Ah, Chaos! Comics (the exclamation point is mandatory), you couldn’t go through the racks of a comic shop in the ’90s without running into them, even though their comics were the most blatant celebration of ultraviolence and big boobs imaginable. Of course, if you’ve been following this blog, you should know that I have a nostalgia for them that, like with many things, pushes the boundaries of ironic. Basically Chaos! is exactly what would happen if your high school Magic the Gathering partners who were death metal fans got their own comics company, and you can’t tell me there isn’t something downright magical about that. And you don’t get more magical than a character like Lady Death.
The embodiment of writer Brian Pulido’s fetishes and less than orthodox ideas about female empowerment, Lady Death epitomized, if not largely kicked off, the “Bad Girl” craze of the ’90s. A generously endowed woman who slaughtered her enemies and even those who just mildly irritated her, Lady Death was almost designed to be the patron saint of “sex n’ violence.” Her origin story, which had her burned alive by medieval villagers who held her responsible for the crimes of her Satanist father and which saw her eventually lead a coup against Satan himself, didn’t end with her becoming a hero pledged to defend the helpless. Instead, cursed to remain in Hell as long as one person remains alive, she expedited the process herself by setting out to wipe out the human race. When we’re first introduced to her, she’s doing so by seducing a telepathic child abuse victim in his dreams, goading him into becoming a serial killer, and manipulating a high-tech attempt to mentally cure him in order to turn him undead and thus initiate a zombie apocalypse. Really, in her first appearances Lady Death made Doctor Doom look bush league.
Due to the explosion – although on reflection I think it was supposed to be a flash or something – everyone is lying around the console unconscious. Barbara and Susan are the first to wake up and, for a moment, they can’t recognize each other. Also Susan feels a sharp pain in her neck and head. Once Ian wakes up as well, Barbara finds he also doesn’t recognize where he is, thinking that he and Barbara are back at the school they teach in. Wounded and still unconscious, the Doctor only mumbles, “I can’t take you back, Susan!” As Susan goes to try to find something to treat the Doctor’s head wound, which was caused by the fall, she discovers that the doors and other equipment on the TARDIS aren’t working properly. Susan panics and thinks some alien force has invaded the TARDIS. When she tries to operate the controls, she faints. Once she recovers, she reacts with suspicion and anger when Ian comes to check on her, threatening him with a pair of scissors until she collapses again. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Doctor Who Reviews – The Edge of Destruction (1964)→
The crew of the TARDIS prepare to leave the ship to explore their surroundings, but no one notices that a radiation gauge on the console has suddenly jumped from normal to dangerous. Outside there’s a petrified jungle (wasn’t it a swamp last time?), which the Doctor deems devoid of life. However, they do catch sight of a seemingly abandoned but perfectly preserved city in the distance. The Doctor wants to explore it, but Ian with his human sensibilities and British alpha male authoritarianism refuses to let the only person who can pilot the TARDIS (if barely) go off and possibly get himself lost or killed. While Susan is briefly separated from the group on their way back to the TARDIS, someone or something touches her on the shoulder, frightening her, but no one believes her. Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor, who has softened up just a little since the last episode, shows his human guests the basics of life on the TARDIS, by explaining that there are private rooms to rest in (which we don’t see) and by showing a machine that can generate food bars that will have the exact taste of anything the operator asks for. Barbara and Ian’s joy at discovering that there are perks to wandering aimlessly through infinity is short-lived, though, as they hear something banging on the TARDIS’ doors. This, along with Susan’s claims, is enough to cause all three to demand that the Doctor get the TARDIS as far away as possible as soon as possible. Although he still wants to see the city, the Doctor seems to acquiesce. Yet when he tries to get the TARDIS to “launch”, nothing happens, and the Doctor claims that the reason is because some vital part in the console has run out of the mercury it needs to function…but it’s obvious (except to Barbara, Ian, and Susan) that he’s not only lying but proud of himself for doing so. Now, the Doctor explains with feigned regret, they’ll just have to go down to the city and search for any laboratories that might have mercury since there’s no back-up supply on-board.
I really do believe that Biker Mice From Mars was one of the better action cartoons to come out of Saturday mornings in the ’90s, but one of the things that worked in its favor is that most of the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired cartoons were total crap. And that brings us to the totally jawsome Street Sharks…
I know it’s not much of an original criticism to say that a cartoon for kids looks like it was written according to a bunch of middle-age peoples’ perceptions of what “the kids are into these days,” but damn, Street Sharks takes it to a Mad Libs level. The heroes are guys with parachutes and rollerblades who were turned into sharks and they like to eat burgers. Their best friend and ally is a surfer and inventor who owns a comic book shop. Really, the only character I found at all interesting was of course the villain, Dr. Paradigm, who I presume was named as the most unexpected reference to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ever. Admittedly he’s the standard mad scientist seeking to turn human beings into gods, but I love the fact that he’s just a standard university faculty member who happens to be able to afford a high-security mad scientist lab with large aquatic mammals kept in fancy tubes. And he has grad students! We only know this because one of them, an African-American female research assistant named Twofer…er, Lena, ends up helping the heroes, but still I couldn’t help but imagine the whacky hijinks the grad students of the mad scientist who makes Dr. Frank Forrester look respectable would get into. Give us that show!
Ian Chesterton, a science teacher, and Barbara Wright, a history teacher, share their concerns about their eccentric 15-year old student, Susan. Barbara confides that when she went to meet Susan’s sole guardian, her grandfather, to talk about the sliding down of her homework grades, she could only find a scrapyard at the address on file. The two decide to literally stakeout the scrapyard in their car while waiting for Susan to walk back from school. While they wait, the two discuss how Susan is a brilliant student in science, math, and history, but doesn’t seem to grasp common knowledge facts like that Britain doesn’t have a decimal system for its currency and another time when she insisted that a simple math problem required five dimensions, not three. When Susan appears and walks into the scrapyard, Ian and Barbara follow, but only find an out-of-place police box and an old man. Instantly hostile and suspicious, the man denies that Susan came by and asks Ian, “Is it reasonable to suppose that anybody would be inside a cupboard like that?” After an argument Ian, thinking the old man kidnapped Susan, threatens to go to the police, but Susan comes out of the box looking for the man, whom she addresses as “Grandfather.” Continue reading Trash Culture’s Doctor Who Reviews – An Unearthly Child (1963)→
Does anything illustrate just how convoluted pop culture can be more than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? What started out as a comic book parody of Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil turned into a children’s cartoon that itself inspired a legion of imitators and parodies. I even have a theory that the deluge of anthropomorphic animal warriors hitting ’90s televisions has led to one of the most notorious cultural phenomena of the twenty-first century so far, but we’ll get to that in the moment.
I have three case studies to go through, but let’s begin with one of the better examples.