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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in prankster36's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, July 27th, 2008
3:56 pm
Just My Luck...

Well, wouldn't you know it, the day I plan to return to Freak U. and WCN is experiencing a major outage. And I'm going to be away from my computer for a while, so I won't be able to upload it even if it starts working again. Drat the luck. Oh well, stay posted, I'll get it up as soon as possible (it is done, albeit in black and white).
Friday, July 25th, 2008
12:13 pm

Well, so I missed the wednesday deadline. The good news is, I'm totally done my major project, so there'll be a new Freak U. strip up on sunday the 27th for sure, and Night Shift will return the day after. See you then.
Sunday, July 20th, 2008
1:16 pm
Please Stand By...

Hi guys.

I'm sorry things have been so erratic lately. There as a couple of reasons for this. The big one was a death in my immediate family. Another one is a huge, exciting comics project I'm working on offline. And the third is the fact that it's summer, and I needed a bit of a vacation earlier in the month.

Right now it's the project that's really consuming my time. I should have seen it coming, but I'm not going to be able to deliver a Freak U. strip today (sunday) as I promised. However, the deadline for the project is tomorrow, so I can absolutely guarantee, cross-my-heart, that I'll have the time to do a new one on wednesday, and hopefully from there we can get back to a regular schedule. Likewise, Night Shift will have to wait until the 28th, but once we're there it should be ready to go.

I'm sorry about all this, obviously. See you wednesday.
Friday, May 30th, 2008
5:04 pm
Fourth World Fridays--The New Gods #9

It's up now.

As I mention at Phantasmic Tales, I'm going to be updating Freak U. only once a week, on sundays, until the end of June. This will let me get everything caught up (including the colouring on the previous strips, which you might have noticed are slowly filling in.)
Sunday, May 25th, 2008
4:06 pm
Fourth World (Belated) Fridays--The Forever People #9

It's up now.

If I have a bit of time, I'll put up a special bonus comic review, unrelated to the Fourth World, but linked to a certain blockbuster movie currently in theaters (and probably not the one you're thinking of).
Friday, May 23rd, 2008
5:59 pm
Keep Watchin'

Man, even with work cooling off a little, I'm finding myself swamped with comics and writing projects to do. I've actually been asked to contribute to a comics project that I'm excited about but will require me to work pretty intently on it for the next month or so, plus Chuck is asking for some Pewfell work. I think I'm actually going to dial Freak U. back to once a week for the summer. I'll give you more details on sunday (including the latest Belated Fourth World Friday entry).
Friday, May 16th, 2008
2:05 pm
Fourth World Fridays--Mister Miracle #8

It's up! It's up! It's in my head!

Seriously, am I the only one who thinks the Presidents of the United States of America totally swiped the idea for that song from this comic?

Of course, whenever I hear David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things" I always think it's about the X-Men ("Gotta make way for the Homo Superior.") So I may not be the best judge of these things.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
7:22 pm
What Is This Strange Magic Box On My Desk? It Feels Somehow Familiar...

Well, as often happens, I entered a phase where I had to do some commuting for a couple of weeks, which isn't very conducive to tramping out two Freak U.s, five Night Shifts, some Rack Raids reviews and a Fourth World Friday article, since by the time I get hom eI'm beat and only have a couple of hours to relax anyway. But that's over for now, and I've got a brand, spankin' new review of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #148 up for your perusal. I've also (finally) added the images to last week's entry. Hey, at this rate I may catch up to all the work I have to do by 2012.
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
1:05 am
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
1:03 am
Theft Is Bad.

This is disgusting, and a great example of why smaller illustrators and comic artists need better protection for their ability to profit off their works. As the guy says, we ought to spread this story around as much as possible.

The thing that kills me is that China is supposed to be keeping such a tight rein on the internet to prevent its citizens from reading stuff that might be damaging to the steady stream of propaganda they're fed. You'd think that that would at least have the minor upside of preventing this kind of stuff.

Am I the only one who thinks China has become a truly unholy merging of all the worst aspects of Communism and Capitalism?
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
1:11 pm
Doing My Part...

This is disgusting, and a great example of why smaller illustrators and comic artists need better protection for their ability to profit off their works. As the guy says, we ought to spread this story around as much as possible.

The thing that kills me is that China is supposed to be keeping such a tight rein on the internet to prevent its citizens from reading stuff that might be damaging to the steady stream of propaganda they're fed. You'd think that that would at least have the minor upside of preventing this kind of stuff.

Am I the only one who thinks China has become a truly unholy merging of all the worst aspects of Communism and Capitalism?
Friday, April 18th, 2008
2:13 am
Fourth World Fridays--Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #147

The latest Fourth World Fridays entry is up, this time featuring Jimmy Olsen #147. As you can see, it's nice and early--I have a busy day tomorrow so I wanted to get it wrapped up in advance. But I also want to sleep tonight, so I skipped scaning the pictures for now--they'll go up before the end of the day.
Thursday, April 17th, 2008
2:08 am
On the Plus Side, That Always Doubles My Hitcounts.

Gotta apologize for the late/nonexistant strips today. There will be a Saturday Night Shift to compensate.

Hopefully that's the end of lateness for a little while, and I'll be updating consistantly for a couple of weeks.
Saturday, April 12th, 2008
10:50 pm
Fourth World (Very Belated) Fridays--Mister Miracle #7

It's late, but it's up. But it's not here.

As mentioned, I've got a new blog to handle these reviews and similar stuff, "Fourth World Firdays...and Beyond." The latest FWF entry, on Mister Miracle #7, is up there now. Go! Go! Go!
Friday, April 11th, 2008
10:50 am
Fourth World Fridays Belated Again
This week's FWF entry will go up tomorrow, but it won't be here; it'll be over at my new blog, Fourth World Fridays...And Beyond, which I've set up specifically for this stuff. As you can see, I'm porting all the old FWF reviews over to that site, and will hopefully have finished that by this weekend as well. I'll get this place looking presentable yet.
Thursday, April 10th, 2008
1:12 pm
Needles and Darts

I'm undergoing acupuncture for my Bell's Palsy (which is partly what inspired the current Night Shift storyline) and it does appear to be having a measurable effect. The trouble is that I also spent last week scarfing down powerful drugs, so for all I know that's what's been causing my condition to improve. And on top of that, this is the kind of thing that's been known to just go away with no treatment whatsoever.

Still, the day after my second treatment (which was last monday), my face was noticably more mobile, so I'm thinking it is the acupuncture. Which is almost a shame, because it's costing me a fair amount of money, and now that it's producing results, I gotta keep going back. Blast! Stupid Asians and their effective medicine!

It's turned out to be pretty similar to what I'd envisioned for the most part. My doctor, a Korean gentleman named Dr. Yoo, lays me on my back, takes these little fine needles encased in plastic tubes and SPROINGS them out into the back of my feet, my spine, the back of my head, and the flesh of my thumbs on the back of my hands (plus the corresponding area on my feet). OK, so it doesn't actually go "SPROING", the point is that the needles are tapped out forcefully from their containment tube. Then he attaches a bunch of electrodes (I think--I don't get a very clear look at this bit) and charges it up, leaving me alone with my fun fun thoughts for 20 minutes. Then out go the needles, I'm flipped on my front, and I get more needles in my belly and around the affected area on my face, including riiiiiiight under the eyeball (these needles are even finer than the other ones) and in my upper lip. Again with the electrodes for 20 minutes, I'm slathered in goop to disinfect the holes, and I'm done.

Sometimes I barely feel a thing when the needles go in; sometimes it's exactly as painful as being pricked with a pin (the back of my feet and lip always seem to hurt the most). Oh, for the record, I'm covered with rubbing alcohol, or the Korean equivalent, before the needles go in, too. However, there's usually bleeding in a few places when the needles come out. Once, when the electrodes went in, I actually got a shock; otherwise, it's a low-level throbbing. After the treatment I'm a little bit wiped out, too. So yes, it's a stressful experience, not hugely helped by Dr. Yoo's so-so grasp of English and the always-nagging concern that I'm not safely in the hands of the mainstream medical establishment. Because you know that's always a safe place to be.

Plus, the commute is a pain.

But anyway, things are looking up, so hopefully after this weekend I'll be back on a regular update schedule. Things are a bit busy and I don't want to stress myself out, so I'm not going to update this sunday (the 13th), but after that it should be back to normal.

Aaaaaaaanyway. On a happier note, I thought I'd take the opportunity to point towards some entertaining comics blogs. I've become addicted to them lately, and there are some terrific ones out there, laden with snark and wit and goofiness, that I check every day. The latest one I've discovered is by fellow Torontonian Christopher Bird, the humbly titled MightyGodKing. It's been especially interesting lately since Bird's a law student and he's weighed in on the whole Superman court decision.

Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin is a reliable workhorse of a site by a guy who runs a comic shop and thus has an actual useful perspective on the business. Updates every day, rain or shine, which is always a big plus in my book. The Savage Critics is a site featuring several of the most articulate and intelligent comics reviewers on the web, and makes for a great jumping-off point to other blogs, so I don't have to point you to them. For even more savagery, there's the sorta-controversial-but-not-really-if-you're-an-adult Karen Healey, of Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed), providing a neccessary reality check for superhero fanboys for years now. Yes, she's part of Project Girl Wonder. If you know what that means, you may already have strong feelings about it. But it's always enlightening to me to watch brittle male superhero fans recoil into hysterics (and, less entertainingly, mysogyny) at the suggestion that their favourite hoobby might feature some unhealthy attitudes towards women.

Still not enough bile for you? Then get thee hence to Your Webcomic Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad, a truly mean-but-neccessary site that takes it on itself to tear into bad webcomics, some of them popular, some of them obscure, almost always with good reason. As the site's authors point out, there's little or no true objective criticism in the webcomics world, and the fact that you're not making money or hurting anyone doesn't mean you should be exempt. Some of the strips they dig up are really appalling, others provide a window into self-absorption and ultra-niche pandering, still others demonstrate the dangers of the form: without critical prodding, otherwise good or could-have-been good strips can really spiral off into wankery. This site tries to compensate with hilariously nasty and cutting punditry. If you're one of its targets, it's out to make you cry. It's not fair, but neither is life.

My personal vote for funniest comic blog, though, is an easy call: Chris Sims' Invincible Super-Blog, written by a gentleman who manages to deftly walk the line between elegantly-crafted bon mots and hypercaffeinated excitement. Sims clearly just plain loves comics, and (in contrast to the above site) even the stuff he tears into seems like it's being showered with affection, particularly the seemingly-awful "Anita Blake" series which makes for a major obsession of his. And the man posesses a gift for writing variations of the phrase "This is pretty much the greatest comic in the history of the universe" in almost every single entry without it ever getting boring.

Fourth World Fridays as usual tomorrow, but there'll be a slight change to the format. Until then, don't stab yourself with anything sharp.
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
12:56 pm
Fourth World (Belated) Fridays--The New Gods #7


So, I should probably talk about Star Wars at this point.

I’ve been tiptoeing around it for most of this series of articles, but it’s pretty widely acknowledged that the Fourth World Saga was a *huge* influence on George Lucas, and if you’ve been paying attention to my recaps, you’ve probably noticed this yourself. We’ve got a mythological cosmic epic that takes the form of a space opera but conceals more a primal, archetypal sensibility; good and evil in impossibly pure forms, with good represented by verdancy and the rejection of violence, and evil by the totalitarian domination of a chilling but charismatic master manipulator; an elaborate mythology full of strange beings, with a pre-existing backstory; and lots of other details, big and small. More obviously, you’ve got a villain named, phonetically, “Dark Side”, whose ruthless personality and will-to-power are more than a little reminiscent of a certain Sith Lord with whom we’re all familiar; throw in the physical characteristics (mutilated body encased in cloak and armour) of another of Kirby’s classic villains, Dr. Doom, and the connection is even more obvious. You’ve also got heroes worshipping and deriving their powers from something called “The Source” (and one from “The Astro-Force”), a gigantic technological hell-planet with great circular pits, and even Laser Swords make a brief appearance at one point. And there’s another major point of similarity which has been pretty heavily hinted at throughout the series, but which this issue, one of the best of the whole meta-series, will make abundantly plain. (This is gonna be a long one.)

In the Beginning--The New Gods were formless in image and aimless in deed!!! On each of their two new worlds, their races had sprung from a survivor of the old!! The living atoms of Balduur gave nobility and strength to one!!—and the shadow planet was saturated with the cunning and evil which was once a sorceress!!

With this opening caption, Kirby comes as close as he ever does to admitting that, yes, the Fourth World is supposed to have emerged literally from the wreckage of his imaginary destruction of the Marvel Universe, or at least the Asgard segment of it. I’m not sure why he even bothered to change the name of “Balder”, since he’s a mythological entity, and thus, not owned by Marvel. Although the way copyright laws are going…

So yeah, to recap, once he split with Stan the Man and the House of Ideas, Kirby basically performed a pretty stunning mental purge, metaphorically destroying the universe he’d worked on for so long and summoning a new work out of the ashes. It’s not hard to see how stuff like Countdown to Infinite Crisis That’s Final For Really Reals This Time and Spider-Man Sells His Continuity To The Devil and all the other status-quo-smashin’, father killin’, nothing-you-know-will-ever-be-the-same-again reinventions of the DC and Marvel Universes over the years were taking their cue from what Kirby did here—but none of them ever did it with the kind of breathtaking commitment Kirby brought to it (even though the world he ‘destroyed’ remained alive and static at the company he left behind).

There are almost too many ramifications to this to sort through, though as I mentioned elsewhere, it lends a surprising amount of logical consistency to the series if you imagine that the New Gods come from a parallel Universe—this aforementioned far-future Marvel Universe that’s been destroyed and reborn. It would explain why they talk about Earth like it’s a relic of their own history, why they’re seemingly millions of years old despite the fact that their predecessors are clearly the gods of Earth mythology, and why no one in the DCU ever stumbled across them until Darkseid decided to stop by. (The current “Death of the New Gods” places New Genesis and Apokolips firmly in a parallel dimension from the rest of the DCU).

Of course, there’s still some stuff that doesn’t really make sense, and it starts right on the first page, when we meet Izaya The Inheritor and his wife Avia, reposing in bucolic splendour on New Genesis.

Now, here’s the thing: Izaya is the man who will one day be known as “All-Father”, and I think Kirby meant for this to be a surprise, but I literally never even thought to question that they were the same guy until the end of the story; his beard isn’t grey, but otherwise the resemblance is obvious. Of course, there are some issues raised by this, like, um, New Gods can age? Also, he’s described as a warrior…yet we’re told that this is at a time before New Genesis and Apokolips went to war. So what was he fighting against? Did the New Gods just pull themselves out of the cosmic goop left by the Old Gods and say, “Hey, those guys fought a lot. We oughtta get some warriors, too! They get all the chicks!”

Tragically, Izaya is about to learn the true meaning of being a warrior, as he and his bride are attacked by Steppenwolf.

I’ve been waiting months to do that joke. And it was totally worth it.

No, this is the Steppenwolf we’re talking about:

Steppenwolf is simply German for “wolf of the steppes” (or Coyote), so it’s probably just a coincidence that it’s a band (and a Hermann Hesse novel) as well as a Kirby character. This particular Steppenwolf lives up to his name by being a pack hunter, who hunts the deadliest game of all: MAN. Or actually, NEW GOD. Yes, in what seems like a fairly suicidal move to me, Stepp has decided to hunt and kill a leader of their neighbouring planet for sport. Diplomacy: not an Apokoliptish strong point.

But then, this may be a classic case of a dumb, spoiled rich kid getting in way over his head, for you see, Stepp is the brother of Heggra, the witchly ruler of Apokolips…and mother of Darkseid. Who, we learn in very short order, was the one who suggested this hunting excursion in the first place. And while Izaya gives them a good run for their money at first, he’s rendered spiritless by the sudden death of Avia, who wandered back onto the battlefield to prevent Izzy from killing Stepp and got whacked herself. Izzy then gets taken out by Darkseid’s “Killing-Gloves” and left for dead. Stepp is just barely bright enough to suspect that something’s rotten in Denmark:

STEPPENWOLF: I don’t trust you, nephew! --Or your bizarre companions!
DARKSEID: Would you care to examine the body, noble Steppenwolf??
STEPPENWOLF: There’s no need! I know I’ll find no sign of life!!! Let me add further, Darkseid!! I don’t like you! You’re clever and cunning—and a plotter!!

Yeah, good thing you’re none of those things, Stepp. “I don’t trust you! Let me demonstrate this by falling into your trap with a minimum of goading!”

For of course, Darkseid set this whole thing up to ensnare New Genesis and Apokolips in a war. Izaya wasn’t killed, and when he wakes up, he’s ready to do some serious vengeance-taking against those who killed his wife. Darkseid’s motivations in setting up the war are never really spelled out as such, though obviously focusing Izaya’s wrath on his mother and uncle is going to help him seize power later. Plus, Apokolips seems to have been created as a world of warriors and weapon-makers, so it was inevitable that they would find someone to fight against. It just doesn’t speak very well of Stepp or Heggra that it took Darkseid to figure this out for them. What were they doing for the first few thousand years of their existence? Holding lavish banquets?


The Darkseid family basically sits around rather pathetically in a bunker, squabbling for no particularly good reason except for the fact that they’re eeeee-vil, while the Monitors of New Genesis bomb the surface flat. Heggra castigates Steppenwolf: You’re brash!! Arrogant! Loud!! You command an army which only produces battles and body counts!” As opposed to what, sensible shoes? Again, for all their sinister, warlike appearance and cackling and basically looking the part of a bunch of ruthless intergalactic warlords, these guys sure need the essence of conflict spelled out for them, don’t they? Fortunately, Darkseid is planning to betray them all and sieze power, and it can’t happen soon enough—even though he’s clearly a million times more competent, it’s still kind of goofy to see Darkseid playing the part of someone’s runty nephew. (By the way, Hegg and Stepp and the rest of Darkseid’s immediate family are a bunch of lemon-yellow, red-eyed weirdos, looking like severely stylized versions of Ming the Merciless, but Darkseid is his usual, rocky self. I know, I know, they’re gods, and aren’t constrained to follow the usual laws of genetics. But still, he kinda sticks out.)

Darkseid is showing off a mysterious “X-Element” that he (or Desaad, who he’s apparently already got working for him) have stumbled upon in the labs. Suddenly, the party is interrupted by Metron, uncharacteristically flustered, bursting in and pleading like a little bitch with Darkseid to be given the X-Element.

If you remember, way back when, I mentioned that Metron’s status as a good guy was a little shaky, and that Orion was basically right to distrust him. This scene is a big part of why. Metron is overtly described as being part of New Genesis, yet he completely sells them out here, agreeing to use the X-Element to open the “Matter Threshold” that will allow Apokolips to transport heavy weaponry directly to New Genesis. His reasoning is that he desperately needs the X-Element to build his Mobius Chair.

“You’re a nice boy!!” croons Heggra. “Does it bother you---to create the means for mass slaughter??” “I have no link with the Old Gods—or New!!” rationalizes Metron. “I am something--different! Something that was unforeseen!!--On New Genesis—or here!!” “You’ll betray us all in time, Metron!” Glowers Darkseid. “But this thing—you shall build—for us!!

OK, so, we’re going with a Cat’s Cradle-style “the detatched immorality of science” thing here, apparently; Metron just wants to build and discover, and he doesn’t give a thought to what anyone might do with his inventions. Makes him kind of a dick, though, and you have to wonder how New Genesis ever got around to trusting him ever again. As Metron leaves, Heggra laughs with joy, paising her son, and Darkseid grins for I think the only time in the entire series:


Next thing you know, the Dragon Tanks and canine cavalry of Apokolips are blazing across the serene fields of New Genesis, led by Steppenwolf, who, with his tiny, tiny brain, has gone back to thinking well of Darkseid simply because he let his uncle lead the raid. Of course, the inevitable happens: Izaya the Inheritor appears from between the ranks and gets his revenge on Steppenwolf, driving off the Apokoliptish forces while he’s at it.

Metron appears to be castigated by Izaya—though not nearly enough, it seems to me—and makes a lot of “Ooh, that Darkseid! I hate him so much!” noises which are apparently sufficient to placate Izzy.

Over the next couple of pages, the war and the carnage grow ever greater, as the two forces turn to genetic engineering and bacteriological warfare, call down asteroids to slam into each others’ planets, focus the energy of the sun into gigantic flaming lasers (Kirby literally draws them as huge, flaming gouts cutting across space) and just basically making a mess of the entire universe. Somehow, despite being right next door to each other, the two planets don’t manage to wipe each other out, but New Genesis is transformed into a barren wasteland littered with ruins, over which Izaya looks sorrowfully.

“We are worse than the Old Gods!” He cries, in a bout of typically Kirbian anguish. “They destroyed themselves!! We destroy everything!! This is Darkseid’s way! I am infected by Darkseid!! To save New Genesis—I must find Izaya!!

He proceeds to wander out into the wilderness and do a whole “biblical prophet” thing, ruminating on his past choices, declaring that he rejects the way of war, ripping the armor and war-staff from his body and declaring that he’s rejecting the way of war forever, as the wind whips itself into a frenzy around him. “Darkseid’s game is not mine!!” He howls. “Where is Izaya!!!?? Where is IZAYA!!!??

In the middle of a re-enactment of 2001: A Space Odyssey, as it turns out, as suddenly a gigantic monolith comes into view across the plain. OK, so this one’s white and has a goofy little pointing-finger icon that writes “THE SOURCE” across it in fiery letters. Hey, I just realized: the Source is a Mac.

Some time elapses. Izaya returns to his throne in new robes, with a new staff; Darkseid, meanwhile, succeeds to the throne of Apokolips following the demise of his mother, and suddenly the war cools off. Darkseid and Izaya make a secret pact which involves their respective, and so-far unseen sons.

Yep, Darkseid’s got a kid: in fact, it seems he’s been married all this time, to this woman:

And as it turns out, the kid takes more after his mom, with the flaming red hair and the violence, than his rocky, pontificating dad. It’s not so surprising, either, since Darkseid never really wanted to raise a family anyway, and his son was raised on the other side of the planet, never knowing his dad. So the terms of the Pact seem fairly agreeable to him: he and Izaya will swap kids, the way ancient rulers were known to do, in order to cement a new truce between the two worlds. Of course, as it pretty much goes without saying, Darkseid just wants to buy some time and re-evaluate his options, so when Izaya’s young son is carried in by Granny Goodness, he immediately hatches a plan to someday break the truce: the kid will be raised in Granny’s Soldier-Orphanage, but he’ll harbour the dream of escape—and if he ever manages to do so, it’ll break the Pact and provide a convenient excuse to resume hostilities. In honour of this day, Granny names the kid “Scott Free”. (You’ve got to feel bad for Scott—it seems like his whole life, including his rebellion against evil, has been planned out by his archnemesis already. So much for being the living embodiment of freedom…)

At the signal, Darkseid’s son is thrust through his own Threshold and finds himself in a warren of tunnels, fighting and kicking the whole way. He’d kept a weapon secreted in his sleeve, and he now turns it on the first figure he comes across: Izaya, now in his white-bearded form of All-Father, offering him friendship and trust for the first time in his life. Orion—for it is he—screams that his father hates him, but Izaya responds with “‘Hate’ is no longer a word in this place!!!” Uh…but you just said…oh, never mind.

The point is that Orion is obviously in desperate need of a daddy, and with All-Father offering to fulfill this role, he decides to symbolically drop the weapon and embrace his new destiny as protector of New Genesis. Fade out.

Once again, I’m impressed by how much more confident Kirby’s storytelling is here than on the other series. The plot comes together much more tightly than I ever would have expected, and while I wish Kirby’s dialogue was smoother and more subtle, the underlying ideas are so powerful that it almost doesn’t matter. These characters’ actions convey who they are beautifully, even if what comes out of their mouth is kind of clunky, and while the forces of evil still seem to be more intellectually engaged (as it often does in these kinds of stories), the good guys actually manage to steal the show this time out. As usual, it’s hard not to think that Kirby was working out some personal issues in the sequence where Izaya rejects violence; perhaps he was coming to see the inherent conflicts in a cosmic war epic that revolved around hippie ideas of peace and brotherhood, and was making an effort to resolve them a little more clearly. As it is, this issue is a crucial peace of mythology that elevates the whole story quite effectively.

Oh, and that whole “hero turns out to be the son of the villain” thing? That’s a great idea. Someone ought to steal that for their own space epic.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
12:05 pm
In French, it's "April Fish". Seriously.

April Fool's Day jokes are kind of lame, unless you're willing to spend all kinds of time and effort on them. Just doing a fake blog post or claiming your strip is coming to an end takes no imagination whatsoever. I do kind of like the tradition of switching your strip with a different artist, but I didn't bother to set that up this year, so it's business as usual.

I say all this so you know that the stuff below is not a joke. And no, this is not part of the joke. That would be incredibly lame, to have a disclaimer indicating that this post isn't an April Fool's joke and then end with "APRIL FOOL!!!" anyway. OK? Ok.

So anyway, I just found out I have Bell's Palsy!

Nope, still not a joke. But don't worry, it sounds more serious than it is. Basically, it's a case of mild facial paralysis (very mild, in my case) caused by something that they don't know what it is. Always reassuring. I had a French-Canadian Dr. House who diagnosed me in about three seconds flat and went to absolutely no trouble to reassure me; I had to find out from the pharmacist from whom I was buying a metric shit-ton of drugs that this condition often clears up entirely on its own and is rarely permanent (OK, the doctor did assure me that it's never, ever fatal, so there's that). Still, we're talking at least a couple weeks of recovery time, which is annoying, since the symptoms include difficulty manipulating the right side of my mouth (and, thus, eating) and blinking my right eye (I have to tape it shut at night).

The latter makes computer-ing a bit of a pain, which is annoying, because I just got done working on a major assignment and was raring to get back into the webcomicking game. As it was I lost most of yesterday (so if the next Freak U. is a little late, my apologies) but now I'm rocking the eye-drops, and I think I'm back into the swing of things.

For starters, I'm back reviewing stuff for Rack Raids (look for a new review up there later today). I've also dusted off my Comicgenesis sites; the sheer volume of Night Shift strips means that I have to store most of them there rather than on WCN. But anyway, I've now brought it up to date; Freak U. as well. (And yes, I'll finish shading the strips that need it today.) As for Amazon Space Rangers--well, I've got a big honkin' message that pretty much spells out where I stand on that strip now. Like I say, I'm going to try revamping the strip (no pun intended) and submitting to AdultWebComics; if that doesn't work, I'm going to have to let it lie for the forseeable future.

On a more productive note, I've entered the Exiern Webcomics Writer Contest, because hey, free money. You can go there and vote on the appropriate forum for the entry you like best (cough, cough) by composing a short, 15-word-or-more poem (that's their way of getting around spam and ballot-stuffing). My entry is The Worldsmiths. I encourage anyone reading this to go and weigh in. I'm actually quite happy with my entry, and it's the kind of thing I'd like to be able to work on, so...help me win!
Friday, March 28th, 2008
5:23 pm
Fourth World Fridays--Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #146


So, to briefly review my real-world adventures in blogging: Amazon has an “affiliates” program that lets you sign up and place links on your site to certain products you think may interest your viewers, which then gives you a bit of money every time someone uses that link to buy things. Obviously, it seemed pretty logical for me to insert one of these links for the Fourth World Omnibuses, but LiveJournal apparently won’t accept this code. As a result, I’m seriously thinking of switching to Blogger or another blogging software. In the meantime, I’ve got the links up on my comics site, in a special page you can visit right here, or using the snazzy link at the bottom of the page. I hope that if my reviews have made you want to buy these books to see for yourself (and I think they’re well worth it), you’ll choose to use these links and thus throw a few bucks my way. Thanks, ‘preciate it.

Now, back to the pressing subject of cavemen.

When last we left Jimmy O., he’d been genetically regressed into a Caveman by Simyan and Mokkari, the Apokoliptish scientists who run the Evil Factory, or Brigadoom as we recently discovered it to be named. Once again, Kirby shows that he’s willing to play along with the rules of the comic he’s reinventing, since of course Jimmy Olsen was being transformed into something bizarre on a regular basis all throughout the Silver Age. Now he’s broken loose and is trashing S & M’s laboratory as the two watch impassively. “You know, there’s something about his general appearance that resembles—your own!!!” cracks Mokkari to Simyan. Of course, he’s one to talk, since Simyan’s just a relatively hairy, ugly guy, and Mok’s a dopey-looking lemon-flavoured Darth Maul.

In fact, this leads to some bad feeling between the two as Jimmy cuts loose and starts wailing on Mokkari—while Simyan takes his sweet time with the tranq gun. “Experimentors take risks—even with humor, Mokkari!!” says Simyan dryly.

Of course, their dazzling repartee is interrupted by the alarm, so they take off, leaving Jimmy lying, unconscious but unrestrained, in the middle of their lab filled with equipment that a moment ago they were worried he was going to trash. And naturally Scrapper and his Scrapper Trooper walk through the door immediately, bemoaning what the two creeps have done to their pal.

And now it’s time once again to check in on Superman and Dubbilex, whose plotline seems to be moving forward at an absolutely glacial pace. Fortunately, Kirby assures us that “the fates are weaving a master channel for all to meet!” but they’d better hurry the hell up, that’s all I can say. In the meantime, Dubbilex is practicing with his newfound psychokinetic powers on the Hippie Lois Lane, Terry Dean, who doesn’t seem to mind at all that a purple horned dude is tossing and buffeting her around like a rag doll with a mysterious mental ability that he literally just learned about a few minutes ago, and which he still can’t control very well, and just try and tell me he isn’t looking at her cleavage here:

Terry’s ultimate response is a simple, “Mister Dubbilex, you’re weird and wonderful!!!” Oh, for the heady days of the sexual revolution, when a freakish alien dude could manhandle a girl with mental powers and still have her wanting to sleep with him. Let’s hear it for women’s lib.

Superman describes Dub’s power as “E.S.P.--only ten times more potent!” but the Guardian, emerging from the floor, corrects him: “E.P.S. is more like it, Superman! ‘Extra-Physical Status!’ I’ve heard the geneticists at the ‘Project’ discussing it!!” Uh, no doubt. Because that totally doesn’t sound like something you just made up.

The Guardian, it turns out, was investigating the abandoned tunnels beneath the club from which the homicidal musicians attacked the gang in the previous two issues. So, wait, wait—they had Superman and a telekinetic mutant handy, and those two decided to hang around the club while the unpowered Guardian went down and explored a maze of dangerous tunnels? Is he like a Superhero Pledge, who has to do all the dirty and dangerous work for the senior members?

The Guardian pretty much reaffirms what we already knew, that the tunnels lead to the Project. For some reason, Superman then reasons that “The war between New Genesis and Apokolips—now involves the ’Project!’” Which isn’t a huge shock, since Morgan Edge, dupe of Intergang, tried to blow it up, but I guess Superman doesn’t know who Edge is working for…since he’s made absolutely no attempt to find out other than barging into Edge’s office a couple of times, right before heading back out on dodgy assignments that invariably end up turning lethal. So, umm…what was my point again?

Anyway, Superman now decides that, since The Guardian wasn’t attacked by any more low-rent Sgt. Pepper’s wannabes (and I’m talking the Peter Frampton/Bee Gees Sgt. Pepper’s, here), it’s safe for the invulnerable Man of Steel to go down. Man, when did he become such a Super-pussy? Zipping down the tunnels at his usual blinding speed, he encounters… “a light up ahead!! It’s growing brighter!! --Brighter!!” Can your heart take the suspense?!?

Yet another group of our intrepid adventurers are, at that very moment, smashing through the Evil Factory in the Whiz Wagon, causing even more chaos, until they’re hit by a “Repello-beam” that spins them around, knocks them unconscious, and sets them down on the ground. Simyan and Mokkari emerge in a little floating bucket, identify the Newboys by name—even Tommy, who I don’t think has even had a line of dialogue since this storyline began—and grabs hold of the Wagon with a grappling hook that whisks it over to a conveyor belt, leading to the atomic incinerator. Then, in classic bad guy tradition, they leave the room.

…OK, I can’t judge them too harshly, here—I don’t find myself staring at garbage as it goes down the chute, either—but still, do you really want to give these guys the opening?

But either way, their intelligence level remains in question, given their amazement when they return back to the lab and find Jimmy Olsen missing. Somehow they intuit that Scrapper and his double are behind this, since there’s obviously no way the specimen could have just, I don’t know, gotten up and walked away.

This seems to be a common misconception, since Scrapper and Trooper didn’t bother to tie Jimmy down either, while making their getaway on one of those tiny airport golf carts (included with every mid-sized villain’s lair). Recovering from his tranquilized sleep instantly, Jimmy picks up the golf cart and starts trying to swat Scrapper with it. Because Neanderthals were just that strong, you know.

This is more serious than you might have thought, because as it happens they’re passing the cages containing hordes of bizarre genetic aberrations—the kind that have supposedly been bedeviling the Scottish highlands for the last few months. Sure enough, CaveJimmy manages to smash the power supply, shutting down the electric fence and setting free a saber-toothed tiger. Now, if movies starring Raquel Welsh and Ringo Starr have taught us anything, it’s that cavemen and saber-toothed tigers are mortal enemies, which works to Scrapper and Trooper’s advantage, but the outcome is still surprising: CaveJimmy
Pounds on the tiger and knocks him out with one blow, then beats his chest and wanders off. Man, if all cavemen were like that, it’s no wonder the Smilodon went extinct.

Meanwhile (and I really hope the characters reunite soon, so I don’t have to keep writing “meanwhile”), the intense heat of the furnace has revived the Newsboys, or at least Flippa Dippa, just in time. Given Flip’s orgasmic obsession with water, you’d expect him to freak out at the sight of fire this close to devouring them, but he remains admirably cool and shows he’s not completely useless when not in his element. Realizing the Wagon’s hooked to the track, he drops a concussion bomb right underneath the vehicle, causing some damage but shaking them free. He then proceeds to go all French Connection on Brigadoom’s inner corridors, sideswiping hordes of the Factory’s heretofore-unseen workers. But then, it seems like most of them were running away in a panic anyway. From what? From this:

In the midst of this stampede, the Newsboy Legion is reunited, but CaveJimmy spots Simyan and Mokkari trying to shut the titanium doors to their little bunker, but he leaps in and blocks the door with an iron bar (showing remarkable presence of mind for a rampaging brute). He then proceeds to lay out some serious payback on the dudes who have been tampering with his DNA.

Actually, this whole comic is a brilliant example of Kirby doing what he does best—it’s just non-stop chaos, destruction, and hairbreadth escapes from about the moment the Whiz Wagon bursts in. Things get crazier and more tense, until they climax with Jimmy’s rampage:

Until the second-last page is literally nothing but a series of explosions. Brigadoom is, needless to say, done for—and the Newsboys and Jimmy have to scramble to escape not only the blast that takes out the entire compound, but the potential for being trapped as microscopic beings forever. Remember, Brigadoom is actually really tiny, and to get in you have to pass through a shrink ray—but once Brigadoom goes up, the reverse grow-ray that people pass through to leave goes with it. Needless to say, Jimmy and the Newsboys make it out by a whisker, and the last page shows the aftermath of the destruction: Jimmy passed out in a quiet dale, the Whiz Wagon planted nose-first in the hillside, and a tiny crater where the Evil Factory once resided.

I gotta say—apart from the interesting subtext of his first few issues, this is probably the highlight of Kirby’s run on Jimmy Olsen, accomplishing much more successfully what he tried to do with “The Big Boom” back in #138. At least part of the reason it works better here is that there actually IS a “Big Boom” at the end, but it’s also the conclusion of the main plot running through the series, which lends it a satisfying finality. After this, Kirby gets to toy with a storyline that he hinted at earlier, and which he wanted to make the focus of his run on the book, which probably would have made everything more interesting. Certainly, given that the book was cancelled a few issues later, you’d think Kirby had a better idea of what he was doing. It’s too bad this couldn’t be the end—it would have let him go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Friday, March 21st, 2008
9:57 pm
Fourth World Fridays--The Forever People #7


My reviews turn now to the 3rd volume of the Fourth World Omnibi, so it seems appropriate to note that the fourth and final volume is slated to arrive next Wednesday, at least according to Amazon. If my reviews of this stuff are making you eager to purchase the Omnibi, well, you’re in luck.

Yep, in keeping with my comments about money from last week, I’ve decided to join Amazons’ Associates Program and provide purchase links. If you feel inclined to buy these, it would be really appreciated if you did so by clicking the link below, which will send a few bucks my way.

UPDATE: Apparently Livejournal doesn't allow for the coding that would let me place a traditional widget with a direct link to the page in question. So I've been forced to insert a text link. Sorry for the extra neccessary click.

Anyway, Buy 'em here!

But enough flagrant shillery, let’s see what the FPs are up to. As you recall, the last we saw, they were being menaced by Darkseid’s Really For Reals Ultimate Weapon, the Omega Effect, which he had somehow forgotten he had access to until just now. The Omega Effect, as was loudly trumpeted last issue, “WIPES YOU OUT OF EXSISTENCE!!!” Yep, hit by the Omega Beam, and you’re a goner, completely vaporized, eradicated completely from the space-time continuum, demolished utterly and completely, as if you had never existed.


Because, at the last moment, Darkseid seems to have once again remembered a crucial detail: he can use the Omega Effect to do other stuff besides totally annihilating his enemies. So, rather capriciously, he’s decided to do something much, much less evil.

More on this momentarily, for now we must check in with The Council of the Young! As you may remember, there’s been some talk about how the young are revered on New Genesis, but of course Highfather still runs the place. With the first four pages of this issue, we see this in action: apparently there’s a council which the young and goofily-attired of New Genesis can use to petition Highfather for help, and they’re doing so now on behalf of the Forever People.

What’s more, it seems that the adults of New Genesis have been unaware, until now, that the Forev Peeps had actually skipped town (Supertown, that is) and headed to Earth to take on Darkseid. So their young friends are essentially coming to Highfather and admitting, “Geez, we screwed up bad, pops, can you fix everything for us?” Well, OK, the FPs have been awfully brave and done some serious damage to Darkseid so far, and they did come to Earth in the first place to rescue their friend Beautiful Dreamer, so their heart was in the right place, but still, for all the praise directed to the young generation in these comics, it’s pretty clear who holds the Wonder-Staff in New Genesis: the old, white, male, Abrahamic authority figures. Speaking of which, you can kind of read this whole sequence as a Deus Ex Machina, with the children basically praying to a godlike leader out in a cosmic dimension to bail out the heroes.

The conversation between High-Father, the kids, and Metron (who’s also present, having apparently been the one who figured out that the FPs were in trouble and reported it to High-Father) goes back in forth in Kirby’s usual expository way, until Esak comes forward. Esak, you may recall, is the cherubic little kid in hotpants that Metron was showing around the universe back in New Gods #4. “Is one of the youngest of New Genesis to add his voice against my edicts!?” asks Highfather. “Not against your edicts, High-Father!!” Replies Snot-nose, “But for our friends!! Is this not a world of friends!? Save our friends, Highfather! Save Them!” Then he breaks down weeping. And when that’s not enough, he resorts to really incomprehensible ass-kissing:

I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that policy on New Genesis is formulated by six year olds, or that Highfather seems to think that that string of gibberish actually meant something.

But now we check in with the Forever People, or at least Mark and Beauty, who we now learn have not been eliminated at all. No, Darkseid has instead given them theatre tickets and sent them off to enjoy themselves.

I’m barely kidding. The theater in question is Ford’s, and the year is 1865. Darkseid has sent them back into Earth’s past. As you can see, this comic is in full compliance with the rule that time travelers in comic books never wind up someplace where nothing of note is occurring. They’re always within a few days, and usually a few moments, of some momentous occasion.

Beautiful Dreamer declares them to be “marooned” in the past, but I’d say this is a pretty good alternative to being completely wiped out of existence. Indeed, within moments the two young ones seem to be enjoying themselves, using BD’s powers of illusion to conjure up period-appropriate costumes and trying to remember what they know about the time period. We learn Big Bear is the team’s historian (though apparently he couldn’ t be bothered to read up on local traffic laws) but Mark is savvy enough to recognize the time period as post-civil war. However, he fails to recognize Lincoln when he walks in, at least at first.

Lincoln is of course a staple of superhero books; if you’re a silver age character, and you’re sent back in time, chances are excellent you’re going to run into one of a) Lincoln, b) King Arthur, c) Robin Hood or d) Julius Caesar. I always wonder if the DC and Marvel Universe versions of these historical personages don’t start to get annoyed by being constantly pestered by time travelers. But I like Kirby’s rendition of Lincoln, who he describes as “seem[ing] scarred by grave tragedy in his time!!” “He looks wise—and old—and tired—“ says Beauty. Lincoln has no lines in this comic, but he’s still more interesting than any other comic book Lincoln I can think of.

Ah. And only in comics would I have to expend so much thought distinguishing between multiple Lincolns. Moving on.

Mark finally twigs to the significance of their current circumstances (Beautiful Dreamer apparently knows nothing about history, ‘cuz she’s a girl and stuff) and rushes backstage to try and prevent the impending assassination. No thoughts of preserving history here, it would seem. But the two are met by a squad of policemen backstage, demanding identification.

Meanwhile, Vykin the Black finds himself in Florida circa the early 1500s, just in time for an encounter with, you guessed it, Ponce De Leon’s men. Wait, no, apparently they’re not with Ponce but instead are…deserters? Or even rivals? It’s never made clear. Nevertheless, they’re nasty, racist folks who are out for gold, so I guess Kirby didn’t want to demonize Ponce (who I’m sure thought all races were equal and had no interest in gold whatsoever). Their first move is to try and grab Vykin. “Who are you cats?” Asks Vykin. “Why are you behaving this way??” When this diplomacy fails, he proceeds to pound the living crap out of them. This doesn’t do much to change their attitude towards “the black”, as they refer to Vykin every two seconds. “Being a language major, I should be able to deal with them!” thinks Vykin. Um, yeah, these guys seem naturally receptive. Realizing that they’re only interested in one thing, Vykin declares that he’s “equipped to ferret out hidden minerals” and agrees to lead them to a cache of it nearby. But, you’ll be shocked to learn, the pirates plan to betray him once they get there.

And now it’s Big Bear’s turn. He comes flopping out of the timestream and right into a nearby band of warriors. “Medieval dawn man!” declares BB, delightedly. “Celtic or Saxon emergence!” Sure enough, he’s in Roman-controlled Britain, surrounded by Celts who declare him to be, alternately, a warlock, a druid, and a bear spirit (well, they’re not too far off there.) BB picks up their speech with a universal translator in his ear-circuits-making me wonder why Vykin had to be a “language major” to understand the Spaniards—and figures out that they’re preparing to attack the Romans as they pull out from Britain for the last time. This makes no sense, because a) they seem to want the Romans to leave anyway, and b) there’s like five guys against an immense Roman army.

Again, we can see the shift in sensibilities that society had been undergoing starting to take hold in Kirby’s comics—most pre-1970 comics would have cast the Romans solidly in the “good guy” camp, and comparing them to Darkseid, which seems fairly acute, nevertheless represents a pretty major about-face. Of course, the dirty, disorganized Celtic rabble doesn’t seem particularly heroic either, which may be why Big Bear says he “would like to avoid any partisan feelings at this moment” and just observe this key moment in history. Because, as we just learned two pages ago, he’s a history buff.

He’s actually so determined to sit back and enjoy that he grabs all the Celt’s weapons and drives them into a nearby tree with the force of his throw. You can see where this is going, right?

That leaves Serifan, who you may recall was left by himself in the present, due to Darkseid’s apparent laziness. Of course, if my only remaining enemy was Serifan, I don’t think I’d be too worried either. As you may recall from the previous installment, he had just gotten back to the Super-Cycle when a wave of Glorious Godfrey’s Justifiers swept down on him. Or, um, up at him, since they were climbing a cliff. Godfrey, by his own admission, “wastes” his zealots for a while by throwing them into the heavy laser fire produced by the Super-Cycle, before finally producing an “Induction Ray” and bringing the mountain down on top of him. “Serifan is transfixed by the terrifying fall of rock,” narrates Kirby, “--and, so, misses seeing the alpha bullet streaking toward him!!” The what now?

Alpha bullets!! Never seen before on Earth—originate from a different hand!! The hand which governs New Genesis!!” Turns out that the cure for the Omega Effect is an Alpha bullet, produced by Highfather. Highfather’s the Alpha, and Darkseid’s the Omega. Do you get it? Huh? Huh? Do ya?!?

Anyway, Highfather is indeed sending Alpha Bullets through time to rescue the FPs, having responded to Esak’s whining—so now we get the other halves of the various vignettes. In 1865, Mark and Beauty have managed to get past the cops with illusory identification, and have made it down the hall to confront John Wilkes Booth, again, with no apparent mind to what effect this might have on history. But this seems to be one of those deals where the future’s already set, and everything’s predestined, because just then the Alpha Bullet catches them and sends them back to their own time. Booth dismisses them, a little too casually, as hallucinations…though Kirby seems to be suggesting that Booth was just nuts. Admittedly, the Kennedy assassination was only a few years in the past at that point, so equating presidential killers with lone nuts was probably pretty natural, but I thought it was always pretty clear Booth’s actions were politically motivated.

I just bring this up because the Big Bear segment, which we cut to next, displays a decent grasp of history. It’s been suggested that, during his famous sojourn at Marvel, Kirby became a voracious reader, and this informed his work. You can definitely see fairly literate ideas popping up in Kirby’s work from time to time, but then there’s weird misapprehensions like the Booth thing. Anyway, Big Bear brings up the very good question of what the Celts are so angry about if the Romans are leaving, but their anger now seems to be turned towards the Romanized Celts they left in charge, like a certain Arta the Sentry. In fact, they’d gladly kill the guy, if their weapons weren’t still embedded in that tree. Big Bear, trying to mollify them, suggests that Arta is probably a decent guy, and the knowledge he learned from the Romans could be useful now that, y’know, the entire country’s infrastructure has packed up and gone south. To cement the deal, he lets Arta, and only Arta, pull a sword out of the tree, which wins him the love of the other Celts, who have names like Gwane and Lanslac. This is actually pretty subtle, by Kirby’s standards, though as awesome as Big Bear is I’m not sure he squares up properly with the Merlin of legend.

Vykin’s subplot ends rather abruptly when he leads the pirates to a crumbling mine, which he claims was constructed by “the ancients who passed here on their way further south” (again, spackling over the small issue of the fact that Kirby’s designed the mine to look Mayan). The pirates, of course, are getting ready to literally stab Vykin in the back, when we get a double Deus Ex Machina: first Vykin’s hit by the Alpha Bullet, then the ground beneath the conquistadores collapses, and they all plummet into the Earth to be with their beloved gold. Way to wrap things up in two panels, Kirby!

The four time travelers are reunited in the present by the mound of rocks, from which the Super-Cycle then extracts itself. The group is reunited, except for the strangely-absent Serifan. “He must be alive!” Declares Beautiful Dreamer. “If Darkseid spared us, he couldn’t have harmed Serifan!!” Yeah, mm-hmm, that’s some logic there, sweetie. Surely the embodiment of pure evil couldn’t have capriciously killed anyone if he spared someone else!

But of course he is alive, and in Honshu, Japan. “Of course!!” says Mark, “Where else would Darkseid have sent Sonny Sumo?” Right, because he was careful to send all the other characters to times and places in which they would feel comfortable and could integrate easily.

Sure enough, Serifan’s in a temple in Honshu, where a group of monks have a gift for him: the Mother Box that Sonny had with him. It seems that Sonny had lived a rich and full life full of good works in ancient Japan, and bequeathed the Box to the monks with instructions to keep it until the FPs came for it many centuries later. In other words, he got what he always wanted: to live in a simpler time when straightforward honour and heroism were still possible. From one perspective, it’s a very nice conclusion to his character arc.

From another, it makes no sense whatsoever. I mean…Darkseid granted his greatest wish?!? More crucially, he sent away the one guy he’d supposedly been searching for for years, the holder of the Anti-Life Equation?!? Is Darkseid easily distracted by shiny objects?

I’ll give Highfather a pass for not rescuing Sonny from history, since he probably knew somehow that he was happier there, but it’s still kind of annoying that Kirby created this Japanese superhero with great fanfare and then proceeded to get rid of him in three issues. Of course, if he hadn’t, Sonny would probably have kicked around the DC Universe for a few years, being badly written by a series of hacks, and then been horribly killed off in some stupid crossover event. So perhaps it’s for the best.

The final two pages are another Lonar story. Basically, Lonar and his battle-horse, now named Thunderer, run across Orion, who’s moping around in a loincloth on the surface of New Genesis. Yup, two dudes in panties, just hangin’ out together. Orion admires Lonar’s battle-horse and tries to pet it, but it rears up in fright and takes off. There is no subtext to this story whatsoever.

Next time: the further adventures of Caveman Jimmy.
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