Title: Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils – “Jagged Image”
Writer: Steve Gerber
Pencils: Amanda Conner
Inks: Jeff Albrecht
Colors: Michael Higgins
Letters: Janice Chiang
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor-In-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Summary: A group of suburban ninjas must face a demonic threat in New Jersey.
With the American Girl recaps finally done, I can freely focus on doing 90s comic recaps without feeling guilt. This particular recap’s been left unfinished since 2018.
Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils is one of my favorite one-shot comics from the 90s, and it is bizarre as the title leads you to believe. Its two immediate claims to fame are being written by Steve Gerber and penciled by Amanda Conner. Gerber’s famous for co-creating Man-Thing and Howard the Duck, while Conner would go on to be recognized as THE Power Girl artist and one-half of the modern day creative team behind the current Harley Quinn mythos (alongside her husband Jimmy Palmiotti). It’s a little weird, because you can recognize Conner’s artwork but this is back when she had more of an adult Archie Comics vibe (well before Riverdale and the rebooted line).
The title immediately brings to mind Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, being published in 1991 (two years before Saban adapted Zyuranger for American audiences), I’m led to believe TMNT was the main source of parody for this book. Not surprising, as a LOT of people enjoyed doing parodies of the TMNT concept. This makes sense since the original TMNT comics were meant as a joke.
Despite being a Marvel comic, the story doesn’t really have anything to do with the Marvel Universe. Gerber throws in a couple of references but not enough to really give a sense these women operate in the same realm as the Avengers, X-Men, and Spider-Man. After publication, the title’s never been referenced again and I’m not even sure you can buy it on Comixology or Marvel Unlimited. I stumbled upon this comic several years ago among a collection of stuff someone brought to the store. It’s an obscure comic, but not obscure to the point it goes for $25 on eBay.
I’m not sure if the reason the book’s never mentioned in the Marvel Universe was due to Gerber’s wishes, or no one particularly cares enough TO reference it. It sucks they didn’t get picked as part of the 50 State Initiative in the post-Civil War status quo, or get referenced during the 2010s Secret Wars event. So once again it’s up to me to bring some cultural to your sad, sorry lives.
One last thing before we begin. Whatever happens in this comic, remember, JUST GO WITH IT.
Summary: Molly can hardly wait for Dad to come home! She’s especially excited because he’ll arrive in time to see her dance the part of Miss Victory in the big Red Cross show. Molly isn’t worried about her tap dancing because she’s the best in Miss LaVonda’s dance class. But she wants to look sophisticated so Dad will know how much she’s grown up while he’s been away at war. Unfortunately, Molly’s hair is all wrong. When Jill finally finds a way to give Molly glorious curls, everything seems to be perfect. Then Molly gets sick. Things couldn’t be worse – until the doctor comes just in time.
Why the hell did I agonize about putting this off for so long when that back summary gave away nearly the entire book?
Seriously though, this project shouldn’t have taken as long as it did for me to complete. That’s all on me, but, I think maybe it’s for the best I did wait until now to finish this recap. Things right now are a nightmare because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are dying and this country’s healthcare system’s finally been exposed as the joke it is. Unemployment’s on the rise and toilet paper’s being hoarded like gold. [Wing: This recap has been waiting awhile for me to comment on it, and I want to recognise the ongoing violence against Black people, including the extrajudicial murder of so many by a corrupt, over-powered, unchecked police force. This is not new, of course, but the wide-spread coverage is bringing light to a problem that Black people deal with daily. I hope the protests and demands bring actual, practical change. The Nostalgic Bookshelf family of recap sites have made donations to various bail funds and community support systems, but there is so much more fighting to do. Here is one potential resource, a Google doc, of things people in the USA can do; it also links to a Google spreadsheet with more.]
Right now both my stadium and census jobs have been delayed and my biggest fear’s losing the comic shop. My sibling works at a Trader Joe’s and my dad’s a security guard at a nursing home, so both of them are dealing with worse shit. In fact, my grandpa’s staying at the very same home and the virus has gotten into the building. Thank God he’s okay for now, but my dad doesn’t feel well and he doesn’t know if it’s the virus or not.
So, re-reading this book, it talks about the way life changes during a time of crisis. This isn’t a war we’re dealing with, but it feels like it. This also talks about doing what you can in similar situations, which makes me realize I need to do more writing for myself and others. I’m not sure how much these recaps can help, but if they put a smile on at least one person’s face that’ll be worth it.
Title: Amelia Rules! #4 – Amelia McBride and the Other Side of Yuletide, a.k.a. “What the hell is Ninja Kwanzaa?”
Writer and Artist: Jimmy Gownley
Editor: Michael Cohen
Marketer: Karen Gownley
My first Christmas review for Nostalgic Bookshelf, and I swear to bring as much enthusiasm to this month’s reviews as I have for Point Horror. To that end, I wanted to start off with a special one-off comic review with a series I admittedly don’t have as much history with.
“Amelia Rules!” is a YA comic series written and drawn by Jimmy Gownley. It’s about Amelia McBride, a young girl adjusting to life after her mom and dad split up. Amelia has to move from NYC to Connerton, Pennsylvania, where she and her mom are now living with her cool Aunt Tanner. She gains new friends in the form of the bombastic Reggie, the stubborn Rhonda, and the amazing yet silent Pajamaman. Together, the four become G.A.S.P. (Gathering of Awesome Super Pals), and get into all sorts of hi-jinks as Amelia navigates life.
This particular comic is the fourth issue in the series, and as you can guess it’s a Christmas story. In it, Amelia and her friends find themselves wondering if there really is a Santa Claus, and the answer is different from what you’d expect. I had this in mind remembering Wing’s thoughts on Santa Claus from last year’s reviews on PH. Naturally I’m curious to see how she feels about this particular story.
How I acquired this comic is a rather bizarre, disturbing tale. In the spring of 2015, a woman came to my comic shop hoping to sell a massive collection she inherited from her dead uncle. He owned Disney and cartoon comics ranging from the Golden Age to the early 1990s. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Disney, Sleeping Beauty, Looney Tunes, Hanna Barbera, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain. The books showcased the transition from Dell Comics to Gold Key to Whitman. He even had some picture books and old Disney Adventure digest magazines.
However, there was a LOT more.
To this day, no one has brought in the amount of furry comics and porn comics as that woman did. Omaha the Cat Dancer, Battle Vixens, Four-Footed Furries, Albedo, it was baffling. I don’t even want to remember the fairy porn issues. The man practically bought every badly done 90s manga rip off comic out there (Ninja High School, Gold Digger, etc.). And guess what? I had to go through everything. EVERYTHING. Because we needed to figure out what the conditions of the books were in so we could sell them online. I had to make sure to leaf through every single comic the man owned, checking to see if pages were falling out, if they were missing coupons, or if they had writing on them. A lot of the porn comics had pages torn out of them… and so did some of the kid comics.
I did NOT enjoy this task at all. I’m not trying to bash furries, but I am very much not fond of anything NSFW related and I don’t want to think about why so many pages were missing. Not to mention a lot of the comics were incredibly dirty and grimy. I’m just glad the pages weren’t sticky.
So anyway, that’s another chapter out of my twisted life story. Onto the recap.
Summary: Based on the classic novel, Dumas’ story of the young Gascon d’Artagnan who goes to Paris to become a Musketeer and serve the king, and how he befriends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and they have to save the king of France from being assassinated. Only this version is extremely Disney-fied!
Tagline:All for one and one for all!
Though, honestly, the other two that were used for a poster and video packaging, respectively, crack me up:
A place of betrayal. The fate of a king. A time for heroes. (Considering this movie wasn’t even filmed in Paris, let alone in France…)
They’re Scoundrels, Playboys, Outlaws . . . The Greatest Heroes Who Ever Lived. (This literally sounds like a MCU tagline. All those things describe Tony Stark.)
Book!Aramis was a complete playboy scoundrel and the Musketeers technically turn outlaw… I’m lost on the “place of betrayal” part, though.
Note: I have seen this movie many more times than an average viewer. Something like 75 times, at least 3 times in an actual movie theater, during its original release. Yes, I have a problem. A problem named Sutherland.
Oh, and I will likely make the distinction of book!CHARACTER to keep them separate from the film version, through out the recap. Because book vs movie is rather important to understand how much different the version you’re watching is compared to the actual novel.
The 1990s were a weird time for movies churned out by Disney. Instead of a bunch of animated films (this was just when Pixar really kicked into gear, but who really remembers A Bug’s Life?) they were releasing a bunch of family-friendly live-action films. Stuff like White Fang, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, The Rocketeer, Newsies, [Wing: Newsies is one of my favourite movies!] The Mighty Ducks (and its subsequent sequels [Dove: Bagsie I get to recap them!]), and Hocus Pocus, to name a few. [bat: Okay, Wing recap Newsies, Dove recap Mighty Ducks, and I’ll recap Hocus Pocus! THEN WE CAN CROSS-COMMENT ON EVERYTHING!]
The first three years of the 1990s saw only four animated films released compared to 14 live action films. Granted, animated movies take longer, so that’s probably why. Even today that’s still true, although computer animation is much more widely used compared to the tiny bit we were all dazzled by during the ballroom sequence in Beauty and the Beast in 1992.
Also of note would be the part where Disney was pulling from classic literature and interesting life stories. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken is based on a true story; White Fang is a Jack London novel. There were real news boys in NYC and they held a strike in 1899 but I don’t think they sang and danced while doing it. [Dove: I have only just got a copy of this, because it’s called “The News Boys” over here. I have no idea why the name was changed, but Dean Portman from Mighty Ducks will sing!] [Wing: His role is fairly small but completely delightful. Oh, god, I could talk about Newsies for hours. Carryin’ the banner, y’all.]
Alexandre Dumas’ The d’Artagnan Romances, which is the encompassing name given to all the stories Dumas penned about the 17th century musketeers and their adventures, is really, really long. Most people are familiar with The Three Musketeers, the first of the stories that runs sometimes over 700 pages in length, which introduces us to d’Artagnan and tells the story of how he becomes a member of the King’s Musketeers.
Like Disney was going to actually stick to the actual story. Based on real events and persons, it is not… shall we say… “family friendly”. There’s a ton of intrigue and romantic/sexual affairs, and murder plots, all set within the court of King Louis XIII of France.
There’s also about a billion and a half (slight exaggeration) characters with enormous French names and titles. Keeping track of it all is only slightly less harder then knowing who’s who on Game of Thrones. It’s taken me a long time to really understand it, and that’s just based on half-hearted effort to read wiki articles and such, and admittedly it interests me to a fault. Your average reader? Probably not so much.
So, Disney being Disney, stripped the story line down to its basic and most “family friendly” elements. Gone are the Musketeer’s menservants, gone is Kitty and Constance’s husband, no one needs you Monsieur de Tréville! (Who is actually awesome in the BBC’s adaptation, The Musketeers.) Everyone else was either toned down or given amped up traits: Athos is the serious broken-hearted alcoholic, Porthos is the larger-than-life comic relief (although he is in the book, as well), and Aramis’ philandering ways are severely reined in.
Which, in light of what happened with Charlie Sheen, is rather funny in a dark way. Sutherland’s legal troubles with DUIs would happen after this film, so again, life and art have many blurred lines.
There’s a lot more I could get into about all this but I’d rather incorporate it into the recap, so there’s some reference that can be of aid to you, readers. It’ll help, trust me.
One last thing: most of the main cast had either previously worked for Disney at some point or subsequently went on to do something else with them after this film. Basically, once you get in bed with the House of Mouse, you never really get out again. (Well, Sheen might be the exception…)
Onward! To the recap!
[Dove: I love this movie. Oliver Platt is awesome, and I swear to god, he played this role as if he knew that gifs would be a thing one day. Also, Michael Wincott is probably my longest-running crush. He’s wonderful.] [bat: Dove, you REALLY must see Forsaken. Wincott saves that movie from being a total bore.]
[Wing: This movie is so much cheesy fun, and also full of attractive people, or at least people who are attractive in this movie even if not elsewhere.]
Front Blurb: At first Nina thought Ben was fooling around with Aisha. But then she discovered the truth: Ben’s facing a decision that could change his life for ever and she’s scared he’ll leave unless… Nina shapes up. [Dove: That is literally fuck all to do with this book. That’s a recap of the last book, and a throwaway line in this one.]
Back Blurb: They’ve all grown up together on a tiny island. They think they know everything about one another… but they’re only just beginning to find out the truth.
Nina shapes up because she’s desperate to keep Ben’s love. She’s terrified that if he regains his eyesight, he won’t need her any more. And if Ben can see Nina, will he still love her? [Dove: as before.]
This is where everything starts to blur together for me. The titles, beyond Zoey Fools Around, Nina Won’t Tell, and Aisha Goes Wild, don’t really have much meaning, to be honest.
I’m going to tell you right now: Nina does nothing that comes close to shaping up in this book. But in her defence, she wasn’t unshaped to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I continue to love the hell out of these books. I just find the titles to be word soup. $name $verb $thing [Rosey: The blurbs and titles are so inaccurate for the most part. I get that they had a formula they want to stick to, but surely they could have come up with things that actually reflected the book?] [Wing: I wonder if the person writing the blurbs wrote them early on, without having read the books and only a synopsis of the overall series.]
Front Blurb: Life was bliss for Zoey and Lucas until Aaron showed up on the island. Now Aaron wants Zoey. Claire wants Aaron and Zoey’s got a secret that EVERYONE is talking about. How long before Lucas finds out that Zoey Plays Games
Back Blurb: Zoey plays games with Aaron and sets off a wave of broken hearts. Because Lucas is in love with Zoey, Claire has vowed to make Aaron her own. But the island is too small for big secrets.
I don’t remember this book. It’s Zoey story, so that’s probably why.
Fun fact- this is the first Making Out book that wasn’t written by Grapplegate – they handed the series over to ghostwriters from book 9. Also, there are also no more reprints for these later books, so it’s firmly nostalgia from here onwards.
[Dove: Oh good, a Zoey book. You know how highly I regard the Passmore family in general, and Zoey in particular. This is the point where I really got sick of her nonsense, I think.]
[Wing: I’m pretty sure life wasn’t bliss for Zoey and Lucas, book, but cool. Coooool.]
Front Blurb: Zoey’s parents broke up, and it rocked her world. Then Lucas watched miserably as Zoey was comforted by her old boyfriend, Jake. Now Lucas tries to hold off Claire, his old love, who says she’ll do anything to get Lucas back. Whatever happens… Lucas Gets Hurt
Back Blurb: Lucas gets hurt when he watches Zoey, the love of his life, drift back into the arms of her old boyfriend, Jake. That’s when Claire appears, wanting to help Lucas forget his problems. But if Zoey finds out what happened between Lucas and Claire, will she ever take him back?
I wonder who is doing the Making Out recap this month? Oh… Fuck… Is it me? Messages Wing and Dove. Oh Fuck… it is me!
This is the one where Jake’s becoming an alcoholic and we meet Secret Sister. I can’t remember what hurts Lucas, though and I really doubt that he is having to “hold Claire off.”
Summary: Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.
[Dove: Yeah, no, sorry imdb, but that makes it sound like a caving adventure. What happens is four teenagers are locked in the bunker, with no means of escape, and the film explores what put them there and what happened in the hole.]
Note 1: In England, public school means publicly funded, e.g., the parents of the students, the public, pay for its running costs. I know this means the opposite in America. [Wing: Americans, it’s a private boarding school. It’s great.]
Note 2: I’m trying to recap the story as it unfolds, and if you’ve seen this you’ll know that what you see in one scene can well be contradicted in another. So my comments take the scene at face value. I’ll loop back to anything on the contradicting scene, rather than “spoiling” what comes next. [Wing: Smart plan! And so is the one below.]
Note 3: I won’t mention the contents of the book. However, when I recap the book, I will definitely mention the contents of the film.
Just FYI, this is one of my favourite movies. Please note the difference between “favourite” and “best”. If you want my “best” movie, it’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Stand By Me. This falls firmly in the guilty pleasure category.
It was one of the first movies Raven and I watched when we moved in together. It was so early on in our relationship that we didn’t have a TV licence (we were waiting for payday) and so we were very naughty by watching it.
Also, I will be recapping the book. If you’ve always wanted to read the book but never got around to it, go buy the book now. The book is a very different entity to the movie, and it really should be read if you enjoy this story or any variation of it.
Also, I did screen caps of this entire movie for the cap_it community at LiveJournal. Who knew that 12 years later, it would save me a task when I came to recap the movie? [Wing: I remember people frantically asking you to screen cap Kiera Knightley’s tits, and you refusing, like the A+ person you are.]
[Wing: I love this movie so much. Dove introduced me to it, and the book, as she does many things, and I adore it to this day.]
Title: Famous Five #6: Five on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton
Summary: What is Uncle Quentin up to on Kirrin Island? He won’t let anyone visit—not even the Famous Five! But he’s not alone on George’s island—somebody is watching his every move! Can Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timmy the dog find out who and warn Uncle Quentin?
*sigh* I’m really sorry, but I hate this one. This is the book I’ve been dreading, and hoping it wasn’t allocated to me. I don’t know why – it’s not particularly different to any other book in the series. Maybe it’s the fact there’s a silver tower constructed on the island, maybe it’s a lot about the adults, or maybe there’s just not enough godamned lettuce. Who knows?
Let’s do this thing.
(Also, I started this recap a month early because I knew it would drag hard.)
(For reference, the kids’ ages should be roughly: Anne: 13; George and Dick 14; Julian 15.)
Summary: The Famous Five are having a wonderful caravanning holiday. And when they discover a circus is camping nearby, they hope there’ll be plenty of entertainment.
But two of the circus performers are strangely sinister. The children soon realise that they’re not clowning around — but can they get help in time?
That title is a lie. They go off in two caravans. [Wing: I appreciate your attention to this detail, a la my annoyance over that whole Smuggler’s thing last time.]
Which brings me to perhaps the most disturbing news of the entire series to date: I THINK JULIAN KNOWS WHAT SEX IS. I mean, at least vaguely. He knows it exists. I think. (He may also be having it with a series of farmers’ wives and daughters.) [Wing: Wait, is this not what we’re supposed to assume with him popping off to talk to the wives and daughters as they travel?]
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Initially, when I asked to recap this book, I only remembered the caravan part (not the significance of there being two caravans, just that they went off without adults in a caravan, which I was enormously envious of). The amount of freedom these kids have is mind-boggling to me. I mean, I am old enough to remember when it was normal for children to leave home in the morning in summer and only go back home for meals and when it got to be dusk, so we were basically away from adults for hours and hours at a time in the summer, but that was with the understanding that we were somewhere nearby. Like, in town, and preferably in the neighbourhood. Not off up the highway to some other town, or parked out in the country somewhere in a horse-drawn vehicle.
I really do love this series. It achieves a strange mix of cozy, meal-driven comfort and outrageous, I-would-never-have-been-allowed-to-do-that adventure.
[Dove: This is one of my favourite stories in this series. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d have loved to do as a kid. I didn’t go camping until I was in my late twenties, and when I did, I loved it. Tiny and I were incredibly resourceful in how to make tea without a kettle.]
[Wing: I was taking a drink when I saw the “Anne should just poison them all” tag and nearly choked to death.]