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Ultraverse Revisited: Mantra #5

ultraverse_revisited

mantra_0005Mantra: The Animated Series

Creator/Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Terry Dodson
Inker: Jasen Rodriguez
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Color: Family Fugue
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is an interesting piece, right from the cover. We have a generic gradient background, with a folded film strip receding to the lower left. In the foreground we see a ‘regular’ Mantra looking curiously at a reflection that on the film is exaggerated and cartoony. On the surface it almost seems like a self-acknowledgement of Mantra being "well-endowed" physically and the costume emphasizing that. But…it also actually fits the interior of the issue, serving as a very reasonable cover for this particular issue of this title!

As the issue opens, we see Mantra and Warstrike–fresh back from Boneyard’s place–confronting Strauss about the charm that failed to return them the way he’d promised. After this confrontation, that pair splits up after an awkward moment. As Mantra flies away, the demon from Prime #5 spots his target! Still without a body, the demon possesses another cartoon character–a Wiley Wolf. Meanwhile, back at home, Mantra experiments with the magic sword, discovering/confirming its additional cloaking ability to hide as a ring on the costume’s belt, but manifest at will when needed. Mantra–or rather Eden Blake–well, actually, Lukasz–walks into the house looking perfectly normal, the Mantra getup magically cloaked. We see that the kids are being watched both by Blake’s mother, and the actual babysitter Kelly Cantrell (who we should recognize as Prime–Kevin Green’s–crush over in Prime). Even without big super-heroics and such, we see the natural mixing/"small-world-after-all" of all these characters existing in the same world. We see further tension between "Eden" and her mother, who still does not know this is actually Lukasz inhabiting her daughter’s body.

The next day at work, we find that there’s even more to Eden’s story than anyone realized, which lends itself well to what Lukasz may need to accomplish: Eden’s recruited for Aladdin! Before there’s any dwelling on that, Eden gets an emergency call from her friend Marla…seems that now Brent is dead as well as her husband Carl! (We know Brent as the guy Lukasz woke up next to when he first found himself in Eden’s body!) Eden then has to rush off to deal with an emergency as Mantra…Wiley Wolf is threatening her kids’ school! The "living cartoon" is dealt with, though Mantra may have let slip more than intended by addressing Evie by name–something odd for Mantra, who has never actually MET Eden Blake’s daughter. Later at home, Eden takes a copy of Ultra Monthly Magazine from the kids, and realizes a model posing as Mantra for risque photos in the magazine will be a prime target for the cartoon/demon!

We then launch into several pages of 6-panel grids made out to be filmstrip frames as Mantra is engaged by the demon, pulled into the tv world…and finds herself a cartoon! And as a cartoon, subject to typical cartoon gags and visuals, as well as rules. She manages to defeat her foe and return to the real world…with just enough page space left to demand the model be paid properly for her trouble, don’t do it again, and a single panel showing the demon (trapped as Wiley Wolf) kneeling in disgrace before an angry Boneyard.

Judging by the length and detail of my "summary" above, compared to other recent Ultraverse issues I’ve covered…I think it’s very safe to say that Mantra is STILL one of (if not my top) favorite Ultraverse titles.

As a guy, sure, there’s likely something subconscious to the depiction of this female character’s visuals and light-on-covering-clothing as we see on panel. But I truly find it fascinating this notion of a man trapped in a woman’s body, having to learn to adjust to the world from that state; but even on the notion of ANYONE being trapped in SOMEONE ELSE’s body–PERIOD. Considering what it means to all those around the body–Eden’s friends, coworkers, anything Eden had set in motion for herself–as well as a suddenly strained relationship with her mother, and an awkward, unexplained distance from her kids (that the kids surely pick up on but may not understand)…there’s a lot of depth to be had!

For better or worse, though…some of this understanding and knowledge and way I take in the character and stories is me more than 2 decades later re-reading stuff that I read and loved as a kid! If not this particular issue, then at least this series.

I continue to enjoy the visuals on this title…it certainly seems pretty consistent with the previous issues; with Dodson on pencils, that certainly makes sense. There’s a certain grounded feel to things, while still looking like drawings in a comic book. Alternatively, the "animated" portion takes on the goofy cartoon-like look in a rather obvious way…both poking fun at old cartoons as well as perhaps borrowing the style of the "_____ Adventures" comics of the time–Batman and X-Men at least–based on their respective cartoon series.

Story-wise, I love all the subplots and worldbuilding going on here…it feels like Mantra is an extremely rich title in that regard! In some ways the story is all over the place, though–Mantra and Warstrike barging in on Strauss, then scene-hopping all over the place for just a page or few pages at a time. This would not "work" for most titles, but does for me here as said with stuff above.

Perhaps more for the "Mantra the Animated Series" segment, this issue can SORT OF work on its own. Nothing overly fancy or special in and of itself, but if one gets through the main part of the issue, they’re then treating to the "Mantra Adventures" segment.

Five issues in and we should be "wrapping up" a story arc as far as looking from the modern perspective in 2019. I vaguely remember that the next couple issues cross over with the rest of the Ultraverse–first as a whole for the Break-Thru event and then with a prominent Prime issue; so I don’t remember any clear-cut hard-stop breaks in terms of an actual story conclusion or new story start.

As always…I definitely recommend this in context of the other issues of the title! If you can get these first 5 or so issues, you’re in for a treat; or if you’ve read the previous issues, you’re still in for a treat with this issue. If you find this issue alone for 25-50 cents, it’s probably gonna be a fun, VERY-’90s sort of read where you can pick up on context within the issue itself.

I remember in broad strokes where this series goes, at least for a bit, and I’m eager to get to a prominent story in particular, but I’m holding myself back to continue reading issues as single issues in the greater context of the whole of the Ultraverse publication!

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New Robins of Spring

I’ve added some new Robins to my collection this year…and most recently, my first-ever “new in package” Eaglemoss figurine!

robin_eaglemoss_box_front

I’ve been contemplating ordering this one for awhile, but held off awhile. I finally pulled the trigger and ordered it, actually expecting it to be “loose,” though hopefully well-packed. I was pleasantly-surprised to get it still in its package, which afforded me a little more context on these figures than I’d seen so far.

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For one thing, definitely cool to see more, including a number of ones I do not have. I’d gotten the Penguin and Ra’s Al Ghul, but the rest of these are new (to me). Definitely VERY interested in the Superman one, as well as Green Arrow and this version of Batgirl!

newer_robins

Along with the Eaglemoss figurine, other recent additions include the Batman: The Animated Series Robin from Funko, though this one’s one of my Tim Drake exceptions, as I’ve found myself increasingly interested in figures and such of all the Robins, not just Tim.

Then there’s the Imaginext version of Tim’s Robin, as well as the Imaginext version of Red Robin. And finally, the elusive Mighty Minis version of Red Robin.

most_robins_in_context

These join a few of my other Robins, as well as the other Eaglemoss figurines and other Mighty Minis and such. Not in this particular photo are a 12″ Robin from the Batman Unlimited “Titan Heroes” line, a Robin bust bank, a huge version of that Dorbz Robin, and at least one shot glass.

robin_eaglemoss_box_booklet

This is the booklet that came with the Eaglemoss figure…while this is not my favorite version of the costume, it is Tim Drake, and I want to say he was in it for several years before going to the Red Robin thing for a couple years, before the New 52 stuff.

I do look forward to actually reading through this booklet, though I wonder at its take on the character, and what I’ll learn from it or if it’ll seem “off” to me, considering I’ve largely followed the character (off and on) since 1989. (Just think: in 2 more years, Tim Drake will have been around for 30 years! More than 1/3 the entire existence of the Batman comics!)

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Rant of Disgust on Animated Ghostbusters DVDs

I was pleasantly surprised (initially) and then highly disappointed with the discovery of the classic animated series The Real Ghostbusters on dvd.

I’ve never known of it being on dvd before this, but I have very fond memories of the show–I may never have watched EVERY episode or gone totally ga-ga for the toys and such, but it was definitely a show I enjoyed (more than the movies, even, at the time!).

But my pleasant surprise quickly turned to disgust, and despite being in the “I’m gonna buy SOMEthing to watch tonight!” mood that might’ve seen me spend $20-$30, even, on a box set of The Complete The Real Ghostbusters or such, or $15-$20 on a “box 1 of 2″…the publisher did what I hate as much as variant covers.

They have the entire series. There’s no current release (that I’m aware of) ahead of these, say, from 10+ years ago. All the episodes are available to them and ready to go, right now. ALL FOUR are put out at the same time, together. As FOUR INDIVIDUAL RELEASES, we have all these episodes.

There’s no box set that I’m aware of for the whole thing.

real_ghostbusters_volumes_instead_of_set

And while I’ve nothing concrete to go on at the moment or anything for a “works cited” page–I’m quite confident that a large part of dvd PRICING relates to manufacturing–the discs, the dvd case liners, the cost of the cases, and then assembly (liner into the case, disc(s) in to the case, whatever shrink wrappage over everything). Then stuff like individual bar codes, soliciting to stores on four different SKUs or whatever, all that for FOUR things when they could easily just do 1.

As a comparison–12 episodes each for vols 1-2 and 11 each for 3-4…that’s 46 episodes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles season 3 has 47 episodes, and sells (via Target at least, and much less at Walmart) for $15. So it’s far from impossible to do a bulk release in a single, small package.

What’s worse with the Ghostbusters release is that they commit another thing: these are marked as “vol. 1” and “vol. 2,” and NOT as SEASON 1 or SEASON 2.

I don’t know–and not interested for the principle of this rant–how many seasons the show ran, but “vol. 1” suggests “intentional series” to me while “season 1” suggests to me a grouping by season. (Over with Disney/Marvel–rather than restrict themselves to “just” season 1 that was 13 episodes for X-Men the Animated Series, the VOLUME 1 release was 13 episodes–the complete first season–and then several episodes of the 2nd season!)

I allow SOME difference, say, for Nickelodeon‘s TMNT releases being incomplete seasons each–but they’re often putting out a release of 6-10 or 12 episodes from the current season WHILE the current season is STILL GOING ON. I’d PREFER to have FULL SEASON SETS (they recently released complete seasons 1 and 2…but I already have all of the individual releases) so for present I’ve continued on.

So, despite fond memories, nostalgia, and definite INTEREST–I did not buy ANY of the Ghostbusters sets. Sure, they’re “only” $10, and buying “vol. 1” for $10 for immediate gratification would be CHEAPER THAN blowing $30 in one go…FOUR releases at $10 each mean an eventual $40. And I was not prepared to spend $40 (even $30 would have REALLY pushed boundaries). At the same time, this being OBVIOUSLY timed to coincide with the new movie about to hit…if I bought vol. 1 now, and even vol. 2 next week and then held for several weeks–would I even be ABLE TO complete the set, or would these be flash-in-the-pan, here-today-gone-tomorrow?

In an age where more and more is being condensed–Double-Feature packs, Triple-Feature/Trilogy packs, 4 Film Favorites packs, franchise box sets, anthology sets, even double-season and FULL SERIES box sets–here they are splitting stuff out into mini-releases.

TMNT Toy Acquisitions (Early December 2015)

While I’ve little interest in “variants” of the turtles themselves, and over the past year haven’t cared for any of the new characters I’ve come across…the more recent Dimension X figures based on the most recent season grabbed my attention.

I’d determined that I was definitely interested in the new Triceraton warrior Mozar, and the latest version of the Fugitoid, which I’ve had from the previous two major TMNT lines.

Last week, I came across Mozar and grudgingly purchased the figure…several days later I came across the Fugitoid, and did so with that as well.

Knowing I was already interested in these, and fast-approaching Christmas (where the last several years Christmas-time and a number of weeks after have left a gap in toy sections for the basic TMNT figures), I didn’t want to open myself to having seen these and then spending ages hunting them down, where I’d come across other toy-purchase-temptations I shouldn’t be spending money on.

So, unlike the TMNT Toys in the Wild…these two TMNT toys were recent purchases, added to my collection.

tmnt_toys_mozar_front

tmnt_toys_mozar_back

tmnt_toys_fugitoid_front

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An 11-Year Journey Complete: BTAS

Over the weekend while browsing a Walmart, I noticed they actually had a Batman volume that they haven’t seemed to have had before, and it caught my attention for NOT being volume one.

batman_the_animated_series_vol_2

I had bought volume one in August or September 2004, as a form of “protest” of the then-new The Batman series. I tried that new show and did not like it. And so rather than grouse about it, I used it as an excuse to go out and buy the DVD of the series that I actually DID like.

A couple years back I found volume three as part of some sale on super-hero stuff, and then a good price on volume four online…but I couldn’t find this one for a comparable price.

Finding it in-person for a VERY reasonable price, I picked it up this time.

Giving me all 4 volumes…the complete Batman: The Animated Series.

I still have a couple Justice League seasons and however many  Batman Beyond seasons…but the fact I now have this series to go with my complete Superman series is quite cool and makes me a happy fan.

TMNT (2013) Toys – M.O.U.S.E.R.s and Rat King

Whenever I’m in a Target or Walmart, I almost always “have to” check out the toys section. Over recent months, I’ve dwindled to a cursory glance at the Marvel/DC figures, and these last several weeks my increase has greatly increased with the TMNT toys.

Tonight I decided to take a peek in case the Target I was in had Leatherhead…but while they did NOT, I found what–for me–is possibly one of THE most awesome of all the new TMNT toys: a pack of MOUSERS!

mousers02mousers01

While I vaguely recall the 2003 TMNT line packing a couple Mousers with the April O’Neil figure, the only way I would have to get more than 2 was to buy multiples of April–not a truly viable option for so small a figurine! I think several may have come with some sort of playset…but again, far too expensive for so small a return on what I actually wanted.

This pack comes with SEVEN of the little robots…and I will happily purchase a couple more to have a small army of the things!

I also came across a Rat King figure…and actually put it in my cart where it traveled part of the store with me. Though I’ll PROBABLY come to regret it, I opted NOT to purchase it tonight: too many other recent expenditures and upcoming; so I’ll have to hope that he proves fairly common in the coming months.

Despite that, I made a point of photographing the carded figure:

ratking_front

ratking_back

The Mousers, of course, were just way too cool to NOT buy. I don’t much care for the look of this new Rat King (another factor in putting it back)…but I’ve wanted numerous little Mousers since my earliest days collecting TMNT toys!

mousers_front

mousers_back

While I’d love to see more inclusive galleries of the figures on the back of the cards, I am quite glad they’ve kept the profiles!

The Mousers:

mousers_profile

…and the Rat King:

ratking_profile

I’m also rather encouraged (so to speak) that these galleries do NOT include the turtle variants (ooze-flinging or stealth). Those don’t really–to me–“fit” with the general line, whereas these others do. Even the Ninjas-in-Training fit as they’re not just “costumed” variants.

mousers_assortment_goodguys

And though I’m not a fan of the random mutations, it’s still cool to see the expanding line of villain characters. To me, that often seems to be the downfall of a single “line” of figures…endless versions of the main hero(es) but virtually no villains to offset. And in the Kraang and the Foot Soldiers, we have two generics that truly warrant several duplicate purchases. (I believe I have 3 Kraang and 5 Foot Soldiers at the moment).

mousers_assortment_badguys

I like the bulk of Dogpound, but am not at all a fan of Fishface…and the more I think of it, the more I think I’d prefer a new take on Bebop and Rocksteady to these two.

Still…with only recently discovering the new figures in Baxter Stockman and Snakeweed, it’s very cool to see all these others making it to the local stores’ pegs, not having TOO hard a time finding SOME new figures.

…even if that darned Leatherhead STILL eludes me!

A little on a lot: Comics’ animated series, and distractions from comics

As I’ve not been blogging regularly lately, there are a number of things I’ve been thinking about, had thoughts about, and generally considered blogging about/retreading, but haven’t. I sat down Saturday morning for awhile and typed a lot more than I intended. So I’ve broken that into several posts (this is one of those posts).

DC NATION AND COMIC-BASED ANIMATED SERIES’ SCHEDULING

youngjusticeI watched the premiere of Young Justice when it started, and the next couple episodes. I enjoyed it for the most part. But it was so darned INCONSISTENT with new episodes.

I have encountered this issue with the Avengers series and Wolverine & the X-Men. I don’t like “mid-season breaks,” but I’m not gonna chase a series, and when they’re a “half-hour” per episode (about 22-24 minutes of actual content), I’m not gonna “keep up” when there’s a couple new episodes then reruns; several more new episodes then reruns, etc.

wolverineandthexmenseriesMost recently, I watched the premiere of the new Green Lantern animated series…NEARLY THREE MONTHS AGO. I figured I’d missed the rest of the series…only to find out that that one episode was the only one out so far, apparently. So probably not gonna bother.

Then there’s the way these things get “collected” on DVD. Putting out 4-5+ releases for a single season SUCKS, and I’ll wait for the single-set releases, if at all (by waiting instead of paying $50+ for the individual Wolverine and the X-Men releases, I got the full season for $25.

DISTRACTIONS FROM ACTUAL COMICS

gameofthronesposterLast year, I picked up the first of the Walking Dead novels, The Rise of the Governor. I went pretty much from that into Grisham’s newest, The Litigators. From there I went to Stephen King’s newest, 11/22/63. I went from that right into the “Millennium Trilogy”–The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. From that I gave Game of Thrones a try (George R. R. Martin’s first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series). After a slow start, Game of Thrones had my full attention. Even planning to give some time between books, I ended up buying the ebook of Clash of Kings the same day I finished GoT.

ebooksA few months ago, I swore that my iPhone’s screen was too tiny to support me “going digital.” However, I’m now into my third book AS an ebook, and first that I do not own a physical copy of the book.

I’m also looking forward to the release of the first season of the live-action tv adaptation of Game of Thrones…and half-considering subscribing to HBO for the new season if I can do so short-term and discontinue as soon as the finale airs.

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