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The premise of the cartoon Super Chicken is deceptively simple.  A send-up of the comic-book superheroes also found on the small screen and large, the cartoon aired on Jay Ward’s George of the Jungle in 1967, and fit nicely with the show’s simple silliness, also found in other Ward shows like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

But as with much of Ward’s output, there was something more sophisticated lurking beneath. Put aside the thematic correlations between Super Chicken and the war in South Vietnam. On a less politicized level, the parody of superheroes often times (and certainly in this case) is as much a jab at the source as it is at the recipient. The intended audience for much superhero fare tends to be the young, the unathletic. The ineffectual. The weaklings who, despite the astronomical odds against them, want so desperately to be heroic, to be seen as heroic. It is precisely because he is neither the brightest nor the most admirable that Super Chicken is a true hero for the disenfranchised.

In the insanely catchy opening theme, we can see two very quick shots that strengthen this claim. First, within the opening seconds, during the lyric “When you’re threatened by a stranger”, an elderly woman is pounding on an over-sized thug with her purse. Simple reversal of fortunes equals a quick laugh. But pause the YouTube video here and think about it: do we know this “thug” was at all threatening this woman? What if he had been offering her assistance across the street? Asking for directions to the local charity hospital so he could volunteer? That ever-present polarization between the elderly and the young was probably never more at the forefront of the American mind than it was during the late 1960s, and here Jay Ward has, however briefly, captured that. Who else to save a “thug” from a “granny” than Super Chicken?

This notion of the generation gap is reinforced with the very next lyric/image (“When it looks like you will take a lickin’”). A young man is about to be spanked. We know not his dastardly crime, but we all know that position, that feeling of terror: “An authority figure is punishing me!”  Ineffectual.  Weak.  It hits an immediate emotional core, and that extended caaaaaall for rescue reverberates from within.

Even if it is for a chicken and a lion in an egg-shaped flying car.

Fred Phelps’ notorious Westboro Baptist Church, the folks who bring their hateful signs and protests to events like military funerals, decided that they were going to take their act to Comic-Con this year. The result: exactly four Westboro protesters showed up while hundreds of Comic-Con attendees bearing dozens of hilarious signs showed up in counter-protest. See all the pics at Comics Alliance.

Sue Storm, the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman

Sue Storm, the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman

I always just assumed an invisibility cloak was something relegated to Marvel Comic’s The Hood, the Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman or some Tony Stark Iron Man development. Apparently the technology of comic books is not so far from scientific developments in today’s real world.

Anil Ananthaswamy posted a piece on the New Scientist website this week about advancements in what innovators term “optical camouflage technology”. Researchers at Duke, UC Berkeley and University of St. Andrews are hard at work are using “metamaterials”, or materials with strong electromagnetic properties with a negative refraction index. From what I’ve read in the linked reports on the New Scientist piece, light does not reflect or refract but instead bends around these materials rendering them “invisible” to our visible spectrum. Wait a second, this sound like something from TV’s Lost!

However, we are still far from Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. Today’s cloaking technology works primarily on 2D objects. As Ananthaswamy explains, “[the] first cloak could only hide two-dimensional objects viewed from specific directions – and only if they were ‘viewed using one particular microwave frequency. Producing a cloak to hide objects from visible light, which has a wavelength several orders of magnitude smaller than microwaves – let alone cloaking objects when viewed from any direction – seemed a more remote possibility”.

As New Scientist reports, 3D cloaking is currently the project that scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany are working on. If comic books are any indication of scientific advancements of the future, I expect Pym Particles that allow humans to radically alter their size to be developed by 2020.

A playfully weird take on classic tarot images, this project reinvents divination cards with such images as “The Molar Beetle” and the “Znakir of Thrax”.
“I describe my pictures as key frames or storyboards for some sort of bizarre movie,” says artist Ellis Nadler. “Or perhaps as stage sets for an opera I shall write some day.” I would love to see a full deck of these evocative cards in real-life. Imagine the strange fortunes people would tell. [via A Journey Round My Skull]

After reading all Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels to date and devouring the first two seasons of HBO’s True Blood, you may be left wondering, “What’s next?” Thankfully IDW Publishing, the comic book publisher specializing in licensed properties like Angel, Transformers, G.I. Joe and The A-Team, is bringing True Blood to the graphic medium in a six issue mini-series starting this summer.

The comic is a new partnership between IDW and HBO and appears to be more reflective of the television series than the novels with character art influenced by the show’s actors. The IDW website hints at a more adult-oriented audience, saying, “The first six-issue True Blood comic series offers the same erotically-charged romance, wry humor and intriguing mystery and suspense the show has become known for.”

The comic has very close ties to the HBO series as the plot was developed by Oscar-winning show creator Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) and will be written by series writers Elisabeth Finch and Kate Barnow in conjunction with co-writers David Tischman and Mariah Huehner. David Messina (Angel: The Curse, Star Trek: Countdown) is responsible for art duties and his personal blog, Spider Behind the Mirror, offers fans lots of preview illustrations. Additionally, IDW recently posted a sneak peek of issue #1 on the True Blood Facebook page.

True Blood #1 arrives in July.

//Blogs

Why Novelist Richard Price Doesn't Need a Pseudonym

// Re:Print

"The language and dialogue in his latest novel, The Whites, gives away his identity -- and that's a good thing.

READ the article