Featured Columns

June 29, 2012

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Masters of the Universe, Transformers: Autocracy, Smurfs and Pac-Man!

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.103: Revenge of the 80s!

Welcome back oh-neato-reader, to your column for all-ages comics coolness, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week here for all intensive purposes is essentially a revenge of the 1980s kind of week. I’m cool with this, as I was born in 1985, and so a lot of this stuff I grew up with and carried onto into the early-90s. We look at the new Masters of the Universe, the last issue of Transformers: Autocracy, everyone’s favorite characters The Smurfs, and since I’ve been called out a few times on not doing a “something to watch” in this column in a few months, I felt it was appropriate given the comics this week, to take a look at Hanna-Barbera’s Pac-Man cartoon which Warner Brothers Archives released on DVD a few months ago for your retro-enjoyment! Let’s get down to it!


Masters of the Universe #1
Publisher: DC
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Howard Porter

So this week, DC added a very eye-catching title to their digital first line up on comiXology, Masters of the Universe, based off the beloved 1980s toy line from Mattel, perhaps more fondly remembered for its long running animated version by Filmation, also in the early to mid-1980s. Being a fan of the original cartoon, as well as smitten with the new DC digital titles of Ame-Comi Girls and Legends of the Dark Knight, and finally being written by Geoff Johns, whose work on the new 52’s Aquaman has struck me as brilliant, there was no way I could pass up this new bi-weekly title for a buck! More happily, all three of those that I mentioned – nostalgia, cool digital format, and a solid writer – all paid off in combination, making the first go for the new Masters of the Universe simply fantastic.

The first issue takes place on an Eternia before Prince Adam would become He-Man as we know it. Two young children are running through the dark woods being chased by dangerous looking beastmen (who look like blood thirsty ape/big foot creatures). Finally, they are wearing out and it comes to do or die time, stand and fight or get killed trying. Out of nowhere, a mysterious hero shows up and kicks the crap out of the baddies, saving the kids. Unfortunately, the children cannot return home, for their village was burned to the ground when King Greyskull was killed, so they follow the hero only to discover he is the legendary Sir Laser Lot, who isolated himself off in the deep woods after he failed his king. Not all is safe, though, and suddenly he is spirited away and comes face-to-face with some fan-favorite Masters of the Universe villains.

As I mentioned, I think the combination of everything here brings this to a great start. Geoff Johns not only writes my favorite DC superhero titles with Aquaman, but here he wins over the reader writing what already feels like a great relaunch of this classic world that’s sure to become one of their favorite digital titles (yeah, it is classic, the toys came out over 30 years ago in 1981, and the first animated series hits its 30th anniversary next year in 2013). Art wise, Porter does a good job here. His action scenes are really nice, and the digital layout format works like a charm for the eyes.┬áTip of the hat to DC for a great start here. Currently the series will be released bi-weekly as a digital comic, that you can snag on comiXology. DC has been collecting these digital first titles later on and releasing them as floppy print issues, however, if you don’t want to gamble waiting, just go and buy it, it is more than worth its dollar.


Transformers: Autocracy #12
Publisher: IDW
Writers: Chris Metzen and Flint Dille
Art: Livio Ramondelli

This past week, IDW released the final issue of their digital comic, Transformers: Autocracy, which detailed the history of Cybertron as a division grew between Autobots and Decepticons, and the birth and rise of Optimus Prime from this war.

Issue #12 depicts the first strike by the newly organized Autobots led by Optimus Prime against the Decepticons who have risen up. In the midst of both sides taking heavy fire, Optimus Prime has convinced the gigantic Metroplex to enter the battle, which really works in the Autobots’ favor and helps them achieve victory. In the final moments of the battle, Optimus and Megatron face off, and Hot Rod finally chooses to stick with the Autobots and jumps in to help, forcing Megatron to retreat.

Issue #12 is a good wrap up to this bi-weekly digital series that has been an enjoyable read over the past six months. It’s sad to see it go, and hopefully IDW will bring back this creative team for more Transformers digital titles in the future. The key to this series was its gorgeous art, and here Ramondelli does stellar work that is just cool and beautiful to stare at. Writing side, Metzen and Dille made everything come together for a satisfying, action-packed conclusion. The pages of the Optimus-Megatron-Hot Rod battle does take lines from/pretty much foreshadows what happens in the animated Transformers: The Movie from the 1980s, which will work for some readers on a nostalgia level, but will hurt other readers who will think it’s an unneeded retread of something that happens later on in time anyways (How many times can Prime really say “One shall stand. One shall fall” anyways?).

Transformers:Autocracy has been an enjoyable read. All 12 issues are available digitally for a buck each, or if you are not a digital person yet, a printed collected edition will finally be coming out towards the end of next month from IDW. No matter what format you read comics in, it’s worth the pick up, if for nothing else than the amazing artwork on this title.


Smurfs Vol.11: The Smurf Olympics
Publisher: Papercutz
Story and Art: Peyo and Yvan Delporte

Just in time for the summer Olympics comes The Smurf Olympics, the smurf-tastic eleventh volume of the long running European comic originally published in Spirou, that spawned the classic cartoon, toys, etc., here in English for the first time ever!

This collections features a big long-form story called “The Smurf Olympics” by Peyo, which chronicles the adventures of the Smurfs, who decide to hold an Olympic competition after Hefty-Smurf becomes tired of being the only one to seemingly play sports (outside of chess and darts) in Smurf village. The teams get divided up, with no one wanting to be on Weakling Smurf’s team. Just when Weakling Smurf is seemingly going to quit because he just can’t get up to par, Papa Smurf gives him some “magic” jam to rub on his nose before competing to bring out his true potential, to surprisingly good results! We also get “More Smurf Olympics,” which is a collection of all the one-pagers about Smurfs doing Olympics, soccer and other games, as well as a collection of the Smurf comic strips, all with various sports themes.

This is a pretty good Smurfs collection, even if you are not into sports like the Olympics or the World Cup (I suspect the collected material was created during those times of fandom in Europe), it is still a really funny collection, and the magic of Peyo and his art shines through to folks’ delight. The material by Delporte blends in perfectly with Smurf-creator Peyo’s flawlessly, adding plenty of good humor to the set, as well (which is to be expected, as he and artist Gos pretty much were the lead guys to fill in on the comics when Peyo couldn’t do them).

Smurfs was in our Top-15 Picks of 2011 and continues to be a solid title for readers of all-ages as we continue to move throughout 2012, so if it’s this or another volume, if you are or are not a Smurf-fan, we highly recommend you check this title out!


Something To Watch: Pac-Man

That’s right, your something to watch section is back this week, and it turns out what you should be watching this weekend into the 4th of July is Hanna-Barbera’s Pac-Man! Originally airing from 1982-1983 on ABC, Hanna-Barbera took a stab at one of the earliest video game to TV adaptations, and tried to make sense of all the action of an arcade game about a yellow guy who ate stuff and was chased by ghosts. Considering the plot of Pac-Man doesn’t have much more epic depth than that, I’d say Hanna-Barbera did a great job with creating a world, reason, and stories to fill a whole season on TV! The TV episodes follow Pac-Man, his wife Pepper, his daughter Pac-Baby, and even his dog and cat, Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss. Majority of the episodes are typical set-ups; the evil Mezmaron, a weird Alien/Darth Vader hybrid, always wants to find the location of the Power-Forest to exploit its energy (the trees grow these yellow orbs everyone eats). Mezmaron’s henchmen are none other than the ghost gang of Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, and Sue, who carry out various schemes and disguises to try and find this forest, always crossing paths with Pac-Man, whose job is to protect the forest. They bite Pac-Man and steal his energy, or Pac-Man can get super charged on power pellets and bite them back. So yes, a good chunk of the cartoon, like the game, is chasing and biting. Later episodes get more creative with parodies of popular TV shows like The Flintstones or The Bionic-Woman, and even time travel comes into play. Overall, for a cartoon that ran in the early 80s, it’s not that bad at all! You may really enjoy this odd hero, the first season released now on DVD from Warner Archive!


That’s it for this week! See you next and until then, get your kaiju-game on!

Drew McCabe



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