on the magazine racks at least 2 or 3 months earlier), DOCTOR STRANGE (a former greedy and arrogant surgeon, whose hands were rendered incapable of performing delicate surgical ability, and when searching for a cure, found instead an aged Tibetan mystic who taught Strange the ways of magic, after the young man showed a deeper, caring nature) was first featured as a back-up story in STRANGE TALES # 110 (as celebrated [HERE]).

For the past 50 years, he also graced the world with his mysterious presence - in comics, novels, audio dramas, DVD's, and yes... even television.

Open wide and say, "AH!"

While I started reading comics around the time I was ten years of age, in 1977 (as discussed at length in this defining post [HERE]), I didn't discover DOCTOR STRANGE until 1980. But when I did, I was immediately hooked! Even though comic distribution was a spotty and haphazard affair in those days before "comic book shoppes" were the norm, and stationery store spinner racks were the only delivery system available, I still managed to score my fix. My "prescription" as it were.

Cover art by Michael Golden

It would be only 2 or three years later that I would first be introduced to "The Doctor", as local PBS stations (in my case; WLIW 21 in New York) began to broadcast DOCTOR WHO here in the USA. These would be the TOM BAKER 4th DOCTOR episodes, with some of PETER DAVIDSON's 5th DOCTOR mixed in. I was immediately hooked on Tom Baker's mad, mirthful and menacing incarnation, but Davidson's "beige-on-beige" look and style did nothing to maintain my enthusiasm. I tried to show my interest even then, by pledging monies to the station, earmarked for more episodes of this wonderful new show (and received a black plastic mug with the "DOCTOR WHO" logo emblazoned in silver ink upon it). This was besides the point, since, the episodes would soon stop being shown on those few Public Broadcasting Stations, and it would retreat across the Atlantic ocean, back to Britain, like a fog on the waters.

Soon the desire to see more would be like unto only the faintest of smoke on the waters of my memory. I KNEW I wanted to see more of Baker's 4th Doctor, but, knowing he would be replaced by Davidson, and that his episodes were finite, and impossible to view... the desire retreated to the further recess of my mind. (Of course, I had NO idea at the time that Baker was "The Doctor" for seven years! That would have been a nice cache upon which to stumble. But alas... time and tide.)

But still... I loved Baker's performance and his iconic, yet insanely long scarf, and desired one of my own. So much so, that I had, over the years purchased several overly long scarves (but sadly, not as long or colorful as his), if for no other reason, as a subconscious reminder of my love for the little I had seen.

Tom Baker (#4)

All the while, I was fully immersed in the comicbook world of Doctor Strange, and amassing what is arguably the (or one of the top 2 or three) collections of Doctor Strange comics, merchandise and eclectica the world has ever seen. Such was my love and mania for the character.

Yet, even when I first saw that Marvel was producing DOCTOR WHO stories (first in Marvel Preview and then in his own magazine), they weren't accessible in my usual haunts (although, I still vividly remember a 4th Doctor story entitled "Spider-God" written by Steve Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons). And thus, once again, Doctor Who would slip out of my grasp.

Years would pass. I would continue to be fascinated by the myriad worlds, the above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals workings of the mind of the "Master of the Mystic Arts", and the reproach with which he would admonish himself whenever he thought that he was "above-the-rest-of-we-mere-mortals". From his redemption-quest origin, steeped in dark magics and mystery, to his ability to be gentle and caring one moment and filled with righteous fury in the next heartbeat... DOCTOR STRANGE checked all my required boxes for fan admiration.

Art by Dan Adkins

But, over the years the weight, the gravitas, the things that made Doctor Strange GREAT were being lost. Lost or deliberately taken away by editorial fiat or writers who simply didn't know either what to do with him, or even understand him at all.

Notwithstanding the occasional bright gem, Doctor Strange has been left to tarnish since the early 1990's.

I won't go into specifics. Any reader who has experienced Doctor Strange stories at nearly any point from 1963 thru 1990 knows what I am speaking of, when I say that anywhere from 1990 onward, the quality of stories and artwork for the good Doctor was hit-or-miss. Mostly miss.

But, like any fan, we hold on to the memories of the good stories and we wait. We wait for the next writer or artist to bring back some of what made the character great. We don't necessarily want or need a retread of old works. No. Bring in new concepts, new story angles, new foes and friends and realms and dangers. Increase his abilities and decrease his abilities, as long as it's done intelligently in a way that makes sense to the story. Fine. Do it. Just do it WELL!

But, like any fan. We wait... and we wait... and we wait for it to be good again.
Sometimes it happens! Like lightning, the spark of electricity is alive in the work. It is inspired. It is all new, but with enough of the old for the character to peek out from behind years of dust and misuse. We are hopeful... and we are then disappointed as the next steward fails to fulfill his trust.

Thus it has been an arduous task for even one such as I, to continue to feel any connection, interest or even care what happens to the character, as it seems that his publisher surely doesn't.

(or an 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th)

Back in 1996, Doctor Strange was undergoing a hiatus. His "Sorcerer Supreme" titled comicbook having just been canceled, after a nearly unbroken run of 33 years of published works (Strange Tales # 110 in 1963 to the end of his 1st solo title in 1969 was only separated from his return in Marvel Premier #3 by a 4 year absence, and from thence forward, to his own "Master of the Mystic Arts" title, straight into a planned "Strange Tales v2" revamp and then directly into the "Sorcerer Supreme" masthead, was another 24 years of uninterrupted publication of his own starring [or co-starring] titles). That was after years of already poor treatment, as the Sorcerer Supreme comicbook simply wasn't all that good and was filled with lackluster periods which lasted years, interspersed with a few high points throughout, but sadly not enough to save its sales.

However, in 1996, emerging from a 7 year hiatus of its own, DOCTOR WHO returned to television (which, for many viewers in the USA was a 12 year absence) with a made-for-TV film, featuring a new, 8th DOCTOR.

Paul McGann (#8)

Certainly, it wasn't great. The story had holes. The acting was overly melodramatic (mostly by the scenery-chewing villains). But... it was DOCTOR WHO. And he was back!

I felt that old interest for the show and the character being rekindled. However, poor ratings in the USA meant that no production companies would back a return to the series (despite it doing extremely well in the UK). And so, once again, I found myself without a Doctor. (I was totally unaware that the 8th Doctor, as performed by PAUL McGANN would continue in audioplays from that point onward.)

However, as time went on, and up through present-day, Doctor Strange was/is still without a title of his own (a scant few mini-series here and there). My fandom being held together by my love of what was, as well as the few good guest appearances he would make over the years, and the quest for the collectibles. Anything to stem the ennui that was taking over in regards to my interest in the character. Even beginning a new blog - this blog - would help to keep my interest fresh.

But then, gradually... the real world wears you down. Day-to-day life drains the color from your cheeks, the strength from your stride.

You need to see a Doctor.

And then you hear it. Those four words. Four words that help you to know that help is at hand:


It was into 2008 that I found, once again via a PBS station, that DOCTOR WHO had returned!
2005 had seen a return of what is known as "NuWHO", a renewed continuation (not a reboot) of the character, and CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON became the first face of the Doctor for many new fans, and the newest face for one renewed WHOvian - me.

While I loved Tom Baker's 4th Doctor, and felt an immediate liking to Paul McGann's 8th Doctor, this new 9th Doctor was a whole new twist! No need to retread the old, as new concepts and looks are welcome! Especially when dealing with a character who, as a Time Lord, with the ability to regenerate multiple times into a new body with a new face, is essentially immortal.

And so, I watched every episode of the 9th Doctor and wanted to see more!

Christopher Eccleston ("9")

But more would be denied me for a while, as the PBS station had only paid to broadcast that one season (or "series" as they would now be labeled).

I would watch, whenever possible, those same 9th Doctor episodes each time they would air over the next few years, knowing that there were new episodes - just beyond my grasp.

To my great pleasure, over the past few months, via the internet and Netflix, I have totally caught up with DAVID TENNANT's 10th Doctor, MATT SMITH's 11th and even delighted at the return (and regeneration scene) of the 8th as he transformed into an unknown incarnation, played by JOHN HURT.

Matt Smith ("11"), David Tennant ("10"), John Hurt ("War", but the real #9)

In the time since my current job started to abuse me even more than usual, and real life seems to refuse to get any better than it has been over the past several years, I had little sustaining energy from my love for Doctor Strange, but my renewed interest in Doctor Who was helping immeasurably. A "shot in the arm", so to speak.

I've even gone back and after sampling some episodes of the other early Doctors and am watching all the episodes from the very beginning! I'm already halfway through the 1st DOCTOR's tenure. I have so much more with which to look forward.

The 12 Doctors

My First Doctor KNOWS Me.

But now... floating above the drek of the usual poor treatment of DOCTOR STRANGE, we have writer Jonathan Hickman take on Doctor Strange in Hickman's incarnation of the Illuminati, the super-secret, big-decision-makers of the Marvel Universe, as seen in the pages of NEW AVENGERS. And while his treatment of Doctor Strange has been hit-or-miss, it is more accurately... remiss. He seemed to be deliberately holding Strange in reserve, in the darkened corner, with only the occasional glimpse of the greatness that what once was peeking out from behind the shadows.

Still, that has been enough for me to feel my interest renewed. My hope kindled.

And what is the sound of that hope?
As I said earlier, it is the sound of four words:


Words - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Steve Epting

Certainly, there have been other bright spots, but those are ironic and oxymoronic, since the brighter the indicator of great things to come, the darker the Doctor's path.

However, as we all know, it is when the Doctor strides down the darkest pathways that his magic and might shines the brightest.

Could it be that Hickman knows that whatever The DOCTOR (WHO) can do, with his all-purpose Sonic Screwdriver, then DOCTOR STRANGE with the Eye of Agamotto can do it better?
Certainly, that would hopefully be the case.

For while "The DOCTOR" can roam all across space and time, in his TARDIS ship, however haphazardly he does so, saving worlds along the way, DOCTOR STRANGE needs no external drive to step from one world, one time, one dimension to the next, and save untold worlds in one fell swoop.

Both live lives where things are "bigger on the inside" (The Doctor's TARDIS, and Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum merely two such indicators of the depths within these two men).

Still, as is the case with both of these DOCTORS... the brightness of heroism is forever the other side of the darkness wherein he walks.

No matter what good they do, each of these men are forced to bear the weight of ensuring others live in the light - despite each victory tinging these men with darkness. They live bearing their sadness in order to bring hope to others.

New Avengers v3 # 12/13
Writer - Jonathan Hickman. Art - Mike Deodato


So here I am. New Year's Eve. The dark night before a bright new year.
And here I am, typing in the darkness, with the hope that this act, this promise to continue my own administrations, is in essence a way to say in my own mind, "DOCTOR... HEAL THYSELF!"

For it is with this, act, and the hope that it fills within me, to strive to not let the darkness or drudgery of life wear me down. I have done great things in the past. I will do great things again, be it now or in the future.
Time is never run out when you have hope that things will get better.
And so, I stay hopeful.

Hope is the one thing that can help anyone do heroic things.

And every life made better by my hopeful and helpful actions is a great thing as well.
So to that purpose, though I strive to do the work of the light, while I stride in the dark, I shall not let life turn me grey.

And hope is what I feel that the adventures of my long-time fan-favorite characters will once again obtain a level of greatness.

But that's not even where I hang all my hopes.

For while I do have a "real" life, and many other interests and goals aside from those detailed in this blog, even taking the pleasure to do something as silly as enjoy a TV show, read a comic, write a blog post or share my enthusiasm with others... all those little things, and the other day-to-day activities we all undertake, as long as they are undertaken with joy and hope, help to make everything seem worthwhile.

To that extent, I am renewed in my enjoyment for making plans for new projects, personal and professional.
I am rejuvenated in my desire to work on this blog.

I am prescribing a new regimen for myself; STAY HOPEFUL!

For it only takes four words to remind myself of that goal, four words that remind me that I am the administrator of that change...



Sunday, December 29, 2013


It may be seen as anachronistic, or even retro-throw-back for modern computer-gamers (or are they predominantly "console gamers" now?) to want to play PINBALL, but it seems that they do, and because of that, pinball (or at least a virtual version of it) is seeing a resurgence in popularity not seen since the 1970's.

Now, while I do confess to rocking the flippers back in the arcades of my youth, I haven't had any real interest in playing in recent years until MARVEL started releasing platforms based on their characters and event storylines.

Perhaps it is fitting that ZEN Studios (makers of ZEN PINBALL) have just days ago released a DOCTOR STRANGE themed pinball table!

Check out some game-play!

This isn't the first time the good Doctor has been featured on a Zen Pinball game. He was also showcased in previous outings, such as the INFINITY GAUNTLET table (where he is seen pictured on the board, along with Strange-themed characters like ETERNITY, among others) and the PLANET HULK table  (where he emerges as a 3D character [in his ZOM-Possessed form from the story] to do battle with the Hulk.

However, NOW we have a solo board that features exquisite details, multiple characters and even event details and dialogue taken from various storylines from the comics and even his animated film.

Battle against BARON MORDO (the conjuring of mystic swords for a swordfight between STRANGE and MORDO is taken directly from the animated film), and NIGHTMARE! In a story taken directly from the first few issues of the SORCERER SUPREME title, DORMAMMU takes over the body of DOCTOR STRANGE while Doc is in his astral form! The mystic battle continues with each in their own form should you get to that level. And of course, the big bad of the board is SHUMA GORATH, seen looming over the background, and activated by reaching certain in-game criteria (hit the right lighted targets, get the right point-range, etc...)!

Personally, I only played a few rounds, and was able to access all the baddies EXCEPT SHUMA (argh!), but I will continue trying.

There are several in-game niceties to help ensure you come back for more; the EYE of AGAMOTTO is a section of the board that rises up to form its own mini-table, with smaller and quicker game-interactivity against which to battle, STRANGE interacts with the ball, conjuring forth an ORB of AGAMOTTO ball to send into play and plenty of flashing lights and sounds to tickle the ADHD/OCD centers of the brain.
Mentions of the ANCIENT ONE and DEFENDERS as well as dialogue from WONG, and CLEA doesn't hurt either.

For a few bucks you can download on a variety of platforms, including Xbox LIVE Arcade, Steam, Playstation Network (PS3 with Playstation Vita free, and PS4), iOS, Google Play, OSX and Kindle Fire!

I'm not sure if the price is the same across the board, but I DL'd for my PS3 (which came with a FREE DL for the Vita) for a scant $2.99!

This is ZEN Studios first table for their newly released ZEN PINBALL 2 (which has 3D capability, if you have a fancy-schmancy 3D TV or something). ZEN PINBALL 2 is a FREE download, so you have no excuse not to get it.
And fret not, if you've already purchased tables for the previous MARVEL PINBALL platform, you can import your purchased tables and sets to the ZEN PINBALL 2 interface free and easy.

On a personal note, I did find the game to be less pleasing than other, previous MARVEL PINBALL tables (but to be fair, as previously stated, I did only play a couple of rounds on a non-HD, non-3D, non-flatscreen TV, so perhaps I didn't get the full experience). I've really liked the PLANET HULK table, the BLADE table is awesome, GHOST RIDER is appropriately wicked-cool, and the INFINITY GAUNTLET board is challenging good fun.

What the DOCTOR STRANGE board has going for it (aside from the obvious DR. STRANGE lure for me), in addition to the intricate background details, or even the ability to battle classic foes is... almost more than anything else... the ability to TRULY be...


(By the way, knowing that I would write about this game when it was released, I have been DYING to use "Pinball Wizard" as the title for this blog-post since the first announcement was made back in October. You can't imagine my shock that NO ONE used that title for any of their articles - then, or now. Perhaps, like many gamers of today, they just aren't old enough to make the immediate connection to a classic 1969 album by THE WHO.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Not-So Nativity Scene

I just want to take this time to wish everyone all the Happiness of this
Holiday Season!

And to help celebrate your 

...I present to you this scene that we are ALL glad is not 
MARVEL canon.

(click to make YULE-SIZED)

SCARLET WITCH as MARY, SPIDER-MAN refusing to play any part of it, let alone the role of JOSEPH,
and HOWARD the DUCK as... oh, I can't even type that out.

Oh, I KNOW... really. I know.
But you have to believe me when I say that THIS was meant in ALL good fun, with no blasphemous intent. Spidey, of course, being the moral compass (sorta) - to keep us out of it.

Still, I did have OTHER ideas for this year's action figure fumetti card. (Some were even worse!)

Others included DOCTOR STRANGE letting LUKE CAGE interview prospective casting calls for the roles of MARY in the Sanctum (with all my super-women action figures, ranging from MAGIK, ZATANNA, SPIDER-WOMAN, MOONDRAGON, DAGGER, SNOWBIRD, PHOENIX, BLINK, MOONSTONE and MORE, including... oh yeah... SATANA, all auditioning).
The jokes were to have been CLEA trying to use her relationship with STRANGE to garner the role, MOONDRAGON demanding it since she was almost the Celestial Madonna and LUKE just looking at SATANA and saying "No... NO WAY!"

Perhaps a panel of MAN-THING being shot down for the role, as LUKE tells him flat out: "Dude... it's in your NAME! "MAN"-Thing!" To which the silent Man-Thing thinks, "But...LOOK at me! I AM a virgin."

Also a single shot of LUKE standing next to DOCTOR STRANGE, looking at all the beautiful, sexy, super-women and exclaiming "SWEET CHRISTMAS!" (as he used to do).

These next jokes might actually get used some other time as they ARE pretty cool...

The ILLUMINATI all arguing over who should be the "3 Wise Men" (with BLACK BOLT, BLACK PANTHER and NAMOR insisting it should be the "3 KINGS")...
Originally, it was to be DR. STRANGE, PHANTOM STRANGER & either JOHN CONSTANTINE or SARUMAN (or GANDALF) as the "3 Wise Men", but I couldn't decide on which.

...and/or the ASTRAL FORM of DOCTOR STRANGE, DEADMAN and the Marvel villain, GHOST, all portraying the "Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future" to a SCROOGE figure (maybe HOWARD the DUCK, so as to riff on the Scrooge MacDuck thing), with the transparent variant of the MUPPET's "UNCLE DEADLY" as JACOB MARLEY.

Now... technically the Scarlet Witch DID give "virgin birth" to twins (you think theVision can reproduce?)... so... oh, whatever.

SO you see, the wheels WERE turning, and I had all the figures posed and ready to go, but just lacked the time to get it all together. So, I went with my first concept - for better or ill - and hope that you find it at least moderately amusing (and not overly offensive).

Of course, this was all inspired by my similar action-figure Christmas fumetti from a couple of years back [HERE].

So... once again,
Let's all sing a chorus of "O Man-Thing Tree"...
"O Manny-Thing, O Manny-Thing, Thy leaves are always burning..."

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men-Things.

WAUGH, indeed!