BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Take “The Human Target” Out To The Ballgame

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Comic Book universes are huge and diverse, going through countless genres and containing both nitty-gritty realism and utterly fantastic science fiction or fantasy. And yet, they all take place in the same universe, no matter how different they seem. You can get a idea of just how crazy this is by looking at Marvel’s movie/TV empire, where Daredevil and Guardians of the Galaxy are both taking place in the same universe despite the fact that one of them is about a guy beating up mob bosses (and the occasional ninja) while the other one has both a talking raccoon and a talking tree.

However, as a result of this, sometimes characters get lost in the shuffle. They are technically part of the universe, but they rarely interact with it. Maybe it’s because their adventures are on the more mature side, maybe they are stuck in another dimension that the usual heroes don’t go to so often, or maybe, they aren’t seen because that’s just the way they want it…

Such is the case of Christopher Chance, AKA the Human Target. He’s not a completely unknown character- he’s been the subject of two short-lived shows based on his comics (the most notable being a two-season FOX series starring Mark Valley and James Earle Haley), but he’s firmly in the D-list of DC Comics. And those were both pretty different from the comics and had little indication of taking place in a world of DC Comics. In fact, when it was announced that the Human Target would be coming to Arrow, some people were surprised to find out that he even was a DC character. That’s probably because he doesn’t interact with the rest of the DC Universe all that much. Or maybe he does, but we just don’t know it.

Because, you see, the Human Target is a master of disguise. He becomes the would-be assassination victim using heavy prosthetic-work and a knack for copying voices and body language. And in this installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture, Christopher Chance figuratively steps up to the plate:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.29.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.30.43 AMGO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE:

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BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: The Kool-Aid Man Cometh (W/bonus Kool-Aid Commercial)

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

There is a man. A man unlike any other other. He’s not really a man, he’s more like a anthropomorphic water-pitcher filled with Kool-Aid. He is the Kool-Aid Man, and he is the subject of this installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture:

KAMcoverOH, YEAAHH! It’s time for The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man #1 from Marvel Comics in 1983. Go below the jump for more:

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(Blogathon ’16) CLASSIC CONTINUUM- BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: COSMIC SLAM

This piece from the blog’s archives is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Originally posted Nov. 19, 2013

I’m coming to you from the Auxiliary Headquarters of the Continuum… AKA a Living Room instead of my usual Family Room or Bedroom writing area, due to the great Wi-Fi Crisis of 2013. The reason I have braved such perils is simple: Cosmic Slam. The sequel to Shortstop Squad, and another great epic from the folks at Ultimate Sports Entertainment (AKA “Ultimate Sports Force”). Just as Shortstop Squad brought us late-90s shortstops fighting monsters and aliens, Cosmic Slam does the same with late 1990s sluggers. Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, David Justice and Mark McGwire all grace the cover, and Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla and Frank Thomas all show up in the story as well.

It also involves Bagwell complaining about missing a fishing trip, Sosa making a corked bat joke, Greg Maddux‘s fastball being insulted, and of course, the making of a baseball bat out of the body of your defeated foes.

No, I’m not joking about the last one. Seriously, that really happens.

So, place your tongue firmly in cheek and go below the jump for Cosmic Slam.

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(Blogathon ’16) CLASSIC CONTINUUM- Bizarre Baseball Culture’s “SHORTSTOP SQUAD”

This piece from the blog’s archives is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Originally published October 25, 2013

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

In the last years of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st, there existed a company called “Ultimate Sports Force”. It is gone now, existing only in old websites and undeleted news items, but in it’s day, it was a staple advertisement in things like Sports Illustrated for Kids.

What was “Ultimate Sports Force”, you ask?

Ultimate Sports Force was a comic company that made books in which professional athletes were superheroes, that’s what! They had licenses with MLB, NBA, NFL and others, and they made comics that involved them saving the world. And then, like a shooting star across the sky, they were gone.

But, oh, man, the stuff they left behind. I’ve come into possession of many of their great products, and while their quality varies from “surprisingly good” to “OH-DEAR-GOD-KILL-IT-WITH-FIRE”, they all represent a special point in our history, a time when we could think of our sports heroes as actual superheroes, and not individuals who got into arguments, used PEDs, had tumultuous love lives, politics we disagree with or other flaws. No, Ultimate Sports Force was the last Golden Age before we all became so jaded.

Perhaps the crown jewel of Ultimate Sports Force’s non-team-affiliated content was Shortstop Squad. Truly a marvel of the Bizarre Baseball Culture arts, it paid tribute to those that went before and followed in their traditions, as Cal Ripken led his team of Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez against a fish-monster that basically is meant to be fish-Godzilla.

You may think I’m being sarcastic, and you are probably right, but, well, this is SHORTSTOP SQUAD, so your logic is irrelevant.

After all, just LOOK at this cover:

SHORTSTOPSQUADcover

Your mind is now blown.

So, let’s get started with Shortstop Squad #1 from 1999… after the jump, of course:

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BEST OF 2015: BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE- The Time That Bullseye had a 2-issue Baseball Miniseries

Originally published May 16, 2015.
In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

One of the things you realize when you think about superhero fiction too hard is that a lot of the criminals could probably become rich using their technology or skills in more legal pursuits. For example, find the right quiz show for the Riddler, and he’s rolling in dough. Captain Cold or Mister Freeze could easily make a mint if they applied their freeze-weapons toward something like refrigeration. Heck, even the people who write the comics know this, and in the 1980s they turned Lex Luthor from a supergenius with lots of high-tech inventions into a corrupt supergenius billionaire superexecutive who had made his money from his many high-tech inventions.

Which leads me to Bullseye. Bullseye’s a Daredevil villain, created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. in the 1976 and perfected by Frank Miller in his run on Daredevil’s comic book. Bullseye’s entire shtick is that he basically has perfect killer accuracy with basically everything, even harmless stuff like playing cards. He’s arguably Daredevil’s second-greatest foe (after the Kingpin), and is directly or indirectly responsible for the death of at least two of Daredevil’s girlfriends (only one of whom got better).

But, still, that shtick with the accuracy, wouldn’t you think he could make a great pitcher?

Well, there was a 2-part miniseries at the turn of this decade that basically grabbed a hold of that idea and ran with it… Bullseye: Perfect Game.

It’s a surprisingly good short look at obsession and perfection, with some nice easter eggs for fans of baseball and of comics and a great ending that I’m sort of bummed out I’ll spoil in my summary…. BELOW THE JUMP:

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“Fantastic Four” Bizarre Baseball Cultures that are probably way better than the new movie

The new Fantastic Four movie recently came out. It was a total and utter disaster, with a Rotten Tomatoes score that can only be seen with a microscope and a box office performance so pitiful it couldn’t even win it’s week. It’s hardly surprising, really, as A) it was not made by Marvel itself, but rather FOX, which only has the rights to make these movies due to a deal it made way back in the early 1990s when Marvel was in the direst of financial straits, and B) it was trying to turn what is arguably the most optimistic and adventuresome of comic books into a dark and moody techno-thriller. I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!?

With luck, this failure will lead to the Fantastic Four and their stable of villains (most notably DOCTOR DOOM) back to the Marvel line, so we can see a real and proper movie featuring the FF, with Doctor Doom done right, and maybe with a Hulk-Thing fight thrown in, too, because after how badly this and the previous movies have hurt the reputation of “Marvel’s First Family”, they’re going to have to go all out to win back the crowd.

But, anyway, enough rambling. Here are the Bizarre Baseball Cultures that featured the Fantastic Four. All of them, no doubt, are better than the current film:

2007’s AAA Baseball Heroes

This Marvel/AAA Baseball crossover is great in that it shows off how the Fantastic Four are basically an ordinary family who happen to go exploring alternate dimensions and fight space-gods in their spare time. I mean, look, they all are at a ballgame together!

 

2007GiveawayComicPage1From what I understand, the latest movie has none of this stuff. And it flopped big time. Coincidence? I think not.

It also has a Hulk-Thing fight and this, the greatest image in the history of art:

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 5.53.33 PM2008’s AAA Baseball Heroes

This installment of the Marvel/AAA Baseball didn’t have as much Fantastic Four fun, really only featuring Reed Richards and the Mole-Man (who served as the villain). However, unlike the new movie, it showed the Fantastic Four as part of a large and vibrant universe and as close allies and friends with characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man. Which, if you ask me, instantly makes it better than whatever piece of crap 20th Century Fox just put out.

We also see the Mole Man cry tears of joy, which still makes me laugh for some reason:

And the Mole Man wept...

Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius Super Summer Spectacular

A good, innocent, all-ages comedy comic about Franklin Richards, the eldest son of Reed and Sue Richards, as he tries to cheat in little league by using a Flubber-like explosive substance on his bat to hit some home runs.

It also has this image:

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 10.37.50 PMAh, such light-hearted whimsy. If only the new Fantastic Four movie had some of that, maybe it wouldn’t have been called something that “not only scrapes the bottom of the barrel; it knocks out the floor and sucks audiences into a black hole of soul-crushing, coma-inducing dullness.”

That’s something that somebody actually wrote. Go look on Rotten Tomatoes.

Cameos

The FF has also made brief appearances in my run-down of Marvel Universe appearances by Yankee Stadium, and in the Bullseye miniseries. I won’t go in depth on those, as we are forgetting about the unofficial fifth member of the Fantastic Four, their arch-nemesis, the greatest villain in Marvel comics….

DOCTOR DOOM….. who once tried to kidnap Jeff Conine

Okay, this is what Doctor Doom apparently looks like in the new movie:

What. The. Hell. That isn’t Doctor Doom. That’s, like, I dunno, what would happen if evil C3PO had a baby with a Gothic Crash-Test Dummy. Jeez, is it THAT EFFING HARD, FOX?!?! THIS IS WHAT DOOM LOOKS LIKE, IN BATTLE WITH TWO OF HIS GREATEST FOES:

BILLY THE MARLIN and SPIDER-MAN!

MarlinsSpideyCoverI mean, jeez, that’s one of the most iconic things in comic books. It was the partial inspiration for Darth freaking Vader. But, NOOOOOOOO, you have to go make Doom like like a human vacuum cleaner that just got put in the oven for too long.

…Seriously, FOX, give back the rights to Marvel. They’re Disney. They have the money. They have the X-Men television rights you want. For the good of all that is holy. PLEASE!

(ahem)

Anyway, Doctor Doom made one of the most notable appearances in Bizarre Baseball Culture when he went and tried to kidnap Jeff Conine to force him to play for the Latverian national baseball team, only to be foiled by Billy the Marlin and Spider-Man. Truly, words cannot describe the greatness of this story. If Marvel ever gets the rights to Doctor Doom back, the very first thing they should do is make a deal with a Marlins and put into production a adaptation of this, albeit with Giancarlo Stanton taking the Jeff Conine spot.

I mean, look at this brilliance:

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.05.15 PMI mean, behold this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 1.44.38 PMSeriously, this is probably better than that new movie, and the Fantastic Four aren’t even in it!

…So, anyway, that concludes a look back at Fantastic Four appearances in Bizarre Baseball Culture. Keep an eye open in the next few days for the next installment, featuring Popeye the Sailor Man, a known user of performance-enhancing substances (i.e. spinach).

 

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Marvel Adventures Spider-Man 34 brings steroid accusations, hallucinations, and a angry father

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Sports have many problems. There are performance enhancing drugs, exploitative agents, a culture that honors people and asks their opinions for no other reason than that they are strong, and stupid adults who ruin everything.

And in Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #34, we get a hard-hitting glimpse at how this affects high school baseball in a Marvel Universe. BECAUSE SOMEBODY HAD TO TELL US!

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 1.39.53 PMPublished in 2007, this issue was part of the Marvel Adventures/Marvel Age imprint, a set of ongoing series that were meant for all-ages of readers. To make it more readable for younger folks, these series cut down on more complicated backstories, featured characters (like Spider-Man) that most kids would have been familiar with from TV or movies, featured younger versions of some characters (this Spider-Man is still in High School, for example), didn’t have as much violence, and eliminated bad language and sexual innuendo.

But… that doesn’t stop it from having steroid accusations, a angry father, sports agents, and other fun stuff! It also has a baseball uniform with a Koala Bear on it, which is cool.

Go below the jump for more!

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