Friday, October 30, 2020

Star Trek: The Defector

Episode: "The Defector"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 10
Original Air Date: January 1, 1990
Data and Picard are interrupted during a holodeck rehearsal of Henry V by the news of an unidentified craft entering Federation space from the Neutral Zone.  Romulan Admiral Alidar Jarok has defected and offers information regarding a secret installation on Nelvana III which, if true, would constitute a major treaty breach.  Our heroes may be on the brink of war.

I know the Borg will ultimately emerge as the primary adversary on TNG (indeed, rather soon) but I still find the Romulans more interesting.  They were initially introduced in "Balance of Terror," quite possible the best TOS episode of all.  Every Romulan story afterward echoes (with varying levels of success) the mental chess match of the original.  We never get the thorough world-building for the Romulans that we do for the Klingons (largely thanks to Worf) but there are meaningful drips and drops with each new tale.  When Jarok requests water from the replicator, he does so in onkians, the Romulan temperature measurement.  We also get a view of the Valley of Chula on Romulus, via the holodeck.

With new Star Trek series springing up all of the time, it would be great to see one set in a non-human culture.  Vulcan, Klingon and Romulan characters have been prominent throughout Trek-dom and any one of those cultures would be prime for deeper exploration.  For a franchise built on the idea of tolerance, it's well past time to move past the Federation.

Acting Notes

James Sloyan (Jarok) was born February 24, 1940 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  After spending much of his youth abroad, he received a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  His career was put on hiatus when he was drafted into the Army in 1962.

"The Defector" is the first of five Trek appearances for Sloyan, including four characters in three different series.  He's made frequent guest appearances on sci-fi television, including Buck Rodgers, Quantum Leap and The X-Files.  His most significant big screen role was Mottola in The Sting.  Also a successful voice actor, his is the current voice on Mitsubishi commercials.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Squid Mixes: The Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées combines cognac, Chartreuse (green in our case), lemon juice and simple syrup with a lemon twist garnish.  I got my recipe from Drinking French by David Lebovitz.  It is named, of course, for the famous boulevard in Paris.

Chartreuse is new for us.  It has been produced by the Carthusian monks in Voiron, France since 1764 from instructions dating to 1605.  It is made in both green and yellow varieties, the yellow being sweeter and lower in alcohol: 80 proof as opposed to green's 110.  [Drink responsibly, folks!]  It is concocted from 130 different herbs, plants and flowers.  The color, interestingly, is named after the liqueur rather than the other way around.

The flavor is wild!  If I could put psychedelic into a glass to taste, Chartreuse would be it.  Lebovitz warns that it's strong.  He advises a 3:1 ratio, cognac to Chartreuse so the cognac has a fighting chance.  There's a lot going on and it's all sharp and bright.  A half-ounce goes a long way which is good 'cause the stuff ain't cheap.

Fun bonus: my wife got a like on Instagram from Lebovitz himself when she posted a photo of our drink.

I think it's fair to say this is our new favorite cocktail.  And I think of this song every time I make it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

On the Coffee Table: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts this year, the fourth for Harry Potter at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  This means students from two European wizard schools, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, will be at Hogwarts for the year.  It also means Harry will once again be put in mortal peril.

When my wife and I first started reading the Harry Potter books, the first three had already been published.  As such, the release of Goblet of Fire was our introduction to the publication craze.  We didn't go to the midnight release party (my wife is a morning person) but we did pre-order our copy and pick it up the next day.

Goblet of Fire is the book in which the series loses its innocence.  More on that in a bit.  It's also abundantly clear Rowling is writing with the films in mind by this point.  A lot of the exposition reads like a story board.

The world-building:
  • This fourth book provides the first deep exploration of a wizarding world beyond the UK.  Even before the Triwizard Tournament, we visit the finals of the Quidditch World Cup, contested by Ireland and Bulgaria (neither normally significant players on the world sport stage).  
  • It's another good food book as we see Molly Weasley cook with magic and learn of the mostly invisible House Elf staff who cook all of the amazing meals at Hogwarts.  
  • As powerful a wizard as Harry may be, he's a terrible date.  If anything, Ron's worse.
  • We get the first hints that Hermione's and Ron's feelings for each other might extend beyond platonic.
Once again, my favorite part of the story involves the Weasleys and their affection for Harry.  I got quite emotional when Molly and Bill turned up as Harry's "family" for the final task of the Triwizard Tournament.  Mind you, I was less impressed by Molly's passive aggression towards Hermione when she believed Rita Skeeter's article claiming that Hermione was Harry's manipulative girlfriend.


It's impossible to discuss the significance of The Goblet of Fire without addressing the book's ending.  The story is 18 years old.  I'm not sure what the statute of limitations on spoilers is but I'm pretty sure we haven't reached it.

Cedric Diggory, Harry's fellow Hogwarts representative for the Tournament, is murdered by Wormtail, right in front of Harry.  It is not the first time the series addresses death and loss but it is the first time a student dies.  A big part of why the Harry Potter story works through seven volumes is that we are taught to see Hogwarts as a sanctuary from the evils of the broader world and then feel the loss deeply when that safety is compromised.  With Cedric's death, the citadel begins to crumble.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #172-177

I feel I should share what Frank Miller Daredevil art I easily can.  Most of the time, for images, I simply grab what's most easily accessible on the wikis.  But Miller's art, like that of Kirby or Ditko, deserves special exhibition.
#158 Cover via Wikipedia

#184 Cover via Wikipedia

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #172
Originally Published July 1, 1981
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller
  • Believing his wife is dead, Kingpin takes control of the city underworld.
  • He hires Bullseye as his hitman.
  • Daredevil shows up.  He and Bullseye brawl.
  • DD wins but the Kingpin remains in power.

Daredevil #173
August 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Daredevil stories are frequently dark but this one is particular heavy - and poignant.
  • Melvin Potter, aka Gladiator and a client of Matt Murdock's, is believed to be brutally assaulting women on the street.
  • The actual assailant is Michael Reese, a man essentially identical to Potter.
  • Years before, Reese assaulted Becky Blake, Murdock's secretary.  The attack left her crippled.
  • Becky tells Matt about the attack and admits to him that she never reported it to the police.  Matt's horrified she didn't do so and even expresses a sense of personal betrayal towards her.
  • When DD has his own fight with Reese and experiences the same helplessness Becky had felt, he becomes more sympathetic.
  • Murdock finally convinces Becky to call the police and report that she had been attacked by the same man now attacking others.

Daredevil #174
September 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Kingpin hires The Hand to take out Daredevil.
  • The Hand is a ninja order, the very one that trained Elektra.
  • Elektra and Gladiator team up to protect DD.  This is a consistent theme for the series.  DD isn't good at accepting or soliciting the help of others.  People seem inclined to protect him anyway, even when he isn't likely to be aware of it.
  • An important development as the story moves forward: due to an explosion, DD loses his radar sense.

Daredevil #175
October 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Daredevil and Elektra battle The Hand.
  • Foggy Nelson defends the Gladiator in court.

Daredevil #176
November 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Desperate to get his radar sense back, Daredevil hunts down his old trainer, Stick.

Daredevil #177
December 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Stick forces Daredevil to face the demons of his past (in gorgeous black-and-white) in order to regain his radar sense.
  • The Bugle publishes an exposé on Kingpin's puppet mayoral candidate, Randolph Winston Cherryh.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Star Trek: The Vengeance Factor

Episode: "The Vengeance Factor"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 9
Original Air Date: November 20, 1989
Our heroes work to broker peace between the Acamarians and their pirate kinsmen, the Gatherers.  However, ancient clan feuds surface when one of the Gatherers is murdered.  From the viewer perspective, it's not much of a mystery.  We know whodunit well before the other characters do.

Last week was Troi's romantic tale.  This time, it's Riker's.  The lovely Yuta is the servant of Marouk, the Acamarian sovereign.  Riker falls for her hard.  Unfortunately, she's also the murderer - not much of a spoiler.  Like I said, we know right away.  

A missed narrative opportunity: Riker's weakness for women could have become far more of a liability than it ever did.  No one ever sets a honey trap for him.  Why not?  Just not that kind of show?

Food Notes

Yuta is a gifted cook.  She prepares parthas, an Acamarian vegetable, for Riker and Troi.  In his efforts to charm her, Riker refers to the dish as Parthas a la Yuta.

The final peace negotiations between Marouk and Chogran, the leader of the Gatherers, are conducted over Acamarian brandy.

Acting Notes

Lisa Wilcox (Yuta) was born in Columbia, Missouri, April 27, 1964.  She graduated from UCLA.  Her best known role is that of Alice Johnson in the Nightmare on Elm Street films.  In 2000, she and fellow actress Tuesday Knight founded ToeBrights, a toe jewelry company.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Squid Mixes: Cranberry Squidcar

The Cranberry Squidcar is my latest invention:

1.5 oz cognac
0.75 oz Cointreau
0.75 oz lemon juice
3 dashes cranberry bitters

Shake with ice and strain.

I used the sidecar recipe from Robert Simonson's 3-Ingredient Cocktails as my base, then added the cranberry bitters.  The biggest impact of the addition was the color.  I think the result looks like pink grapefruit juice.  There's also an extra hint of cranberry bitterness in the flavor.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #167-171

Frank Miller was born January 27, 1957 in Olney, Maryland though he grew up in Montpelier, Vermont.  You'd think that last bit would be something I knew before but I didn't.  He went to U-32 High School.  I've been there!
Daredevil was Miller's breakthrough, though it was a later title for DC that would cement his status as a god of the industry: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, often pitted against Watchmen for bragging rights as the greatest comic book series ever.  In the 1990s, his Sin City and 300 series would become major film projects on which Miller would work as co-director (for Sin City) and producer (for 300).  Artistically, Miller is credited with bringing both film noir and Japanese manga sensibilities to mainstream American comic books.

He has won... a lot of awards!

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #167
Originally Published November 1, 1980
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Frank Miller
  • Villain: Mauler
  • The Mauler is out to get his former boss, Edwin Cord of Cordco, Incorporated.

Daredevil #168
January 1, 1981
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller
  • Note: this is the first issue for which Miller served as both writer and artist.
  • Elektra is introduced!
  • Elektra is Matt Murdock's long lost love from before he became Daredevil.  Now, she's a professional assassin.

Daredevil #169
March 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Bullseye has a brain tumor which causes him to see everyone as Daredevil.  He starts killing them all.

Daredevil #170
May 1, 1981
Frank Miller
  • Wilson Fisk is living in Japan, retired from his life as Kingpin, a New York crime boss.
  • He sends his wife Vanessa back to New York to hire Nelson and Murdock.  He wants to turn state's evidence against his formal rivals.
  • Instead, Vanessa is kidnapped.
  • In his efforts to save her, Daredevil has a confrontation with Bullseye.

Daredevil #171
June 1, 1981 (now monthly)
Frank Miller
  • Murdock goes undercover to join Kingpin's gang.  His cover gets blown pretty quickly and Kingpin pummels him good.
  • During the exchange between Kingpin and his wife's kidnappers, Vanessa is apparently killed.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Star Trek: The Price

Episode: "The Price"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 13, 1989
The Barzans have discovered what they believe to be a stable wormhole and are selling off the rights to control it.  The Federation is one of several bidders and the Enterprise is hosting the negotiations.  One of the delegates, Devinoni Ral, representing the Chrysalians, is instantly drawn to Troi and she to him.

The wormhole story is interesting, but this is a Troi episode at its heart.  Deanna Troi can be a challenging character.  Most of the blame goes on the writers who rarely gave her quality material.  I also feel that of all of the principals, Marina Sirtis was the actor who took the longest to settle into her character.  Mind you, the writing could also have had a lot to do with that.  Good writing will save poor acting far more often than the other way around.  All of that said, I generally like the Troi stories.  In the better ones, she's given lots of room to be a real person.  She is a professional woman trying to find and defend her sense of self in the face of an overbearing mother and the stifling culture she represents and, as in this story, in the face of her lovers.  Men fall in love with her at the drop of a hat and it's certainly not difficult to understand why.  She is intelligent, compassionate and undeniably beautiful - an irresistible balance of confident and vulnerable.  To her credit, she never surrenders herself completely to any of them.  I have known a lot of women who live similar dilemmas every day of their lives.  This is the Deanna Troi I enjoy the most.

Ral, on the other hand, borders on unwatchable: smarmy, arrogant, deceitful.  I find her sexual attraction to him entirely convincing but I cheer the moment when she finally sees through his bullshit.

Acting Notes

Matt McCoy (Ral) was born May 20, 1958 in Austin, Texas, though he grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, my part of the world.  I had good friends who graduated from his alma mater, Walter Johnson High School.  He attended the University of Maryland while working at Harlequin Dinner Theater in Rockville.  My buddy Game Designer worked there one summer, too.  McCoy ultimately graduated from Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City.

McCoy has had a long and active career since the late '70s.  He is best known for three roles: Michael Bartel in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (in which John de Lancie also appears), Sgt. Nick Lassard in the Police Academy film franchise and Lloyd Braun in Seinfeld.  Writing is everything.  Lloyd, one of Elaine's temporary flames, is every bit as smarmy as Ral but it plays much better within context.

Historical Note

Something very important happened between the airing of the previous episode and this one: the Berlin Wall came down.  After 9/11, it was probably the most memorable historical event of my lifetime.  It didn't seem possible.  My family and I had visited East Berlin only five years before and the facts of the Wall, the Iron Curtain and the paranoia surrounding felt inevitable and permanent.  Suddenly, it was all over.  The Cold War was on its last legs.

This matters for Star Trek, largely conceived as a philosophical response to Cold War policies and attitudes.  How would the show adjust to the geopolitical shifts?

Sadly, we know in hindsight that all hell would soon break loose in the Balkans.  The sudden destabilization wreaked havoc in several far flung pockets.  Many problems got easier.  Others got a lot more complicated. There would be plenty of material for allegorical science fiction. But for an all too brief moment, there was hope.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Squid Mixes: Ménage à Quatre

Nope, sorry.  I have not converted to a kinky sex blog.  A Ménage à Quatre truly is a cocktail.  It combines gin, lemon juice, triple sec and Lillet blanc in equal portions.  I got my recipe from Drinking French by David Lebovitz.  The result is quite citrusy, both lemon and orange.

Lillet is new for me.  It is an aromatised wine from Bordeaux.  The aromas come mostly from orange peel: sweet oranges from Spain and Morocco and bitter oranges from Haiti.  So between the triple sec and the Lillet, there's enough orange to compete with the lemon juice.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #162-166

Writer Roger McKenzie broke into the comic book industry in 1976 with a story called "Ground Round" in Vampirella #50, published by Warren Publishing.  He worked for DC Comics, too, creating the western character Cinnamon.  He and artist Frank Miller first worked together on a story for Marvel's Weird War Tales #68.

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #162
Originally Published January 1, 1980
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: Steve Ditko
  • The Daredevil/Hulk story promised at the end of the previous issue wasn't ready in time.  So, Fleisher and Ditko created a filler.
  • In light of Frank Miller's recent debut with the series, it's especially interesting to see the art of Ditko, the most straight-laced of Marvel's old guard - back to the Joe Varsity aesthetic.
  • Struck with amnesia, Matt Murdock stumbles into a boxing career with a shady promoter, Mr. Hyle.  All goes great until Hyle orders Murdock to throw a fight and Murdock refuses to do so.
Jack Murdock via Marvel Database

  • His memory clicks back in when Murdock remembers his father Jack was also a professional boxer.  Jack's murder at the hands of gamblers in a similar situation prompted Matt to take on the Daredevil role in the first place.

Daredevil #163
March 1, 1980
Roger McKenzie/Frank Miller
  • Murdock senses Hulk loose in the city and goes to confront him.
  • Murdock talks him talk down to Bruce Banner calm but then the New York Subway commuters ramp him up to Hulk.
  • Daredevil and Hulk brawl.  Hulk wins but doesn't finish DD off.
  • At issue's end, Daredevil lays motionless in the street.
  • My first encounter with Blake Tower, a friend of Murdock's, currently running for re-election as District Attorney.

Daredevil #164
May 1, 1980
  • Daredevil is in the hospital, recovering from his battle with Hulk.  Many superheroes pay him well-wishing visits.
  • Journalist Ben Urich also stops by, telling DD that he is put the pieces together: Matt Murdock and Daredevil are one and the same.
  • DD fesses up and tells Urich the whole story of his childhood, his father's boxing career and how his father's murder led him to become Daredevil.
  • Urich is convinced not to publish the story.

Daredevil #165
July 1, 1980
  • Daredevil battles Doc Ock.
  • Believing (correctly) that Matt is still in love with Heather Glenn, Black Widow leaves both him and New York.

Daredevil #166
September 1, 1980
  • It is the day of Deborah and Foggy's wedding.  Matt Murdock is Best Man.
  • Of course, there's a complication: Gladiator (alias: Melvin Potter; a different Gladiator from the one we met in X-Men #107) has taken a group of children hostage in a museum.  Can Daredevil rescue the children and still make it back in time for the nuptials? [Spoiler: yes]

Friday, October 9, 2020

Star Trek: The Enemy

Episode: "The Enemy"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 6, 1989

It's a Romulan story and one rich with ethical dilemmas, the narrative life blood of Trek.   Responding to a distress call, our heroes encounter a Romulan vessel which has crash landed inside Federation territory.  One survivor, Patahk, is in rough shape and is beamed directly to sickbay.  La Forge gets separated from the rest of the away team and loses contact with the ship.  In his efforts to reestablish communication, he encounters a second Romulan, Bochra, who takes Geordi prisoner.  Complicating all of this is a second Romulan vessel arriving from the Neutral Zone, commanded by Tomalak, who is demanding, yet cagey about what the ship was doing outside the NZ in the first place.

So, our tale plays out on three fronts:
  • Patahk is dying and Worf is the only one aboard ship with compatible blood for a transfusion.  Klingons and Romulans don't play well together.  Worf doesn't want to give the blood and Patahk has no interest in accepting it.
  • La Forge and Bochra must set aside their own animosity and work together in order to survive.
  • Picard's verbal chess match with Tomalak.
No surprise, the Worf thread is the most compelling.  No one orders Worf to give the blood, even though he says he would if so ordered.  In fact, Picard makes it clear that he won't.  Instead, he begs.  Still Worf declines.  It's a fascinating test of the character's conflicting loyalties.

Best episode of the season so far.

Acting Notes

John Snyder (Bochra) was born in Boston in 1950.  He is a graduate of Boston University.  His big screen credits include The Warriors and Love Sick Diaries.  This is his first of two appearances on TNG.  He also made two appearances on Babylon 5.  He's done extensive voice work, including video games and English dubs of Japanese animes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Bitters of the Month: Cranberry

Cranberry bitters is seriously red.  Color is a fun part of the cocktail hobby and it's good to find a less sweet red alternative to grenadine.  Otherwise, I wouldn't say the bitters bring a whole lot of flavor - sweet smelling but bitter to taste, not unlike actually cranberries, I suppose.  Still, it's not as strong as some of the other fruity bitters we have tried.

Bitters Battles: Angostura vs. Peychaud's

At last, we come to the final ingredient battle in our quest to build the ideal Manhattan.  Both Angostura and Peychaud's are gentian-based, though the former hits me with cinnamon hints, the latter with anise.  Let the testing begin...

Manhattan Battle #1: a tie

My wife couldn't say she disliked either and I had to agree.  This came as a bit of a surprise.  I saw Angostura as the clear favorite going in.  How about some of each?

Manhattan Battle #2: Angostura vs. Half Ang, Half Pey

For this test, I had to up my usual quantity to four dashes rather than three in order to achieve an even split.  This time we both agreed.

Winner: Angostura

Manhattan Battle #3: Peychaud's vs. Half Ang, Half Pey

It seemed only fair to try this one, too.

Winner: Peychaud's

There must be a winner.  None of this "see what you're in the mood for" stuff will do.  So, I argued for a slight edge to the Angostura.  Same consideration as with the orange: the Angostura simply has more flavor and that's a big part of what makes a Manhattan interesting.  My wife agreed.  And so...

Winner and Still Champion: Angostura

It's good to have a winner.  It's also good to know we have acceptable alternatives.

Interesting to note, this is the only one of the three ingredient battles where our original stand-by won out.

Here's our Manhattan all-star line up:

Ezra Brooks Rye
Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
Angostura Bitters
Luxardo Cherries

Someday, we may play around with the cherries but we're thoroughly in love with our current brand.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Iron Man #127-128 and Daredevil #158-161

My Recent Reads

Iron Man #127
Originally Published October 10, 1979
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: John Romita Jr.
  • Iron Man defeats Justin Hammer's Super-Army of baddies and the Monaco Police finally arrives with Jim Rhodes.  Hammer escapes.
  • Back in New York, Iron Man is acquitted of the murder of Sergei Kotznin, the judiciary committee convinced that the armor was being controlled by someone remotely (flimsy alibi in the real world but actually the truth here).
  • Unfortunately, on other fronts, Tony Stark's problems are just beginning:
    • Stark Industries is still in trouble.
    • A little girl reacts to Iron Man in fear.
    • On the brink of fixing things with Bethany, he manages to make them even worse.
    • He yells at an undeserving Jarvis, who subsequently resigns.
    • Worst of all (and of course, a major factor in much of the above), he's drinking.  A lot.

Iron Man #128
November 1, 1979
  • In the final issue of the arc, Tony Stark's alcoholism takes center stage.  It is because of this confrontation that the Demon in a Bottle story is a big deal.  Knowing that, I was expecting it to become more of a factor sooner.  No matter.  We're here now.
  • It's Bethany Cabe who intervenes.  Finding Stark in rough shape, she tells him of her deceased husband and his own battle with pill addiction.  She stays with Stark for several days, forcing him to dry out.
  • Thank goodness, Jarvis comes back in the end, too.
  • Apparently, Michelinie never intended the story as an in-depth, realistic story about addiction.  He approached alcoholism as just another villain for Iron Man to conquer.  As a result, the mammoth task of overcoming the illness is brutally over-simplified.  What Bethany accomplishes in a few days in reality takes months, years, a lifetime and typically involves considerable professional assistance.  Obviously, since I'm moving on to a different series, I don't have the benefit of knowing the aftermath.  That said, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed.
  • My buddy Mock offered a different perspective.  He read the comic when it first came out in 1979 and it was something he'd never seen before.  40+ years later, addiction is a far more open topic and as such, a comparable story now would undoubtedly be more sophisticated.  Someone had to break the taboo first.

Daredevil #158
May 1, 1979
Roger Mckenzie/Frank Miller
  • My first extended visit with Daredevil, alias Matt Murdock.  DD is blind but highly acrobatic and his other senses are significantly heightened.  Matt Murdock is a talented lawyer.
  • #158 is a big deal because it's Frank Miller's debut with the series.  Frank Miller is a big name in the comic book industry.  Because of his subsequent work in film, he's one of the few creators who can challenge Stan Lee in name recognition beyond the medium.
  • I've written about the impact of artists before, the value in the high quality supplied by the likes of Kirby, Ditko and Byrne.  Miller is different.  The quality is still top-notch but his work signals more significant stylistic departures.  
    • For starters, Miller's work is darker, literally.  Preferring a richer, more deeply saturated palette in general, he uses a lot of black in particular.  More night scenes and shadows? Certainly.  There are also a lot more black shadows on the character images themselves, a bold move for a medium that had always cast its heroes in bright primary colors, suitable for proud display on bedroom posters and school lunchboxes.  Miller's art isn't intended to make you feel comfortable.  A superhero's work is dirty business.
      • Worth noting: the lead artist's job on a comic book is the pencil work.  Someone else fills in the colors - George Roussos on #158 - though presumably the lead has significant say in the choices.  The emphasis on black suggests that Miller was submitting heavier pencil marking to begin with.
    • Miller draws character outlines differently.  In basically every comic I've explored to this point, one sees a line of uniform thickness around a character such as Daredevil.  These are clearly defined, dependably static characters and the art should reflect that, gosh darn it!  Miller's lines are more dynamic - thinner here, thicker there, occasionally disappearing altogether.  The changes are subtle in #158 but by #161, they're more obvious.
  • Right, back to the story.
Cat-Man via Marvel Fandom

  • The villain is Death-Stalker.  His henchmen are the Unholy Three, also known as the Ani-Men: Ape-Man, Cat-Man and Bird-Man.  They kidnap Murdock.
  • Black Widow - Daredevil's partner and girlfriend at this point - sets off to rescue him.
Foggy Nelson via Marvel Database

  • We meet others in Matt Murdock's supporting cast (BW is the only one who knows he's also DD): Becky Blake, Foggy Nelson, Heather Glenn and Deborah Harris.

Daredevil #159
July 1, 1979
  • Villain: Bullseye.  
  • My first encounter with a couple of other Daredevil regulars:
    • Ben Urich is an investigative journalist out to dig up dirt on Matt Murdock, suspecting, but not yet knowing, that Murdock is Daredevil.
    • Turk Barrett is a small-time crook based in Hell's Kitchen, Murdock's neighborhood.  In this story, he's one of Bullseye's team, by way of crime boss Eric Slaughter.

Daredevil #160
September 1, 1979
  • Bullseye kidnaps Black Widow and Daredevil must rescue her.

Daredevil #161
November 1, 1979
  • Daredevil defeats Bullseye and rescues Black Widow.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Star Trek: Booby Trap

Episode: "Booby Trap"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 30, 1989

via Memory Alpha

Curiosity killed the cat, and very nearly the Enterprise and her crew.  While investigating an ancient battle cruiser, our friends become ensnared in the same trap that doomed it centuries before.  Creative engineering solutions are required pronto.  Geordi enlists the help of a holographic partner, a holodeck approximation of Dr. Leah Brahms, the original designer of the Enterprise's warp drive.

"Booby Trap" is a Geordi episode.  Those don't come along very often.  La Forge may be the most easily relatable character in the entire cast: a kind and slightly goofy guy who's also damn good at his job.  Great with tech, clumsy with women - very human.  I greatly admire his ability to keep a cool head in a tense situation, not so different from his Captain in that regard.  But he doesn't get to take the lead too often.  Far more likely, he's the sidekick in a Data story: indeed, the Watson to Data's Holmes, Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket, Wooster's Jeeves.  This time, we get to appreciate the Chief Engineer for his own desires and vulnerabilities.  

And, of course, I am gradually realizing they're all good Picard stories.  It's Geordi's episode but Jean-Luc still gets his badass moment to seal the deal.

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Susan Gibney (Brahms) was born September 11, 1961 in Manhattan Beach, California, though she grew up in Webster, New York.  She went to Buffalo State College as an undergrad, then got an MFA from Yale School of Drama.

Gibney has a long history with Star Trek, though not all of it exactly successful.  This is her first of two appearances as Dr. Brahms in TNG, then she had two appearances on DS9.  She was considered, though not hired, for both Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine on Voyager and also the Borg Queen in First Contact.

Naturally, there is life beyond Trek and her television credits are numerous, including recurring roles on Diagnosis: Murder and Crossing Jordan plus main roles on The Fearing Mind and Happy Family.