Sunday, November 21, 2021

Don’t You Dare Go Gentle

He’s so unhip that when you say ‘Dylan’, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man ain’t got no culture.
Simon and Garfunkel
“A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)” 


While “Rhymin’ Simon” was likely referencing British poet Dylan Thomas with a tongue-in-cheek approach, the snarky aside nevertheless addressed a cultural divide between the Sixties counterculture and their literary forbearers in the previous era.

Thomas, born in Swansea, Wales in 1914, became an early admirer of the work of Yeats and Poe and soon ascended to national attention himself while still in his youth. He would eventually garner world acclaim as one of the premiere poets of the English-speaking world, broadcasting for the BBC as a means of supporting himself and later recording his own works for a series of record albums in the U.S.

In 1934 he published his first book 18 Poems during which time his work took on its characteristic style highlighting romantic imagery and aesthetic rhythmic style. The “images” he created, particularly ripe with conflict and contradiction, were evident in his best known work including “And death shall have no dominion” and “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

After working on a number of screenplays and several tours of America, Thomas passed away in 1953. His hard-drinking ‘Dionysian’ image which fell him has since influenced everyone from Charles Bukowski to Jim Morrison of the Doors.

Like many of my own generation, my primary reference point regarding Thomas would (regrettably) be the recitation of his most renowned work by Rodney Dangerfield in the hit movie, Back to School where the comedy legend learns the poem to get through a mandatory exam. That should be satisfactory enough for most, however, considering the Minnesota folk-rocker who adopted Thomas’s name and rode it to stardom himself apparently didn’t even know how it was pronounced at first.

That all goes to show that the cyclical nature of art and communication for that matter can be irrelevant in its details. The proliferation of what we experience through words, images, juxtapositions and patterns are what we pass on and remember— when all is said and done.



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Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire (image)
Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Supersonic Youth

In 1977, the Filmation team spearheaded by Scheimer, Prescott and Sutherland launched Space Sentinels which aired on NBC for thirteen episodes, a brief tenure which would ultimately become typical of the live-action and animated Saturday morning entertainment studio.

A trio of teenagers; Hercules, Mercury and Astrea are endowed with intergalactic strengths and capabilities and stationed inside a starship within a volcano. From this base they are allocated exigent missions by their operational superiors which they carry out on Earth and beyond. Adopting Greek and Roman mythological personas, the Space Sentinels use their individual skills and combined powers to fight enemy forces and uphold law and order in the galaxy.


One of the earliest forerunners to the programs discussed in this blog series, Space Sentinels was set in the then-futuristic 1985, nine years before Earth became irrevocably and catastrophically altered, if one is to trust the historical accounts of Filmation’s Thundarr the Barbarian, arriving a few years later in 1980. If that doesn’t confuse matters enough, 1985 also happened to see the cancellation of He-Man in addition to She-Ra’s debut!

All the beloved tropes are evident in the short-lived sci-fi superhero series including the obligatory Star Wars aping and accompanying moral lessons. The multi-racial aspect of the main characters is also noteworthy in an otherwise ethnically uniform era of cartoons.

Perhaps other trends had been established for Filmation with Space Sentinels, the ‘single season’ tradition certainly being the most obvious. Youth, strength, power and teamwork for the good of the universe would become key themes throughout many of the company’s subsequent creations. With those qualities, couldn’t one hero easily be as good as the next?



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Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire (image)
Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

None But the Brave

By 1987, the conservationists of the animated television world, Filmation and Mattel were teaming up for their next recycled product in their line of manly interplanetary heroes with friendly wizards and special swords to save strange universes. Bravestarr was created by (again) Lou Scheimer and ran for (again) a meager 65 episodes, each 25 minutes in length.

In a distant galaxy known as ‘New Texas’, natives called ‘Prairie People’ live among predatory beings such as Solacows, Apecats, Coyotoids, Broncosaurs, Krangs, Reptillianoids and Sand Walruses! Keeping law and order in this cosmic Wild West is Bravestarr, an American Indian ‘Matt Dillon’ of sorts who can telepathically summon animal friends in his quests. The most loyal of these benevolent beasts is an “equestroid” deputy called Thirty/Thirty who can walk on two legs like Quick Draw McGraw when not galloping to the rescue with the mounted Bravestarr.

The noble star packers’ rivals include the ‘Carrion Bunch’, a gang of outlaws led by ‘Tex-Hex’, a former prospector of New Texas’s coveted red mineral and fuel source, Kerium.


Tex-Hex reports directly to an obligatory mean skeleton dude named Stampede, a Broncosaur who calls on the egregious forces of the planet’s wasteland to wage battle against Bravestarr and ‘Shaman’, his fatherly and mystical ally who wields considerable extra-sensory powers often used to contact the hero during periods of danger (See: ‘The Sorceress’ from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and ‘Light Hope’ from She-Ra: Princess of Power).

Ultimately, while this flash-in the-pan from Mr. Scheimer would prove to be Filmation’s swan song, it embodied their recurring themes that thrilled and educated its young fans every week. Space was certainly the final frontier but Bravestarr showed us that the limits of the imagination would, by contrast, remain forever infinite.



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Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire (image)
Christopher Robinson, Writer Extraordinaire