Jan 4, 2020

"Cells at Work": Muscular Blood Cells Fight Bacilium Monsters

While browsing on Pixiv, I came across a lot of fan art (most too graphic for this site) starring a muscular blond guy with a baseball cap reading "Kill."  

Sometimes he was making out with, rescuing, or being rescued by a guy dressed all in white, with Japanese writing on his baseball cap (all fan art copyrighted by the artists).

A little more research, and I found out that his name was "Killer T-Cell."

And a manga series called Cells at Work (2015-), which has been adapted into an anime (now playing on Netflix).

There are 20-30 trillion red blood cells in the human body, responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the other cells, and carbon dioxide back to be expelled. Cells at Work stars a red blood cell named AE3803 (Cherami Leigh in English), imagined as a red-haired delivery girl with a sealed package of oxygen, rushing down the streets and  plazas of a human body imagined as a vast city.

She gets lost on the way to the lungs, and ends up in the spleen, and then in a lymph node.

When an evil bacterium attacks, she is saved by white blood cell U-1146 (Billy Kametz), a muscular all-white teenager.  They have a history: he saved her from an evil bacterium long ago, when he was just a student in White Blood Cell School. 

Future episodes introduce many other types of cells, including the cocky, aggressive Killer T-Cell (Robbie Daymond), who is responsible for killing cancerous or otherwise damaged cells.

The plots involve conflicts between various types of cells:

When Killer T-Cell gets into an argument with his commanding officer, Helper T-Cell (Ray Chase),  Dentritic T-Cell reveals a photo album indicating that they were close friends in White Blood Cell school.  They are embarrassed, and try to destroy the album.

And responses to threats:

The body suffers from heat stroke, leading to "global warming," a depletion of fluids. and an invasion of bacillus cereus, which thrive on high temperatures.  U-1146 pursues the bacillus, but is too weak from fluid depletion to fight.  Then the body gets an injection of new fluid, reviving everyone. 

A band of staphylococcus aureus invade the nasal cavity.  They trap the white blood cells in a mesh of fibrin.  Mysterious hazmat-suited monocytes come to the rescue.  Later the monocytes take off their hazmat suits, revealing that they are really macrophages in disguise.  Whoa, plot twist!

I have so many questions.

1. If cells are anthropomorphic beings, then their bodies must also be full of anthropomorphic cells, and so on, and so on, all the way down ad infinitium.

2. They know that they are in "the body," but do they realize that it's a sentient being?  Do they think it's the entire universe?

3. They eat (glucose from food kiosks), and they have day and night, but do they have private lives?  Apartments?  Recreation?  Do they sleep? Date?  Read philosophical tracts about the nature of the universe?

4. Why is it so barbaric?  "Kill them!  Kill every one of them!" may be ok for pathogens, but it's inappropriate for human-looking enemy troops who are just following orders.   It's like in the Bible where the God tells the Israelites to take over a town and kill everyone, even the children and animals.

5. There's a lot of very technical information.  Eosonophilia are white blood cells responsible for fighting multicellular parasites, but not bacteria or viruses.  Basphilia are white blood cells responsible for histamine, which produces the inflammatory reaction to infections.  Is this entertainment or a physiology textbook?

This is all so bizarre that I forgot to check for gay characters or subtexts. I don't think the blood cells actually have romantic relationships, but there is plenty of fan shipping.

Jan 3, 2020

The "Lost in Space" Robot Takes a Selfie

The iconic Lost in Space robot from my childhood was a clunky, clumsy thing with pincer-hands, a weird halo, and a voice box that glowed red when it said "Danger, Will Robinson."

It didn't really do anything except convey information like the computer on Star Trek.  Why make it mobile, except to sell robot toys?

The robot in the contemporary version of Lost in Space is humanoid, with a magic-mirror face and a tight bodysuit that bulges at the biceps (but not, unfortunately, at the crotch).  It makes you want to see more of whoever is underneath.

His name is Brian Steele (doubtless a stage name).  He's 63 years old, and he's got a breathlessly self-aggrandizing biography on IMDB:

Brian Steele has "two speeds: full-throttle and off."  He has "boundless energy" and stands "an astounding 6 foot 7 inches."

I think it was Mae West who said "Tell me more about the 7 inches."

Brian grew up in Michigan, bummed around the gay mecca of Key West for awhile, and then headed for L.A., where he was immediately signed on for the boy-meets-bigfoot TGIF sitcom Harry and the Hendersons  (1991-93).

After that, it was full-throttle into monster make-up and prosthetic faces.

10 episodes as an alien on the sci-fi series Earth 2 (1994-95).  He's the one with the biceps.

Kothaga, a lizard-god who awakens in a Chicago museum and starts eating people (The Relic, 1997).

Thoad, a snuggly alien who shows up in a teenage boy's bedroom (Can of Worms, 1999).

Throne Demon
Jumbo the Elephant God
Hell Knight
Tattooed Zombie
Werewolf Performer

Berserker Predator
The Creature

No non-masked roles, that I can find.

But no hetero-romances, either on screen or in real life.  I can't find any references to a wife or girlfriend.

Maybe Brian Steele doesn't want any ladies slowing him down.

Or maybe he's into guys.

And what's he look like under the make-up, with all of his 6 feet and 7 inches on display? Especially the 7 inches...

Brian is very stingy about physique shots.  Nothing on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Grindr.

But after assiduous searching, I finally found a selfie:

Jan 2, 2020

The Gay Men of Roy Crane's Adventure Comics

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, a cute teenage boy rode by on his bicycle every morning about 6:00 am and threw a tightly-bound copy of the Rock Island Argus onto our porch.

It had to stay in pristine condition, untouched, until after dinner, when Mom got around to reading it -- and doing the crossword puzzle. Some of my favorite memories involve the family gathered around the tv, watching The Flying Nun or The Brady Bunch while Mom called out crossword puzzle clues.

"Star of Casablanca, five letters, begins with an I."
"Vegetable related to the carrot, seven letters.  I have R and P."
"Boomer, you'll know this one!  Greek god, nine letters, begins with a H"

Dad got the paper next.  By the time the kids' turns came around, it was nearly bedtime.  I still instinctively associate newspapers and bedtime.

I didn't care much for the news, editorials, or sports (except when there was a picture of a cute athlete).  I read "Lifestyle", with movie reviews and tv listings and events going on in town, and the comics page.

The Moline Dispatch, from the town next door, got all of the good comics: Peanuts, BC, The Wizard of Id, Doonesbury.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the Argus got mostly dinosaurs limping through their senescence, with costumes, language, and themes that delighted Grandma forty years ago.

I just thought they were bizarre.

Still, they were sometimes good for beefcake.

Alley Oop, a muscular cave man transported to the modern era through a plot device lost to history.

Prince Valiant, a knight in King Arthur's court transported to pre-Columbian North America.

Out Our Way, a single panel strip reminiscing about the joys of the Great Depression, mostly involving naked boys.

Or gay subtexts.

Captain Easy seemed to involve the swashbuckling adventures of a pair of boyfriends, the taciturn, muscular Easy and the cheerful, eyeglassed Wash.

Neither looked twice at a woman.

How was I to know that when Wash Tubbs first appeared on the comics page in1924, the creation of cartoonist Roy Crane,  he fell in love with every woman in sight: "Gosh! Wotta bon-bon!  Wotta tomato!"

In 1929, he hooked up with Captain Easy, who soon took over the strip and changed the focus from humor to adventure.  Wash tagged along, gazing lustfully at semi-clad ladies as comic relief for 40 years.   I was just reading during a period of quiescence.

Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer, strangely, had  no character named Buz Sawyer.  It was a humor strip about middle-Roscoe Sweeney, a bachelor who had no interest in women.  He lived with his adult sister.

He had found a loophole in the "grow up, get married, have kids" mandate.  A way to live with a woman without having to do any gross sex things!

How was I to know that when the strip was introduced in 1943, it starred World War II flying ace Buz Sawyer, with Roscoe Sweeney as his sidekick? Or that both Buz and Roscoe fell in love with many half-naked women during their adventures in the 1940s and 1950s?

I was just reading about the middle-aged Roscoe, a war veteran living a quiet domestic life in a 1960s suburb, his adventurous and hetero-horny days long forgotten.

By the way, Roy Crane, a pioneer of the adventure comic strip, died in 1977.  No doubt he was unaware of the accidental gay meanings that some of his readers found in his strips.

Dec 30, 2019

SWAT: The Son of the Incredible Hulk as a Meh Cop

I never watch cop shows.  After working at the L.A. Police Academy and as a juvenile probation officer, I know that they get procedures all wrong. Plus they exacerbate the belief that the crime rate is very high in the U.S. (when it's at the lowest level in over 20 years), leading to all sorts of expensive, unnecessary policies. like arresting kids for bringing toy soldiers to school and sentencing someone to 20 years in prison for having a marijuana joint in their car.

But when I discovered that Lou Ferrigno Jr., the son of 1970s Incredible Hulk superstar Lou Ferrigno and my "son" Infinite Chazz's hookup, was starring in SWAT (2017-), I watched an episode.

SWAT stands for Special Units and Tactics, the police using military-style weapons and techniques to make arrests.  They became popular during the Tough on Crime Movmenet of the 1980s, when the federal government offered grants for precincts that made a lot of drug busts, so tanks would roll into (black) neighborhoods and officers would swarm into random houses in search of marijuana.

This SWAT team, based in L.A. and led by by-the-books former marine Hondo Harrison (Shemar Moore, top photo) and lone-wolf-plays-by-his-own-rules Street (Alex Russell, left) , has slightly more dangerous foes:

1. Inmates who escaped from a transport, including "psychopath" El Cuchillo (they get psychopaths wrong, too.  Most psychopaths are not violent).

2. An auto-theft ring led by a paranoid psychopath (again?).

3. A hostage situation at a maximum-security prison.

4. A  human trafficking ring.

5. Diamond robbers who are connected to the Israeli mafia.

There are also personal entanglements: dating, romance, affairs, betrayals, and so on.

Lou appears in about half of the episodes as Donovan Rocker, a training instructor.  In Season 2, Mumford (Peter Onorati) retires, and Rocker takes over the team.

I watched the only episode where he's actually listed in the plot synopsis, "Ghosts" (this show loves one-word titles.  Attention span of the intended audience?).  There are three plotlines:

Main Plot: Luca (Kenny Johnson) and his boyfriend Street (above) are at a street festival (a gay pride festival?)  when he sees the Vanity Killer, a "psycho" who played Saw-type games with "pretty people," then was exploded to death two years ago.  The boss insists that he is  just seeing "ghosts," so he investigates himself.

Yawn.  They get serial killers wrong, too, acting like they are the most common type of criminal, responsible for 90% of all murders.  Actually, thrill-type serial killers are very rare, responsible for only about 1% of murders.

I guess Luca and Street are not a gay couple after all.  Luca has kind of a thing going on with Keri, a previous victim who he rescued (on this show, it's always last names for men, first names for women and prettyboys.  That's not sexist at all, right?).

Turns out that the "sicko" faked his own death so he could continue his games.  He has grabbed two new victims, including prettyboy Lance (Paul Black, left).  SWAT storms the house.

Well, that is what you're watching a show called SWAT for, right?

Secondary Plot: Spivey (Louis Fereira), who was fired in the first episode after he shot an unarmed black teenager, is depressed, "bowling alone in Long Beach."  So we should feel sorry for him?  So team captain Hondo, (see above), who has apparently been mentoring the boy, arranges a meeting.  Restorative justice in action!

Third Plot: Jessica (Stephanie Stigman) tries to find out who put the threatening letter in her desk and vandalized her car.  Turn's out it was Rocker's wife, Val.  He was complaining about Cortez's proposal (I don't know why), and she decided to get revenge.

He apologizes, she gets the charges reduced to harassment, the end.

Whoa, he's married to a psycho, and it's resolved in 30 seconds?  Bummer.

Heterosexism:  Not a lot.  Some guys have wives and girlfriends, but no kissing and no sex.

Beefcake:  None.  Hondo is shirtless in the opening credits.  What's the point of all these hunks if they're not going to be stripping down?

Other Scenery:  The street fair, for about 20 seconds.

Gay Characters:  Nothing specified. Lance might be gay.  A lot of buddy-bonding.

My grade: Meh.

See also: The Sons of the Incredible Hulk
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