Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in May 2013. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

What The..?!
Scud The Disposable Assassin
Akira
The Watchmen
The Maxx
Sandman
The Dark Knight Returns
Sugary Snacks of the 80's and 90's
Marvels
Kingdom Come

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kingdom Come (DC Comics/Elseworlds)



Kingdom Come
DC Comics/Elseworlds
1996


What do you get when you cross writer Mark Waid with artist Alex Ross?  One of the most amazing pieces of comic book literature to date!  Kingdom Come was the collaboration of the duo which takes place approximately twenty years into the DC Universe time line, and quickly became a critical success.

The majority of superheroes the public had come to love - Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc. have either retired, disappeared, or are working through unseen indirect means.  A new generation of heroes and villains run rampant, causing mass destruction of private property, carnage, and even death.  In their battle to destroy each other the defenseless human race has been caught in the middle.

Just as things seem to be on the brink of helpless, "Look!  Up in the sky!  It's a bird, it's a plane..."  Superman returns to reunite the heroes of old to reign in the heroes and villains of new.  It pits the aged experience against the untrained youth, and brings with it a world destroying climax that has to be seen to believe.

Though the majority of the attention is on this focal point, the story actually unfolds through the eyes of Norman McCay, an elderly pastor who serves as both the narrator and human guide for the Specre.  We see through McCay the full extent of destruction that those who swore to serve us can bring about when provoked, as well as the bleak future their unwatched power can unleash on the world.

Though a sequel was planned, Ross and Waid disagreed heavily on its aspects.  In the end Ross left the project.  While scenarios from their concepts have made their way to one shot books, no official sequel has been produced.

When DC unleashed its new 52 on the world, several tie ins were made to the Kingdom Come series.  Most notably in the specific costume design of certain characters.  This union not only served as a major nod to the Kingdom Come series, but also folded it into the DC Universe as partial cannon.

In closing we'd like to say how tough it was to whittle down this list to the few posts we crammed into the month of May.  There were several more titles which we would have loved to have done, such as; Groo The Wanderer, Infinity Gauntlet, Star Wars, Preacher, The Tick, 30 Days of Night, Boof, and so on, and so on.  But, there are only so many days in a month, and only so much time to compile posts for deadlines.  Perhaps we'll revisit comics in September - the 25th is after all National Comic Book Day.

Join us next time when we return back to toys with Vikings!

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Marvels (Marvel Comics)



Marvels
Marvel Comcis
1994


Alex Ross is one of the most note worthy artists in the comic industry to date.  His ability to paint in realistic textures not only on covers, but from page to page make him one of the most respected and sought after talents by multiple comic companies.  In the course of his career he's turned out critically acclaimed books one after the other.  His work on the 1994 series Marvels is no exception.

Marvels takes the reader on classic journeys through the history of the Marvel Universe, and retells the tales from the perspective of news photographer Phil Sheldon.  Though all the books are seen from his perspective, none of the stories follow each other, or continue from the last with the exception of the premise that Sheldon conceives and moves forward with writing his own book.

The first issue gives us a look at the birth and history of the original Human Torch, and how he was rejected by society even though he helped stop the Nazi's.  Book two brings us the events of the first coming of The X-Men, and focuses on the fear from society as they retaliate against these unknown new beings.  The third issue not only advances the main theme of Sheldon writing his book, but also brings the appearance of the Silver Surfer, and his warning of the coming of Galactus.  The final issue in the series introduces Sheldon to Gwen Stacey.  As he gets to know her more, and embrace her as a friend, he suddenly has to come to terms with her tragic loss.

Despite being somewhat retellings of classic story lines, this new representation of the work is amazing, and the artwork alone would be worth digging into it.  It's a pity the series was so short lived.

Join us next time when we take a look at our final comic series, Kingdom Come!

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sugary Snacks Of The 80's And 90's



There's no explanation as to why some foods come and go, specifically when it comes to marketed foods for grocery stores.  Rather, it's an uneven balance of get it while you can.  As children of the 80's, we often times find ourselves yearning for those delicious sugary treats of the 80's and 90's, that like most cereals of that decade seemed to come and go quicker than the blink of an eye.  Candies, gum, pies, and drinks came in various shapes and sizes, and these are twelve of our favorite sugary snacks that sadly you just won't find these days.


Gum was huge in the 80's.  Like smoking cigarettes in the 1940's, you couldn't have a movie with teens if someone wasn't chewing on a piece at some point.

Gatorgum, from Fleer, combined the aspect of chewing gun with drinking liquid to quench your thirst.  It even boasted that it contained electrolytes.

Sadly, the gum never actually hydrated the chewer, but had some really great flavors to make up for it.  Each piece would start out sour, then turn sweet, and eventually form into the flavorless hunk of rubber that most gum turns into after ten to fifteen minutes of chewing.

Despite the large package, there were only five pieces of gum inside.

Personally, we liked Candilicous so much more than Starburst, but for some reason this chewy candy treat never took off in a big way as the latter did.  Candilicous were softer, chewier, and didn't have that "old" taste that Starburst have.

Much like Starburst, the flavors varied from your typical variety of berries, to your typical variety of tropical flavors.

For those of you who have the chance, check out the vintage commercials available on Youtube for these.  They could attribute to why the candy never took off as it appears that anyone who ate these would be sent into a hallucinogenic state full of colorful cartoons and freaky characters.  Perhaps when the candy failed to deliver on such a trip, people stopped buying it?
Mmm...Bonkers.  Another chewy candy which came in a variety of flavors, to and include chocolate.  Each piece contained a deliciously flavored outside, and boasted, "an even juicier inside!"

More popular than the candy itself was the commercials.  Each one featured an uptight kind of person who would unwillingly take a bite out of a piece of the candy, only to be knocked into a hysterical laughing fit by a large piece of falling fruit.  Unfortunately for the candy, the commercials seemed to be the only thing that kept them in the spotlight, and once the commercials stopped airing, the popularity of the candy waned until it became harder to find, and eventually was discontinued.

It's rumored that in 2013, Bonkers will return to stores.  Whether it's a limited time only, or a full time thing will probably depend on sales.

Dweebs were the offshoot of Nerds, from Willy Wonka.  However, unlike Nerds which are crunchy and sour, Dweebs were sweet and soft, and much more tastier in our opinion.

What made Dweebs even better was that rather than having only two flavors of candy inside the box like Nerds did, the box boasted three flavors of candy inside.  What's not to love about that?

Combine that with a box that contains squishy little blobs of fruit doing things such as roller skating, skateboarding and yo-yoing, and you have not only a great tasty treat, but one that's hip to the times!  Way radical!

Willy Wonka kicked up the sales of gobstoppers when they unleashed Dina Sour Eggs on unsuspecting children of the 80's.  Why suck on a hard piece of candy for hours when you can get one that lasts for days?

What made these eggs so unique was that as you sucked on them they would change in flavors and color as each layer dissolved away.  Once you got to the center, you were treated to a powdery burst of sweet flavor.  It was sugar at its best!  What kid wouldn't want that?

For less than a buck, you got about a week's worth of candy out of one egg.  That was quite the deal to your average child of the 80's who was happy to boast about their three dollar a week allowance.

We can't for the life of us understand why PBMax isn't around today.  It was one of the only candy bars out there that actually had real creamy peanut butter inside.  Much tastier when compared to your average Reese's Peanut Butter Cup which to this day still has very crumbly, dried out peanut butter inside.

Your average PBMax consisted of a whole grain cookie which was topped with peanut butter and oats, and then covered from top to bottom in chocolate.  In other words, it's what your average energy bar these days would be like if it was all about the sugar.

For some odd reason, the only reason that PBMax was discontinued was because the Mar's family didn't like peanut butter, and thus didn't want to produce and sell a candy that contained it.

White chocolate is the best!  Way better than milk or dark.  Unfortunately, this opinion seems to be limited to very few people as Nestle's Alpine White with Almonds failed miserably when it hit local shops.

Despite being around for the longest time, white chocolate was still a relatively new concept to most people, and many passed on it simply for that fact.  Others simply didn't like the flavor and consistency, as white chocolate tends to be creamier than milk chocolate.

Though many white chocolate candies are around these days, Nestle never brought back the Alpine White bar.  That's a real shame.

Take a light and delicious chocolate wafer, add chocolate filling, peanuts and caramel, then cover the whole beast in a delicious chocolate shell, and what do you get?  BarNone!

While this tasty candy bar fared well in its initial taste testing run in California, once it went global, it failed quite miserably.  It's a real shame, because BarNone bars have a lot going on for them, and despite being light in weight from the wafer inside, they were quite a hefty bit of candy to eat.

Though in 1997 Hershey ceased selling the BarNone in the United States, it's still fairly popular in Mexico, and still sold to these days there.

When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took off as household names in the 80's, so too did merchandising.  Not only did the iconic heroes in a half shell have several toys created after them, but also food.  Pizza, ice cream bars, and fruit snacks were just some (to name a few), but none were as tasty as the Hostess made Turtle Pies.

Hostess had already found great success in supermarkets selling various types of pies since the 1930's, and it was only natural that the company would use iconic images to stay current throughout the various decades.  The Ninja Turtles quickly became their new poster children...Er....Mutants.

Each pie contained a vanilla pudding filling with a green sugar coated crust.  Later versions reversed this process to have the inner filling green, and the pie a normal baked pie color.  This fell in line with the "ooze" concept from the second live action film.  Each pie also had a collectible sticker inside, and in later renditions a trading card.

Um.....Yummy!

WWF Superstars of Wrestling Bars were the best, and probably should have been illegal.  What you got here was an ice cream bar that held nothing back.  A layer of crisp cookie imprinted with your favorite wrestler, vanilla ice cream, and a thick layer of chocolate coating on the back of the vanilla side.  All of this conveniently packed on a stick for easy grubbing.

To make the ice cream even more appealing to kids, each box came with a collectible card on the back that could be cut out.  When a second series of cards were produced, they were packed inside of the box.  Today these cards are worth a small fortune.

Good Humor and WWF made a killing on this delicious treat, and it's a real surprise that neither company appears to have any interest in bringing it back.  For some areas, the local ice cream trucks are still very popular, and these would make a great novelty treat.

All these delicious treats above were awesome, but still needed something refreshing to wash them down with.  For that, one could turn to the equally delicious Ecto Cooler from Hi-C.

Despite the name, this drink wasn't all that bad.  In fact, it was simply a name change from a previous Hi-C drink, Shoutin' Orange Tangerine, which in and of itself was also a name change from the prior Crazy Citrus Cooler.  In short, Ecto Cooler was an orange drink.

What's interesting to note is that the drink itself was actually more popular than the animated The Real Ghostbusters cartoon in which it was based on, and went on to sell for more than a decade after the show ended - Even after the character, Slimer,  was removed from the box due to licensing coming to an end.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to the delicious, high sugar, great flavor Hubba Bubba Soda.  Believe it or not, this soda was never produced by the folks behind the gum, but rather was the brain child of Steve Roeder.  He had been tinkering with soda flavors using snow cone flavoring extracts, and essentially stumbled onto the concept of bubble gum soda.  Roeder and his long-time friend Larry Wilson contacted Wrigley, and purchased the rights to produce the soda under the Hubba Bubba name.  What really helped sales out was that the duo also managed to work a deal with Toys R' Us to sell the soda in their stores.

The concept of bubble gum flavored soda may be odd to some folks, but what's even odder to us is that the duo bothered to make a diet version.  What's the point?

Thanks for joining us for this look at some of our favortie treats of yesteryear.  We hope you saw some that you too remember fondly, and encourage you to leave a comment with your favorites if you didn't.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns (DC Comics)



The Dark Knight Returns
DC Comics
1986


Frank Miller's critically acclaimed The Dark Knight Returns story arc helped to forever change the perception of Batman for the majority of the general public.  Interesting enough, the entire series doesn't actually fall under The Dark Knight Returns banner.  This is only the title for the first book in the four book series.  The second is entitled; The Dark Knight Triumphant, the third, Hunt The Dark Knight, and the final, The Dark Knight Falls.  At least ten printings have been released which compile the entire series under one cover.

DKR tells the story of a now 55-year old Bruce Wayne who comes out of retirement to once again dawn the garb of Batman.  However, what he finds is a new Gotham City.  A Gotham City that doesn't necessarily want him - or at least the police force, and United States government due to the banning of all superheroes.  While no specific time period is mentioned, the book states that it has been a full decade since the last sighting of Batman.

Carrie Kelley, after being saved by Batman purchases a knock off Robin suit, and seeks out The Dark Knight in hopes of joining him.  She finds him facing the entire gang of Mutants, and helps him not only win, but get away, cementing her role as the next Robin.

The series also features such notable villains as Two-Face and The Joker.  The final outcome with The Joker is so amazing that we won't ruin it for anyone who wishes to read the series - In fact, the remainder of the series is so good we won't spoil it for you.  Suffice to say, if you haven't read this series, and you enjoy Batman even by .00000001%, you should check this series out.

Join us next time when we take a look at Marvels!

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Sandman (DC Comics/Vertigo Comics)



Sandman
DC/Vertigo Comics
1989-1996


Though Sandman originally appeared in volume one of the series in 1974 (as The Sandman), the critically acclaimed series from writer Neil Gaiman which launched in 1989 was only the same iteration in name - Though it was still technically a re-launch of the series.  Gaiman had been working on a treatment for the revival of the series, and mentioned it in passing to then editor Karen Berger, but it wouldn't be until months later that he was offered the chance to actually produce the books.

With the green light on the series, Gaiman drafted an eight issue outline which he passed along to Dave McKean and Leigh Baulch.  The duo quickly went to work on concept sketches which were turned over to Berger for review.  McKean had a very strong vision for the book, insisting that the main character didn't need to appear on every cover.  This allowed the series to have some of the most unique covers in the history of comics.

With concepts approved, artist Sam Keith went to work on the series.  Gaiman describes the first issue as awkward for the group because none of them had ever worked on a regularly released series before.  For reasons unknown, Sam Keith quit as artist after issue five.  This was the beginning of what would become a revolving door of artists for the seventy-five issue series.  Artists such as Et Al, Dave McKean, Kelley Jones and Michael Zulli (just to name a few) tried their hand at the series.





As a whole, the series helped to put DC Comics sister company, Vertigo Comics on the map as one of its flagship titles.  Though this didn't happen until issue number forty-seven.  Each book chronicled the adventures of Dream (of the family The Endless), who rules over the world of dreams.  He returns to his domain after being trapped and held prisoner for 70 years and embarks on a quest to regain the powers he once possessed.


While it was a continuous series, several "chapters" are spread across multiple consecutive books, chronicling specific stories.  This in turn allowed new readers to the series to easily jump on board at any point.

Sandman was a critical success winning several awards, and being named on the New York Times best sellers list.  This is a rare occasion for any comic book, as the NYT typically wouldn't give comic books the time of day as they weren't (and to an extent still aren't) considered true forms of literature.

When Gaiman left the series Sandman was cancelled.  This was due to a line item in his contract which stipulated that the series would end upon his departure.

Join us next time when we take a look at The Dark Night Returns!

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Maxx (Image Comics)



The Maxx
Image Comics
1993-1997


The Maxx, one of Image Comic's first series quickly became one of its most popular.  Created by Sam Keith, the series spans thirty-five issues between 1993 to 1997.

The story stars The Maxx who exists on two plains of existence.  In the real world he lives as a homeless man who often times is helped by a freelance social worker, Julie Winters.  In the alternate realm, The Outback, The Maxx serves as the protector of The Jungle Queen - coincidentally also Julie Winters, though she is unaware of this duel plain of existence.

When Mr. Gone is introduced, he starts making obscene phone calls to Julie.  Convinced he's just a strange nut, she ignores him.  In reality, this serial rapist is quite aware of Julie, and has access to both hers and many others Outbacks.  When The Maxx involves himself, saving Julie from Mr. Gone, he turns his intentions on the big purple guy, unleashing his canniblistic Isz creatures on him.  These various battles take place in both the real world, and The Outback.

Eventually Gone makes Julie see the truth of her past, and how The Maxx came to be.  Several more aspects of her are revealed over time in various back stories.  One of the most important being about when she was raped by a hitch-hiker who also beats her, leaving her to die.  This in turn leads to the most vital to the story reveal of her past when she hits a homeless man with her car, and rather than help him drags him to an alley, and covers him with trash.  Julie also leaves a lampshade in the trash which brushed with The Outback.  When it touches the man it forms a mask, and the man becomes The Maxx.

Later in the series the story switches focus to a teen named Sarah who has been sent to Julie for counseling by her mother.  Her mother is concerned about Sarah's well being, and disciplines her constantly in hopes that she won't grow up to be like her father, who is eventually revealed to be Mr. Gone.

With the conclusion of this story, the series leaps forward several years focusing on Sarah (now spelled Sara), and a giant murderous banana slug from her Outback.  Julie and Dave (The Maxx) have vanished.  When they return, a deeper tale unravels regarding Julie and her son Mark.  Julie wants him to believe she is dead so he will stop looking for her due to the dangers of The Outback.

Time is unraveling for the group, and various alternate realities begin opening.  In the end the characters are all changed.  Some for the better, some for the worse, but all with a small knowledge of their past, but not enough to put all the pieces together.

In 1995 MTV optioned the rights to produce an animated series which closely followed the comic book story.  Sadly, it only lasted seven episodes, and doesn't cover the entire comic series.

Join us next time when we take a look at Sandman!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Watchmen (DC Comics)



The Watchmen
DC Comics
1986-1987


Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, The Watchmen was a story set in an alternate reality which closely mimicked that of the contemporary world in the 1980's.  It begins with the death of The Comedian, which sparks concern from antihero Rorschace.  As he presses his investigation, he brings his concerns to each of his prior comrades as he feels that they too are marked as targets.

The series introduces us to characters such as Nite Owl, The Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Doctor Manhattan, with the latter becoming the focal point, and eventual climax to the story.  The dramatic mystery unravels in a tale that will both save and condemn the world.

Issue one launched in 1986 and the story concluded in 1987 with issue twelve.  The series elevated the comic book world of superheroes into the real world realm of classic literature.

As of today it has been reprinted several times in graphic novel format, and remains one of DC Comics most popular collected works.  With the release of the 2007 film, the series has only grown more in popularity.  The film has also been commemorated for being one of the most faithful adaptations from writen word to screen, with little Hollywood "filler" added.

Join us next time when we take a look at The Maxx!

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Akira (Epic Comics)



Akira
Epic Comics
1988-1996


Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira was initially released in 1982, and chronicled in serial format in Young Magazine, which is still published today in Japan.  When it concluded in 1990 the series was collected in six volumes, and released by publisher Kodansha.

When it crossed the ocean in 1988, it quickly took American's by storm, causing a major boom in the hearts of fans that quickly flocked to the style of Japanese animation, and other related comic books.  This was equally helped by the film version being transferred to NTSC VHS, which was dubbed in English for a very limited release in 1990.

The year is 1993, and a nuclear explosion which goes off in Tokyo pushes countries to their limit, starting World War III.  The newly built artificial island Neo-Tokyo is the setting of anti-government movements and gang violence.

 Tetsuo Shima, a member of the Bosozoku Capsule gang led by Shotaro Kaneda, is injured when his bike explodes after the "Esper" Takashi—a psychic child with wizened features—blocks his path.  This awakens psychic powers in him attracting the attention of a secret government project.  His powers continue to increase until they unhinge his young mind.

While the film doesn't stray too far from this premise of Tetsuo and his new powers as they eventually cause his deform and eventual demise, the books are far more in depth, and far more enriching.  The books delve deeper into the rebel groups involved, and contain a heavier story revolving around the various government factions.
The series concludes with an all out war between several of the factions, and the now deformed Tetsuo who is bent on destroying everything in his path.

Since it's major boom in success in the US, secondary market prices have been generous to the series.  Today a full set can be obtained for $150.00 to $200.00.


Join us next time when we take a look at The Watchmen!

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Scud The Disposable Assassin (Fire Man Press Limited) (Image Comics)



Scud The Disposable Assassin
Fire Man Press Limited (and Image Comics)
1994-2008


In 1994 Rob Schrab did an impresive thing.  He released a self published comic book that not only went on to be financially successful, but also have a strong cult following.  For many people, finding issue one was an amazing feet.  So much so that when the book caught on early, a second printing was released.

However, not being able to find book one may have been what put Scud on the map for cult success.  While containing the main premise of the series, book one is actually one of, if not the worst written installments in the series.  It consists of random one liners, most of which are derived from classic B movies.

Scud The Disposable Assassin follows the "life" of the same named character as he comes to terms rather quickly with being a robot designed to kill, and then self destruct.  This is discovered in the first issue when he catches a glance of the "warning label" on his back in a mirror which informs him of this.

Not wanting to die, Scud instead mortal wounds his target, Jeff, and from there continues his life as an assassin, using his money for future kills to pay the medical bills to keep Jeff alive.

The series ran consecutively for twenty issues, each growing weirder than the previous one.  At times the story got incredibly convoluted, and even random.  This started to turn many fans off of the series, including its creator, Schrab.  The book went on indefinite hiatus.

It wouldn't be until 2008 that Schrab would return to the series to give all his long awaiting fans an ending to the story of their favorite yellow robotic assassin.  He had initially been approached by Image Comics who wanted to produce an ombnibus of the issues already available, but rather than release an unfinished product, Schrab instead instead took the opportunity to finish his story.  Each of the remaining four books featured a guest artist for the cover.

Since its completion, the series in its entirety has been gathered into the very thick graphic novel, "The Whole Shebang".  It's available in both paperback and hardback, and is probably the cheapest alternative to purchasing the series.  The individual books are readily available, but the majority of sellers are simply asking too much for them resulting in no sales.

Join us next time when we take a look at Akira!

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

What The..?! (Marvel Comics)



What The..?!
Marvel Comics
1988-1993


What The..?! was the ultimate parody book of Marvel's greatest heroes of the time, and featured fantastic fun stories from some the top artists and writers of Marvel at the time.  Steve Ditko, John Byrne, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Joe Quesada, and even Stan "The Man" Lee himself contributed to the series.

The books themselves featured comical versions of classics such as Spider-Man (Spider-Ham), The Punisher, (The Pulverizer), Tony Stark (Tony Stork), and even crossed over to other comic companies to parody Lex Luthor and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  There was no continuity from each issue to the next, and of course, none of it was considered cannon in the Marvel Universe.

The gags didn't end with just the characters though.  Though it carried the Marvel Comics label in the top left corner of each book, the series touted itself as being released by Marble Comics.  Flipping through the book would reveal several gag advertisements in place of the sponsor paid ads, and the last few pages parodied the infamous Marvel Mailbag where readers could write in, and if lucky, be printed and receive an answer.

The title was initially developed as a four part mini series which ended in November 1988, but at the end of the fourth book fans were encouraged by Fred Hembeck to write Marvel Comics if they wanted to see more.  In July of 1989 the series returned picking up with issue five.

In 1993 the series concluded with issue number 26.  It appeared that despite fans writing in to see the series return, those fans slowly dwindled in support, which resulted in continued decreasing sales.

Today, complete sets of What The..?! are few and far between, but can still be purchased for a reasonable amount when they surface.  The average set sells for between $25.00 and $50.00, depending on condition.

Join us next time when we take a look at Scud The Disposable Assassin!

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